Me & Ryan Gosling Ringing In 2010

Today is New Year's Eve AND a Thursday, so I'm going to do a Throwback Thursday to New Year's Eve 2010! I had a party and it was by far one of the better parties I've hosted. Lots of people, lots of fun, lots of dancing, we ran out of toilet paper, and at one point, someone tracked dog poo through the living room. Here are things before the toilet paper and poo problems began! Ryan getting silly with some of my dear friends.

Inspiration! Just make a dent

"Part of the problem seems to be that nobody these days is content to merely put their dent in the universe. No, they have to fucking own the universe.”
David Heinemeier Hansson

THANK YOU! This is what I've been trying to say, well, basically since I finally got over the idea of owning the universe.  What is all this pressure that we are supposed to be putting on our lives?

Remember, everyone can't own the universe, but if we content ourselves to make our own dents then we actually allow everyone else the power to make their own!  So let's do it!  Dent the world!

PS: Did anyone else see the movie Death to Smoochy back in the day?  Remember how Smoochy's answering machine said "you may not be able to change the world, but you can make a dent", and it was something we were supposed to kind of make fun of, but actually it was good advice?

Cute! Burrowing lizard

There is something really joyful and adorable about this burrowing lizard.  Shake it off, buddy!

Singalong! Happy Xmas (War is Over)

It's the day after Christmas!  Boxing Day for us Canadians.  This is one reason why Canada is great.  We have a fun name for the day after Christmas so it's slightly less sad.  Of course, the name is after the fact that you spend the day boxing up all your decorations and putting them back in the basement, so... still pretty sad.  In honour of this, let's listen to the saddest Christmas song around.

by John Lennon

So this is Xmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Xmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Xmas (war is over)
For weak and for strong (if you want it)
For rich and the poor ones (war is over)
The world is so wrong (if you want it)
And so happy Xmas (war is over)
For black and for white (if you want it)
For yellow and red ones (war is over)
Let's stop all the fight (now)

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Xmas (war is over)
And what have we done (if you want it)
Another year over (war is over)
A new one just begun (if you want it)
And so happy Xmas (war is over)
We hope you have fun (if you want it)
The near and the dear one (war is over)
The old and the young (now)

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

War is over, if you want it
War is over now

Happy Xmas

Learning! Merry Christmas!

Today is Christmas!  Here are some fun facts about the holiday that I gleaned from this Random History page. Go there for more, because holidays are for learning.

1) In A.D. 350, Pope Julius I, bishop of Rome, proclaimed December 25 the official celebration date for the birthday of Christ.

(Basically, Christmas was invented in 350).

2) According to data analyzed from Facebook posts, two weeks before Christmas is one of the two most popular times for couples to break up. However, Christmas Day is the least favorite day for breakups.

(So people panic when they realize they might have to spend a holiday with this person and their insane family, but if they get to the day they aren't jerks about it.)

3) In Poland, spiders or spider webs are common Christmas trees decorations because according to legend, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus. In fact, Polish people consider spiders to be symbols of goodness and prosperity at Christmas.

(At least someone is nice to spiders.)

4) Christmas stockings allegedly evolved from three sisters who were too poor to afford a marriage dowry and were, therefore, doomed to a life of prostitution. They were saved, however, when the wealthy Bishop Saint Nicholas of Smyrna (the precursor to Santa Claus) crept down their chimney and generously filled their stockings with gold coins.

(Saint Nick sounds like a nice guy!)

5) The Viking god Odin is one precursor to the modern Santa Claus. According to myth, Odin rode his flying horse, Sleipnir (a precursor to Santa’s reindeer), who had eight legs. In the winter, Odin gave out both gifts and punishments, and children would fill their boots or stockings with treats for Sleipnir.

(Let's write some Odin Carols.)

Are you reading Hark! A Vagrant?

Well, are you?  This is my Christmas Eve gift to you: start reading Hark! A Vagrant!  It is hilarious and full of historical and literary humour that you don't need to be a historian to get.

This is a recent favourite and I just had to share it because, well, because it's funny and because there are so many parties right now and because everyone on the internet seems to think introverts are superior these days.

Go!  Go read Hark! A Vagrant now.

Inspiration! Breathe with me

This is beautiful.  If you celebrate Christmas, chances are you are a bit stressed right now (because, you know, the most magical time of the year also takes some effort).  If you don't celebrate Christmas, chances are still pretty high that you are a bit stressed right now, because stress is the underlying emotion of most of our lives.  So pause and breathe.  It is so nice.

Better yet, view the image in isolation here for a clutter-free screen.

PS: If anyone knows where this came from, let me know, I would love to credit the maker.

How to Deal With Me: A User Manual for Myself

I recently read the article "How to Deal With Me: A User Manual for All My Friends" on Lifehacker wherein the author details all the things his friends should know about him so that they can coax him through life.

Does anyone else think we're going a little overboard with the whole "here is how everyone else needs to adapt to me" thing?  I mean, I'm all for being aware of your needs and communicating them with your loved ones, but what happened to being responsible for ourselves?  What happened to not expecting everyone else to adapt to you at all times?

In light of that, here is my user manual to myself:

When I'm grumpy for any reason:

I am perfect and the world doesn't understand me, so it's obviously not my fault.  However, I will realize that the things that make me grumpy, while completely justified, are probably not the fault of the people most impacted by my grumpiness.  They are poor, innocent bystanders.

Instead of expecting them to know exactly how to treat me (they are silly inferior creatures after all, how could I ever expect them to work out such complexity as that?), I will try to set aside my grumpiness and indignation for long enough to let them know that I am grumpy, it is not their fault, and they should not fret.  Then I'll try not to be a jerk, because using an emotional state as an excuse for shoddy treatment of others is poor form.

When I am doing something weird:

Some people might think I'm weird. If I was very concerned about this, I would probably try harder not to do weird things.  Anyways, brilliance is often misunderstood in its time.

