Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tools to Reflect upon

So in my last blog entry, "It's All in the Title", I spoke of the universal meaning behind my blog title, "Challenging Barriers". Life can present to us so many different challenges and barriers we must face, stand up to, and/or get around. But we also have a variety of tools for us to use as a form of aid. What I call "tools of hope" are not the carpentry kind, they are not
but rather people, services, exercises or any other kind of outlet. I referred to one of my "tools of hope" being writing. But it could also be painting, playing a musical instrument, reading...... the list could on. I suppose a "tool of hope" could be carpentry or building in some manner, but I'm meaning a more spiritual or emotional tool that helps us work through stuff as opposed to the actual hammer.

 All of these independent "tools" are great, but quite often people more need "tools" to connect us with support in some way. Although I suppose those connections can also manifest themselves through independent "tools".
(If this is confusing at all, I think you'll come to an understanding soon enough.)

Over the course of the next while (perhaps beginning in the new year) I've decided to write into my blog a series of posts that will shed some light on some of these "tools of hope". There are quite a few in today's society, all over the world in fact, but I can't write about them all; so I'll just write about those closest to me. One's that I know about or have been part of in some way. It's funny, I used to think that when volunteering or donating one should keep it to him or herself. It was and is supposed to be about giving and not receiving any type of personal gain or pat on the back. Now I think differently...... it should still not be about personal gain, but it should include things like learning, sharing, growing and maybe even inspiring others to extend their own hands. There's no other way to do that than to talk about it. And I suppose there's nothing wrong with a little pat on the back.

Through these posts I'll share my thoughts on these wonderful "tools", provide some information, add a link for you to visit if interest strikes, and maybe just bring about some awareness of those that try and offer help where needed. With the craziness of the busy lives we tend to lead I don't know if people are always aware. Perhaps they, you, and me, need to be reminded. Also, as it turns out, this happens to be a great time of the year to begin reflecting upon something like hope.

So I hope everyone enjoys the magic of this beautiful season, share it with family and friends, and give a little thought to all those wonderful "tools" out there, some of which you'll be able to read about here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's All in the Title

You don't know this person; but this person represents a lot of things.

This is someone with a learning disability;
This is that boy in school that got bullied every single day;
This is the woman who just walked away from an abusive relationship;
This is that guy who recently lost his job and can now barely afford to keep the roof over his and his family's head;
This is a student who just failed her first class and is afraid to face her parents with the news;
This is someone who cheated on their spouse and is now afraid of losing the best thing they ever had;
This is that teen who was told, "No, you can't come home."
This is the genius disguised as a homeless bum because he can't catch a break.;
This is someone who has been told he won't live to see his child grow up because he has Cancer;
This is someone who is afraid.

The other day I was talking to someone about my passion for writing, a subject I can go on and on about. I told him how I not only enjoy scribbling down the stories playing throughout my head but that I also felt writing to be very therapeutic. I told this person that through writing I believe we can learn, grow and heal; and exercising the imagination with pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) can be good for the soul.
At this point of the conversation I was asked about how I came to choosing the title "Challenging Barriers". The explanation I gave was this: As much as writing this blog may have sprung up from my brain injury, and as much as I litter my posts with stories about my life and my opinions, Challenging Barriers is only a teenie-tiny bit about me. Challenging Barriers is a universal thing I think everyone feels or goes through or lives with.

The image above is accompanied by a list that can go on and on. (just like me talking about my writing) We all have our Challenging Barriers. They are all different, and in some ways, all the same. We have to leap frog them, go around them, beat them back....... acknowledge them....... and sometimes even embrace them. And I say them because I mean them, as in more than one. Because I'm not just talking about a disability or illness, I'm also referring to the ones mentioned above and those that aren't there, like someone who juggles two jobs to make ends meet and also lives with constant migraines or someone feeling all alone.

Some of our barriers we are able to shake and walk away from, some drift in and out of our lives, some change, some we live with forever. But just as we have, in some form or another, those Challenging Barriers in common....... we also share something else. That something else is depicted in that imagine above, in that "someones" hands. It is hope. And that idea of hope is transformed into an object we can use, or something that we do or have in our lives. That hope gives us light, clarity, happiness, and strength. It allows us to face, stare down, and deal with our barriers.

Some of my "tools of hope" are: family, friends, and writing........ and chocolate ice cream helps too. :)

I believe we are all stronger than we give ourselves credit, but we also all need a little help sometimes, or even just an ear to tug. If you don't feel like you have that, I'm always here, pretty easy to find. I don't mind being one of your "tools" when dealing with those pesky Challenging Barriers.
Because Challenging Barriers are just that, challenging; not the end of the road. And no one should have to face the challenge alone.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sprinkles On a Page

There are a lot of things in my life that I am proud of, and that includes the written word I share though this very blog, articles, short stories, my novels..... it could on. Writing for me is a very personal thing, whether it be a fictional story or my expressed opinion, I'm sharing parts of my inner soul.
Now I said that I am proud of a lot of things, but they are all on my own made up scale, some meaning more than others. When it comes to writing I refer to my first published novel, "Chronicles of a Girl". But let me back track a bit and give you a brief history.

Creativity has been part of who I am for a very, very, long time. In my younger years before entering high school I enjoyed the art of storytelling and I did manage to occasionally put pen to paper and churn out a book; never published, but a great literary piece non-the-less. I present to you "Donneedon Adventure."

It was loosely based (at least the title) on an educational television series I was watching in school at the time, (called "Read All About It") but mainly it chronicled the tale of my best friend and I and the adventurous stories we put ourselves through in the neighborhood we grew up in; with a space theme to it. I also wrote "I Hate Johnny" and "Land of the Pips".

Once I moved into high school though, I put my storytelling pen away and focused on school work. I thoroughly enjoyed two classes, Media English and Art. I loved the essays we got to write after reading "Catcher in the Rye" or watching "Good Morning, Vietnam". And drawing in art class was a form of expression enjoyed so much that I tried to carry it
over into my college years. I liked creating visual images with my pencil, an outlet of the ideas I manufactured in my brain. Achieving my "Graphic Design" diploma though never quite turned out to be much in the way of a career down that path. I tried, but it was hard for me with all of this new technology that seemed to be part of the design world. My schooling was just on the cusp of things I guess and I never got much of any educational training in it...... but to face facts, the technical aspect of it was just too much for my little brain to handle.

So, that summer I spent my time visiting with my Grandfather, in the little town of Sutton, where I currently live. I began volunteering down the road from our house at the historical Red Barn theatre. (Sadly it caught fire and burnt down in 2008) I say that I began volunteering because within weeks it turned into a job that lasted eight years. Working in stage production and being part of this creative world was something I became hooked on very quickly. I was involved in helping to set decorate, set design, collect and create props, and I learned a lot about lighting and sound and all that neat theatre stuff! I even got to sit back stage and operate some puppets for a show one time. Something else I really enjoyed was that for the first time, not only was I participating in the creative process, but I got to see the outcome it bestowed onto people. The laughter of the audience, the reviews, and the Q & A sessions we did for the few children shows we had.
Another thing the theatre did for me was rekindle my enjoyment of writing. Part of my job was to read through the scripts to get an idea of the show. I began thinking that these stories could, or should, have this in it or that placed there. I thought, I could write something like this.

That path lead me to try and join a summer school course for script writing, but not enough people signed up, so it was cancelled. I was disappointed but not discouraged, and after some thought I decided to enroll in a Creative Writing program with the Stratford Career Institute. Because this two year program was done through correspondence I managed to graduate within one year and a few months. I was really into the lessons on "Scene & Structure", "Theme & Strategy" and "Characters & Viewpoint" to name a few. After I graduated I began writing articles and short stories and my ideas were all generated from personal experiences and growth. Some things were published, quite a bit were not. But it was all a growing exercise for me, which I needed, and I don't regret the path I've taken at all.

I started out writing "Chronicles of a Girl" as a short story about a young girl going through tough times and overcoming things, and like my creative path, it grew. My main character, Chloe Anderson, took over (so to speak) and when I was done I had a two hundred and seventy five page manuscript in front of me. I had ideas for a follow up (which I just released) and even a third. (working on it)
I may have jumped into the publishing world a little too quickly and I got myself caught in some rocky terrain that I had to work my way through, but I think it was worth it..... for me anyway. Some big bumps were overcome but I am sure there are more still out there to deal with, and I can only handle them at my speed and in my way, not anyone else's; although advice from others always helps.
Growing and learning, for me, never gets old.
Before I published my second book I was told that maybe I should learn from those rough patches that I encountered, before, during, and after my first book and forget about the continuation of the "Chronicles..." series and start fresh. While I definitely learn, or try to learn, from EVERY rough patch, I cannot forget about Chloe Anderson. She has a story to tell, I have a story to tell, I am her Ghost Writer, and I cannot turn my back to that. I'm ready for any difficulties that may come at me, just as she is. At the core of it, unseen in the pages, "Chronicles of a Girl" is the "chronicles of Mark and his creative path". Every thing I do, every page I write, every word I utter, has a sprinkle of me.

