winter, dog, murphy

The Year of Living Safely

It's funny how some distance

Makes everything seem small

And the fears that once controlled me

Can't get to me at all

It's time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through

So I finally dug myself out of that depression I was talking about earlier. It took me some dancing in the kitchen, several parties and festivals, a lot of time with friends, and finally and probably most importantly, the decision to just keep working through it until I got through it.

I have to say though, there were definitely a bunch of things that did not help me get out of that depression. For example, Christmas was a bit of a gong show when it came to illness.

We had family Christmases in Saskatoon, which we had a glorious and fun ride down for on the way there, and my time with Paul’s family was great, and Gran had games and Mennonite food for us… but the amazing plan I had with Ruth to go shopping for lawn ornaments at the auction was not to be.

As Paul and I like to meme-reference, “But it is not THIS day

Please Mister postman look and see

If there's a letter, a letter for me

That night I got home and finished the massive Christmas card mailout I did this year (over 50 cards went out, mostly to Canada, but also to USA, UK, and Australia!). The cards I sent were mostly one of my favourite ever Christmas cards - an unconventional standard envelope size with a beautiful churchyard scene with glitter on the snow and people caroling and sledding and walking dogs.

And once that final installment was all finished and ready to mail, I went to bed, slept poorly, and woke with a very, very unhappy gut.

I got an absolutely vicious stomach flu, and being that I wasn’t at home, I projectile vomited onto my mother-in-law’s bathroom wall and had to wake up the hubby, and I continued to project from both ends until there was nothing left but retching and whatever water I managed to ingest. I was probably sick for almost 8 hours and then slept for almost two solid days afterwards, before finally starting to eat things again. Happy Christmastime, right?

Actually, here's the thing, looking on the bright side is usually difficult for an experience like that - but that was an amazing start to the year because I was really hoping to start eating smaller portions… And I swear my stomach contracted to half its size, which has been SUPER helpful with that goal.

No more lives torn apart

That wars would never start

And time would heal all hearts

And everyone would have a friend

And right would always win

And love would never end

At some point in Fall that I don’t recall, I think Paul and I decided not to buy each other Christmas presents. This was silly, and I probably should have seen it coming when I did something super special for him… and the one time he remembered a past conversation, it was that one we had ages ago about not buying each other presents for Christmas. Whoops. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the rest of the Christmas gongshow - and to be fair, I did just get a stunning blown glass ornament which I’ll talk about later and I’m very happy about, but at the time because I was depressed and things were hard, it was not fun for me. Caveat: I do not blame him at all, he was totally going on an agreement we made, I’m assuming, since I don’t remember this conversation at all. I can totally see myself proposing something like that in a fit of misplaced frugality. Seriously, past self, when will you ever learn?

Okay, so here’s the thing. I finally start recovering from the stomach flu, which I had thought at the time was food poisoning. Well, you don’t give your husband your food poisoning three days later. Thankfully, his came on at a time when he didn’t have a full stomach, so his was more feeling absolutely terrible for several days - but small mercies out of big stinky nastiness, it also shrunk his stomach… So we’re both feeling more full on smaller servings.

Unfortunately after getting sick in mid-December, I got sick again a few days after starting to feel good again, this time with a more traditional cold and cough, and then gave it to Paul. I’m still hacking up gobs and losing my voice on occasion, and it’s almost two weeks later now. There was too much happening and we felt exhausted after his long vacation... but we're grateful to have another vacation week booked and coming up soon. Taking vacation in winter is good for us. We need it.

No blinding light

Or tunnels, to gates of white

Just our hands clasped so tight

Waiting for the hint of a spark

So… I have finally fully given up on the iMac, which I had prematurely said was dead a while back. My iMac finally died for real - at least unless I can figure out why it won’t turn on. What this has meant is that our tradition of watching the Muppet Christmas Carol hasn’t happened yet, and the gorgeous Fireplace program that I installed on it hasn’t been running beside the Christmas tree, which is one of the true joys of winter and Christmas that I have actually enjoyed this holiday season.

I didn’t really listen to much Christmas music. Seriously, it was one album - the Pentatonix one that I fell in love with last year. Methinks this year may call for an epic Christmas-In-July.

Alright, now that was a terrible litany of issues taking up an entire page… Which brings me to the close of all hardships and the dawn of a glorious new year!

