1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Bucket List, FTSF, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, The Insightful Wanderer, Travel, TravelWriting, TToT, Writing

Ten Things of Thankful and Then Some: Sunny San Miguel, Siempre! #TakingChances #Mexico #FTSF #10Thankful

I have missed my thankful posts for a few weeks now, but I had a good reason for that: Sunny San Miguel!

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(Photo taken by my new friend from the writing workshop in Mexico. Thank you Lisa. I love your viewpoint from right where you are.)

San Miguel, I miss you.

Speaking of missing things…I also missed last week’s
Song Lyric Sunday
because I was traveling back to Canada and the frigid winter temperatures, but the theme of the sun played a big part in my week.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxaAfaCln8

This song is the feeling I felt when the bright Mexican sunshine was full on my face while I sat writing up on my balcony, overlooking my small bit of the city of San Miguel de Allende. It was hard work, the writing part, but I couldn’t have asked to be doing it anywhere better.

I felt alive. This is my first thankful. I could write many more.

I am thankful that I got to discover a spot I never would have known of before. San Miguel de Allende is an interesting place and it is just one of many in such a spectacular country of Mexico, so unknown and unfamiliar to me, such a short time ago, So much more to learn about and explore, I can tell. I just barely scratched the surface.

It isn’t a resort. It isn’t on the ocean, but I admit, logically or not, my heart skipped a beat at the thought that I was closer to blue/grey whales at that moment in time, than I’d been in a long time.

My ears popped going through mountainous terrain to get to the city, but boy was I pleased when I stepped out of that shuttle and onto that uneven sidewalk and a whole new door was opened to me, both literally and figuratively. I will never, as long as I live, forget that moment.

I am thankful for the villa we had our writing workshop in and where I got to call my lodgings for the week.

I soon learned my way around, from my room to the kitchen and meeting area and to the lovely outdoor spot. I didn’t realize the way some houses are constructed in Mexico, was totally not expecting it, but was pleasantly surprised by the indoor/outdoor set-up.

I loved my room and its cool interior and the open balcony just a step out my doors.

I am thankful for my sunny writing spot, a day bed set up outside, by the railing. I would go there to write and to listen to the sounds of San Miguel, just outside of the wall of the villa.

I am thankful for the levels of emotion I went to with my writing during the week.

I didn’t expect it to get quite so emotional. It seemed like that for everyone in the class. We all dug deep and we shared a lot in one, much too short week.

I am thankful for the garden area of the villa and the peace and tranquility I found there.

There were so many plants and nature was there, right at my fingertips, in the middle of the city of SMA.

I am thankful for soundscapes.

We had to record somewhere in San Miguel and try and write from it. This was, perhaps, not so difficult for me as for some in the group, but I found a way to make it my own. A lot came from it.

I am thankful for special and unexpected experiences while traveling.

I was serenaded by some mariachis. It was uncomfortable for me, all that attention focused in my direction, but I recognize the special experience for what it was.

I am thankful for the chance to meet my writing mentor in person.

She made it possible that I even knew of San Miguel and she gave me some added strength and determination to try traveling by myself for the first time. She offered just the right incentive and I was determined to make it happen.

She took so much time out of her life and planned for me to be as safe as possible and to have the most enriching time imaginable.

She took me out in San Miguel one night and we had a lovely dinner, talking about Mexico, travel, writing, and so much more. She gave me her time and her knowledge, having been where I have not yet found myself.

She directed me safely, letting me figure things out for myself, with my own heart, mind and white cane. She was thoughtful in her descriptions, all from her creative writer’s mind. She spent time with me, more than she needed to, and showed me so many things I may have otherwise missed out on, with all the visual elements of travel and exploring new places.

I am thankful for so many things and I could keep listing them, but I am determined to write separate, individualized pieces about all the magical moments of my trip, including the amazing people I met and what they did for me, how they affected my life, in so many ways.

I am thankful for glimpses of the culture, architecture and religious beliefs of Mexico.

I am thankful, too, for the unforeseen spiritual awakening I had, in an unexpected place of vitality and passion. It was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

I am thankful for our day out, visiting makers. My writing mentor set out to show her class of writers that we too make something of value, even if it can’t be seen in as big a way or touched, like a statue or a piece of art.

I am thankful for the guide I had on our day out.

She spoke no English and I no Spanish, or very little if any. This presented a problem. But she was there, with a gentle, guiding hand and just in case, and we both got so much out of it through the silence, I can’t even express. I will never forget her and I will write about the way she affected my life too.

I am thankful for the wisdom and the inspiration and reassurances for the kind of life I can have in the years to come and for the truly fascinating stories I heard. I am thankful for a pizza night full of lively conversation and the best sharer of the villa I could have asked for. I am thankful for the radiant love freely given and the stories and the camaraderie of all. I am thankful for fruitful partnerships which fostered positive discussions I will never forget. I am thankful for those willing to listen. I am thankful for the laughs and the insightful talks and the likeminded writing companionship. I am thankful for steady arms on unfamiliar surfaces and much patient assistance with pesos and with my sparse Spanish. I am thankful for roof-top views, shared margaritas, and the invites to travel again, with new friends, in future.

