Bucket List, Memoir Monday, Poetry, RIP, TToT

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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The Colours of Kenya #Blindness #Travel #TravelTuesday

In January, 2017, I was discovering a new place. While I was immersed in the culture of Mexico, where I attended a writing workshop, Lizzi, at the same time, was on her way to Africa, but not for vacation. She was going to help.

I kept up on her time there through social media and I could sense the profound affect it was having on her.

Then I read this.

I knew I wanted to read one of her stories and one title, in particular, it jumped out at me.

I miss colours, a hard fact of life. I may go to Kenya one day, who knows, but I won’t ever see the colours of Kenya. I wanted to hear someone with a way with words tell me what they saw of Kenya’s colours.

Read the following story by Lizzi that I am honoured to be featuring on my blog today. It’s beautiful.

***

The Colours of Kenya

I had been travelling for what felt like a million hours, and in spite of having slept on both plane-rides, I was dropping with tiredness. It didn’t matter though, because I was in KENYA!

Getting there had been a long journey, literally and figuratively. The preceding months had been filled with emails back and forth to various Important Bods at the hospital, a cautious raising of hopes in October 2016 (only to have them dashed), and then a sudden YES, ten days before we were due to leave.

The four of us – a consultant, a senior nursing sister, an infection control nurse, and me (a buttinski retinal screener with her own agenda for gathering baseline information on the state of diabetes care on offer at the four hospitals we were linked with) – had been travelling since 11am UK time, arriving in Mombasa at 4.20am Kenyan time. We were at the end of our abilities to communicate clearly, and a sleep-haze had descended over all of us, reducing our words and movements to the very deliberate, or the not-at-all.

Still, landing in the thick, humid Kenyan morning (far hotter than Nairobi, a couple of hours earlier, and far more like the ‘stepping into an oven’ I had expected) at an airport which seemed almost deserted and (I noticed with interest) had not one pane of glass in the building, but a beautiful Byzantine cement filigree over each window-space, was definitely a fulfilment of my hope for adventure.

We piled into the waiting taxi and started off out of the airport, past the soldiers’ huts, and onto a road which wasn’t so much ‘road’, as potholes laced together with concrete. As we left the airport behind us, I was startled by a flash of deep magenta in the middle of a dusty patch of grass. Some kind of shrub with flaming red flowers held itself proudly in the pale morning light. I later discovered it was bougainvillea – a plant very suited to hot climates, with brightly coloured bracts near its flowers in every shade of pink, purple, red, and white – which seemed to grow proliferately throughout the region, providing beautiful splashes of colour in sunlit places.

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‘Bougainvillea Kenyavision’ – a close-up of the bright magenta bracts of the bougainvillea flower, against a blue sky]

In spite of my snoozing colleagues, I couldn’t bear to close my eyes and miss out on my first glimpses of what was to become a familiar road between Mombasa (where the hospitals were) and Diani, where our hotel was.
My first impression was that there was paint EVERYWHERE! Many of the buildings were completely coated, often with advertising slogans painted on. In fact, many of the walls suggested ‘If you like it, CROWN it’, advertising the very paint they were (presumably) decorated with.

After a few days of travelling up and down the road, I decided that the predominant colours of Kenya were bright green, yellow, blue, and white, with splashes of orange and red thrown in. If anything could be painted or decorated, it was; from the riotously coloured tuk-tuks with their funny names (‘Jobless’, ‘Father’s Blessing’) and entertaining slogans (“Watch out for the devil – never mind!”), to entire sides of blocks of flats advertising pampers nappies! It seemed to me if anything was still for long enough, it was liable to get a bright coat of paint…or that it had been the case at some point, for nearly all the paintwork I saw was fading a little around the edges, with cracks in the surface and chips of paint beginning to flake away.

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‘The Colours of Kenya’ – a man walks past a building painted pale green, with an advertisement for Pampers nappies emblazoned on its side. The ground is bright orange sand/dirt, and rocks lie strewn across what passes for pavement.]

