Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, Memoir and Reflections, Shows and Events, SoCS

RURAL PRIDE, COUNTY WIDE, #SoCS

As summer winds down and autumn approaches, town after town will begin hosting their annual county, agricultural, and local fairs.

Where was I today?

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS SATURDAY

Hmmm. Let’s see.

This week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt: “Four-Letter Word”

http://lindaghill.com/2015/08/28/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-2915/

I went to the fair today.

My initial thought, when I heard four-letter word…well, I am sure you could guess and I am also sure I wasn’t the first to think of it.

Then, I went to my county’s fair with a friend, her mother and daughter, and we spent the afternoon with cows, horses, sheep, goats, donkeys.

I was born and live in a rather rural area of south western Ontario, in Canada. My town’s mascot is a cow after all. Agriculture is a very important part of community and sense of pride here.

My mother always thought going to a fair was a rather large waste of money, as kids, and so we went, but sparingly.

I remember, once, when I was about ten years old, I had just made a new friend in my new school. She was visiting and I really wanted to go to the fair with her. So, sneaky and vindictive little girl that I sometimes could be, I told her that we would take her to the fair. I hadn’t run this passed my mom, assuming that once I had made the promise to my friend, my mom wouldn’t be able to say no.

Well, let’s just say my master plan worked.

General admission and the rides and games and food on top of that. It all adds up. They stamp your hand upon entering.

There is something strange and rather unsettling about walking down a path between booths, stalls on all sides, with loud and over-stimulating music and sound, clanking and clanging carnival rides, and people yelling at you, obnoxiously I might add:

“Come! Try this game! Everyone’s got a chance to win!”

Yeah, what a rip off. What do I look like, a sucker?

Well, this time we did not go for the rides. My friend wanted to introduce her baby girl to the barn full of farm animals, to see her face upon spotting a black and white, a brown cow, for the first time.

We had a friend, growing up, who was at the local fair, every August, to show cattle with her family. Now, what did this mean exactly? I realize I didn’t understand that world, but the family loved it.

It took up their time, kept them busy, all with things I didn’t pretend to understand. Walking cows around in a ring, practicing, being awarded first, second, and third place medals.

My mother grew up as a farm girl. My uncles owned farms, dairy herds mostly, all my life. I spent many summer vacations on the farms. I was afraid to walk down the stalls of cows in the barn.

I’m drawing a blank now. What are those openings in the floor for the cows called again? Hmmm.

The smell of the barn was never something I could get used to. I did not have enough vision to allow me to run and play games up in the hay mound, with holes that would suddenly appear at your feet, sometimes disguised by straw, until it was too late. Down to the cement floor below you would drop. One of my cousins did just that.

I preferred to stay and play in the house, rather than get dirty and smelly. I drank milk, ate cheese, and eggs. I saw what it was like to survive of the land and raise animals for these things, but I was not at home, ever, fully there.

Now the fair is all about a certain lifestyle. I look in on it. I smell the fair food. I love cotton candy. I hate candy and caramel apples. I loved rides as a kid.

My friend’s baby girl loved the animals. A cow scared the hell out of me, but the baby’s eyes bulged from the noise the creature made, but did not cry.

At any moment I expected a stinky sniffling nose or tongue to make me jump from behind the fence. I wouldn’t be able to help making a commotion if a cow suddenly decided to say “Hello”.

Pies. Quilts. Crafts. Stalls selling all manner of hand-made items.

Piggy banks shaped like turtles, giraffes, cows, and rocking horses. Obvious hard work put in to each one by dedicated and delicate wood working skill.

My friend and I found the farm family there, showing their cows off with pride. Little changes in twenty years. But our friendships have.

We met her sister and her father, but no sign of the friend we once knew so well, the one we’d hurry to the fair grounds to see, to speak to, even for a little while in between her duties with the cows.

We waited around to speak to her, unsure how awkward it might feel to talk again, after years of no contact. Distance grows between, an ever widening expanse of time and silence.

No sign of her. Do we keep on waiting? Do we move on? The baby is tired and hungry. Our feet are sore.

I can’t stand much more of the music and the noise. Sound coming at me from all sides. I am nervous how well I’ll even be able to hear any conversation with this old friend, if she does indeed turn up to say hi.

We listen, part of a gathering and contented group of interested attendants of this lecture on reptiles. The girl speaking talks with an authoritative tone and sounds like she is highly knowledgeable when it comes to the python she holds and the red-footed tortoise named Flash.

