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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: The Sound of Water at the Edge of All Things – Sirens and the Bird Song, #10Thankful

Your Memories on Facebook
Kerry, we care about you and the memories you share here. We thought you’d like to look back on this post from 4 years ago.

Kerry Kijewski, August 28, 2013

I have a dream…that one day we’ll live in a world where not only people of all ethnicities and cultures and religions will live together in harmony, but as far as we’ve come with that, we still have a long way to go: for black and white and yellow and brown, for women, and for LGBT too. I have a dream that as far as we’ve come with accepting all people included above, that the next step is to bring people of all disabilities into that list.

I have a dream that one day, people all over the world will recognize that people with disabilities of all kinds, physical, mental, or intellectual will be received and given the chance to prove that they have something to offer, each and every one of them.

I have a dream that one day…we will be given the same chances and opportunities to show the rest of the world just what we are capable of…that we have love and intelligence and dedication just like anyone else, and that we are just as eager to help out, make a difference, simply to participate in the world we share, to function and thrive as willing citizens, in our neighbourhoods, our communities, and as part of the bigger world’s stage.

I have a dream that people with all disabilities will one day live in a world where we are judged not by our lack of sight or hearing or mobility, but by our hearts, our minds, and our gifts, talents, and abilities. I have a dream that we will one day be taken seriously as contributing members of society…that we may be given just the same opportunities in ife to let our skills show and our hard work shine through, without the fear of being thought of as less than…I have a dream…

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech… Fifty years later…I have given mine…there’s hope yet, I know there is.

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I appreciate the reminder of my relative size. There are bigger things in life that I must remember still.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful I could have a day in Toronto with my sister, brother, niece, and nephew.

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A dinosaur really dwarfs you by comparison.

I’m thankful I got to see the blue whale exhibit at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum).

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I got to feel a exact sized replica of a blue whale brain.

I’m thankful my niece and nephew seemed to get so much out of the museum.

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Then we got up close with a replica of the blow hole.

It was just nice to see, that although there was the usual amount of youthful restlessness, we were still able to show them things that they found interesting.

Mostly dinosaur or other, more modern animal stuff.

I’m thankful for all the new sounds my niece is now making regularly.

At six months old her vocabulary of sound is really growing.

I swear I hear words sometimes. No rush. It just makes me smile, whatever she’s saying.

I’m thankful my rough draft of my SiriusXM piece was so well received.

The editor said she was swamped, but couldn’t help listening to the thirteen-minute piece.

Her positive feedback was encouraging.

I’m thankful I got to see my brother play music at my town’s local fair.

The small crowd size left a lot to be desired, but it was more of a nostalgia thing than anything else.

I’m thankful for things to do and places to be away from the loud noises while the roof was being fixed…

I’m thankful for a yearly catch-up lunch.

She started out as my pupil aid when I was in grade one.

Then, as I needed it more and more, she learned braille and became my braille transcriber.

Back before computers were much of a real option, in the 90s, I would braille out my schoolwork on a manual braille machine and she would transcribe the assignments, in print underneath, for my teachers to read and mark.

That was years ago, she has moved on with working with other students in the meantime, but we still like to catch up every now and again.

We discussed my writing and her summer travels out east with family.

I’m thankful for a nice time out with a friend at a place that smells like chocolate and has delicious lattes with vanilla sugar.

It’s not my choice for a chocolate shop, all sugar free and vegan, but it wasn’t a bad spot for a drink.

I’m thankful for stories of history.

Regal. Often stilted. The music of the latest movie about Jacqueline Kennedy/Onassis was heartbreaking and real.

It was based on an interview she granted a week after John’s assassination. She spoke to her priest first and then the journalist.

I don’t know why I am fascinated with this part of still fairly recent history, as the exact graphic details of the killing are horrifying and this film does not shy away from that.

I am fascinated by the history of the 60s as a whole, for many reasons, as a time of real upheaval, feeling eerily similar to now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vDWWy4CMhE

From John F. Kennedy to Martin Luther King, Jr. From “all men” to “all men and women and all of us” in the twenty-first century and fifty years on and onward.

I don’t wish to strictly compare or relate, but this stuff is similar in my experience, but mine alone.

Self evident indeed.

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TToT: Shiny Keys and Bucket Technology – Namaste, #Yoga #Radio #10Thankful

‘”Bully for baby syrups!”

‘”Pray, don’t let us disturb the concert with our sleeping.”