The ground astonished me, too – partly, I think, because I’m not used to seeing so much of it, so close. The places in England where the ground next to the road is just…ground…as opposed to something tarmacked or concreted, are few and far between. In Kenya, the ground drifts onto the road and the tarmac crumbles into the edges of the dust, and everything swirls together as the traffic goes speeding by. The mud is hard and compacted with a layer of dust, which coats the shoes and ankles when walked on. Along the miles of road, it went through almost-white, to yellow, to ochre, to dark orange, to brown, to almost red. I don’t think I have ever seen so many colours of earth in one smallish area, and even though a lot of it was covered in plastic in various stages of disintegration (no council waste collections, no rubbish bins, no method, other than to sweep the trash into a pile and burn it), it was beautiful.

The people were bright as peacocks, or parrots, or any other vividly sparkling kind of bird you can think of. The colours and patterns on their clothes were incredible, mesmerizing geometric intricacies, which utterly delighted me, and made me feel very drab by comparison, in my muted olives and blues. Still, I considered, with my pinky-yellow skin, there probably weren’t many bright patterns which I could really carry off without looking sickly, but I did admire the many beautifully-dressed people I saw.

I realized as the week wore on, that the colours which would look utterly garish in the dismal light of England, were not overpowering in the equatorial sunlight. Rainbows of colour shimmered wherever crowds of people gathered, as the mirages shimmered above the surfaces of the roads. Each morning, I got up while it was still dark, and went for a swim in a pool of incredible azure blue, under a sky which lightened to pale blue, then stayed white for most of the day, fading to blue again as the sun went down.

Much of the rural landscape was dominated by the feathery green fronds of palm trees, with their tatty, browning leaf ends, which rattled drily in the wind, or when shaken by troupes of monkeys blundering through. Even the monkeys were surprisingly colourful – unassuming sandy-brown vervets, when male and in motion, showed bright, sky-blue balls!

The beach was pristine, as you’d expect a proud tropical resort beach to be – luminous white sand, cerulean water giving way to navy further out, sweeping, delicious waves, and green palms bending gracefully into the wind. There was even a delightful smattering of little grey frond-covered huts, to shelter tourists relaxing on their sun-loungers.

I would be fascinated to see Kenya in the rain (were it not for the risk of cholera, which increases considerably in the rainy season, due to the lack of sanitation systems). All of the buildings were spattered with earth, to about a metre high, where (presumably) the previous years’ rains had flung the dirt high against the walls and left it there, a stain bearing testament to time and dust. In England, the rain turns everything to grey, whether it is grey or not…in Kenya, I can only hope that the bright colours stand out more vividly against the gloom, a rainbow promise that the sun will shine again, and life will once more be, if not easy, still optimistically bright and beautiful.

***

And so I listened to Lizzi speak of what she saw and learned about blindness and eye disease in Africa. I thought of myself and my white cane and my conflicted feelings about having to use one, but then I realized the privilege I have for even having one where so many around the world, those who could really use them, do not.

I wanted to donate, even a small amount, to make sure a cane would be given to a person in need.

Eyes For East Africa – Online Shop

A small donation can buy someone a white cane, eye drops for a child, or a magnifying glass to better see the world. It doesn’t take much, but it is very much needed.

I live in Canada and have access to good medical care. I have had the best care when my remaining eyesight was threatened. I only want that for all people.

I want to thank word artist Lizzi for sharing this vivid retelling of her time in Kenya, for all of us who have never seen it for ourselves. That is why I love travel and a world so full of wonder and magic, everyday people going about their lives, the hard things and the struggles, but there is always beauty to be found somewhere.

Join the Deep Thinking, Truth Telling and Good-Seeking at Considerings

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TToT: Relax! It’s Only A Cane – Daylight Savings, #10thankful

I walk around like this all the time now, trying to defuse situations where there could be some fear going on.

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I tell them they can relax, that it’s only a white cane. I won’t whack them with it, not on purpose or very hard anyway, just as long as they stay in line.

I suppose, it would have made even more sense if I’d actually been holding the object I am speaking about. I should have taken another one, one where I’m actually holding my white cane in the photo.

Ten Things of Thankful

I am thankful for this t-shirt.

Abigail Style

I like how Steph of
Bold Blind Beauty
has gone the extra mile, trying to spread the message of strength and empowerment that a lot of the slogans on the shirts, bags, and mugs she has created show the world.

I am always happy to help spread this message with Steph. I chose this shirt because I myself still battle the feelings I have about my white cane. I know how others see it, don’t always understand it, but I don’t want it to make people wary. I just want to be able to use it to see more of the world safely.

