Making Lemonade

It’s been a while since I last posted.    Life managed to get in the way of my visits here, and in the way of several other important things.   We have spent the past few months starting over, reinventing ourselves, and learning how to live a different life.   In the next year, we will need to do the same once again, as my daughter goes off to university and our home life once again readjusts.

Reinvention means rediscovery for me. It means going back to the things that made me the happiest, returning to a time of creativity.  When times get tough, the tough get going… and so I’m doing just that.  I’m going.   I’ve started work on my first novel, finally.   It’s been years in the making in my head.  It’s been a “wanna do” item on my long bucket list, and a “must do” item on my life’s agenda.   I’ve found myself in awe of writers like Anne Rice and John Irving, who can transport me into completely different worlds, seemingly with little to no effort.  I have always loved how their words flow together in print like they were always meant to be there.  I love how the authors speak to you and tell stories like they are sitting right next to you in the same room.  I love how their world becomes my world in the moments I choose to enter it.   I love how the novels of those talented writers can lift you up, out of any stupor, and transport you somewhere else, whether or not you are a willing traveler.  I want to do that.   I want to have that power, that talent, that ability.  I want to have you journey with me, and so, I begin.

Last month, I started work on my first novel.   It is a novel that I WILL complete.  I have a fantastic mentor who will ensure I stay on schedule, and who will push me through any complications and/or roadblocks along the way.  I have the BEST group of supporters you could ever imagine.   They are a wonderful group of people who encourage me every day, cheer me on and some days, believe in me more than I could ever possibly even believe in myself.  I have a writing space that is nearly completed, with quotes from my most inspirational authors, colors that motivate and comfort me and a writing desk that is a refinished antique, BEAUTIFULLY refinished and customized by my dear friend Cathy. She understands too well how a writing space is crucial to inspiring and motivating a writer.  She also knows me, and has given my desk such a wonderful and personal touch. My space is also in the place where my mother used to spend most of her time.  It is where she lived up to her very last moments.  It’s where her memory still lives and she will be beside me as a write, encouraging me on through her spirit and energy that still live there.

And so, my friends, this blog will take on a new direction.  It will take you on my journey toward creating my first book.  I will try to bring you along with me for the next year… explaining and complaining (no doubt!) about how difficult and how wonderful the process is, can be and will be.

Thus far, the process has just begun.  Every two weeks, we are tasked to write at least 3000 words and submit them online for review and comments.  The first submission was completed last week.  It was painful at first, a list of questions about the characters in the book that had to be answered.  If one of the answers led into story, we were to let the story flow, and so I did.  Three characters were introduced, and interviewed. Three stories ensued.  At first, it felt awkward, very structured and not at all what I wanted to write about, or how I wanted to write.   As I relaxed though, I found myself deep diving into the character’s home, head and emotions.  I actually could start to watch the scenes play in my head.  I could hear the characters speaking, see their facial expressions and feel their emotions.  My second character, who I have called Dorothy for the moment, even had me laughing out loud as I was typing her voice, her responses and seeing her attitude come to life.  I actually had fun with her and quite honestly,  did not want to be interrupted while I was in her head. For that time, I had become this vile, hysterically funny woman and I was enjoying being that evil in my mind’s eye.  After all, I couldn’t cause any harm to anyone.  It was all just make-believe.

The reviews that came back from my first submission were wonderful, motivating and so encouraging. The readers seemed to like the storyline, were intrigued by the characters and it seems I had disgusted them enough to want more!  Talk about feeding the hungry!   I’m excited to continue this journey. After a pretty crazy year, the time has certainly come to make lemonade from the lemons, and I’m so happy to have you along for the ride!

I can’t wait to see what the next week holds!   Who would have thought that I’d be a novelist?  My mother knew all along it seems…. maybe it’s time I had some COMMON SENSE!  LOL

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone! xoxo

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Abandoned

Beckoned by a familiar reflection

You take pause and summon a recollection

Of the well-known routine apparition

Yet you pause with trepidation.

 

What remains is an encasement, an acquaintance,

A fragmented and blurred resemblance

 Of the entity once identified as Mom, Me, Grandma & Sis.

Has it really come to this?

 

Ability and agility and every capability

Instantaneously transformed into barbarous fragility

A reluctant instability,   maimed with one doctor’s call.

 

The body tendered resignation

Oh what degradation

To have such lack of co-operation

From digestion to elimination,

Reluctantly subjected to mortal impersonation.