I think none of us should give up on our dreams, to turn away, and force our "sprinkles" into another direction. We all have a talent, something we can do that we enjoy and are good at, and it should be, at the very least, considered. So don't give, because I'm not going to.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dreams & a Cricket Named Jiminy

One of my most favorite new shows on television is called Once Upon a Time....... a modern day story, or fairy tale, about a mixture of fairy tales that I grew up reading or watching in the movies. Snow White, Cinderella, Pinocchio, etc.... I find a lot of the stories and characters in this show rather neat, but what I find most interesting is that according to this tale, the modern day Jiminy Cricket, in real life, is a psychiatrist. Archie Hopper is his new name.
Jiminy is most famous for his friend made of wood with the growing nose, and that beautiful song he sings, When You Wish Upon a Star. A classic song that tells us all there is no harm in having dreams. The song goes even further to speak about not giving up on what you believe in and that you have a vast array of choices in life, no matter who you are. (including being a boy made of wood with a nose that grows every time you lie)

I believe that life is about dreams and possibilities, but it is also about being grounded and realistic.
People who reach for the stars and never quite get there and may find themselves lost at times, are often referred to as "dreamers". Is this a bad thing? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I myself am a writer that quite often lives in an imaginary dream world. (I once took one of those personality tests that I had a friend send me, it was found online, and the conclusion was, that in fact, I am a "dreamer".) But I also have many responsibilities right here in the "real" world that I take seriously, and along with those pesky bills that keep coming to my house, I always have at least one foot (or toe) grounded in reality.

There is nothing wrong with dreaming. I love star gazing and once and a while wishing on one of those stars up in the sky. I tend to daydream on occasion too, staring often into nothingness while my mind enters another place. But I try my best to keep my head about me and I know that some dreams are only meant to be dreams. I don't think I really would want them all to come true anyway. So I try my best to stay on that fine line between the dream world and the reality one. And that is why I find the choice of Jiminy's alter ego being Archie Hopper such an interesting mix. Just like the dreams of life I suppose.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I See 'Lites'

I'm not referring to the Christmas lights I recently put up around the outside of my house, the weather was just too good to pass up. Not doing it when the wind is blowing and the snow is falling and my fingers are freezing from the frigid temperatures is not going to be missed. However, the 'Lites' I am talking about does have to do with Christmas.

Christmas Lites is an anthology of short stories, all surrounding the theme of Christmas, that was put together by the Creative Reviews group. A group of people with an interest in the written word and a good heart..... or hearts. I include their hearts because all proceeds of this book are going toward the NCADV organization (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence) and ebooks are being sent to troops overseas. There are many people to thank for contributing to this, but I name the above mentioned on the book cover, Amy Eye, Cambria Hebert & Jenn Pringle.

The moment I read Jenn's blog about this endeavor, I just knew I had to get involved. The thought of combining two of my greatest passions, writing and giving back, (donating/fundraising, volunteering) couldn't be passed up! It was nice to see something like this and to be able to get involved.

Regardless of selling the two books I've written, writing has always come naturally to me and is fairly easy when compared to giving back. Being compassionate and caring and helping out has also always been part of my nature, but it can bring on it's headaches. You would think that outreached hands to volunteer would always be accepted, but that is not so. And I'm not talking about simply being turned away because of an overabundance of help (though if that's the case that would be fine.... terrific in fact) or not meeting certain requirements, I'm talking about not even getting a response to your pledge. But I try not to let this get me down too much, and move on.
Then there is the dilemma of the donation, because it seems once you donate you become a target. If I was a Millionaire I'd love to donate to every worthy cause, but I'm not a Millionaire and simply can't. This year, from I'd say October 1st up to yesterday, I have been bombarded with an onslaught of mailings from some very worthy organizations. So this passion for giving back can not only bring about frustration but a certain amount of guilt.
Yes, I feel guilty for not being able to contribute what I don't have. But that's me.

So this book, 'Christmas Lites' was a perfect way to lend out some of my "Giving Spirit". I hope that anybody reading my post or hearing about this book elsewhere will buy a copy and be part of the Spirit. (I'll leave a comment about where to buy it and the price when I get that info) It is projects like this, with the people involved, that help me see what it is all about when I sometimes lose sight.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm In It

Life can be hard! Life can suck! The ugliness it can offer tends to creep up on me, more often than I'd like.  But anyone who knows me, or even anyone who has read these blog posts I've written, knows that I have made a choice. That choice has been to remain positive, and for the most part I do. I try to see things in a simplistic way. I focus on beauty and love, peace and goodwill. I have faith.
But there are times I see problems in my choice. Not because I see problems in being that way, I believe in seeing the light in everything and I know that deep down it is who I am. Call it what you will, but I really do think it is the way everyone should be. The problem is making mistakes, personal mistakes, and not being able to see through or past them. One or two isn't that bad, but eventually it starts getting foggy if you can't let go. And the silver lining that I always look for becomes a struggle to grasp onto.

I've made both financial and emotional mistakes. I won't really get into the financial ones (of course one could say that since I have a good roof over my head and haven't gotten into any serious debt, I'm fine) but I can tell you that these things can make you second guess yourself. As can the emotional ones. There are times I'm pretty sure I say the wrong thing..... or perhaps too much...... or maybe even too little. I have come to learn that sometimes, even saying nothing, can lead to problems; because someone else comes to the conclusion in their head that there is a reason I'm saying nothing....... usually one that is bad. It never seems to be "Oh, he's just happy", or "He's comfortable". Maybe sharing my personal views on this blog is a mistake. I like to think not, I like to stay positive about it, but who knows.

I'd like to say that I learn from my mistakes, but I am not entirely sure that I do. Fact is I am happy with my life; I always have been.... or at least I try to be. I love the people in my life and the things they have brought to it. I enjoy my writing and I enjoy my work. But I can't get around my mistakes, no matter how positive and happy I try to be. I don't understand. I live with confusion.
One thing I do know though, is that I'm in it; life. I'm not gone and I'm not going anywhere. (not by choice anyway) I make mistakes, I'm not sure how to fix them or keep from making them. I don't know how much I'll ever understand or how long I'll stay confused about certain things. But like I said at the beginning, I try to focus more on beauty and love, peace and goodwill. That helps balance things.
I have faith and I'm going to keep it.....mistakes and all.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Matter & Mind, Two of a Kind

I'm sure you've all heard of the saying "mind over matter" when faced with an obstacle or challenge; that you can overcome almost anything if you put your mind to. It is true. I totally believe in the concept that our mind and our will is an immensely powerful tool that can be used to climb up and rise above. But lately I have wondered if others looking in from the outside really see things that we do, or are trying to do, as mind over matter. Do they not really see matter over mind?
Let me explain a little more. Mind is something very similar to conviction or faith, Matter is more like a tangible object. Matter is the easy road, (in some ways) Mind is more difficult.
It is easier to stay on common ground, go with the flow and even jump to conclusions than it is to take the high road  and be patient and think things through. And sometimes it is easier to hear than listen.

I am a hard working individual, (really) I have a strong work ethic. I am reliable and dependable. I am patient and think things through and can be creative. I get the job done and don't really say a whole lot along the way. I realize that staying quiet may at times be a hindrance, but I like, and sometimes need, to stay focused and concentrate on the task at hand. I have a learning disability that can make things difficult for me. I also have responsibilities that I cannot and will not shirk.
So there are times I feel I am viewed as a hard working individual who can get the job done regardless of what I say, because my words that are heard are overshadowed by what people see. And that is when it becomes matter over mind.

My mom sustained a brain injury quite a few years ago and has since worked hard to accomplish a lot. She attends an Aphasia program and it has helped her in so many ways. I am so proud of her!  She once put together a speech (with the aid of myself and her PSW) on her life and injury. She presented this speech at an Ontario March of Dimes conference in front of a large room for of people. She was featured in both the Aphasia and OMOD newsletter. She is a very social and friendly person. It is in her nature to help people out where she can. She has a walking cain but does very well without when she is in familiar territory.
When I tell people of her disability, they express their sympathies over the situation. But when some people meet her that sympathy changes just a bit. Don't get me wrong, I don't think anyone should be getting constant sympathy and I would NEVER want a disability to overshadow the person. But when people who do not know her that well or see her that often, see her smile, hear her cheerful tone and see her walking around, they forget. They don't see the inner struggle, the work that she puts forth in doing those great things she does. It becomes matter over mind.