Children ask such smart questions about the animals:

What does it drink?

Can I give it a kiss? (The girl doesn’t seem like she is going to allow that one.)

“No kissing them. Reptiles are dirty,” she advises, but she encourages anyone and everyone to reach out a hand and touch these guys.

“Nope. Not her face. Just touch her shell. She doesn’t like being poked in the eye, just like any of us.”

People actually make bowls, plates, and even guitar picks from the shell. What waste. Simply not necessary. I go online later, only to find that “an imitation tortoise-shell pick” is one of the top hits, for sale.

😦

“Can you let her swim in the water over there?” I hear the little child, a few feet away, ask and point.

“She’s a tortoise, not a turtle. They don’t swim,” the girl explains.

The baby would put the snake to her mouth, as she has approached that age of her infancy. Not advisable.

A nice man directly behind me, waiting to get his turn to see the animals up close, asks me, “Did you want to touch the animals too Love?”

Very nice of him to ask. “No. I’m good,” I say. “I’ve touched a snake before.”

(My brother has one as a pet. I have touched it several times. That should do me for a while.

The girl talks about a snake back at the zoo and animal park she works at, where these animals come from. That snake, which is not here, is called Julius Squeezer.

Hahahaha. Well, I thought that was a good one anyway.

🙂

All the country music and hay aside, I feel strange, with all this baby talk. People stop my friend and me in our tracks, every so often as we make our way through the fair, to comment on what a beautiful baby my friend has. And, of course, they couldn’t be more right, but the sitting target for people’s advice and attention is clearly my friend. People naturally want to know, are curious: What’s her name? How old is she? And my friend simply smiles and answers them politely.

We don’t meet up with our old friend. Must not be meant to be I guess, I tell myself. I am bad with awkward greetings. I stand there, awkward as anything, grasping for things to say.

I feel left out. If we do all speak, the two of them will discuss their children. It’s no fair that I can’t be a part of that shared experience of motherhood that the two of them will most certainly connect to.

I will stand there, ever more awkward, but then we’ve just missed her. She hasn’t left the cows to run into us at the reptile exhibit. She is somewhere, in this crowd, and we never do find her. Missed opportunity, but for what?

Some friendships aren’t meant to be reforged. I can’t answer why that is. I wish I could.

Maybe we have nothing more in common. Perhaps we never did.

But what…I don’t know…is that what friendship comes down to in the end? It obviously meant something to us at the time, will forever be a part of our shared past. What, then, is to stop my friend and me from losing touch too, one of these days? I can’t understand it, how it all works, what friendships are and how to discover if they are meant to withstand anything.

Earlier in the day, I urged my friend to come along with me, to say goodbye to another girl from school. She is moving to the US with her husband. We arrive at her father’s house, in an area of town I am not in often. This friendly girl we’ve come to see answers the door, immediately taking the baby from my friend’s arms. Baby makes a helpful distraction and an ice breaker, to lighten the mood. Makes more of these awkward meetings a little less so.

The day has been mentally and physically exhausting for me, for us, but we agree we’re glad we made the effort, even if it didn’t all work out.

Ever the lousy social butterfly that I am and I have one more day of practice under my belt, but I still can’t shake the feelings of being totally out-of-place and out-of-my-element. Will they ever leave me completely?

I answer questions about my writing and my book and my friend answers more about her baby. We sip from little glasses of juice and listen to all the talk going on around us, mostly from family of the married friend who is on her way to start a new life with her husband.

Others, myself included, well the path looks a lot different than that one. It looks quite pleasant and put together, when compared to whatever the hell I’m doing, but who knows where we will all end up, really. We all have our six month plans, our two year plans to refer to, for just how we think our lives should go.

An old and faded baby book and the earliest of kindergarten friendships made. No matter how long it’s been, where we’ve come from, or how far away life may take any of us. Sometimes, before we know it, we’re right back here in the local county we knew as children, friendships tested and reformed again.

How is life fair? I can answer that: it isn’t “fair” at all. Let’s forget about how unfair life can be by visiting the fair.

To be fair, on such a fair day as this: better quit while I am ahead. I don’t normally mean to make my SoCS posts quite this long.

So that’s my four-letter word for today and I’m sticking with it.

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Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, Special Occasions, Writing

One Year and Counting: Kind and Generous

Happy Birthday to me and here I am – I made it one year as a blogger.

