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

TToT: Silver, Gold, and That’s So Weird – Go Train Phenomenon, #10Thankful

To drink from the fountain
Of the little you know about love and god

—Sarah Slean

I can’t see silver and gold anymore, but at least Canada still has net neutrality.

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Photo caption: Max and Auntie Kerry. My favourite picture, though I cannot see it.

I have been watching many of the holiday programs in the run-up to Christmas: Home Alone, Rudolph, and an old Frosty classic.

My jolly holiday spirit has been waxing and waning this year, all depending on the day, which is why I am still here with my third Christmas season with Ten Things, keeping the gratitude going and written for the record.

It’s funny, that the Christmas song I ended last week’s TToT post with (all about the kind of snow we get here in Canada) and then that is the one Christmas song Sarah Slean chose to perform at her concert that night, the one I am happy to report I got to enjoy. This leads me to my first thankful for this last week before Christmas finally arrives.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful for the weather holding back, if not the bitter cold, at least the blowing snow.

I live over an hour from Toronto and where most of the concerts are. I am thankful the weather cooperated and that I had family willing to make that trip, to drive me to see Sarah Slean and her band live.

December in Ontario, Canada can be unpredictable, but though it was so bitter cold, I was eventually warm inside the intimate venue, with some lovely music and a good friend.

I’m thankful for a truly uplifting early Christmas gift of a concert, with a friend and fellow writer.

Sarah sang beautifully, with a woman who doubled as backup and cello. She also had a guy on the drums, violins, and viola players. Slean herself, as well as being lead singer, played piano.

She even forgot the first line of her big single (Sarah) and had to stop the music and shout out for the lyrics. It was a sign that nobody’s perfect and we all forget things and make a mistake, if you can even call it that. We are all human. It happens. She has been writing songs for something like twenty years and her audience of all us fans were understanding.

Sarah spoke, in between songs, about the shelter she volunteers at in Toronto and the people she’s met there. The concert was raising money for food for Christmas for
St. Felix Centre on Facebook.

She spoke of the snap judgments we are all guilty of making in our daily lives, using one of many hashtags during the evening (#GOTrainPhenomenon) for what happened the night it was just her and one scary looking man on a GO Train. When you’re trapped on a moving vehicle, you have nowhere to run and hide, which can open your eyes in unexpected ways.

She considers herself something of a #SongWitch for what happens to her when a set of lyrics and piece of music come to her and become something special.

Her lyrics are heartbreakingly beautiful and wise.

Sarah Slean – Perfect Sky

I’m thankful my friend and guest (her birthday being the next day) and I could talk, even during intermission, and her spirit could be lifted just as mine was.

We struggle with writing, at times, but we shared our experiences, back and forth. I know we inspired each other to never give up and to continue on this path we’re both on.

It was different songs that spoke to the two of us, but all that matters is we got something special and unique out of it.

Mine was the first song Sarah sang, about there never being a perfect sky and right away I was listening. She had my attention for sure. I am often afraid I will one day no longer even see what sky is, but the message about not waiting for some perfection that will never come was duly noted.

For my friend, it was a song about finding the right words and that endless search to say exactly what it is any of us wants to say.

I’m thankful for more speaking up and activism from a powerful advocate and friend, after an unexpected piece of news.

I went to the Sarah Slean show, happy to avoid hearing the news of the vote in Alabama that I’d been hearing, frankly, too much about.

What happened in that state was and is a smaller scale example of the disbelief I have for who is POTUS right now. It is all so nonsensical and disgusting. I feel like I live in some kind of upside-down world, on a daily basis, even from my semi-regular life here in Canada at this time.

It’s a sign that sure things shouldn’t be assumed/presumed or counted on. It felt like all those who mocked anyone for their confidence in Hillary Clinton winning the presidency, like it was such a sure thing in 2016, were given a taste of their own medicine here in 2017. Cockiness is not such a good attitude to have when it comes to these things.

Enough people, the right people weren’t having it and I will let Kerra speak on the rest.

