Singalong! Baby I Love You by The Ramones

I never thought I would say this, but I love Spotify! If you don't know this music streaming service, check it out. One of their most excellent features is the Discover Weekly playlist, where their magical algorithms pick out new music for you, and it is honestly so amazing. Never has a computer known me so well. Mine generally features a wonderful assortment of covers, and this morning I came across this awesome cover of The Rosettes' Baby I Love You by The Ramones.

(PS: This is definitely not a sponsored post for Spotify - I just really like them.)

The Ramones

Have I ever told you
How good it feels to hold you
It isn't easy to explain

And though I'm really tryin'
I think I may start cryin'
My heart can't wait an other day

When you kiss me I just gotta
Kiss me I just gotta
Kiss me I just gotta say :

Baby, I love you
Come on baby
Baby, I love you
Baby I love, I love only you

I can't live without you
I love everything about you
I can't help it if I feel this way

Oh I'm so glad I found you
I want my arms around you
I love to hear you call my name

Oh tell me that you feel
Tell me that you feel
Tell me that you feel the same

Baby, I love you
Come on baby
baby, I love you
Baby I love, I love only you

Photo by Helge Øverås

Learning: Are there really good guy vigilantes with guns?

From the New York Public Library

Here in Canada, we've had our first tragic school shooting in a very long time.  (According to Wikipedia, the last one was in 2014 - sooner than I though, to be honest, which is really heartbreaking.)  In La Loche, Saskatchewan, four people have died at the hands of a teenaged gunman in a school.  This is really, really terrible.

Now, this is in the wake of 2015, the year that America had a school shooting for every week of the year.  That is insanely tragic.  It's mind-boggling.  It makes me feel just lying down on the ground and not moving, because how on earth can we have so much of this large-scale violence?

The gun control arguments in the US are raging strong, and one of the arguments is that so long as bad guys have guns, good guys need to have guns to stop them.

Here are a few facts about the "good guy with the gun":

Between 2000-2013, 13 percent of shootings were stopped by unarmed civilians who successfully restrained/stopped the shooter.  In three percent, an armed civilian stopped them, and in all but ONE of those situations, the armed civilian was a former police officer or security professional with extensive firearms training.

29 of the mass shootings since 2007 were carried out by people with permits to carry concealed weapons.  That's more than three times the number of people with gun permits who stopped crime.

A University of California-San Francisco study found that gun owners were three times more likely to commit suicide.

More people were killed by toddlers playing with guns than by terrorists in 2015.

So I guess the answer to the question of the good citizen with the gun is, "yes, there is a good citizen with a gun - they are a police officer or other trained professional."


Me & Ryan Gosling: at a cast party

A few summers ago I workshopped a musical and afterwards, Ryan and I hosted the cast at a party. Obviously, a goofy photo ensued.

Inspiration! Manifesto of a Doer

The DO Lectures is a conference and workshop series that originated in Wales, and it's all about people getting together to talk about and encourage each other in DOING things. Sounds cool, and I look forward to checking out their online videos.

In the meantime, here is their manifesto of a DOER:

Full disclosure: I thoroughly disagree with a few items in their manifesto.  I don't think deadlines always have to be panic-inducing, for example.  But I love the idea of making a habit of completing projects, that ideas only change the world if you act on them, of prioritizing your day, of the "sprint, rest" model of work, of making a plan and then letting it shift, and the power of little actions building up to big changes.

What can you adopt into your manifesto?  Maybe you adopt five things, maybe all 23, maybe just one, because you can do one little change at a time (and look at that, it will build up to a big change eventually.)


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Cute! Gertie the master pianist

You may not have realized it, but Gertie is a master pianist. Here, she takes a quick break in between movements.

Singalong! The Middle by Jimmy Eat World

This song was really popular when I was in grade 11, and I would refer to it as the CAPP song. CAPP stood for Career and Personal Planning. It was a mandatory class that we all had to take where we would learn about everything from the dangers of sex (STDs, guys! Babies!), drugs, and alcohol. Then we would take a career aptitude test to "help us plan our futures" and there would be lots of self-esteem talk throughout. Hence this song being the CAPP song.