I didn’t give up, I didn’t give in, and I did not burn out or run out of things to write about. It felt somewhat like a floodgate that was opened, spilling out all the things I’ve ever wanted to write about but didn’t for so long.

I liked the idea of pairing my actual birthday and what would become my blogging anniversary and that is just what I’ve done.

I never could have imagined, when I wrote my

very first post – Bucket List,

that I would have come so much farther than I dared believe I could and that I would have so much to show for it.

I thought a lot about how I wanted to mark this occasion and I decided to take this opportunity to thank all those who have made this, creatively, one of the best years of my life.

🙂

***

CANDACE JOHNSON

One of my biggest supporters, almost from the very beginning, has been Candace at:

Change It Up Editing and Writing Services

She gets the first spot in my list of thank you mentions – well deserved. The tagline from her website reads: “I love words. Especially yours.” This clearly shows her dedication to helping others.

When I was only debating and throwing around the idea of starting a blog in the first place I discovered her

Facebook page.

You can tell, or I soon learned how to, when someone genuinely wants to help you and to give you a moment of their time. I recognized, right away, that she was and is someone who is happy to help whenever, wherever, and however she possibly can.

Not everyone is willing to listen and do what they can, but when I reached out to Candace because I was, with my iPhone and its VoiceOver, unable to click on her Facebook links, she made a point of listening to what my issue was and doing what she could for me.

Ever since then, she has repeatedly put an extra copy of each link in the comments, where my VoiceOver recognizes it and allows me to read all the interesting articles and blog posts she shares on writing and editing.

I have learned so much from her. She granted me an interview, my first on Her Headache, and generously gave me the exposure, allowing me to write a guest post to explain to her readers some of the particular issues with technology that I face.

Since then she has continued to read and share my blog posts whenever she can. I will never forget her kindness and her support, the belief she has shown in my writing ever since.

I guess you could say that the bloggers and writers I have discovered and who have come to mean something to me, showing me kindness and assistance along the way, fall into a handful of different categories.

MAXWELL IVEY JR.

There’s the first blind seller of carnival rides I’ve ever met, who started a website to help advertise his business:

The Midway Marketplace

He is the friendliest person I have ever come across and he has done so much to show me how to open up, online and off.

He has introduced me to places for my blog and my writing to fit in, all while introducing me to other bloggers and writers, always there to answer any blogging or social media questions I might have.

Since I’ve begun talking with him he has started a second site (The Blind Blogger) and published his first ebook (Leading You Out of the Darkness Into the Light), which can be found here:

http://theblindblogger.net/ebooks/leading-you-out-of-the-darkness-into-the-light

STEPHANAE MCCOY

Then there’s the lady who has lost a lot of sight later in life, but who has not let that stop her. Instead, she has come out with this incredible resource for all women who are visually impaired and blind, but who still wish to be fashionable and stylish:

Bold Blind Beauty

Stephanae has again been someone willing to offer me support and an exchange of interviews. She has a site where she discusses things like makeup, shoes, and other accessories all girls like to indulge in from time to time. She includes not only photographs of these items, but the descriptions necessary for all women, even those who can not see, to be able to enjoy the things she recommends.

Sure, I may not wear makeup, but I still love to visit her website and especially I love to read about the interesting women she highlights on her Fierce Friday posts.

😉

She draws me in with the alliteration her blog name possesses.

🙂

I have met some wonderful authors and writers along the way too:

Alana Saltz,

Jordan Rosenfeld,

and writer, activist, and feminist:

Julie Zeilinger, from The FBomb.

The blogosphere is an amazing place; however, I sometimes feel like I stand out or I don’t quite fit into any particular niche. I guess this isn’t the worst thing in the world because I enjoy a number of areas of the blogging world and its many varied subjects.

I am in my early thirties, for those unfamiliar with me and my blog, but I am not a mother.

Parenting blogs are one of the most commonly found on the internet.

I have grown quite comfortable sandwiched between two groups in the blogging universe, all of which I do read for the array of different perspectives offered.

The second group are those twenty-something writers and bloggers, writing about the decade of exploration and self-discovery that the twenties has become. I guess I continue to return to blogs like these because, in some ways, I feel I am living some part of my twenties over again in my thirties, learning and growing and still so easily able to relate to the struggles these ladies are experiencing.

These bloggers include brilliant and insightful young women such as:

Young and Twenty,

Scarlet Wonderland,

Flowers and Wanderlust,

and

Single Strides.