I must admit, I do enjoy its sarcastic tone though. It’s my kind of humour.

I am thankful my friend Kerra was challenged to post any 80s song, for an entire week, on Facebook and that I took on that challenge from her.

I will include, throughout this TToT post, the seven songs I chose.

Everything In My Heart

Corey Hart, 1985

I am thankful I received a payment for work I did.

I have a lot of feelings around trying to contribute, to develop a career for myself, but in the arts nothing’s a sure thing. All my insecurities about not feeling useful have followed me for years, and I know this is just one fairly small amount, but it’s a big deal to me. I wrote something and I was paid for that service I provided. I created something and I am glad it was so well received. I hope to build on this.

Never Tear Us Apart

INXS, 1987

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I am thankful for an awesome first meeting of Mya and her cousins.

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It was so sweet, the way my niece and nephew wanted to hold their new little cousin, how they doted over her and were so gentle…yet so very excited.

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He is not the youngest of the group anymore.

Mad World

Tears For Fears, 1982

I am thankful for a day to celebrate women.

People Are People

Depeche Mode, 198

This song fits the theme of the day. We are all just people, so why does misogyny continue on such a level as we currently see?

I wrote a piece, and the debate about what feminism is or isn’t or if it’s a good or a bad thing could go on forever, but I think International Women’s Day should just be a day to celebrate women and girls, and how far we’ve come, and are still going.

I am thankful for all the lessons having kidney disease has taught me in the last twenty years.

March 9th is World Kidney Day and every year I reflect on all that my journey through kidney failure taught me, the bad and less so.

I still want to write more extensively on that time in my life. I struggle to know how to go about this. I could blog about it forever, but a book is still my goal.

Now that I’m arriving at the 20 year mark, 1997 being the year I was taken off dialysis and went on to live with a working kidney once more.

World Kidney Day is to educate people on the symptoms of kidney failure, but mine was a bit of a unique case. It’s about my gratitude that I had good doctors and that a medical treatment like dialysis even exists, because without it, I don’t even like to think.

I Can’t Stand The Rain

Tina Turner, 1985

I am thankful for a chance to hold Mya while she slept.

Whenever You Need Somebody

Rick Astley, 1987

She sat and slept upright, wouldn’t straighten out any, so that’s how she stayed. I felt her steady breathing, in and out, and her faint newborn sounds. I didn’t sleep, but it was as close to a peaceful state as I have felt in a long time.

It was a feeling I never wanted to end, but eventually, the newborn must eat.

She is just so sweet though, like a little doll.

I will always be here for you Mya, whenever you need somebody, because what you’ve given me, in only the first few weeks of your life, this is impossible to calculate.

I’m thankful for more perspective on the state of racism today, with an in depth documentary that aired on TV here in Canada the other night.

One movie can’t end racism in Canada — but ‘The Skin We’re In’ will fuel the fight

Canadian journalist Desmond Cole has been an outspoken face for racial issues in our current climate. He pushes the limits, which is what good journalists do, but he has a deep personal iron in the fire that still burns, the tension that’s often revved up by events in the news, but he has experienced racism himself.

I have not dealt with racism, but I have experienced ablism. I try to understand because I know what it’s like to be judged on appearance. That’s how most people judge, on meeting someone, as the visual is the first thing most people have to go by. It’s far past the time to quit judging without hearing the individual stories first.

I am thankful for a violin lesson that focused on the art of practicing.

My teacher showed me some helpful techniques for the days I am on my own, but worrying I am setting myself back instead of making progress, by the ineffective practicing I may be doing.

CURING UNSTEADY TEMPO SYNDROME

I have felt like I am stuck, unable to overcome this hump I find myself blocked by. I needed to really and truly break down the song I’ve been playing, to strengthen the skills that most need to be strengthened.

Heart of Stone

Cher, 1989

I am thankful for a new Lindsey Stirling song.

Love’s Just A Feeling

I tried to be the teacher, showing someone the proper way to play my violin, and boy were they in trouble.

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Well, with me as the teacher anyway.

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Winter is making one last appearance. The snow is falling. I am bracing myself for the possibilities. Snow is a pain, but it really is a beautiful pain.

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IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, Shows and Events, TToT

TToT: Great Grey Elephants On A Cool Grey Morning – Look Up, Not Down #10Thankful

I must admit, the title of this week’s post really has nothing whatsoever to do with any of my ten thankfuls. I just liked the peace I felt when I heard the caption on a post by National Geographic I came across the other day.

