Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Memoir and Reflections, Piece of Cake, The Insightful Wanderer

Don’t Scoff, #JusJoJan

There is so much rotten stuff going on all around us. But there is also so much that is wicked good and lovely, so much that makes one’s very being tingle. Just look for it.

Just Jot It January, #JusJoJan – Tingle

I recently read an essay written by a favourite editor of mine, in Creative Nonfiction Magazine, about writing and happiness, joy, pleasure. These topics interest me.

What are the experiences in life that most make us feel alive?

I know a lot of what feels awful and unpleasant. I am aware of that. I know there will inevitably be both in the human experience.

I am asking and pondering on that as I continue to experience life, both the good and the bad, in 2017 as a newly begun chunk of time. The year makes something of my experience and my willingness to let go and not forever analyze every little detail so much.

What is it that makes life worth putting up with? It’s the experiences that make you supremely pleased to be alive, that’s what. And, when they wash over you, don’t push those feelings away. Don’t shrug them off as problematic or unworthy or meaningless.

I think philosophically. I ponder and overtly over think, like usual.

I was recently given or shown one piece of really wise advice. It feels counter intuitive to me, but there are those who don’t let Facebook take up loads of their time. There are those who don’t spend their time dwelling on things. It sounds hard. Can it be done? Can I do that too? Some might scoff.

Of course I can, if I want it bad enough.

I long for those truly tingly nerve-to-very-soul experiences in life. It’s looking like I am destined for some of those in this first month of the new year. I am trying not to let long sewn character flaws, let’s call them, for the sake of this musing on anything that’s worth tingling for in life – as opposed to those stresses I can’t seem to shake. I will try.

I can do that.

What really causes any of us to feel truly tingly with vitality in this life? It starts with a twinge perhaps. It spreads outward then, from there. Just be open to it, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. It’s not often that we feel that, certainly not every day, so why not let that come if and when it may?

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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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TToT: Alliance, Maladies, Rare – “Quiet, Screaming Desperation” #10Thankful

The news coming out of certain places, parts of the world, like the fighting in Aleppo keeps getting worse and worse. The only way I can seem to deal with it is by acknowledging the reasons I am thankful.

I am thankful it’s this year and not last. Yeah, let’s start there.

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My animals love my tree. Dobby and Lumos.

I’m thankful for yet another medical checkup, my second last to my twenty-year anniversary checkup, which will come in June.

I didn’t ask what the record for that clinic has been. I don’t even think they are planning some giant party when I return in June. I just thought it worth marking.

Again, I felt like so many other patients needed the doctors a lot more than I did. I didn’t even see the head nephrologist, probably because I’ve been so stable, so I saw another doctor and he told me that, once again, my levels were good and I was out the door, after waiting for hours.

The service is not really something to complain about. It’s only twice a year. I didn’t mind sitting and waiting. And waiting some more. I know how lucky I am. It may not last forever, but until those numbers start going up, I am believing that it still could.

I’m thankful for my violin teacher’s patience as I don’t use enough of my bow or I don’t trust myself nearly enough.

We are learning Silent Night and I remember the notes, but my confidence is where the problems are.

She is always ready with suggestions for how I can keep improving.

I’m thankful for brave writers.

The Stripe – Full Grown People

Sometimes you read a piece of writing and you are immediately blown away by the guts it must have taken the writer to put those words out there.

When I read this essay I instantly felt floored at the gutsy person who would put such personal thoughts out into the world. I’m not sure I could. I don’t even know where a line should be, because not all people believe everything should be written about, and still people do it.

I’m thankful we finally got our newest episode of the podcast released.

The Great Gong Show of 2016 – Ketchup on Pancakes

This was a show about politics, but just this once likely. It is not our area of expertise. I get far too emotional when talking about it. I just thought it was worth doing at the time. It was a serious subject, but I hope we ended on a positive and we tried to throw in a little bit of humour, where applicable.

I’m thankful we made the decision and went for a year’s upgraded subscription for SoundCloud.

