Saturday, 28 February 2015

Poetry on the GO

There's always something to write about. It's amazing how, once you put pen to paper, or finger tips to keyboard, the words come. They sometimes come in poetry; they sometimes come in prose. But, however they do, they come.

Not too long ago, as I sat aboard a GO train headed for Union Station in Toronto, I noticed a familiar gesture. The woman who sat across from me stared out the window. Her reflection fused with oncoming trees, cars, and buildings. I faced the direction of the train; she did not.

It came to me then, as it had so many times before, that I could use even a seemingly mundane thing as a springboard for a story.
Plus, I take the train so often, I'm bound to fimd gems - if I take the time to notice.

That morning, the words came in poetry. I knew the title immediately. That I would call the collection "Poetry on the GO" came later.

And, while I do not yet have that collection, per se - actually, only one poem so far - I know the others will come. Here now is the first from the...collection.

Tears On A Train

She sat looking out the window 
Of the LSW Train 
Something must've been boiling 
Because, tears came.

She searched her back for tissue 
None was to be found 
So, instead of looking out 
She started looking down. 


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Good Times

My 6yo niece, Kiki spent Valentine's Day Eve with me. Yes. If it wasn't a thing before, it is now. She was off from school because of PA day. I was off from work because I'm an adult and can do whatever I want. Umm. No. Not really. I took time off.

And what a joyous day it was! The child is a treat. I was treated to gems from the back seat of the car. And at the mall. And at home. They went a little something like these...

She: You know why I like Valentime's Day?
Me: ValentiNe's.
She: ValentiNe's. I have a problem with that word.
Me: Apparently. Go on.
She: On ValentiNe's Day, there's so much love. And gifts.
Me: Yeah, for someone special.
She: Well, for anybody, as long as you can give.

As we drove:

She: I was wondering, do you have a Valentine's Day gift for me?
Me: Umm, yes. We`re going home to prepare Ackee & Saltfish - and Festival!
She: Yes! This is the best Valentine's Day ever!

We stopped at the mall because I needed to. Really. Before attending to the purpose for the visit, however, I had to make a small detour into Shoppers. As it turned out, they had gone all...Valentiney. There were stuffed toys, chocolate, and stuffed toys with chocolate...everywhere! Kiki was like, well, she was a kid in a candy store. As we walked down one aisle, (alas, I had given in to her plea for "just one Valentine's Day present"), I heard her behind me:

She: I love you.
Me: I love you to, sweetie.
She: Oh, I wasn't saying I love you to you. I was reading the card on that toy.
Me: -_-
She: But, I love you too.
Me: I love you too. Hmph! Okay, let's pick a toy.

We went from one aisle to the another comparing toys - and prices. At some point, she started repeating after me, "These prices are ridiculous!" I decided to tone it down.

We finally narrowed it down to three little stuffed animals. Little. We had no idea what the price was for one of them. The cashier was gonna have to help us decide. Or so I thought. As soon as the cashier let us know that two of them were Beanie Babies, my niece was beside herself with excitement!

She: Okay. Okay. You choose.
Me: Which one do you want?
She: Just choose for me, please!

I related to her dilemma. Faced with the hard choice, she'd be there all day. So, I chose the purple and white giraffe - don't ask - and earned the title: Best Aunty for the Day. Booyah! (Smart girl. She's very careful with her superlatives re her aunts. She has several. Aunts - and superlatives.)

The icing on the cake at the mall, though, came after I'd completed the business I'd really stopped in for. Now, a new store is coming soon and it'll be on the ground floor. As part of the promotion, there's a ceiling-to-floor picture of a model's face. Standing next to it, Kiki looked rather small. I guess she was fascinated by that. She asked me to take a pic. I did. We made our way around the corner and there it was again - the model's face in larger-than-life depiction.

She: Aunty! Look!
[I turned to see what the excitement was about.]
Me: Eeeww!

I suspended my mild disgust long enough to take a pic. After all, it was the funniest thing I'd seen in a long time!

We got home and ate and watched Ever After High and did some story-telling - with the toys as characters - voice-overs and all. Before her afternoon nap, I wanted to capture the day with both of us, so I told her I wanted a selfie. (We were lounging on the couch, rocking our "bed hair".) I showed her the first shot, expressing my dismay at the state of my hair.

She: It's not important what our hair looks like. What is important is that we're spending time together.
Me: Yeah. You're right.

She was right. So, I have a pic with Kiki where we're both rocking our "bed hair".

Good times. Good times.


Sunday, 8 February 2015

And They're Off!

In a rather unceremonious way last evening, I submitted the manuscript for my anthology of poems to a publisher for review. It wasn't that it was anti-climactic. Rather, it was that the time had come and it was the thing to do.

