Family – by birth or by choice

familyWe are all born into a ‘family’. You can argue as to what exactly a family is and, if you type “definition of family” into your search bar, like I did, you’ll get 422,000,000 answers in .56 seconds or so to help confuse that definition.

We each have our own idea regarding the meaning of family. I am among those who believe that family isn’t necessarily the group of people you happened to be born into, but can be the individuals you choose to make a part of your nuclear group. I also firmly believe that family is not two parents and 2.5 children with a nice house, picket fence and dog running around the yard. Families come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. Family is made up of love, honour and respect. It has no genetic definers. To me, family are the people who come to mind when you hit a stumbling block in life. Who do you want to reach out to? Who comes to mind first?

One of my earlier posts told of a particular incident during my childhood, a childhood that I choose to call disruptive rather than disfunctional. Again, it’s symantics, but I don’t believe there is truly a functional family around. It may not be within your core group, but as your particular family branches out, there is certain to be disfunction in some form. My choice of the term disruptive stems from the fact that just as life seems to be moving along smoothly, ‘family’ does something to disrupt it. This repetative action led me to determine that family doesn’t have to be the traditional, dictionary-defined group of people we are expected to embrace as our ‘clan’. I have people in my life that I refer to as family, simply because we have the same bloodlines. Amongst those are some who, given other circumstances, would be considered ‘acquaintances’. We rarely see each other, and our only connection is our ancestry. To me, this is the world’s definition of family, not mine.

Then there are those who I consider family, but who gained this status not by a conscious decision on my part, but by being there through some of the toughest times in my life. They stood by me, to offer help when needed, or to simply be a presence in my life when I needed one. I can also be completely honest and say there are undoubtedly people in my life who consider me family, but whom I place outside of my core family group, or tribe.

I have friends from early childhood who I consider family, not because of the length of time I’ve known them, but because there is a kinship that goes much deeper than friendship. I am honoured to call these individuals my brother and sister.

There are people with whom I’ve reconnected in the past few years, after about many years of no contact at all, and yet I feel a closeness with them that I may not necessarily feel with people I am blood-related to. The connection may be due to similar life experiences, but this to me, is the feeling of family.

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I’m fully aware that I tend to put up emotional walls and I’m also aware that it is a direct result of my childhood. I don’t necessarily hide behind those walls, to me it is more of a protective screen to block out those who are insincere in their actions. Those who take the time needed to find out who I really am, they are the ones allowed to pass beyond those walls. Do they all then become family, or a part of my ‘tribe’? No, I’m not going to say that they do, because that wouldn’t be the truth. While I was born into a very large family, I choose to have a very small ‘tribe’. I can also honestly say that members have been welcomed into my tribe for a period of time, and then moved on. While it’s difficult to do that with family to which we have a blood connection, it’s meant to happen within our chosen families.

As I grow older, I have determined that there are very few, if any, places left open in my tribe. I have no doubt I’ll develop more friendships and have many more aquaintances in my lifetime, but I’m quite happy with the family I’ve chosen. I know it won’t remain exactly as it is at the moment, but right here, right now, I feel it’s exactly as it’s suppose to be.

Back to blogging

Well, it’s been too img_0131long since my last post…again. I apologize, and to those who are following me and aren’t friends or family (yes, I have followers folks!) I promise to change my habits. Life gets busy, and now with the holiday season upon us, it’s even more busy. I am not one to make New Year’s Resolutions, simply because I immediately break them, but I am making one in 2017. I am going to resolve to blog more consistently.

Once a week, rather than coming home from work and parking my rear in front of the mindless television, I’m going to park it in front of my computer screen and type out some of my mindless chatter. It shouldn’t be hard at the first part of the year, as I’m actually going to recycle some posts. They aren’t posts from this blog, but from one I started in 2014, and quickly gave up on. I printed out copies of those blogs, and mailed them to a former English professor (more on that in those upcoming blogs). Since I’m something of an overachiever in some areas, I kept copies of them for myself as well. They give a bit of background and understanding into why I keep being pulled back to writing.

