1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Blogging, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes

In The News and On My Mind: Supermegafragilisticexpialidocious

It’s a funny thing, but the prime minister of my country of Canada was featured on the US news magazine program 60 Minutes, before being honoured with a state dinner at the White House last week. This week he’s in New York at the UN (trying to secure Canada a seat on the Security Counsel), speaking at an event about why he is proud to call himself a feminist, and he hasn’t once mentioned anything about the size of his genitals.

GO FIGURE!

***

“Watching the news in the evening is a bit like being on an emotional Tilt-aWhirl. “Isis now sets people on fire.” “Harper Lee has a new book out!” “Some oddballs are bringing measles back because they’re scared of autism, which is a bit like saying I’m worried about birthday candles, so let’s start a forest fire.” “It’s going to be gorgeous this weekend!” “Look, a politician being deliberately rude.” “And also, look at these adorable puppies!” My limbic system does not work that fast.
–JEG

***

Super Tuesday…Mega Tuesday…what?

Comparisons are being made between Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump: Louis C.K. said it. Now I’m saying it.

But so many aren’t about to go there. Oh no! Perish the thought!

I am saying it and I am not going to back down from it. I am afraid.

America is full of beautiful places and kind and compassionate people. I know many citizens, writers and bloggers and friends, who don’t want the US to feed off of violence and divisiveness.

At the same time, North American culture thrives on celebrity. Media matters, has influence, seeks headlines and hype.

Is it any surprise then, (not to me), that a reality star, part of the reality TV craze, is so close to securing the GOP nomination?

With celebrities fighting over Twitter about naked Instagram shots, roses and marriage proposals that hardly ever last, and a show about a religious family with 19 kids…dismissed when sexual abuse comes to light and still a network brings such a mess back for ratings.

Is it any wonder? Yes, I wonder.

Donald Trump is a white, privileged male, who has likely had to fight for very little in life, mostly unaware of the struggles many minorities face. He has been a reality star for years, now the ultimate challenge, nomination of the highest office in the land, modern North American king, royalty, this is just much too much of a challenge to pass up, to see if he can take that title for himself.

Of course he can’t back down from this. He’s already practically hijacked the whole entire world into watching him/listening to him talk. It’s the ultimate reality show, on a world stage.

But what happens if he actually gets there?

Hitler. Trump. Of course I don’t think they are the same men, with the exact same plans or intentions. I don’t know what Trump has in mind for the kingdom he wants to rule. I do know that Trump is only the symptom of a larger problem in the world.

I’ve studied pre-World War II history, the great depression, and the uprising of anti-semitism somewhat. Now I watch the news and often I wonder if I am witnessing the sorts of things that those in the 20s and 30s witnessed. I have this yucky feeling inside that I might just be.

Demagog. Xenophobic. These are terms I didn’t even know five years ago.

People see things, with their own eyes, hear things with their own two years, but choose to dismiss them. They are in denial, don’t want to believe it, if it is not happening to them in that moment.

“That couldn’t possibly happen again, oh no. Not on my watch, on ours. Not with what we know, in the world today. That would never happen in 2016, in America.”

But they forget the past, or never fully acknowledged it, and are then on the way to repeating the mistakes of history, at break-neck speed.

Horrible things do happen again, are happening right now, and they are just as cruel and unfair as ever before. My father taught me, as difficult as it is and as negative, to love and appreciate history and the hard lessons it can teach us, if we pay attention.

I wish I could have all the positivity of my mother, but I sometimes think she is counting on the rest of the world being as logical, rational, and genuinely good as she is.

I wish I had all that faith in humanity that my prime minister who, amidst endless questions from reporters about his thoughts on Trump, repeatedly takes the high road over.

He says very little, only that he has faith in the better judgment of the American people to make the right choice when the time comes. He doesn’t resort to insults and petty name calling, like Trump is caught doing in so many sound bites, some I will never be able to un-hear.

Trudeau stays dignified, as us Canadians are famous for, but what does he truly think? Is he worried, like me? Perhaps I can’t figure out how to remain quite so tactful any longer.

Jokes are made all the time now, as a Trump win for the presidency starts to look more and more possible – Americans saying they want to move to Canada if Trump is elected:

Cape Breton: The Canadian island for Americans who want to escape Donald Trump

The fighting spirit going on during these tense times has those in favour of Trump, his own family included saying they will help them pack. I hate to hear all the ugliness, all a bunch of bickering children on the school’s playground.

Some Canadians would say no to this escape plan anyway, turning away our neighbours, immigrants (refugees is a stretch, but who knows). Some Canadians go on to say that Americans must clean up their own messes, but where do we draw that line? For those Americans who don’t vote for Trump, depending on what were to happen after he took office, wouldn’t they have a right, a reason to get away?

In the media, Canadian islands like Cape Breton talk of inviting Americans. If Trump becomes president, not even a US/Canadian border feels like enough space and separation to me. Our world may have borders and oceans between continents, but we can’t remain separate from our fellow countries. Our globe has become much too global in the nearly 100 years now since the World Wars.

I know Hitler used the dissatisfaction that a lot of Germans felt at that time. Then it was the Jews, Communists, us against them. There had to be someone to place the focus, to lay blame, to be afraid of, as fear has always evolved into a lot worse things.

Now Trump is using the dissatisfied state of America to win, something he loves to do, and he’s doing it at the expense of Muslims or Mexicans. I don’t know his true intentions, but he is egotistical and narcissistic.

He has slogans like, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”. Of course, politicians use slogans, but his sounds ominously like something Hitler shouted to crowds at his rallies in the thirties.

The world has always been ruled by white men. We know the history, but some places, the US and Canada, we don’t like to think about the bloody, greedy details so often white washed over in the history books.

Canada and the world at large aren’t perfect either. The North American continent was inhabited by Natives and it was the white Europeans who came over and took all that we have today. Most of us, since then, our ancestors were immigrants at one time or another, but we choose to forget that fact. We must not forget that part.

George and Amal Clooney on 5 years of conflict in Syria

People who know me know I tend to get easily upset, and so I am told not to read Facebook comments, but I sometimes do. I can’t always help myself and I sometimes think it helps me remain compassionate.

I hear from Canadians all the time that they don’t want refugees over here, taking our resources away from us. It can be a chilling reality to hear what some people are really thinking.

It’s the individual stories that frighten: One Florida woman spoke of her family being of a different kind of immigrant. They weren’t like the lazy, bottom feeder immigrants of today. This was her rationale for her feelings. This is a scary position to take, if she really does believe what she says. No empathy, no compassion, not even from most of us who’ve had our ancestors come from other countries in the past. This baffles me most of all.

Hitler believed his success couldn’t be attributed to anything other than divine providence.

Trump said his success, even after the riots and violence at rallies in recent weeks, not even he can explain that one.

All the conflict in Chicago for example only serves Trump’s purpose. No violence is acceptable, but things shouldn’t have gotten out of hand. I wish it hadn’t. Will this continue? Will it escalate?

I am not American and won’t be able to vote against Donald Trump for President. I am Canadian and glad of it, but I have a stake in what happens in the world. I may be in a separate country, but no “wall” (real or metaphorical) could ever possibly keep me secluded and unaware of the scary rhetoric that many are spouting.

Where does it end? I am not fleeing my home right now. I live in Canada, a peaceful place, but I can empathize. Where is the empathy? It’s clouded by fear, misinformation, and stereotypes.

It helps my own ability for empathy to listen to the personal stories: like the young Syrian refugee who now lives in Montreal and studies psychology, all the while keeping an eye on what’s going on back in her home country, all the while remembering the painful and cruel interrogations she underwent when she was arrested for protesting, five years ago back when the conflict in Syria began.

All of Europe are dealing with the fleeing people up close, on the front lines. This can’t be easy. Countries who were accepting at first now experiencing push-back from some citizens, bigotry increasing, stereotypes free flowing.

Hillary and Bernie both made their mistakes, said the wrong thing at the wrong moment and offended someone, but Hillary apologized. Trump has never done this. Anyone who has never apologized or recognized the mistakes they’ve made, because we’ve all made them, is nobody I want running anything. This equates him with someone as dangerous as Hitler was proven to be and I am saying it without hesitation.