When someone else isn't communicating the way that I communicate:

Even though I obviously am superior and have the best communication style in the world, I recognize that they are clearly not as intelligent/sensitive/clear as I am and accept them anyways, like the magnanimous genius that I am. Being the exceptionally benevolent creature that I am, I will endeavour to check my completely reasonable emotional reactions and give them a chance.

Cute! Backyard deer

My parents' home backs onto a little mini forest, and so I grew up with Bambi visiting all the time. Here's a picture my dad took last week of a Mama and Baby stopping by to say hello!

This is Cool: Light-up bracelets for the teens

Normally I think new technologies aimed at teenagers are scary or stupid, but this is actually really cool!  They are like friendship bracelets taken to a new level - they light up and vibrate in different patterns when they are close together, allowing for secret communication.

I think what I love about them is that they still involve some of the old school aspects of secret communication: the two bracelet wearers must first sync up their bracelets and then agree on what different vibration patterns and colours mean in their secret communications.  It can't really be co-opted for bullying or sexting (I mean, a couple could agree that certain patterns mean dirty things, and the vibration aspect could be -- well you know -- but that's pretty innocuous if you think about it.)

The main downside?  These things are expensive which means that the rich kids will have a new toy and it will become even more obvious whose parents don't have $80 to buy them a bracelet (at the pre-order discount!)

If I was a teenager, I would be all over asking for this!  In fact, I kind of want one now.

Check them out at Gemio.

Singalong! Oi to the World by No Doubt

More Christmas fun!  This time we're going back to the ska/punk craze of the late 90's/early 00's when we would run around in giant pants.  No Doubt covered 80's punk band The Vandals' song Oi to the World and made it way more famous (although still not that famous, considering).

by No Doubt (originally The Vandals)

Haji was a punk just like any other boy
And he never had no trouble till he started up his Oi band
Safe in the garage or singing in the tub
Till Haji went too far and he plugged in at the pub

'Twas a cold Christmas eve when Trevor and the skins
Popped in for a pint and to nick a back of crisps
Trevor liked the music but not the Unity
He unwound Haji's turban and he knocked him to his knees

If God came down on Christmas Day
I know exactly what He'd say
He'd say "Oi to the punks and Oi to the skins-
But Oi to the world and everybody wins!"

Haji was a bloody mess, he ran out thru the crowd
he said "we'll meet again we are bloody but not unbowed"
Trevor called his bluff and told him where to meet
Christmas day on the roof down at 20 Oxford street

If God came down on Christmas Day
I know exactly what He'd say
He'd say "Oi to the punks and Oi to the skins-
But Oi to the world and everybody wins!"

On the roof with the nun chucks Trevor broke a lot of bones
But Haji had a sword like that guy in Indiana Jones

Police sirens wailing, a bloody dying man
Haji was alone and abandoned by his band
Trevor was there fading and still so full of hate
When the skins left him there and went down the fire escape
Oi! Oi!

But then Haji saw the north star shining more then ever
So he made a tourniquet from his turban saving Trevor
They repelled down the roof with the rest of the turban
and went back to the pub where they bought each other bourbon

If God came down on Christmas Day
I know exactly what He'd say
He'd say "Oi to the punks and Oi to the skins-
But Oi to the world and everybody wins!"
If God came down on Christmas Day
I know exactly what He'd say
He'd say "Oi to the punks and Oi to the skins-
But Oi to the world and everybody wins!"
Oi! Oi!

Learning! Five things we need to stop saying about First Nations (by Wab Kinew)

Wab Kinew, journalist, musician, and writer, was on the Strombo Show a few weeks ago and shared a quick tutorial on five stereotypes we tend to hold of First Nations that need to go out the window.

Listen and learn!

Me & Ryan Gosling, Pooped at a Wedding

Last summer my friend got married! Ryan had a shoot that day so he couldn't make it for the wedding, but he arrived near the end of the night. We were all pooped, but he wanted to party! Nobody puts Ry Ry in a corner.

Inspiration! The trick to forgiveness

Forgiving people can be hard.  Like, really hard.

This video gives some extra tricks to forgiving someone.  One is that when someone is angry and saying or doing things that will require forgiveness, chances are they are actually scared.  Fear makes us do all sorts of things.

Another is the idea of the strength behind the weakness.  We all have strengths, and each strength has a "shadow" weakness.  As the video puts it, someone who has the strength of thoroughness at work might also be thorough in pointing out every grammar error they see around them.

Maybe next time I need to forgive someone, it will help to remember their fears and their strengths.

Dating while religious and listening to #GoodMuslimBadMuslim

I just started listening to the podcast #GoodMuslimBadMuslim.  It's a fantastic podcast that I highly recommend, full of discussions of what it means to be Muslim, what is a "good" or a "bad" Muslim, what it's like to live as a Muslim in America right now, and just plain what it means to be good or bad in general.

Here is how they describe themselves:
To the Muslim community, we are "bad" Muslims - we listen to music, we don't pray regularly, we date or get married to white men (Zahra), identify as punks and radicals (Taz), we perform and share our lives with comedy and writing. So we are bad. So so bad.

To non-Muslims, we are "good" - we don't drink, we don't do drugs, we are not criminals, we are social justice activists and community leaders. We are successful, published, accomplished.
I love this description!  I often attempted to make similar explanations of my Mennonite-ness, except Taz and Zahra, as successful, published, and accomplished community leaders, do a way better job than me at breaking it down.

In a time when assumptions about who Muslims are and what they do are so widespread and contentious, it would behoove us all to listen to this podcast as one of many voices helping us understand the multiple identities and lifestyles that make up the Muslim faith.

I started by listening to the episode Muslim-ish.  I learned about experiences of surveillance, that Richard Dawkins (who I already had decided was a general pompous jerk) is a racist and sexist, that Janet Jackson is now Muslim, and that nobody takes Eid into account when planning events.