Those blogs you’ll have to wait a few weeks for, today you get wcoffeehatever comes into my head and takes less than 30 minutes to come out of my fingertips through to this keyboard. OK, maybe a bit longer. I’m cooking supper and have to take a break to check on things out in the kitchen. This being said, the majority of my blog posts really do take 30 minutes to compose. I don’t take notes on
what I’m going to say, although I do have a notebook specifically for jotting down topics as a reminder when something pops into my head. I try to proofread but we aren’t always our best editor, so I’m sure most of my posts have an error, or three, somewhere. I’m not perfect, nor have I ever pretended to be. I try to keep my posts exactly how my friend Karin has said she sees them, “It’s  like sitting and having a coffee with you, and just chatting.” That’s why I keep them to a limit of 30 minutes of typing time. I figure our coffee is either done, or cold by then, and it’s time to get back to work.

I may take a bit of extra time to finish the post up as I only use photos I’ve taken myself. With what I’m now calling “the incident”from this summer taking up a chunk of the nice weather, I haven’t been very pblog-bookroductive with the camera so I have to take some time to go though my old album to see what might be appropriate for each post, and what I haven’t used in the past. Sometimes the picture has absolutely nothing to do with the post, but it’s one I took and I happen to think it looks nice. Therefore, it fits the bill.

This, is the Blog Book. I sometimes picture myself like this poor beagle. Running to get everything I feel I need to accomplish done. Then wrapping an elastic around it all to hold it together. OK, maybe not that bad but I do like to keep myself busy. The papers behind the book are a part of what will be in those upcoming posts I mentioned. The “why I write”and why, when life keeps putting my writing on the back burner, it keeps making its way back to the front.

Well, as you can see from the photo above, my coffee is in a thermal cup. Yours, probably isn’t and is either cold, or done. So, until next time…..

Time to turn the corner

moonWell, when last we met, virtually anyway, I was getting ready to go to my follow-up with the neurologist.

I’d gotten tired of waiting for them to call me, and was anxious to book my knee replacement, that had originally be scheduled for September 9, 2016. My brain and body had other things to focus on so that had to be pushed aside. Yeah, I know, I’m falling apart.

After waiting 10 weeks for the Stroke Clinic to call me, I called them. By now it was mid-October and I explained I was trying to re-book surgery and couldn’t until I saw the neurologist. They said they had the six week follow-up CT scan, but that I’d been in hospital so it would be a three month follow-up with the doctor. That meant it would be early November before I’d be booked for an appointment. So the six weeks noted on my discharge papers meant…absolutely nothing.

Funny how getting tired of waiting around changes things. Within an hour of my call, they called back. Suddenly I was able to get in to see her in less than two weeks. They gave me a date for the appointment, and said they’d call the next day with an exact time. They were also faxing paperwork to the lab for a blood series, and I needed to get that done before the appointment date. No problem. I was at the lab when they opened the next morning.

Eight days later and I was making my way to the hospital to see the neurologist. A definite positive was that she doesn’t keep you waiting. I was immediately taking in to review my file with the nurse, basically what led up to me going to the hospital and how things have been since I got home. She then hooked me up to the wonderful blood pressure machine. Then she said it would automatically take my blood pressure FIVE times. Hell, I hate getting it done once. The machine does it five times, then gives them an average. All I had to do was sit there quietly and let it do its thing. Damn..sitting quietly was hard because I had so many questions to ask. After my BP was done, mine was 123/79 (for those not in the know, normal BP is 120/80), I had to go back and sit in the waiting room for a few minutes. I’d say I was there fifteen minutes when the nurse came back and took me in to meet with the doctor.

So I found out I had a hemorrhagic stroke in the left cerebellar region of my brain. Fifteen percent of strokes are hemorrhagic (bleeds), but they are usually caused from blunt force trauma to the head, or a vein that was weak or deformed at birth. The doctor said they’d reviewed my file several times, and could find no reason for the stroke. So, of the 15% of strokes that are bleeds, the reason for 13% of those are never identified. Basically, out of 100 people, I’m in the group of 1.95 of them. They don’t know why it happened, if it will ever happen again, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to prevent it from ever happening again. I keep telling my family I’m unique…now I have medical proof!

I also found out that the stroke probably didn’t happen in my kitchen, 10 days after my vertigo like symptoms started, like I thought. The doctor said it probably happened right at the very start of those symptoms. This means I was walking around for two weeks, going about my daily life with work and everything else, already having had the stroke.

