I Am Small

I am small
I am small, and the world is large
Too large to see me
And there is comfort in that
In my smallness, I have room to grow
In my smallness, I can fit myself into the cracks of the world
I can change
I can change the way I grow
I can alter my shape to suit myself
I have space
I can expand
I can stretch and stretch
Perhaps one day, I will fill the world
But now, I am small
small and happy

xWant to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

My Disney Bucket List

A year ago, as I write this, I was in the most magical place on earth… Walt Disney World. For me, that’s not just an advertising slogan. It really is the most magical place for me. My happy place. By the time this posts, it will be a year since I returned, but close enough.

With Facebook memories tormenting me with daily reminders by popping up all the pictures I posted complete with happy blurb, is it any wonder that I have Disney on the brain? Okay, who am I kidding, I often have Disney on the brain.

At any rate, even though I wasn’t there that long ago by my own standards, there are still things I haven’t done. I’ve been there five times, there’s so many things I haven’t done. I have it on pretty reliable authority that it doesn’t matter how often you go, there’s always going to be things you haven’t done.

There’s always next time, though, right? I’ve decided to create a Disney bucket list of things I’ve never done and really do want to do at least once. I wasn’t aiming for a top ten list, but ten is the number I naturally came up with, so it works.

So here they are, more or less in order.

  1. Magic Kingdom after hours event

Disney has events in multiple parks where, for an extra charge, you get to stay after the parks close. As numbers of tickets are limited, you’ll often get a drastically reduced wait time for rides, there are snacks and drinks included in the ticket price (plus some specialty ones you can buy) and often specialized entertainment. I’m sure the ones at the other parks are great, but it’s the Magic Kingdom that I actually want.

There are currently three to choose from. The Villains one is, well, themed to villains with a couple of ride overlays, a parade, and a stage show. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween has all of that plus trick or treat stations, and seems to run from late August to Halloween. The Christmas party replaces trick or treat places with cookie trails, and runs from some time in November to Christmas. Villains and the Halloween ones are the ones that interest me the most.

  1. Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival

Epcot has four festivals that run throughout the year. Festival of The Arts, Flower & Garden, Food & Wine and Festival of the Holidays. I’ve experienced Festival of the Arts, albeit on the final day, but Food & Wine is the one I yearn for. Food booths are set up all around the World Showcase, with eats and drinks from around the world. Plus some classes and the Eat To The Beat concerts. Yum. It’s also the one that runs the longest from August to Novemberish.

  1. Visit the Polynesian Resort

Look, I’m not even being greedy here. Staying at the Poly would be wonderful, but probably out of my price range. It would be nice and all, but I doubt I’ll ever go above moderate resorts. Still, I’ve always wanted to at least visit and explore the resort, maybe go for a drink at Sam’s. I did get to visit the Contemporary last year en route to fulfilling a different bucket list thing (eating at the California Grill which is worth it if you’re wondering), but it’s the only Deluxe resort I’ve set foot in. The Poly has struck my fancy since I was six and passing it on the monorail each day.

  1. Visit Galaxy’s Edge

To be fair, this land wasn’t yet opened when I was last there. I’m not as diehard a Star Wars fan as some, but the three original films will always have a fond spot in my heart, and I am just old enough to remember seeing Return Of The Jedi in the theatre. Everything I’ve heard about this land sounds fantabulous.

It’s located at Hollywood Studios, and is an immersive land that evidently really makes you believe that you’re on an alien planet, to the point where all the cast members (that’s Disney terminology for staff) act in character. You can fly the Millenium Falcon or sign up for the resistance and have a grand adventure with storm troopers and other bad guys. You can hang out in a cantina or go make a light sabre complete with ceremony. You can even buy blue or green milk.

  1. Ride the carousel as an adult

This one is almost a cheat. I have ridden Prince Charming’s Carousel once, on my very first trip, on my very first day. I think it may have been my first ride… it was either that or Dumbo… but I’d like to ride it as an adult. It’s silly, but I can be a silly person. They do have adult-sized horses or just stationary bench seats. This one is all about the nostalgia.

  1. Ride the Grand Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

So, I’ve been on the original Mexico boat ride. Many, many times. But they reimagined the whole thing with Donald Duck and his friends from the Three Caballeros short film. I honestly forgot to do it last year. I meant to, it was on my mental “must ride” list, but Epcot is distracting and I was having too much fun doing all the other things. It is my personal pet theory that this will eventually be replaced with something Coco themed – which I would love – but I’d like to experience this version.

  1. Ride The Skyliner

Again, this is something that wasn’t available on my last trip, but it was built in terms of infrastructure. In fact, they were testing it the day I was at Hollywood Studios, so while I obviously can’t see it being blind and all, I did get to hear the gondolas go zipping past overhead. And I could hear them. Not because they really make noise in and of themselves, but something moving past like that makes sound.