‘”Jerk us out a little more chin-music!”

‘”There’s no place like home with a baby in it.”

—Bram Stoker’s “Chin Music”

I wander through a bookstore and I feel the unfairness of blindness.

I sit in a mall and detect the repeating motion of shoppers passing by in front of me, but I wish I could see more than a blur like I used to.

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What a week. Full of the good and the not-so-good things and I am once again driven to list my thankfuls because sometimes blindness really sucks.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful I got an acceptance to a pitch within twelve hours.

It’s a nice feeling. It doesn’t always happen so fast. It was a nice start to the week.

I’m thankful I am being given the chance to write about the affect the Yukon had on me.

This is for a Canadian website/App and the editor said she is pleased to have a piece to publish, different from the usual story of seeing the Northern Lights.

They are a marvel, of course, but I am glad I can offer an alternative viewpoint of a place that is more than just one spectacular visual sight.

I’m thankful for essays I read that make me think and put a new spin on the essay form.

The Medicated Writer by David Ebenbach

I’m thankful for another lovely coffee/raspberry lemonade chat with a friend to distract me from my thoughts.

The news out of the US all week was non stop and ridiculous. I was feeling highly anxious, waiting to hear back about my piece for Hippocampus, and I needed a break from all that.

The place was busy because Ontario’s premier was visiting our town, but things emptied after we were there for an hour or so.

We talked about travel, family, and writing.

I explained to her what it’s like to walk into a crowded coffee shop and try and navigate my way through it. She is like many people who are driven to offer help when they see a blind person. I understand and take them up on that help often. It was just nice to explain how it works because she, like most people, don’t give it all much thought until they hear how it is firsthand.

I’m thankful for the calming yoga session and conversation with the teacher.

I’d heard of
NAMASTE
before, but she ended our now weekly session by saying it and explaining why she does.

It is one more thing I feel kind of silly saying back, but we all like to end with something.

I do love the peaceful end to yoga where I stretch out, blocking out all thoughts, other than that I can put up a barrier to the worst of them, while I focus by staring up at my light and listening to the hiss of my laptop which tells me my teacher is still there.

I’m thankful my brother had a successful first radio show.

CHRW Radio Western

He has unique taste in music, with a musical mind, and he finally gets the chance to share some of that with others.

When people ask me the type of music he does listen to/play, I do struggle to describe it in a single word. It is a lot of things, though not what you’re likely to ever come across on the radio.

He has opened my eyes up to a whole world of music that exists, even though very few people ever find it. Like writers and writing, there is so much beautiful music out there that never gets the chance to be heard by most of us. His passion for giving the unknown musicians a turn seems important to me.

He has named his show
Chin Music
and I think it suits.

I’m thankful for a violin lesson where practice and repetition were points brought home once more.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Rinse. Dry. Repeat. It’s the only way.

I’m thankful for the chance to get somewhere on my own and feel proud of it.

I appreciate the help I receive, for many reasons, as new travel by myself can be stressful and intimidating, but it is also good for me sometimes. The only way I will ever begin to feel any less intimidated is if I practice, kind of like with the violin.

When you can’t see, obviously public transportation is the best way to get somewhere. Then, I like to have an idea in my head of the directions I will be going. I need to see it in my mind and it requires massive amounts of concentration.

No matter the anxiety or the physical pain, the sense of accomplishment at the end is awesome.

I’m thankful I made the final decision to not stay home and instead take someone up on an invitation to meet new people and work on my terrible social skills.

I am terribly shy in new situations. I felt unwell and considered turning down the invitation, but I am glad I went.

I was the only girl there, but it turned out to be an enjoyable hangout on a spacious porch, listening to music, and having a few drinks on a beautiful July night.

It’s just too bad I need a few beers to lighten up. I stop worrying about where I am and I relax. This is fine for one night, now and again, but just attending instead of hiding out by myself helps too.

If I’d gone home, I would have kept thinking about what’s in the news, what a week it had been, and I needed to get away from all that.

I met new people, including someone who came here from Mexico to go to school in Canada. Opening up one’s social circle is a good thing.

I’m thankful for a lovely family day in Toronto.

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We met in a mall, couldn’t take the subway because the line was closed down, so had to all pile in the van and drive downtown Toronto. It took a while, but what a perfect day, too hot even.

So we got to spend a few hours somewhere cool, with lots to see, and around so much life.

I am conflicted on aquariums, worrying always if the creatures are happy swimming in those tanks. I wish I could ask those sharks, rays, and other fish.