So this is the new year

And I don't feel any different

The clanking of crystal

Explosions off in the distance

I was just well enough to go to my friend’s New Year’s Eve party and sit at the bottom of the hill on a sleeping bag, watching the fireworks. And I finally felt fine enough to go with Paul in early January to the Board Game cafe, where we went wild with a huge groupon and bought food and fun for hours - we played a bunch of two player games, half of which were new to us. We went to a birthday party and played a fun guessing game… things have actually been getting more and more fun.

I’ve been relaxing and recuperating, watching a lot of TV, reading some books, and doing absolutely nothing of vital importance - which has been great, but now that I’m getting bored of that, I’m working at scheduling more fun times out of the house.

The best things in life are free

But you can keep them for the birds and bees

Now give me money

That's what I want

I had a day where I listened to the greatest hits of Motown - I have that day every few years at least - and I ended up dancing around the kitchen until Paul came home, and then dancing with him to a couple of songs about money - since finances are super tight this month.

Beautiful, powerful, dangerous, cold

Ice has a magic can't be controlled

Stronger than one, stronger than ten

Stronger than a hundred men

The cold snap finally ended. Our landlords are doing major renovations on the house that involved gutting the entire basement suite, and now installing laundry machines upstairs - which is okay, but we’re losing some downstairs storage now, which I’m not a big fan of… A little good, a little bad, and an absolutely amazing amount of noisesome work on the house. It was worst when I was sick, and then I was handling it okay, and THEN it has just been too long.

So when the cold finally went back to hovering just below zero, it was like going wild.

We had an absolute blast at the 10th Annual Deep Freeze Winter Festival - our first go. We ate maple syrup that was frozen in the snow, Paul and a friend of ours sawed a log with a two-person lumberjack saw, we ate bannock in a tipi, we played ice-carved X and Os, we raced each other in deep freezers on skis… There were awesome artists there… It was sincerely the most fun I have had in ages, and in addition I walked forever in my new boots and there wasn’t a sore spot or a rub or anything bad about them, which I think may have never happened before in a pair of boots that had fantastic grip on slush. We also caught the tail end of a glass-blowing demonstration - and I found an all white textured christmas bauble ornament that looked like a blizzard frozen in glass. I asked Paul and he got it as my Christmas present. I normally try to buy at least one lovely ornament - and technically this year I did pick up a beautiful little Father Christmas with a tree and a lantern that reminds me of Good King Wenceslas, but two in a season isn’t a bad thing either for a lover of Christmas like myself.

Despite the fact that my meds are keeping me up most of the night these days and I’m getting woken by power tools every morning (which puts a person in a cheery mood shall we say), this morning I took the dog to the dog park, where he enjoyed several fantastic encounters with other dogs, including one who was much faster than him. I was chatting amiably with the other dog’s owners when Murph pulled a real whippet move and conked himself soundly on the head with a tree that he didn’t see… He didn’t hit himself hard enough to be a worry, just enough to make us all burst into hysterical laughter. It was a good morning.

Last night we had supper with friends, and we tried a new game with a funny fairy-tale vibe called Fairy Tale Gloom, where your aim is to give your characters a funny and unhappy ending to win - and you inflict good luck on your friends. What a silly idea!

So many posibilities
To not be alone

Tonight we went to go see Passengers, which is one of the most powerful stories about loneliness I've ever heard. I love stories, and this one was epic... and apparently not well loved by critics. I cannot fathom not loving it. It had love and space and ethical dilemmas and a beautiful tale of loneliness and forgiveness in the face of death. Loved it.

I'm a shooting star leaping through the sky

Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity

I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva

I'm gonna go go go

So Paul and I have declared this the year of working on ourselves and our marriage, and I have to say, two weeks in, I think even with many setbacks I am doing a better job than usual of putting self care first and making it all work. There’s many ways that’s happening.

Back in November, Paul and I started a marriage communication course that we’re working through, and it has been truly excellent. It’s been difficult to work through feelings, in more ways that I would ever have thought, but it’s been a very worthwhile exercise, so Sundays are course time and we’ve been finding it useful. I’m meal planning a ton, partly for health and partly for financial reasons, and despite a few days where I’ve really felt setbacks, I’m typically managing to keep us eating at home, eating well, eating less and still feeling full, and trying new things.