 

Forced to rely on a system driven by capitalization,

Fear of law suits, job loss and accusation

Impeding quality of care, well-earned and deserved by our aging population

 

When we truly need help – we are alone

No one prepared to answer the phone – when we call

9-1-1

 

 

Fend for yourself – it’s the expectation.

In a world of telecommunication constipation,

Message interception, precipitating health care intervention.

Dependability deprived, abandonment enhanced,

A society too blinded by its own intrinsic materialism

To notice its neglect of philanthropic realism.

 

A system fraught with challenges, complaints and legislation

Financial burdens and obligations,

Misguided decisions and formulations.

Driven by fear of condemnation, repercussion and termination,

 

Here, humanitarianism lies in eternal hibernation

Will they finally wake from their dumbfounded slumber with humiliation?

Or simply freeze to death with the realization of the resultant devastation?

 

When is too little simply too late?

 

What If

What If

Several years ago when I first discovered I was pregnant with my daughter, I made a decision that disturbed a few members of my family, not the very least, my husband. I decided that, although I would comply with the battery of prenatal tests prescribed by my doctor, I would NOT alter my decision to give birth to my child should he/she be diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome. I am pretty sure that everyone thought I was crazy and though that I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. I was told that adding Down’s Syndrome to the stresses and responsibilities of dealing with a new baby was well beyond my capacity to understand. Well, my daughter is 16 now. She does not have Down’s Syndrome, but even now, I feel the same.

As a teen riding the bus past a work program for special needs adults, I came to recognize my discomfort and fear of these special people. I would dread those times when the workshop would let out and an entire group of special needs adults would board. They were loud and had little or no concept of personal space. They did not edit their comments when they spoke and even sang aloud if they felt like doing so. It was out of my comfort zone and I couldn’t wait for the ride to end!

Week after week I would experience the same scenario on the same bus route on my way to my part time job. At one point I became uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. I hated that I was so uneasy and judgemental. I hated being afraid. I didn’t even know what I was afraid of!  I decided conquer my fears and to immerse myself in a special needs group for the summer. I took a job as a camp counsellor teaching life skills to special needs teenagers.

No one could even begin to imagine what it was like on my very first day, sitting in a classroom waiting for the group of students to arrive. I was incredibly anxious! I was about to spend an entire summer on unfamiliar territory to gain an understanding and conquer my fears. At the moment before the students arrived, my fear was at its peak- or so I thought. Then, the worst happened! The students started to arrive! One by one they entered the classroom; some in wheelchairs, some in leg braces, some alone, some with parents, but all with the same loud, excited uproar that I was familiar with from the bus route. I  was having serious second thoughts about this job. These kids were weird. They were loud. They were out of control. I really was not prepared to handle them. I wanted out and fast!

I didn’t leave despite how I felt. I am not, and never have been, a quitter. I had accepted a job and had set a goal and I would not let my employers, my students, or their parents down. I needed to do this for me. I would stay in this freak show for the summer and give it my best shot! As it turns out, that decision was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was far from easy! I had one girl attempt to escape from atop a roller coaster, one student strip naked at the bowling alley and walk right up the lane. He was 19, completely physically mature and about 200 lbs. Just Imagine trying to get him dressed again with so many watching and laughing! I had chairs thrown at me, was spit on, vomited on (more than once) and completely exhausted, but it was an amazing experience and one I am so grateful for!

The kids that summer taught me more than all of my years of schooling. The irony in these “freaks” as I once thought, is that they hold the secret we all have missed. They are people in the truest, most raw form. They are more black and white than the rest of us. They don’t spend energy concealing who they really are. They simply ARE. These wonderful people wear their emotions on their sleeves. They dance if they feel like dancing, they sing on the bus if they are moved to do so, they cry if they are sad, they laugh wholeheartedly when they are happy. Trust me, the world can’t help but smile when you hear a laugh that genuine!!! Most importantly, these beautiful people love easily, warmly, and without prejudice. They give themselves to whomever they meet, freely and without fear. They live to love, to be happy and to enjoy life. They are not consumed with want and expectation. I learned that perhaps the fear I felt was that of the unknown. People are most often not unedited and free to express their true feelings. My wise brother once said, “The older people get, the better they get at concealing who they really are”.

What if we were able to be true to ourselves and each other the way these teens were/are. What if we could dance when we wanted to without fear of judgement? What if we could love without fear of being hurt? What if we could simply say what’s on our minds without fear of offending? What if we were able to open our eyes to the “freaks” of the world and learn from them? What if the only true difference between us and them is the fear? What if, we simply learn to embrace the differences in others as just one more opportunity to learn about ourselves and each other?