I had to write about my thankfuls, but I am still processing so much of this. I am told I will have many more meaningful experiences like my week in Mexico and that more is to come, that this is the beginning of something and not the beginning and end of just one week. I hope this is true, but I will never forget this one as, in so many ways, my first, so many firsts.

I am thankful for all the help I had to travel alone and for the angel that watched over me while I went, as I was told by a kind and talented man.

I am thankful for all the food our mentor and leader of the class put out (including fruit, chocolate, tea/coffee/water) because she said she believed it helped inspire loads of creativity and the ladies who cooked for us and the flowers everywhere. The perfect environment for writing and creativity and all that needed inspiration.

I am thankful for what I came away with, the writing I did. I am working on it some more yet, but hope to publish my story at some point.

I am thankful for the last night, with the thematic musical entertainment, the fact that I vowed to try new things and ended my week of that by eating crickets, and for all the brilliant writing shared by everyone in the class. I am thankful for the support I received for my piece upon reading it aloud.

I am thankful for my family’s support, even though I know how hard it was, at times, for some of them more than others. I would be nowhere near where I am now if it weren’t for them.

I am thankful for the confidence I felt and, even more so, for the fear that persisted and fuelled me. It’s still feeling me.

I am thankful for the reaction from my cat and my dog upon arriving home. My cat made a long mewing sound like I’ve never heard. He sounded excited, to me anyway.

I’m not sure what good it will do in the concrete ways that matter, but I am thankful for all the protests I’ve seen happening against the cruelty, ignorance, and arrogance in the US government, especially these last few weeks since I was away.

Those judges and lawyers working to fight against such unfair actions taken without any care to those hurting. Those fighting are likely putting their butts on the line, some maybe even risking more than we realize at this given moment.

Canada is nowhere near perfect, not hardly, but I am thankful for the total difference in feeling I notice here. I love a lot of Americans, some I’ve met oh so recently, but the country as a whole makes me very uncomfortable now, feeling vulnerable, but it’s clearly the government I have a problem with. I hope this changes one day. May seen as though I’m generalizing here, but believe me, I wish I hadn’t felt that when traveling back through the US.

Sobbing over today’s newspaper – Carrie Snyder from Canada

Just put yourself in the place of someone coming to a new country because you feel in danger in your own.

How can you not help but try to understand what that must feel like? How can any of us avoid that, just because it’s an uncomfortable thought?

I can’t imagine having to leave my home, the only place I’ve known, so I am thankful to be back in my home of Canada. May it always be a place of peace, even when threatened by hate like the rest of the world finds itself, more and more.

There is so much happening, in my world and in the world at large. I am just trying to survive the helplessness of it all, and the best thing I can think of is to write through it all, through all the pain and the confusion and the uncertainties. This must include self care, right along with care for and of other people and our planet.

This taking new chances to hopefully produce new and eye-opening perspectives is about all I can think to do to appreciate life. Things can be hard, are rough, for a lot of people. I say, take a leap and step off that ledge, metaphorically of course, or use your best judgment. Just do something.

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I want to share more photos, but those can be a bit tricky for me. I asked for them, for the record of preservation, to show my family. I can’t quite keep them straight, never knowing if what I include and think is really what it is. I will do another post, once I get that straight. Most of them were posted on Facebook, but I never want to share without credit or explanation.

To be continued…

I also wanted to link up with
Finish The Sentence Friday, #FTSF
because it’s been a few weeks for that also and I love Kristi and how she finishes her sentences.

When it comes to self care, I am certain what I just did for myself, as illustrated here, definitely counts.

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Bucket List, The Insightful Wanderer, The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge, Travel, TravelWriting

I Am Brave Enough, #Travel #Mexico #Disability #kindnessofstrangers

It’s the name of Lindsey Stirling’s most recent work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOmc9uG1Ndg

Instead of a New Year’s resolution, it has been my question/statement to myself about 2017 and my own determination to make my life what I’d like it to be.

Well, I’m back. I made it. First, to start with how mind blowing Mexico was, but more about that later. I have a lot to say on it, as a writer, still trying to process.

About the part that scared me silly though, traveling by myself:
It isn’t easy to have to wait to be taken from counter to counter, gate to gate, plane to plane. There are some advantages. It can be nice having someone push you around, along with your luggage, but I particularly liked the one transportation vehicle they used, specifically in the Detroit Airport. I liked that one. The two guys who took me, from the first to the last, they were friendly and pleasant.
You are first on the airplane (early boring) and last off. Different flight attendants and others likely know different things about how to help someone who is blind. Some are more hospitable than others. Sometimes I felt ignored and sometimes I felt well taken care of.

