1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Bucket List, History, The Insightful Wanderer, Travel, TToT

TToT: Mother Nature and Cloud Iridescence, #10Thankful

It was a diamond winter day in February — clear, cold, hard, brilliant. The sharp blue sky shone, the white fields and hills glittered, the fringe of icicles around the eaves…sparkled. Keen was the frost and crisp the snow over our world; and we young fry…were all agog to enjoy life. 

—THE STORY GIRL
🎨 Peder Mørk Mønsted

New month, new slate. Here we go.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful for a nice dinner out with my sister and my brothers.

We went, to celebrate February’s arrival, my upcoming birthday, and my brother-in-law’s birthday in a few weeks.

A few drinks and a free celebration dessert made it a lovely evening. I could relax, finally, for a few hours at least.

I’m thankful when my niece hands me a banana.

It was a plastic toy, but still. The gesture shows she is growing up, soon to be taking her first steps.

I’m thankful when my friend the travel agent helps me figure out some pricing for a trip to BC.

It is for the Canadian Federation of the Blind’s annual spring convention.

At least three of us are going. We will make sure to get in some travel/tourism stuff in there as well.

I am determined to stand by the ocean.

Also, to meet people in person, who I’ve spoken to by phone for months, it will be nice to make their acquaintances, and I hope to speak in front of the entire convention on my project to put descriptive audio services in movie theatres.

I’m thankful for a visit with my neighbour and my brother.

My brother got a ride back here, planning to jam with his band friends in my basement that night. So, I’d previously made a plan to visit with my neighbour in the afternoon and so the three of us had a nice talk.

I’m thankful my neighbour cared to give me some tea to help me sleep with my cold.

She said she could give me apple cider vinegar to gurgle, which she swears takes care of a sore throat for her within hours/a day or two. She said it may taste bad, but it works. Luckily, for me, my throat issues were behind me. Sure, I barely had a voice, but the soreness was gone. It was a stuffy head and I don’t sleep well at the best of times.

She is taking care of me, however she can.

I’m thankful my cold cleared up like it did, when it did, and I hope it stays away for a few weeks at least.

I have an appointment next week to get a new artificial eye made. It requires an entire day of fitting and resizing and taking my current artificial eye in and out, in and out. Not my favourite thing.

With a cold, tearing up constantly, it wouldn’t make the experience any easier.

I’m thankful for my sister’s help with time card/invoice spread sheets/graphs.

To request payment for the contract work I am doing, writing an introduction for a paper on braille, I must fill out a chart thing.

My computer’s voiceover program does read graphs, but I tend to try too hard to visualize them and have to work with what I hear.

I am practicing with my braille display to get a better idea, but just hearing numbers and columns is confusing.

My sister deals with these things, all the time, for her tax business work. She helps me get paid and I am grateful.

I’m thankful my niece is still small enough to fall asleep on my shoulder.

My sister was at the store and my niece had worn herself out, crawling round and around my house, going for mops, crawling behind the couch, and getting into trouble of all kinds.

Eventually though, she started to whimper, for her mother I’d imagined. I picked her up and paced with her in my arms, listening to music and singing gently. Soon she was asleep on my shoulder.

I tried to sit down gently in the chair, trying hard not to wake her, and the position I ended up in was not so good for my neck.

I tried to shift, but she was in a position in my lap and I didn’t want to disturb her. It was totally worth it.

I used to do this with my niece and nephews in the past few years. This may be my last chance, for a long while, to hold a sleeping baby. That saddened me and I held her all the closer for it.

I am thankful for what Britain did to fight off Hitler in World War II.

I went to see The Darkest Hour and I was moved, in many different ways. Churchill’s oratory skill was brilliant and his determination to protect England was challenged at every step, until he was honest and got feedback from the British people. He had little help from the United States at that time, May of 1940. Still, he was honest about the fact that they were on their own and there was no option but to fight to the end.

My feelings on peace vs war, it’s complicated, but I try to understand how things were/are, when making a judgment call on what should/must be done.

If Hitler had conquered the island nation of Great Britain, he could have and likely would’ve moved on to England’s child of sorts, Canada.

I’m thankful it’s February.

I am fickle with my feelings on turning thirty-four on Saturday. It depends on the day or the moment I think about it.

Still, January wasn’t the best of months. Though February also means my niece’s first birthday and her growing up, I am still looking forward to celebrate. The cake my sister has ordered from my cousin, the cake maker, sounds pretty cool.

Spectacular moment “rare rainbow cloud” appears in skies above Brazilian tourist spot – THE SUN

Hello February. You’ve arrived, Finally!

Advertisements
Standard
1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Memoir and Reflections, SoCS, Special Occasions, The Blind Reviewer, This Day In Literature

Humbug: Review of “The Man Who Invented Christmas” #Humbug #AChristmasCarol #Review #SoCS

A little
yuletide and humbug for you
on Christmas Eve Eve, or however one might say that.