Now, I may not have a cause to ride them unless I’m staying at a resort with a station since I think I’ve decided that I prefer not to park hop, but I would totally ride them just for the heck of it.

What is the Skyliner? The avid Disney fans amidst my readers already know, but most of my audience isn’t the huge fangirl that I am. It’s a new transportation system featuring gondolas that travel on an overhead line, and currently connect Hollywood Studios, Epcot, The Riviera Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort and Pop Century/Art Of Animation, which means that every tier of resort has one (or two for the values, though they share a station). Each gondola can seat up to ten people and is enclosed. It’s way faster than getting a bus and just sounds rather nifty.

  1. Eat at the Garden Grill

This is a restaurant in The Land pavilion at Epcot. It’s not the fanciest or the most expensive place to eat, but it sounds cool. Every review I’ve read rates it pretty highly. It’s a family style all you can eat, like a buffet that you don’t have to stand up to get. It’s also a rotating restaurant that circles the Living With The Land ride, so you can see scenes from there and, I assume, peek into the nifty greenhouses. It’s also a character meal with Chip and Dale, Mickey and Pluto. Pluto is now my favourite classic character, too. Of all the restaurants I haven’t eaten at, this is the top of the list.

  1. Go to Senses Spa

There are two Senses locations, but it’s specifically the one at the Grand Floridian that I’m thinking of. This would be pure luxury, and I’ll probably never do it, but hey. I’m a massage therapist. So getting a massage at Disney just sounds like all kinds of awesome, and it would get me to visit that resort.

  1. Eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table

This is the one that everyone says is a must do at least in your lifetime. You get to eat at Cinderella’s castle. Actually inside the castle, up top. It is also a character meal with oodles of princesses, including Cindy herself. The reason this comes in at the bottom of the list is that by all accounts, the food is only okay, not worth the high price tag. This is one of those places where you’re paying for the experience, not the food. I suspect I’d only do this if I got the middle or upper tier dining plan. But it would be nice.

My Single “Never Done It, Never Gonna” item

I’ve never ridden The Tomorrowland Speedway. I never will. I’d be quite happy if they just got rid of it. It was closed on my last trip, and it made me happy. No noisy engines, no fumes. Now, I’m blind so this wouldn’t do anything for me anyway, but even if I could see, I’d never go on this one. Sorry to those who love it, you’re welcome to your opinion but this one’s mine.

Seeya Real Soon

So, that’s my list. If something isn’t on here and you’re shocked, there is a high probability that I have already done it, or it’s just not enough of a priority to make it (like the special tours, which sound nice but don’t fill my heart with even a little yearning).I may have to go in the fall sometime, since I could do Food & Wine and also get the Halloween party in. I’ve never gone at any time other than the January to March window, actually.

I have no immediate plans to return, and there were fourteen to fifteen years between my last few trips so I’m sure it will be awhile, but a girl can dream and I’m bound and determined for a shorter window this time. And it’s nice to dream, especially in the doldrums of late February and early March.

Have a magical day!

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

What It’s Like: Having A Guide Dog

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about what using a white cane was like. I said it was like navigating by frustration, though my inner critic is kicking itself for not coining the term “navigation by frustration”. Oh, well.

If using a white cane is navigation by frustration, then using a guide dog is like navigation by adoration.

To get a guide dog, you first have to be skilled in orientation and mobility. Basicly, you already need to know how to get around independantly. That’s important, because while a dog can make simple decisions, you’re the one who has to tell it where to go.

There are many schools all over the world, and they have different requirements, but that one is pretty standard. I got mine from Guide Dogs of Canada. I had to fly out to Ontario for a month and train, and one day I’ll likely write more about that experience, but for now just know that it does take some intense training to learn how to be a guide dog handler. Part of that is learning the commands, but part of it is also learning to trust your companion.

The basics of how it works is this: Every guide dog wears a harness. The harness has a long handle which you hold onto, putting the dog a bit ahead of you. You’re the one calling the shots, though. You tell the dog when to go forward, turn right or left, turn around and stop. Additionally, though, the dog is trained to make a few of those decisions on its own, and will automatically stop at stairs, curbs, doors and the like as well as veering right or left to get you around obstacles. As the dog walks forward, it puts a gentle pressure on the handle you’re holding onto, and you follow its lead.

The dog is also trained to know when to disobey an order. For instance, if you are wanting to cross the street and order the dog forward, but a car is coming, the dog will not obey.

Trust lays at the center of the relationship. You are trusting your dog to get you safely from point a to b, and the dog is trusting you to know what you’re doing. In that dog’s eyes, the two of you are a pack and you’re the leader of that pack, which is why I call it navigation by adoration. You and your partner are going to go everywhere together. Unlike a cane, the dog can’t just be tucked away on a shelf when not in use.