I honestly have to say I liked Dallas Airport the least. I didn’t realize how big it is there. The porters are different. Some easier to communicate with than others. It was a far distance to go, on my way there, and luckily I had a few hours because I was left at a gate, which changed. I sat there and suddenly heard them announcing a different flight than the one I knew I was there for. This was when I decided to speak up and get some help. Thankfully, another porter with a wheelchair was called and I was taken to the correct place. Unfortunately, then there was a problem with the plane and I sat there for more than an hour, nearly two. I was afraid I would miss the opening night festivities in Mexico, at my workshop. I didn’t.

I am writing about this, even with all the array of wonderful things I could be writing about my week in Mexico, because I feel there is a need to explain what it is like to travel when you have a disability. I doubt people realize.

The last time I flew anywhere I had a hand to hold tightly when my anxiety of lifting off the ground and into the air got too much. I felt kind of alone on my journey there this time, with no hand to hold, but I realized I needed to experience that. I needed to sit and be okay with being alone, right where I was, doing exactly what it was I was doing there.

I had all these images in my mind of all the strange and wonderful souls I would meet while traveling, in airports and such. I met hardly any on my trip to Mexico. That’s okay. I was on my own journey.

I met a lovely porter to start off my traveling, in Detroit. He told me his name and asked me about where I was going and what for. I told him of my fears of traveling by myself and he assured me it would all work out. He was right.
He got me a bottle of water and brought me safely to my gate. He made sure to park my luxury vehicle right next to the desk at the gate, so the people wouldn’t miss me there.
I tell you, you hear a lot of behind the scenes drama and things when you sit in that spot. Interesting.

So, I was the only one in my row on the first flight (Detroit to Dallas). It was an experience anyway. Behind my row there was a young woman, traveling from visiting her boyfriend, and the older woman beside her took an instant liking to her. The two of them then went on to talk the entire flight. The older asking the younger about her plans and her dreams. I secretly wanted that sort of experience from traveling. Would I make any connection like that? Did people resist approaching me? And did I shrink back from reaching out to anyone either?

It was still all so overwhelming, this traveling by myself. I was on constant alert, fearing I would end up lost or misplaced. I didn’t dare listen to my music or be distracted in any way. I was depending on other people for my very safe arrival, but how much of it all could I take on myself, to take my own power back?

I had help to find the check in desk at the airport in Mexico for my trip home, from the shuttle driver. He took my hand and brought me to them. I was so flustered I forgot to tip him. I felt so bad when I realized. I didn’t want to be so wrapped up in myself and my own worries that I did that sort of thing. I wish I could repay him somehow.

The porter they called to take me spoke no English and she asked if I could speak Spanish. At least, that much I could understand she said. I told her no and that one of the only words in Spanish I know was the one for water. Thanks to my niece who learned it from her Spanish speaking babysitter.

She had to go help someone else and found a woman who spoke English to stay with me. The woman then proceeded to tell me all about her life until I heard a familiar voice.

It was one of the women from the workshop. I could tell it was her, first, by the clunking sound of her shoes. She could keep me company, but the English speaking lady had to go. Still, you meet some interesting people when traveling.

I felt, at times, like the girl from the workshop was having to help me with my stuff, not relax while waiting for her flight, but that is all on me to not look at things life like that so much.

The porter returned and we went to our gate. She took me to the chairs while the girl from the workshop went into a special lounge for those with special bonuses from the airline. The porter then left me in the wheelchair. It probably seemed easier for her, in her mind, but I didn’t want to have to sit in it while waiting an hour or so for the flight. When the girl from workshop came back she agreed and we found two seats. This still required dealing with the wheelchair and my luggage, along with her things. She brought me a yogurt drink from that special lounge. It tasted so good in that moment.

We spoke a little and she helped me to the bathroom. We had to manage our luggage because leaving it unattended would not be a good idea.

My biggest concern, other than being left somewhere, was the bathroom situation. Anyone can find a bathroom in an airport if they need it. For me, I would have to depend on whichever porter I happen to be with if I needed to go. Many of those were men who hardly spoke English themselves. Not the best of situations, but best there was. Otherwise, I would be on my own and would have to find someone, a stranger or airport employee walking by, to help and show me where a bathroom was. Not fun.

I sat in my row, on my way home, and looked at a Mexico I could not see, through my oval airplane window. Suddenly, amongst the dozing I did and the boredom of sitting there in a row with a guy and girl I didn’t speak to, the familiar voice suddenly said my name, handing me a bag of warm mixed nuts. More perks from first class. That was the last I saw of her. I was truly on my own again.

The airport in Dallas was chaos. They had only one porter when I got off the plane and there was also a man in a wheelchair who needed assistance. His wife ended up guiding me, helping me with my luggage, while we followed the one porter and the husband through the lines and crowds. She did not have to do that, but she did. They were both very kind.

I suddenly heard protesting to my left. I couldn’t make out all they said, something about the US, no Trump, and no KKK.

It was a bit nerve racking as I followed the woman and her husband through customs and I forgot about the bottle of water in my bag still, from the girl from the workshop. I wish they didn’t have to take it from me. Silly regulations. I even got patted down at the airport in Mexico, by a girl who had to try to ask if it was okay first, but did not speak any English. Now I was having my bag inspected. Oh the joys of airline travel.

