FTSF, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, Piece of Cake, TGIF

Salty Sweet, Bittersweet #TGIF #FTSF #pieceOfCake

My father was never the beer drinking father, like most kids had. He was the Coke drinking father who was always available to be designated driver.

“Can me and Brian split a can of Coke?” I would shout from the top of the stairs, down to my parents in the basement. We always had Coke in the house, or practically always, but I still always felt like I must receive permission from my parents to have any. I like to think I had a healthy respect for them, most of the time, asking before taking. We had a good life, but our parents taught us a healthy gratitude for everything we got.

One of us would get the can and the other, they would get the half of the can poured into a glass. It was often the two of us, brother and sister against the world.

When I was 11 I was like any other kid my age, growing up in the mid nineties, and wanting what we call, in Canada, not soda, but pop. I loved sugar, but I also craved salt.

I began to sneak those fast food restaurant salt packets. I would eat the salt off of Pretzels and I even sprinkled salt on my potato chips because they weren’t salty enough.

How many eleven-year-old kids crave salt? It would have been a tough choice, at that age, between a can of sugary pop or a bag of extra salty snacks, but, at a certain point, around age eleven, the salty snacks would have won. By necessity. Something in my body needed, demanded it.

This is what would change my life forever. I had been born blind and lived that way, just another part of who I was. After my eleventh year, there was no denying that something was very wrong.

It’s been more than twenty years since that eleven-year-old craved sugar and so much salt. My kidney disease was growing worse. The nausea was increasing. The fatigue was putting me in bed right after dinner, almost nightly, feeling so weak and unable to run and play like I’d always done, like kids did.

This was the year after I celebrated my tenth birthday, with friends at McDonalds. (A paradise and a sugar/salt lover’s dream come true.)

After the year of the Beverly Hills 90210 poster and the Mariah Carey cassette given to me for my tenth birthday…I was not well as my next few birthdays came and went. I was not expecting to spend so much time in bed, on the couch, unable to eat anything other than that salty, processed, packaged chicken noodle soup made in a pot on the stove.

Bowls and bowls of the stuff were consumed by eleven-year-old Kerry.

I will never forget what it felt like to be eleven and drifting away from any semblance of a normal childhood. The next few years would be trying ones, but I am who I am today because of it all.

Both the salty and the sweet, bittersweet memories of a childhood, never boring.

This was more of the story I’ve been writing for twenty years, the one I want to continue writing, from the year I was eleven and unwell. It was brother and sister, always, and my brother would follow my footsteps, getting sick like me, three years later when he turned eleven.

This was the prompt for
Finish the Sentence Friday
this week.

Kristi, the orchestrator of all of this, she gave me the idea to start with the can of Coke. Read her post by clicking on the link above to see where I drew tonight’s inspiration for the prompt.

What were you doing when you were eleven?

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, RIP, Shows and Events, Special Occasions, TToT

TToT: Exploding Pizzas, Table Clouds, and Irish Munks – Extended Holiday Edition, #10Thankful

Every tear you cry, every doubting eye All of these things will pass away
All of your big mistakes, your little old heart would break Wishing that I would take them back clickable

Write down the things you don’t want Burn them in a glass
Write down the things you dream of Make a paper plane that flies to heaven clickable

Waiting In Canada – Jann Arden

And buy a ticket for a plane And come and see me, baby
Or drive your car all night By just starlight to Canada
That’s where I’ll be waiting clickable

http://www.metrolyrics.com/waiting-in-canada-lyrics-jann-arden.html

It was an odd sort of grab bag kind of week, filled with emotions, both good and not so good.

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

That my broken string could be replaced.

I had a little mishap with my D string. It took three employees of the music store to find one that would fit.

I had it driven home, once more, after the day I was having; I am one-of-a-kind and so I shouldn’t really be surprised that the first try of violin strings wouldn’t quite cut it.

The guy eventually, expertly fitted the correct D string to my violin and all was well again.

Back to the newbie life of a beginner.

For fresh pea season arriving once again.

It only comes once a year. I look forward to it, all the long winter months.

The pea podding is a zen activity.

Do you know those ball pits kids love to jump into.

Well, I love the sound of a bowl full of podded peas. The sound they make, rolling all around, it reminds me of just that.

That I could enjoy another spectacular Canada Day fireworks display.

The weather was cool, just how I prefer it. The company was on its way. The bbq decided to be out of propane.