At one point, one of the women (I'm pretty sure it was Zahra) talks about having gone on a date with a white guy, and how frustrating it was for her to once again be asked the question "how Muslim are you?" 

In their discussion of that question there is one misunderstanding that comes up: that a Christian or a Jewish person would never get asked how Christian or Jewish they are.

As someone with a Christian background, I can tell you that I think some version of this question has come up with every person I have dated.

Why?  A religious label doesn't actually tell you much about what a person truly believes or how they live their life.  I am Mennonite and I can bet you that 90% of the things you think that means in terms of my beliefs and lifestyle are not quite accurate.  I went on a date once with a guy who identified himself as Anglican and went on to describe all religious people as lunatics.  Even being an atheist can mean totally different things to different people.

Whether you're dating to have some sexy fun with a cool person or to find love and marriage, you need to know more than the label a person gives their belief system to know how these activities might work out for you.

When we ask how religious our date is, of course, we really want to know some combination of a whole bunch of questions including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Will you have sex with me before we are married/will you expect me to have sex with you before we get married?
  • What about kissing and other sexy activities?
  • What about living together before marriage or even getting married at all?
  • What are the most important things in your life?
  • Do you follow your faith's dietary restrictions?  How strictly?
  • Do you go to church or temple all the time or just sometimes or not at all?  Do you want me to go to?  What if I go to a different church or temple?
  • Can we talk about faith or does that scare you?
  • Does your religious faith influence every part of your life, or is it just a name you use to describe your basic life philosophy?
  • Will you want to raise your children with this religion?
  • Does your family do any prayers or songs before meals that I'm not going to understand?
  • For your religion, are you super conservative or super liberal?
  • Do you have to marry someone who shares your beliefs?  If we don't share the same beliefs is this limited to being a fling?  (The fling question ties back to the sexy behaviour questions.)
  • Do you think that men and women are equal in an actually visible way?
  • Will you try to convert me?  Can I talk about my beliefs without you thinking I'm going to convert you?  Will you convert?

The trick here comes from the amount of knowledge a person has of your religion coming into the conversation.  If you share a religious background, you don't necessarily need to ask the broad, awkward "how [insert religion] are you?" question because you know the lingo and can ask more specific and nuanced questions.  You can ask about their sect or denomination, how they observe holidays, and where they attend temple or church.  With your keen insider knowledge you will glean a lot of useful information from those questions, because you know what those things all mean.

What if you are coming with little to no knowledge of the religion?  Without background knowledge, you probably don't even know where to start.  You're not going to blatantly ask all the real questions running through your mind because everyone tries to act all cool on first dates and it's apparently uncool to just ask straightforward questions.

Thus, the broad, inelegant question emerges: "how Christian/Muslim/Jewish/Buddhist/Hindu/Sikh are you?"

It is totally awkward.  The person asking it probably feels awkward because they know they are not quite getting the question right, and they feel kind of embarrassed and exposed for not knowing enough about your religion to ask a better question.

The person answering feels awkward because they suddenly have to evaluate and rate their personal beliefs against where they think a general perception of their religion lies.  It can be really hard to articulate beliefs, especially when it has become suddenly clear that the person your talking to has no frame of reference to understand yours.

Personally, I just wish people would get over this idea of being "cool" on dates and would just ask the real questions they want answers to.  This was always my shortfall in dating: I would just ask straightforward questions and give straightforward answers.  A lot of people don't like this.

It is likely that the "how religious are you?" question is way more loaded for Zahra and Taz than it is for me.  While no one seems to know or understand what a Mennonite is, Christianity is basically the default religion of North America and so even if I don't fit into mainline Christian faith, most people I encounter have a basic idea of where to begin talking about it.  The default understanding of what being a Muslim means is very different, and so they are dealing with a whole different set of assumptions when these questions come up.

Okay, so let's say you're on a date.  If you are trying to play the game where you pretend you don't actually want the things that you want and thus can't bring up questions about sex, marriage, babies, or gender roles, then let's rephrase the awkward question.  Instead of "how [insert religion] are you?" try asking "what does being [insert religion] mean to you?", "what does your faith look like?", or even "how do you practice your faith?"

I can't speak for Zahra and Taz, or for any other person with some religious attachment, but for me, this is a much better question.  It still might be a bit awkward, but it lets me articulate what I believe without having to try to measure it against some imaginary 1-10 scale of frightening-zealot to reluctant-holiday-observer.

Cute! Gertie makes a new friend.

Cute cute cute! Yesterday Gertie met my friend Kathy and they instantly bonded. Soul mate material. I took a zillion pictures of their cuddles, and this is one of them.

Singalong! Zombie Christmas by Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler

I love Christmas and I love Christmas music (don't worry, I don't get the holiday machine rolling until December, I'm not an animal).  The traditional carols are my favourites, but I also can't help but fall in love with these newfangled holiday tunes like those of Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler.  I mean, Zombie Christmas?  What could be better?

by Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler

I was lying in my bed on Christmas Eve
Then something happened that I couldn't believe
The sound of chains dragging down the street
It was a Zombie Christmas.

It all went wrong when the day became night
Everyone in town had to run for their lives
Couldn't even check if my gift had arrived
It was a Zombie Christmas.

All the angels singing:
Christmas time has come,
Oh man you'd better run, run, run!
All the bells are ringing:
Christmas time is here,
I hate this time of year!

Winter wonderland and a silent night
It's only gonna happen if you put up a fight
Just be careful, because they bite
It's a Zombie Christmas

They don't feel the cold when it's 50 below.
You see them sucking brains out in the snow,
And don't get caught beneath the mistletoe
At the Zombie Christmas

All the angels singing:
Christmas time has come,
Oh man you'd better run, run, run!
All the bells are ringing:
Christmas time is here,
I hate this time of year!

