1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, SoCS, Spotlight Saturday, Travel

It Is What It Is #SocialDistancing #SoCS

Spring has arrived.

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As it stands, we
welcome
our new reality, even as we resist what that means.

I listen to two US sources, along with the national news here in Canada too.

I’ve been listening to Michael Moore and his podcast since before Christmas, when his main goal was to fight to get #45 out of office. It’s become something else now that most of us couldn’t have seen coming.

I’ve been listening to Rachel Maddow and in her most recent episode, she ended the show by announcing the death of an NBC colleague who lost his life to covid-19 and she lost control and became choked up as she said it.

Most of us aren’t that close to this yet, but who knows what the next weeks and months could bring upon us all.

Panic. Don’t panic. Panic. Don’t panic.

I am one who learned about this coronavirus with a slow dawning, a realization that’s just now beginning to scare me. It was only end of January that I was still relatively oblivious and planning an adventure to walk the Thames River Path in England. This new reality hit me soon after.

Since then, I’ve been around some people, but I now feel the instinct to totally isolate from all people.

Every time I send someone out to run an errand for me, they could potentially pick up this virus themselves. Should I stop this, for their sakes and mine?

I get paranoid with germs (for years) and now. Where are they? How close by are they? Which surface are they living on?

I’ve been cushioned here in my town, in my county, but reality inches ever nearer. I listen to accounts from doctors and nurses who are already seeing emergency rooms and ICU’s full of the sick, numbers then reported on the nightly news and 24/7 online.

I take deep breaths, sitting here and when I step outside, the now spring air streaming into my lungs as I go out with my dog.

I went for a walk, fell and twisted my ankle and skinned my knee, but I got back up again and kept walking. I wanted to feel myself, moving through the world, grateful I am still well.

I went to a medical appointment and it was a breeze compared to how it usually is. The doctor and his pain clinic moved out of the hospital setting and into a recently abandoned medical practise next door. I was in and out, no waiting in a waiting room with a dozen other people, but straight in to the room, after I’d been given a mask to wear. I haven’t worn one since being on dialysis back in the late 90’s.

I sanitized my hands and got my nerve block injections for my headaches, that I’ve been receiving for almost a year now.

I questioned whether I should have gone there, gone out at all, but things moved along so quickly because many patients did decide to cancel.

I worry for my parents. They aren’t in the highest risk group, but they are over sixty.

I worry about my sister, doing her work in the midst of this time of year which is tax season, ever so slightly delayed like school and everything else.

I worry for my brother-in-law who works in a factory.

I worry about my older brother who needs to go into work to support his family.

I worry for my younger brother who had a kidney transplant in 2013 and who has had other medical issues, before and since then. He and I are both immunosuppressed, not currently on dialysis or a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy, but I don’t know how this new strain of virus might act if either one of us were to catch it. I’ve never had pneumonia and the idea of basically drowning when the lungs are overloaded is terrifying.

I worry for my sister who has asthma and her husband who is a type one diabetic, who just recently recovered from mono. They have two young children and I’m only thankful that my nieces and nephews are at much lower risk of contracting this.

My father and mother work still, front line workers really, as she works in a group home and taking care of vulnerable people and he takes people in wheelchairs where they need to go in his specialized cab.

Here in Canada we have a wonderful healthcare system, but we see what’s happening in Italy and we must learn all we can. I feel better sometimes, most of the time, hearing the news here in Canada and feeling I’m safest here when compared to anywhere else, but things can keep getting worse with every case reported and all the ones that aren’t quite yet.

This is not at all how I saw 2020 playing out.

I had a friend who was traveling and another who’s about to. I can’t do much about that, but I still worry. So many who would have not gone and those still trying to get back home.

I have an old friend, from childhood, who moved to Ireland for medical school and is now a doctor there. I don’t know how much risk she’s at since all this, but I keep track of the news of this virus out of that country too.

I can’t control any of this and the last thing I wanted to do was see this happening, but we’ve been warned of a possible pandemic to come. Well it’s here, sweeping across the globe bringing with it waves of destruction and instability.

I worry about people’s jobs and the economy that I understand little about. I studied history and the Great Depression in the 1930’s. I learned about the Spanish flu of 1918 and how that washed over humanity during that time. We’ve come far with medical knowledge and still we are left battered by something so tiny, invisible and deadly in many cases, but people think it’s like any other flu season we’ve known in our lifetime.

I know it may be petty, but I’ve started calling #45 covid-45 because of his unique ability to be cruel and ignorant and incompetent at a time when the whole world needs effective leaders who also care, even just a little.

I like to listen to flocks of birds out my window and above my head. They fly by and I wish I could fly too.

Our winter was mild and yet I’m pleased to feel spring is in the air. I am finding things to bring me a few moments of peace because I know we’re at war, World War III if you want to call it that, but it’s a battle raging on in nearly all places now. It is just now making it to the northern parts of Canada and in our territories. It’s on islands that want to keep it from swamping their systems. The border between Canada and the US and that between them and Mexico, closed to all but essential trade.

Europe is being ravaged by it and it will get into refugee camps and already war torn regions, places across the African continent and in bustling cities where social distancing isn’t a thing.

For humans, in most cultures, having to stop shaking hands or hugging or kissing of cheeks is so difficult to do. Whereas I’m not struggling with that as much as I am to not touch my own face a thousand times a day.

People can’t believe they are in the position, for the first time, of being prevented from travel to their heart’s desire and content. They, we’ve, I’ve always had that option of traveling and the freedom of choice. Yet, when I hear people complaining that they are bored and dreaming of the moment they’re told it’s safe to do so again, I want to scream. I don’t know why, as I’m among them, but I know we’ve all been spoiled when air travel is so common and wanderlust is a thing.

I have multiple rolls of toilet paper here still and am not letting that stress me out, but I don’t like what I’m seeing of people out in grocery stores. I go back and forth between feelings of panic and calm, though I am never sure what I’m panicking about. I can’t pinpoint anything for sure in my buzzing brain.