Having a guide dog has its disadvantages. For one thing, be prepared to be remembered more for your dog than for yourself, and often the dog will be greeted before you will be. Be prepared for clueless people to try to pat your dog at the most inopportune times, more on that below. Be prepared to have to take that dog outside in the worst of conditions. Blizzards and rainstorms don’t matter much if the dog has to go. And be prepared for facing the fact that you’re working with a dog, not a machine, and dogs aren’t perfect.

On the other hand, I found that having a dog gave me a lot more freedom than using a cane does. My cane can’t see anything. It doesn’t know where the door is. I did things with my dog that I’m not brave enough to do without him, because it felt much safer. I also had a constant companion who loved me unconditionally, even when I accidentally stepped on his paws.

I did mention above the problem of petting the dog. I know it’s tempting. They all just look so darned cute with their harnesses on, and there’s also the novelty of encountering a dog where you usually wouldn’t. Most of you do have the sense not to pat the dog when it’s actively working, at least, though I have experienced someone patting my dog while I was in the middle of crossing a road where it intersected with the highway. However, even if the dog is just sitting there at the feet of its handler on the bus, doing nothing, don’t pat the dog. That dog is trained to associate wearing the harness with being on duty, and to not seek out affection or attention while working. You patting the dog is a tiny crack in that training. If it happens enough, the dog will start to think that it’s okay to seek out attention. The only time it’s okay to pat a service animal is when the harness is off and its handler has given you permission.

I do miss having a guide dog. Perhaps someday, I’ll get another one, though for many reasons I’m not currently in a position where it would be a practical choice. But having one is absolutely fantastic. They are amazing animals.

Navigation by adoration is absolutely worth any of the disadvantages.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Dispelling Massage Myths

There are many myths surrounding massage. Most of them are harmless, but not all. Let’s dispel a few of them, shall we?

Myth: Massage is a luxury experience

Truth: Now, I can sort of understand where this notion comes from. Massage can feel very nice, and it is a service that is commonly found in many spas. However, massage therapy can and should be considered under the healthcare umbrella. It is at its best when used preventatively, but can also be used to help you recover from injury and lessen symptoms of a number of conditions.

Myth: It has to hurt to work

Truth: No pain, no gain is just not true. It is okay to like deep tissue massage and harder pressure, I prefer it myself, but that doesn’t mean pain. In fact, your massage should not go past a 7 on a 1 to 10 scale. Think about it, your response to pain is usually to tense up, and I’m trying to decrease tension. Fighting one another is not actually a good use of your time.

Myth: Training is easy

Truth: Nope. I’m including this one mostly for those considering a career in massage therapy. The program is certainly not impossible, but it is challenging. Just go into it with full expectations of studying things like anatomy, neurology, pathology and the like as well as actual techniques, and you’ll be okay. This is not something you can learn in a quick three month program, but the effort is worth it.

Myth: Masseuses and masseures are the proper term.

Truth: Please, no. We are massage therapists. A masseuse is, at least in North American culture, used to refer to something a little less… professional, shall we say? Please don’t call your therapist a masseuse or masseur.

Myth: I should only see a therapist of the same gender as I am

Truth: Absolutely untrue. Now, if you are seriously only comfortable doing it this way, that is fine, but for most people gender should not play a role in choosing your therapist in either direction. I urge you to try something different, at least once. A massage is a professional, therapeutic experience and gender plays no more of a role in it as it would in choosing one’s doctor.

Myth: Prenatal massage is dangerous

Truth: Prenatal massage is wonderful. All massage therapists, at least in Canada, have at least some basic training in prenatal massage, and some of us (myself included) pursued further training and experience. True, some modifications do need to be made, especially in the first trimester, but it is both safe and beneficial. In later trimesters, you will either be placed on your side or on a special bolster or massage table designed to accomodate you. That said, you should always inform your clinic ahead of time if you are booking a prenatal massage.

If you ever find yourself with uncertainties about massage, do feel free to ask your therapist. We’re always happy to explain things.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

What It’s Like: White Cane Use

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you are standing in the middle of a room with a blindfold on. Moreover, you were wearing that thing when someone brought you in. A long stick that comes up to about your shoulder is pressed into your hand, and then you are left to feel your way around with just the stick.

Do you think you could do it?

Probably not, but to be fair neither could I the first time they handed me a white cane. There is a reason that government funding goes into mobility training. But what is it like?

Honestly, sometimes using the white cane is like navigating byfrustration. After all, hitting the cane against obstacles is basically how we find out that the obstacle is there. Hitting stuff is sort of the point. Constantly hitting stuff is also frustrating.

