Blog, Poetry

Social (Media) Change & Social (Media) Anxiety

Trigger warning – this post and the poem are about high anxiety and stress. Some people, especially those already dealing with these, may feel disturbed by the content.

So, after my second one was born, I took a break from social media. I completely disappeared off the face of the www, and that was the time I had least anxiety. I came back this year to promote my Etsy shop and it has been great connecting with so many people and have my work appreciated by so many, but the anxiety has started to come back too. Sure, it has a lot to do with my husband’s third seizure, but even so, social media engagement does have a role to play.

I don’t know why but there is a lot of negativity on social media these days. I know a lot of people say it is because people are trying to show their lives are perfect, which makes others feel inadequate and leads to anxiety, but that’s not the case with me.

My anxiety stems from the way people use words. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’m in love with words. I value words. Words matter to me. To see people use words so thoughtlessly, so carelessly, causes me a great deal of pain. Every single day, someone is telling someone they are ugly, their kid deserves to die, their spouse will leave them and run, for no reason at all. What reason could there be for spewing such hatred on people whose journey you have no idea about?

Hiding behind the keyboard apparently makes people feel empowered for all the wrong reasons. Another place that is evident is in how people comment on social issues on social media and criticize others who are not doing the same. People would say I condemn this or I stand with that and their job is done. Since when did social change become social media change?

Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that social media has achieved a lot in terms of creating awareness and bringing people together. In India, so many people came together for candlelight vigils and protests through social media and they were able to bring about social change through that simple act of sharing a post, on multiple occasions.

However, while social media is a platform where important messages can be shared, it can also be a breeding ground for thoroughly misleading information, incomplete initiatives and senseless hatred. And it is the blurring of the lines between these, as well as the way information surfaces and gets lost the very next moment, that causes me a great deal of anxiety.

This is what made me write this poem a while back.

She sat in front of the laptop again

hoping to find answers to

the million unanswered questions

woven in the web of her mind.

Hoping to curb the wave of anxiety

threatening to drown her, yet again.

She came across images of violence

in a land, not very different than hers,

and she could feel the wave getting bigger,

pushing her even deeper in the anxious sea.

She quickly scrolled to roll down

the bumpy hill of kaleidoscopic images.

Cats playing with dogs

brought her back to the surface,

if only for a minute.

Her fingers were in charge now.

They were moving against her will.

They moved on to the next image,

and the next,

and the next.

She sank again,

at the sight of corpses and skeletons

and floods of tears, wet and dry.

Giggling babies rescued her this time,

pulling her to the bank,

like angels who stood tall

against her own demons.

She was exhausted from all this

pushing around.

She vowed to take charge,

take things in her own hands.

She stopped the browsing,

actively, consciously searched

for groups and pages and influencers

she could use as her inspiration.

But why stop at that?

She decided to become an influencer herself,

to bring about social change, one step at a time.

She wasn’t anxious anymore.

She posted information, opinions,

even calls to action.

She got one hundred likes, two hundred follows,

five hundred shares. They made her feel

empowered. She was finally getting somewhere.

Until, one day…

The likes stopped, the follows slowed down,

the shares took a break.

She could feel the waves coming back,

trying hard to drown her.

How will she come back from this?

How will she rescue herself this time?

I guess, only time will tell…

Blog, Poetry

More thoughts on Home & Exile

Trigger Warning: Some readers may find the thoughts discussed in this post disturbing.

So, here is another poem I wrote about my confused identity as someone from Kashmir, who has no physical connection with the land, or the trauma associated with exile. This was also published by South Asian Ensemble, like the first poem.

The Exiled Truth

Here I sit again tonight,
Bent over my study table,
Far removed from my long-forgotten reality,
Yet deeply attached to it. 

I make another futile attempt
To comprehend the truths about my past,
Through elaborate discourses
Drafted by well-informed minds.

The picture of my past 
Sadly remains half-painted into my present.
The elaborate discourses I encounter 
Do little more than fighting 
To find fit labels for a reality 
They understand no better than me.