Finally we found our correct gates and the porter left me at mine. I thanked the mysterious couple, the ones who asked me about my time in San Miguel and told me about the house they rent there, and I sat and hoped for the best.

The people at the desk did their job. A nice lady helped me to the plane. I found my seat and a friendly woman, traveling alone for the first time too, she was feeling anxious and asked me if my folded up white cane was drum sticks. I liked her at once.

The flight went by a lot faster, long long day, with someone to talk to. She asked me about my writing and my blindness and family. I asked her about her five children and the plans they had to move from Detroit to Dallas. Her and her husband had just put an offer on a new house there. I wondered at the differences, the separate lives of so many, including this stranger who took the time to speak to me and I spoke back.

I was afraid, the entire time. I was afraid and still I didn’t want to let that stop me anymore. I did it once and I know I can and will do it again, until I am no longer so afraid. I know even sighted people can be afraid of such things, when traveling alone, when being afraid to fly or confused by flight numbers and gate changes. I know. I know we are all the same somehow while oh so different.

I appreciate all the help I received and all the assistance and the company kept. To all the strangers I will never see again. To the amazing souls I met in Mexico. To my amazing mentor for all she did for me. To my family who supported me. I say thanks. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

I am brave enough.

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Memoir and Reflections, Piece of Cake, Poetry, Song Lyric Sunday

Head In My Hands, #SongLyricSunday

In high school English class, I had to write a poem about my life and something that was happening in it. I wish I were able to find that poem now.

I called it “Vice Grip” like the actual piece of equipment, but I turned it into a metaphor for life, but mostly for the physical headaches I’d begun experiencing.

It felt like a vice grip were squeezing my head so so tightly in its grasp. It felt like so much pressure, like life a lot of the time.

I put my head in my hands and sighed. I still do sometimes. Life is feeling caught a lot of the time. It’s hard for me not to think of where I was a year ago…two years…five…ten and wonder, to look back instead of looking ahead. At least, with the past, I know what happened, even if I don’t know why. With the future, the trouble with looking ahead, is that it is so wide open. This can be exciting, but it can also feel like an incredible, squeezing pressure.

As for the present…

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Lines like:

“When it hurts this good you gotta play it twice.”

“Waiting on me, where the numb meets the lonely. It’s gone before it ever meets the ice. Another vice.”

And,

“Maybe I’m addicted to goodbyes”

Vice – Miranda Lambert

I thought this song probably spoke of the struggles and the pain Miranda Lambert had with a very public breakup from her country star husband.

So many people have a vice, at least one. Whether they drink their pain away, or they just move from relationship to relationship in order to avoid real commitment, that’s still a vice, is it not?

Vice like a crutch. We hold on. We fight. Vice like a grip that holds us tight.

(That’s right…I can write poetry and lyrics too, on occasion.”

🙂

😉

😦

***

Stay as a needle dropping on a vinyl
Neon singer with a jukebox title full of heartbreak
When it hurts this good you gotta play it twice
Another vice
All dressed up in a pretty black label
Sweet salvation on a dining room table
Waiting on me
Where the numb meets the lonely
It’s gone before it ever melts the ice
Another vice
Another call, another bed I shouldn’t crawl out of
At 7AM with shoes in my hand
Said I wouldn’t do it, but I did it again
And I know I’ll be back tomorrow night, oh
I’ll wear a tail like a leather jacket
When the new wears off, I don’t even pack it
If you need me
I’ll be where my reputation don’t precede me
Maybe I’m addicted to goodbyes
Another vice
Another town, where my past can’t run me down
Another life, another call, another bed I shouldn’t crawl out of
At 7AM with shoes in my hand
Said I wouldn’t do it, but I did it again
And I know I’ll be gone tomorrow night
Mmm, another vice
Standing at the sink now, looking at the mirror
Don’t know where I am or how I got here
Well the only thing that I know how to find
Is another vice
Mmm another vice
Yes, another vice
Ooh, another vice
Another vice
Another vice
Another vice

***

So there they are and here they are.

Vice Lyrics

It’s as good a time as any,

Song Lyric Sunday, #SongLyricSunday

to share that I am very much not a fan of country music, but this song was one of the several exceptions I’ve made.

I like country music that isn’t too obviously country music. I hope that means I can be met halfway and that I keep a somewhat open mind to things, musical and otherwise.

When I just happened to hear Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” for the first time last night, I thought it would be the perfect song to share here with others. I don’t often end up listening to Miranda Lambert’s music.

I try to keep an open mind, specifically when it comes to music, so I find influences from all sorts of places.

What genre of music is your last resort when you’re looking for something to listen to? What artist, band, or group? What can’t you stand? Is it important to give it a chance wherever possible?

I try, anyway.

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Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Writing

Just Jot It January: Slight of Hand and Pass the Candy Floss, #JusJoJan

I present…one of my favourite songs from The Police:

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Somehow, I doubt the song would have done so well if it were called Every Little Thing She Does Is Prestidigitation.

What’s with these words for

Just Jot It January, #JusJoJan?