They came in through the chimney when the people in the house were sleeping.
They didn't fill our stockings and there wasn't anywhere to hide.
Well I don't want to have my last Noel,
We'd better kick those zombies back to Hell
If we want to live to tell the Zombie Christmas!

All the angels singing:
Christmas time has come,
Oh man you'd better run, run, run!
All the bells are ringing:
Christmas time is here,
I hate this time of year!

All the angels singing:
Christmas time is here
I hate this time of year!

Learning! Art will make your kids into better people

If you aren't a person who is involved in the arts, chances are you have at least heard us artsy folk talk about how essential the arts are to humanity and education and everyone all the time.  I will admit, sometimes we're just saying stuff that sounds really "big deal" and has nothing to back it up.  A lot of it does, though, and now there is one more piece of concrete, scientific evidence to back up the value of art: researchers at the University of Arkansas have found that exposure to art gives young students "greater tolerance, historical empathy, as well as better educational memory and critical thinking skills."

So... basically, they become better human beings AND are better at learning and thinking critically about things. Educational outcomes, achieved!


Me & Ryan Gosling Having Fun with Moustaches

My office is a silly place. One day the staff was having fun with moustaches when Ryan dropped in for a visit. He had the perfect timing to photo bomb my web cam pic of myself in my 'stache. If there's one thing my sweet Ryan is good at, it's getting into photos!

Inspiration! Hope or expectation?

"Hope is fuel, it moves us forward and it amplifies our best work. Expectation is the killer of joy, the shortest route to disappointment. When we expect that something will happen, we can't help but be let down..." - Seth Godin

I think Seth Godin is, as usual, right on the money. The trick is, how on earth do you tell the difference? How do you keep hope from turning into expectation?

If I think about it, I think that hope is more positive and open. Hope looks forward with optimism and sees possibility. Expectation, on the other hand, is specific and clingy. It needs and grasps and can only be satisfied in one specific way, and even then, will it really be satisfied?

Intellectually, this makes sense, but I honestly have no idea how to apply it to life. If there is a possibility hanging out right in front of you, how to you keep yourself in the realm of hope and out of expectation?

Okay, here's something: maybe it's about the outcome. If we fixate on a particular outcome, picturing what our life will be like and planning around it, then we are living in expectations. If we don't worry about what will actually happen and just focus on the process, on moving and doing and working and trying, then we can just hang out with hope.

Except then that sounds dangerously close to the life philosophy of expecting the worst so that you're surprised when good things happen, which I generally don't subscribe to as a great way to live.

Besides, hope isn't entirely removed from outcome. Hope doesn't generally refer to enjoying the process and not the product; hope generally refers to some end result. We hope for change, for improvement, for love, for happiness, for things to go well, and for help, among other things.

If you haven't noticed from my back and forth here, I am genuinely trying to figure this out. What do you think? Any ideas on what the actual difference is between hope and expectation?

Cute! Gertie the Kneady Cat

Gertie is a needy animal. She can also get her knead on like none other. (Hey-o! Did you see that play on words?) I tried to make a gif out of a video I took of her kneading all over me in bed, but it basically turned into a two-frame stop motion animation. 

Well, it's still cute, right?  Or maybe seizure-inducing?

Singalong! Song for a Winter's Night by Sarah McLachlan

It's Christmas!  And by "Christmas" I mean that it's December and so now we can start doing Christmas-like things.  Don't worry, though, I'll start you off gently with a song that has no jingling bells or sleighs or baby Jesuses.  It's more of a wintery celebration song: "Song for a Winter's Night" by Sarah McLachlin.  Fun fact that's fun only to me: I did a dance to this song in my ballet class in grade 11.  It was very pretty.  When we did it in competition once they announced it as "Song for a Virgin Winter's Night" .... for some reason.

by Sarah McLachlan (originally by Gordon Lightfoot)

The lamp is burnin' low upon my table top
The snow is softly fallin'
The air is still within the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly callin'

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon the page
The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are liftin'
The mornin' light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are driftin'

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
And to be once again with with you
To be once again with with you

Learning! The insanity of people who run too much

I have always been suspicious of people who run too much for fun.  I mean, running is essentially pure torment and misery.

I get why people do it to be skinny, in the way that we humans do a LOT of torturous things to get skinny and running isn't so bad when you consider spending weeks consuming only water with lemons and cayenne pepper in it.

I also get people who do it because their lives depend on really high levels of physical fitness.  If I was chasing mastermind criminals down the street whose legs are enhanced by their magical abilities, or if I was trying to run away from said criminals, I would wish I had run more often.  I get that.

But then there's the people who just run big crazy marathons for fun.  Say WHAT???  Insanity.

Turns out, there are some kind of insane things that happen in the brains of ultra-marathoners, including ultraeye syndrome, when the cornea swells to the point where it impairs vision and people can only see basic light and shadows, and basic fatigue-related hallucinations that might be more common in people who are running for days on end.

Huh! Interesting!


Me & Ryan Gosling Playing Guitar

Some of you may know that Ryan is quite the musician. He had (has?) a sweet band called Dead Man's Bones. Well, you probably don't know that I play the guitar too! Just in more of a "sort of" kind of way. Here Ryan was trying to get me to play one of his songs, but I was just goofing off instead. He was a bit annoyed, but ultimately he agreed that my songs are way better than his. What a classy guy, my Ry Ry!

Inspiration! The sweet freedom of not having so many things

I was going to post this week about the joys of getting rid of things.  I recently did a wardrobe cleanse, where I mercilessly got rid of anything I didn't really want to have.  Yes, I still have more clothes than I need (purge 2.0 is coming), but as soon as I was done, I felt sweet, sweet freedom.