As they feign to answer correctly 
The hows and whys
Of the time I was exiled 
From my beautiful Kashmir,
They forget to mention 
The colour of the earth on which I stood
As I bid farewell to my home 
Burning in the unforgiving flame 
Of senseless hatred. 

They fail to describe the paleness of the sky
Witness to the fateful night 
I had to uproot my soul from that home,
As I desperately sought a land
I could at least pretend to call my own.

Their curious eyes miss 
The roughness of the spot in my backyard, 
Where I hurriedly hid my memories,
Hoping that, on a blessed day, 
Inquisitive hearts tied to mine,
Would unearth, 
Or even relive them,
As they meander into 
The ruins of my paradise. 

Alas, the picture of my past 
Will remain half-painted 
Way into my future, 
As the elaborate discourses
Fight over fickle labels 
That don’t mean anything to me. 

So, here I sit again, 
Bent over my study table, 
Far removed from my long-forgotten reality, 
Yet deeply attached to it. 
I still yearn to comprehend it;
Through imaginary discourses, this time, 
Drafted by my own feeble mind –
Defeated yet determined.

Blog, Poetry

Mothers & Daughters & Domestic Violence

Trigger warning: This post has a poem on domestic, gender-based violence and physical abuse, which some people may find disturbing.

Growing up in India, I heard so many women discussing marriage; and every time someone talked about their complaints with their husband, some woman commented, “At least he doesn’t hit you.” I talk about India, because that is the only reference point I have, but I’m sure it is not the only country where domestic violence is a critical issue.

Canadianwomen.org has shared these shocking facts about gender-based violence,

”Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.”

“67% of Canadians say they have personally known at least one woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse.”

“Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.” (Canadianwomen.org)

So, coming back to my childhood, I always thought that a woman should feel lucky that her husband doesn’t hit her. What was even more shocking was how many times I came across mothers advising their daughters to go back to an abusive relationship, rather than standing by them and encouraging them to speak up. Of course, a lot of movies and other media discussed this issue during my childhood and adolescent years, bringing out the hypocrisy and toxicity of societal norms surrounding marriage, but that never seemed to change the general attitude on the subject.

So, troubled by one such incident, I wrote the following poem on domestic violence. It’s called Rice Pudding. It is an impassioned plea from a daughter to her mother to teach her subversion not submission – to boil over and fight, not give up and get dissolved in society’s inequalities.

Rice Pudding

Oh Mother, dear Mother!

Teach me how to make

Your rice pudding, tonight,

And take me back to my childhood.

Take me back to those nights

When Life dealt me a blow

Through the heavy hands of Father.

Oh Mother, dear Mother!

Please teach me how to make

Your rice pudding, as tonight,

Life has dealt me another rough blow;

This time, through the unfeeling hands

Of the man who swept me off my feet

Just as I crossed the threshold of adolescence,

Only to throw me back on the ground

With unforgiving force.

Oh Mother, dear Mother!

Teach me how to make your rice pudding.

And, as I bite the dust licking my fallen face,

Let the aroma of the fragrant cardamom

Overpower the smell of fresh blood

Oozing from my nose;

And the colour of saffron

Hide my weeping bruises

In a warm embrace.

Oh Mother, dear Mother!

Please take me back to my childhood,

And teach me not to

Get dissolved passively like the sweet sugar,

But boil over like the indignant milk,

When not tended to carefully.

Mother, do teach me

How to burn the unfeeling hand

That bruises my body and my soul.

Tonight. Every night.

Blog, Poetry

A Poem about Home, Exile and an Unspoken Connection

Hello. I hope you’re all safe and well. I don’t know why but I have been thinking a lot about Kashmir lately. Kashmir, often called Paradise on Earth, is a troubled state in India. Its history is stained with violence, unrest and their obvious companion exile. Now, although my ancestors, Kashmiri Pandits, had to flee the state, likely during the Mughal Era in India, and I have never visited the land, I still identify as Kashmiri – my facial features, my last name, the traditions I follow are all reminiscent of my inheritance. However, since I am far removed from that experience, I am always at a loss when people ask me where I’m from.