Plan B: kitchen – sausages, hamburgers, and more fresh strawberries.

The night sky lit up bright and I was blessed to see a bit of the dazzling display, as who knows, by the time another year rolls around, what I may see.

My three-year-old nephew saw a pizza in the sky, circle bursting forth. I love his imagination. I saw huge bursts too. I saw something.

That my brother was given another chance to perform his music, somewhere in his city, thanks to

London Arts Council

They were buskers on the street. Driving by I could hear them out the car window.

Standing there, watching them perform, I enjoyed the shade of the tree they were set up under.

My brother performed a beautiful version of “Decade Adrift”, the song we’re currently collaborating together on.

I really don’t see how his hands can move so fast, on those guitar strings, to produce something of such power.

For an excellent dinner.

It was the discovery of a new delicious vegetable. I had never tasted water cress before. It reminded me of bean sprouts a little. It was refreshing and delicious.

My beer (Great Lakes Blonde) was the perfect choice, and at this place there were a lot to choose from.

The meal was the perfect choice, chicken florentine, along with turtle chocolate cheesecake and gelato.

The restaurant is in an old house, with creaky floors upon entering, but a roomy bench seat and cool air vent after being outside for the afternoon.

For a 100th birthday celebration.

She was the only main character in Gone with the Wind, to die in the film. So, it only makes sense that she is last to live in real life.

100 Years Of Olivia De Havilland

Still going strong and living in France.

Her part in Gone with the Wind is one of angelic purity, but if you stick it out until the end, you see that she is so much more.

Olivia, in that part, reminds me of my own grandmother, from the first time I watched and became obsessed by the film. Each time I watch her play the role of Melanie Hamilton, I think of the grandmother who always believed the best in people.

For old movies.

They are a great contrast to movies of today. They have a sound, distinct, that I love to lose myself in.

Not that they took place in a better time, but it feels like that, so I explore how people thought, acted, and spoke in those days.

For a prime minister who makes the effort.

This year was the first time a current Canadian Prime Minister walked in Pride.

The parade is celebrated, all over the world, as in people travel from all around to attend the biggest LGBTQ celebrations.

With it being Canada Day, I watched videos of recent refugees in tears, so grateful to be in Canada.

It’s a struggle, to be a minority or marginalized, but I am glad my PM is making a statement by showing up.

For the hard/valuable lessons learned from one who was there.

Elie Wiesel died this week. I read his memoir “Night” when I was about twenty.

The way he wrote, describing the sights, sounds, and smells of his horrible time in concentration camps was like nothing I’d ever read before.

For the chance to be a witness.

He said even if those who were there are now disappearing, those who listened to their message while they were here, we are witnesses, not literally, thank God.

But that we took the time to really listen and are devoted to never forgetting, to sharing, and spreading the history.

link When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity.

—Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)

And a special edition bonus thankful:

Canada, the country, to have been born here. This is the thankful that is in the background and foreground of this entire post and always, in everything I write.

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Bucket List, Feminism, Interviews, Kerry's Causes, Memoir Monday, Poetry, TToT

TToT: Where Rugged Coasts and Grassy Hills Collide – Don’t Look Back, #10Thankful

“the beautiful spring came; and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.”

–Harriet Ann Jacobs

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What a week! (Read on to find out why…)

Girl On Fire – Alicia Keys

I remember not thinking this so much as it was in progress, but now that I am looking back on it, I have felt pure exhaustion, for some reason.

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

For my first official violin lesson.

I didn’t know if a whole hour would be too much for me. Playing violin is going to be a physical tax on my body, as I have a lot of pain, a lot of the time, but this is like going to the gym, for me, in a way. Sounds less taxing, but it isn’t much less, not really.

I have been just teaching myself, along with a few instructions from my uncle, so now it’s time to learn proper technique. It will be a slow process, a progress that takes time to build on.

I think of it like using an iPhone when you can’t see. At first, when I tried my brother’s phone, it all seemed tricky and difficult. But once I got a feel for it, where on the screen I could locate specific App’s or where on the keyboard to place my fingertip, if I wanted an A instead of a Q. Once you develop the sense memory required, like my new teacher says, it will come to you.

For my new violin teacher.

She has been playing the violin since she was four and teaching it since she was fourteen. I guess that means she is qualified to teach me.

🙂

She is outgoing and a willing participant in teaching violin to someone she can’t just show by doing. She must show me, most times, by hand or with verbal instruction, but she has been eager from the beginning. I am thankful and appreciative for the enthusiasm she has shown thus far.