I’ve been dancing around the house tidying, cleaning, or doing housework, and now that it’s warm again, I’m going to hit the dog park as often as I can. I used to love the indoor track at the Field House in Saskatoon, and I dreamed up a harebrained scheme one sleepless night about starting an indoor dog-walking centre - this is unlikely to ever reach reality, but I couldn’t sleep, so I planned it all out anyway. I also really want to go back to swimming more often, and potentially finding a gym where I can shoot hoops or play basketball one on one. I also want to make a practice of some body-weight exercises. We’ll see how all that plays out this coming year.

All of this to say, that after many years of dealing pyschologically with the ED issue, it’s time to go ful---- no, not full speed ahead. Slow and steady loses the weight. Basically, it’s time to take those BEFORE pictures again.

So don't stop me now

Don't stop me

'Cause I'm having a good time

Having a good time

  • Current Location: Edmonton
  • Current Mood: cheerful cheerful
  • Current Music: I Will Follow You Into The Dark - DCFC
christmas kermit

The Valley Under Christmas

You float like a feather
In a beautiful world

Sometimes, when I want to figure out when I started to become depressed, all it takes is a quick look back at how long it’s been since I posted a journal entry. (Not wrote one. I wrote four that I didn't post until later, in the Google Doc where I always write posts now, since LJ isn't reliable and has weird formatting issues. Also the persistent inner narrative that they weren't good enough or were too negative or that people wouldn't like me...) In this case, it’s a little longer even than that. It’s been a fight for about two months since I got hit with some big news, lost a friend, lost a business, lost perspective, lost joy.

Then there were glimmers of golden light of Christmas and I thought I’d made it, even though the light kept getting dimmer and the grey sky kept fading to black before I’d really made the effort to see the canopy of light, dim as it was. The snow didn’t fall until tonight, the blanket to insulate the world.

I don't care if it hurts
I want to have control

I want a perfect body

I want a perfect soul

I was just starting to listen to Christmas music and enjoy the season when depression hit me with a vengeance. I might as well just be straight-up honest about it. It’s been brutal.

I have been able on several occasions to get my head up above water long enough to take a breath, but having even a modest workload of things I need to finish before Paul’s nice long Christmas vacation has been a difficulty.

In moments like this, a several hour period of complete clarity and normalcy, brought on no doubt by the fact that today is the first day I started taking my medication again, I am running at a near manic pace, attempting to communicate with friends, make personal plans, converse with our AirBnB guests, and do all the bits and pieces of work for Admire that feel so monumental when I am under the weight of the depression bog.

Starting a new one

Every new one hits her

Just the same

I saw a little video recently of some men diving into a hole in a boggy area, where the lake underneath it was deep, but the bog only had one little hole where you could get in or out, and it was almost like the men were diving into another world, and showing up nowhere. There are moments when depression feels like that for me.

This time, it didn’t so much creep as slam into me hard over the course of a few weeks. I often experience depression as a haze, a heaviness, and many days I experience it without any discernable emotions other than apathy. I don’t really want to do or engage with anything beyond the odd piece of entertainment. Food becomes at best my crutch and at worst, my only focus.

I wavered between wanting motivation or wanting nothing. I experienced several bouts of insomnia involving staring blankly at the ceiling feeling and thinking almost nothing for over an hour, and when thoughts did come, they were often the sort of thoughts one wishes would not come at all. Such thoughts are bad houseguests, whirling about and unnecessarily disturbing all the things that live in their proper places.

She's underwater

But she won't drown

She can't believe it

And everyone she meets

Feels just the same

Clinically, this particular depression was heavy in a few areas, but typical to bouts I’ve had before in that some of the issues are easy to miss and others are blatant. Forgetfulness, being constantly on the edge of tears and crying easily, lack of interest in things pleasurable, needing twelve hours of sleep at a time but not being able to sleep when you lie down, extreme lack of energy to the point where at one point chopping about ten vegetables was the most I was able to do in a day other than move from one room to the other, and physical pain - back pain, headaches, stiff neck and upper back from anxiety. Irritability and anger have made several appearances.