I mean, I appreciate the lessons, learning these new words and such, but I can hardly even pronounce this one let alone using it in a sentence properly. This JJIJ thing is really stretching my English language and writing muscles.

I am not familiar with

prestidigitation,

but I did recognize the word “prestige” immediately upon seeing it. Do I at least score a point for that part?

🙂

I never really loved magic shows. I know, along with clowns *shudders*, magic shows are staples of children’s birthday parties, or they were. I actually did have a friend when I was five who had a mother who played a clown for events. I didn’t care so much back then. Besides, she had a candy floss machine.

🙂

Magic does have a certain prestige about it though. Allusions. I like the line that kept coming up when I looked up “prestidigitation” online and in the dictionary: slight of hand. Love that.

So I suppose my day playing Dungeons & Dragons for the first time over the weekend would have involved some prestidigitation of some sort? After all, I was a magical sorcerer. I should know all about the word.

The magic of a room full of people writing is my favourite kind of magic lately. It’s like electric current in a room when all those minds are conjuring. It’s prestidigitation at its best and its been my favourite Saturday mornings or Wednesday evenings these days.

The magic of this month has been that I could just write, jot really, and I started to see that I didn’t need to have the rest of the year all figured out in the first thirty-one days.

That’s the sort of prestidigitation I sorely needed.

Thank you Pamela of

BUTTERFLY SAND.

I like your view of

the word “prestidigitation”

very much. Perhaps I can bring a little magic to the world through my writing too.

Go here to check out the JJIJ rules.

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Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Happy Hump Day, Writing

Just Jot It January: definitions, boats, and Tiaras #JusJoJan

Today’s

Just Jot It January, #JusJoJan

and the rules

are here.

Okay, so I have to be honest and admit I was not completely sure of the definition of the word

surreptitiously

and had to look it up.

If I am being completely honest, again, I wasn’t even certain how to spell it.

I have heard the word before, sure, but it doesn’t exactly come up in my day-to-day wanderings. I like to think I know a lot of words and their meanings, being a fan of English, but there are those words that still get me.

So, then the question became, how to write using a word I don’t ordinarily use. That’s the fun of this Just Jot It January thing.

The two words I kept seeing, on further investigation, were “stealth” and “clandestine”.

This seems to be the time for a bit of fiction, but, as I’ve just come back from my writer’s circle evening at my local library, I am fried as far as writing fiction goes.

I don’t know why, but when I think of using “surreptitiously” I think of fiction. It doesn’t seem natural to use the word in my usual writing.

I don’t do much of anything using stealth. I don’t go off on many clandestine adventures, but, now that I think about that, it does seem kind of fun.

🙂

I do recall reading something about being secretive, when I googled definitions for this. I guess, if I had anything secret going on, would I really get into it here of all places? Nope. More suited for a diary I’d think.

I am not very good at keeping secrets, acting surreptitiously I should say. I guess they are fun to have, depending on what they are. I guess the story I started to construct a few hours ago, during my writer’s group, could have an element of that in it. The mystery objects for this evening were a hand-made wooden boat and a tiara.

Let me explain. Each time we meet, someone brings a “mystery object” and we all have to try and come up with a story, centring around said object.

I wrote about two mystery objects, as tonight two people brought one in. This doesn’t usually happen, but perhaps someone was concerned nobody else remembered.

The two objects are found, in a basement, by two children and there is something special, secret, about the two objects found. The characters start acting surreptitiously and there is a connection between boat and tiara, that both children haven’t quite figured out. Whatever is going on, the objects are clearly important to one another.

I received some pretty helpful and positive feedback and was encouraged to finish the story. We shall see. Perhaps I will act surreptitiously on this one, leaving everyone wondering whether I am completing the story or not.

The chosen word today was brought to you by the one with many interests:

Books, Music, Photography, Movies

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Fiction Friday, TGIF, Writing

Words With Friends

I have no idea what I’m walking into, but I stride forward, into my favourite place: the library.

Of course it would be my favourite place. It is a building full of books. I would live there if I could, but I don’t think those in charge would really appreciate that.

I don’t know what took me this long. Why did I take this long to check this out? There had to be others around me who loved to write and I wanted to gather with them. And so I have.

I am always apprehensive going into a new situation, but this is stacked with a whole new set of expectations. This time, I’m supposed to share my writing, to open up that part of me.

Oh, of course I do it all the time here, now, and I don’t know what took me so long to do that either, but here I am.

This, however, is something entirely different. This time, I am not hiding behind a computer, waiting for the comments or likes to trickle in. This time, I am face-to-face with those who also love to write, or else they wouldn’t be here. This time I can’t hide.

I approach the checkout desk where people are taking out library books and I ask for directions to the room where the writer’s group meets.

I have been in this building many times before, for years and ever since the library from the old church of my childhood became the new location. This, though, is new to me. I was not aware of this room, just off the main area.

I find it with little problem, even with signs and people in my path. The room is to the left and they are inside, waiting for me, or new members like me.

I made sure to come on time, but I like the room almost immediately.