I know we don't really want to be in a situation like this, but let's just say if you were to view, from a distance, two little girls, crying, which one would you go to? Let me add the scenario; Girl A is 15 years old, sitting on the stoop in her backyard, alone, everyone else inside. Girl B is 7 years old and outside as well, but at a street corner in her community. Again, no one around. She is kneeling on the pavement beside her bicycle. Her knees and hands are scraped and there is a bleeding cut on her forehead. (I added a little more detail to girl B because it is more visual)
So really, who would you go to?
I'm guessing most people would go to girl B because it is obvious why she is crying. She fell off of her bike and injured herself. Going about lending a hand, fixing the problem or getting help is pretty easy to determine. Girl A could be crying because she is in her backyard alone, but that could be easily fixed by going inside, that should be obvious even to the girl. Perhaps it is a funeral and her mom just died. Maybe her parents are getting divorced. She could be upset over a teenage romantic break up, or even worse, an assault. This girl could need advice or just someone to listen to her problems..... maybe that is it, maybe she feels she needs these things and is being neglected. (Notice how girl A now has more details?)

My point is matter over mind. Girl B's problem is seen and probably won't take up much time to fix or figure out; it is a physical, tangible problem. Girl A is going to need patience, understanding, require listening and may lead to something else that can't be seen.

Whether the situation is girl A, girl B, my mom, myself, or anyone else, there should be no difference. It shouldn't be matter over mind, nor should it be mind over matter. Mind and Matter are the same thing, those important, precious details that are part of life; part of our individuality. It could be our own mind or another person's mindset, our own matter (our physical self) or any and all outside influences.  Doing the best you can for yourself and others is what's important........ there is no variance, it just is what it is.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I see it in my dreams; I see it first thing in the morning when I wake up and rub the sleep out of my eyes; I see it when I'm looking out the window or standing by the lake looking out over the rippling water to the distant land on the other side. I often find myself staring off into nothingness, thinking about this or that or even nothing at all; and when I close my eyes, it's there. It is a shimmer of sliver, flowing like the Aurora Borealis, always within view whenever I'm looking for it.
During my childhood and teenage years I dealt with some personal setbacks and a lot of confusion, and I would have said that there was no silver back then, but I know now that I would have been wrong. I just didn't see it. Whether it be self-preservation, family, friends or other circumstances, I got through all of it. The saying "Every dark cloud has a silver lining" is true....... at least for me it is.
To me silver represents second chances, positivity, strength, determination, realization, guidance, and hope.

A middle aged woman fell and hit her head in such a way that the result was the need for brain surgery to remove a blood clot. Sure she has endured some physical and mental setbacks, but I don't remember ever seeing my mom as happy and relaxed as she is now and has been pretty much ever sense. The fall and the surgery were horrible things to go through, but there was a beautiful silver lining.

For all the barriers and challenges life has thrown at me there is silver, lining the way through it all. It is there in the love that I share with my family and my friends. It is in the beautiful eyes of my four and half month old niece. Silver is a blessing and it should be a way of life. Even though it may not be an object that we can physically touch, we can sure feel it and hold on to it.

Some of the worlds most tragic events have had rising stars come out of the ashes. A silver lining is found and followed and it can lead to some pretty amazing things. I do not think there will ever be a cure to avoiding the harshness that can fall into our lives, but I do know that if we keep our eyes open there will always be a silver rope pulling us up or a shimmer guiding our path. My eyes opened up to it quite a few years ago and I see it more and more all the time. I see it with my eyes and feel it with my heart.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Overlooked Importance

A few weeks ago I had a bit of a mishap and my finger suffered for it. Without going into too much detail, I injured myself pretty bad and required five stitches. It was my index finger, the tip end, and I was told I needed to keep it elevated and that I should not only avoid using the finger, but the entire hand, if I could.
The injury and the pain that came along with it told me that this was no joke. I understood that keeping it rested and dry and wrapped up, at least until the stitches could be removed, was a necessity.  When the nurse’s said “do not use the hand for the next few days,” they meant it. I figured I still had three good fingers and a thumb. But using those appendages meant using the hand and that just aggravated the wound and I wound up going back to the clinic to have my finger looked at and re-wrapped. (So much for what I 'figured' I knew.) After that I made sure to only use the one, uninjured hand, as much as I could. It was frustrating to say the least; though the throbbing and shooting pain that emerged every once and a while kept me in check.

I am a writer; my book(s), my blog, my short stories; I love to write. I am also a two finger keyboard specialist, and you guessed it, those two fingers I use are my index ones. So when I say this put somewhat of a damper on things, I am not kidding. Of course, I could still use one hand with certain chores over the next few days and then slowly make some alterations to re-using my right hand without the one finger, but it hasn’t been easy.
I type a little different and by avoiding the use of something I’ve been used to using for so long, I find myself making more typos than usual. I’ve had to re-think about the way to proceed with certain things; brushing my teeth, opening up a can of food, unlocking the front door with the key, etc…… Part of our lawn requires the use of a push mower and it took me some time to ponder over just how I would pull the cord to start it.

My finger is healing nicely and starting to look somewhat normal again. The feel of it is a different story, and I still cannot really make use of it. The other day I had ‘Rogers in Demand’ hooked up to my television, and a service guy did come out to do it, but when I was required on my own to change a cable, it was so much harder than I would have thought. I would normally use my right hand with my thumb and index finger. I was stumped and it took a while for me to accomplish a task which I would never really have given much thought to before.

Over the course of these last few weeks I have been giving a lot of thought to the things we rely on and never think much about until we lose them. Life has given us so many precious things, big and small. We need to start realizing them all and not take them for granted. There are people who have lost the gifts of seeing a beautiful sunset, or being able to hold a loved ones hand. Could you imagine? Really, could you?
My finger will heal and I’ll be using it again I’m sure, but some injuries don’t heal. That’s why we need to appreciate and understand these gifts; because once we do, we really learn how to move forward and adapt. Understanding disability or loss is what helps give us the power to accomplish things we thought unattainable. Big or small, seen or unseen, all things are important. Nothing should be taken for granted or overlooked.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


The definition of someone who has a disability could be: "Someone who works hard to achieve the most amazing results." Fact is, you don't have to be sitting in a wheelchair or dealing with some on going disease to simply become depressed and give up on life.

I have overcome my own barriers in life to achieve success in quite a few arenas and there is a whole lot of proof that tells or shows us that others have too. My mother, who deals with her own disability, has come so far and is doing so well in not only my eyes, but the multiple eyes of others. My mother attends an Aphasia program (a program for people with communication disorders) as well as being a client with the Ontario March of Dimes. Through these two organizations I have met some people who've suffered from stroke, aneurysms, heart attacks, people who live with the aid of a wheelchair or walker; the list can go on. The stories I read and the people I see on television; it is amazing! The things people with a disability can accomplish.

The other day I watched a great movie called Soul Surfer, a story based on the real life events of Bethany Hamilton.; A girl who at the young age of thirteen was attacked by a shark and lost her arm. Her faith and determination were truly inspiring! It was the documentary after the film that really got to me; to hear her own words.

People are capable of so much and it is beautiful to watch them stand tall and overshadow any barriers in life that they run into, to accomplish things. Some of us need to be reminded of this every-so-often, because that term disability, or even the phrase of needing to overcome a barrier(s), can sometimes paint a damaging picture; for others as well in our own minds. The word disability can sound awful, but it can really be a beautiful thing. We just need to learn to focus on the content inside and not just the word.

We all have our own strengths to contribute.
No one is the same, but we are ALL equal.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Three C's

One of my past jobs included a supervisory position that had me hire, interact and manage staff. Because of various circumstances surrounding me at the time, my job was, you could say, made difficult. But I tried to make things work and I think for the most part did a pretty good job. I had things well organized and planned out, I kept communication lines open to the best of my ability, information on policies and procedures were made available whenever or where ever needed.
Making sure things run smoothly are not just part of my strong work ethic, but an application I apply, or try to apply, to all things in my life. I believe that if you just take the time and think things through before reacting, get all the information needed to take the proper steps, you can avoid any undo-hardships and stress. Problems may, and on the occasion will, still occur, not turning out like you'd hope, but you'll still be breathing.