And now, here we are, and you’ll forgive me if it’s now officially Christmas Eve. I am about to watch A Christmas Carol with my father, a Christmas Eve tradition.

Please enjoy this brief summary/review of the tale of the man who came up with the story in the first place.

Light in places, nearing the absurd, but it took me back to the times, those days.

The year was 1843 and Charles Dickens was under pressure to come up with his next big hit. He’d toured the United States of America and the crowds there loved him, but Christmas was coming and he wanted a seasonal story for the ages.

He swore he could come up with one in a matter of months/weeks.

His home was filled with beautiful new things, purchased from his previous book’s success, and a family full of life. The more he pressed himself to come up with a Christmas tale, the more consumed by it he became.

His household employed a young Irish woman who loved to tell the children old Irish ghost stories. What a thing to share at Christmas I say.

Ghosts at Christmas…well I never!

Charles overheard her telling on of these tales and ran with it and a story of an old miser being visited by three spirits came to life in his head and soon onto the page.

Literally, it came to life, as soon I was confused, as a viewer without sight or an audio track to explain.

Scrooge was there and Dickens was talking out loud. Soon, his room was spread out with papers and his characters, talking to him.

Tiny Tim was apparently inspired by a real life nephew who was ill and whose progress was uncertain when the family came to visit the Dickens’ home.

How did A Christmas Carol come to be? – BBC

Charles deals with a father who was the root of many of his son’s issues, growing up poor and with debts owed. Charles fears the fame drying up and his own future debt, making his own family suffer the way he did as a boy.

His memories of going to a poorhouse and having to work in a factory, being teased by other boys, and all this with deadlines for what was shaping up to become A Christmas Carol.

So, we all know the book does get written, obviously. No mystery there. He did it when he was younger than I am now. Times were different then, or not so much as we’d think. This story still applies.

I only read it (the novel that is), for the first time, a few years ago. To me, the title of this film is apt, as Charles Dickens, in many ways, was the inventor of Christmas, to me, a lot more recent than two thousand years.

My father has been watching that old version of the classic story, the film, since my childhood. When once I couldn’t quite grasp the whole story, finding it boring in parts, I now treasure it for its lessons on compassion and humanity.

I can think of a few souls, in need of a lesson on mistakes of the past that cannot be undone, realities of the present in other places and in the lives of other people, and the chances still available in the future to make things better.

This film told a behind-the-scenes story that made for a pleasant and sometimes gritty glimpse into poverty and one’s life work, in this case being writing. Such a career and success can dry up as fast as from whence it came.

I am inspired, as a writer myself, by a story created, as Charles did, in those stories that span the test of time, from England to North America and around the world.

I’d add this one to any list of movies to view around the Christmas season, for sure.

Humbug and Scrooge to view, for you.

“And God bless us, everyone!”

The Real Reason Charles Dickens Wrote A Christmas Carol – Time

I once mistook the author’s main character for the author himself. Charles Dickens was no humbug!

You’ll forgive me, Mr. Dickens sir, won’t you?

Yule tidings to you all.

Standard
1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Travel, Travel Tuesday, TravelWriting

The Colours of Kenya #Blindness #Travel #TravelTuesday

In January, 2017, I was discovering a new place. While I was immersed in the culture of Mexico, where I attended a writing workshop, Lizzi, at the same time, was on her way to Africa, but not for vacation. She was going to help.

I kept up on her time there through social media and I could sense the profound affect it was having on her.

Then I read this.

I knew I wanted to read one of her stories and one title, in particular, it jumped out at me.

I miss colours, a hard fact of life. I may go to Kenya one day, who knows, but I won’t ever see the colours of Kenya. I wanted to hear someone with a way with words tell me what they saw of Kenya’s colours.

Read the following story by Lizzi that I am honoured to be featuring on my blog today. It’s beautiful.

***

The Colours of Kenya

I had been travelling for what felt like a million hours, and in spite of having slept on both plane-rides, I was dropping with tiredness. It didn’t matter though, because I was in KENYA!

Getting there had been a long journey, literally and figuratively. The preceding months had been filled with emails back and forth to various Important Bods at the hospital, a cautious raising of hopes in October 2016 (only to have them dashed), and then a sudden YES, ten days before we were due to leave.

The four of us – a consultant, a senior nursing sister, an infection control nurse, and me (a buttinski retinal screener with her own agenda for gathering baseline information on the state of diabetes care on offer at the four hospitals we were linked with) – had been travelling since 11am UK time, arriving in Mombasa at 4.20am Kenyan time. We were at the end of our abilities to communicate clearly, and a sleep-haze had descended over all of us, reducing our words and movements to the very deliberate, or the not-at-all.

Still, landing in the thick, humid Kenyan morning (far hotter than Nairobi, a couple of hours earlier, and far more like the ‘stepping into an oven’ I had expected) at an airport which seemed almost deserted and (I noticed with interest) had not one pane of glass in the building, but a beautiful Byzantine cement filigree over each window-space, was definitely a fulfilment of my hope for adventure.