If my nephew learns to love and respect sea creatures and the ocean, I will be happy.

Like standing at Niagara Falls, anywhere with all that water and marine life is where I can stand and tune out all the hoards of tourists and people. I could have stood beside that shark tank forever.

Then we came back out into the warm day and passed jubilant baseball fans. The Blue Jays were losing and then came back with a grand slam at the end of the game, the second in a week. The Toronto streets are full of energetic shouts whenever their team wins.

Then we had dinner at my favourite Toronto restaurant: The Pickle Barrel. Delicious beet and chicken salad, mango bellini, and brownie cheesecake for dessert.

Mmm.

As I’m heading home, at the end of the day, I can’t see the sky or the incredible sunset and so I feel the unfairness of blindness.

When I Grow Up – Jennifer O’Connor

Namaste.

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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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TToT: Peace, Happiness, and Love – June Gloom Lifting #10Thankful

“A large pine tree backlit by a cloud that is glowing from the light of the setting sun. The pine tree is a mass conical-shaped clumps of darkness that angle upwards from the unseen trunk in the middle of the tree. The edges of the tree shows more details, each branch ends in a splaying of fingers of pine needles. The cloud does not show the color in the photo as vividly as it was, it was a glowing orange color that was strong enough to show the spaces between the branches of the tree that stood between the camera and the sky.”

—TToT regular Clark of
The Wakefield Doctrine

I return from a busy time and thoughts swirling. I began this week’s post with that caption of a photo. (To see the photo, must go to the link I provide just above.)

There are a lot of photos I could now share, and I will, of my adventures in the last few weeks. I just thought, as I saw many photos and this includes Clarks’, that I have only descriptions (as vague or elaborately detailed as someone else chooses) to give.

For now, I needed a break from trying to imagine what my eyes can’t see and am going back to a totally wordy TToT post. Instead, I challenge you to read the photo descriptions of Clarks’ that I include here, as a thankful, and try to allow his words and mine to conjure up images, without necessarily relying on the visual.

Ten Things of Thankful

I am thankful for a writer like Clark deciding to explain the photos he includes.

“Looking Homeward from the woods. The light and shadows cover the lower half of the photo and, together point towards the house. The ground is brown with shadows and light that do nothing to make it less brown looking. Even though the house itself is mostly brown (with dark vertical rectangles, outlined in white that show the windows along the top half) the background above the house shows blue, even though the green pine trees rise through the top of the picture, telephone pole straight, with drooping green arms of branches. The house looks farther away than it is.”

Well done once more Clark. Bravo!

Writers are, or should be, great at describing a visual image. It seems like an excellent writing exercise to me. I appreciate it when it is done, though it can’t completely ever make up for the inability to see with one’s own eyes. I only allow myself to feel the pity of that situation in my own life for short bursts and then I return to thankfuls such as these.

I’m thankful for such excellent writing advice.

With a little summer happiness.

Carrie Snyder says: My current philosophy (and by current, I mean, as of yesterday afternoon), can be summed up thusly: just finish it, including all of your bad (wild, implausible) ideas, and see what happens. As I counselled a student yesterday in my office: the perfect story you’re holding in your head has to get out of your head in order for others to read and experience it—and in order for that to happen, you have to accept that your perfect story will be wrecked in the process, at least to some degree. You can’t take that perfect story out of your head and place it on the page intact. No one can. But there isn’t another way to be a writer. Let your perfect imaginary story become an imperfect real story.

I’m thankful for the opportunity and a first successful conversation with someone from a leading awareness organization of blindness and its issues.

VisionAware

I hope to start writing articles for them very soon.

I’m thankful for a successful first real try at yoga.

I am doing it with my bed as a yoga mat and my teacher a voice through my laptop, for now anyway.

I will buy the mat soon as I decide I will stick with it and I found a teacher who lives in Montreal, so not all that close by. She instructs me over Skype and it works.

My favourite part was at the end when she instructs to just stay lying there, still, for however long it takes to get back up and into the real world again.

So peaceful. I heard a basketball bouncing, off somewhere out my window, but I focused on the light on my ceiling and allowed no intrusive thoughts to interrupt the peace.

I’m thankful I got my entry in on time for the Writing Diversity contest, for a book festival that takes place on Toronto’s waterfront every September.

I left it to the deadline, not good, but it’s done.

I began the month of April submitting one short story to Alice Munro’s contest and ended the month of June with this one.