It works like this. You hold the cane at one end, which usually has a rubber grip on it to make keeping hold of it easier. The cane is extended forward and down with the tip either touching the ground or just above it, depending on the sort of canetip you are using. You then swing the cane from side to side in an arc in front of you as you walk. As your right foot is stepping forward, the cane swings left and vice versa, checking for things in your way. For those who swing without touching the ground, you do need to contact the ground at each end of the swing to make sure the ground is, you know, still there. But some canes, such as mine, have little rolly tips, so the end of the cane stays in contact with the ground. I prefer it, you find a lot of low to the ground obstacles like power cords that way.

However. No matter how good you are, you are going to find cracks or potholes to jam your cane into, which tends to result in a quick jab to the stomach from the top of the cane. Granted, that happens a lot more when starting out, but it still happens with experience. In winter, that cane is going to lodge itself into a snow bank at least once per season, usually more. You are going to splash that sucker into mud puddles. You are going to encounter an obstacle while distracted and have the cane slapped out of your hand.

Like I said, it is like navigating by frustration. But it isn’t all bad. The more you use it, the more you can pick up along that length of white aluminum. I can tell what sort of floor I’m on, and when it’s about to change. I can tell when the surface is starting to slope up or down. I can tell how solid an object I’ve just discovered is.

The cane isn’t perfect, and the cane can’t help much with actual orientation, but you need to be able to use one if yu want to learn how to orient yourself. And if you want a service dog, you absolutely need the cane skills first.

Navigating by frustration isn’t all bad.

Just a final post script note: this post only represents my own thoughts and feelings, not those of the blind community as a whole.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

What It’s Like: Introduction

When you lack a sense that a majority of the world has, things are bound to be a bit different. Different doesn’t always mean bad, though.

Sometimes it does. I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I tried to tell you that it’s all sunshine and roses with no struggles. But it isn’t true that it’s all awful, either.

I don’t often get asked outright what it’s like to be blind. However, I do get asked questions that approach it indirectly.

“How do you use a computer?”

“You’ve got a smart phone with a touch screen, how does that work?”

“Is it hard to get around?”

I think it’s because it’s easier to ask me about a specific than to just baldly ask “What is it like?”

It’s hard. But it can also be easy. It’s frustrating. But it can also be rewarding. It’s limiting. But it can also be freeing.

I’m going to try to tackle this whole question of what it’s like, but just like those who ask me questions, I’m not going to try to answer it all in one go. That’s not blog post material, it would be a book. So instead, I’m going to handle this like a series. Likely not a weekly one, though. I’d get bored writing on the same subject week after week.

However, I want to stress something right out of the gate. My experiences and opinions on this won’t be true of every blind person. For one thing, blindness is a spectrum. Some of us live in complete sightlessness. No light, no movement, no nothing. Others of us have vision around the edges. Some of us have vision in the center. Some of us view the world through a thick fog. For another thing, we’re all different. We enjoy different things, find different things difficult, and face different obstacles.

All I can do is to write what I know.

I’m going to try to be as candid as possible with these. I won’t sugarcoat the negatives, but I’m also not going to shy away from pointing out the positives. My experience with blindness is a mixed bag, and I suspect that each post I make in the series will reflect that.

I was actually going to write a post about what it’s like to watch television as this week’s post, but I realized there were many more topics in the same vein to explore, and that the idea needed an introduction. I also realized that just tossing that explination onto another topic would be too bulky, so instead you get this post.

If there’s any topic that any of you yearn to know about, though, please do leave a comment on my Facebook page’s post about this article. The link is down below. Or you can send a message privately if you’d rather not ask there.

So I’ll see you next week, probably, with what it’s like to “watch” television when I can’t see it. Or possibly the week after, like I said, I get a little bored if I always do the same thing here.

Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Is Disney’s Dining Plan Worth It?