Then Black "Friday" and its multi-week extravaganza of sales came along (it's infiltrated Canada now, too) and I felt this sudden obligation to buy things.  Like I was going to be a fool if I didn't take up every retailer in the world on their amazing deals, even though I don't really want them.

This was strange.  I love a deal.  I am a Mennonite.  We are stingy.  Usually I get pretty into big sales - I go through the deals and figure out what I will need in the future so I can maximize the savings for as long as possible.  This year, though?  I just didn't want to.

Then today I read this article in Quarz titled "How the American middle class has lost its taste for mindless consumerism".  This brought joy to my heart (oh how our disposable consumer culture makes me feel all heavy inside), and seems to tie in nicely with my desire to purge without the subsequent binge.  With my unexpected internal rejection of the biggest sale day of the year.

You see, lately I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed by life.  Everything has been a bit too much.

This "too much" feeling has transferred over from work and other projects and obligations to every area, including all my stuff.

Having a lot of things used to feel like a safety: it meant that if I ever needed something, I would have it.  I would be okay.  I won't have to go buy it later when I potentially won't be able to afford it.  The fact that I have 30 pairs of underwear and 20 plates and a bunch of dresses I don't even want to wear made me all secure-feeling.

Sure, there's some logic behind this, as well as a wonderful rejection of the disposability and consumerism that teaches us to buy newer, shinier things and throw away anything that isn't perfect or immediately useful because we can just buy another one anyway.

So there is a balance to be struck - somewhere between usefulness, quality, and cost (both in terms of money and space).  All these considerations, plus the Marie Kondo "Spark Joy" craze, has inspired me to re-evaluate all my things.  What am I holding on to, and why?  What am I buying, and why?

Saying no to a purchase doesn't have to be an exercise in self-denial.  Instead, maybe it can be an exercise in self-realization and freedom.

In the same vein, letting go of things we own doesn't have to be a painful ordeal of letting go.  It can be an experience of gratitude for the functions things once served and the usefulness they can bring again to someone else.

So let this be your inspiration - whatever you're holding on to that you don't actually want anymore, be honest with yourself about it, and let it go with joy and thanksgiving.  Whatever you think you need to buy because it's Black Friday or Cyber Monday or Give Us All Your Money Day, let's be honest with ourselves about those, too.  Are we bringing items of usefulness, quality, or beauty into our lives?  Things that we will be glad to have around in a month or a year?  Maybe leave it for someone else to enjoy instead.

Who needs all that extra junk around, anyways?

Singalong! Ambulance by TV On the Radio

If you ask me to tell you one of the cutest love songs ever, chances are I will mention this one.

by TV On the Radio

Your slim frame
Your eager eyes
And your wild mane
Oh they keep me where I belong
All wrapped up in wrong

You're to blame
For wasted words of sad refrain
Oh let them take me where they may
Believe me when I say

Oh I will be your accident
If you will be my ambulance
I will be your screech and crash if you will be my crutch and cast
I will be your one more time if you will be my one last chance
So fall for me

Your slime frame
Your simple stare
And your wrong wrong name
They keep me where I belong
All strung out in song

While I so tamed
Where we can shoot other vines through your good name
Sip sweet from nights deep wells
And watch are garden swim as our seeds are soaked
While overgrown
You will see
Hearts colors change like leaves

Oh sweet sweet dream fall for me
Fall fast fall free fall for me
Oh I will be your ambulance
If you will be my accident
I will be your screech and crash if you will be my crutch and cast
And I will be your one more time if you will be my one last chance
So sweet dream fall with me
Fall fast fall free fall with me

Learning! Dance your way to a happier heart

I love dancing!  I have long been convinced that nothing makes you happier than moving your body around to music - it's the best way to let go of your brain and not only get your heart pumping but also (to embrace the corniness) get your heart smiling.  Turns out, I was right!

According to science (aka numerous studies individually credited in this article), dancing lifts energy, eases tension, increases creativity and may even help reduce symptoms of depression and Parkinson's.  It increases the longevity of motor skills throughout life and boosts cognitive performance.


Me & Ryan Gosling With Fire Fighters

Remember that Portland trip where Ryan missed me so much he just had to surprise-visit? Well, at one point we came across some of the city's fine fire fighters. We took a picture with them, and Ryan wasn't supposed to be in it, but then he jumped in. I think he was a little jealous.

Inspiration! Target gets it right again

My attitude towards large, multi-national corporations, especially ones that market themselves based on the extremely discounted nature of their products, is skeptical at best.  We all know that things shouldn't be that cheap (or maybe they should be, but the wrong people are taking a pay cut to make that happen), that they treat their employees like moving pawns, and are usually terrible for the environment and society in general.

Yet, sometimes they do really good things.  Like Target.  Target already got it right once by removing the gender labels from their toys aisles, and now they've done it again!  I know Halloween feels like eons ago, but it's worth noting that their Halloween flyer included a girl with a disability modelling the Elsa costume.

Photo Credit: Adweek

Now every child with a disability who saw that flyer feels immediately like they belong just a little more.  See how easy that was?

Sure, like I said yesterday, creating real diversity in an organization is a lot of hard work.  But sometimes the hardest part is getting over our mental barriers that tell us silly things like that every child in a catalogue must be able-bodied.

Dealing With Diversity? Some tips for my fellow privileged white folk.

Recently I've been confronted with the systemic biases and lack of diversity for an organization I run.  It wasn't a total surprise.  I, and the rest of the board, were already aware of the problem and taking some steps to fix it, but when it became a public conversation we suddenly became truly accountable.  As a a result, I have had more conversations about diversity than I ever have in my life, and I have learned a lot.

So let's just say you are a bit like me: white, middle class, and educated.  Let's say you are involved in any group (a workplace, church, volunteer organization, whatever) that, despite the best intentions of everyone involved, remains conspicuously dominated by your fellow white people.  What next?