Each time I feel my story is actually good enough to have a chance, so maybe my confidence as a writer is growing, at least.

It would be cool to get to read this latest story on stage in Toronto if I did win.

I’m thankful a new episode of Ketchup On Pancakes is complete.

Raise a glass or a fist with us to progress and the passing of the years. A lot can happen in twenty of them.

January/February to June/July and Ketchup On Pancakes is back on the podcast scene.

Episode 5 – 2017: “Get Up and Get Going) (Year of the Roooooster) – Ketchup On Pancakes

Are you into astrology? I admit, I am skeptical, but it seems as possible as anything, and highly philosophical, which I like.

This is the year to get up and get going toward something. The time is now. This moment is everything. We are making this year count.

Brian’s laugh is infectious throughout. Both of us aren’t afraid to make fools of ourselves to lighten the mood. In this first new episode of the year (already halfway through), I follow a rooster’s example and Brian shows off his recently graduated audio skill set. We discuss travel, family, achievement, and feelings of self doubt that makes any adventure such a worthwhile challenge, using our trademark sense of humour to keep things real.

Give us a like.

I’m thankful for “The Elsewhere Region,” also known as the local library’s writing group I attend – for many starts to possible stories.

Without this group, I wouldn’t have a started story twice a month or so to possibly shape into an entry, like those I’ve been submitting lately.

I began going to this group to work on more fiction. Otherwise, I lean toward more nonfiction and memoir. That is great too, but this balances out the all too real.

I start a story, never knowing where it might lead. I have many I started and haven’t gone back to, but sometimes, an idea catches on and leads to more.

I am thankful for messy conversations being had.

Inside Messy Conversations About Race – NPR

My friend Kerra did an excellent job being interviewed about the project she has teamed up to tackle. It’s an important conversation to have and to continue having, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

I’m thankful for the chance to consider what my country is all about on Canada Day, 150 and every day.

Part of it was what I felt on my Yukon trip last month. Part of it was the discomfort I experienced as Canada Day 150 approached. It was a lot of things all mixed together.

I don’t wish to revere the man who started Canada, 150 years ago. I don’t wish to say Canada is all a lie. I just wanted to be real about how we all got here.

I do feel lucky to live here. I do.

All the careless playing with fireworks people seem to do. All the celebrating and revelry of one day, as people love a party. I just wanted to get past the one day, to remember all the others. I don’t get why Toronto had a giant yellow rubber duck for the occasion. I don’t pretend to understand it all. I just want to focus on what is good about this land. I don’t know where the future will lead. I only know right now.

Shamaya – Susan Aglukark

I’m thankful for Canadian music, artists, and the history of a country like that from which I live and learn from.

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Why Oh Why #AtoZChallenge

Oh, why oh why do I love it so?

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Well, let me count the ways.

The A to Z Challenge – O is for Ontario

This province is located, nicely, centred in the middle of Canada, between the west and eastern provinces and the north.

I have had a good life here, growing up out in the country, surrounded by farmer’s fields and the agriculture of the area.

I have family living in Ontario’s capital, Toronto.

I’ve got family in eastern Ontario, near the border with Quebec.

My favourite Niagara Falls, tourist spot that it is, but I love it so.

I love Toronto for its hustle and bustle of the big city.

I love The Forrest City.

The town where I live isn’t much, but it’s mine.

We have our issues, small town and big city, but overall this is a pretty nice place to live.

Up north we have some of the most beautiful landscape there is, known as Cottage Country.

We have Great Lakes and rivers. We have islands and Georgian Bay.

I want to travel and see so many places, but I always return back to Ontario, my home.

***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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Bullets and Bones, #Vimy100 #AtoZChallenge

Nope. Even though the title of today’s post might suggest I have forgotten what letter we are at with this April challenge, I assure you that I haven’t.

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I heard it on a series about Canada and I thought it makes the point.

The A to Z Challenge – H is for History

That famous quote:

“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it”

I believe that wholeheartedly. I don’t ignore. I listen and I learn.

A lot of history is bullets and bones. Wars seem to be all we talk about when we speak of historical events and the bones of those who have gone before us, who lost lives, they are everywhere.

The series I was watching spoke of the War of 1812 and the battles between the United States and the Canada that wasn’t quite Canada yet, but a colony of Great Britain. So much colonialism throughout history.

What year did Canada become its own country?

I am a big history buff. I focus on wars too, though I despise them and all they have ever been about.