More and more are beginning to call him out, but is he a joke (like so many late night comedians would like to think), a harmless nuisance, a guy who will do anything necessary to win, or something worse? I try to give him the benefit of the doubt, as I have never met him in person. How can we really judge another person if we’ve never met them? I don’t want to believe I am living in another 1930s, but we don’t tend to learn all that much from our past mistakes. I hate to say it.

I am scared. If refugees, immigrants, Muslims can be targeted, where does it stop? Women are still suffering in many places around the world. People with disabilities and LGBT face prejudice in both big and small ways. We can’t continue to support white supremacy. If you can’t bring yourself to mention Donald Trump in the same breath as Adolf Hitler, at least call his talk what it is. He may not be in the KKK, but his statements, the things he’s said to get where he’s gotten, they can only be said by someone living in his extremely privileged position. As chaotic as things are in his country these days, such a situation is something so much of the world would kill for. Terms like that are worded that way for a reason.

I know what’s happening around the world is awful – in the five years since the war in Syria began, when I hear word coming out of the atrocities happening in South Sudan for example, and the problems feel far too huge for any solutions to be found.

But there are those looking for compassionate solutions.

I feel optimism when I listen to this expert from Oxford or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. I am uplifted when I realize there are still those using common sense, compassion, and intelligence to figure out this complicated world we live in.

I keep up on what’s happening in the US, not only from the news, but from one writer/blogger in particular who writes thoughtfully about politics and in a way I can begin to understand about a system that I often find highly confusing and complex:

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears

We all have an opinion, but so much of it is backed by anger. A lot of what can be found underneath that anger is fear. What are we teaching our children? What is being modelled for them?

What Our Children Are Learning

It’s really hard to let kindness, understanding, and empathy show through all that, but we need to make the effort for the hope of the future generations.

Like I so often think: I wonder what the state of things in my country of Canada, in the US, in North America, and all around the world will look like, one year from now?

One year from now? Fifty? One hundred?

I wish I could turn off the news for good, as I can’t really stand to hear Trump’s smug, ranting voice much longer, but I may not have much of a choice by this time next year, no matter what anyone says, what my prime minister says or does not say out loud.

Does Trudeau have a duty, as the person running Canada, to speak up and stand up to Trump, especially if he’s saying such inflammatory things about all manner of types of people? Or is he showing tact by keeping quiet?

When is it important to speak up? I think none of us, even Trudeau, would hate to think Trump could be compared to Hitler in any way whatsoever.

Trust me, I don’t want to think it (don’t even like using these two men’s names if I can help it), but am following a gut feeling.

Or perhaps I am just using the comparison to prove something through my writing.

Who knows which one it truly is. Not even I’m certain at this point. Some of both I’d say.

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Blogging, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Spotlight Sunday

Fetching, Love Starved, and Dangerous #SongLyrics #LyricSunday #LoIsInDaBl

“You cannot quit me so quickly.”

“The space between…the wicked lies we tell, and hope to keep…safe from the pain.”

“But will I hold you again?”

“These fickle, fuddled words confuse me…like will it rain today?”

Okay, well I suppose you get Dave’s picture. Talk of “twisted games” and the rest…well, check it out for yourself, if you aren’t yet familiar with this song. His word play is excellent in it.

Sunday and it’s time for my favourite thing:

https://justfoolingaroundwithbee.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/loisindabl-7feb16-lyric-sunday/

I love love love

LYRICS.

It’s a small world because she writes about Five For Fighting,

just whom I spoke about in my post from yesterday.

Today though, I want to speak specifically about pop songs. You know them. They’re catchy, snappy, and they get stuck in your head. That’s what they are meant to do.

But are they good for us? Or do they encourage unhealthy expectations about love?

What’s the use of a love song, a pop tune, just like a mushy romantic movie, if not to make us all think our love lives should look similar? That our relationships should either soar just as high or crash and burn just as superbly?

As you can probably tell, I have thought a lot about this over the last fifteen years or so.

I’ve always loved song lyrics, but I’m not a kid anymore. I try to find the wisdom hidden in between those lines, as a young woman who was figuring out love and now, as a slightly older one, still figuring.

Taylor Swift comes to mind, and she has ever since I first heard her earliest offering that went from the country music scene, crossing over to the pop world, where I am more often to be found.

Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”

It was a Romeo and Julietesque tale, not very modern, mature, or realistic. She was just a kid when it came out and then we all watched her grow and go through many relationships, in the spotlight and through her lyrics.

And then there came the one about breaking up, making up, and breaking up again.

Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

“LIKE EVER!”

It all sounds like a bit of a joke, the language is that of a young person who doesn’t know what they want.

Games. False hope.

Does this sort of thing make most girls think there’s still hope, does it encourage a belief that if they just believe, then maybe just maybe? That when there’s drama, longing, and never quite stopping means it’s right or real or meant to last forever?

Does moving on become more challenging with these pop stars as models for love and relationships, when they themselves are just figuring things out as they go along too?

I ask all this about lyrics and I’m not even able to see the visual imagery in the music videos, all the stuff that young girls are exposed to, over and over again in the media.

“Life’s a game. Wanna play?”

Sounds like a line from Child’s Play, that creepy movie about the evil doll.

Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”

Lots of people play games, some more than others. Talk of being young and reckless. We’re all reckless at one time, but being reckless with someone else’s feelings is just plain mean. We’ve all got to grow up sometime.

“Boys only want love if it’s torture. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

I guess I felt this, wishing I’d been warned beforehand, but only during more of my lost and angry moments.

Because I know drama is often a part of people’s lives, in love, but it’s not just one gender or the other.

“Cause you know I love the players, and you love the game.”

“Rose garden filled with thorns,” love the imagery Swift.

“So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames. You can tell me when it’s over, if the high was worth the pain.”

Was it all worth it in the end?

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, RIP, Spotlight Saturday

RIP, Alan Rickman – Always!

What a week!

It’s the sort of week that only a Harry Potter movie can sooth.

First it was David Bowie, then Alan Rickman, and finally it was the death of Celine Dion’s long-time manager and husband Rene Angelil. This cancer is a real jerk.

I am a fan of some Bowie songs and I am glad Dion was discovered, but it was the news of Alan Rickman’s death, on Thursday morning that threw me for a loop. All these men were no longer young, but still it was the dreaded cancer that took them from their families and from fans around the world too soon.

Of course I did not need this sad occasion, or any occasion at all, to get me to watch a Harry Potter movie marathon. As it is fifteen years since he first played the role of Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, this time I am watching and paying particular attention to the brilliant Alan Rickman’s portrayal of one of the favourite literary characters ever created in my opinion.

This is a beautiful overview of Snape’s story.

Tributes have been pouring in, from fellow actors and fans alike, since the news broke suddenly of Alan Rickman’s passing from cancer, at age sixty-nine, on Thursday, January 14th.

Of course this isn’t really him,

in this fake guest voice spot on Family Guy,

but his voice was always so well-known. I’d like to think he wouldn’t have been offended by it.

I did not think of him as a joke. I saw only dedication in the roles he played. I just needed to smile from something since I heard he’d passed away and the clip from Family Guy came back to me.

The tributes, as I say, have been coming fast since news broke, on Twitter, Facebook, and in the media and online:

From J.K. Rowling, Daniel Radcliffe, and other British stars.

to

Evanna Lynch

and her heartfelt post.

Then there came a statement from The Late Show’s

Stephen Colbert.

Rickman’s close colleague and friend Emma Thompson wrote a moving tribute of her own

Here.

I don’t remember Ricman from the role that made him famous in Die Hard or the next role, where he played the villain in Robin Hood.

I do know he came to embody the character audiences always loved to hate on screen, but who was he, as a man, in his off screen life?

I knew him in such roles, perhaps a little lesser known, such as when he starred alongside Johnny Depp and his Harry Potter co-star Helena Bonham Carter in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon barber of Fleet Street”. He was positively evil in that,

but Rickman and Depp sing beautifully in that together.

It was in Harry Potter that I first heard his voice. I don’t forget a voice like that. It was infused with intensity and control over the words he was saying, whatever they just so happened to be. His slow speech grabbed hold and kept hold of my attention, anytime he spoke lines on screen.

I can honestly say that not everything about the movie versions pleased me, as big of a fan of the books as I’ve been since I first read them, but Rickman’s performance as Snape was never a part of my disappointment. He nailed that character, as one of the best cast parts from the entire story.