The irony of depression is that the very thing that is required is to do things to take care of yourself which you have no desire to do, tasks that you have no energy to perform. Without the desire or the action, little can be accomplished of any sort. Manufactured desire and energy is of limited supply.

During this time, I edited a wedding in about fifteen days doing as much work as I could on it every time I could do anything. My average wedding edit takes about 4-6 hours in a single day, for reference. I shot about four sessions, all 2-4 hours. I had to be immensely careful and extremely focused on being focused to do a good job, but I managed them all. They felt, and still feel, like a massive amount of work. In reality, however, previous healthy incarnations of myself could have handled all of them, almost 6 weeks in my reality now, in less than a normal work week.

It is absolute torture to make phonecalls. I actually lost a reasonably lucrative contract because I didn’t return a call within a few hours. I actually got the message within ten minutes. I just couldn’t dial or talk about work. It was too much. I was too tired. Everything was too much.

Then there’s the days where I have enough energy to do things. I went out during the last PokemonGo event to play with Paul in the car at a good spot nearby that I hadn’t had the chance to bring him to yet. It was fun. I needed the fun. But it was also exhausting. Playing a game while sitting in a car less than ten minutes from my house was exhausting because I was driving and that takes focus.

I tried going to a Christmas festival with friends, but hadn’t eaten properly, so after feeling weak and having to separate from the group to sit half a dozen times, I felt frustrated with myself and a little upset about the commercialism of the event. I managed to enjoy a few things, but it was difficult.

Like the majority of things I started during this period in my life, this post remains unfinished. Fitting, really.

HG2G, Don't Panic

A Thief in the Night

If you’ve only got one shot

If you’ve only got one life

If time was never on your side

Before I die I want to burn out bright

I had one really eventful day around mid-November. I went out to my car to find that I had left it unlocked and that it had been rifled through - entirely so - the glove compartment taken out, all the nooks and crannies covered. At the time I thought they had stolen my iPod - though a few weeks later I found it sticking in the pocket of my travelling bag (I mainly use my phone for music these days, so missing it wasn’t a huge deal, just hadn’t had anything stolen from me in a long time, and thinking someone had was an interesting experience.) The bag of loonies and toonies I normally had in the car were sitting in the house for some reason… So there was nothing there to steal.

After I determined what happened and took a photo and decided not to report it, I moved a lot of the junk that had been whirlwinded into the passenger seat and took off to do some errands - whereupon I managed to drop my bank card on the ground by the trunk of my car at Dollarama and come home to find it missing from my car and my phone. I immediately retraced my steps to find it on the ground - but that could have been a big pain in the butt. I have a visa debit card, so I use it to pay all sorts of bills - changing the number means a half hour of going through every creditor I have to change the number on file.

When I got home from retracing my steps and feeling very blessed to find that bank card again, a cat jumped up onto the hood right in front of me and scared the daylights out of me. I don’t normally shriek when I’m frightened, but my heart just stops and my body turns to ice. Not a fun way to end the evening, but again, harmless.

The whole affair was really strange - a bunch of aborted bad things, or unreal bad things. Frustrating, but not lethal, exasperating, but not really that big of a deal. But it is, somehow. Whenever I remember these things they seem meaningful. Not completely sure why yet. I'll probably figure that out eventually.

A few days later I shot an event for lawyers where I ended up listening to a Liberal MP who has achieved a great deal in her time in politics give a Lifetime Achievement Award speech. While I don’t share her politics, I do recall her as a politician that one respects, which is a rare bird, and one worth watching. It was a pleasure to work with her and the other speakers that evening as a photographer, and I was thoughtful as I got my car out of the valet parking that they had paid for me, and took home my free opened wine bottles… What do I want to achieve? My goals have changed.

Everything about my life feels… simpler somehow. I feel less and less like that vision I used to have of myself on stage is who I want to be.

If the saints are the model for living, there is one thing that consistently shines from the writings and thoughts they’ve passed down to us. The call to simplicity.

These events were simple, everyday victories. And I am trying to learn to see them as such. I am seeking a love of simplicity, even though it's not the easiest thing to look for.
end of all things

The Unjust Judge

History is made by stupid people

Clever people wouldn’t even try

So if you want a place in the history books

Then do something dumb before you die

Myself and pretty much everyone under 40 in my feed are pretty sad about Trump winning this election. A large majority of young voters did not support him or his ideas or his policies. Now you could say they’re ignorant because of their youth, and some may be, however ignorance is not about age.