So, as it stands now, the nystagmus is gone (bouncing eyes), and my vision was not affected. I’m back to work full-time, after a slow return to work plan due to an awful lot of exhaustion, and I’ve returned to what I consider a normal life. I have to go back for another CT scan in January, just to see how the blood is absorbing. I guess not much of that had disappeared after six weeks and they say it does take a long time to disappear. The doctor figures they can also check again for any abnormalities.

Basically, I was told to keep doing what I’m doing. All of my numbers; sugar, cholesterol, etc., were great and I’m just to keep moving forward and be more aware. OK, so my attitude tends to be picked up by others and the doctor did say that if I have the dizziness and headache like that again, not to wait around but to get my ass to the hospital. Not like I haven’t been told that by everyone!

Well, I hope to get back to blogging weekly, and I plan on starting on a new topic. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing about this one. Laters!

 

Healing though writing cont.

This series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.IMG_20160817_144537

As I tried to get a bit of sleep in the Emergency Department, I was actually listening to those around me and realizing even more than ever the decline of our healthcare system. The majority of those behind the curtains around me, were there with issues that could/should have been dealt with by their family doctor, if they had one. Innumerable cases of flu were assessed and the fact they had to attend the Emergency Department due to the lack of doctors accepting patients, is asinine.

Anyway, after not getting any sleep, the nurse arrived at 4 am to advise they’d found me a bed. As I climbed into the wheelchair to make my way to my room I commented, “This is stupid. Who the hell is released at 4 am?” She smiled and said, “No-one, but the beds manage to not show up in the system until, whenever. ”

We made our way to the fourth floor of the hospital, and my new home for the next few days. I couldn’t wait to be somewhere quieter where I might be able to get a bit of sleep. Mind you, I’d spent the last week sleeping 16-18 per day but my body had obviously been telling me it needed the rest to repair itself. When we arrived the nurse apologized and said she had to take my vitals, again, before signing me over to the nurse here, who would also have to take my vitals. Not that I want to knock them having to do their jobs but the nurse who took over also had to ask me a series of questions. Excuse me! I’ve been up most of the night, my brain is recovering from a major shock, it’s 4:30 am and you want a freakin’ history? Whatever. I answered the questions and lay back to try to get some rest. Good luck with that one. Between my roommate snoring – she was too far away to poke to make her roll over – the call bells going off constantly, and the noisy wheels on the various carts roaming the halls, sleep was not to be had.

You soon learn the rhythm of the hospital and the lights in the hall brighten at 7 am. The nurses change shift at that time and suddenly folks start arriving. There’s the vampire from the lab to take more blood, the day nurse to check vitals, then by 8 am the gal is there with breakfast. Sadly, I hadn’t seen the dietitian yet so I couldn’t say what I wouldn’t ear and most of my first breakfast and lunch went uneaten. I’m not a picky eater but porridge and food with mayo where there is more vinegar then egg….not to my liking.

By the time breakfast arrived, the doctors were starting rounds. Well, I had the best seat in the house! The doctor would meet each nurse at a station right outside of my door and, while I avoided listening in on the info of other patients, my ears perked up as soon as I heard “Middleton”. Me being me, I figured maybe I’d overhear more than they might be willing to tell me. It never happened.

I’ve now completed some research and the first three doctors to see me, other than the one in emerg, are internists and I, was an anomaly. I didn’t fall into any of the groups likely to have a stroke; non-smoking, not a heavy drinker, no diabetes, no blood pressure issue, no cholesterol issues, no recent trauma to the head. I was a mystery…should we be surprised? Anyway, they decided I needed an MRI and MRA (MRI with dye to show the veins) before release. Sadly, I’d been admitted on a long weekend and no-one staffed that machine on weekends or holidays. My luck!

To keep me busy, there were doctors and nurses arriving throughout the day to give me various balance and cognitive tests. I really got tired of repeating them over and over but some were done daily (I was in hospital for four days) to ensure I didn’t deteriorate. By the last day I started telling them I could do the tests, and I could answer for my roommate as well. My legal name is Merri , pronounced Mary, and my roomie was Mary as well. She was born August 28th, 1932, in Croatia. She emigrated to Canada in 1957. She has one daughter and two grandchildren, one boy and one girl. She is diabetic and had issues with some of the tests due to language barriers and being able to read or write particular words in English.

