Author: Mary Chang Story Writer: Inspiration, Creativity, Self-Empowerment
Stories inspired by fitness, community & people with inner strength. Life journey is about sparking your internal fire and finding your shine. I'm an award-winning short story fiction writer, published memoir writer, blogger and lifelong "work in progress" striving towards becoming a better person, parent and writer. Writing self-empowers me to share my voice and may inspire you to create your own stories or reflect about your own life journey.
I capture life's moments that make me self-reflect, laugh, cry, scream, be curious, draw me into the past or somewhere new that scares me. Sometimes I tell a story in six words, sometimes in thousands. Someday, a novel.
People who read my stories sometimes laugh, cry, nod, reflect, swear or ask for more. Sometimes they don't. I hope that you do.
My writer’s heart will dance if you click on the “heart” on the bottom of the Elephant Journal article page, leave a comment or follow me on EJ, my own blog here or share my story to show that you believe in me, writers, community and the beauty of true encouragement.
We’re all human beings supporting each other in some way — in our village, earth, universe. Gratitude for reading. Feel free to leave a comment below.
The “C” Word: Six word stories written by children, ages 6-14 to document these uncertain times (a 2020 time capsule snapshot) and the importance of friendship.
Nine years ago, I became a new mother shortly after I moved to the North Shore. The early days of breastfeeding, endless diapers and sleepless nights left me confined to the house, exhausted and — lonely. I was in love with my newborn son, but a piece of me missed part of my previous world, adult companionship.
A few months later, I discovered a local StrongStartBC centre, a free early learning drop-in program in my neighbourhood. (“It takes a village to raise a child”) It was in that bright, welcoming activity-filled room that I formed lifetime friendships with a group of strong, independent, super women and mothers (and a few super dads) over daily cups of hot tea, coffee and freshly baked cheese biscuits. When StrongStart closed each summer, we invited new and familiar families who lived both on and off the Shore to join us for play activities we organized throughout summertime and expanded our village over the years.
We shared tales of wisdom, headache and heartache about the chaos and the joys of raising little ones while our children formed their own playful friendships. Together we hosted play dates, exchanged free babysitting, confided, cried, offered advice, spoke of dreams and fears about parenting. We shared pieces of our inner selves (the humans we were before parenthood) which revolved around fragments of time sketched in between crying babies, toddler tantrums and defiant five-year olds.
It is because we became parents that we became friends the day we all met in that bright sunlit room in Norgate, or were introduced on that first day of kindergarten, or when old friendships revived upon parenthood. That community connection transformed into a foundational piece of our friendship and parenting history.
Over the past five years, a handful of the families moved away from our community to distances as short as a two-hour ferry sailing to as far away as a plane trip to see kangaroos. It’s not often I visit the friends who still live nearby because of our busy lives. Now, it will be much longer before we see each other again or be granted permission to hop on a ferry or book a plane trip to see the others.
We’ve all been faced with the rules of isolation and the notorious “C word.” We can’t visit in person – even if we stand two metres away and may only interact through phone calls and social media. We inevitably pass through time lapses where we don’t attempt to reach out to anyone at all – because we’re overwhelmed with anxiety, fatigue, homeschooling or struggling to remember what day of the week it is.
Here I am nine years later feeling – lonely again, for adult friendship. But today, we hold hands together in spirit because I know we’re all thinking of each other and all of our children.
Some of our kids still play together and I see them grow, while others are “mind’s eye Polaroids” captured at the ages, stages and varying degrees of cuteness of when they last played together or before they moved away – as if they haven’t grown over the years although I’ve seen countless new images of them on FaceBook.
The “C word” affects lives worldwide and it’s clear that during these unsettling times we’re in the midst of making history. Today we’re reclaiming our village that we built nine years ago and reconnecting ourselves through the words of our children across the globe. When our children grow up, it is my hope that they develop similar meaningful friendships that will provide them with the support they’ll need when they become parents, or maybe their playful friendships of today will blossom into adulthood.
I asked the children to write six word stories about how the “C word” has impacted their lives in order to document their emotions, expressions, thoughts, feelings, discoveries and observations during the pandemic and to enable them to share these “six word story time capsules” with their own children someday.
This is what the children of our village wrote:
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” – Winnie the Pooh
“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” – Woodrow T. Wilson
“Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.” – Unknown
Featured photograph: “Ready to fight Corona!” (girl in orange jumpsuit) Isla, Age 9. Photo by Jennifer Morgan.