Planning a trip to Disney World is fraught with all sorts of decisions. Length of stay, where to stay, to park hop or not. One question that I encounter over and over again in the various Disney advice groups I’m in – and trust me, it’s a lot of groups – is this: is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?
The answer is… complicated. But I’m going to do my best to answer it by looking at a few areas. Pure economic worth, budgetting worth, convenience and emotional worth.
First, though, a few definitions.
Quick service dining is what Disney calls fast food eateries. It isn’t all burgers, fries and hotdogs, though. Some Quick Service  places are fancy, some are varied, some are exotic.
Table service is your basic sit-down restaurant. The sort where waitstaff take your orders and bring your food. Buffets also fall into this category.
Signature dining is high-end table service. It’s expensive, and it’s usually worth it, too. You might be surprised at the quality of some of Disney World’s Signature restaurants.
The Disney Dining Plan has three tiers:
* Quick Service comes with two quick service meals and two snacks per day, plus a refillable resort mug, which you can use at any resort’s food court as much as you like
* Standard comes with one quick service meal, one table service meal, and two snack credits per day, plus the refillable resort mug
* Deluxe comes with three meal credits which you can spent on either table or quick service, two snacks, and the refillable mug
Got it? Awesome.
Economic Worth
Will the dining plan save you money? With two exceptions, no. It very likely won’t. However, assuming you use all your credits, and don’t do things like spending a snack credit on a bottle of water, it won’t lose you money, either.
However, if you’re looking to cut back on spending, this is not really the way to go. You’d be better off bringing your own snacks, and even doing things like ordering groceries to your hotel to provide for breakfasts.
I mean, think about it. Disney, much as I love it, is a corporation who is trying to make money. They probably wouldn’t promote a dining plan that loses them money. So, no, this isn’t a way to save loads of mulah as a general rule.
The exceptions are twofold, as I said. The first is if you are taking advantage of free dining, which is usually offered once a year, and only for limited dates. If you book at the right Disney hotel for at least four park days, with parkhopper tickets, you qualify for free dining. However, you can’t use this with any other discount, so I suggest doing the math first to make sure this really is your least expensive option.
The second exception is if fine dining is a huge priority. See, Signature dining costs two credits, not one. With the Deluxe plan, if you eat at a signature restaurant every day, and have a regular table service meal for your other credit use, then you will save money. You’ll just also spend a lot of time eating. Which is great for some, not so great for others.
Budgetting Worth
However, sheer saving of money isn’t the only way you should consider the dining plan. As a budgetting tool, it is actually pretty great.
With the dining plan, you pay ahead of time. Disney does accept partial payments over a period of time, too. Prepaying for your food like this takes the guess-work out of trying to come up with a budget. After all, you know exactly how much you’re going to be spending on food, and can get it taken care of in a manner that works for you.
Convenience Worth
There is no two ways around it: the dining plan is just plain easy. As you can only have the dining plan if you’re staying on Disney property, you’re already getting a magic band, as that comes with your stay. This thing functions as your room key, park ticket, and possibly your credit card if you so choose, and it will also function as your dining plan card. Whenever you order food, you simply scan the band and the meal credits are deducted from your account. No need to carry cash. No need to pull out credit or debit cards. Just press your wrist to the reader, enter your PIN, and you’re good to go.
Emotional Worth
Finally, the big one. At least, I consider it to be the big one. Disney is expensive. Themepark food is expensive. There is also a lot of very tempting things. Things you may find yourself wanting quite badly. If you’re like me, you may refrain from ordering them, though. After all, do you really need the pretzel shaped like Mickey Mouse? Or the fancy, brightly coloured drink?
You may look at a menu, and try to calculate the least expensive item, rather than going for what you really want. Sure, that bison loin sounds good, or that sushi platter. But you could just order the least expensive option.
When you’ve already paid for it all, though, you gain a certain freedom. You can order the most expensive thing on the menu, if it’s what you want. You can have that ice cream float shaped like Peter Pan’s hat. That pretzel is all yours, if you want it. This one gets even more interesting if you’re there during one of Epcot’s festivals, and given how long those last there is a higher chance of being there during one than not. Most of the items sold at carts are snack credit eligible, and most of them sound intriguing.
Not only can you get those snacks, but you should get those snacks. After all, you already paid for them.
So, is the dining plan worth it? I think that it is, so long as you are not looking at it from a purely money-saving standpoint. Will it work for you? Only you can answer that. If you’re a light eater, probably not. If you want to cut corners anywhere you can, probably not. But aside from that? Probably.
Oh, and remember that if you do wind up with leftover snack credits, and you may very well wind up with them, you can spend them in gift shops on packaged snacks to bring home and drown your post-Disney blues with. Or, you know, give as gifts.
I want to thank my friend Jen from the Will Save For Travel blog for her input on this topic. She has some really great advice for budgetting, and is as big a Disney fanatic as I am. If you want to check out her blog pop on over to https://willsavefortravel.com/ and take a gander.
Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