I can’t concentrate on writing the things I’d planned on writing so far this year. I can’t manage anything more than stream of consciousness writing at the moment.

My dreams are vivid and my waking hours are spent trying not to bombard my head and heart with opinions and facts and statistics.

This is a numbers game, as the saying goes, but this time this is no game we’re playing. I’m no good at numbers games at the best of times.

People who are already greedy or selfish will only look for ways to enrich themselves in this, all while I know this virus can take hold in any one of us, doing as much or as little damage as it sees fit.

People are afraid and in denial as a form of self preservation, but the world is also populated by resilience and brilliant minds already at work.

I’m getting by on the stories that keep coming out, stories of courage from front line workers and from communities coming together to pick up groceries and medications for those who can’t.

We’re depending on our medical professionals and our food delivery drivers and those in the factories and the plants, but they have families and bodies that are vulnerable to getting sick.

I am used to hiding away in my own solitude and I don’t want to start worrying, any time I’m around another person, but maybe now is the time to isolate from friends for sure and now even family members.

I don’t know what to think.

So we are welcoming spring and wondering what’s to come. Some say we’re making more of this than is necessary, like young people who celebrated spring break and think they’re invincible. None of us are invincible.

We humans have our social media now and can stay in touch with loved ones and we should. We’re not used to being constricted in our movements and in our socializing. We’re told to stay in our homes, except for those necessities of life, but we can’t handle being cooped up for long.

Will this last weeks or months or more? We hate to think it could. Loneliness even though we can connect easier than any period in history.

I don’t know where I’m going with all this. I take chunks of time off of Facebook and I watch a show from my childhood. I can recall difficult times in my past and how I made it through and that helps, but this is a new one on me.

I think of my indoor cat now and what his life consists of. Human beings won’t stand for that for long, but I’ve seen some beautiful examples of people in places like Italy and Spain making the best of these circumstances. Each of us and our governments are dealing with this in stages, but sometimes swift measures are necessary ones.

I’m trying to wait this out, to ride it out, but I don’t know what to expect and I know emotions are running high.

I envy the innocence of the children in my life right now, but I’m now afraid to be around them, around anyone. I hate that feeling.

How are all of you coping with all this? I know I’m not alone and neither are you.

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The Heather By The River, #SoCS

Journalists. Photographers. And I use the term loosely.

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As a woman in my thirties, one who writes about things as my oxygen, I wonder what any of us would do for enough money. Would I write about people, even intrusively, for a living if given the chance?

Have I done it now? Already? Before?

How can it make anyone feel good about themselves to hound another human being, with their camera or their pen?

Responsibility: direct or indirect.

A world’s grief. Anger toward someone, needing to direct blame somewhere, the press. The press reports. The papers are printed. People buy the papers and mags.

More. More. More. We always want more.

From birth,
the two boys asked for none of it. That’s mostly where my thoughts return to.

I am not British and barely knew who Princess Diana was when she died. I wasn’t alive for the wedding seen around the world.

A sea of people, rather than water. That is what Diana must have seen when she looked from her vantage point, after saying her vows.

I would rather see a sea of Red or Black, blue or green, but the press fed off of the woman and she fed off of them, in a way, at least at first and for a long time afterward.

She was a fashion icon and a princess, but not only that. She used her position as a bit of an outsider, under the thumb of the monarchy, to become a change maker, by reaching out to those in need, those no one else wanted to associate with.

HIV and AID’s, in the 80s, when the hysteria about both was growing and at its greatest fever pitch. She shook hands, hugged those diagnosed and dying of the feared and misunderstood disease.

She came here, to Toronto, to sit by the beds of dying patients in hospice care. She walked a minefield, literally and figuratively. Danger signs.

Such grief of so many, I would not cry. As a fourteen-year-old child, fresh off of a kidney transplant and a thrilling wedding – I attended, my first of my oldest cousin. That was my wedding of the century.

Of royalty, I knew nothing. A fairytale life gone wrong is more like it.

Fairytales. I was familiar with these…the concept, the ideals, as a young girl. My Disney fairytale movies were my favourite. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, with the bright pink dresses and dancing with their handsome princes. I may have had similar dreams at the time, but what did I know? A lack of life experience and my own understandable immaturity.

What do titles represent, really? Sometimes, they bring just the right kind of attention and sometimes the wrong kind.

Now, upon reflection, twenty years later I do feel sad. I know of celebrity of her two sons. They are the British royalty of my generation.

I do perk up when I hear their names on the news. I bought the fake imitation giant ring, modelled after that of the one worn by both Kate and her mother-in-law, still lounging in my drawer. I woke to watch the wedding, once again broadcast live.

Prince William and Kate came to Canada after their marriage, the same date as my big brother’s own marriage took place. I hope one generation learns from the previous one, in certain cases, that sometimes it happens we grow wiser with enough knowledge.

They’ve come again since, since then, and with their two small children, touring parts of the country in which I live, that still sees itself as the child of Britain, past and present.

What is Kate wearing? Where are the couple going next? Are they in love, for real, or is it all just another fairytale?

But I do feel for two boys who, in August of 1997, woke up to the loss of their mother when I clung to mine for dear life, during some of the hardest and scariest times of my own childhood.

Are those boys/men in some ways like their mother, under scrutiny of duty, feeling hunted or like outsiders, wanting to reach out to those in need, perhaps not born with some of the advantages? They grew up with cameras as their mother tried to navigate a life of celebrity and being followed. She was hunted, more even than Prince Charles.

Now that I am more aware, I watch documentaries on the weekend after the anniversary of her death. I listen to stories of a nineteen-year-old who got married much too young, to an older man who shouldn’t have ever proposed to her in the first place, who was likely always in love with another woman. He should have been with this other lady all along and now appears that he is.

People marry the wrong person all the time, every single day and have babies with them. In these cases it is my hardest task not to judge because none of us are perfect. This challenges me as an adult who wants to see everyone happy, no matter whether they’re famous or not.