Until next time, my friends, I leave you with this thought….what if all it takes to accept each other is just a little bit of uncommon sense?

That Night

That Night

It’s finally over.   The chaos, the stress, the panic and the spending of the holiday season ends at the close of the day today.  I am not disappointed.    This holiday season especially, I encountered many who were struggling with the time of year as they reflected on their lives.   The end of year mirror is not a kind one for most.  It shows where we are and who we are, not where we wanted to be or who we wanted to have become.

Christmas and New Years bring expectation.   In our minds, we expect things to go a certain way, people to act in a certain manner, family to do what we expect, food to present and taste a certain way and most importantly, we expect to FEEL a certain way.    When even ONE piece is out of place, well, we are blinded to even the most positive moments.

Each year, we approach the holiday season expecting.   Sometimes our expectations are met, sometimes they are exceeded, but most often, they fall short.   Our lives are not picture-perfect Christmas cards. Our families are not from the best-selling made-for-tv movie and our romantic interests are not “Prince Charming” or “Cinderella” and may not exist or be present at all.

This is not a bleak, depressing blog post.    This post is also NOT what you might expect. It is our expectations that lead to our downfall.  It is the expectation that disappoints, not a person, place or event.  Expectation  alters reality.

Think for a moment about your favourite way to relax on your own.   How do you enjoy your alone time?   Does it involve a fire, a glass of wine, a great movie perhaps?  Is it a bubble bath, a long walk, a hot cup of coffee under a fuzzy blanket with your pet?   How is it that on New Year’s Eve, when you find yourself alone, those things suddenly don’t bring you joy and comfort?    The components are all the same.   You have all of the tools you need to be content and even happy, yet, because it is “THAT NIGHT”, you are not able to see reality.   You expect THAT NIGHT to be different.   You expect to suddenly be happy for a different reason.  You expect that you no longer need the tools that always make you happy, because magically, you just will be.   The magic of the season will suddenly alter reality and your entire world for that moment in time will change.  You will be a different person.  You will be happy with other things other than those that have made you happy all along.     THAT NIGHT is a myth.

THAT NIGHT is only just a night.    THAT NIGHT has been given far too much importance.   In perspective, it is ONE night out of 365 nights of the year.   There are 364 nights that do not bring the stress and expectation of THAT NIGHT, so why not treat it as such?    It is NOT a significant part of the year, and so it follows, it is NOT a significant part of your life.    If you are fortunate enough to have reason to celebrate, by all means, do so… as you should any other opportunity that presents itself!   Any reason to celebrate is a good one.  If your reality is THAT NIGHT is no different than any other, then, do something that brings you comfort and peace.  Treat THAT NIGHT for what it is… another opportunity to celebrate YOU, to be grateful for your life and all of the good things that you have found among the other 364 nights.

THAT NIGHT is over for another year, but there will be another one, next year, same time.   You have 364 nights ahead of you until then to celebrate.  Celebrate with joy and without expectation.  Celebrate every opportunity you are able and when THAT NIGHT comes again, remember it is only a small part of the celebration of life.   It is one night.   THAT NIGHT will never be as dark as it once was.

Until next time, my friends, use some uncommon sense and don’t wait for THAT NIGHT to celebrate YOU!

Rediscovering Reality

Rediscovering Reality

Blogging is a porthole to the unconscious genius.  We learn through actions and experiences.  We learn by taking chances  and by putting ourselves in positions to be vulnerable.  My blog is an exercise. It’s about learning how to tap into the”stream of consciousness” that, I’m told,  makes the best kind of writer.    I am my own worst critic and my best (or worst) self-editor.   I will often write a sentence and go back and delete it, telling myself it is silly, or not good enough.

The blogging is my “no-editing” exercise.  It’s about teaching and training myself to just WRITE and to not think, edit, or criticize.  We all know too well that there is always a plethora of critics who are only too willing to correct, adjust or dispute.     I don’t profess to be the “best” writer, or even a “good” one.    Put most simply, I want to write and work on improving.  I want to learn and experience the literary world from a different perspective. When I think of my future, I see writing.   At this stage, I have no idea what “genre” that might be, but quite frankly, and to no surprise to those who know me well, I vehemently object to having to classify my writing at all!

Writing, for me, is about self-expression.   It is a way to organize the loud and occasionally obnoxious thought-noise in my brain.   It is how I sort through the feelings, emotions and instincts that otherwise would be cloudy and overshadowed by the to do lists, day to day drama and the chaos that is daily life.