This poem was written after one such conversation. I was having a conversation with friends and they asked, ‘Where are you from?’ I said, ‘Kashmir.’

Immediately, they followed up, ‘Where in Kashmir?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Do you still have property there?’

‘No. Never did.’

‘Is it as beautiful as they say? What is the political situation there?’

’No idea.’

’Okay, so why do you call it home, then?’

Everyone just had a casual laugh about it, but it really got me thinking. I wrote a bit of it at the time, and then polished it for an office exercise and submitted it for publishing, soon after. It was published in an edition of South Asian Ensemble in 2014-2015.

Here is the poem, with a few revisions:

“Last night, I met my friends 

Over dinner and drinks;

We had a great time chatting

’bout silly little things,

Until they caught me completely off-guard,

By asking a question I’d never been asked.

One by one, they started discussing memories of their hometown…

Distant memories of belonging to one place, of being tied to it forever.

Thinking about my turn I was filled with panic –

How could I ever explain where I belonged?

Making a mental note to get a bunch of new friends

Who asked better questions,

I pondered the answer over and over again.

I sneaked into my heart, and strolled deep inside

To dig out a name I cautiously hid there,

And kept sheltered, away from all harm.

The place celebrated as Switzerland of the East, 

As Paradise on Earth,

The beautiful Kashmir!

The place to which I owe my notoriously long nose,

My complexion, my light eyes,

My fat-laden, spice-loaded food,

And the perfectly embroidered patterns on my phirans.

But how will I ever explain to them why, despite being a born Kashmiri,

I never set foot in Kashmir?

They would laugh at me if I told them,

I didn’t want to visit it as a tourist who couldn’t wait to return.

That I wanted to go there when I could call it my own, 

Even a tiny inch of its land to carve my initials on.

Wouldn’t they make fun of me when I disclosed,

I visited it in my dreams each night,

Played in the captivating valley nestled quietly in the Himalayas,

And absorbed the beauty of its snow-capped mountains?

I got lost in the lush pine, deodar and chinar forests

And its deftly designed waterfront gardens.

I cherished the brilliance of its silvery streams and sparkling waterfalls,

Slid down fragrant slopes of bright, vibrant flowers.

Oh, how I relished luxuriously cruising around the Dal Lake in a Shikara,

Or stealing a silent sleep in an exotic house-boat!

They wouldn’t know how often I imagined wrapping myself

In the spell-binding beauty of the picturesque Pahalgam,

And the splendour of Gulmarg and Sonamarg;

Or drowning in the magnificence of Srinagar’s marvellous orchards and lily-laden lakes,

Being immersed in the gentle hues of its four fabulous seasons.

No, I wouldn’t be able to explain to them

What it meant to be tied to a place you’ve seen only in your dreams!

‘Cause the Paradise has been plundered for centuries now,

By Greed and Satan’s entire legion,

Not subtle as the serpent this time,

And definitely not alone.

They abducted the Eves, mutilated the Adams,

Snatched from them what Nature had gifted willingly,

Until they chose exile over death and dignity.

No, they could never understand what it meant 

To belong to a land that cannot belong to you.

So, when my turn came, I quietly answered

I don’t have a home, there’s nowhere I belong.

And as they laughed heartily at my anomaly,

And moved on to the next glorious narrative of a distant home,

I went back to reflecting upon the lost paradise,

And revising my mental note of getting a bunch of new friends

Who asked better questions…”

Would you like to share a similar narrative of belongingness/belonginglessness? Comment below or send me a message.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

Online Self-Directed Learning: My Experience

Hello. If you follow me, you must have noticed that my posts have been quite inconsistent for a while. There are two reasons for it – one, I have been feeling a little anxious and depressed since my husband’s last seizure; two, I’m studying for an online course I started last year.

Being a stay-at-home Mom in the midst of the pandemic (with on-and-off lockdowns), I could not sign up for a full-time course, so I chose online, self-directed or asynchronous learning instead. It basically means that you sign up for the course, you have a facilitator to post course content, assign projects/assignments/discussion topics, answer any questions you may have and offer you any help you may need to get through it.