How black women saved Alabama — and democracy (CNN Opinion)

I am so proud to know her and that she has found this place for her opinions on the fate of her birth country.

I’m thankful for people to check on me when I’ve had a bad day and couldn’t be found.

I stay in touch with someone, as I am on my own a lot, and then I have my bad days when the pain makes me want to sleep and shut out the world.

I appreciate being left to this sometimes, but I know I am always being watched over and protected.

Whether it’s family or neighbour, it is a nice thing to know.

I’m thankful for a pleasant and successful final National Foundation of the Blind Peer Advisor conference call before the holidays.

We are a team in many ways. We support each other in our limitless pursuits. It’s a good group.

We speak, by phone, one Thursday evening each month. This was our evening to hear about holiday plans and traditions. Still, I am the only peer advisor from Canada in the group. One woman calls from Australia.

Maybe we will all meet in person one day.

I’m thankful for such fun kids in my life.

It was a wonderful pre-Christmas Saturday with my niece and nephew.

My niece has herself a dollhouse, which is actually for a family of bunny rabbits. My nephew played with his big sister and her rabbit family.

I sometimes like to join in their games. Other times, I love to just watch and listen as they play. They fight, like siblings often do, but they love to play together too. It’s super sweet to witness the fun they have with each other.

I’m thankful for Chippy.

I believe that is his name, their Elf On The Shelf, who shows up somewhere new every morning leading up to Christmas.

My niece and nephew enjoy looking for him in a new spot every morning, like hanging from a light, as he was the day we were there.

I guess, I don’t really know the rules, as this wasn’t a thing when I was growing up. Still, they seem to love it. It is one of the special holiday traditions they have as a family.

I’m thankful for such smart kids in my life, asking questions.

My brother had the new Blue Planet oceans shows all downloaded and my niece was all into learning about sharks. She could become a scientist (marine biologist perhaps) or an artist. That’s what is so amazing about her. Her future, with all that curiosity and intelligence, is wide open.

My nephew is settling in at school his first year and making friends. He is so inquisitive and full of life. He makes me smile, the sweetest little soul.

They asked questions and seemed to begin to understand, more and more, about what blindness means in their aunt and their uncle.

I am glad we could share a love for marine documentaries and colours.

I’m thankful for old champaign still tasting good.

Thanks for the hospitality goes out to my brother and sister-in-law, for the snacks, and the holiday cheer.

S…A…N…T…A
S…A…N…T…A
S…A…N…T…a
And Santa is his name-o!

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Memoir and Reflections, SoCS, Special Occasions, Spotlight Saturday

Just One More, I Think #SoCS

Who doesn’t adore the delicious scent of
cookies
on any day of the year?

I sit here, chocolate mint cookie from Tim Hortons wafting into my nostrils. How much more Canada and Christmas can I get?

I think, as much as I love eating them, it’s almost a better thing to sit and enjoy the pleasant aroma of coffee and cookie as I contemplate things at the end of another year in my life.

I want to focus on Christmas and all the happiness I can pick from this time of year. I want to focus only on good food and family and holiday traditions.

Cookies are a big part of that. My mom makes multiple kinds for Christmas most years. So has my sister. Her intricately designed iced cookies at Christmas were pieces of art which I hated to eat.

She is pregnant this year and gets the year off if she so desires, off from cookie duty that is. There are more important things. Her little boy is starting to realize the magic of Christmas. She needs her rest to prepare for all of that.

There were cookies as holiday treats for my most recent writing group meeting at the library. I ate two of them, plus a mint chocolate that comes from a famous little chocolate shop not too far from here. Cookies and chocolate certainly makes it more pleasant to read a story to the group you’ve had barely an hour to construct.

Tea and cookies. Coffee and cookies. Cookies and milk.

The tradition of leaving cookies and milk for Santa is timeless at this point, for most of us. That SC gets a lot of cookies this time of year. Lucky guy.

I must not eat another cookie. Oh no, I mustn’t. Or maybe I eat and be merry and enjoy myself, right into 2017 and the predictable January regret.