 Feel good! Be yourself! Don't worry, things will get better! Of course, as with most things, I can talk about this with a bit of nostalgic jest, but really, it's still a good reminder to everyone everywhere.

by Jimmy Eat World

Hey, don't write yourself off yet
It's only in your head you feel left out or looked down on.
Just try your best, try everything you can.
And don't you worry what they tell themselves when you're away.

It just takes some time,
Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride.
Everything, everything will be just fine,
Everything, everything will be alright, alright.

Hey, you know they're all the same.
You know you're doing better on your own (on your own), so don't buy in.
Live right now, yeah, just be yourself.
It doesn't matter if it's good enough (good enough) for someone else.

It just takes some time,
Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride.
Everything, everything will be just fine,
Everything, everything will be alright, alright.
It just takes some time,
Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride.
Everything, everything will be just fine,
Everything, everything will be alright, alright.

Hey, don't write yourself off yet.
It's only in your head you feel left out or looked down on.
Just do your best (just do your best), do everything you can (do everything you can).
And don't you worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say.

It just takes some time,
Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride.
Everything, everything will be just fine,
Everything, everything will be alright, alright.
It just takes some time,
Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride.
Everything, everything will be just fine,
Everything, everything will be alright.

Learning! Stereotype Threat

Every once and a while, I like to put on my "I got an undergrad degree in psychology and therefore like to talk about psych theories a lot" hat.  This is one of those times, and this time I want to talk about Stereotype Threat.

What is Stereotype Threat?

Stereotype Threat is when a person unconsciously confirms a stereotype about themselves after being reminded of it.  The most commonly cited example of this (probably because it's been researched a lot) is women and math.  Cue a woman to think about her gender before doing a math test, and she instantly performs less well both than men and than she would have without that reminder.

The incredible thing is that these stereotypes are so pervasive that testers don't even have to bring them up explicitly.  All you need to do is prime a person to think about their gender and, if they are a woman, they will fill in the blanks.

Some of the tested Stereotype Threats include women and math, black people and performance on standardized tests, white people with regards to appearing racist, poverty and intelligence, men and social sensitivity, Christians and anti-science sentiments.

These are just the ones that have published research based on them, but let's think of every stereotype we can, and then imagine how many of the affected people are living into those stereotypes based on this.  Kind of scary, right?

Stereotype Threat doesn't stop at making women bad at math and men less socially sensitive, though. It causes us to self-sabotage in those areas by devaluing them and thus practicing less.

A person doesn't even have to believe the stereotype about themselves for Stereotype Threat to work on them, because just being reminded that other people expect you to be racist or to be worse at standardized testing will cause enough anxiety to help you confirm it.  Basically, you wind up spending enough mental energy worrying whether you will come across in a way that confirms a stereotype instead of just performing the task, that you wind up confirming it.

What do we do about it?  

We can try to avoid reminding people of the stereotypes held against them, especially in sensitive areas.  If you are a teacher, you can also stress that intelligence and performance are learned and that anyone can master a skill if they work at it.  Another study has shown that having students write about something they value can help overcome Stereotype Threat.

Reducing Stereotype Threat
Christians Are Bad at Science When You Remind Them A Lot of People Think Christians Are Bad at Science

Me & Ryan Gosling: bringing coke to a party

Know what you can always count on if you invite Ryan to a party? He will come bearing Coke. As much as he can carry. I, on the other hand, will bring a cup.

The Artist's Way: My Week Two/Three Fail

Week Two of The Artist's Way has officially come and gone, we are halfway through Week Three, and all I've got is this lousy... well, nothing.

Okay, that's not quite true!  I read the chapter last Sunday, I dutifully read the chapter for Week Two at the beginning of last week.  I looked at the exercises and thought about them.  Sadly, that's about it.  I will feebly offer, with hopes for some credit, that I have been doing my Morning Pages every morning this whole time.