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This afternoon while I was composing an email, my anxiety overwhelmed me and my eyes watered. I walked into my 9 year old son’s empty bedroom and shut the door. I stepped up the ladder to his loft bed, knelt face down onto his Minecraft blanket and cradled my forehead in my palms. I cried non-stop for five minutes, body shuddering, yelping breathing, snotty nose, wet cheeks.
My son Dylan walked in.
“Mom, can I have a cookie?” “Yes, go get it yourself, ok?” “Mommy, are you crying?” “Yes.” “Mommy, why are you crying?” “I’ll tell you later.” “Are you fake crying?” “No, Dylan.” “Mom, why are you crying?” “I’ll tell you later, ok? Go get your cookie. I just need to cry right now, okay? Remember how we talked about alone time?” “But this is my room.” “Well, Daddy is using our room all day because he’s working from home now.”
Dylan left the room and returned in a few minutes. “Mommy, are you done crying? Now can you tell me why you’re crying? I cried some more. Dylan climbed up to the bed. “You know how sometimes when you fall and hurt yourself or when someone hurts your feelings? Then you cry it out because it hurt?” Dylan nodded.
“Then after you cry, you feel so much better because you let out your tears? Well, sometimes mommies need to cry too. During spring break, when all this Covid stuff started happening, everything’s changed. It’s been hard on me, you and Daddy. Mommy yells more, Daddy yells more. I’m not working, you’re not going to school or seeing your friends, there’s no routine and people are getting sick. It makes me sad and stressed out.
I’ve been holding in all that sadness and stress and haven’t cried yet. So that means I’ve been holding back all those tears for five weeks and today I was finally ready to let them go! Don’t worry, Mommy will be okay. I just needed to cry it out and now that I’ve cried, I feel much better.”
“Okay. Now can I have a cookie?” “You didn’t help yourself?” “No.” “Okay, lets get a cookie. I need one too.”
Damn, it felt good to cry today.
(Featured cookie photograph: Courtesy of Pexels)
If you'd like to make a comment about this posting "A COOKIE, CRY AND CONVERSATION" or any previous postings, please visit the About the Writer page. Or join the FaceBook group: "Get Down with the Lockdown, Arts & Entertainment Creative Sharing Space" "Get Down with the Lockdown"
My brother-in-law, “Mr. B” volunteered to teach the children of our families educational lessons during the pandemic. “The Learning Village” (our online school, named by his 9 year old daughter) is comprised of Mr. B’s mindful curriculum and nine students (cousins and friends) ranging in age from 6 to 12 years.
For one of the lessons, after discussing the Corona virus, students were asked to draw a character or comic of a “virus” and talk about what people need to do to stay safe. Other lessons focused on music, emotions, mindfulness and meditation. The students look forward to their lessons with Mr. B, get a chance to see the faces of their friends online and parents get a 60-90 minute break from their kids, three afternoons a week. It serves as an meaningful practice and an introduction to what future organized online learning with our teachers and school districts might look like during this time.
Mr. B asked me to teach a lesson on “Six Word Stories”. Our class had a thoughtful discussion about the legendary “first six word story” written by Ernest Hemingway, “For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn” and then I asked the kids to create their own six word stories inspired by the above photograph featured on this post.
Here’s what the children of “The Learning Village” wrote.
If you have a question, request or wish to comment about this posting "SIX WORD STORIES BY OUR CHILDREN" (or any previous postings), please visit the About the Writer page.
Family, friendships and love relationships deliver love, heartbreak, happiness, sorrow, conflict and understanding. If I reflect on the past, sometimes I understand the meaning behind my struggles and challenges I face today, knowing those relationships form a part of who I am, but do not define me.
If I embrace the present, I possess the choice to make a positive change or slip back and trigger the anxiety of yesterday by reliving it along with any guilt, shame or anger I experienced during those moments or relationships. Most days I make the brighter choice; the anxiety doesn’t disappear but my perspective shifts and gives me hope. Six words tell my truth.
Opening space within myself for love.
Change initiates from self, not others.
Peace finds way through common ground.
Reconnecting without judgment of past wrongdoings.
Forgiving self and others for failing.
Light at end of the tunnel.
Reuniting families brings hope to soul.
Relationships blossom when our hearts connect.
Holding hands together as a unity.
Feature photo: “LOVE. It’s all you need.” 2007, sand artist unknown. Photo by MC.