I do not like to refer to the United States of America because I do not approve of how the country started, by actively attempting to take the entire continent of North America for themselves. They wanted what is now Canada, the Canada that I love. Sure, when I listen and learn about that war, one often neglected, I think of what would have happened if the U.S. had won the war. What would be, where my country now lies?

The U.S. wanted all the land. They fought British and Natives, in what is now the Detroit and Windsor area, Niagara, Toronto, and all along borders we now hold dear.

There were battles fought where the capital city of Toronto now sits. We don’t now realize. Bones are buried there.

There has been remembrance ceremonies here in Canada and over in France. April 9th, 1917 was the start of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. And 100 years on. That, it is said, is where young Canada became a country, but fierce debate about just whose war they were fighting caused great tensions between French and English-speaking Canadians at the time, a set of tensions that still exists, in some ways, today.

Many died and were wounded for that fighting. I don’t look fondly on such a thing, but I try to respect the lives that were lost. Many bodies buried in fields in northern France. I am emotional about history. I don’t know any other way.

***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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Stung and Still Standing, #Purple #EpilepsyAwarenessDay #SongLyricSunday

“No dress rehearsal. This is our life.”
—The Tragically Hip

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I am fascinated by history and by time passing, as it does with every year of life I get to live.

This week I was initially stumped by the theme for
Song Lyric Sunday
which was about healing.

I’ve done a lot of that, physical scars and emotional ones too. For some reason though, I couldn’t think of a song. Then I watched the newest interpretation of the Anne of Green Gables story and heard their theme song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE2joQsWXJg

This song was included on a CD I received, as a get well gift, twenty years ago. This was back when I hardly had more than a few CD’s and barely even a CD player to play them in.

I walked to the nurses station and felt the funny cardboard case in my hand. As a thirteen-year-old girl, I thought the lyrics of this song strange, baffling, yet humorous.

***

First thing we’d climb a tree
and maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently
and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday
casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal,
this is our life

And that’s where the hornet stung me
And I had a feverish dream
With revenge and doubt
Tonight we smoke them out

You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century

Stare in the morning shroud
and then the day began
I tilted your cloud,
you tilted my hand
Rain falls in real time
and rain fell through the night
No dress rehearsal,
this is our life

But that’s when the hornet stung me
And I had a serious dream
With revenge and doubt
Tonight we smoke them out

You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century (this is our life)
You are ahead by a century

And disappointing you is getting me down

Lyrics

***

This song’s lyrics aren’t specifically about healing, but when I remember the girl I was, upon holding that cardboard case, I remember the hospital in Toronto I was standing in. I had done a lot of healing, multiple surgeries between ages twelve and sixteen, and I had so much ahead of me, not all so easy to heal from.

But I was receiving a fresh start, a kidney from my father, and would I make a good life for myself with what I was being given? I was lucky to be alive, to have the best medical care possible, and I had all my life in front of me.

I still don’t know if I am appreciative enough of what that time of healing and sacrifice from my family, from so many medical professionals, brought – if I have made them all proud enough. It’s enough to show a person, at a young age, that life is precious and these lyrics now carry the greatest of weights to me, if not then.

Today is World Epilepsy Day.

Purple

Twenty years later and I now worry about my brother, with every seizure he has. The brain is a miraculous thing, with all the wear and tear it can go through and how it can heal. At least we both have working kidney transplants, for this moment, because who knows what time will bring.

Multiple surgeries, countless needles, and I’m still afraid of being stung by a hornet.

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Hourglass With Flowing Sand, #GlobalWarming #ClimateChange #SongLyricSunday

“What about deprivation, gluttony, the human nation?”

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Another from my all-time favourite: The Cranberries.

For this week’s
Song Lyric Sunday,
the theme is time.

Is it ticking out on us? Are we running out of it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AJsLkRbQ74

Tick…tick…tick…tick.

***

We’d better think about the things we say
We’d better think about the games we play
The world went round, around and round
We’d better think about the consequences
We’d better think about the global senses
The time went out, the time went out
What about Chernobyl? What about radiation?
We don’t know, we don’t know
What about deprivation? Gluttony, the human nation?
We don’t know, we don’t know
For me love is all, for me love is all
For me love is all, for me love is all
Time is ticking out
Looks like we screwed up the ozone layer I wonder if the politicians care
And time went out, and time went out
What about our children then? Is there nothing left for them?
We don’t know, we don’t know
For me love is all, for me love is all
For me love is all, for me love is all
Ahh they need oxygen, ahh they need oxygen
For me love is all, for me love is all
For me love is all, for me love is all
Time is ticking out yeah
The time is ticking out

LYRICS

***

More global warming talk…or is it climate change we’re calling it now?