I know, right?

I kind of hate being one of those people who starts a big project with gusto and then has zero follow through.  The excuse is the same as every excuse for everything: life has gotten really busy.  The thing is, though, it's just gotten to its usual level of busyness for me, so I really should be ready to handle this.

So here's the plan: this weekend I have time set aside.  I am going to start back at week two, but I'm going to be more intentional about planning when I do the exercises.  I'm going to do this thing right, I swear!

Inspiration! What struggle is your struggle of choice?

“Who you are is defined by the values you are willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.”
-Mark Manson
This is such a useful, and different, way to look at struggle, values, and outcomes!  I love this as a new way of examining what we consider to be failures in our lives.  If we haven't excelled in business, having a hot body, or whatever, perhaps we aren't a person who enjoys that particular struggle.

Then what?  Well, then you have two choices: look at your life and what struggles you do enjoy and consider changing your priorities, or look at your life and what struggles you enjoy and consider how you can make your existing struggles similar (this may or may not be possible, but it's worth considering).

There is a third choice: don't change anything and be okay to just let this be something you half-ass throughout your entire life, seeing the same fluctuations in motivation and follow-through, with generally mediocre results.

This might sound kind of depressing, but it doesn't have to be.  We can't have everything in life, and it is incredibly freeing to let go of things that just aren't right for us.  Then we can focus on that thing we actually live for.

What is the work we cram in, whenever there's time, because we get such satisfaction out of that particular struggle?


Why Doctor Who might as well be Doctor God

At some point in a human existence, most of us spend some time grappling with the idea of God.  For some, this grappling ends with a quick brush-off.  Others (like me) wind up spending pretty much the rest of their lives working him out.  The hardest part?  If there is an all-powerful, non-corporeal being who is impossible to interact with in a direct way, how on earth can we even being to really understand him?  (Heads up, I'm using the male pronoun here because English doesn't have a neutral, not because I think God is a man.)

That's where personifications come in.  Characters like Aslan (of C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - check the Wikipedia if you've never heard of it) are beloved by spiritual-types because he gives us phrases like, “he isn't safe, but he's good”, helping us grasp something incomprehensible in an omniscient deity's power and love.

I would like to submit, for you evaluation, criticism, and spiritual enlightenment, a new Aslan: The Doctor.

In a nutshell, The Doctor (of the BBC's Doctor Who) plumbs the depths of what it means to be an immortal, all-knowing creature with all of space and time at his disposal, and through it shows us something of what it might be like to be God in relationship with humans. He also comes back from the dead and saves the day, often dramatically and at the last second, like another deity we've heard of.

Here's how The Doctor helps me understand God:

1) He loves us. Like crazy.

The Doctor has an odd, deep, nonsensical love for humanity. He doesn't just think we're pretty cool; he loves us fiercely and actually marvels at us. There are many episodes where he goes on an unprovoked rant about how incredible humans are, citing our blundering inquisitiveness, our tenacity, and our capacity for love as evidence of our lovableness.

His love isn't blind, though. He sees our selfish, cruel, and destructive tendencies just as much as our good. He reacts to it with fury, getting so upset he banishes us from his sight.  Yet, his love is untainted. He gets so mad that he can't even talk to us, but he still comes back to save us and spend time with us. Could this be unconditional love?

2) He fights for us.

The Doctor fights for us. Both in the obvious, saving-our-skins-from-big-scary-space-jerks kind of way, and in a subtler, relational way.

If an alien wants to crash a replica of the Titanic into Buckingham Palace, rest assured, he will stop it.  (“God” save the queen?)  He doesn't just see the big danger, though. He sees when his favourite couple's marriage is in danger, and he responds. He puts them into a situation where they have no choice but to communicate, where they need each other once again, and gives them a way to get over their pride and stay together.

4) He is, sometimes, absent.

The Doctor is always there for us – sort of. Yes, he saves humanity time and time again, but sometimes we are left to fend for ourselves.