I've talked a bit about the writing journey, and the recent steps toward the publication of my poems, in a previous post entitled...wait for it...wait for it...Yep! You guessed it. "Fourteen To Fortyish: The Formative Years" An Intro - of sortsFurther to that, I did more work on that body of work. I heeded the points and perspective Daniel was so brutal, yet so gracious, to share. Yes, I cut and clarified and snipped and smoothed accordingly. There were only a few instances where I parted ways with a suggested change in wording or phrasing. I was happy with them as I'd written them.

After working on the anthology for a while longer, I realized there was nothing truly stopping me from making that next step. Nothing, that is, except for the (expected?) angst of letting my poems go; setting them free into the world, and wondering how they would fare. After all, I'd been writing and compiling for decades. Still, I couldn't coddle them forever. I could keep adding a comma here and removing another there; add a space here; break a stanza there, and so on. But, it began to feel like stalling.

So, at some point, I decided February was the month to get some writing projects off my plate. I wrote a piece - well, edited and tailored a blog piece - for submission to a newspaper. I got that done last Monday. We'll see how it fares. I then turned my thoughts to the poems. A day or two later, I revisited the web site of the publisher I'd been in touch with - making inquiries and such. A day or so after that, I got an email touching base, wondering how my manuscript was going. Well, clearly, it was time. It is said writers don't need time; they need a deadline. So, I set the deadline - yesterday - and promised I'd submit it on February 7, 2015.

And, that's what I did!

I went over each of them one last time. I still made a few changes to the three or four of them I'd highlighted to revisit. By the time I was through, I was happy with those, too. I am yet to write the acknowledgements. But, I'd been assured that could come later. And, speaking of acknowledgements, even as I added the finishing touches, I got a little cheering on from sis, Durie. You know, I need to make a list. Really don't want to miss the folks I should acknowledge. I'm also working on a cover that properly conveys the coming of age/journey of life/character catch my drift. In the meantime, I'll be reaching out to three or or four people who've written some heartwarming things about my poems. I hope to get their permission to quote them on the back cover.

When the time came to hit Submit, I decided not to overthink it. I had done a lot of thinking and reading and praying, and even more thinking and reading and praying. It was simply time to do it. I let 'em go - for the publisher's review.

Of a truth, there's also been that feeling of wanting to make way for something new. Yes, life spared, there will be more poems. I'm thinking they will be borne of requited love. Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts. The last section of this anthology speaks to hope. I shared one of the poems from that section in the previous post. I think the next poetry book will continue in the vein where this one left off. Hope is a good thing.

And now, we wait.


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

"Back to Life"

What's a new year without poetry? C'mon. There's always room for poetry. Back to Life was written...ok, I won't say when it was written. Let's just say it's on the sunny side of Without the Kill. Because, well, seasons change.

Back to Life

I thought I had
No more strength or time for love
Until you came
I made the time
Your love gave me strength.

I wanted more of you
Wanting me
You said I gave you hope
By just being me.

In your eyes I see
How you take pleasure
In pleasing me
My love, no need to fear
Losing me at all.

For the first time
No second thoughts
Your strong arms
And long kisses
Comforted me home.

Your words wooed me
Your actions moved me
Into the new me
As you loved me
Back to life.

- Dnafcnatgada


Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Waffle Prayer

Okay. Before I tell you what The Waffle Prayer is about, let me tell you what it's not about. The Waffle Prayer is not about a compartmentalization of prayer requests. Y'know? Where each request, or each kind of request, is packed neatly inside a lil space, 'til you have rows and rows of prayer requests neatly laid out, then hope that God will grant them in order of priority. No. It's not about that.

What is The Waffle Prayer about? Well, here's what happened. A few years ago, Kiki, my niece, then going on Four, came to spend a Girls' Night with me. Her parents dropped her off on the Friday afternoon. The plan was that we'd spend the night; spend all day Saturday together; I'd take her to church with me on Sunday morning, and take her back home Sunday afternoon.

We had a fun Friday night. I don't quite remember how we spent the evening before bedtime, but, I'm pretty sure it involved reading - and Dora. Much has changed since then. Let it go! Let it go! (Gee, thanks, Frozen.) Before tucking her into bed, I asked her what she'd like for breakfast in the morning. I said, "I was thinking we could have waffles!"
"Yes! Yes! Waffles! I love waffles! Let's do waffles, Aunty!"

I guess that was the best idea, ever!

Anyway, come morning - and, by morning, I mean waking-up-at-5:45-on-a-Saturday-morning morning - I awoke to her shaking my shoulder, "Aunty! It's morning!"
"It's kinda early, though, don't you think?"
"No. No, it's not! The sun is up. It's light outside!"