I don’t care what you call it. How much of it did we cause and how much of it can we control or help? How long will science be ignored by religion or plain old ignorance of the mess we’ve made?

I worry about what other governments do. I worry about the oceans not being protected. I worry about what another government and country does or doesn’t do, especially when EPA regulations are being rolled back and we share an amazing natural resource: The Great Lakes.

I wrote about this increasing temperature change thing that’s becoming hard to dispute (though some continue trying anyway).

It was the day in February that my new niece was born, and the weather was so warm that people all over Toronto, on the news, they were ecstatic to be waring t-shirts in the middle of winter. Me…not so much. I wondered just what kind of a situation we were cheering, that my niece and the other children will be inheriting from us older generations.

Are we so selfish and only interested in our comfort levels in the moment that we don’t see, can’t see, won’t see?

Tick…tick…tick…tick…tick…tick…tick…tick…tick…tick…like a clock, counting down the minutes.

And, before you know it, we’re living to see the next ice age. Okay, who knows, but that’s my problem. None of us know what we might be in store for, least of all is me, as I know very little about possible food shortages, famines (already in progress in parts of the world), and more extreme weather patterns and super storms, which we’re seeing all over the place.

If we all want to continue living in a fantasy world of never ending natural resources, this song won’t stop that. I just thought it was poignant, almost twenty years ago when it came out, and we’re reaping the benefits of human greed. What does time change, really?

I’m not going to use the term “blind” to describe what we, as the human species, refuse to see about our time on earth. I can’t see and I am still worried, worried about what a slippery slope it is we may be walking.

I picture that hourglass from The Wizard of Oz. I see the sand or the coloured jewels (red, yellow, green, and blue) like in Harry Potter. I hear the silent sound of grains of sand, falling from top to bottom in that hourglass, singling time we can never ever get back.

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Thunderbolts and Firewires: The Year That Was 2016, #Farewell2016 #Writing #Podcast

I am feeling a little like I am frozen, and I’m warm while I say that. I don’t need to be out in a snow bank to say it. It is January, a new year, and I am frozen by many fears. I am afraid I will accomplish nothing, that this year of 2016 will be empty and a blank void in my life. I feel frozen by indecision and by uncertainty, but I hope I can find a way to thaw from that feeling of being frozen by all of this, that I can find the courage to take risks and keep moving forward.
I am equal parts afraid and optimistic. I am a lot hesitant and somewhat hopeful. The fear that I could go a whole year and not get anywhere at all clings on tight. On the other hand, I see a wide open year ahead as full of unknown possibility and promise of something great.
You never know the experiences you might have, the events in life that you just can’t plan for, and the people you may meet, who may come into your life for all kinds of reasons, for the short term only or for longer.

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Here I am, a year on from the fear and those remarks I made on my blog at the start of 2016, and a good year for me personally and creatively, trying new things, all by deciding to focus on myself is how 2016 actually turned out.

And now, I end 2016 and begin 2017 by looking back, at the year I’ve just had and ahead to the year to come.

I did it at the end of 2015 with:
My Top Spills and Thrills
of which there had been enough of both to go around.

What a ride! Would 2016 be anything else?

And so, I give you – 2016!

JANUARY

As the January 2016 quote from my blog showed,
I began my year afraid and uncertain and on a bit of a lower note,
with a little
Just Jot It January fun.

Then, to kick things up a notch, I thought the best way to focus on my writing was to take a writing workshop with a Canadian writer I’ve admired since I began blogging and seriously writing.
Carrie Snyder – Obscure CanLit Mama
Her style to creative work was just what I needed and it made me open up and here I am, one year later exactly, off to broaden my writing workshop horizons.

In reality, my brother had just come off a close medical call and was becoming himself again. I had lots to be
thankful for.
I just needed a bit of a push,
some creative inspiration,
and a path for a new direction in my life.

The year 2016 would, by many, be labeled “The Year All the Greats Died…the cursed year” even if you look at that with perspective from other years, past or future.

It began with David Bowie, but for me,
it all started with Snape,
as Bowie hadn’t quite meant to me what he’d meant to many others who felt his loss.

A new year maybe, but a new month meant another
#1000Speak,
focusing on the subject of forgiveness.