A while ago, a dear friend asked me to join her at a soul collage.   I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the experience, but standing by my personal commitment to always remain open to new experiences, I agreed to attend.       What the heck is a “soul collage”?  I was sure I was out of my comfort zone with this venture and was soon proven correct.

The day went something like this.  A group of us congregated in a room with stacks of magazines and books, far too numerous to count.   We were asked to browse through the magazines and when a photograph we encountered gave us reason to pause, we were to rip it out and continue the process.  We were asked to try not to think , just rip.   After a few hours of nothing much but the noise of a dozen women ripping magazines, we were then asked to group the pictures we had selected into relevant stacks, without giving thought to the significance for their grouping.

The final stage of the exercise was to select one of the groupings and create a 4×6 card collage of select images from that pile.     Once completed, we were to look and concentrate on the finished card and complete the phrase,  “I am the one who……” Staring at the card, the answer was to be the first to mind, with no analysis or over-thinking. .  We were to continue repeating the same phrase and filling in the blank, staring at the card, until answers no longer came to mind.     At that point, the card was set aside and we were given a moment to absorb our answers and ponder their significance.

Okay, so the whole thing sounds bizarre as I type, but quite frankly, it was interesting if not a bit unnerving.  Thoughts and ideas were uncovered through the process that were true, but had been suppressed and up to that point, we had been unable to identify or put into words.

The experience made me wonder how, as we get older, our basic thoughts and feelings get buried, complicated and tangled into other emotions that prevent their true expression and understanding.  We misconstrue one emotion for another. We have learned to ignore our gut instinct and act logically.    The irony is that our thoughts are untrustworthy. Thoughts are influenced by environment, emotion, stress, and our state of well-being.  Our thoughts are fickle and complicated.   Only our gut instinct, unhindered by our brain,  can be trusted to steer us in the right direction.

Ironically, many of us have learned not to trust our instincts.  We have let our fickle brain override intuition, our most honest, unedited guide.   We instinctively know more that we give ourselves credit for.  Perhaps because we have listened to external voices more often that our own internal ones.

We need to relearn all of the instinctual, intuitive signals we all possess.  We need to rediscover our true selves all over again.  We need to pay attention to our gut instincts guiding us to things that make us happy and bring us peace.   We need to trust in ourselves, believe in who we are and listen to the inner voice that knows us better than anyone has ever or will ever know.   Happiness is just that far away…. if we just relax, open up, and focus on the uncommon sense.

Until next time, my friends, thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you.

Smile Power

Smile Power

Surprises can be good, bad, or just downright ugly.   I have yet to decide if I like surprises or if they are just something I have come to expect, tolerate and strive endlessly to prepare for.  The irony is that I almost always fail to be prepared when the surprise inevitably comes.

I am smart, wise, and  have an extraordinary intuitive sense. Consequently, I have come to expect a great deal from the world.  I expect to know  what is going to happen next. I expect to be prepared for anything. I expect to react perfectly and appropriately when a “surprise” comes because I am smart enough to know it was coming.  There really are no surprises anymore because I know what everyone planning ahead of time.  I am wise to everyone’s motives and behaviors.  Before anything happens, I have figured it all out.   I know what gift is going to be bought, what plans are being made, how someone is going to react and what the next move is going to be.   I am all over the hints, innuendos and behaviors of those around me.    I just KNOW it all….. but I don’t really!

The need to figure everything out stems from fear.  It’s the fear of losing control, the fear of not being able to react perfectly and respond exactly the way I would want to in any situation.  It’s the fear of not feeling confident or not appearing “wise and wonderful”.    The irony is that we are our best, true selves in those moments when we are NOT confident, controlled and scripted.   It is at those times when we are most human, showing our faults and weaknesses when we are most respected and trusted.    It is in those moments when we simply embrace being simply human.

I laugh at myself constantly.  The more consumed I become with life and it’s to do lists, the more mistakes I make… .and silly ones too!   I have made coffee without the coffee.  I have put the cereal box in the refrigerator.  I have walked the dog twice in the same hour and I can’t begin to guess at how many times I could not remember unplugging my hair styling appliances before leaving the house!

With age and added responsibility, I become more absent-minded.   Sometimes on a Saturday, my brain turns off completely.  I walk in a fog and do really silly things.   In those brain-fogs, I can’t make a decision if my life depends on it.    My brain needs a rest.    In those crazy, brain-dead moments,  surprises are most effective.  In those moments, when my wall  is down and I’m not paying attention, when I’m not firing all cylinders, those around  me can do essentially anything and pull it off without me suspecting a thing ahead of time!