This season is all about cooking and cookies. I partake in both, the consumption of both I should say, though I don’t do much of either the cooking very well myself. It is much too easy letting other, more skilled hands take over.

I can sit and think about world events or my future or any number of things, but it’s made all the more pleasant when I can smell that coffee and cookies nearby.

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Book Reviews, Bucket List, FTSF, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections, TGIF, The Insightful Wanderer, The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge, Travel

Happy Holidays and Traditional Thankfuls, #FTSF #TGIF #10Thankful

One of my favourite Christmas time traditions growing up was to go for a drive on a snowy night to check out all the houses and their lights, coloured or all white. Didn’t matter, not at one time.

This holiday season I still feel grateful for so many things, including the lights of Christmas. It is not so easy to spot houses covered in lights anymore, but I am still thankful. Having traditions at this time of year helps to brighten my mood as the end of another year draws to a close.

And what a year it was.

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I am unable to really see this photo now, but sounds nice anyway. Trees. Lights. Snowflakes softly drifting down.

December is here once more. I have a tree-like situation in my living room, lights outside on my house, and snow is starting here in my part of Canada, but all over really.

I am thankful for where I live.

I am thankful because I know Canada isn’t the greatest country in the world, but it is pretty great still. I am happy to see Justin Trudeau using social media, as is how it’s done these days, but he uses it without malice or ugly undertones.

The still current U.S. VP Joe Biden visited Canada this week and spoke to the Prime Minister and the representatives of the provinces, about climate change. It is close to many Canadian’s hearts and on many of our minds, the arctic, pipeline concerns, effects of oil on animal species, and severe weather patterns with melting sea ice. It isn’t so easy to ignore, but I know it isn’t easy to figure out either.

I know a lot of people who live here hate the cold and the snow of the long winter months Canada is so well-known for, but I can’t think of anything better than a still, silent, and snowy night.

I am thankful to have a mother who loves decorating for the holidays and she sets everything up for me, now that I am on my own.

Last year, around this time, our family found ourselves in a frightening situation, likely the most frightening we’d ever experienced, which is saying a whole lot.

It wasn’t so easy and somehow didn’t feel quite so important to decorate for Christmas, while we waited to see what my brother would be like when he woke from a sudden head injury.

Of course, as soon as the shock wore off and things began to look up, family and holidays were once more the priority and felt right to celebrate.

None of us, nobody in fact wants to spend Christmas in a hospital, but they are so nice to have when needed.

I am thankful that I can still see Christmas lights.

Who knows…next year this time…five years from now…ten and beyond. I’m living in the now and enjoying what I have while I have it.

I am thankful for the recognition that is still extremely necessary and is brought into focus on December 3rd, every single year.

International Day For Persons With Disabilities 2016

I am thankful for set plans made this week.

It feels good to see the plans forming officially. It will be here before we know it…before I know it. Preparing. I can and I will do this.

I am thankful for the help I’ve received so I can be comfortable with my stuff I will be taking with me, my ability to read and write, and to just fit in and be another member of the class.

I am thankful for the guidance from my writing mentor, a wonderfully helpful local travel agent, my parents, and all the family members who have been so supportive of me wanting to take on a new adventure in 2017.

I’m thankful for some of the fascinating reading material I’ve received already, reading material about one place in particular where we’ll be during the writing workshop.

I am reading New York Times articles about a place of art and that goes by the name, translated from Spanish, to mean “House of Frogs” I believe. Better than “House of Scorpions” as I am a little more nervous at the thought, ever since I read “The Pearl” in high school.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

I’m thankful that I sold two more copies of the anthology where my story can be found, from 2015.

After The Scars – A Second Chances Anthology (Goodreads)

One minute, it went from the reading material from off of my shelf, to use for scanner practice, and then suddenly two copies were being requested. A lovely surprise.

In the last month or two I’ve gotten my anthology possibly sent and traveled all the way to Australia and now a copy will surely live at a school for the blind that I did not attend, but I know lots of people who did.