As a writer, this is my obituary of sorts, no matter how stream of consciousness based it may be, twenty years on.

From birth to death: Diana, 1961-1997

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TToT: If You Don’t Control The Narrative, The Narrative Controls You – The Summer Day, #10Thankful

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver “The Summer Day”

Ten Things of Thankful

I am thankful for new pillows.

I’ve been using flat, old, barely there pillows for a long while. It was time for something new.

I decided to go with two different levels of firmness and they look the same. This way, I can switch it up and I learned which one I preferred.

Never underestimate the luxury of a decent pillow.

I am thankful for the laughs we have at my writing group.

We do write, but it was another fun time with the gang. I don’t know if a story is destined to come from this one, not from me this time anyway, but other stories were shared and good times all around.

I am thankful for a surprise gift from my neighbour.

I heard a ticking sound as I sat out on my neighbour’s deck last week. I asked her if it was a clock and she showed me her little sun dial.

Well, she got me one with a sunflower on it. If you put it in the light it moves back and forth. She wanted to congratulate me on getting my writing accepted. It’s nice when someone does something like that, totally unexpectedly.

I am thankful the deal with my essay for Catapult was made official, with contracts and a likely date of publication and everything.

This made my day mid week. The editor wasn’t certain when it would get published, until she suddenly emailed me and said she’d had an opening. I try to stay patient these next four weeks or so and keep in mind that things could change, but this will be exciting when it does happen.

She worked, as my editor, and the final piece that came back had a few changes to the final product, but kept my overall message and voice.

And now there comes my least favourite part: the contracts and paperwork.

I am not complaining, really, but I am no good at all that. Has to be done though. Luckily I have a sister who is better at such things. I will definitely be including her here on the TToT when she helps me with all that here soon.

I am thankful I heard back from Hippocampus and may be getting a short piece published with them soon.

They are on my list of spots where I want to see my writing placed. This one is a small foot in the door, but it’s a step in the right direction at least.

I am thankful for a new yoga teacher who wants to learn from me as much as I learn from her.

She says she is very interested in learning, from me, about the best ways to teach visually impaired and blind students who want to take yoga like me.

There are so many ways to do yoga. I never could have imagined. Of course, like anything, you must be cautious that you don’t push things and cause more pain than that which you were working to help relieve in the first place.

I am highly conscious of this fact. I am taking it slow, but my back has a metal rod in it and might not be able to bend the same way as other people. I don’t want to be careless and make things worse, obviously, but this teacher seems open to suggestion and to not pushing me too hard.

It’s just a different situation for her, to try her best to describe the positions for my arms, legs, and whatever else, by being as specific as possible. Watching her simply isn’t an option for me. This is new to her just as to me.

I am thankful for more and more representation of visually impaired characters on television.

I caught the final episode of the second season of a show, filmed here, near to me, in Toronto:
Private Eyes

What first drew me to checking it out was the fact that it was filmed in such a familiar place and then there was the reappearance of my favourite 90s television star: Jason Priestley

Then I discovered that Priestley’s teenage daughter on the show is visually impaired. She reads braille books, uses a computer that talks, and a white cane to get around. I try to watch her character, to follow how the creators write her visual impairment into the show. I am so glad there was a second season and that she was featured so often.

But I will be keeping a close “EYE” on how she is portrayed. It’s important blind people are shown in reality, even on screen and in fictional environments, because people have enough stereotypes and don’t need any more.

I will miss the show over the next year or so and cross my fingers a third season happens.

I am thankful to have family who can replace a roof now and again.

The rain has been finding ways in. It was in pretty good shape when I moved in, ten or eleven years ago. Now, however, the need is growing.

First step, install new water heater. Next my uncle and cousin will replace it, both house and garage. Apparently the second one badly needs it. Funny, I have no idea what everyone’s getting so bothered by. Though, I won’t even go inside that garage at all. Not my scene.

My neighbour asked if she could paint something on the side she has to look at from her deck, to help cover up the ugly. I had no problem with that.

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Can you guess what this is?

I am thankful for my parents and neighbour and their kind willingness to help me out with my dog who likes to bark.

He is also terribly attached to me.

My parents watch him when my head is particularly bad. They wouldn’t have to do this, to put up with it, but I hear he’s rather calm and good when he’s with them.

Also, my neighbour opens my door and brings him out when I am away, if she is at home, and ties him up on her deck. He usually is happy to sit quietly while she goes about her day.

Although, this last time, something odd occurred. She just happened to stop by (to give me her gift) right as I was leaving. So we thought she could get Dobby on his leash and just take him with her. Big mistake.

I followed them out the door and left a minute later. As I sat in the car, as we pulled out of the driveway, I could hear him still barking.

It turns out that when he sees me and she physically takes him from me (in his mind), he won’t settle down for her. She soon had to put him back inside my house and then come and get him like she usually does. And that time he settled down on her deck once more and laid quiet.

Huh … hmm. What a dog.

I am thankful for songs like this one, songs that have helped me through difficult times.

“One thing: I don’t know why…it doesn’t even matter how hard you try. Keep that in mind, I designed this rhyme, to explain in due time.”

In The End – Linkin Park

“Time is a valuable thing. Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings. Watch it count down to the end of the day; The clock ticks life away.”

Back around the year 2000 I was in high school and struggling just to keep up. Finally, I couldn’t do it anymore. Daily headaches were making concentrating to do well in my classes supremely hard and nearing impossible. In the end, I took fewer and fewer classes and finally had to quit all together, without graduating. This is not an easy thing for me to speak about, but it’s nagged at me for years ever since and I do plan to finish sometime in my current decade of my thirties.

These lyrics are about getting so far (years and years of school, including missing over 100 days in seventh grade for dialysis and a kidney transplant, almost being held back), but then I ended up catching up in the eighth and graduating, starting high school with my friends and peers, before falling behind all over again. It was a year or so later that things grew worse once more.

“I tried so hard, and got so far. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter. I had to fall, to lose it all. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter.