Since I was a kid, I have been equally passionate about writing and teaching. When I was an undergraduate student in India, I only wanted to teach at the university. That was my dream. And I realized it, too, for a while before I moved to Canada. Since I came here, however, I began to focus more on writing and teaching took a backseat. I used to teach at a learning centre part-time, while working as a copywriter, but that was it.

So, after my second kid’s second birthday, when I realized that I had to upgrade myself if I wanted to land a job, I decided to choose a course that helps me nurture my love of teaching, as well. Hence, the course I chose was Adult Teaching/Staff Training. As I said before, I am pursuing an online self-directed course. I am working towards a certificate so I start one course at a time.

The main reason why I like this format is because I can make my own schedule. I need to spend three or four hours during a week to complete weekly activities or assignments and I can choose when I can devote that time to the course. This format helps me work during hours that work for me. I usually go through the course or participate in discussions on weeknights, after the kids have gone to bed, and I work on assignments (usually, that’s once a month) when it’s my husband’s day off. The flexibility is really helpful for someone like me who always has a million items on my to-do list.

Also, since I’m more focussed when I read something on my own and I’m more responsive to the written word, going through the course content at my own pace, on my own time, really works for me. I can always go back when I don’t understand something and take a break when it gets overwhelming. That way, I do not feel discouraged or distracted.

Also, since I’m an introvert, I get a little conscious while participating in face-to-face discussions. In self-directed learning, the discussions are mainly written, so I can gather my thoughts, do my research and post my views in a logical, coherent manner. Of course, I know that in-person discussions would be better for my confidence, but so far, I like being in my comfort zone, without the added pressure of public speaking.

Another advantage of this format is that the flexibility means I can still work on freelance projects or apply for full-time jobs without worrying about completing the course. On top of it all, it also helps me brush up my research skills and academic writing, while also preparing me for a fruitful career in the teaching field. Plus, since I do one course at a time, I keep completing courses on LinkedIn Learning and Google Digital Garage that I wish to add to my resume.

I’m currently looking for options that can provide me the stability of a permanent 9-5 job, while also indulging my love of teaching. Some of the courses that I came across that can help me do that are adult education, instructional design and content creation. If you have come across other fields that writers/teachers can explore, please feel free to comment on this post, or send me a direct message.

In the coming weeks, I will be writing about essay writing, online sources for writing references and citations and courses I have found helpful or interesting. If you’d like to suggest topics that you’d like to see more posts on, please feel free to reach out.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

Life between Lockdowns: Smart Kids, Tired Parents

I think all of us are familiar with the fresh challenges we face these days, because of the COVID crisis. One among them is parenting during lockdowns. I am home all day with a 5-year old and a 2-year old. While I’m incredibly grateful that I have a safe and comfortable space where I get to stay with my loved ones, I’m also inexplicably exhausted.

Cooking, cleaning, studying for my course, trying to complete a novel, laundry, dishes and above all, making sure the kids are safe, healthy, fed and, on top of it, entertained can be quite a task, and overwhelming at times. That being said, the kids also keep me sane in insane circumstances, which is the main reason why I’m crazy about the people who drive me crazy all day!

My 2-year old has just started talking, so her way of entertaining me (and giving me a heart attack in the process) is dancing, climbing the sofa, table, bed – basically, any elevated space at home, colouring the walls and getting toys to play with, every now and then. My 5-year old is a wordsmith like Mommy. He often comes up with these witty retorts that, to be honest, I never have the energy to counter.

A few nights back, the Mister and I were putting the kids to bed. After a few minutes of silence, out of the blue, my son says, “Mommy, remember that time, you said that thing that made me so sad. I think it was unfair.” I had no idea what he was talking about and he didn’t remember the episode either, but for the next twenty minutes, he talked about how it was my fault and how I made him sad by saying ‘that thing.’ My husband just smiled silently, reflecting on all the times I did this to him (confronting him months after something happened, when he was defenceless as he did not have any recollection of the incident) and starting to believe in karma again.