Anatomy Of A Story

Before we begin, I’m going to be using a specific story as an example throughout this blog post. That story is ‘A Home For Christmas’, and you can find it here: https://jennifermorash.blogspot.com/2019/12/a-home-for-christmas-short-story.html
So, I’ve talked before about how I write when an idea occurs to me out of the blue. But what about when I sit down to write a story without first getting the inspiration? The process is quite different, or at least it was for me.
First is the premise. Well, technically the decision comes first, but that is pretty self-explanitory, so we’ll just take it as given. Now, premise and plot aren’t the same thing. The plot is the story, the premise is the seed of the idea. I wanted to write a Christmas story, but I didn’t want to write another version of a story we’d all read before. That ruled out Santa, elves, reindeer, angels, wise men, lost children, sentient toys/snowmen/nut sundering implements and all the rest.
I sat and thought and occasionally typed out a quick five to ten word line. I doubt these made sense to anyone but me, and moreover they weren’t striking any sort of spark. Chimney sweep in Victorian London on Christmas? Nah. Christmas in an alternate reality? Meh. Finally, my thoughts shifted. Instead of writing about something automatically associated with Christmas, why not take something else and relate it? Perhaps something from folklore. Well. I’ve always liked the hob/brownie/house elf mythos. Little fae folk who clean homes invisibly so long as you don’t offend them. Then I thought ‘Okay, what if one of those doesn’t understand what Christmas is?” And that was the premise. A fae person attached to the home of humans they never interact with who doesn’t know what Christmas is.
Next came research. This is not a step I always take. Usually, I don’t really have to. I’m either making something up from whole cloth or else writing something where I can make all the rules. But this story was going to have a basis in actual folklore, I wanted to make sure I was getting it right. Any deviations from the bog standard should be deliberate. The name hob appealed to me more than brownie, and always has, but I couldn’t find anything on wikipedia. Turns out I was spelling it wrong, but I didn’t know that, so I switched the search term to brownie and found what I wanted. My knowledge all seemed to be correct, but then I learned that “brownie” is from Scotland. Hob is what they’re called in the north of England. Then, I read a reference to a tale of a hob from Lincolnshire. My brother in law is from Lincolnshire, and Lincoln itself is a city I love, so I decided that I’d have my little hob hail from there, at least originally.
Interesting side note: the course on medical research I had to take in college when studying massage therapy can be useful for non-medical research. I didn’t use it this time, since I was just doing a simple wikipedia search, but I have used it for writing before. You can adapt a lot of things you learned elsewhere to writing.
So, armed with premise and knowledge, I pondered plot. Simply wondering what Christmas was wouldn’t be compelling on its own, it needed something else. But fewer and fewer people believe in such things. Perhaps this little hob is in a family where only the grandmother believes, and she’s worrying about her future as well as wondering what’s up with the tree? Meanwhile, there’s this woman from Lincoln herself who is distressed at the rest of the family’s lack of belief.
Bingo. That is what we call a plot.
This is where I actually started to write. I named my little hob Tansin, and started with her finding the Christmas tree. This is where I decided that she loved the scraps of wrapping paper left after Christmas and that she always saved some when she tidied up.  I also decided that I would use the framing device of a storyteller talking to the reader, mostly so I could occasionally toss in explinations about what hobs were and the like. These were all decisions made on the fly while I was telling the story.
The grandmother got a name, and I decided that she was smart enough to realize that Tansin didn’t know what Christmas was, and that Ellie also wanted to get Tansin to show herself to the family to instill belief, so to get her attention, she began teaching Tansin about Christmas through story books.
Now. I had to make some decisions and brush over some things here. A hob is likely centuries old. Is it actually logical that she never learned what Christmas was? Perhaps not. But is a magical creature that happily does the housework without taking credit logical? Not really.
What about the mysterious cleaning? Why doesn’t the family notice? This one actually is logical. If I lived with a family with children, a spouse and either one of my parents or an in-law, and dishes got washed when I wasn’t looking, or things got tidied away, I’d likely just assume someone else did it and be glad of it. I almost explained this, but decided just to leave it.
It took a few days to get the first draft done. Now, I actually can write more quickly than that, but December is a busy month. Once that was done, I thought about rewriting it from scratch, but my first read through left me feeling happy with the majority of it. Instead, I editted within the already existing document. Things were changed. Some were added, some were removed. But editting on this was simple. It was a simple enough story.
Then, I let it sit for a week. I tried not to think about it at all. This can be hard to do, but I mostly succeeded. This let me come back to it with fresher eyes. I noticed a few things that I didn’t like. For instance, Tansin was originally quite suspicious and distrustful of Ellie. But that didn’t make sense. Why would she stay in a home where she didn’t trust the sole human who believed in her? So I rewrote that part.
A few changes, a bit of polish, and voila. A story for you all.
So. That’s my process when I’m being deliberate, and not writing because I was struck with inspiration. Or it was this time, I do often ch ange up how I do things, but that’s close enough to normal for me. As always, my ways may not work for you, but feel free to give them a try if you want to try writing. Take what works, discard what doesn’t.
Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