We piled into the waiting taxi and started off out of the airport, past the soldiers’ huts, and onto a road which wasn’t so much ‘road’, as potholes laced together with concrete. As we left the airport behind us, I was startled by a flash of deep magenta in the middle of a dusty patch of grass. Some kind of shrub with flaming red flowers held itself proudly in the pale morning light. I later discovered it was bougainvillea – a plant very suited to hot climates, with brightly coloured bracts near its flowers in every shade of pink, purple, red, and white – which seemed to grow proliferately throughout the region, providing beautiful splashes of colour in sunlit places.

p5brfKv.jpg

‘Bougainvillea Kenyavision’ – a close-up of the bright magenta bracts of the bougainvillea flower, against a blue sky]

In spite of my snoozing colleagues, I couldn’t bear to close my eyes and miss out on my first glimpses of what was to become a familiar road between Mombasa (where the hospitals were) and Diani, where our hotel was.
My first impression was that there was paint EVERYWHERE! Many of the buildings were completely coated, often with advertising slogans painted on. In fact, many of the walls suggested ‘If you like it, CROWN it’, advertising the very paint they were (presumably) decorated with.

After a few days of travelling up and down the road, I decided that the predominant colours of Kenya were bright green, yellow, blue, and white, with splashes of orange and red thrown in. If anything could be painted or decorated, it was; from the riotously coloured tuk-tuks with their funny names (‘Jobless’, ‘Father’s Blessing’) and entertaining slogans (“Watch out for the devil – never mind!”), to entire sides of blocks of flats advertising pampers nappies! It seemed to me if anything was still for long enough, it was liable to get a bright coat of paint…or that it had been the case at some point, for nearly all the paintwork I saw was fading a little around the edges, with cracks in the surface and chips of paint beginning to flake away.

CDnJDaP.jpg

‘The Colours of Kenya’ – a man walks past a building painted pale green, with an advertisement for Pampers nappies emblazoned on its side. The ground is bright orange sand/dirt, and rocks lie strewn across what passes for pavement.]

The ground astonished me, too – partly, I think, because I’m not used to seeing so much of it, so close. The places in England where the ground next to the road is just…ground…as opposed to something tarmacked or concreted, are few and far between. In Kenya, the ground drifts onto the road and the tarmac crumbles into the edges of the dust, and everything swirls together as the traffic goes speeding by. The mud is hard and compacted with a layer of dust, which coats the shoes and ankles when walked on. Along the miles of road, it went through almost-white, to yellow, to ochre, to dark orange, to brown, to almost red. I don’t think I have ever seen so many colours of earth in one smallish area, and even though a lot of it was covered in plastic in various stages of disintegration (no council waste collections, no rubbish bins, no method, other than to sweep the trash into a pile and burn it), it was beautiful.

The people were bright as peacocks, or parrots, or any other vividly sparkling kind of bird you can think of. The colours and patterns on their clothes were incredible, mesmerizing geometric intricacies, which utterly delighted me, and made me feel very drab by comparison, in my muted olives and blues. Still, I considered, with my pinky-yellow skin, there probably weren’t many bright patterns which I could really carry off without looking sickly, but I did admire the many beautifully-dressed people I saw.

I realized as the week wore on, that the colours which would look utterly garish in the dismal light of England, were not overpowering in the equatorial sunlight. Rainbows of colour shimmered wherever crowds of people gathered, as the mirages shimmered above the surfaces of the roads. Each morning, I got up while it was still dark, and went for a swim in a pool of incredible azure blue, under a sky which lightened to pale blue, then stayed white for most of the day, fading to blue again as the sun went down.

Much of the rural landscape was dominated by the feathery green fronds of palm trees, with their tatty, browning leaf ends, which rattled drily in the wind, or when shaken by troupes of monkeys blundering through. Even the monkeys were surprisingly colourful – unassuming sandy-brown vervets, when male and in motion, showed bright, sky-blue balls!

The beach was pristine, as you’d expect a proud tropical resort beach to be – luminous white sand, cerulean water giving way to navy further out, sweeping, delicious waves, and green palms bending gracefully into the wind. There was even a delightful smattering of little grey frond-covered huts, to shelter tourists relaxing on their sun-loungers.

I would be fascinated to see Kenya in the rain (were it not for the risk of cholera, which increases considerably in the rainy season, due to the lack of sanitation systems). All of the buildings were spattered with earth, to about a metre high, where (presumably) the previous years’ rains had flung the dirt high against the walls and left it there, a stain bearing testament to time and dust. In England, the rain turns everything to grey, whether it is grey or not…in Kenya, I can only hope that the bright colours stand out more vividly against the gloom, a rainbow promise that the sun will shine again, and life will once more be, if not easy, still optimistically bright and beautiful.