There are many such instances where he would call me or someone else during virtual learning out on something that has been said that doesn’t make sense to him. For instance, just the other day, he was told during the earth week that we shouldn’t waste food, so if we are given a piece of cake, we should eat it all even if we don’t feel like it. He immediately raised his hand and said but if we eat more than we want, we might fall sick and get a tummy ache. Similarly, when he was told that killing spiders is not good, and that we should be nice to every living creature, his response was to get a frog or a lizard as a pet, because they need bugs and spiders for food. That way, they would get food and we won’t be killing any living creature.

In circumstances outside of COVID-19 or lockdowns, I had enough energy to have a dialogue with him and explain things to him in detail, but now, I feel like I do not have the mental or physical strength to do that. Either way, I always try to make sure he gets the chance to express himself, at all times – to acknowledge his feelings, discuss his thoughts and never keep anything bottled up inside him. While, this mostly leads to entertainment and amusing responses to everyday situations, sometimes, it also exposes how vulnerable kids can be, and that even though they seem to be adjusting well to things, they are equally scared and anxious.

My son had a lot of meltdowns the first time his school moved to virtual learning. This time around, the episodes have significantly decreased. However, sometimes he would still cry and ask me when he can go back to school or see his friends again. Last night, as I was putting him to bed, he hugged me tightly and said, “Mommy, can you please make sure I’m always okay? Can you promise you will never let me go?” I wanted to ask him what made him ask these questions, but I decided it was more important for me to reassure him at that time, so I refrained from asking him any questions, and just tried my best to make him feel safe, protected and secure.

It also made me feel extremely sad for people who are facing the more serious repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis, especially in countries like India, which have been catastrophically affected in the recent past. If you’re in Canada and wish to help those in India fighting like never before to survive, please visit this article by Globalnews.ca for resources and links to organizations working to improve things in the country.

If you’re a parent in Canada, struggling with the challenges presented by the pandemic and restrictions following it, you may find these resources offered by Canada.ca quite useful. If you would like to share your experiences, please feel free to write to me or comment below. I know the importance of catharsis, and I truly believe that giving a vent to your frustration in no way means that you’re ungrateful for the things you have.

I hope you all stay safe and well, and are able to take care of yourself as much as your loved ones, in these difficult times. Visit my free downloads page. Here, you will find a couple of inspirational/motivational quotes available to download for free.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

Unsolicited Advice…My Fear of Driving…And Why Words Matter

So, as I said in my last post, my husband had his first seizure two years back. At the time, we were extremely stressed and I was even more vulnerable than usual. I know a lot of people who hide these things from others for a variety of reasons. However, being the younger kid (I guess?), I always look for support from those around me. I tell everyone close to me if I’m going through a rough time, and look to them for support and for telling me that everything will be okay.

I derive my strength from my support system and I’m fortunate that I’m surrounded by the kindest, most caring of people (touchwood), who are always available for us. However, after my husband’s first seizure, I realized that outside of our support system, there were a lot of people ready with unsolicited advice that didn’t have anything to do with our concerns at the time.

Since then, I observed others’ and my own interactions with people, and I noticed that unsolicited advice is, more often than not, people’s (including me) spontaneous response to conversations about challenges. So, I have been trying my best, since then, to listen without interruptions to anyone sharing their worries with me, and respond to them with anything other than unsolicited advice. There have been slip-ups, yes, but I try to make up for them through follow-up conversations.

The main reason why unsolicited advice fails, according to me, is that it is based on the premise that others’ priorities are the same as ours. At the time of his first seizure, my husband was a commercial driver. So, our first concern was about the status of his job, since we knew his licence would be suspended after his seizure. Second, we were worried about the reason behind the seizure. We were still getting a lot of tests done, at that point, so we didn’t know if there was anything we needed to worry about. That being said, when some of our acquaintances found out about the seizure, their first worry was that I didn’t drive. They felt that this would add to my husband’s stress (one of the possible triggers for seizures) as we would have to walk to get groceries or take cabs for doctors’ appointments.