It felt for years like no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t matter. I was still behind and stuck and lost. This song brings a tear to my eye, even today, even as I am working to jump start my life and writing and things.

RIP Chester Bennington

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Here Comes the Diet Police #Nutrition #AtoZChallenge

Oh no. Here comes the dietician.

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So many doctors. So little time. It’s the dreaded diet doctor, who has come to lecture me on what to eat and what not to eat.

The A to Z Challenge – N is for Nutrition

From the moment I was diagnosed with kidney disease, I began to see doctor after doctor. One specialist I would see would be the one with all the expertise on nutrition.

I had low calcium. I had low iron, anaemia. I needed to take supplements. I was put on dialysis. I was under weight and malnourished. My body wasn’t getting any of the proper nutrients it needed. The kidney disease was preventing anything healthy from happening in my body.

From then on I saw the dietician, who told me what foods to stay away from. Then, once I’d had my kidney transplant, I saw one again, who told me I was to basically eat the opposite of all I was to stay away from while on dialysis.

It was confusing. It was confusing, going from fighting to keep any weight on to being on high doses of medications which put on weight.

Food has been a major factor for me, something I had to think about, since I was eleven years old. I fought like hell to be healthy, but I never dreamed that nutrition would be such a difficulty for me.

Now, I am on such low doses of those transplant medications, but the damage has been done. My body has been through a lot.

I try to find balance. I love salad and I love chocolate. I could live on fruit and vegetables, but I love my pizza. I love to drink water and still I drink Coke.

This nutrition thing is hard and I don’t see it getting any easier, the older I get.

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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TToT: April Showers and Scoops and Slurs, #NationalSiblingsDay #10Thankful

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

The birds have been keeping me sane all week.

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Their songs, tweets, chirps, and twittering melodies have calmed me, any moment I felt anxious about a bit of a difficult week.

It was Billie Holiday’s birthday. Her voice brings me back to a different time.

Ten Things of Thankful

I am thankful for a glimpse into an unfamiliar place.

The Colours of Kenya

Love the colours.

I meant to include this last week. Lizzi wrote this incredible story about her time in Kenya. If you haven’t read it, you should.

I am thankful for tall mountain pose.

Someone who knows a lot more about yoga than me found this one. I’ve been trying it out. The woman describes the poses well, though I don’t know I am all that good at following the instructions. The deep breathing is the nice part.

The music in the background is rather soothing, but for the clanging bell sound that makes me think of that warning bell you hear at a train track as a train comes near. Not so relaxing for me. Kind of triggering.

I am thankful for a challenging week.

I have been doing A to Z for the first time and this week has been rather fun. I’ve not put too much pressure on myself with it.

I am thankful for an opportunity to share a little piece of myself.

It Was All a Blur #MyBlindStory

I am thankful for a night out at an author reading which involved some helpful men who showed me through the library and a kind word from an author, on a night I almost missed out on entirely.

It had been a rather bad week and I almost backed out and stayed hidden at home. If I’d received the rejection to a writing pitch I would receive while I was at said author reading, or if I’d heard the unsettling news that would come later on that night involving 45 and missile strikes, I may have chosen to stay hidden. Thankfully, I hadn’t. It was a rainy night, but I am glad I braved it anyway.

“Ann Walmsley author of the Prison Book Club will be sharing her experience of becoming a book club volunteer at men’s prisons in Ontario. This incredible book recently won the Edna Staebler award in 2016. One juror Bruce Gillespie quoted: “Walmsley’s book provides a unique glimpse into the lives of incarcerated men and the transformative power of literature and fellowship.” Featured several times on CBC it is truly a honour to have her come to Woodstock Public Library.”

After the reading, I introduced myself to the author and bought a copy of her book. I spoke to her about being a writer and she gave me a bookmark with her email and told me I could email her if I ever had any questions about writing.

http://www.annwalmsley.com

I am thankful for scoops and slurs.

I have moved on from Brahms’ Lullaby and on to learning a song I didn’t recognize from my teacher’s description, until she played a little of it and a song that came, preprogrammed on my brother’s little keyboard from childhood, it all came back to me. I love the different violin techniques in this one. It will be a challenge, but one I am quite excited about taking on.

There are scoops when playing the violin. Going from one string to another.

Not all slurs are nice, but the one that occurs in this song is a new technique to me.

I am thankful for family members who are handy and generous with their talents and time.

A leak somewhere in my shower, dripping water down through my ceiling and into my living room are a different sort of April showers. Keep that outside my home preferably.

I have an uncle and cousin who do this sort of thing, fixing showers and leaks for desperate nieces and cousins like me.

The machine they had to use up in my ceiling was loud and reminded me of a dentist’s drill. Again, triggering.

Now I have a layer of dust over everything, including my books, but all is well again.

I am thankful for a day of family, an early Easter/birthday celebration.

Family days include fun, laughter, children playing, and scoops of vanilla ice cream.

I am thankful for my siblings and the siblings (my nieces and nephews) who have each other.

My nephew now has a sister, a sibling, and all of them have a friend for life.

This makes my list every year (National Siblings Day) and every year it is more and more true.

This year mine are willing to do something special with me in a few months, zip lining alongside Niagara Falls, to celebrate my twenty-year anniversary of my kidney transplant.

They are the best.

I am thankful for a surprise phone call from a friend.

I was tired, after this week, but it was nice to talk and catch up.

It’s been raining, off and on, all day long. This is April – to be expected. Not so bad.

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What Was and What Will Be #FTSF

It’s almost 2017 and my neck is growing sore from looking this way and that. I turn my head back to 2016 and marvel at all that was hopeful and positive for me personally.

Of course, the rest of the world seems as out-of-control as ever, if not more so. I can’t say the year has been a bad one for me though. It’s a strange contrasting feeling. As bad as this year has been for many, January of 2017, for a lot of people isn’t looking much better. I can see their point. I plan on leaving all that behind for a week and focusing on my own personal growth and having new experiences.

Then I turn my head the other way and try to imagine the year to come.