***

And so I listened to Lizzi speak of what she saw and learned about blindness and eye disease in Africa. I thought of myself and my white cane and my conflicted feelings about having to use one, but then I realized the privilege I have for even having one where so many around the world, those who could really use them, do not.

I wanted to donate, even a small amount, to make sure a cane would be given to a person in need.

Eyes For East Africa – Online Shop

A small donation can buy someone a white cane, eye drops for a child, or a magnifying glass to better see the world. It doesn’t take much, but it is very much needed.

I live in Canada and have access to good medical care. I have had the best care when my remaining eyesight was threatened. I only want that for all people.

I want to thank word artist Lizzi for sharing this vivid retelling of her time in Kenya, for all of us who have never seen it for ourselves. That is why I love travel and a world so full of wonder and magic, everyday people going about their lives, the hard things and the struggles, but there is always beauty to be found somewhere.

Join the Deep Thinking, Truth Telling and Good-Seeking at Considerings

Standard
1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, FTSF, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, The Insightful Wanderer, Travel

Imaginary Lines, #FTSF

It all began with a Facebook post:.

With all the news lately of asylum seekers coming across the border between the U.S. and Canada, in through Manitoba and other places, I can’t help wondering what has made them take such chances. I guess we in Canada aren’t quite as used to it, though we’ve heard all the stories about people from South America and Mexico crossing the border between Mexico and the U.S. always.

Humans have always been on the move, but often spurred on by fear and desperation, feeling unsafe where they currently are.
It made me think of the two times I have crossed a border recently.
First it was the border between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. We crossed by car and I never even would have known we’d crossed into another province because I couldn’t see to read the signs. I soon got out and stood for a time on the border, on the river, with the wind-tunnel blowing my hair every which way. I remained there and thought about a loss I’d newly experienced and how that person had crossed the ocean to come to Canada many years earlier, for different reasons.
I then thought about what makes us draw lines between ourselves and other human beings. I understand why we’ve had to map out these markers between us and other countries and states and provinces. I even understand why some must be watched and even protected/defended, which leaves us frightened we are under a constant threat from other places and people.

The second time was when I crossed, by car, over the border between Canada and the U.S. but I felt so strange leaving my home country, though I wished I didn’t feel any such separation. I then crossed the border between the U.S. and  Mexico, but by plane I once more noticed nothing, until I landed and felt the thrill of being in a country I’d never been in before.

***

All week long, on our nightly National Canadian news, I have watched a series that attempted to answer my question: just who are these asylum seekers, those who feel so unsafe in the U.S. and are now coming so so very far?

I learned it has been somewhere around 140 of them since January 1st of this year, walking for hours in the freezing cold of winter. Some in Canada fear this number will only increase, from a trickle of people to a stream that’s unstoppable, as weather improves and spring arrives.

Well, I thought about the fear I had, not only of my recent writing workshop ending and having to return to my reality, but also I feared having to cross back over the U.S. to get back home to Canada.

I knew, as the end of the week drew nearer how silly it was for me to be afraid. I had no real problems. I still felt unwelcome, even with the kindness I was shown by so many who helped me travel safely through airports in both Dallas and Detroit.

Mexico and Canada and in between, now, is this dark spot, which I realize is totally unfair and uncalled for in many ways. Sometimes, in my mind, I see the continent of North America being carved up, split apart like cracks caused by shifting plates, deep underneath us.

I still can’t believe 45 ever ran on the promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. From the first time I ever heard that ridiculous idea, up to this moment as I write this, I can’t believe it. I know I am not alone. That thing many have said about how we should be building bridges that will connect us, not walls that will separate us even more than a border already does, this is what runs through my mind every single day.

Now, according to the series, there are those fleeing danger and worse in certain African countries and Asian countries, making it all the way to South America, often just as dangerous. This report I saw sent a reporter to investigate and speak to some, mostly from Somalia, who were crossing the border of Guatemala and Mexico’s most southern part. They have come so far, but because of what has taken place in the U.S. they are wanting to get to Canada, but remain trapped where they are, unable to get there without crossing through what lies between.

Canada is a long way away and suddenly, the distance I felt on that last day in Mexico, to make it back to my home, it doesn’t look nearly as wide a gap to go now that I’ve seen what those people are up against.

I hope Canada is kind with these asylum seekers. I hear our border guards and RCMP officers reporting seeing families, pushing strollers and coming across with infant seats, a heartbreaking thing to witness, as I imagine an infant I love having to travel like that.

Our country has those driven by fears, like the ignorance growing in the U.S., fueled by so much misinformation and a lack of ability to open their eyes.

In Canada, today a phone conversation apparently took place between our leader and the new leader of the U.S., after the face-to-face meeting that took place, last week in Washington, D.C.

It’s reported that border security issues were not discussed, but I find that so hard to believe. I don’t know what will happen. It worries me. When it comes to borders and boundaries, we may be two very different countries, but it’s like a horizon I can not see. It feels strong and weak, all at once.