This means we plan to keep going with this project into 2017 and who knows where it might lead.

I’m thankful for the chance to meet new people, local writers, to build relationships and connections.

By chance I came across a Facebook group about writing and it just so happened there were a few other writers there from my area. We all three decided it would be a good idea to meet up to discuss writing and local discussion about events with a literary theme.

It was so lovely to speak to a woman with older children, who has a longer career in writing for magazines and other publications, who is full-time freelancing. She was full of ideas and willing to share valued experiences with us.

The other woman has a science background, now with a young child at home, trying to get into the world of freelance writing. We all had something to contribute. I felt like people understood something about me, writer to writer to writer.

I felt like just one of the girls. I felt understood.

I’m thankful for a newly discovered place to shop locally.

The Closet

I’m thankful my cousin runs it and took the time to help me find a few new/used things for my upcoming trip.

I’m thankful I can challenge my long running phobia of used things like secondhand or slightly worn clothes.

I am sensitive to smells and to the idea of old things. I am learning that many things have value, that it’s important not to continually contribute to the rampant consumerism and material waste, and that everything has a story. Finding a deal isn’t bad either.

I am thankful for snow.

It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s kind of messy. I know all this and I complain in the moment, just like everybody else, but then I step outside on a silent, snowy night. I listen to the silence and I feel the light flakes falling on my hair and on the car. One hits the tip of my nose and I stick out my tongue. A snowflake falls there too.

I walk through the snow coated, snow-covered, cold ground. I hear my feet crunch in it. I love a snowy December night in Canada.

So much snow falling this week in Toronto, during rush hour, and the ploughs can’t possibly keep up. This is really what we choose to complain about?

It’s the kind of silence where chaos can begin and where any screams of parts of the world are too easily ignored.

I have so much to be thankful for and I know it. I don’t always feel like I deserve it, but I know.

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What Was and What Will Be #FTSF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays, to you and yours.

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Echoes Heard Through Chambers, #SoCS

“Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife.”

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My favourite Disney film growing up was The Jungle Book.

It takes place in a setting that seemed so far away, the jungles of India. It’s populated, clearly, with all kinds of animals and it’s premise is whether an abandoned human boy can survive and even fit in among them.

My favourite characters are favourites for a variety of reasons. I like the panther’s sensible demeanour and I like the bear for his adventurous nature and willingness to go with the flow.

The Bare Necessities – Jungle Book

The father elephant doesn’t think a boy belongs, but when that boy goes missing it’s the mother elephant who tries to make him understand that any young deserves to be safe.

The ape king wants to be a man and the boy wants to stay with his animal friends. My favourite is actually the snake, but he only cares about his next meal.

🙂

Well, first off, I had to go to my trusty Dictionary App to confirm the difference.

Bare/Bear, #SoCS

I think stream of consciousness writing can become a very dangerous thing because it could lead me to writing about all the things that worry me about this world now, but I did think of that catchy song from a Disney movie instead, to help me focus on something.

A movie about not fitting in and not being accepted fits well with the atmosphere lately and always.

I have recently been watching a Netflix series by Oliver Stone and it’s a history lesson and a critical look at his country. He spoke in it of the mistrust of foreigners, in America’s past, such as the Japanese during World War II and anyone Jewish, at many points. He spoke of Communism and all the hysteria, but what has changed?

“That little boy is no different than our own son.” The mother elephant in Jungle Book states emphatically when it’s announced the boy is missing.

A line like that passed me by all the years I watched as a kid, but lately it hit me hard. Moving words.

I don’t know how some people can bear knowing the damage they have done or are doing with their words and/or actions. They just don’t appear to care.

It was one year ago that Canada welcomed 25 thousand refugees from places like Syria. That doesn’t mean all Canadians welcomed them.

I care about people having their lives torn apart by war caused by terrorists and governments, whatever the reasons are for the fighting. I care and I wonder how they bear it.