New Year, New Decade

Welcome to the twenties.
It’s going to take me a long time to get used to saying that after a lifetime of associating “the twenties” with the 1920’s. Still, here we are, in a year that still sounds like the date in a scifi story. It’s a new year, and a new decade.
Now, I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. After all, if something is worth doing, it’s worth starting when the idea occurs to me, rather than at a specific calendar date. But this does seem like a good time to assess my goals.
It will come to no surprise to anyone that they largely revolve around writing. It isn’t that I’m not invested in my massage therapy career, it’s just that I’m quite happy with where I am in that spot. Still, keep reading and it might just show up.
In the short term are my two novels in progress. I want to finish the first draft of my second novel, and that is my first priority. I’m not setting any sort of time frame for this, though I expect it will be done in a month or two. Still, it’s alright if it isn’t. Then, I want to do a third draft of the first. Unlike the second draft, this isn’t going to be a full rewrite, but rather a polishing with small changes in response to my beta readers. After that, I’ll do a second draft of novel number two and put it through beta reading, then do a third.
Hopefully, by that time, both will be ready to go, and I can start trying to sell this little brain baby of mine. I have no idea of when that will be. It could be by the end of this year and it could take longer. With practice and honing, I hope to get to a point where I can take a novel from initial idea to complete manuscript in a year.
Meanwhile, there are smaller projects. I need to get back on the horse of short story submissions. I’ve got a fair few that need to be reworked and polished, and then it’s time to start trying to sell them. Plus, there is this blog, which I want to keep on writing and hopefully grow a larger readership base. If you want to help with that, sharing specific articles or my Facebook page (see the link in the end tag for where that is), I’d certainly appreciate it, and it does help.  For that matter, commenting on the Facebook page’s posts helps, as does liking them.
Finally on the writing end of things, there’s my freelance writing. I am currently a freelance writer for the Feel Better blog hosted by Massage Experts, the company I work for. I am very excited about that project in general, and my part in specific, and want to keep on writing for it. I’d also like to branch out and perhaps do an article for one of the industry publications. See, I told you massage would show up eventually.
Finally, on the more fun side, I want to get back to Disney World. Now, short of miraculous intervention it isn’t going to happen this year, and unless I sell a book, it’s not going to happen the next year, either, but perhaps I can make it happen without waiting another fifteen years, which where the last two gaps between trips. It’s my happy place. 
And perhaps, just perhaps, by the time 2030 rolls around, I’ll be not just a published author but an established one. A girl can dream.
Here’s to hoping these twenties roar. Happy New Year, everyone!
Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