During my time in hospital I also saw an intern specializing in neurological medicine, as well as a neurologist – she’s the one I get to see again after my follow-up CT scan in early September. I also met with a stroke team; occupational therapist, physical therapist, stroke nurse and speech therapist. They, and the rest of the medical staff quickly learned, I don’t let things get me down or hold me back. I was told I wouldn’t need any speech or occupational therapy and, it was suggested I use a walker they brought, for walks in the hall. My first walk, with the physical therapist and a nurse, I went twice the distance they expected me to and the nurse wandered off as she saw she wasn’t needed. My second walk, with my kids, I just rested the tips of my fingers on the walker as I didn’t want to be dependent on it. The next day the physical therapist arrived again to see if I could do the walk without the walker. Just watch me go lady! I was wearing my own pj’s, one of the items my partner brought up to me to help me cope, and while they are the most comfie things imaginable, they aren’t something to wear when you’re slightly off balance and trying to impress the therapist. However, I held the pant legs up and did a full circuit of the hallway without any help. Sure, I was still off balance a bit, but I wasn’t bouncing off the walls anymore.

The internist came by to see me shortly after this and advised that it had been decided I wouldn’t need any assistance upon leaving the hospital and we were just waiting for the MRI and MRA, so they could try to determine, why this happened to begin with. As he put it, “You don’t seem to have any major disabilities.” My immediate response, “You obviously haven’t met my family!” Sorry, folks but I’ve had two CT scans, an MRI and an MRA, they’ve found proof I have a brain and the stroke didn’t affect the smartass section!

Signing off for now. I may post more later, maybe tomorrow. We’ll see. Take care all!

 

How time flies!

Well, it’s been over a month since I posted anything, after promising I’d post weekly, but at least I’m back.

The weather has been wonderful here in Southwestern Ontario, and I’ve been taking full advantage of it. For those who know me, I purchased five years ago and have been working on a lot of home improvements. This classic was built in 1936, and while the original owners kept it up well, it had a lot of the original ‘parts’; knob and tube wiring, some galvanized piping, no updates to the insulation since it was built, and even the old cast iron clothes lines out back.

I happened to get in on government grants for the insulation, but had to have the wiring done first. That was year one. Year two I basically just did some painting inside, and cleaned up the yard and gardens. The third year I finally fenIMG_0458ced in my back yard. It’s not a huge yard by any means, but it was open to the next street and I couldn’t keep any patio furniture, or even my BBQ out there in fear of it growing legs and wandering away. Last year I had a small deck put on the side of the house, giving me access to both the front and back yards, as well as build a patio. I’ll tell you, it’s amazing what you find when you start changing things. My neighbour and I were able to lift enough patio stones from the original sidewalk, to build the patio, put stones along the fence for patio cushion storage boxes, as well as stepping stones in a now mulched walkway.

This Spring, and the reason I’ve neglected writing, I’ve started to put my imagined yard into reality. I moved a small retaining wall from one side of my yard to the other, and built a small meditation garden. A friend took the stepping stones from the front walkway, and built another small seating area in the corner. Friends and neighbours have donated perennials and I’ve pulled out the garden ornaments I’ve collected over the years while waiting for the right yard in which to display them.

There is still some work to be done, but much like ourselves; you stand back….take a look around; keep what you want, change what you think needs to be changed, and enjoy the result.

What’s a blog?

A friend recently read my blog for the first time, the first blog she’s ever read actually, and she said, “So that’s what a blog is, chatting about your daily life.” I let her know that all blogs aren’t just about that, some actually address very important topics. Some blogs provide information to new parents on what to expect with your newborn, some are specific to certain illnesses and diseases, some are a way to exchange recipes. Really, there are a variety of reasons and topics on which to blog. My blog…well, it’s still in its infancy and I’m still figuring out what it will be when it grows up. Right now, yes, it’s sharing my daily life, or experiences that happen to me. I hope the sharing of these stories will do several things; make me focus on writing more, allow people to learn from my experiences, and most of all, bring a smile to the faces of my readers.