Someone shows me to a chair. I can’t remember who it was now. It’s all a blur of frazzled nerves. I’m doing this and I hope it is everything I’ve ever imagined a writing group would be. How unfair to put oh so many expectations on these poor fellow lovers of the written word.

There is someone across the table and people sitting over to my right. They appear to be engaged in some casual conversations when I appear on the scene, but they welcome me warmly. I can be one of them if I put my best foot forward.

My best foot is my coming-out-of-my-shyness-shell foot. I will put it out alright. If not here, where?

This is the time to drop that silly shyness and give it my all. They seem to agree.

There is someone on the other side of the room, bustling around and making tea. The guy to my right speaks with an English accent, which I can make out through a cracked voice, the ends of a sore throat. He still talks enthusiastically and seems to be one of the first members of the group. He is friendly and has a sense of humour, which I notice right then and there.

I hear my name. Someone recognizes me. She works at the library and runs the group, but she does not stay for the whole thing, instead overseeing it and taking hot drink orders. She speaks with a soft voice, the perfect library voice I suppose. She has met me through my sister, my brother-in-law, and I strain to remember when, although I knew she worked here.

The guy sitting across the way appears to be a new comer like I am. This makes me relate to him then and there. He has come from out of town.

I am still taking time to get an idea of who is here. I wasn’t sure what the cross section of people at a writer’s group could be. Age. Male or female ratio. From different backgrounds.

As people take their seats and we push tables together, I try not to shuffle and fidget more than is necessary, but in new situations I tend to do both to excess. I try to focus on the cues I can get from the people now sitting around me.

National Novel Writing month is discussed. I think I should speak up and say that I did it once, but not this year. I was sure showing up here for the first time in the month of November would mean NaNoWriMo would be a common topic of discussion, but I had no idea if everyone else would be doing it, as a writer’s group would be the place to bring it up.

I have come equipped with my laptop and earphones. Oh, how I wish I could go the old fashion route and write with a pencil or pen and a notebook. I would have picked out a special notebook for the occasion. It would have been red and the pages would have smelled like books, like paper smells.

I wonder how this is all going to work. I can’t write by hand and so how will I join in and share my writing at the end?

Do we even share?

Do we just bring in writing we do at home, for it to be shared and commented on?

So…many…questions.

Something is happening. I am talking and speaking up and out. Finally, it’s a whole room and its full of those who only want to talk about the writing they love, like I do. There is nothing else I’d rather talk about.

There is tea for the one with the lost voice and ginger cookies from a local bakery being passed around the table.

I decline, hopefully in a polite manner, a cup of anything hot. I even offer up the story of my disgrace from last spring and the ensuing events leading up to me, using a generously provided laptop in a pinch. I am new here and the nerves still could cause a problem. I wouldn’t want to knock my cup over, in a move to open my laptop, as I hear the guy sitting beside me has a laptop too and I seem to have the worst luck. I would hate for that to “spill” over to anybody else.

He asks me if I spend a lot of time in Waterloo. I hesitate and ask for confirmation that he is, indeed, speaking to me and not someone else. I am bad for that because I have gotten it wrong before and I hate that sensation of embarrassment, even though the feeling of discomfort is one I still end up feeling either way.

I tell him he must be thinking of someone else, but it is a strange, deja vu sort of moment. I liked that it happened here. I seem to get mistaken for someone else, in the most interesting moments and in the strangest situations. I wonder who that other girl is that I keep getting mistaken for. Could make a cool story sometime.

Next there’s talk of a mystery object. This, I hadn’t expected, but I like where this is going.

A model of a dragon is being passed around, painted by the one with barely a voice, when he was a teenager.

People compliment him on the painting he did of the creature and it is passed to me.

I take it in hand, ever so cautiously, and I feel the wings and the head. I ask for a physical description of it, mostly its colour. It is small and intricately detailed. I try hard to detect every bump and groove with my fingertips.

The maker or someone else mentions Lord of the Rings. He painted models, or meant to, from LOTR, the sort of thing you might expect a teen boy to do after school.

I like to be developing a picture of everyone here, even if it’s bits at a time. We could give rambling explanations of ourselves, going around the table, but instead we simply state our names.

It is hard it first, taking me a while to learn which name belongs to each and every one of these lovers of words, but I will get there.

NAme tags are made, the spelling of my name is wrongly guessed at, but this isn’t uncommon. I like to have this discussion. How long will people require a glance at another’s tag, before the name to the face will come right to mind?

This is a group of barely ten. I like this number. It’s not such a large group that I feel lost in a crowd, but not so small as I imagined, making a writing group less a group and more a few people.

So I guess we are writing now, or after much of the conversation dwindles. Our group leader brings up dialogue and character development in a story. I announce, perhaps over confidently that I have specifically been complimented on my dialogue, by a trusted friend whom I gave my NaNo project to when I’d finished the month. This speaking up thing I seem to be doing feels good, although still rather foreign to me.

Now the pressure is mounting. The talk grows quieter and less frequent and it’s time to write, right?