She was right. The sun was up. It was light, outside. Who knew? She did. Apparently.

I struggled out of bed. After a quick trip to the bathroom, I was ready to start the day. Almost. I told her I was gonna take a moment to say prayers, then I'd be right with her. I took that moment and, as soon as I was done, I asked Kiki whether she had said prayers, too.

"Yes, I was praying that you would finish praying so we could go make the waffles!"

I'm still crying! Lol!!!


Thursday, 8 January 2015

What's Your Story: Gordie

I met Gordie. He was seated in his wheelchair at the bottom of the escalator. I had just alighted at Dundas subway station from the train heading north. Amidst the throng of people walking through the adjoining level to the Atrium, I saw him perched under the direction signs. He called out to no one in particular - it seemed to me - for "spare change for a coffee." The handle of my lunch bag was perched in the crook of my left elbow, so I made the universal sign for "I got nothin'," with my right hand. And I kept walking. It was Monday morning - the last Monday in December 2014. I wanted to wrap up the year with super early arrivals at work.

I made it about four or five steps away then did the U-turn thing that Torontonians recognize and appreciate. Because, in Toronto, one simply does not stop in one's tracks to turn and head in the opposite direction. The rule is to make a quick glance in the direction of your intended turn - while you keep walking - then, when the pedestrian traffic allows, pull a U-turn and safely blend in the pedestrian flow from the opposite direction. Trust me. After a few attempts, it's like second nature. And, while I'm up, the escalator rule is: Stand Right; Walk Left. And, and, the door rule is: Relieve the other person holding the door open for you (assuming they do) AND hold the door open for the person behind you. Don't worry. If it's longer than two seconds, you can let go - guilt free. There, there. You'll thank me later.

So, the U-turn. I made the safe turn and went back to stand in front of him. I said hi, and asked him whether he wanted me to buy him a cup of coffee. He thanked me profusely. That's so nice of you; I really appreciate it, and so on. I'm not a coffee drinker. Tried it one afternoon several years ago and I did not sleep that night. The fact that I had the beverage at about 2:30, and not being accustomed to it, might have had something to do with that. I do like the scent and taste, though, so I go with decaff once in a while. Where was I going with this? Yeah, I made sure to ask him how he wanted it. Triple. Triple. Medium or large? Large, please. Okay. I'll be right back. Thanks again. That's so kind. I assured him I'd be back. (Not in Schwarzenegger's voice.)

I took the nearby Up escalator, hurried through the two sets of glass doors, then joined one of the three queues at the Tim Horton's in the Atrium. My line was long, and the guy at the front didn't seem to be sure of what he wanted. That happens. Then, a voice to my left called out, "I can help you over here!" He'd just opened his station. I scurried over, "Thank youuuu!" He smiled. I ordered the large triple triple. In a jiffy, I was back through the two sets of glass doors, down the steps (no Down escalator) and across the floor back to Gordie.

As soon as he spotted me, he started thanking me again. I handed him the coffee and assured him it was no problem at all. Then, I did something out of the ordinary. As the crowds passed us by, I sat on the bench next to his wheelchair. I asked him how long he'd been sitting there. He said he'd been there a while. I then said, "You know, I know people don't choose this. Do you care to share what happened?"

He had been working as a contractor with an energy provider and, one day, he fell off a scaffold. Hospital stay, specialized care and loss of income took their toll. In three short years, his common-law wife left, and he lost his home. He's now on Ontario Works (financial assistance). "That's just enough to pay the rent for the rats' nest," he said. He has applied for ODSP - Ontario Disability Support Program - and is waiting to hear back. He told me there were so many times he used to sit and simply feel angry or sad, and that he's also battled depression. "But, you know what I thought of?" He asked, stroking his beard, not expecting a response. "I remembered that poem," he said. He started, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can..." I nodded. He paused, "There's a third bit." I helped him out, "And wisdom to know the difference," I said. He joined me at " know the difference."

We talked for a little while longer. I was gonna be super early for work, but, by this time, I was now gonna be right on time. He told me a story about a homeless person who, clad only in a shirt and pants, found little comfort sleeping on a sidewalk grill years ago. It wasn't the dead of winter, but it was cold. Pretty soon, some people from one of the homeless shelters pulled over, helped him up and took him in. It doesn't happen like that a lot, he explained. I listened as he made the point. "People just walk on by when they see people on the street. People don't care. How do you get people to care?"

I didn't have an answer. I told him I don't know. I paused.
"Maybe one way is to help people become aware?" I asked. I told him I'd like to write about what he told me.
"To try to educate people, you mean?"
I nodded, "Yeah."
"Yeah, people need to know that something like this can happen to anybody," he said.