I could list a set of goals I have for myself, things I hope to achieve, some I’m even banking on. I have this list in my own head. I just don’t know how to think of the months ahead in tune with those that I have to look back on.

The year 2017 feels like a momentous one, even when I stack the possibilities up against the things I never expected to do this year but surprised myself and did anyway.

I try to keep things in perspective. Sure, 2017 is Canada’s 150th birthday and on June 5th, it will be twenty years since I received a kidney transplant from my father. It still works so well, that I pleasantly surprise myself that everything’s still looking good in there.

I plan to begin 2017 with a BANG, so to speak. I will take a leap of faith with myself and the world. From there, I can’t say what the year might bring.

I turn thirty-three in a few months and I wonder about growing older. One minute I think I am still young and I have lots of time to achieve my dreams. Then, at other less upbeat moments, I think I am past my prime, whatever that was.

I plan to keep taking violin lessons. I want to write and write and write. I hope to submit my writing and take more chances with it, to hell with my fears of rejection or those pesky feelings of never being enough.

To celebrate on June 5th I would love to go zip lining for the first time, with my family all around me, in my favourite place in Canada and in the whole world: Niagara Falls. I am not usually much of a social person, but this time why is it I feel like I want to invite the whole world to join in the festivities?

I feel like I need to top this past year with the year to come, but that’s likely putting too much pressure on myself and on 2017 and might also be putting down the year that just was, which was full of music and writing and a podcast I am so proud of.

In 2017 I am looking forward to having a new niece or nephew and I can’t think of anything better than that, to mark all that is so wonderful about a year like 2017 could be.

Then there are those empty blocks of time, days and weeks and months that are currently a void of the unknown. This feels daunting but doesn’t need to be. It should mean all the possibilities in the world and endless hope.

If I don’t think too hard, which I have trouble with at the best of times, all the scary events that are possible for 2017 in the world remain as background noise. I fear that noise will grow louder and impossible to ignore, but if 2017 turns out anything like 2016 in my own life, I refuse to let reckless world leaders ruin my year. I’ve been waiting for it to arrive for twenty years now.

My thorough, month-by-month breakdown of my 2016 year’s successes and slips is to come here by the end of December.

Also, check out what Kristi from
Finding Ninee
thinks of and hopes for, looking ahead to 2017 and beyond.

Happy Holidays, to you and yours.

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TToT: Too cold For Pumpkins and Other Stories – A Day In The Life, #BraveEnough #EightDaysAWeek #Review #10Thankful

This will be part gratitude post and part music review, I’ve decided. Music always causes me to be thankful.

Here’s what else’s going on.

FmTFzlp.jpg

I am thankful for some of the best October weather lately.

Okay, so that weather decided not to hold on for our family day, when we’d planned on visiting a pumpkin patch, to have a good time like we did last year. Ah well, can’t win em all.

Before that though, well I would stop at my favourite spot in my house, my stairs, on the landing, and I would put my chin on the window ledge. It is high enough that I just meet its height. It makes me feel child-like when I stand there. It offers perspective.

With this weather, first it was a couple of extremely breezy days and I just loved the sound of rustling leaves in the trees, some far off hissing. Such mild breezes and the smell in the air was just glorious.

I am thankful for Canadian healthcare.

I tried to feel indignant on some comments DT made about our healthcare, but decided that is nothing but wasted energy.

Nothing is perfect, as I continue to have symptoms that become difficult to treat, but when it really counts, Canada is the best place to be.

Again, I worried about my brother’s health, three years post kidney transplant. He needed medical help this week suddenly, to be treated for shingles immediately, and he was. Hopefully, he is on the road to total recovery. Knock on wood there are no further complications from the virus. It is his second time with it.

I am thankful for live music.

Shawn Hook was the opening act.

I am thankful that I was able to attend a live musical performance like no other, with my sister and my unborn niece or nephew.

FmTFzlp.jpg

Lots to say about this show, which was a lovely surprise of a performance, but I still want to write a full review another time.

This song just makes me want to get up and dance.

I was looking forward to seeing Lindsey Stirling live for a while now and, once more, I found myself becoming transformed by what I heard and felt.

I am thankful for another Wednesday evening in “The Elsewhere Region” (which just means my twice-a-month writing group), that you just never know who might show up there.

This week we had a surprise guest from Denmark. She was a friend of one of our members, just visiting for the week, but it was nice that she came along. She is a writer too, which was obvious from her piece that she wrote and read aloud to the group.

I am thankful for the love of certain kinds of music that my father has passed on to me, from his generation, of the kind that a lot of people my age don’t have.

My father taught me to love and appreciate The Beatles. I owe him for that.

This documentary was sweet and sad and it brings you back to the 60s, a time I did not live through, but when I watch things like this, I feel I can understand a little of what that time was like.

I am thankful for a violin teacher who shows me lots of compassionate patience and who lends me a chin support so I can keep hold on my violin with just my neck and head.

I am thankful for my brother’s quiet support of my attempt to learn to play the violin.

Recently, my discouragement has been growing, but I will not give up.

Some things we really want, we soon learn just aren’t meant to be. Learning to play the violin, for me, isn’t one of them.

Doesn’t mean I don’t doubt myself on a regular basis. I may not be the most dedicated player, devoting hours and hours to learning, but I am a slow yet determined learner.

Just when I was beginning to doubt that I was doing all of this for the long run, I practiced, on the sly, while most of my family were elsewhere. I did not draw attention to it, but my older brother was present.

We both think the violin is just so neat and I felt better in that moment, when I acknowledged how hard it’s been and when he offered up his signature style of quiet support as I fumbled to get through a song.

I vowed then that I would not give up on my dream.

I am also thankful that he doesn’t give up.

He keeps helping me with things I struggle to do on my own, now that it’s just me.

I think music sounds so much better in surround sound. He made it so much easier for me to go from cable TV, to movies, to my computer. The fewer steps there are, the easier I will pick it up and do it on my own, even if it takes me forever to master it all.

And my brother keeps coming back, helping me, over and over again.