He was absolutely, terribly mean and you couldn’t help but hate him, as cruel to Harry and everyone else as he always was, but that’s what made him so great as an actor.

He could go from the world of Harry Potter to Shakespeare and almost everything in between. His start with the British Royal Shakespeare Company must have been something to see.

But whether he was playing a Shakespeare character on stage, the Blue Caterpillar from a tale like Alice in Wonderland, a modern literary villain in Harry Potter, or the bad judge in a musical, he was magnificent in whatever he was doing.

It’s strange how the death of someone you’ve never met can get to you, but from a closer source than I ever thought I would have when I first saw him take on the role of Severus Snape, I heard it confirmed what a warm and amazing person he was in real life, not just a fact made known through the celebrity reports and tributes.

His portrayal of Snape brought something important to life for me, as in he jumped off the screen in an extension of the character I loved to hate in the books.

It was Rowling who came up with the sad tale of a life that Snape lived, but it was Alan Rickman who made it real for me. He made that sadness real and I feel that same sadness now.

Rest in peace Allan Rickman.

It will always be Alan, for me, the man who was meant to play Snape. Always and forever he will be it.

Always!

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Blogging, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Interviews, Kerry's Causes, Shows and Events, Special Occasions, The Insightful Wanderer, TToT

TToT: Happy Days Are Here Again, #10Thankful

A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.

–Eleanor Roosevelt

maxanddadwaitingforcupcakes-2015-11-29-02-00.jpg

I watched a Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelt clan: Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor.

I had heard of them all, especially Franklin and Eleanor, but I enjoyed learning about the history. My mother mentioned she didn’t know what to do with me becoming all political all of a sudden, but I assured her that was never going to happen.

I simply wanted to learn about the people themselves, what times were like back then, and how we got here. All the political stuff wasn’t my main focus. I payed more attention to the polio that Franklin was stricken with. I wanted to know how disability was handled in those days and how he made it all the way to the White House.

Then there was his wife and all the social activism she took part in and the work she did for women’s rights. I was planning a post on feminism for mid week, so I was particularly interested.

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

“Your cares and troubles are gone. There’ll be no more from now on.”

HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN

This was a big song in the early thirties and when FDR ran for president, after the crash of the stock market in 1929 and the subsequent depression throughout the thirties and leading up to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

The Happy Days song was a theme song, a slogan used for Roosevelt’s campaign. At one point, during the documentary, there is one of the first actual film and media clips on record, at least one of the first to appear in the documentary anyway. Franklin’s little granddaughter is the one to deliver that line, which was cute even all these years later, but although her grandfather would bring his country out of some extremely terrible times, the slogan “Happy Days Are Here Again” wasn’t exactly the case and wouldn’t be for more than ten years.

World War II and the Cold War and so on. It all just got me thinking of when we’re ever really happy, as whole countries or as individual citizens, but that doesn’t mean that gratitude is not the place to start.

The psychological benefits of gratitude closely mirror those of meditation

American Thanksgiving, I wrote my

1000 Speak post (the link was open for a whole week),

and then there was yet another shooting outside a Planned Parenthood. What a week.

Ten Things of Thankful:

For my country and my province.

Yeah, Canadians are known for their modesty, most of the time, but lately we have been in the news for many acts of good will and open minds and arms.

Most notably, since being top story in the news around the world, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge of 25,000 Syrian refugees accepted into Canada.

The deadline is now at February, but at least we’re doing something and taking action to offer our doors wide open for anyone who wants to start fresh.

But also…Christmas in October.

terminally ill Ontario boy celebrates Christmas early in hometown

and

Ontario brothers capture incredible photo after bravely rescuing bald eagle

For the chance to share a valuable male perspective on feminism.

Purple: My Interview Wit Garry Atkinson

November 25th was International Day For the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I am very interested in feminism and write about it as much as I can here. It’s important to me and often somehow it gets twisted into something it is not. I want to change that.

The interview I did, is one man’s point-of-view on what feminism means and what it means to be one, to him personally.

After fifty years, Gloria Steinem is still at the forefront of the feminist causehttp://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/19/road-warrior-profiles-jane-kramer?mbid=social_twitter

For something to look forward to in 2016.

A little taste of what I might be getting.

I love a good concert and I chose the lawn “seats”, so I really hope for no rain that day in June.

I consider myself lucky every time I see another of my favourite bands live. It is the best feeling in the world, when the music I love surges through me, the performers so close.

For an invitation from a lovely group of fellow writers and bloggers.

I have been gradually building these blogging relationships with this particular group of bloggers from

the TToT.

Well, they hold a big Google Hangout vidchat, as they call it, and they asked if I wanted to join them.

I liked having a place and people to talk about writing with and I told them about my travel blog. Maybe they will be kind enough to offer some feedback at some point.

http://www.theinsightfulwanderer.ca/

I am new to Google Hangouts, but they were patient with me, even when I hung up accidentally.

Oops.

🙂

It is nice for me, after so many months of reading and commenting and interacting, to get to put voices to the names. It will take me a few weeks to get a handle on exactly whose voice is whose, but I will get there soon enough. It’s just harder because I can’t keep track of who may have joined or left the chat because I can’t see the separate little windows on the screen.

For a very special 60th birthday celebration.

happybdaysign-2015-11-29-02-00.jpg

All the family came together on the final Saturday afternoon of November, to celebrate the best husband, father, and grandfather (PA) we could possibly have.

dadwithhiscupcakes-2015-11-29-02-00.jpg

For some very special 60th birthday cupcakes.

cupcakes-2015-11-29-02-00.jpg

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? How could anyone not be thankful for cupcakes?

🙂

I have a cousin who makes cakes and she does all sorts of designs and flavours.

I can’t see them, but I can feel the fondant.

For my brothers.

brianonalaptop-2015-11-29-02-00.jpg

I am just lucky to have them, all three of them. Whether it’s when one carries my bag out to the car for me and gives me a ride home, to all the times he and the other two make me laugh, to the amazing father’s two of them are to my niece and nephews.

My older brother and I had a nice conversation, which isn’t always so easy in the group with everyone there. He was telling me about how his job is going. He is a photographer and Studio Manager.

Think Global

He has been there for ten years and he is well known in his department for his talents, his hard work, and his integrity. I was happy to listen to him tell me about what his duties include and what an important and reliable part of the team he actually is at that place.

sophiaandmomlaughing-2015-11-29-02-00.jpg

For goodbye hugs.

I am always a little sad when my niece and nephew are leaving. I love our byes at the door. It’s only one month until they will come back, next time for a few days, just after Christmas. It’s like we have Christmas twice in our family. Who wouldn’t love that?

reedsmilingwithyoubehindhim-2015-11-29-02-00.jpg

My nephew holds onto me with his little gloved fingers and I say bye again.

For small businesses, locally run, such as my cousin’s hair salon.

I did an interview with her last March and November 28th was Small Business Saturday.

Keep Calm and Get Your Hair Done: My Interview With Alaina From Glow Hair Studio

I think it is important to balance out the giant corporations and brans with the people who work so hard to offer quality options, products and services, in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

For two of the most generous parents anyone could ask for.

That is all. They are just great to everyone they meet, especially their children.

I’m thinking this Christmas might not be so bad after all. I wasn’t quite myself last year around this time, but despite everything, it may turn out alright – happy days once more.

The only time i ever heard that old slogan, until I realized where it originated was when Brandon and Kelly got back together on Beverly Hills 90210.

Yeah, well for those of us who were huge fans of the young adult nighttime drama back in the nineties, it was a big moment. I remember how happy thirteen-year-old me was when my two favourite 90210 lovers were finally reunited, after two years of will-they/won’t-they.

🙂

What can I say? It got me through dialysis and that lousy year. Life gets more complicated as you grow older and it’s harder to find the sort of pure happiness you used to feel as a kid. This exercise in being thankful helps.

“I am angry every day of my life, but I have learned not to show it; and I still try to hope not to feel it though it may take me another forty years to do it.”

–Louisa May Alcott

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IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, SoCS, Special Occasions

Gimme Gimme Gimme, #SoCS #optoutside

Squashed in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

http://lindaghill.com/2015/11/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-nov-2815/

It’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday!!!

SoCS

A retailer I hadn’t heard of before, REI, wasn’t open and taking part in the craziness that is Black Friday.