The U.S. seems to be heading in a dangerous direction, their most recently elected leader threatening to cause so much harm, and I wonder how he bares all that he is and people still revere him. They think he will solve all their problems.

The media is in trouble and people don’t know who to trust. Doubt is being planted in the mind of society. The chasm appears to be widening, something people say they haven’t seen before, but if Stone is to be believed at all, these things have existed, in one form or another, all along.

I see positive stories about a pair of Syrian refugees who made it to Berlin and found fitting in to be a huge challenge. All the bureaucracy is hard to navigate and I listened to their story of the dangerous trip over on unpredictable boats. Now they face an uphill battle. So many awful and negative stories are what we hear, about how men from the Middle East are dangerous, with messed up values, raping German women. They are often unwanted and what else is the world to think?

Well, these two men are doing their part to make a difference. They studied coding at a program offered and have developed an App to help refugees and migrants figure out how to set up a bank account, for example. How can anyone have such a lack of compassion that they cannot put themselves in the place of someone who left their home, took such risk, for safety?

I hear doubt about why Canada should offer a hand to people from other countries when we have our own issues. I want to figure out where I bear any responsibility for making things better, but I can’t do anything about so much of it.

I get people jumping down my throat for daring to compare this time to the 30s, as if I am committing some horrible sin. I guess my fear is causing me to act/react that way, but we can all look in the mirror when it comes to fear. Fear is why so much hate develops. I won’t let that happen to me, even in my moments of anger that ignorance was allowed to win, when so many talk of 2016 being an awful year, for reasons we could all take a good guess at.

The U.S. seems to be headed in one direction and Canada gets together and makes a plan for the environment, but I ask which will result in a bigger price paid? People say these ideas our leader has for boosting the environment will cost us, but which cost is the riskier one?

Fear is hard to bear. I know it. I feel it. I fight it. This kind of writing asks that one bare all if they choose to.

I choose to bare it all, my truth that is, without losing honesty or compassion. That makes me proud to be Canadian but I am human too, my vulnerability for anyone to see.

I rely on kindness and compassion all the time. I would be nowhere without both. I am determined to give some back, as much as I can give, even as the world fights hate and bears witness to the worst of humanity.

Here’s a theory I’ve come up with. I figure DT plans to focus on science as long as it means getting to Mars. Then, he can feed all his greedy business masters what they demand and when nature takes her revenge, he will stay hold up in his golden tower in the sky, in New York City, which will be destroyed everywhere else. As soon as the water finally does rise to his floor high up there, a spaceship will be there to take him off this planet and away to ruin the next one.

I worry about a bear from the north, once blending in with ice and snow, as the water warms. What will our refusal to admit that we as humans do bear responsibility for what we have done to this world cost them. Polar bears are feeling it, even if some other fools are not.

Gee, I sure hope I got this bare/bear thing straight. I had to go for the challenge of using both and couldn’t just pick one or the other.

I guess I wish I could go on singing that carefree tune from Jungle Book, but even that happiness ended, if you know the film at all, by a sudden danger from above.

I just wish I could say we as humans have made more progress from the state of the world as discussed by Oliver Stone and today. We still like to feel superior to anyone who looks different or speaks different or lives different. No acceptance. I couldn’t say all I wished to say about that, even if I could write stream of consciousness forever and ever.

It is a necessity that we try to find acceptance, but sometimes I feel like I am trapped in some giant, empty echoing chamber and my words leave my mouth and vanish into thin air, as if I’d never uttered them at all.

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Driveways and Sideroads, #SoCs

“Shhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!”

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“I’m trying to sleep,” is what my cat Lumos is probably saying, as he curls up in the place between my legs and the couch, but I type furiously for a little bit of stream of consciousness writing anyway, as he cuddles up to me and keeps my feet warm.

Now, I don’t usually write from any cat’s POV, not even his, but I was thinking up ways to start this post with an “sh” as the prompt stated, and that was all that came to me on this early Saturday morning in December.