This actually brings me to my topic this week, that things aren’t always as they may seem.

I had visitors a while back, my best friend and her sister, who is also my friend and has stayed here when she is visiting town alone as well. My friends’ sister co-owns an alpaca farm. She’s also an artist, in various mediums, and is always looking for ways to use the alpaca product – yarn and fleece mainly – to create art, clothing, household ite
ms. I happen to be the very pleased owner of one of their alpaca duvets.IMG_20160429_180540

Anyway, this gal always seems to think she needs to leave a gift, usually flowers, as a thank-you for the use of my spare bedroom. Hmmm…maybe I should forward this blog to my son. One visit resulted in this beautiful orchid, which has died off and blossomed again. This particular visit, she decided to gift me with a pair of alpaca slippers she’d started making for the farm store. Yes, they are as soft in person as they look in the picture. I immediately put them on, and have continued wearing them since.

A few days later, I walked in my basement door with my daughter. My alpaca slippers were sitting my regular slippers normally would and my daughter immediately said,”What happened to your slippers? Did you wash them?”

IMG_20160429_180752These are my regular slippers. Yes, almost the exact same colours, so I can see how my daughter might look at them and think they’d puffed up when I’d washed them. Believe me, it’s happened in the past with stuffed animals of hers that went from being cute and cuddly, to unrecognizable blobs of fluff.

I chuckled, and told her that no, these were new slippers from the farm. I then thought about it a bit and realized, there are a lot of things in life that are like my two pairs of slippers. It’s human nature to glance at something, or someone, and immediately make an assumption, but as the saying goes, “Never judge a book by its cover”.

I’m thankful that I live in a world that is changing, not quickly enough for my personal taste, but it’s changing. We are learning to accept people for who they are, not who we assume they are when we make that first glance. And we are accepting of everyone, or more of us are. People are people, no matter how they appear, or how you may see them through your eyes. Under our personal masks, whatever they may be, we are all the same. We are human beings who just want to be accepted for who we are, find happiness and live our lives in peace.The only thing we do by judging others, is judge ourselves.

P.S. My next blog, which this one was suppose to change to but technical issues (go figure) kept that from happening, will be an explanation for the three weeks delay in posting. Yeah..it has to do with yet more technical issues. It’s a good thing I like to share stories!

What’s in a name

20160401_103313I have to first apologize to my readers for the delay in posting this week. Life has become busy, as it generally can be. While I’m trying to stick to my weekly post, my weekends can fly by sometimes. In addition, I’ve become accustom to sitting at my PC to do this and, well, my home office is not an inviting work space at the moment. I removed a buffet that stored most of my office supplies, and put it in my kitchen. To do this, I had to unload the bookcase that sat on top of the buffet. The books are currently in a number of small boxes, to be repacked into a couple of larger boxes shortly. In addition, the office supplies are stacked wherever I could find open floor space. This being said, my home office is my next reno project and I hope to have all of this cleared up within the month. Please bear with me and I’ll be sure to post before and after photo in another blog.

OK, on to the topic for this week. Many families have names that have been passed down through generations and have strong and heartfelt meaning…mine…well, strong yes…angry heart…yes. Let me explain, because you know I’m going to.

My legal name is Merri Janette, but I’ve always gone by Jan and the use of the diminutive version 130530208127700450of my name has caused a lot of grief through my life when dealing with legal documents or registration at school and such. I was told at various times that I was named after my Dad’s aunt, but I really didn’t know for sure, and I didn’t know why it was decided
to use the name Jan instead of my first name Merri (pronounced Mary). In later years I was told that my Dad didn’t like his aunt Mary Jane. Hmm….so why was I named after her? This is the story I’ve uncovered, so far.