For my brother’s faith in me, in asking me in the first place, to write the lyrics for his final assignment in his Music Industry Arts program.

The song is called “Don’t Look Back” and I hoped it would convey a feeling, but I don’t think many will pick it out from my words.

People’s first impulse is to think most songs are about love, but although this one could be, it’s about losing something else entirely, something valuable.

I was afraid I couldn’t write lyrics. I did it. The week started with only vague ideas and unclear groupings of words. It ended with a song, still in rough draft, but on its way to becoming a thing of beauty. This is because my brother had faith and put the lyric creation in my hands. I just hope he is pleased with the results. I know, after listening to what he’s come up with so far, that I am more than pleased.

For a slimmed-down Writer’s Circle.

Things come up and people get busy. I myself have missed a Wednesday or two, for my brother’s accident or for a bad night of my own. I understood.

It was just the three of us: Bernie, Theo, and myself this time. That’s okay. It was nice to have a smaller group once, but I missed a few other members who weren’t there.

There seemed to be a lot more silliness and a little less serious writing. Good times though. I brought a mystery object. It was a little bear with a heart shaped locket with my photo and my dad’s photo from my kidney transplant. Theo even took pics of it, to show someone, to go along with the wild talking bear story he came up with.

For Ireland.

I love the Ireland commercial narrated by Liam Neeson. His beautiful Irish accent is perfect for it.

sheepcoastline-2016-03-21-00-08.jpg

I know about the beer and the celebrating, as I have had a bit of that St. Patrick’s Day fun here in Canada, but no green beer can compare to the real place.

For one incredible, once-in-a-lifetime adventure in my favourite place in the world.

Luck of the Irish

It was my dream to visit Ireland and I had a blast with friends, old and new.

ropebridge-2016-03-21-00-08.jpg

I crossed this bridge with my travel companions, in front and behind me, and I made it to the other side.

She Travels Without Sight: Crossing Ireland’s Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge Blind

I speak more about the experience in the above interview with an awesome travel blog.

I am thankful for that experience and that it taught me that sometimes, in life, you’ve just got to go for it.

For Irish music and Irish musicians.

Only When I Sleep – The Corrs

Of course, as much as I love that one, my favourite Irish group is, without a doubt…

God Be With You – The Cranberries

God I love Ireland and The Cranberries too.

🙂

I wrote a post to mark the twenty year anniversary of the release of my all-time favourite of their albums.

Ode and Lament: Ode to “No Need To Argue”

I am forever thankful that this album came along. It taught me about Irish history, about Irish poets, and oh so much more.

As I rode the tour bus along the winding highway I heard a familiar sound coming out of the bus’s PA speaker. It was a song by The Cranberries and then our guide announced we would be stopping at the grave site of W.B. Yeats.

I was blown away by the peaceful feeling I got from that spot. I thought back on that song and the words about the “Lake Isle of Innisfree”.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats

World Poetry Day is in March after all.

For another chance to showcase a man, through an interview I conducted, who sets a brilliant example for the males of the world and the website willing to give me that opportunity.

Shining a Light on Preventing Abuse Against Women-an Interview with Garry Atkinson – Good Men Project

Thank you Jeremy McKeen and Garry Atkinson.

For the first day of spring.

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I like this photo, or what I’m told of it anyway, because although it is officially spring here in the northern hemisphere today, it is cold and snowing in some parts. I liked the image of spring flowers and snowflakes in the air.

For all the things that bring me happiness.

Music Makes Me Happy, #1000Speak #InternationalDayOfHappiness

So, as I said, what a week! What a week of music and of the growth promised by the colour green.

So Cold In Ireland – The Cranberries

For spring, music, Ireland, even when they are cold.

😉

For all these things and more.

Yeats’ Grave – The Cranberries

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

–William Butler Yeats

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Blogging, History, Memoir and Reflections, Special Occasions

Milestones and Siblings

I’ve reached 1000 followers on this blog.

Yeah yeah. I know. Most bloggers, including me, say that they don’t care about that.

They care a little. I care a little.

For years nobody was reading anything I wrote. Now some are, at least some of that 1000 are.

Then April 10th was International Siblings Day and I did not write a tribute or message about my siblings on the day, but I have been thinking about siblings, thinking a lot.

I spent the day yesterday with my siblings, my father with some of his, and my niece and nephew…well, I watched them play for hours.