I thought I would combine the TToT this week (after missing last) with Kristi’s
Finish the Sentence Friday.

I will be writing my own brand of a 2016 summary, but I thought I would celebrate a little first.

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Special Occasions

Compassion For Christmas, #Christmas #Compassion #1000Speak

Welcome to a special edition of my monthly post on compassion for

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion.

Merry Christmas or whatever it is you say, each one of you. I am looking for some peace. Do you know where I could find some?

Nothing goes together more suitably than the Christmas season, peace, and compassion, right? So it should be easy to write about compassion at this time of year.

So then why do those stories of last minute shopping woes and packed stores threaten the peace and compassion I try to focus on?

It’s all about perspective. The last time I spent time in a hospital, visiting a loved one, it happened – all the chaos of the world I couldn’t get away from, (with 24/7 news and social media), all that stuff vanished. As soon as I feared for a loved one’s health I left that chaotic world of sensationalism and drama. What is truly important? It was right there in front of me, staring me in the face.

I saw plenty of compassion for our fellow humans, but I also saw plenty of the other side of things. I didn’t choose to be lifted, so suddenly, into an alternate reality, but I was.

Then it happened again, almost one month later exactly. The first episode in the hospital with my brother was a trial run, for a much worse experience. Again, all the politics here in North America, the horrors of ISIS, and the tragedy of refugees in Europe all took a backseat to my family and the compassion we would receive from other sources.

It started with the way my immediate family come together in the hard times. We rally. We close ranks.

We went into a state of adrenaline, as we did not know, minute to minute, what the situation was. That did not matter, though, in the end. We would be able to handle it, whatever “IT” was. That’s just how we roll.

We found compassion from hospital staff, doctors and nurses alike. We did not have a clue what we were doing. We still don’t. I know we got through it and will continue getting through, no matter what.

We sent word to the rest of our family and friends. They jumped to our aid and supported us. I clung to hope and the positive words of those who seemed to be more sure than I could manage to be, sure that my brother was strong and would fight back against whatever might be holding him down. It wouldn’t win, they were sure of that.

Technology and social media went from being sources of continuous and maddening news articles to a place where I could listen to the proclamations of those positive thinkers and friends. I found compassion there for my current situation and I held tight to that life raft in the ocean of uncertainty and fear I felt lost in.

Then I just happen to hear the news on a television, as I sat in a hospital lounge, just down the hall from where my brother was sleeping. All the horrors and the stress out there in the world crept in. I tried to keep it out, but it felt like cold water thrown in my face, waking me back up to a world out from my own private concerns. I couldn’t ignore the fear I now felt, both close to home and in the wider world. I still felt compassion for those refugees, the ones I wanted to write about, who have made it here to Canada and those still fighting for basic human necessities, out there somewhere.

I again wished and searched for some peace, in and amongst the craziness. It’s almost Christmas now and I still would like to know where that elusive thing called peace is hiding out.

I found compassion. It’s out there. People are doing good things. Those like

Lizzi.

There are those who explain it all, much better than I can:

Thoughts On Compassion

Last year I was a wreck. I was feeling blue and Christmas, a time where I’ve always felt cheerful at the mere approaching of December 25th. Something only made me more apathetic deep down, as last year came to a close.

It was my one and only younger brother who came to the rescue then. He lifted my spirits. He showed me an alternative to the Christmas seasons of my past, and I took hold of it gratefully: never-before-seen Christmas movies and music you would never hear on the radio. His compassion for how I was feeling, lost and alone, that brought me through, got me through.

Now here we were and I felt no peace. I felt around, in the darkness and the emptiness and the ever widening hole in my heart, reaching and grasping for anything I could offer my brother when he needed me. I could not help. I felt incapable of giving him anything close to what he’d given me one year ago. I could not fail him now.