Other blogs I love to follow include a Canadian writer and mother, a French blogger now living in the US, an Australian visually impaired travel blogger, a wizard with words, and a guy who lives with his illness and disability as best he can and who is a tireless activist for others with rare and debilitating conditions:

Carrie the Obscure CanLit Mama,

French writer and life coach Sylviane Nuccio,

Maribel of Touching Landscapes,

Lorraine of Wording Well,

and

Michael at Migraine Discussions.

What have I learned from one year of blogging and what advice would I give to those just starting out, who are where I was one year ago at this time? Hmmm.

I think this post from Scarlet Wonderland says it better than I ever could:

Advice For New Bloggers,

The best and only thing I have learned, think I knew all along, and would advise would be to remain authentic. I only know how to be me and that is all. If I ever did have those moments of watching what another blogger was doing, and the thought to emulate them crossed my mind, I soon realized that I have to stick on my own path and do things my own way.

Thank you to every one of my loyal family who read this blog and any friends and family, those who I know are reading, even if I sometimes don’t realize it.

Also, I want to take this time to thank everyone else. If I forgot you, I apologize. Just know I am grateful for your collective presence here and for each and every time you return to read one of my posts.

Whether it’s 100 or 1000 followers – I’m lucky to have you reading this. I appreciate every comment made, good or bad, because they’ve all taught me some powerful lessons, being able to hear other’s thoughts on what I write helps me to grow my voice.

This blog has sustained me through the hard times of the past year, gotten me through multiple rejections in love and in writing, and captured some new experiences and some lasting memories.

Half-way through this past year I got the crazy notion of starting a second one.

What was I thinking, right?

🙂

Kidding. I may have come a long way since I published my first post here, but I still have a long ways to go when it comes to the blogging side of things.

Now it’s each year of this blog that marks my life, more than New Year’s Eve does for most people.

I have goals I’d like to have reached this time next year.

I have a stubborn streak with the publications I was turned down from this past year. Maybe those serve to make me work even harder or, perhaps they are meant to be lessons, serving to teach me that not everything is meant to be.

I have a few exciting things in the works at this very moment. I hesitate to say anymore than that.

I know, I know – don’t you hate when people do that?

🙂

I will say as much as I believe I can, without jinxing myself completely. Yes, it’s happened before.

I hope to continue to write about new, different, and interesting subjects here and share even more fascinating people with you through the interviews I love so much to do.

Currently, what I can say is that I am in the midst of participating in two things, specifically:

The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge

and

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion

Both are causes I believe deeply in.

Finally, I couldn’t end this post without thanking the one who first got this blog up and running for me and who encouraged me, helping me get passed the tricky and the technical.

Thanks BSK.

***

Now then…

*Clears throat*
Now that I’ve come full circle.

Love and life are scary sometimes. I am scared a lot of the time frankly, but this blog is one of the greatest rewards for all that fear.

Jennifer from Young and Twenty sums up fear best in this way:

The Power of Being Scared

**I truly believe that where I am right now, at this moment in time, is where I was always supposed to be.**

This line from my very first post (February, 2014) was true then and, hey – it’s just as true today.

What do you know?

🙂

Through all the hard times and the struggles – I still believe it and I can’t tell you how comforting that thought is.

An so – one year and counting and here’s to many more.

Natalie Merchant, Kind and Generous, on YouTube

I want to dedicate this anniversary post and this song to you all.

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Book Reviews, Spotlight Sunday, The Blind Reviewer

Book Review: Leading You Out of the Darkness Into the Light

Leading you out of the Darkness Book Cover

“Take many small steps and never stop stepping,” Max says. Truer words have never been spoken.

First there was Helen Keller, there’s Erik Weihenmayer, and now we’ve got Maxwell Ivey Jr. and his wisdom and generous spirit, total willingness to help others.

Here is: “A Blind Man’s Inspirational Guide to Success” – in his own words and through concrete steps he guides the reader toward finding their own.

He is a peer advisor for

The American Foundation for the Blind.

I met him through social media and he has happily advised me on numerous occasions and now he wants to help you.

I had never met a fellow visually impaired person who had experience running and selling carnival rides. When I first spoke with him I checked out his only website at the time:

The Midway Marketplace

Within months of knowing him he began his second website and from there he was unstoppable:

The Blind Blogger

He wrote a book. Seriously. He wrote a book. I was impressed by this, when I heard it, because this is an admirable thing to have done, and no small feat.