This was an ideological war, and the side that’s winning is everything I truly abhor - a manipulative charlatan, a narcissist of epic proportions. Not as many would entertain themselves with thinking, a stupid man, or a man of no accomplishments - that is not the description of any good villain.

My family, growing up and still to some degree, takes what I see as an unhealthy amount of interest in the Holocaust. The rising to power of an unpretty demagogue whose manipulation of the true unrest in the hearts of men against their fellow men of other ancestry. How accurate the modern mirror to the past, how fitting Solomon’s statement, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

There are a thousand reasons for my disdain for him, not least his unredeemable character, his disdain for practically anything you can name, and the fact that he worships nothing but money and himself. Not to mention the fact that as a businessperson and ameteur pschologist I know far more about how he really operates than the average consumer or citizen. It sickens me, and everyone else with the same knowledge.

“In a certain city there was a judge

who neither feared God

nor had respect for people…”

However, fools have had power before. It is neither the end of the world, nor cause for the terror I see among my many left-leaning friends. I am neither surprised nor truly afraid. My dog sleeps beside me. No explosions can be seen in the sky, nor is it falling.

I’m not advocating a lack of fear saying that nothing bad will happen. On the contrary, there could be wars, but there always are somewhere. I simply don’t believe that being overwhelmed with fear is useful. Fear is the mind-killer, the Dune mantra reminds me on a regular basis.

I’m looking at the exit polls, and 20% of people who voted for Trump don’t think he’s honest, trustworthy, qualified, or has the temperament to be president. This is why I actually don’t believe that it’s a person’s duty to vote. They probably felt the same about the other side.

Sell all that you own

and distribute the money to the poor,

and you will have treasure in heaven;

then come, follow me.

The eye of the needle is before this man. We shall see what he does to circumvent it.

I am forever shocked at how the Left forgets the right, believes them to be irrelevant, and suddenly finds them, as usual, half the population of their own country.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves

that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray,
one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus,
‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people:
thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven,
but was beating his breast and saying,
‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
I tell you, this man went down to his home justified
rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled,
but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

And so I pray.

Your kingdom come,

Your will be done

On Earth, as it is in heaven…

Forgive us our tresspasses,

As we forgive those who trespass against us

To "trespass" is a specific type of sin, normally understood to mean the failure to act for the good and do the right thing.

And so we come to the dark island, where dreams come true.

Do not let your hearts be troubled,

and do not be afraid.
stardust, glowing

Wine, Love, Religion, Politics, AhhhhCHOO!

If I could save time in a bottle

The first thing that I'd like to do

Is to save every day 'til eternity passes away

Just to spend them with you

“The next time you say that I love you too much I will beat it out of you!!”

This is what I thought about saying, jokingly, the other night as I tucked in the sleepy Paul, put some green curry and rice in a lunch container and prepared to leave the house to buy a bottle of wine so my husband could enter the office Wine Pool at work. While I have googled it, I am still not 100% certain how a wine pool works. All I can tell you for sure is that a wine pool clearly embraces the vices of liquor and gambling. I’m an enabler, what can I say.

I could tell the wine pool was something he really wanted to do, so I batted his objections.

“It costs too much.”

It’s $25, sweetie. We spend that much money on things every day. It’s no big deal.”

“It’s not that important.”

“Spending time with your co-workers is fun, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Fun is important. The liquor store near us is still open, it’s no big deal.”

“Sometimes I feel like you love me too much.”

Instead of rolling my eyes, growling, or speaking violent thoughts, I jumped on the bed and bounced on it violently and said, “Do I love you too much?” and then coached him the correct answer until I got a questioning, “No??” Close enough.

Two liquor stores later, I found a wine that met the cost requirements and would be to my taste to drink if we happened to win the pool - a sweet Riesling called a Spatlese. We don’t exactly live in the richest part of town. This means that finding wine at 10:30pm is a piece of cake, but finding wine that costs more than ten bucks is a teensy bit more difficult.

But it made me SO happy. I love serving my lover. He’s a good husband, and I try to be a good wife back. It’s something I’m immensely proud of, having such a loving, serving, functional, deeply romantic marriage. I’m blessed, but I’m working hard at it every day.