It encouraged people to opt out of the whole thing and spend the day outside instead.

Interesting.

#optoutside

I am not a fan of Black Friday.

Here in Canada Thanksgiving was last month, but I see what a big deal this weekend is to the US: food, football, and family.

But that’s not all.

It reminds me of Christmas and Boxing Day, but all of it’s become too much about things and stuff.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my family’s Thanksgiving in Canada in October, but I prefer to associate Thanksgiving with harvest, rather than with buying stuff.

I mean, there’s my mom’s fabulous stuffing that her mother made before her. It’s a favourite of the whole family.

I just don’t understand, although I love stuff just as much as the next person, but it’s probably a North American thing, more is better with both food and material goods. Stuff yourself and then go buy lots of stuff, for cheap deal prices.

I know what people might say, that the media just takes the few bad incidents that did probably happen and blow it way out of proportion, but I saw at least the example of people getting crazy and punching each other out at retailers in Kentucky, Oregon, Texas I think it was. Over a television or a pair of shoes? Really?

There was the rumour that at least one of those was a skit, a hoax, put on by Jimmy Kimmel. Allegedly.

Canadian dollar being better this year meant fewer Canadians made the trip to the US to shop, but some still went. Some make a day or more out of it, a tradition I guess.

Hmmm. Long lines. No thanks. Just to get a deal. I don’t need anything that badly.

I was like any other child, loving Christmas and presents. I know this time of year, gift giving and receiving is a huge part of the festivities, but I can’t quite reconcile that all with the good will and things we’re supposed to feel. It’s nice to get or give a gift, but the whole commercialization is a little too much to take sometimes. I am not sick of Christmas music, by the end of it all, but I am sick of the stores, which could be my mother’s dislike of shopping taking hold of me, somewhere in there.

Black Friday makes money for retailers, even with the deals, but it got me thinking about what would happen if all retailers did what REI did and closed. What if people had no choice, the hash tag told them all to “optoutside”?

Nature or electronics. Tough one.

People pushing and shoving for a bargain.

Sure, there are exceptions to this rule and it’s not all bad, but the Black Friday thing is pretty out-of-control by this point. Of course, a lot of people shop online. Best Buy Canada’s website crashed in the morning yesterday. That’s how many people are on those sites, hunting for deals on stuff.

Then there’s Cyber Monday, followed by Giving Tuesday.

Of course, we must make up for all the consumerism with a day to give back to our favourite causes and those who are less fortunate.

I personally like the campaign to give a book to a child, promoting literacy, but there’s always going to be that one fight for a television that will make the news.

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Blogging, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes

In The News and On My Mind: Seeing Red, #BlueSkyFriday

Remember, back a few weeks ago, when all we had to debate were a bunch of red coffee cups?

didyoureadmylatestblogpostyetimage-2015-11-18-01-18.png

***

“Watching the news in the evening is a bit like being on an emotional Tilt-aWhirl. “Isis now sets people on fire.” “Harper Lee has a new book out!” “Some oddballs are bringing measles back because they’re scared of autism, which is a bit like saying I’m worried about birthday candles, so let’s start a forest fire.” “It’s going to be gorgeous this weekend!” “Look, a politician being deliberately rude.” “And also, look at these adorable puppies!” My limbic system does not work that fast.
–JEG

***

Okay, so there was always a lot more going on in the world than that, but still…

It’s nearly a month till Christmas, and now the world is, once more, seeing red on the events of Friday the 13th and the latest November terrorist attacks by ISIS.

It began with Starbucks and their solid red cups, but it did not end there. It never does.

I had a conversation with my parents recently. In this conversation, my mom stated emphatically that, in the end, there is no way the US would actually elect Donald Trump as their president. My father and I aren’t so sure. At this point, a lot wouldn’t surprise me. That wouldn’t surprise me. This world is a crazy crazy place.

Listening to another one of Trump’s rants, about the popular coffee chain choosing just plain red, as their Christmas cup design, I was baffled by the attention America has given this man.

I was also baffled by the things that people obsess over, but there’s always something else, coming along, to shift the discussion to another outrage or outcry. People like to be angry about something: sometimes warranted and sometimes not.

Speaking of red…

that expression (seeing red) is one I’ve been thinking a lot about. It fits with my series: “In The News and On My Mind” and yet, going from some silly coloured coffee cups to the level of outrage at those poor people injured and killed in France has me thinking about my favourite colour, as the holiday season approaches.

I went slightly numb when I heard the news in progress last Friday night. Here we go again, I said to myself. It was approaching suppertime, and then…

Gun shots. Crack. Bomb blasts. Bang. Not again.

But just a few days earlier I’d heard about the cracks and the bangs, but in countries and cities I didn’t know.

Everyone knows Paris, but this had been already going on elsewhere in previous days. These attacks happen in other places, but that’s just what happens in places like Iraq, Turkey, Beirut, but not in France. Oh no.

I listened, through the night, until I could not listen anymore. I wanted to wait for more information because I wanted to know what we were dealing with, before my outrage flew out of control, like the rest of the world.

So, my Facebook newsfeed burst with people’s status rants, condolences in solidarity with France, and news stories from every angle. I tried to read it all, to educate myself and remain as informed as possible, but after a bit of a family emergency, a distraction from the wider world’s events, I had something closer to home to focus my attention and all my worry on.

The events of the wider world were silenced, as if someone turned the volume way down, in the background, and I may not have wanted that, but I almost welcomed the change and this other place to put all my energy.

What a lot to happen to my country’s brand new prime minister, a test of his capability, only a few weeks in. On his way to summits, dealing with economic matters and soon to be in PAris for talks on the environment.

Justin Trudeau’s big promised plan to bring 25,000 refugees into Canada by New Year’s was going to be challenged. Some of the Canadian premiers are urging Trudeau to pull back, to think carefully.

Governors are calling for similar caution from President Obama. If even one extremist is allowed entry and the chance to do what was done in PAris, even amongst the larger group, this would be too much, right?

I’ve listened to all this and I am not the one in charge, thank God, but I do not wish to fight fear with fear and violence with violence. That is where the world is heading, where most countries start to head in times like these.

Again, where would I want the world to go with that? If I were innocently fleeing from my home, surrounded by violence and fear, what would I want from the rest of the world?

All the stories I heard with November 11th being just last week. All of what was known and what wasn’t done during the Holocaust. If the rest of the world knows people are suffering, and we all sit back and ignore it, what does that make us? If, one day, it is any of us in the other position and in need of help, what should we expect?

I’m born from a line of those who only want to see the best in people. I am also the granddaughter of two immigrants. We are all, for the most part, immigrants from one time or another.

Us and them. Those and we.

The Islamic State. Islamic religion. Islamic terrorists. It’s all so mixed up in people’s minds, but these are not the times where people should be excused for saying awful things and remaining uneducated. It hurts my head to stay educated on the world, forever changing and moving, but I have no choice now. It’s the world my niece and nephews will inherit, which means I have to care. I have no more choice to stay sheltered and hidden, as I was and did as a child.

I am slightly removed still, an entire ocean between myself and France, but I can imagine what it must be like, having something so threatening right in my back yard. I want the appropriate action taken against anyone who has an express purpose of destroying human life, no matter the reason. I know what he had to do, as president of the country attacked. I know all of Europe is under a whole lot of stress and strain, as more and more Syrian refugees keep coming. Canada just wants to help, but are we next?

We can’t keep all the danger removed from us over here, as much as we might want to. I want to live in a bubble sometimes, to avoid getting hurt, but what kind of a life would that be? People are afraid. I get that.

Out for a night, in Paris, and nobody thought there would be so much blood. Out at a soccer game, to listen to a concert, or simply out for dinner and now there’s more anger and fear than ever.

Oh, of course there’s plenty of kindness, compassion, and love. Facebook shows both the good and the bad in people, just like in other ways. I have read plenty of both. I’ve read some of the ugliest statements from people and some of the most compassionate.

I may be the naive one, the one seeing the best in people, even as it fades in and out. I just can’t bring myself to think ignorant thoughts and make judgments about people I don’t know.

In the week since Paris was targeted:

A Peterborough mosque was torched

and

a Muslim woman was attacked in Toronto while picking her children up from school.

Indifference leads to fear, which often leads to outright hatred.

We expect certain rights and freedoms over in North America and in Europe. We expect the Middle East to be violent and evil.