Well, the learning is an ongoing process, and so with full knowledge that I might later be taught something new that changes how I approach diversity, here is what I have learned so far.

1) It's not about me.  Or you.

The first thing that we feel compelled to do when confronted with a racial imbalance in our lives is defend how "not racist" we are.  Guess what?  That doesn't even matter.  It's not about you and your racism, or lack thereof.  That is kind of beside the point.

If your organization is not reflective of the society you live in, that probably means there is some kind of systemic bias or barrier keeping people away.  Recognizing this, and using the word "racism" when discussing it, is simply not the same as calling you a racist.  Spending all your energy defending yourself distracts from the real work that needs to be done.

2) Get comfortable identifying people based on race.

Those of us raised in non-blatantly-racist societies were taught growing up that merely identifying a person's skin colour verges on racist, and certainly doing anything based on the colour of a person's skin is wrong

In theory, that's true.  It shouldn't matter what colour a person's skin is, and since we're all of equal value as humans, then we shouldn't need to worry about it.

Unless, of course, you live in a society where countless structures and systems were put into place with racial segregation and oppression in mind and you want to try to correct that imbalance.  Then you kind of need to be able to talk about it.

This discomfort talking about race in frank terms is a side-effect of privilege.  One great article that helped drive this home for me is I, Racist, where the author describes, among other things, how Black people have no choice but to identify based on their race.
"To understand, you have to know that Black people think in terms of Black people. We don't see a shooting of an innocent Black child in another state as something separate from us because we know viscerally that it could be our child, our parent, or us, that is shot...  Black people think in terms of we because we live in a society where the social and political structures interact with us as Black people."
- John Metta, I, Racist
This made me realize that my discomfort with identifying people based on their race is entirely a result of my ability to feel "raceless" in the world, and my discomfort identifying and talking about race is a direct offshoot from that privilege.

At the end of the day, if your organization has no people of colour involved, then the only way to find out what is keeping them away is to ask them.  You can't do that if you never recognize that a person has a different background than you.  No, you don't force one person to be "the Middle Eastern representative" in your life and to answer for all Middle Eastern people everywhere, but you do recognize that you might need to ask some Middle Eastern people what it's like to be Middle Eastern.

3) Just stop with the "merit" talk.

One of the first things that comes out of most peoples' mouths when confronted with diversity in their organizations is "well I can't hire a person just because they're [insert race/ability/religious/gender/sexuality-based identifier here], I want to hire the best person for the job."

Once again, let's get over ourselves an look at the world a little differently, shall we?  There are more options than "hiring the best person for the job and it's only a coincidence that they're all young white guys" and "hiring anyone who ticks a diversity box regardless of merit", and if you truly think that there are no people who are qualified to work with you who aren't white, able-bodied, young men, then maybe you actually are a bigot and that's a different issue.

Honestly, when people talk like this, what I think they are doing is looking for an excuse.  They don't want to make a change, and so they blow it out of proportion using the most extreme example of the opposite problem to give themselves a pass.

Besides, if you think every white person got their job based on merit, you clearly aren't paying attention.  In most industries, opportunities come from who you know, not what you know.  Ask yourself what background a person might need to have to know the "right" people.

4) Get ready for some actual hard work.

We do things the way we do them because it's easy and reliable. We know what we're getting when we buy another Apple product, read books by the same authors, hire people we know.

At my organization, we recruited people mostly based on personal recommendations.  It was straightforward, familiar, safe, and required the least amount of effort, all valuable qualities for a volunteer-based organization.  We never intended all the people we recruited to be white, but that generally wound up being the case.

Honestly?  Changing the way we recruited was hard.  I had to question every instinct I had, and that was exhausting.  Sometimes I wanted to stop caring about it and just go back to the easy way because I was busy and tired and had a lot of other things to do and couldn't people just materialize out of thin air for me, please?

More honesty?  Working with the new board has, occasionally, been hard.  New people are bringing new perspectives.  They are forcing us to question the way we do things and stand by our choices.  They are holding us accountable to the kind of organization we want to be.  This is welcome, and it is not easy.  I am grateful it's happening and sometimes I wish I could just go back to business as usual.  I want change to happen, and I wish it would kind of just happen without the sticky part in the middle.

Unfortunately, this isn't the kind of thing you can half-ass.  I'm not trying to scare you, but it's worth being honest about.  You can't snap your finger and fix years of systemic biases, barriers, and racism.

5) Know your motives.

No matter what, in the world, in life, in running an organization, you are going to piss people off.  You're never going to do everything right, especially when it comes to diversity.  You could do all you can to recruit a diverse board or staff or volunteer team, and find that you still wind up with a majority white staff, or that you don't have enough women, or that there are no people with disabilities.

There will be an ever-changing roster of what is considered "diverse" and we will always be a step behind because there will aways be a privilege that we don't realize exists until we see who is suffering under it.

If you are embracing diversity just to get people off your back, then this will sound like a reason to not even bother.  If it can never be perfect, if someone will always be offended, then why try to do anything?

Because it's the right thing to do.  If that's your reason, then that's all that matters in the end.  If it's not, and you are doing this to make other people happy or to look good, then you might still do something positive, but you're going to feel angry and defensive every step of the way.

Cute! The dog of Kingsgate mall

The other day I was in Kingsgate Mall, Vancouver's favourite confusing little shopping centre. It's got the most random of sad little shops next to two powerhouse tenants (Shoppers Drug Mart and a liquor store) that we can only assume is the only reason it hasn't been transformed into shiny condos.

The other day I walked in and who was sitting there by the doors? This sweet little dog! Look how cute.