It seems my Dad did have an Aunt Mary Jane. She was married to his Uncle 130530226706349722 (4)Charles. He and his brothers enjoyed going to their farm and hanging out with his cousin, and that could be plural as in cousins, but he really didn’t like Aunt Mary. She wasn’t any fun, was very strict, worked the boys hard, and was quick to anger. Dad was at the farm one day with a couple of his brothers. I’ve been told they were suppose to be doing chores, but were being typical young boys and playing around in the barn and just having a fun time. Aunt Mary came out and was not pleased, to say the least. She started chasing them with a switch and the boys ran up the ladder into the hay loft. There Aunt Mary stood at the bottom of the ladder, yelling up for the boys to come down and get the chores done or they were going to feel that switch. Well, Dad decided she needed to cool down, and he proceeded to help her with the only liquid he had handy. Yup, he peed on her. To say this made her even more angry is to put things mildly. She turned on her heels and stormed into the house, sputtering and cursing and yelling back that she was sending Uncle George out to whip him good. I guess Uncle George had different thoughts. Sure, he came out carrying the switch but he couldn’t stop laughing long enough to do anything with it. He made the boys promise to say he’d done what was expected, but he seemed to get quite the dadkick out of how things were handled. Now remember folks, I got this story from my Dad, who claims to have no knowledge of my being named after her…more on that in a bit. Dad is now 86, in ill health and certainly has the memory issues that come along with age, but him telling me the story while driving home late at night from the family reunion a couple of years ago, those are the things memories are made of. I can see him sitting there, laughing and remembering the incident like it was yesterday. It was probably around 11:00 pm, the skies were clear but very dark out on those country roads. I can still remember how the smile on his face and the laughter as he told this story, just lit up the night.

Many, many years went by and there was a lot of friction in my parents marriage when Mom was pregnant with me. The exact details of that friction will be a part of my memoirs, but just know that both parents had their own perceived reasons for the anger. Dad was away a lot, being a sailor by trade, and he happened to be away when I was born. That left Mom to fill in the birth certificate and, whether she did this out of spite, or she just liked the name, I became Merri Janette. I’ve been told Dad refused to call me Merri, because of his dislike for his aunt, and so Jan it was.

When I asked Dad about this, in the car on that drive back from the reunion, I told him the story I’d heard; Mom was angry at him when I was born and so she named me after his aunt that he disliked. He looked at me, in that way he has, and said, “I don’t know what the hell she had to be angry about. If anyone should have been pissed, it should have been me!”

So there you have it, the history of my name, or what I’ve come to know as the origin. I’ve often thought of going by Merri, and plan to publish under that name. I’m finding out more about my own history and feel that Merri is who I really am, or maybe it’s who I was meant to be. Either way, Jan is who I am now and, while I like the person I’ve become, I think there are parts of who I’m meant to be still to be discovered. But really, when you think about it, it’s just a name.

 

Changing the way we communicate

There was a time when you’d call someone to wish them a happy birthday, offer condolences on the passing of a family member, or drop by to check in on them when they were feeling under the weather. Now, with modern technology, everything seems to be done on whatever ‘platform’ you prefer. The majority of the crowd seems to go with Facebook, although Twitter, Snapchat and so many others seem to be gaining ground.

A few things you’ll never see me do, and this is for my own personal reasons. I’m not judging others for how they deal with things, but just putting the thought out there.

  1. You’ll never find me posting my relationship status. Why? Because that is between the person I am seeing and myself. Anyone else who needs to know, should hear about it from me directly, or my partner. Others who are curious, I’m sure it’ll get to them through the usual gossip grapevine. The rest of the world, well to be honest, it’s really none of their business.
  2. You’ll never see me ‘share’ a post saying anything along the lines of “If you have the most beautiful/handsome daughter/son; if you love your daughter/son” or any of the other number of similar posts. The people who are important in my life hear that directly from me. They don’t need to see me sharing what milIMG_20160319_152409lions of others are. I share what I feel directly with them, and that has much more meaning and impact.
  3. While I understand the sharing of news of someone’s passing, sometimes it’s the only way to try to ensure all of those who cared for them, or their family members, find out; you will never (I hope) find me offering condolences on that post. Again, for me personally, if I am close enough to that person for me to know how this loss has affected them, I’ll contact them directly either via personal message, phone call, or card. Otherwise, I don’t feel it’s my place to say anything as I may express condolences on their loss, when really, they didn’t feel it was much of one and they were just posting the information for those who might care.
  4. You’ll never see me sharing pictures of abused women/children/animals; people in hospital beds or born with some sort of medical deformity with the comment to say “Amen” and share, or just share and either whatever deity you believe in will help them, or a large multi-national organization will donate money for their medical bills with each share. Wake up people! These are all scams! There are numerous ways to track the clicks and provide more crap in your feed. If you want to make a difference, make a donation directly to an organization that will help a person or animal in that situation. Make the donation yourself, don’t expect someone else to do it for you so that you can feel better.
  5. You’ll never see me share a contest to win a car, beautiful round chair for two, tickets for a cruise, unless I’ve done the research. Many of these contests are valid, but they are in the UK, Australia or some other country where they sure aren’t going to ship the prize to you. The majority of these contests, if you click through, are pages that were just created, specifically for the ‘contest’. Again, scam….lots of clicks and lots of data collected to fill your feed with more junk. Others are local businesses trying to get their name out to people in their area. Again, they probably aren’t going to pay the shipping cost to send the prize to you, no matter how much you ‘like’ and ‘share’ their information. There are a few who will, but take the time to check out where the contest originated. A grocery store in British Columbia is not going to ship me a 25 pound turkey, and if they don’t operate in Ontario as well, a gift card in lieu of the turkey is just a piece of paper to recycle.