I stood as I told him it was nice talking with him. He said thanks for taking the time to chat, I must be busy, and so on. I pulled off my right glove and we shook hands.
"You have a strong handshake," he said.
"Yeah. I know. I got it from my dad," I smiled. It's my go to reply when people say that.

Earlier this week, January 6, it was reported that a homeless man was found dead after a bitterly cold night in Toronto. He was found, without vital signs, at Yonge & Dundas, clad only in a T-shirt and jeans. As a result of the Artic Air Mass that descended in this neck o' the woods, temperatures have been hitting -18C and lower, but feel like -27C and lower, because of the wind chill. My mind ran on Gordie. Early reports had said the man was in his late 40s. Gordie had looked older. Later reports said "in his 50s" and "55 years old." On second and third thoughts, I don't think it was Gordie. No mention of a wheelchair, and, even though it's a "rats' nest" he has somewhere to go. Still no word on the identity of the man they found at Yonge & Dundas. He was one of two homeless people found dead this week in the bitter cold.

Life. How it goes - and how it goes on.

May your 2015 be a good one.


Sunday, 28 December 2014

End of Here

Even as I sit here admiring the blank - well, now, sorta blank - page, I'm still not certain what to write about in this post. It's the last one for the year, and, like most of the other end-of-year ones before it, it must take on a hue of the nostalgic. It shan't be an executive summary of the happenings of 2014, or a (long) list of blessings for which I am thankful. No sireee. Like I'd mentioned some time ago, my prayer journal gets it all - and constantly during the year, too.

I experienced many teachable moments this year. Heck. The entire year was a teachable moment!

I learned not to write people off for the occasional hurt. People who love each other will do that. Hurt each other, I mean. I made a note to self: I'm not perfect, either. There's anger and silence... But, it's the love between them that helps them cross over to the other side of the anger or hurt. Not what society or social media thinks of their relationship; not what their friends have to say about it. It's about their mutual love and how much they care about each other. They know they matter more to each other than what "people have to say." Pshh.

Found on the Internet. Somewhere.

Learned that I'm more patient than I thought I was. I've come to know - and be able to tell - the difference between foolishness-up-with-which-I-cannot-put and a cry for patience. At some point in the year, I remembered how, in the past, there were some who were not as patient with me as I had wanted...needed them to be. I understand, now. Life takes funny turns. And gives you 20/20 vision. And then it comes full circle. So, turns out I've become much more patient. Who knew? No, really. Who knew? It would have been nice to have been so enlightened. It sometimes helps to see yourself through the eyes of another. Which brings me to my next moment.

It sometimes helps to see yourself through the eyes of another. As time wears on, it's easy to get lost in the day-to-day. What's that quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson? "The years teach much which the days never know." Unless someone taps us on the shoulder and draws our attention to it, we don't look up long enough to see the positive difference we make in the lives of others. Plus, others see confidence and ability and so much more that we either have a) come to take for granted, or b) not taken stock of, unless we're updating our résumés or Bios. Characteristics like strength of spirit and fortitude and stick-to-itiveness don't really shine until we are rubbed. Hard. Yeah, to borrow the sentiment from that popular ad, "You're stronger than you think."

Turns out I don't need someone's permission to love them. Who would've thunk it? I can love people, whether they like it or not. I've also taken note that love, like a plant when it's not nurtured, may die. And, like a plant when it is nurtured, love grows. Nay, flourishes.

Know what else? I got better at living in the moment. I could get used to that. I'd better. :-)

Turns out, I can learn something new every day. I learned how to make a wicked sweet potato puddn! Lat, one of my sis, taught me.

In 2014, not all my prayers were answered with "Yes." I also heard, "No." A lot. I also heard, "Wait." All in all, thankful. I believe God's heart toward me is beautiful and perfect. He knows what He's about.

Lest I forget, thank you, dear reader, so very much, for reading my blog. It's not a themed blog and I'm not an expert on anything. I simply like to write about life - and how it goes. And how it goes on. Because, if it's one thing we come to understand is that life goes on. And, btw, it doesn't slow down just because you are late or unprepared. I still write to enlighten, educate and inspire. Hopefully, the young'uns in my family will find some gems in these posts in years to come.

We're winding down - and winding up! 2015. God willing, we'll soon be there. We're nearing the end of here. I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. I simply think it'd be good to realize a dream or two - old or new - and be wiser for the journey ahead. Wisdom is the principal thing.

And, one more thing. This became a mantra of mine in 2014: #EverythingIsGoingToBeAlright

Oh, and, one more 'one more thing': Don't blink!