Anyway, one of the things I did was to create a bulletin board for the main office (a fair sized one) to hold key information on various things, events, news, etc.... Notices could be put up or taken down whenever appropriate. One poster though, on 11 x 14 inch paper and laminated, remained up always. It was there for myself and all staff to look at everyday, a reminder, and a poster I think maybe all of us should mentally carry in our minds...... 'cause it applies to everything. That poster was titled "The Three C's."
The Three C's are Caring, Courtesy and Common Sense.

Every single person I meet for the the first time automatically receives the benefit of the doubt. Call it being naive or whatever you wish, but I see the good, or want to see the good, in all people. However, I am a cautious person, (another great C word) and whether it happens quickly or gradually I come to the conclusion that the Three C's are just not quite there. Because of my optimistic nature though, I do believe the majority of us carry those C's, only they tend to get buried down deep, tucked away, and for some reason they don't often surface, if at all.
I tend to think that there are three things that get in the way of our Three C's. (Curious play on numbers) One of those things would be laziness; Caring for something that you are doing or for someone who may not fully understand can take up a lot of energy. Then there is the fact that everything and everyone seems to be in a rush; almost always. Things need to done, we need to be places, and the need to do it can mean pushing Common Sense out of the way. Most often Common Sense goes hand in hand with a little thing called patience. Finally, the one I like the least but see every so often, is selfishness, it can be pretty easy to only want to do what's needed for for yourself than extend a simple Courtesy to someone else.

As I said above, I believe the Three C's are within us all. And it is in my opinion that if we pushed some of those other things to the side and allowed our C's to re-surface, we might just find that life is a whole lot more comfortable and easier than we realized. Caring, Courtesy and Common Sense; think about it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Maybe it is because I've been through so much in my life, but those connections that are made through family and friends, and even the odd acquaintance, along with the little moments that they can produce, truly touch my heart. The simplest of gestures or the highly profound actions, they are the things that allow me to enjoy life. 

Let's face it, the days we face, the situations, they can be at times miserable. We come face to face with horrible, shocking and sad realities. It can be hard to go on and see past the darkness. These are the times we have to remember, life is beautiful! We have to be strong and force our way through the quagmire to find that silver lining. Because it is there; in every and all situations. And when I say 'life is beautiful' I'm not just referring to the breathtaking scenery of mother nature, I'm talking about people. Family, friends or strangers can offer the most delicate of flowers when least expected. People can say and/or do the most amazing, sincere, heartfelt things, when they, you or someone else is pinned up against a rock!

I like to think of myself as a strong person. Physically.... maybe, emotionally.... definitely. I've been through some dark times, and I have survived. I will continue to do so. But it is those connections to people, to life, that makes all the difference.

Recently I found myself in a dilemma, I had an accident and was struck with a bit of panic because I didn't want what had happened to me to spill over to my mom and create more worry than necessary. A name popped into my head and I reached out for help. I won't say I was surprised to have received the lending hand, but I was touched by the thoughtfulness that came along with it. This was from a person I had interacted with (briefly) only twice over the last year and a half. It was once a friendship I had sadly thought lost. Whether this friendship is to be rekindled remains a question. But it is the connection, even if small, that is what led to this moment, this thoughtful action. It was this connection that helped me think positively while I got through what I knew I could.
These beautiful connections are all around and can pop up when least expected. We have to keep an eye out for them, really see and except and appreciate them. They are part of the make-up of life. The way I see it, if I allow these connections, big or small, to wash over me, to fill me up, I can get through anything.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Inching Forward

Even if it is a little baby step, one foot or one toe at a time, I like to keep moving forward. Like the title indicates, it is sometimes, most often actually, slow and somewhat cautiously that I do this. It is seldom that I jump out of the gate full steam ahead, taking risks and throwing caution to the wind; but that is not to say it has never happened. I just tend to prefer things slow, (not turtle slow)  but something that I can ease into, something safe, something comfortable.
I have been through a lot in my life and I've learned to relax and enjoy the view, (a quote from my dissertation Breaking Down Barriers and Walking the Path of Accessibility, "For those of us who have come to appreciate a cautious approach to life offer a unique ability for the serene.") but it is also mixed with some of my confusions and misunderstandings and of me being a little scared of what's around the corner. Regardless though, I do move forward.

In the past I have lost friendships, romantic relationships haven't worked out, I've been hurt, I've been looked down on and blamed for things I had nothing to with, I've been left hanging, (receiving no response or feedback to a question or an attempt to make contact; not actually hanging) My hard work ignored and shunned. My stretched out helping hand taken for granted. But, I go on.
I have some great friends and I haven't given up on generating new ones..... same goes for those intimate relationships, work, or whatever else may be the case. Even though sometimes I think people just don't always understand me; that in some way, some how, my learning disability and the illness I encountered comes through and scares people off; or that I act like an idiot and say the wrong thing. Regardless of those few insecurities, I go on. Why? Simply put, because I can. I have a responsibility to continue moving forward...... learning and growing. This responsibility is not only to myself or to my mom who has a disability or to my friends or the fact that I want to be an AWESOME uncle to my new born niece; (though they are all important things) I have a responsibility to life.
I appreciate life and everything about it! I count myself blessed to be here.

I'm sure many of us have been through tough times or currently may still be in one. I'm sure many of us have been let down and hurt; whether physically or emotionally. I'm sure it has been or is hard to go on. But we are not helpless. Maybe if we think of it in terms of responsibility, life and moving on may just become easier. I know that some tasks can become daunting, but for the most part I think the responsibility of taking care of someone or something (a loved one, a child, even a job) become part of the natural flow and we learn to enjoy; even if it is only little moments.
At least that is how I go on. We all can...... Even if it is in inches.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Written Experience

I have always been a creative person and I've been writing now for years. Articles, short stories, long stories, a novel. I have been published a few times and have one book out, "Chronicles of a Girl"; so I can now say I'm not only a writer but a published author. My road to publishing was a bit of a difficult journey. At first though, it was real easy, in fact, probably too easy. While I got all excited about the idea of my story being published for all to see and enjoy, I forgot about one a key element, (at least for me) "proceed with caution and find the right fit." I acted a little too fast and found myself stuck on a foggy road I was unsure of.
To make a long story short and get to the end result, I made it through and I am happy and proud of the fact that I have a novel with my name on it. And now, from experience, I've taken a little more caution toward publishing my second book. I will publish a second, and maybe even a third, fourth...... it could on; and each time I'm sure that the difficult journey will get easier. Publish or not, I will always write. Writing short or long stories, articles or this blog is in my blood and it is my choice. It is my preferred method of communication and in some ways even socialism.

I am a shy and quiet guy, but as I've written about in this series of blog posts, I am also a guy with a learning disability which has presented me with difficulties in keeping up with the pace of most others, hardships understanding things, confusion, frustration and communication barriers. I have difficulty at times finding words in my head and speaking in the moment. As much as I sometimes think ALL of this technology has gone way too far, and I have trouble understanding it, I am so grateful for it at the same time. It is a step up from using pen and paper and can be a better thing if your talent with the pen ain't so great. (I can be rather messy) In the social aspect to it, email gives me time to think about what I'm writing. I get to pause and reflect and even erase. Most of all, I get to make sure that I make sense and that I'll be understood; because there are times I think I'm not. Sometimes I don't even understand myself.
I like being able to express myself and to share. I have things to say and I think my opinions can be valuable. Writing is my chosen format and I believe it is my strength. We should all play to our strengths; not other peoples expectations.
I started this post off saying that I am a creative person. I like to sit down and create my own worlds and characters. I like giving some of those characters skills that I  admire. I like creating dramatic situations and being able to work through without much damage. In the real world it can sometimes get very scary and lonely. No mater what happens in my stories though, my characters will never leave. (Unless I choose for them to) That is something I cannot control in real life, but that is what makes writing such a treasure for me. I get to communicate and do things I have a hard time with in society. I get to learn and understand and grow and that is what helps me enjoy life!