Fighting between Israeli and Palestinian sides.

More us and them.

Christians and Muslims.

Us and them.

ISIS is getting more creative apparently,

communicating through PlayStation gaming systems.

What?

So many stories and new information coming in and how can anyone possibly keep up or know what’s true and what’s reality?

Facebook can be a curse at times like these. The debate over the changing of profile pictures was everywhere the other day. This is exactly why my mother’s advice to stay out of commenting and debating on Facebook is so smart. So what if someone wants to show their support or their emotion this way. And if they choose not to, that’s fine too.

On and after Friday night I wrote and posted how I felt, on my blog pages and my personal page, but I did not change any profile pic of mine.

All the gun safety talk of late was pushed back with this newest terrorist attack. That’s how it goes in the media.

Before this, I was working on my thoughts for these “In The News and On My Mind” posts. Here’s what else I was planning to talk about:

On the morning before the attacks on Paris I woke up to alarming news. I don’t wish to use his name here, but he is one of Canada’s most notorious murderers and he supposedly wrote a novel.

Read more about it here.

As a writer I was disgusted, but I suppose even Hitler wrote a book once.

Freedom of speech and all that, but I could not read such a book. I believe someone should, to find out what we’re dealing with, but I’m just glad it is not me.

Who, on earth, would help him do this in the first place?

These next two items have to do with the ethics of aquariums, zoos, and marine parks and the role my country plays in the global risk for the environment.

Embattled Sea World to overhaul killer whale show

As this article states, I am not sure Sea World has seen the light. They want to redeem themselves, after Blackfish, but upon seeing it myself and on further reflection, I want better for those majestic marine mammals I love so much.

And then there was Obama’s rejection of Canada’s Keystone Pipeline project.

I don’t want to sound like an environmental nut, because God knows I am not. I know oil has its uses and how much we all depend on it. I also know that the whole topic of oil makes me feel yucky. I don’t like the thought of it being pumped underground. I don’t like the alternative, which resulted in

something like this,

but how often does just such a tragedy happen? I don’t know the political elements that were involved in Obama’s decision or the plans Canada has going forward, but I think of poor marine animals, when the inevitable oil spill happens again, and I want a better option. I know all the fighting and the greed that goes on over oil and Canada has lots of it. I can’t say I was totally unhappy with President Obama’s choice, as uneducated on all the rest as that might make me.

And so it’s my own Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who made a promise during his campaign: 25,000 refugees would be brought to Canada by the end of the year. Is this a good idea? More naive liberalism?

Liberals and conservatives.

Us and them.

Perhaps Canada needs to rethink things a bit? Not go back on Trudeau’s promise, but maybe, in the shadow of Friday the 13th attacks, slow the whole process down some.

We’re seeing, learning more and more about the process and how it will all come about. Skeptics ask if everyone so welcoming of refugees is willing to take some into our own homes:

First of all, I want to understand and to hear the individual stories.

From one refugee to another: What you need to know about Canada

It warms my heart that there are, in and amongst the uninformed and fearful comments, stories like these:

Canadian Couple Cancels Big Wedding to Sponsor a Family of Syrian Refugees Instead

We all know about boats full of migrants: women, children, and men too. Women and children are one thing, but the young men are all clearly terrorists, right?

I shake my head at this. I don’t let fear rule my notions of every single man coming off of those boats or fleeing Syria and into a refugee camp. What about the violence and the persecution these men are running from in their countries? Men can be in danger too. It’s the isolation and the desolation that leads to anger and vulnerability. This is what ISIS prays on. We can’t give in. We can’t let them win by making us afraid, using that fear against us, so we end up frozen by our suspicions.

I do not have any answers in this case. I still don’t know how to write about most of this, as it all feels much too big and broad. There are good and bad people everywhere and I refuse to give in to the fear, but more and more it seems that’s what leaders, politicians, and the media suggests.

Satisfied – Jewel

So if you are one of the many, “seeing red” at the crazy world we live in, I can understand and, believe me, I have my moments. However, I beg you to try to keep to your compassionate side, to look towards those who have let anger go, in favour of productive strategies and kindness.

As much as I love red, I leave that for the celebrations that are coming around the holidays, for most of us. The colour red is better suited for holly berries and ribbon. I would remind us all to remember that we are all human, all of us.

For more views on this, here are some posts written by fellow bloggers:

http://sisterwivesspeak.com/2015/11/19/is-your-love-big-enough-the-syrian-refugee-crisis/

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

–Martin Luther King Jr.

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Blogging, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, TGIF

Special “In The News and On My Mind”: Original Bunker Punks Edition, #IStandWithAhmed

Discrimination and prejudice are real. I hear story after story, with discrimination at the core, and I look for signs that it is simply the media, blowing things out of proportion for ratings.

I don’t want to believe any of it of my fellow human beings. I really don’t.

I am a woman with a visual impairment. There are plenty of stories about inequality for both women and people with disabilities to go around. I am right in the middle of it and I would like to think I could recognize it when I see it, to be able to sense someone’s true intentions.

The two big stories this week both involve cries of discrimination and there are criticisms flying from all directions.

First, there’s the story of talk show hosts on The View and the remarks made about nurses.

Second, the case of a ninth grade boy who took a clock to school for a science project and ended up having the cops called on him, for fears of a bomb threat.

I am the first to say I am a fan of nurses and the work they do. The doctors get to go on their rounds and see their patients. They make the diagnosis and prescribe treatment.

It’s the nurses who are the ones to empty bed pans and change catheters. I’ve been on the patient side of this exchange, countless times, and I appreciate them. Believe me.

I’ve had two spinal operations, a kidney transplant, and several other surgeries and procedures. I don’t include this for any other reason, but to show that I support the work nurses do. I wouldn’t have gotten through any of that without the wonderful care nurses provided me with.

This particular nurse read a monologue for the talent part of the Miss America pageant. The View ladies weren’t the first, that I heard, to comment on it. I heard the clip of her and I could not see it, but I thought it a bit ridiculous myself.

Of course alzheimer’s is a terrible illness. This woman is doing good in the world. She probably deserves little of the attention she’s gotten. I don’t know why anyone would enter those competitions in the first place, but she could expect to have people make their comments, as she was on television. I am just as offended by the existence of those competitions as nurses are of the comments made about one of their own. Why would any intelligent, hardworking woman choose to take part in an outdated ritual, when what she does for sick people every single day is more than sufficient?

As for The View, well the name of the show says it all. They are live and giving their opinions. This is not scripted TV. These co-hosts spoke up , in the moment, and you get what you get. So they did not realize nurses use stethoscopes. It was said out of humour and Joy was doing the job that show hired her to do. She is a comedian.

The question then becomes, when is comedy going too far? Who is allowed to say something controversial? I love you all, nurses, don’t forget that the next time I find myself as a patient, but you need to lighten up. I could be offended, all the time, about so many things involving blindness and disability, but I would drive myself crazy. What is someone’s intention? that is the question we should be asking.

In this case, it was scathing, but it was made about a participant in an event that many women find offensive or ridiculous. Joy is likely one of them.

Of course the apology made a few days later isn’t enough for many. Nothing else to be done, but I happen to respect Joy more than I do anyone involved in a show which goes against the feminist I guess that makes me.

Then there’s Ahmed Mohamed, the teenager who dared to bring in his science project. Did the Texas school overreact? Would they have done the same for a white, caucasian student?

It was a clock, but they feared it was more dangerous. A cloak ticks and so does a bomb? Well, okay then.

In the end, he was not in trouble with the law, just a misunderstanding. He was suspended, but has decided to transfer to another school. Can’t say I blame him. I wouldn’t want to go back either. The charges were dropped and so many supporters have stepped up.

President Obama has tweeted:

“Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”

Astronaut Chris Hadfield has invited Ahmed to be his guest at the Toronto Science Show. He’s received support from Hillary Clinton, Mark Zuckerberg, and has been invited to come to MIT.

This student is obviously smart and inventive and we need more bright and innovative youth like him in the world. He did not deserve all the attention he received. Why do we, here in North America, why do we have such a fear of other cultures and religions?

Oh yeah, 9/11 right? Too many are sullying the memory of that event and those affected, by using it as an excuse to let their prejudice out without consequence.

It’s a bunch of bull. This problem is deeply imbedded in the western world. I just hope, as we really think about it, that we can do better.