A Home For Christmas – a short story

Christmas is a time for giving. We all know that. But as you make your way to the tree to open gifts, or to the table for your Christmas feast, think about the story I have to tell you, and how sometimes the simplest gifts are the most profound. So settle in, all cozy in your Christmas jammies or resplendant in your holidayfinery, and enjoy a Christmas story.
Tansin was cleaning, as she always did, in the wee hours of the morning as the family slept. Outside, softflakes were starting to fall through the darkness. The ground would be white by morning, though Tansin would tell that the snow wouldn’t be deep.
Heading into the living room, she stopped. blinking. There it was again. Every year at about this time, her family brought a tree in from outside and hug bright lights and shiny things from its branches. Soon, she knew, boxes all covered in paper and ribbons would start to appear beneath it. More and more would show up there for the rest of the month, until one night they’d all be gone, but scraps of paper would be left all over the place for her to find and tidy away. Tansin adored that night, for she greatly loved cleaning for the family, and those bits of coloured paper were so pretty. Sometimes, they had pictures on them.
Still, Tansin wondered as she did every year what this was all about. Why bring a tree inside? Why make it look like that? Not that it wasn’t pretty. In fact, Tansin was always taken with it. She liked it best when the lights were left on, but that only happened the night before the boxes disappeared and the bits of paper were left behind.
Tansin liked to pretend that the paper was left as gifts for her by the two children of her family, though she knew better. The children didn’t believe in her. The parents didn’t believe in her. Only Granny Ellie believed. Granny Ellie was from the old country, and she’d brought her beliefs with her. She was the one who left the little bowls of cream and cakes or cookies on the stove top for Tansin to find. Granny Ellie was, in fact, the reason that Tansin had moved in with this family and made it her own. Granny Ellie told the children about Tansin, despite not knowing her name, but the children didn’t believe.
It was getting harder and harder to be a hob.
What’s a hob, you ask? Well, some people know them as brownies. Hobs are fae folk, you know, but not the malicious kind, unless you make them mad. They love to clean and care for homes, and the families that live in them, in exchange for gifts of cream or cakes, though Tansin happily accepted cookies. When Granny Ellie moved on from this world, Tansin would have to leave, too, and where would she be then? No one seemed to believe anymore. Who would leave her cream and cakes? Why didn’t the family notice her efforts? Goodness, but you ask a lot of questions. It’s simply. Mother always assumed that Father or the kids were good abot tidying up. Father assumed the same. The kids didn’t notice. Humans have a way of not questionning the nice things in life. But, let’s get back to the story.
Shaking herself out of her sad thoughts, Tansin approached the tree and reached up to adjust one of the ornaments that was hanging crookedly from its bough. For a moment more, she admired the tree, then went back to her cleaning.
Days passed, or nights did, since Tansin always kept herself hidden away during the days. Those pretty boxes began to appear under the tree. Just one at first, then three, now six. They had little tags attached with names of the family printed on them. The mood of the family seemed to become more joyful, something that Tansin was particularly sensitive to. Then one night when Tansin was once more in the living room, she noticed that one of the children’s books had been lef out of place. Moving to pick it up in order to return it to its normal home, Tansin noticed that there was a picture of a tree on it, one that looked similar to the one the family had. Curious, Tansin carried it over to the big armchair and hopped up to sit on it. As she was the size of a child herself, her bare feet dangled off the floor. Curiously, she opened the book and began to read. It was a story about something called Christmas, when good little boys and girls got presents. Evidently, those pretty boxes contained presents inside them, and the tree was a Christmas tree. Though she didn’t understand, Tansin was intrigued. Finally, she shut the book, hopped down from the chair and put it in its proper place before getting back to her tidying.
The following night, though, she found another book where the first had been left. This one had a picture of a fat, white-haired man in a red suit, and she recognized the picture as one of those that sometimes appeared on the paper around the presents. She sat down and read this one, too, learning that the man was called Santa Claus, and that he flew around the world in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer and brought more presents to children. He sounded a bit like a fae person, Tansin thought, though not one she’d ever heard of.
The next night, there was another book. And then another the following night. Tansin was learning just how magical a time Christmas was, even more so than she had thought when all she knew about was the tree, the pretty boxes and her coveted bits of paper. It made her a bit wistful, though, for she was beginning to wish that she could have Christmas too. And she still didn’t understand what it was really all about.
Finally, the night of the tree lights came. Christmas Eve, as she now knew. Sure enough, the lights were left on. But there was no book. Instead, Tansin found a piece of paper with a note left on it.
‘My dearest hob,
I know that it is your way to hide yourself away from the families that you adopt. That you love us and help us, but you don’t join us. But I wonder if you will grant an old woman her Christmas wish. Come up to my room and speak with me?
For a long time, Tansin sat and thought, clutching the note. Talking to humans wasn’t the way it was done. But times kept changing, and Tansin found herself thinking that perhaps she should change, too. Besides, she wasn’t sure how many more years Ellie would even be here, and she’d been taking care of Ellie and her family ever since the woman had moved here from Lincolnshire in England.
Finally, Ellie crept upstairs, the note still held in her hand. She hesitated outside Ellie’s door, then slowly opened it and stepped inside.
The old woman was sitting up in bed, her silver hair loose around her shoulders, clearly waiting, and when she saw Tansin there her face broke into a beaming smile.
“You came! Oh, I’m so glad tomeet you.”
“Hello, Ellie,” Tansin said, hesitantly drawing closer. “I’m glad to meet you, too. But why now?”
“Because it’s Christmas,” Ellie said. “And because my son and his wife don’t believe in you. The children don’t believe in you. I worry about what will happen to you after I am gone. So I want you to join us for Christmas.”
Tansin didn’t know what to do, so she stalled for time by asking the question that had been keeping her up at day. “What is Christmas, really? I read those books. I suppose you must have left them for me so I’d know about Christmas, but they don’t really say what it is.”
Ellie paused for a long moment. “Well,” she said. “That’s a complicated question. Christmas means different things to different people. Christmas is a religious holiday, celebrating the birth of Christ. But not everyone who celebrates Christmas believes in that. I do, but not everyone does, and that’s okay. Christmas is… well. It is a celebration of love, and of giving. Giving presents, yes, but giving time, giving considration, giving kindness.”
“Ahh,” Tansin said, finally understanding. “Giving kindness. Of course. No wonder I was drawn to it.”
“Will you join us?” Ellie asked. “If the family meets you, they’ll believe. Then you’ll always have a home.”
“A home for Christmas,” Tansin mused. “That sounds like the best present.”
And so, the next morning, Tansin gathered all of her courage and crept out of her place of concealment and let Ellie lead her in to mee the family. To say that there was a lot of surprise would be an understatement, but after all the stories Granny Ellie had told them about hobs and other fae folk, they at least quickly understood who and what Tansin was. Ellie even had a few gifts for Tansin, though fortunately none of them were clothes, for hobs tend to leave when given clothes. Why? Only the hobs themselves know.
From that day on, Tansin became a real part of the family, even if she did still go unseen more often than not. But every Christmas, she came out into the open to join the family around the Christmas tree. For now, Tansin had a home for Christmas, and a family who believed.
So that’s my Christmas tale for you. And to go along with it, a wish that no matter what you celebrate at this time of year, that it is a joyous and warm time.
Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.