I thought I’d begin with a little humour, as the rest of this post is of a more serious nature.

I did want to speak about a few
shows
I’ve seen this week, here.

It was both an odd contrast and, at the same time, alinement between a Canadian news program about one young husband and father who would walk down his driveway, attempting to sell his truck, and would never come home.

And then the American news program 20/20 and the young wife and mother who went out for a jog and was missing, abducted, but then finally released on Thanksgiving.

“It was just a truck!” That was the quote from the first program, from the widow left behind by tragedy, all a horrible, nasty, disgusting crime of a thing.

The Cali woman who would survive, has made it back to her loved ones, is now hopefully free to live the rest of her days with her two children and her husband, who never gave up and fought so hard to find her.

The Ontario woman will never get that sort of a happy ending with her love.

I was ill to watch the first program, to hear even more of the gruesome details, of which I managed to miss back in 2013 when the crime came to all our attentions, happening less than an hour away from me. She has her faith and family and little girl to bring her joy again, but a part of her will forever be missing.

Who knows what happened while that California woman was gone, as she is only now starting to help the police piece things together. Her trauma at this time likely intense.

One has, seemingly had a happy conclusion, though the case is still ongoing. Hopefully, whoever these women are, the ones who lured the victim into their vehicle, hopefully they don’t hurt anyone else.

The two men charged and now spending life in prison are paying for their deeds, one charged with two other murders before the truck owning husband and father was senselessly taken. Entitled. Rich and spoiled. Thinking themselves invincible. Murder never should have been the result.

The similarities and differences, matching an fitting in an odd way as the two programs followed each other, it all felt strange to take in.

I was just struck by the contrasting outcomes to these two evening news programs, as the holiday season approaches and so much good is highlighted. The presence of evil in this world hit me with an extra, additional, forcible blow because we all look to stories of good will around this time of year, but there are those bad ones still going on, somewhere.

Not all is well, though both stories felt like they were read as transcripts, more like Hollywood movie scripts, but are true crime, real life in motion.

I put myself and my family in their places. Then, I immediately wanted to push that thought out of my mind.

Sometimes the world feels like such a scary place and I am afraid to leave my house at the thought of it. What are the chances, really, right?

The young Ontario woman who is now raising her daughter as a single mother said, “If it could happen to us, it could happen anywhere.”

You could meet danger or genuine decency in your own driveway or on a deserted side road. You could meet it, no matter where you might be, all depending on the sort of outstanding or rotten humans who come across your path.

I watch these shows, as the Ontario case touched me deeply and this Thanksgiving miracle was a happy story, still in progress.

I also know I can’t be afraid.

These shows weren’t fiction , not this time. They happened. It looks like I’ll get to spend another holiday with my family, whereas some people will not. I don’t take that lightly. I also don’t want to feel paralyzed with fear to go out into the world, to live my life, and I hope I never have to hear stories like these again, but I know, realistically, it can’t be completely avoided.

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Stalemate, #1000Speak

The other night, on the news, a reporter did a story about how desperate of a situation it’s becoming in Syria.

She began to, not just lay out a few facts and statistics, but to compare the city of Aleppo to the city of Toronto, where her news broadcast was airing from. She went from one part of Toronto to another, explaining how it would look if what’s currently happening in Syria were to happen in a Canadian city

Okay, so maybe it’s a bad example or I’m just not describing it all that well. I have a cold and my right ear is plugged and I feel like I’m losing it a little, but I wondered why this reporter’s method was necessary in the first place.

She began her segment by saying something along the lines of:

?How does what’s happening in Syria relate to life here in Toronto anyway?”

I wondered if people really needed the story to be spoon fed to them like that, as if they couldn’t already put themselves in the shoes of a mother, losing hope for keeping her children healthy and alive. Hadn’t they all considered what it must be like to be stuck in a war zone? I guess, to a point, I use that distance between myself and such horrible events as a cushion too.