Where was the compassion for myself? I knew I was scared and feeling entirely unable to handle much of any great weight. I feared I would never be able to write again, that my words were no solace to me when I needed something, anything. I knew I needed to eat, to rest, to take care of myself, but I couldn’t function. I had no way of knowing how long that might go on.

And then I heard her words. She spoke of her struggle, watching over her husband, hurt in a car crash. She saw him suffer and she stood by him. That’s what love looks like, I thought. My head in my hands, ready to throw them up in the air in frustration, I let her uplifting message of thinking positive and using any and all available energy to think best possible outcome wash over me. I listened to her words, her simple words of encouragement, my hands closing tight over my face, to squeeze all the panic I was feeling away, I raised my head up finally.

With all the rushing around that people do at this time of year I try to think of those who are sitting, still and quiet, with their loneliness at Christmas. This time of year brings up a lot of bad memories, beautiful memories, all things long gone now and I know how that feels. Suffering does not stop, indeed heightens, when the rest of the world is off celebrating somewhere. I like to have an added bit of compassion for what someone else may very well be dealing with. Sharing that isn’t always so easy, as we’re meant to feel like we’re doing it wrong if we can’t seem to find the spirit of the season.

A lot of compassion has been shown lately, by family and friends and near strangers, and that helps make the worst things bearable. Compassion is when a bunch of the people my father works with come together and raise money to give as a gift to my brother, recovering from a recent brain injury.

It’s not hard to find it: compassion, if you’re aware and open to finding it, but you must be willing to give it too. I want more compassion, for us all, as I return to the awareness of a wider world around me, full of suffering and need. I want it for those refugees who need a helping hand. For Muslims who feel like the world is ganging up on them for things beyond their control. I will join in the holiday traditions with my family and I will be grateful for my brother’s recovery and for the fact that we could have spent Christmas in a hospital. Small blessings are big things.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or all the best, for whatever it is you celebrate and believe. Whatever you want to call it, it’s all about compassion, when you boil it down. I will be back, to spread as much compassion as I can, with the help and encouragement of 1000Speak, in the new year.

Jewel – Hands – Christmas Version

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TToT: Vanilla and Peppermint – Ringing in the Season, #10Thankful

“You look like you’ve been run over by a steam roller and left on our doorstep.”

–Dr. House

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No, not that Dr. House. The real Dr. House is alive and well and a nephrologist, a kidney transplant doctor in Ontario, Canada.

I feel like I should add, before I go any further, he is nothing like the grouchy, dysfunctional, fictional doctor people can’t help mentioning when they hear the name.

The above quote is the first thing he said to my brother, when he visited him, on his Sunday morning rounds. A real word mincer.

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

The season has begun. Whether it begins: (in retail) immediately after Halloween ends, after November 11th (as is the respectful way), at Thanksgiving (for Americans), or on December 1st is really up for debate.

All I know is: I attended my local Santa Claus Parade, there’s snow on the ground, and the Home Alone movies are being shown on television.

Christmas is on its way.

Ten Things of Thankful:

For the common cold.

Okay, well I’m thankful that that’s all it was for my brother.

He was unwell at the beginning of the week. He was dehydrated. He had been sleeping somewhere between 16 and 20 hours a day, every single day the week before. He hadn’t been to school in days.

But once he was where he needed to be, in hospital, they began to assess him. They gave him intravenous fluids and antibiotics, plus a specific treatment for

CMV.

CMV is more common after transplant, but he is more than two years out from his. It took a few days to test for, but he did not have it. once they discovered he didn’t, when the fluids had a chance to work, once his blood pressure wasn’t so low, and once he could eat again he was released. Such a relief. Transplant patients just must be careful. My brother’s case is proof that even a common cold can cause a lot of problems.

For vanilla bean everything!!!

One thing I love about the start of the Christmas season is my favourite scents.

I stocked up on everything vanilla bean at

Bath & Body Works.

No photos or words can do it justice. If I could send the scent of my vanilla bean shower gel, hand lotion, fragrance mist, hand soap, and lip balm to all of you, through the screen, I would.