Of course, there will always be prejudice in the world and the media will always be on the lookout for the next big, sensational story. That’s the way it is. Just remember to look for someone’s intent and signs of character. And don’t take yourself quite as serious. There is enough negativity in the world, so much so that we should try to find the good, but criticism, I feel, deserves a place because we will also always want to give our opinions on the things we see going on all around us.

Today I am participating in a Friday addition of my series, which usually appears on Wednesday:

In The News and On My Mind

with others on a linkup.

This can be found here:

http://originalbunkerpunks.com/blog-battle-zone-2/

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Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Travel, TToT

TToT: Thunderbolts and Rainbows

“After every storm, there is a rainbow. If you have eyes, you will find it. If you have wisdom, you will create it. If you have love for yourself and others, you won’t need it.”
–Shannon L. Alder

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

I heard about an interesting thing this week, and although I can not see it, I found the image to be an appropriate overall theme for the week that just was.

Photographer captures rainbow and lightning bolt in one electrifying image – TODAY.com

Thunder crashing, lightning streaking across the sky, sometimes followed by the beauty of a rainbow.

And then sometimes, rather more rarely, there’s all three at the same time. Life produces all of this and more and sometimes it does this all at once.

At times I didn’t know if I would even want to collect ten things this week, as the rain seemed to cloud any rainbows that might have been there, but I again think these weeks are the ones when being thankful is most important.

Ten Things of Thankful:

For YouTube.

I don’t know what I did before I discovered all that it had to offer. I can find and watch any documentary, on any subject I want. I can listen to all the songs I love. Unlimited and easy access to media and entertainment like this, for me, is extremely freeing.

For rain and thunderstorms.

I spent some time this week, just listening to the rain falling and the thunder rumbling.

I can not see lightning, for the most part, but occasionally I still can spot it, if the conditions are just right.

I have a vivid memory of driving home from my parent’s friends’ place, one night, with the sky lighting up as we drove. The sky was flash after flash and all was a bright light out the van’s window.

Now I remained inside, listening to the sound of the raindrops hitting the awning outside my window. I loved the cool, rainy air and the science of a thunder storm came back to me. I thought about this powerful charge of particles out there, in the air, and I considered, for one moment, that science is actually the coolest and nature is truly spectacular.

I read a Facebook post from my local radio station. The DJ posed a question: how do you explain what thunder is to your children?

Silly really. I heard the famous explanation as a child of God bowling, but I never believed it. If that were true, I’d also have to calculate that the actual raindrops were God spitting on us and that never sat well with me.

Still…the theme of rain, thunder, and rainbows persisted as the week continued, even just symbolically and through literature.

For my nephew and his turning another year older, as he grows before our very eyes, even if, on some level, we want to keep him just the age he now is.

He actually prefers waterfalls to rainbows.

We had a nice little family dinner to celebrate the day. I re-edited and posted the essay I wrote about his birth and the journey his parents took to bring us all our sweet little boy:

Ordinary Miracles: Part One

and

Ordinary Miracles: Part Two

For the pure joy and happiness of a baby, something so untouched by any real pain or fear.

I spent an afternoon this week with my friend and her baby girl. We had a lovely lady’s lunch, the three of us, and she was extremely well behaved the entire time.

I got to hold her back at my house and, even though she is only fourteen weeks or so, she can stand.

Okay, well I may have been holding her up, but she is already just dying to use her legs. The problem is, they don’t stay straight enough, flopping and collapsing, unable to fully support her body for any possible, miraculous baby genius behaviour, any hope of forward, upright movement.

🙂

She had a ball trying, anyway, on my lap and with my assistance.

With all the rough weather in life, the best rainbow of all is actually the noise of pure and utter happiness made by a young child. She made just that noise. It was the most pleasurable sound, one of the best sounds you could/I will ever hear. It warms your heart and I let the memory of that stay with me as the week went on.

For fresh peaches.

I ate more of that amazing, creamy, soft ice cream I spoke of a few TToT’s back and this time it was with fresh peaches. Even better. Two delicious things put together.

For discovering a tasty chocolate dessert with a friend.

The rest of the meal may not have impressed us much, but you can’t beat the company and on discovering they had three desserts to offer: strawberry cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and deep fried banana split…well, we both agreed that chocolate is the best. We weren’t disappointed.

For the walks we’ve started going on together: my friend, her daughter, and me and I like the exercise I get, even if parts of my body rebel against me a bit.

For Middle Sibling Day.

I’m grateful I get to share that honour with my older sister.

She is strong and determined. She never gives up. She is the best middle sibling around.

I so wish I could take her pain away and get her all she desires for herself. I want to be the little sister she deserves. I want to make it all alright for her.

Glad to be middle siblings together.

For the ocean, seashore, whatever you call it. It’s a wonder of wonders.

More text messages from my brother out east in the Maritimes and I am wonderfully jealous as he tells me of how much he is enjoying the fresh east coast, ocean air of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island.

I am thankful there is such a thing and hope to experience it again one of these days, but for now, I am glad he gets to experience it.

Next stop: P.E.I.

Speaking of…

And finally, to carry on with the east coast theme, for:

Rilla of Ingleside

Being from Canada and an avid writer and reader, Lucy Maud Montgomery is my Canadian author idol.

I had read

Anne of Green Gables

in the eighth grade and became obsessed with the films.

I only read the following books years later, or at least, the next several.

I love books and would have read more of them by now. Sometimes, however, being visually impaired does slow me down and delay me from reading like I’d like to.

I get books, in different ways, from varied sources. I read Anne in braille, when someone transcribed it for me. I read the next few when another visually impaired friend, much more tech smart, downloaded them for me onto my Braille Display, an electronic braille device. I found this one online and, as I’ve stated above with my love of YouTube, listened to the audio book.

Rilla of Ingleside is a beautiful book. Montgomery was the only one to write a moving account of what it was like to be female, in Canada, during the turbulent World War I days.

Most people, even if they did not read the books, know who Anne is. Well, Rilla is Anne’s youngest daughter, who is a teen during WW I and she starts out as a directionless young girl, but by the end of those four years, becomes a lot more than that.

I can’t wait to write a review of this book for my blog. It’s remarkable to me, that we can read books written one hundred years ago, and the beauty to be found there can still be so great.

The family has moved away from Green Gables, from Avonlea, and while still remaining on Prince Edward Island, now live in their Ingleside house, right next to

Rainbow Valley,

where the children used to play.

Now, as teenagers and young adults, facing a world war, they go there to talk about world events and tough choices, with one another, or to just think by themselves.

So there’s my rainbow to end this TToT with. I missed this week’s meteor shower, but I can hear the thunder, so I count my blessings.

Here Comes the Rain Again

The thunder strikes and even though, at first thought, that brings on notions of being hit by lightening, with the reaction of having to run for cover, on closer examination I see how the forces are mighty ones.

I think there can be both, thunder and rainbows, if we look for them and find the value in them both, either separately or together as one.

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Kerry's Causes, Memoir Monday

Ordinary Miracles: Part One

It’s not what’s often seen in the movies or on television, the woman screaming bloody murder and, “I WANT DRUGS!!!”, as doctors and nurses all around her yell: “PUSH!” – at least, not in my sister’s case. It wasn’t exactly what I’d pictured. It happened so fast. It felt like a blur, but a vivid and memorable one. It was special and it all seemed to happen as it should.

She was quick about it – my sister, true to form, had the baby out before any of us could blink. So quick in fact, it was like we were all almost late to the delivery, including her. I knew it would be a boy, just as I knew it would be a girl for my brother and his wife before. Everyone always says they just had a feeling and I did, I just knew it. One moment he wasn’t there, just this concept of what he might be in our minds, and the next he was out and a part of our family.

I think, as close as we are, she mainly agreed to have me in the room because she could be assured I wouldn’t see anything. One perk of having a sister, blind since birth, was that having me there wouldn’t make her feel any more embarrassed or exposed. We were expecting a labor lasting hours. I was prepared for a marathon. Instead, it was a sprint for my older sister. It was a relatively easy labor, as labours go.

That August day, my sister and her husband awoke in the early morning, to the alarm clock: him to get ready for work and her to labor pains. She assured him he could and should go to work because maybe it was only false contractions. The first stage of labor could take hours that she preferred be spent at home. However, within the hour the pains were so intense, she called and ordered him back immediately. I was awakened at 6:00 a.m. by the startling sound of the phone. She was a few weeks early, ahead of her due date, but I wasn’t totally surprised.