I am going to clarify myself. Throughout this blog I’ve said, “You’ll never see me…..”, and I hope you never will see me do any of the above. However, no matter how diligent we are, we sometimes trust a post shared by a friend, or are caught by a headline (which is what they are suppose to do…draw us in), and we click through or share and then regret we did. I know I’m guilty of doing the ‘Happy Birthday’ post on Facebook. Those I’m close to also hear it in person or get a card, and those who only get the message through Facebook, I probably don’t have their address or phone number and it’s the only way I keep in touch with them. I may have to work at changing that.

For things like kids who are missing, suspicious vehicles, the death of a famous person; I generally Google the name of the star, or click through to the originator of the post for the missing person etc. They have sometimes updated information and the person was found a year ago, yet the post is still being passed around, or it helps you verify if it is a valid post or not. Another great site of confirming information is Snopes.

I guess what I’m saying is that we have to be careful in what we share, and be smart enough not to believe everything we hear, or read. Just because it’s on the internet, certainly does not mean it’s true. When it comes to celebrating an important milestone in someone’s life, pick up the phone, buy a card and a stamp. Let’s get back to a bit of the ‘personal’ in our personal interactions. It’s easy enough to click a button, but sometimes more difficult when you have to write the words down or say them in person.

In the words of Mark Twain, “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see and you’ll be right most of the time……of course now days I’m not sure you can believe half of what you see either.”

It’s all in how you put the words together

When I started my freelance writing business, I was doing mainly technical work for a local energy plant. I wanted the documents I provided to them to look professional, so I made sure I bought a quality laser printer that printed in colour. Sure, the toner cartridges were more expensive than the inkjet printers, but the resulting product spoke for itself.

I’ve used this printer for six or seven years, and never had a problem, until about a year ago. Looking to save some money, I purchased the printer brand name ‘high yield’ toner cartridges. All went well for a while, and then both the magenta and yellow toners started leaving ugly blotches along the side of the printed page. Definitely not professional!

Not only did it leave ugly blobs of toner on the sides of my pages, but it also leaked within the machine itself, making a complete mess.

So I picked up new toner cartridges, not high yield this time, and cleaned and replaced things. I then disposed of the cartridges, as they were leaking toner on my floors every time they were moved. I sat down and emailed the company to advise them of the issue, and received a courteous, yet ineffectual response. They wanted some numbers off of the cartridges, and were willing to offer me 25% off of any of their online products, for the next seven day. Wow!

Since I’d already disposed of the cartridges, I wrote this off as a bad experience until this fall. I’d forgotten that I’d also put a high yield black cartridge in the machine and…yup, you got it…it started to leak.

I decided to try a different tactic this time and called the local service centre for this brand of printer. Their representative came out, opened up the machine and advised me a toner cartridge was leaking. Really? They said the cartridge would have to be replaced, as well as the tray that held all four cartridges, and the transfer belt would have to be cleaned. A total estimate was around $400 in parts alone. I told them to just leave it as I was going to contact the Customer Service Centre again.