So no matter what difficult road may present itself or the barriers I need to overcome, writing will always be my thing. Whether creatively or socially, it helps me share with others and myself, and I couldn't ask for more than that. Writing is my choice, and it has proven quite an experience. And just as everyone has their own thing, I'm sure that writing still has more to offer me.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Choice of Character

I have quite a few character traits in my life; my own personal character traits and those I write about. The ones I write about and incorporate into the characters I create in my stories are usually the ones I find more exciting. The creative traits I come up with aren't necessarily outer worldly, but when it comes to the "good guy" I tend to take more chances with what my characters do on paper, (because I get to know the outcome ahead of time) as opposed to my REAL life which I go through with just a little more caution. And while occasionally I borrow traits for my fictional characters from others or simply make them up as to what feels right for that person, my main "hero" or "good guy" is given a fair amount of traits I either have, agree with or aspire to.
It is one of the main reasons I write. I enjoy allowing some of those altruistic qualities of a person shine a little more than they sometimes do in REAL life

In REAL life, I try to live with my own altruistic character traits. But I find it hard sometimes to be the person I think I should be. Making the right choice isn't always easy and sometimes I'm afraid of doing something wrong or letting someone down. I just have to remind myself that doing something wrong or letting someone down is bound to happen sometimes; we can't all do everything perfectly. But then sometimes I wonder if thinking that way makes us as perfect as we can be.

I try to live by an unspoken set of rules that are written in my head; although I suppose now they'll be written here. It is not always easy to live by these rules, I sometimes feel I fail or come a little short at certain things, but I try. These rules are borrowed, in part, by Don Miguel Ruiz, who wrote The Four Agreements.

Rule #1 Always give it your best effort.
Rule #2 Choose your words carefully. Even though I am a writer who loves words and think they can be very powerful, meaningful, and descriptive, I think that they can sometimes get in the way.
Rule #3 Learn to let things go. How many of us let one thing ruin an entire day? I've seen someone, surrounded by friends, wallow in misery because of something that happened in the course of 15 minutes at work.
Rule #4 Listen. How many people do you think hear what you say and the noise you make as oppesed to actually listening to your words?
Rule #5  Appreciate. Beautiful things are everywhere and happen all the time.
Rule #6 Take your time. People are always in such a hurry. It can make #1, 2, 4 & 5 problematic.
Rule #7 Don't assume. Everything changes and every thing, situation and person are different.
Rule #8 Be optimistic. If you want life to suck, it will.
Rule #9 Accept. Change is inevitable; different situations will arise; and sometimes, these rules won't apply and/or will need to be changed.

I realize some people may think these rules are lame, but when it comes to that I apply Rule #3. :) Maybe some of you have your own rules in life to help you get through.
These rules help make up the person I am and the character traits that are within me. In life there are so many choices, and like me, I think a lot of us try to make the right one. To be good; to help others; to take the right path. I think it all boils down to our choice of character, who we want to be. And I think making that internal choice, will help with all of those external ones.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


"I give so much more than I get" ~ Michael Buble

Writing this blog popped into my mind this week after my home town suffered a tragedy that has left over 100 people in this small community in dire need and homeless. A fire broke out and destroyed apartment units in a townhouse building complex in the early hours of a Monday morning. Thankfully no one was seriously injured, but much was lost.
People of this town have united with donations of all sorts and are trying to help put those affected back on their feet. Food, clothing and financial aid have been thrown into the pot along with a scheduled fundraiser. The tragedy is sad, but the helping hands are a joy to see.

I wrote a dissertation a while ago, "Breaking Down Barriers & Walking the Path of Accessibility". It is about my life and dealing with my disability, and maybe somewhere along the line my eyes really opened up and I grew an extra heart, (although literally I don't think that would happen; mind you, read my short story called "Heart Beats") and in my dissertation I wrote a chapter (Chapter 8 Pg 28) titled "Extended Hand" where I refer to a dream of mine to be a philanthropist. Donating, volunteering and even just simply taking the time to listen to others or sharing a smile or hug is so refreshing. It is nice to see that when hands are reaching out there are others reaching back. In minuscule ways that most of us don't even think about, we do ALL kinda' live for each other.

The line I wrote to start off this blog by Michael Buble, I know is from a song about finding love, but I think maybe those words apply to my communities event and many more like it. For various reasons people, somewhere, are always in need. I know that times are tough for everyone, and I'm not saying to be giving always, all the time, (We're all busy) or donating everything from the kitchen sink to emptying your bank account. (That's not realistic) But in a way I think we should all give more than we get; because I think sometimes too many of us are cerned about "getting".

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Labeling labels

What is it with labels? Sometimes, having a label seems like a good thing, sometimes, not so good.

Labeling a can of food is probably a good thing..... it helps when trying to decide what to eat. And being able to see a price tag is helpful...... I find it so annoying when a product is left blank, I mean at least label the self it sits upon. A label on a pair of pants? We all know the brand name may drive up the price on similar jeans without the name, but when the label refers to whether you are getting a size 38 or size 36 in waist can help. Although I've bought one fitting size in store A only to buy another exact same fitting size from store B and found them to really NOT be the same fit at all.  I swear the labels read the same thing! But it is only clothes and I accept that different manufacturers are in fact different and don't necessarily run with a universal scale.

So labels on inanimate objects or products seem ok......or so it seems. But when it comes to labeling people and what we do, that is when things become a challenge.

We all have labels at work.... we just call them titles. I think these titles are needed, sort of. These titles help identify what we do, though sometimes I find titles of someones job to be just a little too fanciful. Labeling like this can feed an ego but can also be a bit misleading to others. I don't mind the title I have in my current job, but my last job I had the word "Manager" added onto my title and that led people to think I was in charge of things I wasn't; I've never had a managerial position. It drove me crazy that people kept going on and asking me about things I had no control over!
On the side of my workplace career, I write, and as a writer that is the only label I want to have..... well maybe a "good" writer, but that's it. I don't write horror or science fiction or comedy, but I want to be able to whenever I choose. I have no genre, no label.

I so do not agree with labels that distinguish race or religion; to me, a person is a person. I have had a learning disability since I was hospitalized as a child, I've faced many barriers and challenges in life because of it. But I would never want to be labeled as someone with a disability. I'm Mark, that's it! However, and here is where it gets tricky, I am thankful for knowing that I have a learning disability; because this knowledge allows me to understand why I have certain limitations or why I need help with things that confuse me.
This entire thing came about the other day when I was talking with someone who was telling me that their (very young) grand child was diagnosed with ADHD; a small indication of relief was heard. This person was not celebrating or saying "I'm happy", but knowing now that this child could be given assistance, that explanations and understanding and maybe some peace of mind could be had, that was the relief. On the opposite side of the scale I heard a story from a mother about how it was kind of sad that we, society, had all of these acronyms to label our kids with; ADHD, ADD, OCD, or words like Bipolar, Asperger, Dyslexia, the list goes on.

I think knowing is what's all important here; the being labeled isn't really all that bad until people abuse or misunderstand and start assuming things because of those labels. The fact that some people choose to discriminate or jump to a conclusion over getting educated about something is beyond anyone's control. Regardless of what others say we can all be alright as long as we live by the saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones but labels will never hurt me"; and besides, educating ourselves is where the real power lies.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tiny Feet

I stood in the hallway of my home the other week beside the front double door entrance. We have large glass windows set inside the centre of each door which gave me a great view to see out across the lawn, the road, and to the lakeside hilltop. I was in a great position, sheltered by the comfort of being inside, to watch the oncoming storm. It came on quickly, flying across the lake in the form of a white wall of gusting wind. In an instant the waves rose, white caps formed, and then it turned to a big blur of grey. A tree on our property came crashing down; no warning, no gentle fall, just a fraction of a second plunge to the ground. A window shutter was forcefully pulled from the brick exterior of my home. The wind was brutal! Everything was twisting and turning and I was surprised that only one tree fell. I literally felt the wind pushing against the house. The rain came quick and hard and soon turned to pelting hail and even though I was inside, I could feel the sting of those small cubes hitting my skin..
My dog was freaking! My mom was freaking!

15 minutes and the entire thing was over.

Later that night I thought about that fallen tree and how I'd have to clear it away and clean up any other mess from the storm. I thought about all of the other reports that I had heard about, fallen debris, toppled telephone wires and fires that began as a result. I thought about those poor people from Joplin Missouri and all that they had suffered from that devastating tornado. I thought about all the natural disasters around the word and all of the chaos and damage and deaths. It is sad. Life can be so depressing and unfair and challenging.
Here I was cursing over my own lawn tractor needing a new battery and my grass being overgrown. But seriously, aside from natural disasters, we've all had it tough and we've all lost. From the everyday barriers I face due to my disability, family struggles, heart ache and employment woes, no one (I think) would blame me for getting down on myself and saying, from time to time, "my life sucks!" 
Time is an uncontrollable thing and I feel, much more lately, that I have not enough to get done the things I need accomplished. I forgot about a couple of things, responsibilities, that I would normally be on top of. Even this blog, something I thought I'd be able to at least do once a week, has been slipping with lack of spare time. I don't have the time I used to to sit down and write.
Things change, I get that, I am comfortable with that, but I thought as I got older and wiser things would become less hectic and frustrating and not be so rushed. That onslaught of a storm reflected my life and I questioned if I was having some sort of crisis or meltdown in my head.