So it was my birthday on Saturday, the start of a series of unfortunate events...

Over the course of several days, I have twisted my ankle badly after last week twisting my other ankle just a bit, and when I twisted my ankle I fell to my knees, which means my knees hurt - shortly after this I shot 3 hours worth of sessions and carried all my gear around - and then got Paul to buy me an ice wrap so we could keep our plan to go see Doctor Strange. Which was AWESOME. Great birthday movie.

This morning I woke up to the sure knowledge that I also have a shitty congestion cold, sniffle.

Shortly thereafter in the frosty morning air, Paul’s car battery was dead. To add to the issue, it was in the garage, so I had to get him to put the car in neutral and push it (downhill on the driveway) out of the garage and into the alley so the cables could reach, which they just did. (Also I learned today that one can daisy-chain jumper cables. This knowledge is sure to come in handy in future at some point.) Hallelujah, even sleepy, we figured out how to make the cables work and get his car started. Except that later that day it died again, in a parking lot, and then after he got it jumpstarted by an opportunistic cabbie for $25, the whole car died completely at a stoplight at a busy intersection - meaning it was in the dark without flashers on in the back, just the hood up. The car guru in our lives tells us it’s the alternator. Paul had it towed to the nearest Canadian Tire to where he was, which thankfully had a spot open tomorrow morning to check it out. The tow truck cost less than usual, which made things less problematic. But Paul and I had a disagreement over whether to order one at all… and we were both stressed so that wasn’t fun.

The stress was the worst for me, because over the course of the day, my cold got way worse. I had and still have a super sore upper back, in addition to full, painful sinuses alternating with runny nose and the occasional cough, and the ankles and knees from the other day. My poor body is just out of juice by this point. Basically I was already in whiny tired stage, and then I got lost on the freaking Henday again (like the dozenth time, no hyperbole at all, because I can’t outthink the GPS fast enough at night when I’m tired and have no sense of direction at all, much less my usual shreds) and ended up having a breakdown of my own of the emotional variety in a parking lot in Sherwood Park wishing the day would just end already. Finally I pulled myself together and went to get Paul at the Canadian Tire and he drove us both home.

I met someone in the south side today, and consequently went to Ikea to grab a couple of things I’d been meaning to get for some time, the main one of which being a compact magazine carrier/rack from a desk set that was the perfect size to store my growing collection of colouring books. I made as many shortcuts as I could at Ikea, but still ended up walking quite a bit. I also found a Christmas present for my niece, and a couple of pieces for the bathroom. The other thing I came in for was a laptop desk, but unfortunately it has a bolt problem and will need to be returned. At least I kept track of the reciepts in all the furious things that happened today.

I used the Superstore click-and-collect grocery service again today, and even though this time I had to wait 10 minutes for groceries, it was still a near-effortless way to get groceries, especially with a sprained ankle. Getting things in the house for a small grocery order was pretty easy.

Past lives couldn't ever come between us

Some time the dreamers finally wake up

Don't wake me I'm not dreaming

I just realized that over the course of the entire year so far, I read less than 10 fiction books and maybe 2-3 non-fiction… To be fair, half of those books are basically two books long - I’m talking about the Outlander series, where I recently picked An Echo In The Bone up from the library and thought, “Wait, is that a large print copy?” Nope. Just a freaking enormous tome of a book. It may be the year I’ve read the least in my life - every other year where I didn’t read for fun I was reading for education, and I don’t think I really did that much educational reading in 2016 either, though I did read a lot more articles than I used to so it maybe evens out. I’m hoping to read another 2-5 books before the end of the year. I have the time, certainly. I have a few books in mind, shorter and longer. Hopefully I can!

Paul and I have started a tradition, which I hope to continue, of celebrating our failures. Let me explain. There’s this viral video going around about how the lady who started Spanx had a Dad who believed that without failure it means you weren’t experiencing enough of life or trying hard enough - so at the dinner table once a week he asked his kids about their failures - made it a celebration of sorts. The first time we did it, I asked Paul how he felt about it. He said it felt rebellious. And to me it does, in the best way. I’m starting to be less afraid to fail, to try, to change. Not in everything, but in some things. It’s something to grow with as time goes by.