When he leaves young Amelia Pond for five minutes and then doesn't come back for ten years, for all intents and purposes she has been abandoned. Let's think about this for a second: she lost her parents, was in a strange place, AND had a crack in her wall with people talking on the other side that no one believed her about.  She finally meets someone who will help her.  He says he has to leave but promises to come right back.  Then, like everyone else in her life, he disappears.  Faith?  Out the door.

Watching the show, I know that the Doctor has not abandoned her. That he would have been back right on time except something bigger prevented him and she can't see that because he lives outside of space and time and she doesn't. In fact, by his clock, he was back in five minutes. His clock is just different from hers.

So how about a God who “hears” his peoples' cries after 40 years of slavery? Who we all feel abandoned by at one time or another? What string of wibblly-wobbly timey-whimey stuff is he running down?

5) He is sometimes restricted.

Along with the mystery of God's absence, can be the mystery of his inaction. Sometimes he acts, scooping people out of the way of oncoming cars, giving them jobs, healing their pain. Sometimes, though, he doesn't do a thing.

There is always a point in each companion's journey with The Doctor where he cannot, or will not, save someone they love. They inevitably scream at him, “What good are you, then?”, because when we encounter a being with supreme powers to save and heal, we start to expect them to use them all the time.

He looks into the eyes of the one he cannot save and says, with deep sorrow, “I'm sorry.”  It's always heartbreaking, because you can see how badly he wants to help, but he can't.  Perhaps something bigger is getting in the way, or perhaps the consequences of him crossing that line are too far-reaching.  Whatever it is, he does not act and it hurts us all - him included.

God created a universe with rules and gave us free will. Perhaps he, too, is sometimes left to helplessly watch.

6) He is ridiculously loveable.

More than once, while watching Doctor Who, I have thought “why can't God be more like the Doctor? He's so personable and smart and quirky and funny and kind of sexy. People drop everything to travel with him.” Then I realized that, by the only accounts we have, when God was a human, people did drop everything to travel with him. All it took was an invitation and they were at his side.

Perhaps he wasn't the slow-speaking, pensive downer portrayed in most of his biopics.  Maybe, just maybe, he was actually personable and fun.  Weird to think about, right?

7) He gives second chances. A lot.

The Doctor will give second chances to every single cackling, crab-legged monster he encounters. He will stand, without a weapon or a shield, in front of a filthy creature bent on destruction, and he will not condemn it. Instead, he will ask it for its name, where it's from, and what it wants.  He speaks its language.

No matter how great this alien-monster's wrong, he offers compassion and a chance to make it right. What better example of grace and redemption is there than a defenceless man who offers a loathsome, criminal creature love?

8) He needs us.

The Doctor not only loves humanity, but he needs it.  Without his human companions, things get scary.  He might go too far in taking out a villain or get too lost in his own power.

In church-going circles, people love to gloss over the parts in the Bible where God needs or is influenced by humanity, but maybe we should consider taking them at face value.  What does it mean if a piddly human is actually able to change history by convincing God to save a city instead of destroying it?

Perhaps God needs to be in a relationship with us as much as we need to be in one with him?  Maybe God, like The Doctor, shouldn't travel alone.

9) His story is bigger than us.

The Doctor lives outside of time. We see one tiny portion of the Doctor's story, selected for a televised narrative. Every once and a while the show will hint at his past and we will suddenly be reminded how much more there is to this one, tiny man, and that we will never fully understand him.

So are we left to understand God through our tiny, finite view of his story. No wonder he doesn't always make sense.

Cute! Penelope the Puppy

You know how some dogs just look like little, adorable, stuffed animals?  Here is one of those dogs.  Her name is Penelope.  She is so cute it's too much.