Four weeks ago today my sister had a very beautiful baby girl. Her first. I became a proud Uncle; proud of this little girl simply blessing us for coming into our lives, into my life.

So in the midst of my snowballing frustration, when I was mumbling profanities and made up words under my breath, (my dog looking at me as if I were a disturbed puzzle that needed to be figured out) when I felt tears forming in my eyes from confusion and lost hope, an image popped into my mind and stopped me short. I cleared my pupils and rubbed my head. I laid in my bed and stared at the ceiling; though it wasn't the ceiling I was looking at. I was staring at those cute, adorable, soft, often moving about, tiny feet. There was no physical picture on my ceiling, just in my head, and it subdued, unraveled and pushed aside everything.
I don't want to say that this image will forever keep me from getting fed up in life or from screaming out (in my head anyway) @*!#$&^^ explicit narratives.  But for the first time, I REALLY saw how easy it is to see just how peacefully beautiful life can be.

I'm sure everyone, or at least I hope, has their own thing, their good luck charm, their reprieve, their outlet. I have often turned to my writing, or maybe even taken time out to go for a walk with my dog, or waited to talk to a friend.... something to work towards getting. I did not think it was quite as simple as letting go, for it, for that serenity, to come in. I found the peace I needed to find in the image of those tiny little feet. An instantaneous gratification! And I know that these feet will grow, but that is part of what makes it so beautiful.
Simple beauty can outshine all that terrible darkness, I think we just need to look past our frustrations to see it. I always thought I knew how to beat back the pain, but I'm learning more all of the time about just how easy it can be. Because that calm, powerful beauty, is always there; even in the toughest of times. I just have to learn how to see it properly. The tiniest thing can overshadow the biggest horror.

Life poses us a challenge; for me, my answer to it is "tiny feet." What's yours?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Literary Confusion

So as a writer I often wonder if I'm supposed to have a fascination with words. I guess if that were posed to me as a question my answer would have to be "maybe" or perhaps "most of them".
I believe that words can be very powerful, some are fascinating, some are funny sounding, some create images in ones head, but some, I find, are just confusing. Words like Book (he wrote a book or let's book the hotel room) or Present (this is the present, that was the past or here is your birthday present from me to you) that have different meanings are fairly simple to understand; but only to some people and only with certain words. What about a word like Constitution? The most common meaning is: the principles on which a state is governed; but it can also refer to a persons health. Formula isn't too bad, but the meanings can be far and distant to each other from the baby's food to a set of math equations to the plan to negotiate peace between countries at war. Operation can refer a life saving surgery or a precise and potentially deadly military attack. An operation took place to save the officers life, as he got shot during the operation to take over the enemies territory?

The word Bugger to me would be used in that little bugger. In the UK it refers to someone who engages in anal sex; who would have thought?

I don't get how the word Stupid has come to mean something good. Disgusting? Sick? The word that probably gets to me the most is Viral. (Justin Bieber's hit went Viral) I get; it spread over the internet or airwaves at a phenomenal rate. But every time that I hear or read the word Viral I just can't help but think of a spreading infection or disease. When I was hospitalized as a young child, I had a viral brain infection......... so perhaps it affects me more and not everyone see's it that way. Well, obviously not every one, or the word wouldn't be used that way.
I tend to get confused quite often about things and I can get words swimming around, or stuck in my head at times. I can't always get the words out that I mean to say..... sometimes leading me to not saying anything at all. Sometimes when I do say something my words aren't made that clear and my confusion ends up confusing others. But then there are also times I don't think people really listen to words as opposed to just hearing the entire dialogue spoken. It is why I try to be impeccable with my words so that my point is short and sweet. It is also why I prefer to write, whether it be a letter, an essay, a report or a story.
I always enjoyed being creative and making up stories but I began really paying attention to words when I was in my mid twenties and went through my Creative Writing program. Because of some of my barriers in life due to a learning disability this understanding of all these words and meanings proved a daunting task at times. But it was when my mom had her accident, a brain injury that resulted in her having Aphasia, (an impairment of language ability; ranging from having difficulty remembering words to being completely unable to speak, read, or write.) that I really began to comprehend the true difficulty and power that words could have. It is not the big, fantastical, imagery words that matter, it is the small, short, simple direct ones that get us places. Whether it be her life, my life, reading a personal letter or a good novel, literary simplicity is what moves us forward and allows to enjoy.
Like in my previous blog, Hollowing Passion, I love words because of their power; but I think we should keep it simple.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Howling Passion

Something I have always enjoyed doing is sitting down, somewhere, anywhere, and writing. As a kid I enjoyed making up stories and sharing with others what I would create. It was my way to express myself  and know that I had something to contribute.... even if my work was rarely seen. It was a great release for a kid who found a lot of things in this big scary world difficult and confusing.
After I had been hospitalized at an early age and was on the road to recovery from a life altering illness I became very shy and quiet, timid and scared. Of course, I had great family and some very good friends to help me get through, but it was my inner creative juices that helped me slowly gain a certain confidence. Short five page stories turned into, well, longer short stories. Plot lines became an extension to my life....... an adventure; characters became secret friends that only I knew about and got to give some super powers to, both mythical and existent, that I would fantasize about having myself. As scared or confused as I may have been, my characters were not, they knew what they were doing; there was always to be a positive outcome.
Over time I learned how to hone my craft of the written word through classes I took in High School, College and more specifically my Creative Writing Program. I got to know about character development, viewpoints, theme and strategy, scene and structure. I have since published articles as well as a book, "Chronicles of a Girl", that has lead to me writing two sequels; unpublished but being worked on. I have have a list of other ideas along with a drawer in my office of half started rough drafts of story ideas. My mind is constantly moving and working out tall tales. I love writing and I hope that anyone reading my works can at least see the passion behind what I do. I may not be the best or most successful writer around...... but I am very enthusiastic about it in a very quiet way!

My writing has helped by allowing me to create worlds, or a world, that I can keep up with. This though is only one of my reasons for being so passionate about it. Writing has helped me grow and has clued me in to things about myself and others. I have gained a great deal of understanding through writing which continues to build each day and I'm sure will go on into the future. I have come to terms with the illness I went through as a child and what I still deal with today; which I wrote in "Breaking Down Barriers and Walking the Path of Accessibility." I have come to cope with other lifetime events with the aid of pen to paper, or keyboard to computer. Writing helps me communicate with people in ways I never imagined myself being capable of...... and in a way has given me a voice. I get to share and maybe even help others through my words. But the best of it, is that I can see how this wonderful art form is therapeutic, not only to me as I've stated, but to others. And writing can bring people and worlds together.


The written word is a powerful thing! It can bring up emotions; things like anger, sadness, laughter, joy, enlightenment, clarity, peace, love..... relief. Writing can instill bravery and overshadow loneliness and even despair. Writing can teach and it can heal.
My life is about the few, but precious, family and friends I have in it. But I am also surrounded by words I get to play with, create, share and receive. I am so thankful...... maybe even beyond words; and that, says a lot.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Look How Far I've Come

A couple of days ago I turned a year older. I took time to reflect, not necessarily on my life and what I've been through but my accomplishments and all the good and wonderful things around me. I have been trying to take time to do this a little more often than I have in the past because I've been finding it very easy to get caught up in all the things that are either negative or really unimportant, or holding no real meaning, to our lives... or my life in this case. It is easy to look at the things that we don't have or the everyday stresses we endure or the things we try and maybe fall a little short at. I've found myself looking down and concentrating all my energy on that black hole and ignoring the wonders of my life...... "ignoring" may not really be the right word...... I don't ignore people or happy, fun moments; not now or in the past. But I think you might know what I mean, because I think we've all either done it or continue to do it. It's hard to ignore that slightly darker side of things; I still find times when I get caught up in it.
I once had a job that consisted of quite a few staff members, and no matter how many praises or complaints were given and received after someone did a good job at something, it only took one small negative comment or a certain tone in some rather harsh feedback and the cart was over turned.
Life has its fair share of bad things going on all time, but they are outnumbered by a billion and one good things you and I should not take for granted. People fall in love, babies are born, friendships are made, people graduate, birds sing, flowers grow........ we accomplish more things than realized.  

Something I once read and liked by Amy Oskar, a friend who wrote, "Good out numbers evil by the billions; love outshines hate every time; and even the dimmest light can chase darkness from a room."