Although this unsolicited advice came from a good place (like all advice does), it was as thoughtless as the firefighter’s comment in my previous post. One, because it ignored our state of mind and all our concerns about the seizure. Two, because it made me feel like I was adding to my husband’s stress, which was even worse than the first.

Instead of giving advice, when someone is venting out their stress, we should let them get it all out of their system. Especially when someone has been through a challenging situation, we should quietly listen to them. When they’re done, we should probably say something like – ‘I’m sorry you have to go through this. Tell me what I can do to help.’ Some of the beautiful gestures shown by our loved ones after these episodes have been:

  • Coming over with food and watching our kids (not possible this time, due to Covid-19)
  • Leaving food, snacks and flowers outside our door (this year)
  • Getting groceries
  • Checking in on us from time to time
  • Helping out with hospital visits/stays

My husband had his third seizure earlier this month, and with the stress of Covid-19 and life, in general, a little sensitivity/kindness from people around goes a long way towards decreasing our stress and anxiety levels. I understand why driving seems so important, particularly in the current scenario, and I would love to learn how to drive…I have tried taking lessons twice, but perhaps because of a nasty accident we were in, when I was a child (I’m not completely sure why), I dread being behind the wheel. I know it is up to me to overcome my fear, and perhaps some day I will, but until I do, criticism from people hardly increases my drive to drive (sorry…word play runs through my veins). In fact, it bothered me so much that I wrote a poem about it, in typical writers’ fashion.

What are your thoughts about unsolicited advice? Do you think it is justified? Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Do let me know through comments or drop me a message here. Stay safe and well, everyone.

Here is my poem. It is a little dramatic, when you read it in context, but a poem is the perfect place for a little drama, don’t you think?

Behind the Wheel

They made me sit behind the wheel again.

“A woman must learn how to drive,”

they said, condescendingly,

“Learn how to be independent.”

I silently chuckled as they failed to comprehend

The inherent irony of their claims;

As they took me on a road I didn’t recognize,

To a destination I had no inkling of.

As I struggled to find my way

On the path they chose for me,

Their loud lamentations deafened my ears,

And their passionate protests clasped my mind.

“Women are such bad drivers,”

They derisively exclaimed,

“They have no sense of direction, I say!”

I listened to them silently,

Filled not with rage, but a surprising determination.

Oh, I will sit behind the wheel again;

I will learn how to drive.

I will learn how to drive when I’m guided

By the music of the clouds in the clear blue sky,

Not the jeers of my backseat drivers.

I will learn how to drive

When I choose my own path and destination,

Not when I have to follow another’s directions.

I will surely learn how to drive

When independence is a necessary link

In the chain of my existence,

Not a skill to be learned,

And definitely not a boon to be granted.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

The Fear of Seizures…And Why Words Matter

Two years back, ten days after the birth of my younger kid, my husband had his first seizure. All of us were sleeping when it happened. It was around dawn, and I feel embarrassed to say that I had no idea what was happening when I saw him. I called 911 and they told me that it was a seizure.

Since then, he has had two more seizures – one every year – and they still scare me every single time. The weeks following a seizure are filled with stress, panic, anxiety, maybe even a little indignation. I have sleepless nights, thinking I may not wake up to watch over him if he has another one in his sleep. If someone as much as sneezes or drops a pillow at night, I get up startled.

However, every time, after months of this behaviour, I realize that the moment we let fear into our lives, it takes over everything in it. It consumes us to the point that everything starts to scare us, and our mind, rather our life, ends up becoming a big What If? What if it happens when he is walking on the road, or taking a bath, or driving? What if it intensifies in the coming years? What if this, what if that…until you cease to live in the present.

Now, you would know, that especially if you have kids (and especially if they are both quite young), you cannot afford to do that. You cannot let fear of anything consume you or those around you. You have to stay strong, especially if those around you derive their strength from you. Of course, you have to be cautious, do everything in your power to stay safe, but you cannot go around living life under the heavy blanket of fear.