This book lays everything out in a neat and orderly fashion, leading the reader through with eleven clear-cut steps, such as:

Step 1: Begin by determining your end goal.

Step 2: Assess the situation

Step 3: Do what you can, one thing at a time

Step 5: Ask for help when you need it

Step 6: Staying motivated by taking small steps

Step 7: Celebrate your accomplishments

And much more. For the rest of Max’s steps, check this book out.

“Don’t delay – sign up today!”

Catchy lines like this are great, but he offers so much more within this short ebook.

Role model. Mentor. Coach.

These are just a few names Max goes by and a few ways he wants to help anyone who might be lost, needing to be pointed in the right direction.

This book is reflective, motivational, and practical.

You’re only truly in the dark when you have lost purpose. In this book, Max aims to help you find it again, all while referring to his own process of finding it himself.

Most people figure, if this blind gentleman is able to find his way, there is no real excuse or reason for me not to. This gives credit where credit is due, to the author, and makes the idea of coming out of the darkness and into the light a hugely powerful image.

He believes in the best in people. If I could choose the single biggest message from this book, it would definitely be that asking for help is encouraged and an important step for human growth and self-development, for reaching one’s goals.

It is impossible to get through life, as someone who is blind or visually impaired, without seeking help from others at one time or another. This can cause one to become extra stubborn and self-reliant, but sooner or later help is needed and necessary. This, following by example, is the most essential lesson I took away from Max in this book and I believe you will too.

He shows that it’s okay…perfectly healthy…the key to success. Nobody does it alone.

Having trust and faith in people and to be willing and open to asking for and accepting other people’s help are two things one learns from the start when visually impaired. These are important lessons anyone can learn and should adopt.

Unexpected things can come from reaching out to others. This one lone thought is highly motivational for me and the best thing I took from reading Max’s words and meeting Max to begin with. Max is proof of this and this is the most inspiring part of his story and of this book.

One foot in front of the other.

Eagle Scouts gave Max badges to track his progress. There are often no physical badges given out in life for your accomplishments, but Max’s above words are true all the same.

His experiences as an Eagle Scout, having gastric surgery, and just learning to persevere in life with a physical disability clearly taught him some valuable lessons, which he outlines here through clear and action-oriented steps. These sound easy to follow on paper, but they take work. His unique approach in this book is to continually remind the reader to stop reading and make good on the suggested exercises and then to contact him to discuss how each step of the process went. This personal connection he cultivates with each and every reader is what sets him apart from most self-help books on the market.

Yes, often, historically, self-help guide books have been overrated, but Max truly follows this well-known line, “putting your money where your mouth is”. Max does this and more. He doesn’t just “talk the talk”, but he “walks the walk” that is necessary for any real and lasting success in life.

Once you experience how good it feels to have accomplished steps toward your goal it will become a feeling you want to repeat over and over again.
I am on this journey myself right now and reading this book has confirmed all I have been telling myself and everything I have been applying to my own life in recent months.

Gratitude:

Being visually impaired teaches also that it is important, to get through life, to be able and willing to look for the good wherever possible. I may not have one first prize, but I wrote my story and had the courage to share it. I may not have gotten what I hoped for in a particular experience, but once I could get past the disappointment I could find the valuable lessons I did learn and that is enough.

I know I am not the only one to get something from this book, to apply to my own life, and I won’t be the last to find strength and encouragement from it.

Friend…coach…rock.

What does success mean to you? Max wants to know. He is genuinely interested.

HE shares his own definition of success.

Failures and accomplishments.
Negativity and positivity.
Overcoming adversity.

He invites readers to share, not only their successes, but their failures too.

He has learned to be persistent and to never give up or give in, using the example of banging on the door and if you receive no answer, to check the tool with which you are using.

Thank you Max, for writing this, and for being the example we all need.

Purchasing links:

(Ebook Format)

SELZ

(Kindle version)

Amazon

(Print copy)

Create Space

Acknowledgements:

As Max continually says in Leading You Out of the Darkness Into the Light, nobody does anything of real worth and value by themselves. Max had help from his friends at every step of the way.

He needed help with the visual aspects, specifically cover images and formatting: Jenny Rollo and Angela McCall.

His editor, Lorraine Reguly, can be found at her website:

Wording Well

Her site’s motto is “Helping writers become authors” and that is what she has graciously done for Max and what Max has done is truly remarkable.

If you feel like you are lost in uncertainty, adrift in the darkness that life sometimes brings, let Max help guide you out of that darkness and back into the light.

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