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I am sneaking this in at the last possible moment because sometimes I feel sorry for myself and the idea of writing about why I am thankful feels like a giant task.

Elegy For The Arctic

So then I kick myself a little, into gear, and I realize those are the times I need to write a
Ten Things of Thankful
more than ever.

Speaking of peace,
there’s this from one of the TToT crew,
which is a post all about where she finds hers.

I’m thankful for her sharing her peace, which is oh so close to mine. I may not see the photos she features, but her descriptions of the beach she encounters are more than enough.

I am thankful for a writing circle (The Elsewhere Region) where a few more new members showed up.

It lead to a spur in conversation and dynamic in the group. Each new attendee brought with them their own story and reasons for why they decided to come, just like I did when I first showed up in that room.

Things were a little more lively than usual and some new writing styles and reading out loud styles. Some will be back and some won’t. That’s to-be-determined.

I am thankful my brother and his band had a successful first show…Riker, who have been practicing in my basement for months now.

I think it is bold to get up, in front of people, and put on such a kickass show as they did. I have had the pleasure of hearing those songs from inception, through all the repetitions needed to get good. Now I look forward to their EP with eager anticipation.

I am thankful for an eventful weekend of music.

This included some karaoke, not by me, but by two members of Riker. At least they chose songs from two worthy bands.

I am thankful a friend could join us for said musical weekend.

It’s been a while. It’s nice to know a friend, so long had, is one who will always have your back in any situation. I haven’t always been worthy of such friendship. I admire this friend’s attitude of not letting the world dictate so much, like I seem to.

I am thankful for my white cane.

I still fight my love/hate relationship with the white cane. I fought it this past weekend in fact. Even with how far it got me, among other things, all the way to my dream of a writing workshop in Mexico recently, I still battled feelings of embarrassment this last weekend.

I used it. It got me safely out to lunch and back. I crossed roads with it. I need it. When I was young I had enough sight to get by with not using it much, but that was then and this is my reality in 2017.

Then something came along to grab my attention and make me see what I have in that “stick,” as so many call it.

I am thankful for perspective.

What’s on Kenyavision?

I am thankful I have even a little bit to give to someone with less.

I was looking for something, painfully moving through my week, and then this happened. I knew Lizzi had been on a work trip to Kenya and that it has had a profound affect on her ever since. I found out what she has been thinking about and I knew I needed to help.

I can’t help much, but with so much going on in the world, out of my control and making my heart hurt I needed to do this.

I am thankful for a brand new song by Lana Del Ray.

The girl doesn’t often brighten things up, not her style, but the music sure does have feeling.

It fit my mood at the time anyway.

And I am thankful for the show This Is Us because it helped me have a good cry, tonight, which I really needed.

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

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

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

San Miguel, I miss you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am thankful for soundscapes.

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

I am thankful for special and unexpected experiences while traveling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sobbing over today’s newspaper – Carrie Snyder from Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am brave enough.

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International Day For Persons with Disabilities 2016, #IDPD2016

Helen Keller…Stevie Wonder…Ray Charles…Rick Hansen…Stephen Hawking…

The Rick Hansen Foundation

There are so many more of us out here, only looking to have rich, full lives like anyone else, but what often stops us is not only society’s barriers, but our own.

***

Since 1992, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been celebrated annually on 3 December around the world. The theme for this year’s International Day is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want” . This theme notes the recent adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of these goals in building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.

***

One note on the society part – some of you may not want to think a lot about it, if you don’t have to, because then it becomes clear that the possibility for anyone to become disabled is indeed a possibility for anyone..

I am a Canadian woman, living with a disability. I didn’t acquire my disability through an accident later in life. I did not develop it overtime, but from birth and still, who knows which direction my remaining vision might take.

On the day before the
United Nation’s International Day For PErsons with Disabilities
I felt a tired feeling that I sometimes get. I panic and assume my sight is worsening, but I am not sure, if that makes any real sense. I close my eyes and decide I will try to get back in to see my retinal specialist soon.

I don’t know what, if anything, he will be able to tell me, offer me as hope that I won’t be completely blind one day. He will probably see no changes or signs of the mysterious eye disease that took my left eye twenty years ago. He will speak to me of gene therapies in various stages of development, but I don’t know what hope lies in that for me. Maybe it will be my future. Maybe not. I’ve learned not to bank on anything.