FmTFzlp.jpg

I love hearing my niece and nephews playing. They even allow me to get in on their games now and again as well.

We played and I watched how the game was constructed. How my niece acted out what she sees every day, with the grown ups in her life, how there’s a repeated order to the imaginary day we were living. Wake up. Going shopping. Eating lunch. Having a day where we just rest. Back to bed. My brother was the best at these last two.

🙂

Children are the best and I watch the children in my life, reminding me of the child I once was myself. This is a priceless gift.

I am thankful for my family. Goodnight.

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TToT: Major and Minor – Zones and Pods, #InternationalLiteracyDay #9/11 #10Thankful

“I can’t get no peace, until I dive into the deep, blue lullaby.”

—Blue Lullaby, The Jellyman’s Daughter

Of course everyone can recall, with at least some detail, just where they were on the morning of September 11th, 2001. Most then speak of staring at the television, watching the horror unfold.

I remember the feelings. My father driving my sister back to college, starting to hear things on the radio in the car. I went into school, my teachers listening to radios and talk of World War III. That was my fear, but although I watched the news with my father all evening, our family just recently acquiring CNN, I wondered where all this might lead.

I wonder now when people speak of not getting that image out of their minds, but even then my vision was bad enough that I wouldn’t see those towers fall, people jumping for their lives, to their deaths. Am I less affected somehow, because I didn’t see it with my own two eyes?

What about anyone, such as children born after 2001, like my niece and nephews, who weren’t alive yet to know that day? Well, I suppose it would be like Pearl Harbor for me and also my parents. It’s the way I’ve heard those who witnessed that describe the feelings, but the difference being that lead to war for the US, a world war that had already begun for Europe. This time there has been no declaration of another world war, not in the 15 years hence, and hopefully never again.

If I were to have cried at the end of this strange week, would anyone be all that surprised? Whether from having to make more decisions about my health, to decide on medication coverage and possible effect on my transplanted kidney, which is coming up on twenty years. My fear, no matter how unlikely, ratchets up ever higher. Or from the fact that time rushes by, ever faster, as my niece enters an actual number grade, her brother soon to follow their cousin, who himself just began junior kindergarten this week and oh how little they seem for that first day. Perhaps it’s that I can’t possibly manage all my email and technology issues on my own which required having to accept help from one who knows so much more, or else maybe it’s that I realized I can do more than I thought I could. It never ends. Or from a painful part of being Canadian or a sombre day for the US, fifteen years after-the-fact.

Blue Lullaby

And so I let all that sink in and I let my gratitude germinate and I feel all those overwhelming things and then I move forward and I find my list of thankfuls.

I’m thankful that I get to see my first big concert of a violin player live.

I’ve loved the sound of the violin for years, but now more and more I hear it everywhere. Wherever it appears in a television or movie’s soundtrack I zero in on it immediately, sometimes still uncertain, but at my core I know that sound.

I’m thankful that I found a doctor who seems to have a few suggestions for possible medical treatments.

After a while, you feel like you’re losing it and maybe you should just suffer silently because nobody could possibly understand. At this point, I take what I can get with my health, which sounds bad, but really I don’t believe, in spite of all doctors have done for me, that they have all the answers or can cure everything.

The question then becomes: how much can I put up with, how much do I just need to accept, and how then to focus on the good things in my life?

I’m thankful that I got to attend a truly unique and wonderful secret performance.

Sofar Sounds

Secret gigs and intimate concerts, all around the world – in 271 cities.

My brother and his friend have been playing music all around their city this summer, but this time they were scheduled to perform at something truly special and I just had to check it out for myself.

Sofar Sounds on Facebook

This wasn’t only a gig to them. It was held in the bachelor apartment of that friend of my brother. I happened to know where the show was being held, but only because M had volunteered to host it. I still had to apply on the Sofar Sounds website and wait to see if there was a spot left for me.

Intimate doesn’t begin to describe it. There were at least thirty people, mostly twenty-something’s, all crammed into a small house apartment in London, Ontario last Tuesday night. It was air conditioned, but this made little difference once all musical equipment was set up and everyone filed in to watch the three performances.

It felt lovely to me though, even though I was overheating and realizing I was possibly the oldest person there, at thirty-two. It was just so wonderful to see the love of music and the teamwork that these young men and women showed to bring people together through music. It frankly restored my faith in people, younger generations, or any generation for that matter.

I’m thankful that at said secret, exclusive performance, I got to learn of a duo I’d not heard of before, one I likely never would have heard of otherwise, and one which included cello.

The Jellyman’s Daughter

This young musician couple from Scotland were on tour in Ontario and they were happy to be playing at their fourth Sofar, after Edinburgh, Hamburg, and Amsterdam. They were a team also, in the guitar, mandolin, and the cello he played, and her singing with him backing her up. They played a nice mix of Scottish music, bluegrass, and even a Beatles cover with a brilliant new spin on its classic sound.

I m thankful my niece started grade one and my nephew began junior kindergarten.

This week was

International Literacy Day.

I was emotional all week, thinking about it, how my niece is learning how to read and write and next it will be my nephew’s turns.

I was emotional as I saw people I started school with, more than twenty-five years ago now, sharing the news of their own children’s first days of school, on Facebook. I was emotional because time flies and that’s both a good and a bad feeling, with nothing to be done about it either way.

I’m just lucky that my niece and nephews have access to all the tools they need to grow and learn in the right environment.

I’m thankful for new members and old ones, at my writing group, who share their varying perspectives with me.

I get to witness the different writing styles, experiences that are unique to each individual writer in that room, and they trust me as one of the few they feel mostly comfortable reading their words out loud to.

The Elsewhere Region

This is a term that just happened to come up at the most recent meeting and I’ve decided that is how I will refer to this group from now on. I am a huge fan of names and titles for things. Saying “writing group” or “writing circle” just never has had quite the same ring to it.

I’m thankful my ex could make a dent with my email problem.