The fact that siblings grow up, move away, and grow apart is hard for me to accept sometimes.

I watched my siblings, my father and uncles, and my niece and nephews. I thought about how deserving of that relationship my other nephew is.

I thought about how siblings can be far far apart physically, but still remain close, or living nearby and as far apart emotionally as possible.

Or distance can keep them apart and things are just never the same.

My father’s half-brother is visiting from Germany.

The “half” part matters little. The connection is not half anything.

I watch them and I think again about siblings.

Circumstances keep siblings apart and it takes effort to come back together again.

I had forgotten what he was like, since I saw him five years ago.

Things started to come back to me, about how generous he was in hosting us, when visiting Germany in the late 90s.

He is outgoing and friendly and fun.

The language barrier gets in the way some, but he speaks enough English to get by.

It is too bad he is the one who speaks English. Languages have never been my thing, but it makes you want to conquer that obstacle.

The brothers are off to visit their sister.

Life is unpredictable.

It’s hard for me to grasp the fact that they all had a whole lifetime before I ever existed. I can’t fathom that and it makes me wistful.

From Germany to southwestern Ontario, to near to Canada’s capital, Ottawa.

Time and space can separate those connected by blood, but those gaps must be bridged. Time doesn’t slow down for anyone.

On visiting my aunt last month I felt this most acutely. She is my connection to her mother, my oma, and meeting her, ten years into my own life and fifty or so into hers was a blessing in my life.

As time flies by, opportunities slip past, past me and past them. We all know that.

I didn’t want to leave her that March day and now the siblings pose, arms around each other, holding on tight to whatever time they have left.

But they never know when that time together might run out, for any of them.

I wish I could slow this process down, for them and for myself too. I wish I could freeze it in still.

No language barrier can get in the way of love and family.

I watch the newest generation and it seems like they have all the time in the world, all the time to learn and grow and be siblings.

I think of my 1000 blog followers and what importance that holds, the milestones that mean the most. I think of the importance siblings have in my life.

It helps me to keep life in perspective and to remember what’s truly important to me.

I would be nowhere and nothing without my siblings. I love to see all the siblings around me. I want us all to make time for each other, to appreciate one another, and to never forget that we started out together, we know each other like no one else does or ever will.

Yet sibling relationships are all different. Some take time to grow.

It’s a unique and special connection that a sister or a brother has or is to the others.

All the realities of growing up and drifting apart don’t matter, they won’t matter in the end, when the end comes.

He brings my niece and nephews gifts from Germany, my uncle does. He toasts me, our beer bottles clinking and I’m glad he’s here.

I am lucky to have him and the others in my life, in my family, forever and no matter where we all live, where we all go, might end up at.

Hope everyone can have a day like I had, parents and siblings, aunt and uncles, niece and nephews. Gather family around and don’t let them go.

Not everyone can say they’ve had a day like I’ve just had, but make the effort. You won’t regret that you did.

Special thank you to every one of my blog followers. You read my words and I thank you for that.

Thank you to my siblings, for all the support you’ve shown for this blog and for me.

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History, Spotlight Saturday

Day in the Museum: Part Three, Keep Calm and Carry On

This is the final segment in my week-long posts of my day at The Stratford Perth Museum last weekend.

Part One explored my relationship with museums, through

The Four Senses

and then I spoke about the whole reason for visiting the museum in the first place in Part Two,

Shakespeare’s First Folio.

Now here is my final post.

***

TWW1his year marks

One Hundred

years since the start of World War I and with the subsequent World War II and the huge influence and shaping they both had on the 20th century.

When I heard about the World War exhibit upstairs I had to make use of the ticket to see as much as I could.

We took an elevator up a floor and back in time, finding ourselves amongst the history, bravery, and heroism of war.

We stepped out through the elevator door to commemorative service medals, to pictures and names…searching for familiar names, as we have had family around the area and, although it was a long time ago, you never know.

There was a history of the area and a write-up on the creation of The Stratford Perth Regiment, beginning with the settlement of settlers in the area in the 1850s.
stratford brass company.
Felt shoe company.
Manufactured goods and services. A furniture company.

Shells and bullet casings. Buttons from some long gone soldier’s uniform.

An example of the sort of food provided. Biscuits were, I can imagine, cheap and easy to produce, but must not have provided much nutrients to soldiers fighting in the trenches. I guess it was better than starting. I simply can not imagine it.