I was honoured to be asked to be a witness, one of few, to the birth of this child who’d been so desperately wanted, yet at such a high price and with so many intense struggles and plenty of tears. The miracle of birth is unmatched in its beauty and magic, yet it can seem like the most natural and ordinary of life events for people, all around the world, every single day. This isn’t the case for everyone. It hadn’t been so easy for my sister and her husband.

I was there before the mother-to-be. As I sat and waited for them to arrive, flashes of my sister unable to make it to the hospital and giving birth in their car, at the side of the road flitted through my anxious mind. Leave it to my chronically late sister to be late for this. As I heard her being wheeled passed out in the hallway, my fears were put to rest. I hadn’t really been waiting long, but it sure felt like it.

As I entered the Labor and Delivery Room, the nervous father-to-be had only just spilled his bottle of Diet Coke all over the floor. In his excited frenzy, the cola he’d brought in preparation for any presumed hours of labor and a possible diabetic low blood sugar had exploded, at a most inopportune moment. He was scrambling to clean up the sticky mess while I held tight to my sister’s hand in his place, none of us realizing how soon it would be all over. She squeezed as she fought through the contractions, vowing to refrain from any pain control or epidural. I wondered how her pain threshold would hold up against hours of continuous, growing, and building agony, but within a very short half hour or so, he was out.

All the chaos and the things that could and did go wrong: doctors showing up late (not to mention the parents) and with Coke spills and alike, I barely got to take it all in. I could only imagine how the experience felt for the two of them. She’d pushed through her contractions, squeezed my hand, and made very little sound, nothing like I’d learned for years in the media. Suddenly, after only three hours from when it all began, there he was.

As easy as this all sounds, it was really only fair to them, due to how difficult it was to actually arrive at this point. The struggle and the fortitude of the two of them, in dealing with everything they had to bring him into the world and into our lives is something truly remarkable. I witnessed it all from my position as sister and housemate for a good chunk of the time. They had been trying for a baby since becoming man and wife, and it had been the longest three years of their lives.

Infertility is becoming more and more of an open subject in our society today, with friends and family, in the community, and through media coverage. It is talked about, not just behind closed doors, unlike years ago. This allows for much more discussion and the reluctance to speak about the many struggles couples go through becomes a thing of the past.

Having a baby – it all seemed so normal when teachers spoke about it in sex ed. It was what was supposed to happen, right? Well, when it doesn’t happen like that, women are faced with the fears and the questions that medical science must try to address and alleviate, such as:

What’s wrong with me?

Why can’t I have a baby like other women?

It feels like a crippling burden of failure, that I am not a real woman if I can’t do what a woman is supposed to do, was made to be able to do. To be a parent is a deeply entrenched and unbelievably strong instinct, from what I’ve seen and felt up close. I felt it too, but can’t yet see how it fits into my own life. Being blind presents a whole new set of concerns and fears. Sometimes the answers aren’t as simple as whether or not to have a child. I struggle with this in my own mind, yet still I am left able to relate to my sister and her husband, and their own situation, in my own way.

I wanted, what my sister desperately wanted, for them and their need to start and grow a family for themselves. The pressure of that can be a very great weight. I saw it and felt it in the words they spoke and how they spoke them. I felt it in the air after their wedding and over time, as I shared a house with them for the first few years of their marriage. I saw it all up close and I yearned for the success of this most important of ventures, the most important they would ever face together. Young newly weds aren’t usually tested so early on as to the ultimate strength of their relationship.

Soon came the pressures of doctors visits and monitoring cycles of ovulation, or lack thereof. It was a lot of information, trying to learn all about infertility and its causes; how sometimes there is an explanation and other times it is simply known as unexplained infertility. It really can’t be seen as one person’s problem or fault. I see so easily how these fears and guilty feelings can cause a rift between an otherwise happy couple, so eager to experience parenthood and to make a child, a part of both of them. It’s sad and, like financial problems in a marriage, the intrinsic need to have a child can be the one thing to drive a wedge in a loving relationship. this wasn’t going to happen to my sister. We as a family weren’t going to let them be disappointed and left empty-handed. I wanted this as much or more than I’d ever wanted anything for myself.

It is cruel how much it costs to get what comes so naturally, free and clear to some people. It feels like paying for oxygen – getting pregnant shouldn’t need a category in the budget, where a couple who works hard and only wants a family has to scramble to come up with the money to pay for medications and the cost of infertility treatments. Not everyone has the resources and the giving nature and spirit as we have in our family, as they had in our parents. Our parents are indescribably generous and kind. They’ve worked hard for many years to give their children the things we’ve wanted, the things they’ve wanted for us since we were born. They made it all possible.

However, along with these gifts there comes the inevitable landslide of guilt and worry. As the cost began adding up, thousands and thousands of dollars, so did the feeling of:

“What if it doesn’t work and all that money was wasted, with nothing to show for it?”

As the weeks and months of medications and treatments passed, the pressure built. On one such occasion, I recall hearing my sister shaking uncontrollably with sobs of despair. Such a thing rocks one to the core and I hurt beyond explanation for her that night. She feared failed rounds of IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) – a procedure where sperm is injected directly into the uterus. Had that all been for nothing?

They were lucky to find a very supportive and capable fertility clinic. When they were there, they felt heard, understood, and taken care of. All the trips for blood tests and ultrasounds and the disappointing phone calls, with no baby – it was all starting to add up. Adoption, child fostering, or a life with no children flashed before their eyes I’m sure. Was all of this worth it?

When the IUI attempts didn’t work, the next logical step was to try IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) – where the sperm is injected directly into the egg, which is then inserted back into the uterus. She went through all the necessary steps, the needles she gave herself, often helped along by her husband, and the hormones. All this lead up to a summer of hope and disappointment and pain. We all learned of the existence of “Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome” – a condition where the body produces, with help from all those medications, many eggs for possible fertilization. In my sister’s case, more than thirty were produced to another woman’s one or two – with this, the ovaries become over-stimulated, resulting in extreme illness. She appeared six months pregnant, almost at once, when not even confirmed to be so; all that fluid, released by the ovaries, began leaking into her abdomen. This is, however, a positive sign of a successful pregnancy.

That same summer, I was told by a friend of her first pregnancy and I was left with so much joy in my heart for her, yet so much anger that so many women were seemingly able to become pregnant so easily. Why then was it so hard for others, just as deserving of a baby? Life seemed horribly unfair at that juncture.

Then, a glimmer of hope; a call from the clinic with the blood results showed good numbers, indicating optimal chances for a positive pregnancy test. My sister appeared to have what she wanted and what we all wanted for her. It was finally happening – it was necessary, at such an early stage, to monitor the numbers and make sure they continued to rise. Every few days she anxiously call and things looked good; yet, things aren’t always meant to be.

When a pregnancy isn’t meant to be, it’s probably for the best, but which makes it a tragic loss nonetheless. I sat there, while our inherently positive and optimistic mother comforted my sister through her tears. I was off to see a part of the world I had always longed to see, a trip of a lifetime with an old friend, while my sister and her husband were left behind to deal with the reality of their situation. They’d had a baby for a week and lost it, before most would even know they were pregnant. I left the country wishing them all the love in the world to recover, move forward, and to begin to look ahead to brighter days.

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Blogging, Feminism, Happy Hump Day, History, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes

IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND: Lions, Tigers, and Bears – Oh My!

“Watching the news in the evening is a bit like being on an emotional Tilt-aWhirl. “Isis now sets people on fire.” “Harper Lee has a new book out!” “Some oddballs are bringing measles back because they’re scared of autism, which is a bit like saying I’m worried about birthday candles, so let’s start a forest fire.” “It’s going to be gorgeous this weekend!” “Look, a politician being deliberately rude.” “And also, look at these adorable puppies!” My limbic system does not work that fast!”

I would like to expand on the list of seemingly random news topics my FB friend started above, in my sporadic mid-week Wednesday post: IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND.

I thought about what’s been front and centre, in the news lately, and here I go:

**the recent hacks into the adult dating website Ashley Madison.

I don’t care what a couple consenting adults (and I use that term loosely) do, as long as it’s consensual. My problem is when there are lies and deceit involved.