🙂

Or better yet, the products themselves. They make excellent Christmas gifts.

For more red.

My favourite scent may be vanilla, but my favourite colour is red. I have been working on finding red appliances for my kitchen.

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This week I found a microwave that would fit the theme.

For some wonderful praise of my writing.

It was my second time at the writing group I’ve started attending and this week’s mystery object, fittingly, was someone’s ticket stub for the Eiffel Tower.

I like this group. Wasn’t sure what exactly to expect, but I like that I am put on the spot. We all are. We find out the answer to the mystery object question and, within minutes, we’re all writing furiously.

We have about an hour to come up with a piece of writing, based on that object. This week I brought my Braille Display and was able to read what I’d just come up with.

Silence. Crickets, if there had been any crickets in the library.

🙂

And then someone in the group told me they were silent because they were still imagining the scene in their mind. It was one comment, but it meant a lot to me to hear it.

For a Saturday afternoon writing workshop.

More writing. Yes, I could spend lots of money on classes and workshops. Seems, these days, like every writer or editor teaches them. I’m sure it’s a good way to make money, as there isn’t always money to be made in literature.

I went on a whim. It was a workshop on dialogue. I learned things, as logical as they are and I should already know them, and got to share my writing with an old guy who is working on his own novel, crime I think he said it was.

These things, whether I learn a lot or not, are great places for me to practice writing and meet and hear from other writers, all at different levels of writing in life. It gets me out of my shell and feeling a little less afraid.

For snow.

In this case, for the first real snowfall, accumulation of snow for the season.

I love that smell. Maybe someday Bath & Body Works will figure out how to bottle it, but nothing will ever compare to the real thing.

I wish it wasn’t so cold though. I love to run my hands along a railing covered b snow. Unfortunately, my fingers won’t tolerate the soft, powdery texture for long. Gloves just cover up its wonderfulness.

For one cold Saturday evening family activity to ring in the holiday season.

The Santa Claus Parade was a favourite holiday ritual of mine growing up. We’d get our spot, all bundled up, and watch the floats slowly pass, with their Christmas lights, music pumping from loud speakers, and all the kids on the floats, yelling or singing.

And then always return somewhere warm and be thankful for heat all the more. I know I always was. And was again last night.

Well, so what if the parade from two years ago had us out in hardly a coat at all. This year, with the blankets, hoods, and gloves was better. It started out with rain, but by the end of the parade the snow was falling steadily. It had to be shook from our umbrellas.

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My nephew thought, upon hearing the first sound of sirens in the distance, that we should hurry up and run. He’s still figuring out parades and Santa Claus, for that matter, but I hope he grows up with as much wonder for all these traditions as I did.

For my trusty little iPhone 5 and for the fact that it still works.

I “may” have dropped it, a short drop, after I lost use of its original case. It was a short drop from the porch swing, onto the porch, but it still operates.

However, if you were to shake it just hard enough, a shifting sound inside the phone would make things seem worse than they apparently are.

Every time I receive an email though, the sound it makes to notify me causes the phone, if I am using it at the time, to reverberate throughout. It is a strange sensation, if I happen to be holding it at the moment, and, let’s face it – I’m holding it most of the time.

😉

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For a book review.

After the Scars #bookreview

A friend, writer, and blogger read my short story and the anthology it is in and wrote her review on both.

I haven’t heard a lot of feedback, so this was important, I believe, for me to grow as a writer.

She also wrote a post, on one of her multiple blogs. This one,

3 Writers Dine Together

is a lovely summary of our very first in-person meeting in Toronto.

For my fellow Lord of the Rings nerds, especially when they’re Stephen Colbert.

No One Confuses Smeagol & Gollum On Stephen’s Watch

The man makes some excellent points and uses humour to make them.

🙂

And…on that note…

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and let it snow, snow, snow!!!

“November-with uncanny witchery in its changed trees.”

–L.M. Montgomery

Yes, I know I include a lot of Lucy Maud Montgomery quotes in these TToT posts, but the woman had a way with words.

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