So when I reflect I think about the wonderful people in my life and precious memories shared. I think about my home and the work that I put into it and how well it provides shelter and accommodates friends and family. I think about my education and the struggles I have been through. I think about the everyday barriers I face and how I work hard to overcome a lot of them and then deal well with the rest. I actually look at my resume and all I have achieved and feel a sense of pride. Through the years my Oma and Mom have taken so many pictures of things it is unbelievable the photo albums that rest in this house. Turning the pages makes me smile and I feel warm inside to know that this family continues with the picture taking tradition. Not just to capture and keep memories but to document growth and achievements.
I have leaned to communicate effectively (I hope)........ more so though with written words as opposed to verbal dialogue...... though I think I'm getting better at that too. I understand the difference between right and wrong and I've come to terms with the fact that sometimes good and bad things can strangely go hand in hand. Acceptance of anything and everything that happens in life is at times very difficult... but unless you have a time machine, once it is done it is done...... It is how you handle it and move forward that is the only part to worry about. I accept and adapt to things rather well I think, because I know that even though sometimes it may suck, change is pretty much unavoidable.
My life has been great, chalk full of goodness! I chose to believe that will continue and I will grow. The best is yet to come but the best has also already happened.

(Something I wrote quite a while ago that I think reflects how far I've come and who I am)

At a young age I was hospitalized with a viral brain infection. I was inches from losing my life.
I had lost those years and had to re-start everything. EVERYTHING!!
Early on in life I lost my dad. I miss his guidance.
Because of these two events I went through my teenage years confused and feeling awkward.
When I was 29 my mom fell and hit her head, resulting in a brain injury that will most likely plague her for the rest of her life.
In between I’ve dealt with other family issues, inconsideration, lawyers, doctors, lawsuits, deceit, financial woos and uphill battles.
I’ve had problems with distant relatives.
I’ve had friends turn their backs and walk away.
I’ve experienced sorrow, tears, and loneliness.
I’ve been sick and to the doctors for many things.
Because of the brain infection that once was, I easily get confused. I have trouble keeping up.
I get tired, I get headaches.
I’ve been lied to.
I’ve been made fun of.
I sometimes feel inferior.
Relationships have not worked out for me.
I may lose more than I will ever win.
I sometimes hurt and I sometimes cry.
I know what it feels like to have your heart broken.
There is a lighter side; a side which I try to focus on.
Sometimes I may hate my life. Sometimes I may love my life. I usually try to find somewhere in between to rest, it’s what gives me the most satisfaction, the most happiness.
As much as I may have been wronged by others, I do not hate anyone.
I always see the good, or at least I try to.
I have a lot of love to give.
I accept that I will never find true perfection, only what I accept to be perfect.
I understand that there is no ‘meant to be’.
I’ve learnt to be good and true with my word.
I try not to assume.
I realize people will come and go.
I have some of the best people in my life with awesome qualities that I don’t think they even realize.
I am proud of my sister and of my mom and of all that they accomplish.
I am proud of where I live, my community, my country.
I’m not rich, but I’m not poor… so many ways more than financial.
I do have certain expectations……but far less than most.
I know that change is inevitable and as much as it can sometimes hurt I’ve learnt to roll with it.
The sun will always come up and there will always be a new day.
Regardless of all the crap I’ve been through in my life’s journey ……..
I still smile.
When I take my dog for a walk I plug in my MP3 and sing to the music.
I still laugh.
When I make dinner I can be caught doing a little dance in the kitchen.
I treasure other people’s happiness more than my own.
A lot of the time I am alone but not necessarily lonely.
I am independent.
I am creative.
I am sensible.
I am a laid back individual.
I understand compromise.
I have good character.
I am patient.
I am strong.
I am a dreamer.
I am so much more than this.
I am……. Me.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Progression of The Lonely King

So I've been contemplating this blog entry in my head for a while now, I thought it might give the wrong impression, that I'm complaining and hoping for people to feel sorry for me. That of course got me thinking about some of my other work where I've talked about my disability....... my challenges. But I've concluded that people will make up their own minds and that I should just worry about my writing and hope that I make myself clear; because I'm not saying these things to gain a soft shoulder or sympathy, but to share, to hope that maybe we can all, including myself, learn something.

Understand this, by referring to myself as "The Lonely King" in no way am I saying, or trying to create the image, that I sit alone, wallowing in my own misery of loneliness. In fact, I see my life in its entirety, being quite the opposite. But there are times that I do feel that lonesome unease that perhaps some or all of us feel on occasion. When this happens I question myself quite often as to whether or not feeling this way is a bad thing? Am I allowed to feel lonely? Should I feel guilty instead? Because quite often I feel that too. My disability is part of who I am, and my disability has opened the door to mild and sporadic cases of depression. Adding to that depression is my frequent bouts with confusion and frustration and even forgetfulness. That leads to sadness, sadness because I know I shouldn't feel these things. You see where the confusion comes in?
I have a few very good friends and I'm happy with what I've got, I do continue to grow and meet others, I have a great mom and I get along terrifically with my sister. I keep busy and work hard and well at my job. And I spend time doing my own things like working around the house, watching a movie here and there, and writing....... these things I do by myself and I like to do them by myself. But then a voice in my head says that I'm not opposed to having some company, that I don't have that many friends, that I'm still searching for that special someone. Then the confusion starts, the frustration, the depression, the loneliness. I start to feel like no one understands me or the way I think...... there are times that I don't even get my own thoughts.

In the title of this blog I began with word "Progression" because I am constantly moving forward. While I still may feel like "The Lonely King" at times, a lot of this stuff is yesterday's news. I am learning to be more open and honest with myself and others and I am finding that this communication thing really can help. Confusion and depression still riddle me from time to time but things are becoming more and more settled in my head.
There are times when I may be physically alone but feel no loneliness. There are times when I am surrounded by people and feel completely in the dark. In the end it comes down to the way I decide to let myself feel about any situation, and I'm getting better at seeing the light in them all.......... because I acknowledge and accept and stand up to the fact that I am alone; I am a loner; I am a cowboy; I am a rock star; a dreamer; a genius; I'm both the lamb and the lion; I am a thinker; a writer; a friend; a son; a brother; an uncle-to-be. I am "The Lonely King" with some very good friends standing in a shroud of happiness and contentment.
I am sure there are others who who feel bouts of loneliness, for whatever reason. I am beginning to understand that we all have the power to become that conquering king over loneliness. It can happen quicker for some I've realized, but as long as I stay on the path, I get stronger all the time.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Defining Moment

Remember in the movie "Jerry Maguire" when, after his one and only client gets into a football "accident", finally wakes up and runs into the crowd, Jerry realizes what it is all about? I've seen other scenarios just like this one, as I'm sure we all have, in movies and television shows and read in books. The hero, or main character, has an epiphany that makes everything right. He or she does something or says something or sees or listens to someone else. An action, an internal voice sounding off, a sign from the heavens, a motivating speech is given. It is played out or written down so clearly.
In "real" life I don't think anyone is following a script, I don't think those moments are that easy to find, at least not for me. Sure, I've learned a lot in life and my experiences have brought me to a better place, but I don't think there has been one clear-cut moment. I used to think I would get mine, that life altering moment when things became better, when I began to understand what my life was meant to be. I would think, once I reach a certain age things will click...... once I get a good job; once I get a girlfriend; once I graduate from high school; then college. At least that was what I was hoping for, something to make my life easier, for things to make sense. I think over time, once I gave up and stopped looking for that one "defining moment", I began to understand and realize that what I was looking for and hoping to get would never happen.
I really do love those moments in the movies, that amazing happiness, that bliss of understanding. It is a rush to get it all at once. But it is more realistic to understand that it comes to us, to you, to me, spread out over time. Once you acknowledge this fact, and this may sound a bit strange, you can get that exact same rush. Only it comes at you in little pieces over and over and over again.

I've talked about acceptance in my past blogs, honesty, talking or discussing, patience or taking time to do things and not motoring through. All of these things, I have realized, have to do with finding the moment; because it is not a moment, it is moments, more than one. They will continue to come. And the "moment" is really a "choice". You get to choose how it affects you. So my "defining moments" are really my choice.
I can recall quite a few terrible tragedies that have occurred in my lifetime thus far, I can also visualize in my head a few happy, blissful, care-free and fun moments. Good or bad, joy or sorrow, I've chosen (now) to accept them all; to be honest about them; I've chosen to talk with others; I've become patient and I choose to continue to do so regardless of frustrations. They have all become "defining moments". I've been through a lot of them and I know I'll be going through a whole lot more to come. Knowing that these moments are my choice as to how "defining" they become, I look forward to them and that rush of blissful happiness and understanding...... and growth.