Singalong! Misled by Celine Dion

This was not only the first Celine Dion song I ever knew, but it was more-or-less my first foray into "secular" music.  I grew up in a Christian household, and while my parents weren't nutty about the whole thing, we pretty much just listened to Christian music growing up (hence the love I've shared for Amy Grant).  I remember around grade three, beginning to experiment with our radio.  Perhaps influenced by friends at school talking about songs I didn't know, perhaps subtly pushed by an older sister who undoubtably had gotten into a wider array of music already, perhaps fuelled by an innate desire to learn what else was out there, I turned the radio dial and stopped when I heard some new music that I liked.  The station was Z95.3FM (in its original glory).  They were playing Celine Dion's Misled.  I loved it.  My life would never be the same.

Also, revisiting this song I not only see that the video is one of the finest examples of early-90s pop culture, but that this is one of the best breakup songs of all time!  Go Celine!

by Celine Dion

I tought I knew you
Tought that I knew you well
We had a rhythm
But I guess you never can tell

Oh I learned early
Never to ignore the signs
You'll be forgiven
It ain't worth that much to my mind

Lovin' you (was) so easy
It's hard to say goodbye
But if it's the way it goes it goes

Just a page in my history
Just another one of those mysteries
One more lover that used to be
If you think you're in my head
You been seriously misled

Loving somebody ain't your average 9 to 5
It takes conviction it takes a will to survive
I'm not somebody who commits the crime
And leaves the scene
But when I've been dissed
I don't spend much time on what might've been
I'm not about self-pity
Your love did me wrong
So I'm movin', movein' on

Just a page in my history
Just another one of those mysteries
One more lover that used to be
If you think you're in my head
You been seriously misled

Learning! Adults need vaccinations too

Look at this lovely stock photo of a doctor given a man a vaccination.
We all (or most of us, anyways) get a whole load of needles when we're kids.  There are many places to read about why kids need vaccines that I won't get into, but if you want to read about that, maybe start here or here.

As adults, we kind of tend to forget about vaccines.  You may get the flu vaccine every winter, but that's pretty much it unless you go on a trip to Sub-Saharan Africa and need to get some boosters.  But the fact is that grown ups need vaccines too!

Sure, your immune system is stronger than the children or elderly, and so even if you get whooping cough it probably won't kill you, but still, do you want to get the whooping cough?

Here are some vaccines that adults might want to get boosted on: tetanus (no point in waiting until after you step on a nail), pertussis (whooping cough), and chickenpox.  If you're a pregnant woman, get the TDap vaccine (pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria) to boost baby's immunity.


Me & Ryan Gosling Berry Picking

I grew up in Abbotsford, a major berry picking town, so I love going berry picking in the summers when I can. Ryan came with me last summer, but seemed a little more interested in looking sexy than picking berries. I would have been annoyed, but dang if he isn't good at looking sexy. I forgave him. Wouldn't you?

Inspiration! No fear, just hugs

This is a truly beautiful video.  Posted on Facebook by a man named Saf Adam (I don't know if he's the one in the video or not), a man stands blindfolded on the sidewalks of New York (I think).  He has two signs - one says "I am a Muslim, I am labelled as a terrorist" and the other says "I trust you. Do you trust me? Give me a hug." He stands with his arms out.

MUST WATCH .... speechless
Posted by Saf Adam on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It is beautiful to see stranger after stranger hug this man, some quickly and tentatively, others with purpose. The video ends with a man who actually stopped his car in the street and ran over to hug him.  Awesome!

A Week Without a Phone: An Accidental Personal Challenge

Sometimes I like to give myself personal challenges.  They are fun and I get to learn new things about myself.  Last month I imposed a month where I took no photos, to see if that would change the way I encountered the world.  This month I am invoking my annual "No Fun November" where I don't drink any alcohol (I thought about also banishing sugar, but then I ate a bunch of Halloween candy and decided I didn't care).

These are the challenges I plan for myself.  Of course, as John Lennon said, "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."  Sometimes I plan a personal challenge, and sometimes life (or my technology) forces one upon me.

Last weekend, my phone effed off.  Like, straight up died.  I updated the OS on my iPhone 4S (I know, I know, but I asked my friend who works for Apple and he said it should be fine) and it refused to turn or respond to any interventions.

It took from Sunday until Friday for me to wade through dealing with Apple Support and then Fido (my cell phone company) to get a new phone.  It was... interesting.


1) Phones and computers are practically the same thing.

The most interesting part?  In many ways my life was no different.  Turns out that these days we can do everything we do on our phones, on our computers, and since I have a job that keeps me on a computer all day, I was pretty well connected.

Short a couple of apps, I had it all with some slight variations: I texted from my computer (although only with people who also had iPhones), and could even FaceTime or Skype from my laptop if I wanted to actually talk to someone.  Email, Facebook, checking the weather, all on my computer.

The main difference showed up the moment I walked away from a computer and was suddenly thrown back to 1999.  I had to know where I was going before I went out and trust my friends to show up where they said they would be.  I couldn't check my bank balance before buying something or quickly text a friend to ask their opinion on something.

I certainly couldn't take any photos, which is kind of hilarious given my "no photos" challenge just ended and I was feeling super shutter-hungry.  Oh the humanity!

2) Time moves SO SLOWLY.

You know those moments waiting in a long line up when you browse your Instagram?  The boring meeting where you use the time to reply to a few emails?  The five minutes you're waiting for a friend when you scan through your Feedly stream?  Well I couldn't do that!

It felt like that Doctor Who episode with the little boxes where he can't travel to the future to figure out what's happening and has to wait and experience time like everyone else and he starts going bonkers.  You know why he goes bonkers?  Because time moves SO SLOWLY and it can be SO BORING!

I know it's good for our brains to be bored sometimes.  I've read the articles about how constantly filling our thoughts with distractions is bad - we need to be idle sometimes so our brains can process things, come up with solutions, and just plain old rest.

Yet what I wouldn't have done to fill those gaps.  I guess technically I was more engaged in each moment, but maybe some moments don't deserve to be engaged in.

Ugh, just kidding, every part of life matters, even the boring parts.  It was just annoying, okay?