Singalong! Lazarus by David Bowie

Yes, that's right.  This has been a week of sad deaths (first David Bowie, then Alan Rickman, and finally Renee Charles), so for today's singalong, of course we're going to listen to some Bowie. I have gone back and forth a bit on whether I want to listen to my favourite Bowie song (although if you read my post this week about him, you'll know that I don't actually know that many Bowie songs), or to pick Lazarus. I'm opting for Lazarus. It is such a beautiful song, and as a farewell, I think the video and lyrics deserve a lot of special attention. Read and listen, sing along if you can.

by David Bowie

Look up here, I'm in heaven
I've got scars that can't be seen
I've got drama, can't be stolen
Everybody knows me now1

Look up here, man, I'm in danger
I've got nothing left to lose
I'm so high, it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below
Ain't that just like me?

By the time I got to New York
I was living like a king
Then I used up all my money
I was looking for your ass

This way or no way
You know I'll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now, ain't that just like me?

Oh, I'll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I'll be free

Learning! Playing with history with Histography

Want to explore world history without digging through merciless tomes?  Check out Histography.  It's an interactive timeline spanning the past 14 billion years, using Wikipedia articles.  Not only is the design fun, but it's got everything from The Big Bang and the formation of the first stars and galaxies, all the way to the discovery of water on Mars.

Each point on the histogram represents a historic event.  It's interesting to see where the points pile up and lots of thing were happening, and where they shrink back down.  It would also be quite fascinating to go through and evaluate what was deemed an "important" event to include in the graph.

The past 14 billion years, in a nutshell.

The past (approximately) 12 years

From about 500-present

Check it out! Find the point where dogs evolved, where the first civilization of Sumer emerged, or when toilet paper was invented.  Narrow down to a specific era (they have links to isolate, for example, The Bronze Age), or just play around with the timeline.  Pick a year and find out what happened at that point in history.  Learning is fun!

Me & Ryan Gosling: at an awards show

Ryan joined me at a theatre awards show! It was fun for him to be at an awards show that wasn't for him.

Inspiration! A scientific definition of God

The Helix Nebula. Wikipedia Commons.

Here's something to think about: how about we all (religious and atheist and everything in between) allow our definition of God to expand somewhat?

This article by Richard Greene in the Huffington Post argues that we could define God using The Helix Nebula, which is also referred to by scientists as The Eye of God.  Actually, he says all nebulae will do, not just The Eye of God, it just happens to have a good name.

Why?  Well, according to Greene, nebulae actually create life in the universe - they are aggregates of gases that recycle the energy of dying stars into everything: new stars, planets, bones, muscles, brains.  Everything.  We were all created in a nebulae.

So if you can open your definition of God to include something along the lines of "that through which everything in the universe is created", well, have a look at some nebulae.  They are God.



David Bowie

David Bowie in the Young Americans Tour.
Wikimedia Commons by Hunter Disportes.

I didn't grow up listening to David Bowie.  I knew who he was, because it how could anyone go through the 80s and 90s without knowing who David Bowie was, but it was probably more because his sweet outfits broke through even the most conservative of Mennonite upbringings (and relative to conservative Mennonites, my family was pretty liberal).

The first time I really encountered David Bowie, though, it was in a parody.  (Thank you, Flight of the Conchords!  I bet you didn't realize that when you lovingly parodied a glam rock icon you would actually be introducing him to someone who was older than 10!)  Like any good parody, it made me think that David Bowie was probably pretty great and motivated me to check him out.

Here it is, the song that introduced me to David Bowie

When I looked him up, I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of the songs were actually familiar!  The intro to Under Pressure, Heroes (thanks to Moulin Rouge), China Girl (thanks to The Wedding Singer), Let's Dance, Ch-ch-ch-changes.  I knew some Bowie songs!  I hadn't entirely missed a cultural icon!  How nice.

If this were a proper tribute, now would be the moment where I talk about how I became huge fan and memorized his lyrics and learned to play his songs on the guitar and then finally created my own art, set free by Bowie's unhindered spirit.

In reality, I never really listened to him again.  It's kind of strange that I didn't get more into Bowie.  After all, he struck that nearly-impossible balance between artistry and fun, and his creativity is undeniable.  There is no particular reason for the lack of Bowie in my life except that, I don't know, I guess I just wasn't in the habit of hanging out with his work?