With the start of 2016 I decided to start a new Friday tradition.

Thanks to Kristi from
Finding Ninee
I decided to participate in a new blogging exercise
for the first time.

Another first included
Dungeons, Dragons, and Sorcerer’s Spells
but, in the end, it wasn’t for me.

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

FEBRUARY

This second month of the year is designated for a cause I know well. It ended up to be my chance to speak my mind about my personal cause and became my first published article of 2016:

To the People Who’ve Never Heard of My Rare Disease – The Mighty

February would end up being a month of
mindfulness and music.

Ten days in, I turned thirty-two and decided to check a big one off of my
bucket list,
and so I went out and rented myself a violin.

Happy Birthday To Me!

I turned another year older.

Harper Lee dies

MARCH

This third month of 2016 would bring more music, as I would discover my theme song for the year and forevermore:
Scars – Emmanuel Jal Feat. Nelly Furtado
and I would officially begin to learn how to play the violin, with lessons that would challenge and reward me, in both big and small ways.

Then, in honour of International Day of Happiness, I wrote a piece for
March’s #1000Speak
about how music makes me happy.

By this point in the year, I decided to cut back on blogging and write more of the memoir I’ve always planned for.

This was the best I could do.

I will keep at it.

March brought with it guest blogging spots and more opportunities for publication, other places than my own blog,
with my second attempt at the #BeReal challenge.

Following this, feminism seemed to be the topic of March as a month.

An interview I’d done with
a proud male feminist
and then a piece I’d written on
International Women’s Day
were both picked up by
The Good Man Project.

As for those we lost in the month of march:

Rob Ford (former mayor of Toronto)

and

Patty Duke, at the end of Women’s History Month, March.

APRIL

I got myself a writing mentor and my lyrics were finally heard.

Don’t Look Back

I was trying to focus, to look ahead, and to plan for what I wanted.

Why Oh Why

The writing mentor was a big deal, for that, as great and knowledgeable as she is and as much guidance as she’s been so far, but it was a sign that I could make writing my future – only I could do that.

April’s #1000Speak was all about vulnerability.

Once again, like during the spring of 2015, I was losing my tool for communication and self expression. This makes me feel vulnerable.

So I appreciated
the share from a friend
and another
guest posting opportunity
from a blogger, a young woman I really admire and have interviewed here before.

Spotlight On Single Strides

The end of April brought with it the death of Prince.

It also brought with it
the death of the loner laptop I was using
and a beautiful gift from a stranger, one which would allow me to write another day.

MAY

Back And Better Than Ever

I’d been pondering the idea of doing a podcast for a while, but couldn’t figure out how to make that work. Then, I brought up the idea with my brother and an idea, our idea, was born.

Taking A Chance

Next, it’s the month to celebrate mothers.

Solid As A Rock

I couldn’t do this without thinking back twenty years.

Frozen In Time

For May’s edition of #1000Speak I focused on
Loving My Self-ish.

The end of May and onward to June always causes me to pause and reflect.

Born Again and Forever Grateful

This time these thoughts would grow to become my next piece to be featured on The Good Man Project.

JUNE

My first Song Lyric Sunday on more than just any old Sunday day.

Following “the month of the Mother,” –
Her Dad Gave Her New Life and Rebirth–Where’s the Father’s Day Card for That?
June will always be a month for me and my father.

Electric Blue Compassion, #1000Speak

JULY

We started with a Facebook page,
and soon that followed with
Episode 1 – Intro To Us
with Ketchup On Pancakes.

On top of the release of the podcast, I jumped at an amazing offer, an invite, which would require a whole lot of planning and a wait of nearly six months.

Would the moment ever get here?

I bet my sister was thinking that same thing, we all were, but her good news was finally a dream come true.

A chance at independence and a new life for my writing and for me and a second child for her.

And so I applied for a newly updated passport and began to count down the months.

I read and wrote one of my rarer than I’d like book reviews.

Then I was approached and invited to write another
guest post
about my life and my day as a blogger.

What is courage anyway? #1000Speak

AUGUST

More lyrics for a second song written and, in celebration of and motivated by that accomplishment,
I decided to return to the visual art of my childhood and an old, familiar kind of creativity.

Up next, speaking of being reminded of being a child,
I reviewed a movie about motherhood,
that I’d gone to see, with my newly pregnant sister, in our own empty theatre.