I do know that Canada’s Immigration Minister was a refugee himself, from Somalia.

So, what would certain people say about the series I just spoke of? Would they call it fake news, created to tug at the human heartstrings, but disguising hidden dangers for all good, law-abiding citizens?

Some here in Canada argue we need to worry about real Canadians first, before helping everybody who just so happens to show up on our doorstep, no matter their reasons.

I put myself in the shoes of anyone in need. That’s because I feel I am one who benefits a lot, is carried on the backs of other Canadians, requiring services my country provides and this is painful to think about when I hear all the talk that’s been growing, as I’ve always been receiving help from so many hard-working Canadians. I am just as much a risk and a drain on the system, even if nobody ever bothered to know me and what my worth is as a fellow human being, just trying to live peacefully and share this planet. I guess that’s why I am so passionate about this sort of thing, though I admittedly know very little about all the ways humans cross borders. I want to learn more. I want to keep up and stay as educated as possible.

The whole thing makes me want to cry. I am really no less expendable, to so many who complain, as any refugee or immigrant ever was or will be.

We need to remain real and human to each other. Being unnamed, just a number or statistic, and cold distance is seen as sensible and becomes contagious.

***

February is, of course, Black History Month and I have been watching a documentary series on Thursday nights, all about the colonization Great Britain has been responsible for, for so long.

Where were borders when that was going on? What boundaries existed, what limits, when the Mighty Great Britain was subjugating so many?

Here in Ontario, I watch a lot of programs on the provincial station, which is affiliated with England and the BBC. A lot of documentaries from over there are aired here and I see a lot of a place I really know very little about, though Canada and they are forever connected too.

I am glad I am learning about the history of Britain’s colonization of anywhere and everywhere and the multi-cultural place it is, with its problems and all that has transpired there for all these years.

***

I ended my Facebook post by stating:

Notice, I say “border” instead of “borders” because I want to highlight the fact that two places share it, rather than being on one side or the other. Also, the term “alien” should never have been used to describe other human beings. Such terms allow us to think of ourselves as “us and them” and divide us even more than we already are.
You could cross an entire ocean or a border, guarded by someone with a gun or a deadly serious tone in their voice. Or, you could cross one in a car or airplane, and if you’re not looking, not even know you’re doing it.

***

When it comes to borders and boundaries, if we dare to look within ourselves, where do our hearts and our humanity begin and end when it comes to empathy and compassion? Where do we draw lines in the sand of our lives and those of other humans who are just trying to live life on their own terms, just like any of us feel we deserve to?

***

I realize this one was fairly lengthy, but I have had all this building up in my mind and heart and it all came out through my fingers, as I am a little wound up by recent events on all fronts. I do appreciate that Kristi read my Facebook post, included here, from earlier in the week and asked me to co-host with her this time.

6SaOVvt.png

http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=699286

Standard
1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Bucket List, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, Piece of Cake, Spotlight Saturday, The Insightful Wanderer, Travel

International Day For Persons with Disabilities 2016, #IDPD2016

Helen Keller…Stevie Wonder…Ray Charles…Rick Hansen…Stephen Hawking…

The Rick Hansen Foundation

There are so many more of us out here, only looking to have rich, full lives like anyone else, but what often stops us is not only society’s barriers, but our own.

***

Since 1992, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been celebrated annually on 3 December around the world. The theme for this year’s International Day is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want” . This theme notes the recent adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of these goals in building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.

***

One note on the society part – some of you may not want to think a lot about it, if you don’t have to, because then it becomes clear that the possibility for anyone to become disabled is indeed a possibility for anyone..

I am a Canadian woman, living with a disability. I didn’t acquire my disability through an accident later in life. I did not develop it overtime, but from birth and still, who knows which direction my remaining vision might take.

On the day before the
United Nation’s International Day For PErsons with Disabilities
I felt a tired feeling that I sometimes get. I panic and assume my sight is worsening, but I am not sure, if that makes any real sense. I close my eyes and decide I will try to get back in to see my retinal specialist soon.

I don’t know what, if anything, he will be able to tell me, offer me as hope that I won’t be completely blind one day. He will probably see no changes or signs of the mysterious eye disease that took my left eye twenty years ago. He will speak to me of gene therapies in various stages of development, but I don’t know what hope lies in that for me. Maybe it will be my future. Maybe not. I’ve learned not to bank on anything.

That’s a part of my DNA, just like the genetic eye disease. I am conditioned to either think the worst or simply not want to hope for the things I may really really want, always fearing that the disappointment from possibly not getting them will break me. It hasn’t broken me yet, which does give me reason to be optimistic though.

I wanted to be able to see the truly unique show violinist Lindsey Stirling put on recently. Instead, I listened to all I could and relied on my helpful sister to fill in the blanks. I wanted to throw my white cane away and yelled my displeasure, and through the wish, but instead I sat and listened even harder.