I have collected thousands and thousands and thousands of emails and my ability to stay on top of that, deleting or organizing, it got away from me. It was so bad my computer’s voice program couldn’t even speak anymore, making it impossible to check my own email. It felt like a runaway train.

I resist these things, such as calling in the expertise of an IT ex boyfriend who knows his stuff. I don’t like to be a bother to those who are currently in my life, let alone those who chose not to be.

The hard part is that someone is a decent enough person to want to help anyway. The worst part is knowing that decency exists always.

Dent made, but still I feel like I can’t quite get a grasp on this, which feels like a silly complaint to have really.

I’m thankful that a favourite blogger and writer of mine has returned, after a fruitful summer off, to blogging and writing again. And who has made her return by sharing something I did not already know on her blog.

The Fallow Period

I’m thankful for peace where I live, where my family lives, and where my niece and nephews can grow up without being directly impacted by war and violence.

I recently listened to a news story about hopes of a cease fire in Syria and then a man who was a child soldier, speaking on Facebook, about the plight of his people in the country of South Sudan.

No country is perfect. None is spared completely, forever.

I’m thankful for my country, both that I and others can recognize the bad that’s taken place and still celebrate what we are as citizens and what we could be.

Canada In A Day

Next year isn’t only the year I celebrate my twenty-year anniversary of my kidney transplant, but as a much broader celebration, it will be Canada’s 150th birthday.

So, on September 10th, CTV, the national television broadcaster asked Canadians to film a minute of their life, a reason they are proud to live in this country. All clips will be compiled together. Sounds like a lovely pride project.

I mention several reasons, just here in this week’s TToT, why I am proud to be Canadian. This doesn’t mean I think we are a perfect country or that we shouldn’t try to learn about mistakes of our collective past and make an effort to do better for the next 150 years.

One musician is doing just that before he runs out of time:

***

STATEMENT BY GORD DOWNIE clickable

Ogoki Post, Ontario clickable

September 9, 2016 clickable

Mike Downie introduced me to Chanie Wenjack; he gave me the story from Ian Adams’ Maclean’s magazine story dating back to February 6, 1967, “The Lonely Death of Charlie Wenjack.” clickable

Chanie, misnamed Charlie by his teachers, was a young boy who died on October 22, 1966, walking the railroad tracks, trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School to walk home. Chanie’s home was 400 miles away. He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where it was, nor how to find it, but, like so many kids – more than anyone will be able to imagine – he tried. I never knew Chanie, but I will always love him. clickable

Chanie haunts me. His story is Canada’s story. This is about Canada. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable, but this begins in the late 1800s and goes to 1996. “White” Canada knew – on somebody’s purpose – nothing about this. We weren’t taught it in school; it was hardly ever mentioned. clickable

All of those Governments, and all of those Churches, for all of those years, misused themselves. They hurt many children. They broke up many families. They erased entire communities. It will take seven generations to fix this. Seven. Seven is not arbitrary. This is far from over. Things up north have never been harder. Canada is not Canada. We are not the country we think we are. clickable

I am trying in this small way to help spread what Murray Sinclair said, “This is not an aboriginal problem. This is a Canadian problem. Because at the same time that aboriginal people were being demeaned in the schools and their culture and language were being taken away from them and they were being told that they were inferior, they were pagans, that they were heathens and savages and that they were unworthy of being respected – that very same message was being given to the non-aboriginal children in the public schools as well… They need to know that history includes them.” (Murray Sinclair, Ottawa Citizen, May 24, 2015) clickable

I have always wondered why, even as a kid, I never thought of Canada as a country – It’s not a popular thought; you keep it to yourself – I never wrote of it as so. The next hundred years are going to be painful as we come to know Chanie Wenjack and thousands like him – as we find out about ourselves, about all of us – but only when we do can we truly call ourselves, “Canada.” clickable

***

The lonely death of Chanie Wenjack – Macleans.ca

It’s painful for me when I hear about stories like these, boys like this, lives who mattered and who deserved to feel safe in this country, like I’ve felt. These are things I too would rather not have to think about, as I can plead ignorance growing up, but I can’t continue to bury my head in the sand any longer.

Canada in a day is a great thing, but it’s truly impossible to sum up what Canada has been, what it is now, or what it should be or could be or might be in the future. It’s important that I speak for both here. I want my blog to be a place where I show both sides of our Canadian coin.

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TToT: Once, Twice In A Blue Lobster – Long Tones, #10Thankful #BlindNewWorld

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten …”

—James Russell Lowell

Welcome June!

Paperback Writer – The Beatles

The above song, by the Beatles, turns fifty years old. I loved it because it reminds me of my dad, and his love for that band which goes way back, but also because it is about a paperback writer, something I wanted desperately to be, myself.

So guess what was discovered off the coast of Canada last month?

Two Blue Lobsters Found In Canada

Something so rare and beautiful; sometimes, the rarest of the rare ends up being most precious of all.

Some things aren’t meant to be, no matter how much we wish they were. That is a hard reality to face. One of those weeks, with some stress and anxiety, many ups and downs, but I am thankful overall.

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

For lobsters of all colours.

One in two million. What are the chances?

Yay Canada!

I love colour, the colour blue. I love lobsters. This story made my day, my week, and more.

If these odds can be beaten, anything could happen.

😉

For the help that came from far away.

South African firefighters dance as they arrive in Canada to help battle wildfires

This happened across the country from me. I didn’t experience these horrible wildfires up close. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for the residents of Alberta who did experience the wrath of nature.

This story about the firefighters from South Africa who came to offer their assistance to the people of Fort McMurray made my day, when so much injustice and anger exists, but then these guys came all this way, to do what they could to help.

For a dramatic return to my writing group this week.

Okay, so we usually talk a little, casually, before we get down to the actual writing. This time, things got a tad intense for my liking, but it got me thinking.

It started with nobody remembering to bring in a mystery object for us to base our stories around. I just happened to have my keys and the beaded, handmade pink cross from my grandma. I keep it because it reminds me of her, helps me feel close to her, but on this occasion it seemed to spark a whole religious thing that I never would have expected.