That’s a part of my DNA, just like the genetic eye disease. I am conditioned to either think the worst or simply not want to hope for the things I may really really want, always fearing that the disappointment from possibly not getting them will break me. It hasn’t broken me yet, which does give me reason to be optimistic though.

I wanted to be able to see the truly unique show violinist Lindsey Stirling put on recently. Instead, I listened to all I could and relied on my helpful sister to fill in the blanks. I wanted to throw my white cane away and yelled my displeasure, and through the wish, but instead I sat and listened even harder.

I want to draw like I used to when I saw colours and when everything in my world was more clearly and brightly defined. I can’t. I want to scream in frustration but I’m resigned instead.

I want to take up the latest craze of adult colouring books, but I don’t.

Of course, nothing is really stopping me. I may not, as an adult, see the lines I may have hardly seen as a child, which are now nearly invisible to me. I could still get myself a Harry Potter or any number of other themed colouring books with a theme which fits my interest, and be damned if I miss colouring in the lines by a mile.

But I don’t. I don’t scream or rail at the world in an uproar. I find other ways to spend my time.

I want to travel and to go through life with an independent spirit and loads of self confidence, but I don’t. I try and I work at it, but I’m scared.

I find a travel series, a BBC documentary, available to me on Netflix. It’s Stephen Fry, whom I love, and he is doing a road trip across the United States in his British cab. I know him from his narration of the Harry Potter books and for his intelligent and witty character. After watching him visit all 50 states I now know he hates being on a horse, dancing, and skiing. He loves science and culture and literature.

Stephen Fry In America

I watch him on his trip and I long to go on one of my own, but I fear getting lost in the big, expansive world and I worry that my white cane will attract only pity. I want to grip it with extra determination and go anyway. It’s all in my attitude, right?

I can’t drive a cab across the country. I want to believe I will see more of the world anyway, even without definition of sight.

I don’t try to revisit childhood experiences of mine by colouring. Instead, I watch a travel show which I’ve heard of but only now decided to give a chance.

HELLO GOODBYE, #HelloGoodbye

The host speaks to one woman in her sixties, widowed after her late husband’s long battle with illness, but who has now found new love with a man from England. Her happiness is infectious. Her newly found love walks down the ramp in the arrivals terminal at Toronto Pearson International Airport and gets down on one knee. Love is lost and can be found again.

I feel warm just by watching and listening to her story.

The host also speaks to a young man and his parents. The son is on his way to participate in Rio, at the Paralympics. He was paralyzed from a diving accident and now plays wheelchair rugby.

And then there was the grandmother, daughter, and grandson saying their goodbyes. The young guy and his mother are heading back to Britain after a visit with Grandma. The mother has RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa). She carries a cane, but the son speaks of wanting his mother to have companionship with a guide dog, as he will soon be going out on his own and doesn’t want her to be alone. He has worried about her safety all his life. She admits to being unsure about going for a guide dog once they get back home, but her son’s words cause her to rethink things.

She grips her white cane. I grip mine. She has been losing sight for years. I’ve been blind since birth and losing since. Am I any further along in accepting my circumstances and my white cane than she is?

People ask me all the time if I am ever going to get another guide dog. I don’t quite know what to say. Yes, they may provide the necessary confidence boost for many. I consider it.

I don’t think any dog will ever compare to my Croche, But is that all it is?

I can’t put another animal through what I put Croche through. She was so well trained and so fittingly suited in temperament. She was given to me and I was trusted with her. A lot went into all that. We were a team, but I failed her.

My ever growing illnesses caused me to sleep and her to dutifully stay by my side, but she was prevented from shining. She was my pal, but I don’t take the responsibility of a working dog lightly. I don’t know what my future will bring and I can’t bring myself to bringing another animal into that.

I want to curse what stops me, but what often stops me is me. And so I would just end up cursing myself, again and again.

Or, I could take hold of my white cane and use it for betterment, for working for some of my dreams, and for hardening my resolve and building my often feeble confidence.

My feelings of shame when I walk with my cane are hard to describe and hard to fight off. I will never be happy if I don’t try. Fear and disappointment stop me from even trying. What a waste that would be.

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