I want to draw like I used to when I saw colours and when everything in my world was more clearly and brightly defined. I can’t. I want to scream in frustration but I’m resigned instead.

I want to take up the latest craze of adult colouring books, but I don’t.

Of course, nothing is really stopping me. I may not, as an adult, see the lines I may have hardly seen as a child, which are now nearly invisible to me. I could still get myself a Harry Potter or any number of other themed colouring books with a theme which fits my interest, and be damned if I miss colouring in the lines by a mile.

But I don’t. I don’t scream or rail at the world in an uproar. I find other ways to spend my time.

I want to travel and to go through life with an independent spirit and loads of self confidence, but I don’t. I try and I work at it, but I’m scared.

I find a travel series, a BBC documentary, available to me on Netflix. It’s Stephen Fry, whom I love, and he is doing a road trip across the United States in his British cab. I know him from his narration of the Harry Potter books and for his intelligent and witty character. After watching him visit all 50 states I now know he hates being on a horse, dancing, and skiing. He loves science and culture and literature.

Stephen Fry In America

I watch him on his trip and I long to go on one of my own, but I fear getting lost in the big, expansive world and I worry that my white cane will attract only pity. I want to grip it with extra determination and go anyway. It’s all in my attitude, right?

I can’t drive a cab across the country. I want to believe I will see more of the world anyway, even without definition of sight.

I don’t try to revisit childhood experiences of mine by colouring. Instead, I watch a travel show which I’ve heard of but only now decided to give a chance.

HELLO GOODBYE, #HelloGoodbye

The host speaks to one woman in her sixties, widowed after her late husband’s long battle with illness, but who has now found new love with a man from England. Her happiness is infectious. Her newly found love walks down the ramp in the arrivals terminal at Toronto Pearson International Airport and gets down on one knee. Love is lost and can be found again.

I feel warm just by watching and listening to her story.

The host also speaks to a young man and his parents. The son is on his way to participate in Rio, at the Paralympics. He was paralyzed from a diving accident and now plays wheelchair rugby.

And then there was the grandmother, daughter, and grandson saying their goodbyes. The young guy and his mother are heading back to Britain after a visit with Grandma. The mother has RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa). She carries a cane, but the son speaks of wanting his mother to have companionship with a guide dog, as he will soon be going out on his own and doesn’t want her to be alone. He has worried about her safety all his life. She admits to being unsure about going for a guide dog once they get back home, but her son’s words cause her to rethink things.

She grips her white cane. I grip mine. She has been losing sight for years. I’ve been blind since birth and losing since. Am I any further along in accepting my circumstances and my white cane than she is?

People ask me all the time if I am ever going to get another guide dog. I don’t quite know what to say. Yes, they may provide the necessary confidence boost for many. I consider it.

I don’t think any dog will ever compare to my Croche, But is that all it is?

I can’t put another animal through what I put Croche through. She was so well trained and so fittingly suited in temperament. She was given to me and I was trusted with her. A lot went into all that. We were a team, but I failed her.

My ever growing illnesses caused me to sleep and her to dutifully stay by my side, but she was prevented from shining. She was my pal, but I don’t take the responsibility of a working dog lightly. I don’t know what my future will bring and I can’t bring myself to bringing another animal into that.

I want to curse what stops me, but what often stops me is me. And so I would just end up cursing myself, again and again.

Or, I could take hold of my white cane and use it for betterment, for working for some of my dreams, and for hardening my resolve and building my often feeble confidence.

My feelings of shame when I walk with my cane are hard to describe and hard to fight off. I will never be happy if I don’t try. Fear and disappointment stop me from even trying. What a waste that would be.

Standard
1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, The Blind Reviewer

Who Is Malala? #1000Speak, #StopGunViolence

Malala Yousafzai has just three words for you: BOOKS NOT BULLETS

Malala.org

“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

I write with many things in mind today.

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion

This is part movie review, part

1000 Speak post,

and part outcry against gun violence.

Note: possible “He Named Me Malala” spoilers ahead.

I want to answer the question, just in case it isn’t already known: Who is Malala?

The word “Malala” means grief stricken or sadness and she was named after Malalai of Maiwand, a famous warrior woman from Pakistan, who fought and died.

Malala’s story went differently. Bullets did not stop her, on that bus, back in 2012 and hatred did not silence her.

He Named Me Malala

This film shines a light on Malala’s everyday family life, in and amongst the news clips from the shooting.

Just like any other teenage girl, when an interviewer asks her about crushes and boys, she replies with shyness and giggling.

She appears on television, doing many interviews. On The Daily Show, she states the idea that girls are more powerful than boys. John Stewart replies, feigning shock at just such a thought.

The scenes with her arm wrestling and bickering with her younger brothers showed the sweetness and the love of a family who only want to live in peace.

Her mother does not speak, for the most part, throughout. She loves her family, her daughter, but she has found settling into the new life they have in Birmingham, England and far from their home, which is now too dangerous, a struggle to adjust.