I started my email by apologizing to the employee who won the luck of the draw and got to deal with my complaint. My opening line, “I am going to start by saying I worked in a call centre/ customer service environment and this email is not directed at the employee who has the luck of the draw to receive it. I am extremely disappointed in the (company name) products and their response to issues.”

I proceeded to detail the steps of what had taken place, and the costs associated with the original issue, as well as anticipated costs for the new, or reoccurring issue. I advised that 25% off of their product, that was what was causing the problems with an otherwise suitable machine for my purposes, was not sufficientIMG_0206 to appease me. “I’m not going to spend my time printing, photographing, scanning and sending you information that is going to get me 25% off more product that will continue to ruin what was an adequate machine for my needs. I would hope to receive a more appropriate response than the one I received last time but you may want to contact your authorized service centre in Sarnia Ontario to get more details before responding.”

I was quite pleased to receive an email response, within 24 hours, from the escalations department. They apologized for the issues I was having, had contacted their service representative here in town, and were willing to have all repairs complete, at their expense. I just had to get it to the service centre. I’m very happy to say that, two weeks later, I have my printer back, and it’s working wonderfully again. When this machine eventually prints its last page, will I purchase the same brand? That has yet to be decided although the response to this issue has certainly earned the company some ‘brownie points’.

I guess it’s like writing a story of any type; you have to do the research,state the facts, put your words in a cohesive order with emphasis in the appropriate places for the most impact, and make sure your reader has all of the information they need to reach the outcome you are anticipating. If you are able to do that, your reader will return to continue to buy what you have to sell.

To write, or not to write

Well, the time really does seem to roll by quickly and while I’ve written a lot of notes on topics for upcoming blogs, I look at each of them and wonder, where do I start? Believe me, I’ve read my notes and there are some damn interesting topics but I have to decide what will be the topic when, and do I have a photo to go along with it? I much prefer adding pictures as I’m sure it’s quite boring to just read what I’ve typed without the break for a photo. It also makes it look like I did a lot more work than I really did. As for the ‘damn interesting topics’, don’t worry, they’ll make it here, eventually.

Throughout my life, in English classes, at writing workshops, retreats and seminars, I’ve always heard, “Write what you know.” It’s worked for me since I know a little about a lot, and I’ve always been happy to share (some may say I share too much). I’ve been fortunate to work with people throughout my life who enjoy my stories, and I have a story for pretty much every situation you can think of. These are the people who continue to encourage me to write what I know, to put my story down, and help others work through their own difficulties by seeing how I’ve done it.

I’ve staMississippirted to do that in that I’m researching missing pieces of my life. Well, they aren’t really missing, other people know what took place when I was either too young to remember, or for innumerable reasons, chose to block out. I’m in a more secure and confident point in my life now and able to face those periods of time I had no problem dealing with, but others may not have been as welling to talk about. I’m comfortable asking the questions, and doing the research that I’ve put on the back burner for many years. This is an ongoing project and I’m sure bits and pieces will show up here as I put the missing pieces in place to sort out the puzzle of who I am.

Going back to writing what you know. Does that mean murder mystery writers have personal knowledge on how to commit murder? Are science fiction fantasy writers all astrophysicists? No, I don’t believe that’s what it means at all. I think it means these writers have a truly remarkable interest in their topic of choice and are dedicated to doing the research needed to ensure every detail is accurate. Whether they delve into archives and technical volumes themselves, or make the connections needed with people who are trained in that specific topic, they do what they need to in order to provide the base for their story. This in turn allows their imagination to soar and, with any luck, they’ll bring their audience along with them.

This doesn’t mean we should only write or do what we know, or what we have a special interest in. Very much like other parts of our lives, we can run into a roadblock, or in this case a writer’s block, and simply not move forward. That’s when you have to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. For a writer, it may be attempting a style of writing you’ve never tried before; poetry or on-the-spot writing for example. For life in general, it may mean stepping out of your daily routine and trying something completely new. For me personally, it sometimes means getting behind the wheel of my car and driving down roads I’ve neveIMG_0034r traveled before. It means discovering places that are new to me and letting my thoughts roam. I do some of my best thinking while exploring roads and communities I’ve never been to before, and I’ve had some of my best adventures finding new ways to get where I want to be.  As my children are use to hearing, “I never get lost. I simply find new routes to where I am going, or new places to be.” MJM