Some of our "moments" will obviously be bigger than others; but again, this is our choice. Any experience, or lesson learned, from any given situation can be utilized in any way we choose. We'll make our mistakes, I sure have and will again, and they have become moments too. Life, I think, is full of "defining moments". They are not all ours, but if we happen to walk by them or into them it is our choice as to what meaning they'll bring to us.
I cherish my moments, both good and bad. Yes, tragedies are sad, but I chose not to focus on the loss only the knowledge and growth gained. How I got through those moments is what I concentrate on; because I think I'm a pretty good person and my ability to handle and learn from those moments is what makes me who I am.

Monday, April 25, 2011

No "I" but "U"

In a piece I wrote titled "Breaking Down Barriers & Walking the Path of Accessibility" I wrote something about how if I won the lotto one of the things I'd like to do is give up work, if I could, and become a philanthropist. I mean there are certain things I'd like to do at home, living within means, taking care of my family, etc...., but if I had the money I'd like to simply become dedicated to getting involved in lending a helping hand. No fancy car, or boat, or any other grown-up toy that some of us buy, use once (or in a blue moon) and then let sit around collecting dust. I like volunteering, being of service and seeing something or someone succeed. And I appreciate seeing others help out too.
There are plenty of people out there who could use a helping hand, someone to hang out with, someone to talk to and share with. There are a ton of good causes that have the single purpose of benefiting others. You can click to Find a Volunteer Centre or even just type in "where can I volunteer?" into Google or any other search means in your community.
Volunteering isn't just about helping others out either, it can be self-help/healing too. I'm not saying neglect your job, because we all need a steady pay cheque, and definitely do not forget about your loved ones; but getting out there and doing something that isn't just about an "I" thing but about a "U" thing can be so good.

After graduating college I was feeling a bit over-whelmed with my career choice. Not only was it difficult finding openings and getting interviews but making my way through any interviews was tough. Things were looking bleak, I was feeling horrible, depression was bound to kick in. Then my mom recommended I volunteer my time at this local theatre, I was a creative person and this was right up my alley. I began meeting people, I enjoyed working with a team, it was fun seeing how the people who attended these shows reaped in the rewards of the work we all did, and I ended up getting a job which lasted eight years. Eight years in a place where I worked hard and learned and made friends and grew. My passion for writing, which I had lost in my high school and college years, was re-kindled. And it all started with volunteering.
I no longer work at that same place or do the same thing, but I do continue to write, (in fact, I've published a book), I'm more confident in working with and talking to people, and I still volunteer whenever and wherever I can.

My mom had an accident quite some ago and she attends a program that is partially run by volunteers. She has come so far because of some of the joy and caring they have brought to her life. She even works and assists them now with certain things whenever she can.
Volunteering has done her good and she enjoys helping out. Volunteering has done me good and I enjoy helping out. It puts smiles on faces, it broadens horizons, it builds character, it teaches, it creates relationships and makes connections. Volunteering can look good on a resume, but it also feels good in the heart, puts a twinkle in someones eye and it helps with the flow of life.
So, aside from my positive thoughts that remain with regards to landing that future big jack pot, I wish things were made a little easier in the present so that we could all reap in the rewards of offering a little less "I" and contributing a little more to the "U".

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Something to Talk About

I have my difficulties with public speaking, as I have blogged about in the past. Not only am I a bit of a shy guy when it comes to verbal discussion, I also have difficulties with things like keeping up, losing track of my own thoughts and words, and I often feel submersed in confusion. I am a lot better when it comes to social interaction than technical or business like dialogue, I'm more relaxed, I'm with friends who are more accepting of me and my challenges and are a bit more patient....... at least that's how I feel most of the time.
Anyway, with that in mind, I find it funny, as I'm sure others will, that I'm writing about 'talking'. I mean for a guy who is known to be a bit on the quiet side even I find it a bit strange that I've chosen this topic. But let me explain, I'm not so much talking about 'talking' verbally, I'm referring to 'communication' in general. I keep my mind open to learning things all of the time and I'm finally, really, beginning to understand that being good at communication does not just mean speaking from your mouth. I think to myself that I should have always known this, and maybe I have in a way, but writing and singing and dancing and even giving a good old fashioned hug are all expressive forms of communication.
Through avenues such as Facebook, Twitter and my blogging I'm communicating with others. I have always tried to be impeccable with my word and that is no different here in cyber space. When I write one of these blogs I try to communicate effectively, I hope I succeed. Because I think it is important to talk about things, keep open minds, share, and not be afraid. I think the more we communicate, really talk, the more we learn; the more we find out that we are not alone in the way feel; that some of us share a common ground; that acceptance and understanding is more universal than we might believe. Sometimes it is not even about sharing the "serious" stuff. Communicating and socializing, in whatever format you chose, helps us grow and understand things as individuals.
I've been told by work colleagues and other friends that I'm pretty good at writing and because of that I've continued to express myself and my thoughts in that manor. I do still talk (verbally) though, I just personally find writing easier when it comes to communicating those "serious" things and getting my thoughts properly organized. I think my method of communicating has helped me at work and I know its helped me in my 'real' life. So when I talk of growing and understanding I'm speaking from my own personal experience; but I do think that this 'communicating' thing being for the greater good may just be a universal phenomenon.
In many ways I find my writing...... or communicating.... or talking, very liberating and healthy. I think, and hope, it is something we can all share and feel. So let's talk.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lost & Found...... Steps to Disclosue

"I once was lost but now am found." I truly believe it.

After my illness I was simply happy. Happy to be alive, happy to be with my family, happy to receive friendly visitors now and again and eventually happy to get out of the hospital and then back into school. I tried to concentrate a lot on my recovery, on re-learning the average, everyday things. And I was happy (for the moment anyway) about the attention I was getting.
But then things changed. I think that when my dad passed away and I entered high school I became lost. I felt as though I was falling down, very slowly, the proverbial rabbit hole. Family and friends kept me from hitting bottom or going so far down that I became unseen, but I was still feeling lost. I didn't know what I was supposed to say or do, I didn't understand why things were difficult for me, the thoughts in my own head at times became gibberish and strange. I did not know why the school thought I could not handle certain things. Various lessons, information and even language became lost on me. Personally, I did not understand relationships or how to make them work; friendships were hard enough, never mind anything more! I found quite a few things about my life very confusing and it became very frustrating!
Just as things changed from happiness to feeling lost, things slowly changed again. Unlike before though, this change was a long, drawn out uphill climb. I suppose some people may have come to the same place I eventually got to faster, some maybe slower; some may not even be on the path yet.
It is never too late in life to get on the path.
It is the path to acceptance. Not necessarily acceptance from others, (we get there later) but acceptance from ourselves.
I have received quite a bit of help with things in the past, I still currently open my hand for others to guide the way. But I had to start on my own. I had to accept that I had a disability that in certain ways made me different from others, but also very much the same. Because all of us have things to bare, mountains to climb and obstacles to get around. I have come to accept and even share my disability with friends and colleagues. It is part of who I am. I've come to learn it is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.
I don't always share this knowledge, disclosure is in many ways still hard for me to do. I just got to keep reminding myself that there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, I believe not disclosing can sometimes create problems. Whether it is personal relationships or professional employment an accommodation to understanding or functioning may be needed. It may be difficult to bring up, I still have my stresses about it, but sometimes it makes things easier.
Disclosure can be a risk that effects you or the ones around you; you really can never be 100% certain at a reaction. And the choice to disclose, or when to do it, is up to you. I personally think it is worth it, it gives you a sense of where things are at. I'm not talking full out disclosure though, those personal details are yours to do with what you wish. But if asking for accommodation or a better understanding is going to be helpful to you, than why not? And with something like employment, you can at least feel a little bit more at ease in knowing that the law is on your side.
It is unfortunate that not all people are accepting of disclosure, though I believe to a large degree that has to do with people being afraid of things that they don't understand and not something that is based on meanness. And I think any misconceptions about disabilities, or barriers in life, are changing. I have found my eyes opening wide in surprise to the acceptance that is out there...... I think maybe you will to.
I found that accepting myself and feeling comfortable (at a certain level, still working on it) with disclosing that I am going full circle. I'm back to that joyous place of enlightened happiness; together with knowledge and understanding and really knowing that it is my choice; just as it is yours. And now, I can really move forward in this thing called life.