Their Islamic culture has taught her things about modesty, as she still points out to her daughter, when they are out. Her mother notices any man that appears to be looking at her. She was raised in a place and time when it was the norm to cover the woman’s face in public, but Malala tells her mother that “he may be looking at me, but I am looking at him too.”

It isn’t easy to blend these two countries and cultures for Malala’s mother, who is unable to speak the language and, despite all that’s happened, misses her home.

She says, in the film, that she looks up at the moon and reflects on how everything is different, in their new home, except the moon. She knows this is where her daughter is safe from those, in the Taliban, who would still want her silenced, and so she adapts.

Only those filled with hate could be threatened by an innocent child. Nobody who understood what love means and the power it has could or would act with such cowardice.

Malala tries to educate, about what is said in the Quran:

“Allah says, if you kill one person, it is as if you kill whole humanity.
The profit of Muhammad is the profit of mercy. Do not harm yourself or others. And do you not know the first word of the Quran means “read”?”

Malala Yousafzai’s 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

I can hear her bnervousness, during her acceptance speech, by the sound her mouth makes as she speaks. It’s as if her mouth is extremely dry, but she makes a hugely important statement with her words..

“When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.”
–Ursula K. Le Guin

Malala is the candle. The shadow barged onto her school bus and shot her and her friends.

These monsters, under the guise of the religion of Islam, made their way onto that bus and asked, “Who is Malala?”

Now, her story and her documentary shines a light on that shadow and on the candle that brings the world’s attention to what must be done to keep candles like hers burning.

Malala went to her father’s school, studied and played with her friends, and then things began to change.

The Taliban came to her village and began to worm their way into people’s heads, to seize control and to indoctrinate. They would, soon enough, turn to the only thing they know: violence.

Women were rounded up, flogged in the town square, and people were killed. Schools were destroyed.

“Education for girls went from being a right to being a crime.”

Girls were forbidden to go to school, to speak up, to have a future. Most people were, understandably, too scared and remained silent. Not Malala and her father.

Malala was still young, but not so young that she couldn’t be afraid, for her father more than herself. She speaks, in the film, about checking and double-checking all the doors and windows in their house before going to bed because she was afraid they would come for her father in the night.

This is love and it can drive out hate. No young girl should have to live with this fear, I realized as I thought how I would feel if my own father were under threat like that.

Her father taught her and believed that if you have to live under the control of someone else, enslaved, that becomes a life not worth living. Some might find it controversial, for a child to do what she would do, but try living under such a regime and then judge.

Malala did speak up about her right to education being taken away, the rights of her female friends, and she did it in a blog for the BBC. At first she was anonymous, but eventually, as she did more speaking and interviews, her identity was revealed. This made her a threat.

She is sometimes asked:

“Why should girls go to school? Why is it important for them? But I think, the more important question is…why shouldn’t they?”

Brave brave girl.

Malala has only ever wanted children to receive education, women to have equal rights, and for their to be peace for every corner of the world.

These aren’t too much to ask, are they?

She wants all frightened children to have peace, for the voiceless to have change.

“It is not time to pity them. It is time to take action.”

She says it is not enough to take steps, but that a leap is needed instead.

Her story of hearing from a girl she once went to school with, after losing touch with her, only to discover this girl has two children sticks out in my mind most sharply.

Malala is asked what her life would be like if she were just an ordinary girl and her response is that she is still an ordinary girl:

“But if I had an ordinary father and an ordinary mother, then I would have two children now.”

Nothing ordinary about this young woman. Number one thing that makes a difference in any child’s life is getting the love they deserve, that all children deserve, but that so many don’t receive.

“It is not time to tell world leaders to realize the importance of education. They already know it. Their own children are in good schools. It is time to call them to take action for the rest of the world’s children, to unite and make education their top priority. Basic literacy is no longer sufficient.”

Watching her documentary and her Nobel Peace Prize speech make me cry, but they empower me too.

When she talks about that moment when you must choose whether or not to stand up or remain silent, I get chills and I want to cry. I know about feeling voiceless and powerless. I am sure we can all relate in some way, to these words, whether it’s due to prejudice against women, inside the oppressive walls of old fashioned cultural beliefs, or against people with disabilities.

You don’t know how lucky you are to have an education, until it’s being taken from you.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

She demands to know why governments find it so easy to make weapons, tanks, and wars but building schools, bringing education, and spreading peace instead of violence is so hard.

This is the same question I’ve had for a long time, when I see my own country of Canada (who have made Malala an honorary Canadian citizen) saying goodbye to one prime minister and welcoming in the next, when a new president will be decided upon for the US next year.

Why do we value weapons like guns and tanks and bombs, over words and books and education?

Malala asks why is it so easy for countries to give guns and so hard to give books and build schools?

Speaking about her attackers:

“Neither their ideas nor their bullets could win.”