I have to admit that having a strong support system makes it a bit easier, even if we can’t see them due to pandemic restrictions, these days (I will spare you the discussion of the fear of Covid-19, at this point). However, I will also go on to say that at such times, I realize how important words are, too, as people aren’t always sensitive to the vulnerability following a life-altering experience, such as this.

The first time my husband had a seizure, firefighters came along with paramedics, in case he needed to be carried to the ambulance. One of the firefighters was quite young. I had recently given birth and needed privacy. So my mother-in-law (who was kind enough to come and take care of us and help us out after the delivery), my husband, and my older kid slept in the same room, while the newborn and I slept together. When I was explaining the situation to the 911 team that arrived, the said firefighter chuckled and commented, “Oh, so your husband was sleeping with his mother-in-law?” I corrected him and said, my husband and my son were sleeping next to my husband’s mother, and then answered the paramedics’ questions, but his comment continued to pinch me days after the episode.

I really respect the teams that rescued us both at the time of my second delivery (yes, we had to call 911 when my younger one was born, too) and at the time of my husband’s seizure. They were prompt, considerate, professional, compassionate and fulfilled their duty perfectly. They helped us at times when we felt completely helpless, and I cannot express the gratitude I feel for that alone. However, the comment made by that one person, who probably wasn’t even thinking before speaking up, upset me a great deal for the exact same reason – why do people not think before they speak anymore? Why are we always asking people to NOT THINK AFTER HEARING what someone has said? Why can’t we remind people to THINK BEFORE SPEAKING instead?

If you’re reading this, I would like you to remember that words matter, especially if you’re talking to a highly sensitive person, especially if you’re talking to someone who has gone through a challenging experience. Let’s be kind to each other, whenever possible. It is always possible.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog, Poetry, Tutorial

No Time for Rhyme? Tips for Writing Free Verse

Hello. So, before I start the post, let me give you a few updates. First, I did not get a call about either of the two interviews I gave last month. I am now taking a break from applying for copywriting jobs, and focussing on applying for teaching jobs instead. This is something I do once every two or three months, to keep my morale up and avoid boredom. If you recently got a job in either of the two fields, please let me know what you did right. Haha. Second, my husband got the most unique 40th birthday present – a positive Covid-test. He is fine, thankfully, and so are my kids and I. There’s just been a lot of self-isolation going on, so I couldn’t post for a while. Third, I closed my RedBubble shop. Despite good feedback, and intermittent Instagram promotions, I did not manage to get a lot of follows or make even a single sale. Since I made two sales on Etsy, I wanted to make sure I’m able to spend enough time promoting Etsy, rather than trying to juggle two things art once.

Now, back to the topic. So, I love rhyme, but I do not always have the time or energy for it. On days like these, and depending on the subject matter, I like to write free verse. Free verse is verse free from the bounds of fixed meter patterns. So, simplistically put, a poem without a consistent rhyme scheme. Now, how do you add rhythm to a poem without using rhyming words? These are some of the tricks I use:

  1. Title – Make the title of the poem poetic. Use a poetic device in the title itself, or make it imaginative. Let me give you the example of my poem “When Two Become One”. I wrote it a while back, after a minor argument with my husband. Yes, that’s what poets do! They write a poem, no matter what the situation. So, this title portrays an image of coming together and has a romantic ring to it.
  2. Alliteration – Alliteration is repeating the consonant sound at the beginning of a few consecutive words in a sentence. For example, take a line from my poem. “I take pleasure in pleasing people…” Do you notice the repetition of the “p” sound? That is alliteration. It emphasizes an idea and creates a good listening effect, don’t you agree?
  3. Imagery – Creating pictures with words, particularly those that have a sensory effect, are particularly effective in making poetry poetic. “Let’s melt all our ironies into a single paradox…Let’s walk hand in hand.” These are examples of using words to create an image in the reader’s mind. Let the reader see that you’re walking hand in hand. Let the reader feel the ironies melting into each other like a mocha chocolate bomb melting under hot milk in a mug…Oops! Sorry, foodie alert!
  4. Idioms – Idioms are groups of words that have come to possess a meaning in the collective mindset that is different from their literal meaning. “Let’s walk hand in hand towards the evening of our lives.” Here, the evening of our lives means old age, a meaning that literature has popularized, over the years.
  5. Repetition – This is my favourite device, especially while writing free verse. Repeat a word, a phrase or a line and notice the effect it creates. It can help drive a point home, while also creating a unique listening effect. It is used quite commonly in popular songs, as well. Can you think of a favourite song that plays the same line over and over? Doesn’t that line stick to your memory more easily than the other lines, playing in your mind like a broken record?
  6. Dramatic effect – A little exaggeration of emotion, a little bit of word play – techniques such as these create a dramatic effect that works well in poetry. “By an unknown twist of fate…” is used to describe something as mundane as a husband and wife getting used to each other after a few years of living together, in my poem. Also, pay attention to flow by using lines of varied lengths and dividing a sentence into lines such that it sounds rhythmic.