3) What time is it Mr. Wolf?

This one really threw me: I didn't realize how much I depended on my phone as a clock.  I don't have a watch (well I have one, but it's broken, so only useful as an accessory) and so was left to move through the world unable to check the time.  It's weird.  I used to do it all the time, but of course then I was a teenager, and so not knowing the time had much lower consequences.  Nothing terrible happened, but it was weird.

Another fun thing?  Alarms!  Hands up if you use your cell phone as your alarm!  Me too.  You know why?  Yes, it's convenient and yes it's an excuse to keep your phone next to your bed even though you know you should have it in another room under five pillows to keep its blue light from destroying your brain.

You know why else?  Traditional alarms are like waking up to a heart attack.  Every day.

The first night I was without a phone I was being all zen about the whole thing.  I was sure I would be a superior being.  Heck, maybe I would just not get a phone at all.  I would live in the moment.  Life would be so authentic.  Then I realized that I needed to wake up on time the next morning.  Luckily, I do have an old wind-up alarm clock that I keep in my living room because it's pretty, so I was able to use that.  And wake up the next morning to such a jarring sound I felt like I was in a platoon that was under attack.

We used to wake up with the sun.  Since we've screwed that all up, gentle ring tones to ease us out of sleep are vital to our advancement as human beings.

4) Put the NO in notifications.

You know when you travel out of country and don't get notifications because you don't want terrible roaming fees, and how you feel so free the entire time?  Like you can just live your life?  It's blissful, right?  This was my week.

I always assumed that this kind of bliss would be unmanageable in real life: emails and texts and Facebook messages and everything else would add up and there would be too much catching up to do every time you sat down at a computer.  But just like the sweet disappointment of crossing the border to return home and seeing that there wasn't a hoard of people clamouring to get ahold of you while you were gone, so is a life without a phone.

Sure, with my days spent working on a computer, the only time I was left unconnected was when I went out for a few hours in the evening.  Still, let me tell you: not once did I check my messages after being out and feel like I had missed out on something.

None of the texts, Facebook messages, emails, or other notifications I would have gotten while I was out were so urgent or interesting that I wished I had received them while I was having dinner with a friend.  It was just plain nice to be out, with whoever I was with, without thinking about who might be trying to reach me.

There is, after all, something dangerous about always having a phone available.  About knowing that there's something in your pocket (or worse, on the table) that could come to life at any moment with something exciting or urgent or funny or that will just make you feel special.  While I resist a lot of claims that technology is destroying us as a people, I do feel very strongly that this does take us away from the moments and people that make up our lives.

Moving On.

I have a phone now.  After using the relentlessly-encouraging Apple chat support, visiting a Genius Bar, and a lengthy battle with my cell phone company over the ridiculous fees they wanted to charge me just for getting a phone (THAT is a whole other ball of bile), I sorted it all out and I am reconnected.

Mostly, it's great.  When someone invites me and my boyfriend to an event, I can actually contact him right away to see if he's free.  I can check where I'm going when I get lost (which is a lot), maintain my ongoing to do lists, check my calendar, and snap photos of things I want to remember or share.

I have, however, taken a lesson from my notification-free bliss.  I turned off notifications for everything except text messages, phone calls, and work-related tweets on my phone (because when you run a company's twitter account, you kind of have to be responsive).  No longer will my screen light up when I get a Facebook message or an email or a comment on Instagram.  I can look at those in my own time.

So far, so good.  Sure, I look at my phone more often than I'd like.  I check semi-neurotically for messages I know aren't there, partially out of a desire to keep on top of everything and partially out of a good old fashioned need for validation through the attention of others, but all in all, I've found a new balance.

For now.  Everything changes, especially technology.

Cute! Gertie the podcast star

Last week, Gertie tried to be a guest on my podcast!  Okay, okay.  I admit it.  What actually happened is that while my co-producer was figuring out some technology thing, I was setting up my microphone in front of Gertie to pretend she was trying to be a guest on my podcast.  But then see how much she liked it?  She clearly is meant to be famous.

PS: Have you checked out my podcast yet? It's called Life, Right? and we've got five episodes out and it's great! You can subscribe on iTunes and like us on Facebook.

Singalong! Only Happy When it Rains by Garbage

Remember Garbage? When I was recently in London there were ads for Garbage everywhere with that familiar pink feather pile and burnt out "G". At first I was confused - isn't London supposed to be super ahead of fashion? Then I realized that - oh no - it is the 20th anniversary of Garbage's self-titled debut album. Well, there you have it, age has snuck up on all of us once again.

This song was perfect for jumping around in your bedroom and yelling along to with your friends while putting on too much eyeliner and wishing you could afford Doc Martins.  It was a sweet time when there was some kind of rebellious joy in being a miserable teen, where we would feel all the angst and badness and then revel in the fact that nobody understood the depth of our souls.

by Garbage

I'm only happy when it rains
I'm only happy when it's complicated
And though I know you can't appreciate it
I'm only happy when it rains

You know I love it when the news is bad
And why it feels so good to feel so sad
I'm only happy when it rains

Pour your misery down, pour your misery down on me
Pour your misery down, pour your misery down on me

I'm only happy when it rains
I feel good when things are going wrong
I only listen to the sad, sad songs
I'm only happy when it rains

I only smile in the dark
My only comfort is the night gone black
I didn't accidentally tell you that
I'm only happy when it rains

You'll get the message by the time I'm through
When I complain about me and you
I'm only happy when it rains

Pour your misery down (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down on me (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down on me (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down on me (Pour your misery down)
Pour your misery down

You can keep me company
As long as you don't care

I'm only happy when it rains
You wanna hear about my new obsession?
I'm riding high upon a deep depression
I'm only happy when it rains (Pour some misery down on me)

I'm only happy when it rains (Pour some misery down on me)