So I need to write about a dragon?

Okay. Here goes nothing.

I like the noise of the guy’s fingers: click click click. He is writing, then pausing to think, I suppose. I do the same.

I try not to fear him being able to glance over and read the few words I’ve managed to write. I guess I have some self absorption that writers are prone to. We are all hoping to produce something we can share when time’s up. We all likely think about sharing of ideas vs stealing them.

I take in the smell of ginger and the sound of keyboard keys clicking and I just write.

It slowly dawns on me again. Oh yeah, dragon, dragon, dragon. Don’t forget to write about the dragon.

I don’t write fantasy. I can’t write like Tolkien. That’s not my thing. Or is it?

I pick a locale and two characters and I write a scene for them. The dragon is coming up.

Time is up. The silence is broken by people’s uncertainty at what they’ve just put down, on paper or on screen. Will it be good enough?

Well, that’s what I am thinking, but maybe they aren’t. But wait…how will I participate?

I volunteer to just let my VoiceOver speak my story to the room, as a joke. I don’t want to be different, and I’m glad I didn’t not bring my laptop, or I would have been sitting there and twiddling my thumbs while everyone else wrote, but now how do I read what I’ve written for comments and reactions?

Others read their stories. They are all fantasy themed. They all involve real live dragons, but I did not go that direction. Maybe I should have, but instead I enjoy their little tales of discovery, intrigue, and adventure.

I listen to their reading styles and the inflections they place in the words. I try again not to move around, if possible, as this is a sign of boredom. I want to respect all these people who share, as I want to learn from them and to earn their attention when it’s my turn to share.

When it comes to me I don’t want to miss out entirely, so I go ahead and describe what I wrote. I receive a few comments and nods of approval at my subject matter, as I’d chosen to write more modern and contemporary, about an antique shop, one of my favourite settings for a story.

I talk about my one character not knowing what he’s exactly looking for, when his girlfriend asks, but his declaring that he’ll know it when he sees it.

This part seems to get people’s attention. I am happy they believe that I wrote what I’m saying I wrote and that my relaying of that writing is coherent.

Now that I know what actually goes on during one of these things, I must revise my plan and go with my braille display, as long as there is a plug nearby and I can bring a cord long enough to reach. I can write my stories in there and be able to read them back in the moment, along with the rest. My first idea to bring what I’d written from last time falls flat in my own estimation because I don’t want to be always behind a week. I want to be in the moment with this room and these people.

The guy beside me informs me there is an available spot to plug in my device and that he too may require it at some point. My laptop has held up this time, but I know its battery life is limited.

My laptop’s voice was an interesting bit of discussion this time. It has resulted in talk of a Gilbert Gottfried reading of Fifty Shades of Grey somewhere out there online. I had never before compared VoiceOver to Gilbert, but it makes sense.

I wonder what they will think when I walk in next time, with my Braille Sense over my shoulder, like a purse. I’m already looking forward to next time. I love this. I’ve found my tribe. I did not want to get my hopes up about this whole thing, but the real thing did actually surpass my expectations, in unexpected and interesting ways, some of which I’ve mentioned here.

I feared they wouldn’t like me, that I would feel out of place, as I do in a lot of places, but here I have this one thing in common with these people.

I don’t play Words With Friends, but I like the name of the game.

I don’t know what might come of being a member of a writer’s group, whether we become friends or not, but I like to hold back on any expectations I may harbour and just be in the moment, in that room, with those who love words as much as I do.

Paperback Writer

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Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, Memoir and Reflections, Piece of Cake, Throw-back Thursday

Perfection: Jaggled Little Pill Turns Twenty, #TBT

It must have been important, if I was being taken out of class for this.

Oh no! Not again. What did I do now?

I wasn’t in trouble, not in the usual sense of the term. I just wasn’t trying hard enough, I guess, or so I was lead to believe.

I needed to focus. Why didn’t I want to go out for recess and play with my friends? Why wasn’t I putting up my hand and participating in class?

I should have been in heaven. After two years, I was finally reunited with my best friend. This year I had all my friends in my class. Everything should have been perfect, but everything was going wrong.

These little talks were expected to inspire me to try harder, I suppose, but until a real diagnosis could be offered to explain my behaviours, I was considered falling behind and possibly unable to keep up.

I’d done well, these past six years, but maybe trying to remain in school with my sighted peers was just not working out anymore.

PERFECT

It’s the quality or state of being perfect.

Freedom from fault or defeat, flawlessness.

The quality or state of being saintly.

Definition of “perfection” – Merriam-Webster

You know how it is said that nobody’s perfect?

I know we can all relate. We know we can never achieve it, but we keep trying, we keep on hoping anyway.

“Run another lap, once more around the school yard.”

“Get up. It’s not good for your system to do that. You should remain standing, for your muscles.”

My gym teacher barked his orders at me, but all I could feel was the cool damp grass against my cheek, right in the place I had collapsed, after running laps had taken every ounce of energy I possessed. I couldn’t move. I felt near death. I was failing.