Then, on Sunday, he passed away.  The molecules and atoms that made up his body, that somehow managed to come together into the "self" that created all that incredible work, will dissolve back into the universe and become one with everything else again.  Some of them might eventually grow into a really funny looking tree that grows very tall and very thin up to the sky.

It's always a bit strange when a celebrity dies.  If they impacted your life, then it's heartbreaking, which can be confusing because you didn't actually know them.  If they didn't really impact your life, it's still sad because they are a person and it's always sad when a person dies.  It's that strange feeling of an acquaintance passing - an acquaintance who all your friends were very close with but you didn't really know that well.  You feel there is a loss, and you see that loss much more pronounced in those around you.  You feel some grief, mostly out of empathy for the grief that surrounds you.

To David Bowie, up there in space, I want to say thank you.  Thanks for being the artist you were and for always just doing your thing and not caring about anything else.  For not holding yourself back.  It was very good for the human race to have an example of a person who didn't hold himself back AND had a sense of humour about things.

Cute! The cat, she sees you

Okay, this might not be so much a "cute" post as a "don't make any sudden movements"-type post.  The other day I came home and Gertie just sat there on my bed, staring at me through this crack in the door like the natural-born killer that she is.

Singalong! Bring Me To Life by Evanescence

Remember Evanescence? They were two-hit wonders in the mid-00's who had so many feelings in their songs. Who didn't love driving around crying out with their whole body "Call my name and save me from the dark!"?

by Evanescence

How can you see into my eyes like open doors?
Leading you down into my core where I've become so numb
Without a soul my spirit's sleeping somewhere cold
Until you find it there and lead it back home

(Wake me up)
Wake me up inside
(I can't wake up)
Wake me up inside
(Save me)
Call my name and save me from the dark
(Wake me up)
Bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up)
Before I come undone
(Save me)
Save me from the nothing I've become

Now that I know what I'm without
You can't just leave me
Breathe into me and make me real
Bring me to life

(Wake me up)
Wake me up inside
(I can't wake up)
Wake me up inside
(Save me)
Call my name and save me from the dark
(Wake me up)
Bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up)
Before I come undone
(Save me)
Save me from the nothing I've become

Bring me to life
(I've been living a lie, there's nothing inside)
Bring me to life

Frozen inside without your touch
Without your love, darling
Only you are the life among the dead

All this time I can't believe I couldn't see
Kept in the dark but you were there in front of me
I've been sleeping a thousand years it seems
Got to open my eyes to everything
Without a thought, without a voice, without a soul
Don't let me die here
There must be something more
Bring me to life

(Wake me up)
Wake me up inside
(I can't wake up)
Wake me up inside
(Save me)
Call my name and save me from the dark
(Wake me up)
Bid my blood to run
(I can't wake up)
Before I come undone
(Save me)
Save me from the nothing I've become

Bring me to life
(I've been living a lie, there's nothing inside)
Bring me to life

The Artist's Way: Week One

I am doing The Artist's Way!  The Artist's Way is a 12-week program where you do a variety of exercises to help "unblock" yourself as an artist.  My goal is to start acting on my random creative impulses and have more fun with my artist side, instead of just shunting off all my ideas to the "maybe someday" part of my brain.

On the way, I intend to write about the experience.  This is week one!  So far there are things that I love (let's call them "hearts") and things I am skeptical about (let's call them "hmmmmmmmms").

Week one is titled Recovering a Sense of Safety.  The big idea here is to counteract some of the negative beliefs we have about artists and the associated fears that might be holding us back.  Beliefs that artists are all drunk, broke, and unhappy/mentally unstable, for example.  It's about finding the root of those negative beliefs and taking away their power.


The Morning Pages: The Morning Pages is the number one, top practice The Artist's Way teaches.  If you tell anyone you're doing The Artist's Way and they are at all familiar, they will probably say something like, "oh, so you're doing morning pages."  Basically, every morning you write 750 words.  That's it.  750 words of whatever.  Stream of consciousness.  Get what's running through your mind on the paper.