I may feel sad and disappointed in the Syrian government for being unable to keep its people safe. I may be frustrated that although my country of Canada has done more than many to help the Syrian people, our participation has dwindled. I may be sad and disappointed in myself for the fear that even the small gestures of compassion and gratitude I’ve made aren’t enough.

Lots of sadness and disappointment to go around. Excellent choice for the month. If I’m honest, to come right out and say it, I have been sad and disappointed that
1000 Voices Speak For Compassion
and
Ten Things of Thankful
seem to be losing steam.

It’s obvious by the number of entries in the linkup. The terrible events around the world that inspired a handful of bloggers to act in the only way they knew how, nearly two years ago, is a small sample of what it was once.

That first month there were hundreds of entries. Now, with the linkup being open, not just one day, but a whole week. And yet, my entry is found to be one of the last, if not the last, at five or six along on the list. Where did everybody go? It’s frustrating to see how willing people were, when the excitement and energy were new and when a small discussion on holding on to compassion in times of hardship suddenly and unexpectedly grew into something a lot larger than anyone could have ever anticipated.

Five or six people, including me, took the time to write and keep the movement going this month. This makes me sad. I feel disappointed, but I have compassion for all those who haven’t kept up with it, though some come and go, taking it for granted that it should always be there.

You have to feel it to write. I can be honest about how I feel, but I have a lot of compassion for everyone who didn’t show up. I have been one of them. I can’t say I won’t be one in the future. All the praise goes to those keeping it going this long.

Nothing goes on forever. Everything starts and stops somewhere.

Life gets busy. People forget. Times are hard. They’ve moved on.

This is a time where sadness and disappointment are commonly felt emotions. I am sad and disappointed.

I am sad that we have arrived in this place, where compassion feels strangled by suspicion and self interest.

Taxes. Rising bills to be paid. Mortgages and kids and stressful jobs and relationships and social media.

I am disappointed in America for giving up and giving in. Donald Trump is where he is. I am sad and I am disappointed.

In these times, I believe honesty is best, if we’re ever going to face the ills of our society, like racism and class, job, and economic uncertainties. We’re all fighting for our own, equal slice of the pie.

Where, then, does compassion come in? I am trying desperately to fit the pieces together.

I am trying, underneath a steady undercurrent of sadness, to listen to people and to respect different beliefs. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. This situation is unique in that most times, after a time, I can see where someone may be coming from. In some of these situations, where prejudice is at the core of it, I can’t understand.

Then I lose all compassion for myself, as I feel like it’s something on me, like I’m just not trying hard enough to understand.

It’s mostly based on fear. That much I’ve surmised. I can have empathy for that, to a point, as I know what fear looks like, feels like, smells like, sounds like.

I have compassion for everyone. It’s when some people’s true feelings come to light that I jump back in shock and the sadness and disappointment wash over me with no warning.

Is this the end? By which I mean, are we coming to the end of this experiment in writing for compassion here? Or will we keep going forward with the participants we still have? Couldn’t compassion sustain itself, even through blogging, just a little longer? Perhaps not.

Will I even be here next month, to write about compassion, or will I have moved on? I honestly can’t say for certain.

I don’t see any end to this stalemate, these feelings of intense sadness and disappointment at my fellow human beings.

I can’t look the other way when the progress with women’s rights or disability rights or any other rights are threatened. I wish I understood. I wish I could.

I just finished listening to
a podcast
about writing, about memoir, and about trying to put ourselves in another person’s shoes. This is my mission these days, but is it fruitless, when such serious issues are at stake?

I continue to see gestures and acts of compassion in many different places and that softens the blow. It isn’t all bad. This has been and continues to be a difficult time for a lot of people, but a lot are doing the best they know how in the moment.

I go ahead and focus on what makes me feel the opposite of sadness and disappointment. I hope things will continue, that very likely will not. I can’t blame anyone for that. I can only control my own actions and remain compassionate yet honest when the sadness or the disappointment threatens to drag me down next time, hoping what I’m left with is a little piece of compassion left over to spare and to share.

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