It’s been twenty years since “Jagged Little Pill” was released.

Check out the guest post I wrote for a music blog, just last weekend, to find out why “Perfect” became my ultimate favourite of all the songs on Alanis’s breakout album:

Jingle Jangle Jungle – Perfection (Guest post)

Let’s go back there, to the mid nineties: 1995/96 to be exact and my failure to do anything right, no matter how hard I tried.

People didn’t do it on purpose. They didn’t intend to pummel me with expectations and demands on my energy and on my abilities. They wanted me to be a part of my class and the year, to get good grades and thrive socially, but I was barely keeping my head above water. It was a year of confusion and I lived it in a fog of fear and stress and pain.

I was twelve years old when I first heard it. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard, right up there with albums from Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Sheryl Crow. These female singer song writers were my idols, my soundtracks to the decade, with all of its ups and downs.

I wondered what had happened to her, why she was so angry, not having experienced anything close to what she seemed to be describing. Romantic love was not yet a concept I could imagine.

She starts the song saying she wishes nothing but the best for him, rumoured to be Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier) from Full House, but I couldn’t actually believe it.

Then…

I’m here to remind you of the mess you left when you went away.

You seem very well. Things look peaceful. I’m not quite as well. I thought you should know.

It’s so conversational sounding. Yet, so powerful in its raw emotions.

Now, I understand that feeling of betrayal, at the idea of someone you once loved moving on with someone else.

I want you to know, I’m happy for you. I wish nothing but, the best, for you both.

And every time you speak her name, does she know how you told me you’d hold me until you die, till you die, but you’re still alive.

You Oughta Know (Official Video)

Such a roller coaster of emotions that I had yet to experience.

All I knew, in 1996, was that the song had a swear word that, most times, was cut out. Ah, aw, to be young and innocent.

You oughta know. You learn.

I would learn, eventually, yes. I would learn.

🙂

You Learn (Official Video)

You live. You learn.

You love. You learn.

You cry. You Learn. You lose. You learn.

You bleed. You learn. You scream. You learn.

I would bleed and scream and cry. Hundreds of needles. Multiple surgeries.

In this song, she specifically uses the words “jagged little pill”. I was having to take a lot of pills in the nineties, literally, but I would one day learn the metaphorical swallowing of life’s difficult pills she was referring to.

I would live. I would love. I would lose.

Loss of love         would be one of those difficult pills to swallow.

Alanis must have encountered a lot of sexist treatment, but from the sounds of this iconic album, she stood up for herself, no problem.

Her catholic background, growing up in Ottawa, in Canada all make their appearances, in and amongst her thoughts on men, irony, and pills, as jagged as they sometimes are.

🙂

Songs ranged from angry feminist rants, to religious reflection, to sad musings.

What’s the matter, Mary Jane. Tell me. Please be honest, Mary Jane. Tell me.”

In my own head, when I would listen, I would change the name of Mary Jane in the song to Kerry Lynn.

It’s a long way down, on this roller coaster.

–Mary Jane, lyrics

It felt like a roller coaster, but it’s funny how much music can help and just how much it sticks with you, bringing back the memories it was there to first witness as they happened.

I learned about irony from Alanis, even if the song is a little much. It’s a classic, all these years later still.

🙂

Good thing I learned more about what irony means in English class.

Hand in My Pocket (Lyrics)

I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed.

I’m lost but I’m hopeful.

I feel drunk but I’m sober.

I care but I’m restless.

I’m here but I’m really gone.

And what it comes down to, is I haven’t got it all figured out just yet.

I’m green but I’m wise.

I’m sad but I’m laughing.

I’m brave but I’m chicken shit.

But what it comes down to, is that nobody’s got it all figured out just yet.

What it all comes down to my friends, is that we’re gonna be fine, fine, fine.

These flip flopping emotions were, to me, highly relatable.

I was, most often during those years, putting on the bravest of faces through the pain inside. People began to praise my bravery in the shadow of the medical problems I was dealing with, but deep down I felt that chicken shit thing she mentions, from that first time the doctor said the words “needle” and “surgery”.

🙂

Her sad and raging made way for the more hopeful and upbeat.

Head Over Feet (Official Video)

So maybe she had found acceptance and happiness after all, through writing Jagged Little Pill, harmonica playing not withstanding.

😉

Maybe love and peace were possible, throughout all the turmoil and the growing pains.

This gave me hope that things were going to get better.

Last but not least, it had a secret song! How cool was that, back when I was newly discovering CDs? You had to be patient, if you waited after the last song ended, and there it was.

I wouldn’t truly understand her songs about love and relationships, not until much later, but now I sure can.

Your House (Secret Song)

If you never heard this one, never had the patience to wait after the album was technically done, I highly recommend you check it out.

It is full of longing and desperation. Sure, it may be a stockerish song at heart, but it is how we all feel, at one time or another, whether we’d admit it out loud or not like she did.

To listen to the album, in its entirety, go here:

Jagged Little Pill

Thank you, Alanis and JLP, for getting me through the nineties and the hard stuff. You’re still helping.

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