The site’s tag line, “Life is short. Have an affair,” is the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard and I hate that it’s a Canadian company. My problem with it, even though it’s people I have no business with, is that it reflects badly on society at large. All I can add would be, I don’t feel badly in this instance, and karma’s a bitch.

However, this Vice article has an interesting take on the situation,

here.

**Then the long suffering story of Deflate-gate.

The final decision on the ruling and appeal is that Tom Brady is solely responsible. The coach and all others involved are off the hook, but of course Tom wasn’t the only one with knowledge, having done something shady here.

Tom Brady: Why I had deflate gate mobile phone destroyed

He destroyed his cell phone, for unrelated issues he claims, and now he is stuck with his mansion and his gorgeous super model wife. Poor guy.

I suppose all this affects other people, those who may not be involved. I can say it’s only a game, just a silly football player, but then I remember people and the pure joy I’ve seen in them when it comes to football, this team in particular. Although it may seem insignificant to me, I want to keep an open mind because sports can be a positive thing, something to make people happy.

On the other hand, cheating isn’t a lesson I want today’s youth to pick up from their favourite athletes.

**The Netflix Newborn Policy.

Netflix Now Giving Employees ‘Unlimited’ Maternity, Paternity Leave – HuffPost

“Looks like NetFlix is onto something,” the American reporter said, to end his news story.

They do realize how much of the rest of the world has been “onto something”, this something specifically, for quite a while now, don’t they?

First it was IT and tech companies who were in the news for offering egg freezing for their female employees.

Apple and Facebook Offer To Freeze Eggs For Female Employees – The Guardian

Do they offer on-site day care facilities?

The work force and these companies, society as a whole, has this whole thing all wrong. Don’t offer incentives for women to hold off on having children because they won’t have to worry, can focus on career, and just worry about starting families later. Offer time off for parent-child bonding from the beginning, without the pressures to get right back to work. Depending on frozen embryos isn’t the answer.

Why does America only seem to care for themselves? I am sure that isn’t everyone, but it’s still an “every man for himself…or woman, as it so happens” situation and this is so very backwards.

We are giving birth and raising the next generation. They matter. Invest in them. Don’t focus on money alone and what it will take away from everyone else.

No. Women are not going to milk it, having children just so they can get time off work. That is a silly excuse and a lame go-to rebuff to what most of the rest of the world has already figured out.

The other argument is, oh what about other women and men who have decided, for whatever reason, not to have children. It’s not fair and even for them. So life isn’t always fair.

I’m blind. What’s fair about that? I’ve learned to deal and they can too.

Even if this does start a trend, there will always be those who judge women on this, their loyalty or their work ethic, but now that fathers are included in this, I hope for more gender equality all around. This is including adopted parents too.

**Immigrants and migrants.

I heard it’s something like 2,000 so far this year. That’s the number of African and other migrants to have come, trying to sneak into Europe, being stuffed into boats by greedy smugglers, sinking and drowning by the boatload.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-33791920

It’s so sad, the things, the types of persecution these poor people are fleeing from, hoping for a safe crossing to a better life. They may realize how unsafe their journey seems, but are desperate and willing to risk whatever they must. Those who capitalize on this vulnerability are the scum, but with all these stories I’ve tried to keep an open mind, even if it might not appear to be so.

        And last but certainly not least:

With the story of Cecil the Lion being talked about everywhere lately, with airlines banning transport of hunting trophies and 90s favourite Beanie Babies soon to release one of the lion and with sales going to wildlife causes, I thought of a movie my brother and I watched several years ago.

This was still when we lived at home with our parents and when VHS was how we watched our movies, the pre-DVD era in our household.

Have you ever seen the film starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas?

Ghost and the Darkness

He was famous Doors front man Jim Morrison, Batman, and a blind massage therapist. It was his highly convincing role as John Henry Patterson, real life engineer and author of the nonfiction book “The Man-eaters of Tsavo” that is as far from The Lion King as you’re going to get.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man-eaters_of_Tsavo

“Even now, if you dare lock eyes with them – YOU WILL BE AFRAID.”

A blogger I follow said it better than I thought I could:

https://mjwrightnz.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/cecil-the-lions-death-highlights-the-fact-that-humanity-is-the-scourge-of-a-fragile-earth/

However, with all the animal stories in the media and in the headlines I try to keep an open mind.

In Zimbabwe, We Don’t Cry For Lions – The New York Times

Do we here in North America truly know what it must be like ore in places like Africa and Asia, where some of the most dangerous animals live alongside humans? We shout our disapproval when a story of mistreatment happens to get picked up, but what do we really know of it?

In the time of “Ghost and the Darkness”, we had no social media to spread a story far and wide in a matter of minutes or even seconds.

I do know that we are all sharing this planet and deserve to share its resources, but our shared use of all this gives those determined to destroy for their own aims the chance to mess it up for us all.

Oil here in Canada.

The clear causes of global warming and the power of nature, with the extreme weather and lack of water in not just far away deserts, but drouth in California, which is so often in the news.

Is it such a surprise that wildlife is being poached illegally?

I disagree with how we treat animals, The Calgary Stampede or the Running of the Bulls for example.

I have had and do have hunters in my family. I grew up with it around me at times. Sure, it was never my thing, but I went on eating meat. I still do. I am not a vegetarian, but I have vegetarians in my family as well.

I love my family and respect their wishes. It’s a little harder to judge those you care about and know personally.

I don’t see why anyone would want to hunt a lion for sport. I don’t get the point of mounting an animal’s head on the wall. What satisfaction does that possibly provide?

Someone needing to feel superior to an animal. Yes, we humans have advanced weapons and we can come out on top. Doesn’t mean we should.

Defenseless, like so many are afraid to be without their guns, we would be at the mercy of a wild animal or an intruder, both of which may very well intend to cause harm.

I want to understand those living in Zimbabwe, just like I want to understand why the people living in the remote Faroe Islands have an annual pilot whale hunt as a part of their culture.

http://www.mappingmegan.com/understanding-faroe-islands-grindadrap/

I want to understand different cultures, not to simply sit in judgment from over here, without the foggiest clue.

I am definitely no radical activist. I respect the passion they have, if all they want is to save a species from being hunted to the edge or off the edge of extinction. I often wish I had it in me to go out and make a difference, but for now I remain here, writing to hopefully make my voice heard amongst the roar and the uproar.

Ghost and the Darkness seemed a wild, historical, adventure film. I was hooked by it from that first time I watched with my brother. He described the scenes where Douglas and Kilmer hunt the bloodthirsty lions. Truthfully, although characters like the doctor (played by Bernard Hill) meet their end at the jaws of the killers, it was more the cow that was sacrificed by the people and the baboon used as bait to catch the lions that bothered me most.

This true story made an excellent film, showcasing what it was like then and now. Why humans hunt. It’s an important part of many cultures, since the beginning of humanity, and our modern times now seems to have made it a trophy sport, for pleasure and for fun.

So many traditions should come to an end, in my opinion. We must learn to let go of certain practices, to make way for the advances we have made and the knowledge we now possess. There’s just no need for some things, unnecessarily curl things.

I commented on the above blog on Cecil and the wider problems, and it wasn’t a very optimistic comment. The blogger tried to reply in a more positive light, but I don’t know how to look at our world in just such a light most of the time, if I am being honest. It is apparent that many people care, as the response to Cecil shows, but at the same time we are battling a large segment of our world that just does not care, is only out for itself, as I have pointed to several times in this week’s “In The News and On My Mind” post.

Then there has been the demand for blood, directed toward the dentist who killed Cecil. I don’t know the man and his motives, nor what’s in his heart. I don’t condone his actions, but he is a human being, therefore I believe there can’t be mob ruled justice, as outraged as so many are.

Why should be be honest in our relationships or in athletics?

Why should we care about those being persecuted in their own countries or those who want to spend time with their newborns?

Why does it matter to think about how we use the world’s resources or why animals are important to our planet and to its future?

I hope I don’t have to even answer that, but some people just don’t get it, nor do they care, and I’m not sure that can be fixed with rational convictions or logical bullet points. I don’t know why “every man for himself” seems to be how humans think and act.

What are your thoughts on any of these topics I’ve mentioned here today? The discussion needs to continue. for all our sakes.

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