Weeks before, at the end of May, the lead singer of Canada’s own Tragically Hip announced his fight with brain cancer and all his fans of Canada were listening, especially all across the country, one night in August.

The World Can Learn a Thing or Two From Canada – The Planet D

One beloved Canadian spoke up about his oncoming struggle and we lost someone in our family. I’m glad I got to meet Gerti, at least once that I’ll always remember.

As August came to an end, I made a few hard choices about my writing and what I wanted done with it.

If I made a mistake somewhere in there, I guess it will be mine to make and to own and to learn from.

The questioning would and will continue, no matter the month or the year I’m in.

SEPTEMBER

The first day of this new month was one I’d been waiting for, with the release of a new publication, focusing on what travel should be, the kind I’d like to see.

Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel

I remembered what it was like, moving into my house that I bought with my sister, ten years ago.

Collecting Furniture, Memories, and Emails

Ten years later, my nephew started school and my niece began the first grade. Another loved one passes away. RIP Erica.

I got to feature an interview I’d done with one of my favourite editors/writers.

The Other Awkward Age: My Interview with Jennifer Niesslein

This felt like a giant win and one of the best things to ever happen to this blog.

OCTOBER

Episode 2 – Ingredients Listed with Ketchup On Pancakes

But we weren’t the only ones with the idea of doing a podcast. Apparently, the idea had spread.

The Brevity Podcast

I took an autumn trip, to say goodbye,
with more than just the fall colours
as backdrop.

NOVEMBER

The U.S. makes a big mistake and it’s time to get writing – all the more reason to write.

Nano Nano Nano

“Regarding the influence from his poet-balladeer father, Cohen has said, “He’s tremendously helpful. Forget that I am his son. I was tutored in lyric-writing by Leonard Cohen and I had his sensibilities to draw upon. And I’m not just talking genetically. I could literally talk to the cat and he could lean over my notebook and point to a couple of phrases and say, ‘These are strong, these are weak.’ How can I consider myself anything but incredibly fortunate.”

Canada loses a great artist and the world all feels it, a distraction, in the form of
RIP Leonard Cohen,
just following the chaos in the United States.

Stalemate, #1000Speak

Could this possibly spell the end of 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion?

DECEMBER

Canada announces the first woman, other than the Queen, to appear on Canadian money.

Black rights activist Viola Desmond to be 1st Canadian woman on $10 bill

One month after November’s U.S. election, we share our Canadian perspective.

Episode 3 – The Great Gong Show of 2016 with Ketchup On Pancakes

I focused on my own personal growth for a greater part of 2016, but managed to fit in a little, last minute dating during the final days. Also, I made new and face-to-face connections with a few local women writers. So, a balance of personal and social, for good measure.

A few of the final famous deaths of 2016 would include daughter/mother pair Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but for me, it was the loss of this guy that brought me back twenty or so years:

I watched Days of Our Lives multiple days a week, while I was sick at home from school or stuck on dialysis. It was my favourite soap opera of the late 90s, as ridiculous as the storylines always were.

Joseph Mascolo, ‘Days of Our Lives’ Villain, Dies at 87 – New York Times

No villain was ever more evil than Stefano DiMera (Joseph Mascolo).

Special Snowflakes and Safe Places – Wham! Bah Humbug! Whoosh! #10Thankful

I featured a George Michael shoutout, in my final 10 Things of Thankful post for 2016 and this was before the Christmas Day announcement of his passing.

I am no fortune teller, but some of my predictions did happen,
as I sit with what did indeed come to pass and look back on what 2016 became.

Ketchup On Pancakes (the podcast) had a final episode for the year, a catch up on all that was 2016, by a cozy fireside.

Episode 4 – Farewell 2016…By The Fireside with Ketchup On Pancakes

And now, here I am, and another January is upon me.

It is a bit of a contemplative month, with the new year so new and fresh, but I value it for its melancholyish quality. It is a quiet time of reflection and so much possibility ahead.
As a new year begins I search for the motivation I see all around me, the kind that is going to get me to the places I strive to get to. I feel the blueness of January and hope I can find some momentum in the months to come.

My 2016 Resolutions were:
I want to make more connections with writers, creative and smart women, and I want to keep writing. I want to not be afraid to keep putting my words out there, even though the fear of more rejection is a lingering one.
Some make resolutions, others pick one word for their year, but I resist doing both. If I have to choose one word though, I suppose I will go with “Adventure”. I do want more of this, as I believe life is one giant adventure, all the years we get to live it.

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