Again, seeing as we were in a museum, most of these things were untouchable for me, for whatever reason. a drum was one of the few things I could reach out and feel. I could imagine the sound of a drum beat, some chant in war.

A piece of trench art from a shell casing, a cross engraving.

What looked like a bit of rock, removed shrapnel from someone fighting in one of these mostly forgotten battles.

A diary and address book from 1916, France and the battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917 – a bayonet and an oil lamp. Some medical badges.

***

Above are some of the items from these wars and below are just a few of the stories:

I enlisted because I wanted to travel. I lied about my age.”

The D-Day Dodgers

we are the D-Day Dodgers
in sunny Italy.
Showed us the sites and gave us tea, Sang us songs. The beer was free.

More on The DDay Dodgers here.

just names,
an ironic take on the italian campaign, a brutal campaign. It was actually considered to be the cowardly mission in comparison to what was going on in France. They did not receive the same recognition as D-Day soldiers in Normandy did.

red_crossA female nurse during World War II:

She enlisted. That was her second attempt. She was told the war would be over by Christmas so they did not need more nurses.
She landed in Sicily with the troops,
at the casualty station.

“We went to see MASH and my aunt was upset by the way the docs and nurses in the OR acted.
My mom explained, you had to do that or you would end up losing it.”

(Daughter speaking on behalf of her mother)

war bonds

The most interesting part of this whole exhibit to me was the part devoted to the subject of propaganda. Being a fan of words I am amazed at how they can uplift and inspire, both in good ways and bad, how words have the power to sway and to mobilize. During times of war the propaganda machine can be used for good and for evil’s means.

The simplest of slogans can have the greatest effect:

DIG FOR VICTORY
To help with the war effort, Britain and Canada grew 1 million tuns of vegetables.

Dig dig dig,
Your muscles will grow big.
Do not mind the spade…

On display there was an extremely controversial text: Mein Kampf (My Struggle).

Adolf Hitler wrote this manifesto while incarcerated in the 1920s and in it he details his vision and his feelings concerning those he deemed to have caused him and his country the problems they were facing at the time of The Depression, post World War I.

– Ten million copies distributed throughout Germany
– This copy Had been handed out to Hitler’s Youth

The Swastika
– The crooked cross, an omni-present symbol
– a symbol present on everything from flags to match boxes, to inspire pride and loyalty in National Socialism.

It’s funny how I don’t have a clear image in my mind of what one of these looks like. I may have seen it. I seem to remember seeing it as a thick dark outline, in the Tom Cruise film Valkyrie, but as my vision has decreased, over time, I am unfamiliar with such a well-known symbol of cruelty and destruction.

However, symbols could be just as vocal for the other side:
– A hammer smashing the swastika.
– british Canadian propaganda posters in circulation
KAPUT!
Give us the tools.

Keep CalmIn thirty-nine and after outbreak of war the british designed posters with bold coloured backgrounds, a symbolic crown of King George the sixth.

rupert-grint-and-keep-calm-and-carry-on-t-shirt-galleryTo add a more modern and a contemporary touch, perhaps hoping to reach younger visitors such as myself, in and amongst the other examples of propaganda and symbolism there was even a movie premier poster from a few years ago. I don’t know which movie in the series it was for, but Rupert Grint was included, in one of the Harry Potter movie promotion posters, wearing a shirt with the infamous wartime slogan: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. I suppose he could be playing his role of Ron Weasley. Lord Voldemort was often compared to Adolf Hitler in many ways.

I have heard variations of this slogan myself, but this one in particular must be common enough in Britain still today. I find that slogan, in particular, rather interesting. Words even as simple as those are able to influence morale and mood, even in the toughest of times and those words still “carry on” to apply to any of us today.

originalposter Keep CalmThis slogan did not have a chance to take off as a slogan for war, remaining on only a few of these posters on the walls of military and recruitment offices. So how did it manage to remain in the peoples’ consciousness for all these years?

Some bookstore owner came across one of these posters mixed in with a dusty old pile of books from an auction.

A true nostalgia item.

keep mumOne more variation on this slogan was one spoken to warn soldiers against spilling privileged wartime secret information to any beautiful woman they might come across: KEEP MUM, SHE’S NOT SO DUMB!

And those are the words I will leave you with.

🙂

***

I left the museum and was left to ponder the power and potency of words, either written or spoken aloud. I learned a lot over one simple afternoon at a local museum.

Have you ever been to a museum and learned something you hadn’t known before? What effect did it have on you?

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