I can totally see how this will be beneficial and would be good for everyone, no matter what they do with their lives.  The practice of writing down every thought, every concern, worry, and responsibility, alongside all your gratitude and happiness, is pretty therapeutic.  It's a total release.

The best part, for me, is the word count.  The word count does two things: one, it keeps it from taking too long, because if you don't have a point where you're "done", you could write out every thought in your head for days.  I used to just freehand journal in the morning and it wound up eating wayyyy too much of my morning, which is why I stopped.

The second is that you got to start off your day FINISHING something.  It's a daily practice of completion.  You write until it's done.  You don't judge, evaluate, or shape it.  You don't give up because it's not quite working.  You get it done.  The utility of this has already seeped into my other writing.  It reminds me to just do and keep doing until I am done.

The Artist Date: At first I was skeptical about this one.  The idea is that your inner artist is this child that needs to be nurtured, so you should take it on a date, which is cheesy but fine.  She refers to it as "filling the artist tank", which totally makes sense.  All of Julia Cameron's suggestions, however, sound like some Manic Pixie Dream Girl, live each day like it's your last, let's go really experience the world hoopla: go for a walk and really notice the world!  Eat a meal and really, truly, experience your food!  Smell it!  Are you smelling it? Did you taste ALL the flavours??? When you prepared it, did you notice every single time you chopped the carrot?  Did you FEEL it?  Ugh.  Really?

Then I did a little research online, though, and now I get it.  It's literally a time you set aside to just do a fun thing you want to do.  It can be making something, watching something, or doing something.  Like, anything that isn't lying around in a Netflix binge, basically.  It is the life-changing idea that we need to do things once and a while.  That we need to start tuning back into those little inner urges that say "hey, let's check that out!"

The affirmations: This week, at least, one of the exercises is to do affirmations.  Every morning after completing my Morning Pages, I say nice things to myself about how I'm a prolific artist and I am channeling God's creativity and stuff like that.  It's totally cheesy, but as someone who has battled depression in the past and won, in part, due to positive affirmations and gratitude practices, I am all over this.

The spiritual bent: I have a kind of faltering but ever-present spiritual intention in my life.  Of late, it's been more falter than intent, and I think that a practice founded on the idea that we are connected to a creative source (God) will be very useful.  It also helps the art not be egotistical or self-serving if it's about channeling/getting in touch with something bigger than I am (I am always in favour of Something Bigger Than Me).


The Recovery Talk: Oh goodness, are we all these delicate, bruised roses that need to be coddled back to our blooming glory?  I get it, a lot of people have beat up their little inner artist so much that they are covered in wounds and need to be gently guided back into trusting themselves.

Sure, growing up it was often suggested to me that art makes a great hobby after I was asked how I would make a living, and maybe I've just begun to believe my oppressors, but I don't think that was wrong of people to ask.  We don't have a patronage system anymore, so if you are going to be a full-time artist you kind of need to be a business person and marketer too.  You need to think through how you are going to make your art lucrative.  You need to study, apply for grants, pitch to galleries, set up websites with online shops, network, and run Instagram accounts.  Let's be honest, Julia Cameron makes zillions of dollars marketing an empire of products surrounding The Artist's Way, and that's not all just a result of following her inner artist's bliss.  It's business acumen.

All that to say, I don't feel like my inner artist is this poor, neglected child who needs to be gently coaxed out into the sunlight.  All I'm looking for is to give her more room to play.

The Childish Tasks: Some of the tasks are great.  Obviously the Morning Pages and the Artist Date are already wins to me.  I'm doing the affirmations and am fully on board with them.

This week, however, I'm also supposed to be identifying the "monsters" in my life who held me back and scared my sweet little artist into hiding behind my spleen.  I'm to write childlike rebuttals to put them in their place and draw pictures of them with boogers on their faces.