Guns, in the wrong hands, the hands of a violent group of terrorists like the Taliban put Malala in a coma, have damaged her smile, her face, her hearing on one side of her head, but they really ended up doing the opposite of what they were hoping to do. Instead of silencing her, living or dead, she survived and is louder than ever.

“They shot me on the left side of my head. They thought the bullet would silence us. I am the same Malala.”

And does Malala hold any grudges or feel any hatred? Has she forgiven them?

No and yes are her answers to those questions. No hate. She has decided to focus on love, compassion, and peace.

“I don’t want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban.”

Some men, spoken to on camera for the documentary, go so far as to claim that Malala’s story is simply a publicity stunt and that her father is behind it all, that he wrote every word supposedly attributed to his daughter.

I couldn’t believe this when I heard it. What arrogance. The fact that a girl is thought to be unable to say anything of any value is the saddest thing of all, but it is so often the reality.

Malala’s father is proud to be known as such.

“Thank you to my father, for not clipping my wings, and for letting me fly.”

This film is about love. It’s about the love one father has for his family, for his daughter.

My Daughter, Malala – Ziauddin Yousafzai – TED Talk

It’s easy, for some in the west, to think of all men in the Muslim culture as being oppressive towards women. Ziauddin is a father, just like my own, just like any other. He and his daughter are squashing stereotypes and showing the world that most families, no matter where they come from, only want peace, safety, and an education for their loved ones and for themselves.

This father has taught, not only his daughter to stand up for her rights, but he’s shown his two young sons the value girls and women deserve. He’s imparting, into these two impressionable boys, the respect that is going to make a kinder, gentler generation of men everywhere.

“My father only gave me the name Malala. He didn’t make me Malala.”

So then just who is Malala Yousafzai?

“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls: 66 million girls who are deprived of education.”

I chose Malala’s story for October’s #1000Speak because I saw nothing but compassion and love.

“I had two choices: remain silent and wait to be killed or speak up and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up.”

I can speak up, without the fear of being killed and hopefully now so can Malala.

Love triumphs over hate.

EDUCATE.

Standard
Book Reviews, Bucket List, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Happy Hump Day, This Day In Literature

One Last Kiss

You put everything into love and into a relationship, another person (good or bad).

This is what it’s like to be in love.

But what about when that love comes to an end?

Then come the questions…

Do you miss me?
At what point did you realize us was not something you wanted anymore?
Was I a bad girlfriend?

http://elitedaily.com/dating/what-i-would-ask-my-ex/1093489/

There are a lot of irrational thoughts. I had them. I desperately needed a way to make me feel like the thoughts I was having weren’t completely crazy.

I needed to write this story (although based on true events, turned into a work of fiction from my own imagination).

I was going through an incredibly difficult breakup at the time I started writing. My story became the one thing I found, to help me deal with how my relationship came to an end, but also the exact thing to help lift me up and out of the fog and the pain. It became an exercise in much-needed catharsis.

ONE LAST KISS

***

We are very proud of Hazel’s first anthology, and a lot of that is down to your powerful and beautifully wrought stories. Reading through them was a privilege and clearly many of you have researched or the issues have touched you in some way.

The anthology is full of experience, sensitivity and most of all hope.

Little Bird Publishing House
London

www.littlebirdpublishinghouse.com

giveaway

http://katiemjohn.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/a-conversation-with-author-hazel.html

buy links

UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B011LW085W?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

USA

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011LW085W?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

BLURB

A moving, inspiring and hopeful collection of women’s voices.

“We will rise from the ruins of our broken dreams and stand tall.”
(Angela A. Fardellone)

An anthology of fiction about moving on and standing tall after experiences of emotional and physical abuse. Stories about women searching for freedom, recovery and love.

In this collection of stories, Hazel Robinson, author of ‘Something Missing’ has brought together some of the best emerging voices in the Romance genre to create a collection of stories that are both emotional and inspiring. A collection of stories written by women for women in order to explore the ideas of self-discovery, rebirth and finding love and hope after periods of darkness.

Interwoven into these stories are poems that offer beauty and reconciliation.

***
http://romanceanthologieshfbooks.blogspot.co.uk/

I am incredibly grateful to Hazel. She not only had the idea to pursue the anthology, but she took a chance on my story, allowing it to be a part of this collection of women’s narratives on love, loss, and rebirth.

https://www.facebook.com/thesecondchancesanthology

Thank you to her and to Little Bird Publishing House over in London, England.

Letting go isn’t easy. In fact, it’s downright hard to do – hardest thing I’ve ever done.

One year later and I hope time has healed and provided me with some much-needed perspective.

Next week I will write more on my thought process for One Last Kiss, why I needed to write it when and how I did, and the universal questions I still continue to ask.

zsecondchancescovercheckedsmall-2015-07-15-12-46.jpgsecondchancesoutnowmeme-2015-07-15-12-46.jpg

Standard