Years ago, brain fogs did not happen in the same way, with anywhere near the same frequency.   Years ago, when I had a brain lapse, I would reprimand myself.   Today, I laugh it off.   I hope others can laugh lightheartedly  and I encourage them to laugh with me.   I am more eager for the laughter and smiles than approval.   I am no longer striving to be accepted.  I am striving to be happy.   If forgetting to add cheese to the grilled cheese is what will make others laugh and have a funny story to share, then I  have given a gift worth far more than any lesson I could learn for messing up my lunch!

One of the best things we learn as we get older is that it just simply doesn’t matter anymore.   The everyday stuff that consumes us with worry and stress is just not what is most important.    Striving to be perfect and in control is only adding stress to our lives and the lives of those around us.  Today, let’s just celebrate who we are.  Let’s embrace our idiosyncracies, set new goals and figure out a new way to live our lives.  Let’s laugh at ourselves and at each other with no other purpose than to laugh.   Let’s smile and appreciate ourselves and each other.  We need to cherish and respect who we are,  together and on our own.

Bring on the surprises!   Our ability to smile and laugh is our greatest gift.   No matter how hard we work to control our lives and what happens around us, no one and nothing can ever surpass the power of a smile.

Until next time, be happy and have some uncommon sense! 🙂

Unselfishly Selfish

Unselfishly Selfish

A few years back, I sat in the driver’s seat of my car and told my young daughter that the most unselfish acts in the world are essentially selfish ones. She gave me a look then that would make you giggle.   “Oh Mama”, she said, “you make my brain hurt!”

I laughed in the moment then and went on to explain that we do good deeds to feel good, because we get something back in return. The end goal is always our benefit, otherwise we would not do it.  It’s for certain that we would not do it again!

Happiness is not as complicated as it seems. Really it isn’t!  If, I told her, we do things for others because we feel good, then why not do even more?  It seems to me, the more we do for others, the more we benefit and the happier we feel. It follows that we will want to do even more because we are just basically selfish and strive to make ourselves the happiest we can be.

At a time where the world is in an ever-increasing state of unrest, we focus on war, violence and hate. Daily we push our way to the front of the line and close traffic gaps to not let anyone merge into our lane. We grab the last item on the shelf before anyone else, if it is the object of our desire. We don’t return shopping carts to their rightful place, for fear of losing those few valuable moments that could be used elsewhere. We pay no heed to the potential damage that could ensue. What do we care? Why should we care?  These things won’t affect us!  We WILL get to the front of the line. We won’t get delayed by that ONE car we let in front of us. We don’t starve because we did beat that sad old lady to get that last can of tomatoes. We were able to save valuable time by not having to return that shopping cart!  That cart won’t roll into the side of MY car! It’s not MY problem now.

What about the counter top in the public washroom left saturated with water after your son washed his hands?  Someone gets paid to clean that, after all. You ARE helping someone stay employed. You are a GOOD contributing member of society!  You were able to get your son to clean his hands. You are a GREAT parent!  You saved TIME. You are wise AND efficient!   You are a benefit to society. You should be given a medal!  You have set such a great example and know that your son will grow up to be just like you. Lucky you!  You must be so proud of your accomplishments! Well, maybe not so much!

A dear friend once gave me a solid bit of advice that has stuck with me for years.  He said, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”  I had no idea then how many times these same words would echo in my mind. I used to roll my eyes at his endless, repetitive ranting, but his words rang true then as they do now.

So maybe instead of pushing our way to the front of the line, we take our time to meet a new friend through the wait.  Instead of taking the last item on the shelf at the grocery store, we let the old lady spend her remaining pension money for her dinner.  Perhaps instead of leaving the cart in the parking lot, you return it to its carousel so Fred doesn’t have to pay for the car repairs out of his last pay cheque.  As for the sink in the washroom, why not just tidy up after yourself?  Perhaps you will save someone grief, perhaps you will save someone from damaging a new suit. Maybe, a good deed and some uncommon sense might just make someone smile.

In a hard world full of anger and violence, the gift of a smile is a great one and nets a far greatest rate of return than being first!  Go ahead and make yourself happy.  Be selfish and give because it is, of course, all about you.

Be happy. Give a lot. Love “for all you’re worth”.

Until next time, have some uncommon sense.