I don't know.  That just seems silly.  I can't even think of anyone, and if I could, I wouldn't want to call them names and black out their teeth, because I know they weren't trying to quash my dreams.  They were trying to love and support me the best they knew how.  No monsters here, just people doing their best.

Resistance Dismissal: If I had a "Hall of Monsters" who had murdered my innocent young artist I might see this differently, but what kind of gets me about this is the fact that Julia Cameron makes a point of dismissing any resistance you may feel to the tasks.  Basically, if I feel like I don't want to do something, it's not because the exercise doesn't suit me, it's because I am resisting recovery and sticking with my comfortably familiar (but painful) state of suffocated dreams.

To her, The Artist's Way is not wrong or needing modification, only my attitude needs adjusting.  This, of course, starts to remind me of a common religious reasoning whenever something doesn't work out: "it's never God's fault, it's always your fault, you faithless sinner."  That kind of logic is never very helpful, if you ask me.

Learning! Why cats knock everything over all the time

Credit: @PhilJamesson and The Oatmeal

Everyone knows cats love to knock things off shelves. It's often cited as evidence of cats general jerk/bully/snobby behaviour, because who goes around knocking things over for no good reason? Evil geniuses who are too small in size to assert any real authority, that's who.

Well, turns out, like most living creatures, cats have a reason for doing what they do and that reason is not to be a jerk.

First of all, this is something lion cubs and other wild cats do in nature to practice hunting. It's kind of just instinctual for them, and since domestic cats have had all their hunting opportunities taken away, you know that pent up hunter energy is going to go somewhere.

Second, they might just want your attention. Not just for fun, but because they need something. When was the last time you fed them? Changed their litter? Maybe this is on you, dear cat owner!

Finally, apparently deaf cats are the most likely to knock things over and break them repeatedly, because they don't get startled by the sound of the breaking dish.

So if you want your cat to stop knocking your stuff over, maybe just keep it well fed and give it other ways to exercise its hunterly nature!

Remember: cats don't actually know that the thing you put in their path is an antique vase from your dead aunt.  It's just the thing you put n their path and they have not been able to chase anything for a very long time.


Cute! Gertie getting her Christmas stretch on

Over Christmas I always bring Gertie back to my parents' house with me. This is partially because nobody is around during Christmas to look in on her, but mostly because I would feel all sad and guilty leaving her all alone over the holidays, as if she knows that it's a "special" time of year. This year was a bit trying for her, since my aunt brought her dog and my cousin brought her cat-loving children over as well, but here she is enjoying an evening of respite after dog and children had gone to bed.  Stretch and be happy, dear Gertie!

Singalong! The New Year by Death Cab For Cutie

It's a new year! How do you feel about it? I used to really resonate with this Death Cab song, "So this is the new year, and I don't feel any different." I don't really identify with it anymore, but I think it perfectly captures that early-20s malaise where a low-grade judgement of the wealthy/happy/shiny people resonates as deeply as your connection to misfit/poor/slightly-unhappy people who stare blankly off in the distance, because they reflect the deeply misunderstood complexity of your inner life.

So happy new year!  If you are deeply misunderstood, then this song is for you.  If you don't feel deeply misunderstood, well, enjoy a little vicarious angst.

by Death Cab For Cutie

So this is the New Year
And I don't feel any different.
The clanking of crystal
Explosions off in the distance.

So this is the new year
And I have no resolutions
For self assigned penance
For problems with easy solutions

So everybody put your best suit or dress on
Let's make believe that we are wealthy for just this once
Lighting firecrackers off on the front lawn
As thirty dialogs bleed into one

I wish the world was flat like the old days
Then we could travel just by folding a map
No more airplanes, or speed trains, or freeways
There'd be no distance that could hold us back.

There'd be no distance that could hold us back [x2]

So this is the new year [x4]

Learning! Your blood will curdle, actually

That blood-curdling scream?  It actually coagulates your blood.  

A new study has tested the impact of acute fear (induced from watching scary movies) on our blood and found that, indeed, our blood thickens when we are afraid. 

What a way to start the new year!