What are some of the techniques you use to make your free verse poetic? Do you like rhyme better or free verse, both as a writer and as a reader? Let me know through the comments section of the post. If you’d like to participate in a one-on-one poetry workshop, get in touch through my contact page. I also offer poetry editing and proofreading services. If you’d like to buy the poem discussed in this post as a scroll, please visit my Etsy shop or the Shop on this website for pricing details.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

Life around COVID-19: Milestone Birthdays

So, this Saturday was the Mr.’s 40th birthday. Last year, I was naive enough to think everything would be back to usual by this year and I would be able to throw him a surprise party, inviting all his friends and family. Well, we all know how that turned out. So, I decided that I would decorate the whole house with 40th birthday decorations and give him a surprise at home instead, as soon as he got back from work.

I ordered elegant black and gold decorations from Amazon.ca, and chose priority delivery so they would get delivered a day or two before his birthday. I also ordered a beer mug for him, with 40th birthday wishes etched on it. For some reason, the orders were delayed and nothing was shipped even two days before the big day. So, I cancelled the order, went to Walmart and got the birthday decorations I could get. They did not have 40th birthday ones, so I decided to get creative.

My husband has had a rough couple of years – I’ll bore you with the details in another post – so I kept teasing him “Life begins at 40”, something my father always used to say since the beginning of this year. To celebrate this new life and to tease him a little more, I got baby shower/newborn balloons for him that said “It’s a boy.” I have to tell you that half the people I showed this to didn’t get it, but my husband had a good laugh, so it was worth it.

I couldn’t get a lot of decorations, to be honest – just a banner, a few balloons, a pack or two of swirling decorations, and that was it. So, to fill up the walls, I do what I do best. I made posters. I printed one from my Etsy shop and two basic ones. One of them just said “Life begins at 40. Happy Birthday,” printed on MS Word with a hearts page border in the Lucida Handwriting font. The other one said “40 Reasons Why We Love You” followed by a numbered list, all 40 items of which said “You’re the best”. The last line said, “Oh, and you’re the best. Happy birthday”. This one had a star page border (very easy on MS Word) and was also written in Lucida Handwriting font style.

I have a black and white printer, so to add a bit of colour, I placed the paper against a rough surface and rubbed coloured crayons against it. It gave them a bit of a textured look, which I like a lot. After the decorations were up, I sent all the pictures to my family, including my 11-year old niece. She turned it into a cool video with Surf Mesa’s “I love you baby” (feat. Emilee) and sent it back to me. That was quite a surprise. I don’t know what I was doing at that age, but it certainly wasn’t anything as creative as this.

On Saturday, we got him breakfast from his favourite place and his favourite cake from Costco.

Go through these pictures from our day, and let me know how you celebrate milestone birthdays during the COVID-19 era. If you’d like to buy the milestone birthday poster, please visit my Etsy shop or the Shop page on this website. I accept payment through PayPal and eTransfer.

The other pictures are the 5 scrolls that I sent this weekend, as part of my Words Matter project. Each scroll goes with a bunch of stickers and a couple of blank note cards. If you would like to send one to a warrior who inspires you, please get in touch.

Video made by my nice niece 🙂


©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021