The one member of the group spoke up and held up his new found religion, his bible. This launched us into a discussion where he swore the earth is flat.

By the time the debate had gone on and I should have just got the ball rolling for the purpose of us all being there, meaning I should have just started to write, but I broke down and had to challenge some of his statements.

“So, can you heal me? Can you cure my blindness?” I asked. This may have been a mistake.

I have a lot of feelings on this, possibly better suited for a story because I don’t begrudge anybody their beliefs or the faith they’ve found. I just can’t spend my life hoping to be cured.

It got my brain working, anyway. Thankful I can think these matters over in my own head, as well as discussing them with people I’ve grown to love spending two evenings a month with.

For progress seen by my violin teacher, if not entirely noticeable by me.

There is this thing called long tones. I am loving all this violin lingo.

Doesn’t “long tones” sound so smooth and lovely?

🙂

Well, it’s like practicing scales. You just go from one string, back and forth with the bow, and then onto the next.

I need to keep my shoulder down and move through the note with my elbow, and less with my shoulder or wrist.

Well, my teacher said she noticed somewhat of a breakthrough, a milestone I’ve arrived at. I don’t feel it the same as she sees it, but that’s okay. I’m getting there and it feels really good.

For the cooler weather this week.

I love having my AC there when I need it, but it’s nice not to need it too.

While the end of May grew to be quite humid, June is starting out with cooler temps and even rain. I don’t mind.

For a beautiful song for me to try writing more lyrics to.

My brother has recorded a full version of “Decade Adrift” and now I will spend the coming week writing the lyrics.

They will be based around the theme of feeling lost for an entire decade, but I plan to use being swept out into the ocean as the metaphor for the feeling.

For care of loved ones when I felt like crap.

I regretfully had to miss out on a family day, due to one of my more nasty headaches. I was sorely disappointed, but it wouldn’t have been any fun if I had attempted it.

So, my parents felt bad and knew I would too. They told my sister and her husband to check up on me and they did.

I was feeling nauseous and couldn’t eat much. The fruit smoothie they brought by was greatly appreciated.

For a thunderstorm overhead.

I enjoyed the cool air that ushered in a storm this weekend. I enjoyed staying indoors, upstairs, with my nephew watching the rain through an open window.

I still wasn’t feeling my best. Whether or not he was just pretending is debatable, but every time there was even the slightest rumble of thunder in the distance, he would run whimpering over to me and would hide his face beneath a sheet.

Then he cuddled up against me and we sat there, not moving, for a time. It was the best.

For nineteen years and counting.

I put out a request for suggestions on Facebook earlier, but sadly I got no responses.

😦

I am looking for something HUGE to do next year, on the 20th anniversary of my kidney transplant from my father: any ideas?

For those doing their part to bring awareness.

Blind New World

I hope more of the world comes to see blindness, not as something to be frightened of at all costs, but as something many people deal with, successfully, on a daily basis.

I hope the stigma is worn clean away. I hope…I hope…I hope.

I do know I am grateful to be here, even with all the downs, because I eagerly anticipate the ups that follow.

Alive – Edwin

“I seldom think about my limitations, and they never make me sad. Perhaps there is a touch of yearning at times, but it is vague, like a breeze among flowers. The wind passes, and the flowers are content.”

Waltzing With Helen Keller

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Born Again and Forever Grateful, #FTSF

It’s strange, when you try to imagine the people your parents were and the lives they lived before their children came into the picture. I often try to envision it, with little success. My grandmother had diaries of her life and they’re one of my most valued treasures, for several reasons, but the details, no matter how minuscule, offer a window on what my mother was like as a child and young adult, way before she knew she would one day become the parent of four children, two of whom would be born with multiple disabilities. Sounds like a carefree time to me.

🙂

Well, like how I find it odd to imagine the days on which my parents met, got married, and had each of their four children, I find it inconceivable to think of the day of my birth. I was there for that one, obviously, but I do not remember, as if I wasn’t a part of it at all.

I was born via cesarean, as my mother had given birth to my older brother and sister previously. She had a medical reason for being unable to give birth naturally. All this, on that February day in 1984, it all progressed, as to be expected.

She decided to name me Kerry, a “K” name to go along with my big sister, Kim, born two years earlier. Also, the woman who gave birth to a baby boy on the same day, in the bed next to hers, her name was “Kerry”, spelled that way. This would set me apart from most with the same name, often spelled with the more common “C”.

I retell this naming story on occasion, but I would say, along with stories of the day I was born, there would one day be joined, one about my rebirth, thirteen years later.

The day I was born was a cold February day, but the day I was reborn was warm, sunny, and in early June.

Again, I remember none of it, strictly speaking. One moment I was one girl, small and ill, and the next, I awoke to the new life of a transplant recipient. I began, after being reborn, dopey, my new world slowly coming into focus. The beeping of ICU machines gave way to the warm, fuzzy feeling of the first summer of the rest of my life.

Now, one year ahead of my twenty year kidney transplant anniversary and I mark the date, another June fifth coming up fast. Next month signifies the start of my rebirth, as is the context for this FTSF post.

It’s a strange time of year for me, truthfully. As the date passes me by I feel a mixture of gratitude and anxious discomfort, at the state of my life, looking back on all these years hence.

I take stock on how far I’ve come since June 5th, 1997 and sometimes the weight of that milestone dawns on me with such ferocity. We all hit those monumental markers in life, occasions where rebirth is exactly the word we’d use. For me, June means rebirth, as spring is rebirth for so many plants and animals. I try to highlight the date, look on the life I’ve had since then, and adjust accordingly. This is daunting, when I can’t stop assigning to myself what my life should now mean. I don’t want to toss aside the importance of what that single surgery did for me. I can’t and never will.

Rebirth means something to me now, as my birth must have meant, more than thirty years ago, to my parents. It feels like an important starting place, but as yet, I haven’t decided where that might lead.

Host and sentence-thinker-upper:

Finding Ninee

&

Corinne Rodrigues

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