When I saw a photo of my friend dressed head to toe in black with her face mask, plastic gloves, baseball cap and sunglasses, I laughed. Her text read “I’m ready to go shopping.” The only items missing from her attire were shoe covers and a portable bleach spray bottle. Her fridge, shelves, closets are stocked, she has a financial and home schooling plan in order and updates me with the latest COVID-19 news. She cannot sleep nights, but she is prepared for the pandemic.
I’m not laughing anymore.
Schools, community centres, libraries, fitness centres, sporting and entertainment events, tourist attractions, movie theatres, restaurants and many non-essential businesses and services are closing daily. Gatherings of 50 people or more have been suspended.
This is REAL.
Yet, I’m hopeful because I love nature and can still play with my son outside. I don’t listen or read the news incessantly. I don’t have cable and typically listen to the radio only when I’m driving. But the news is everywhere and someone will update me regardless; a friend, relative or co-worker.
The pandemic is ALIVE. I admit I live in somewhat of a “bubble world” because this is surreal to me.
The grocery stores are still open and most people aren’t wearing faces masks. There is still toilet paper, if you arrive at the right time. The cereal, pasta, rice and canned good shelves were empty last night but there are other food options available. My husband, me and my son are healthy and strong; we’ll survive should we get the virus.
Up until yesterday, I spent most afternoons at local playgrounds watching my son and his friends riding the Zipline, climbing monkey bars and riding swings. The sun was shining and children were excited for their “first week of spring break.”
Today it was announced that all playgrounds are officially closed on the North Shore.
No more play dates. This is how I realized I need to step outside of my bubble and like my friend, prepare myself and family for the long run, however long this run of “new reality” will last. I’ll still step outside for daily doses of Vitamin D during forest hikes or seawall bike rides, while social distancing myself from others in between home isolation and frequent hand-washing.
Like everyone is saying, this is a highly unusual time with global uncertainty. Friends and families are reaching out and checking in on each other on What’s App, group texts and social media. Sometimes we pick up the phone and have a live conversation or Facetime chat, usually about our Corona enemy.
When I’m outside, I see the beauty of my community with spring flowers, chirping birds in trees, the ocean, sunshine. I breathe in the fresh air, look at the sky, smile and feel grateful for my life, well-being and family. This feels real to me.
Then I pause, think of the COVID-19 madness and all the implications it has on our families, healthcare system, education, economy and stability of our future until I’m on the verge of tears and slip into a silent melancholy because this has become the new normal.
Sometimes I need my bubble world. Tomorrow is the first day of spring.
PS. Thank you every day to doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals and essential service providers who take daily risks to protect, treat, educate, feed, transport and save us.
Marching onwards, I continue to reflect, transition and embrace change even if it scares me. Change is a life-long process. Facing my fears is personal growth for mind, body and soul. Six word stories tell my truth.
Melancholy passes, light eventually shines through.
Make choices that promise personal transformation.
I continue to self-reflect, take time for self-care and transition. Six word stories tell my truth.
Cherish the basics – sleep, water, sunshine.
Be true, give freely to others.
Take pleasure in moments for you.
Discovering something new about old friends.
Accepting, embracing change, transitions, the unknown.
Finding vibrant life in unexpected places.
Eat chocolate cake, not every day.
Make way for love, play, laughter.
Play outside – rain, shine, snow, thunder.
February Meaning & Symbolism
“Coming just after January, the month of new beginnings, is February. From the Latin word Februarius, meaning “to purify“, February was known as the “Month of Purification” during ancient Roman times. It is a transitional time, finding itself just after a month of reflection and new year’s resolutions.”
This is a story of how I reconnected with my 1979 elementary school teacher after four decades. It describes the emotional connection that transpires between a student and teacher and how it empowers a child to believe in herself, nurture her creativity and follow her dreams into adulthood.
“Reconnecting with my 1979 Grade 3 Teacher, Lindsay Watson”is now published in Teacher Magazine, Jan/Feb 2020 issue. It’s dedicated to L.W. with a nod to the students of Ms Watson’s classroom.
If you would like to make a comment about the story “Reconnecting with my Grade 3 Teacher, Lindsay Watson”, please submit it under the “About the Writer” page. You may also send a Letter to the Editor at Teacher Magazine at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For 2020, I promise myself to take time to contemplate what matters most to me. Managing the precarious balancing act of parenting, relationships, fitness, work and the chaos that comes with everyday living is a constant challenge.
Keeping it simple puts my life into perspective. Six word stories tell my truth.