So I failed to read a lot of books this year, but I noticed, so I’ll be able to read more in future, make it more of a priority instead of just having a sheaf of books lying about.

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with the variety of different things to be done, which often happens this time of year, but because I’m sick and uncomfortable the feeling of being overwhelmed comes with the territory. I’m certain I’ll feel better in a few days, in the meantime, planning easy meals and getting groceries is my main concern.

Poor Murph. I was so excited about going for a few more walks with him before the weather turned even colder but my ankle has me sitting out of the game of life for a few more days at least before I can keep up with him.

When those dreams you're dreamin' come to you

When the work you put in is realized

Let yourself feel the pride but

Always stay humble and kind

And finally, the upcoming US election. I have carefully not spoken of it most of the time, but as someone who naturally falls to the right politically, though more of a socialist right than Americans, I have been quite disgusted by the election - and moreso by my peers than the candidates honestly.

Like most people, even staunch US Republicans, I abhor Trump’s behaviour. As a Catholic I am particularly horrified by the Clinton campaign’s commentary on the backwards nature of conservative Catholicism and worse, their disregard for the separation of state and church. Neither of them would be good representatives of mine, were I American.

Thus the disenfranchisement and “last chance” attitude that so many have towards this election is something I understand, even if I don’t agree with the sentiments. I recognize that the issues are nuanced, and the caricature of the American Right is not true, neither the caricature of the American Left. Much is lost in the attempt to create these labels and boxes, but we all know how the road to hell is paved.

I know there’s a lot of people like me who just aren’t feeling represented at all. I didn’t vote in the Canadian election, and honestly, I wouldn’t vote in the American one either if I were American. None of the candidates represent me, none of the parties represent me - and I mean none, not neither. Even counting the additional options, I would be ill-represented. There’s a lot of people out there with the message that you should vote, because. I have not had a single person provide me with a sufficient argument for this. There is no lesser evil. There is just no representation. Why should I vote and thereby lend support to a system that is so poorly representative? What possible reason can there be to support someone who will certainly pass things into law that I decry? Shall I vote and make myself responsible for this? No. There is nothing anyone has been able to say to give me a good reason to vote myself. So unlike the majority of people out there, I will not be encouraging anyone to vote. I am all ears for political reform, but still don’t expect to be well represented, even if it were to come...

However, I am more concerned with interpersonal issues in this election. It is such a vital part of my beliefs that we do not have to be enemies when we disagree, that we can still respect each other, and that respectful discourse will get us farther than anything else, especially in politics. I have seen so much disrespect between people lately, largely about the US elections but about plenty of other things too. I don't think either the candidates for US president respect anything about each other, which is certainly not helping.

But I have to believe that respect is the missing link between the right and left politically. As someone who feels extremely underrepresented by the Canadian right-of-center political field where I more naturally sit, and even worse by the left even if they share some of my socialism, I can see why this is such a gong show. When forced by the two-party or multiparty system to weigh in somehow in the hope that conservative politics will make an improvement no matter who is at the helm… I just don’t buy in.

I believe that no matter what happens, disenfranchisement will continue to grow in the Western world. Corporations whose sole value is financial will continue to dominate power structures. It’s up to us individually to be the change we want to see in the world, not our governments.

So I’m not feeling fatalistic about it. This election like all others will lead to change, possibly bloody and awful change. The heat is reaching a rolling boil, no matter what happens.

So don't delay, act now, supplies are running out
Allow if you're still alive, six to eight years to arrive
And if you follow, there may be a tomorrow
But if the offer is shun, you might as well be walkin' on the sun

  • Current Location: Edmonton
  • Current Mood: Sick and Grumpy
  • Current Music: Past Lives - Borns
holy holy holy

The Only Thing That Makes Us Feel Alive

Loving can hurt, loving can hurt sometimes

But it's the only thing that I know

When it gets hard, you know it can get hard sometimes

It is the only thing that makes us feel alive

So it's been 10 days since I last posted.

During the day I've been trying to finish my photo editing so that I can have some relaxing time before I get started writing my book in November.

That's right - if you're a friend of mine and you’re reading this you might have forgotten already, or never really been informed that I'm writing a book.  I compiled a book of poetry a couple of years ago,  which I printed but was never really able to pick up most of the copies for financial reasons.  I still feel kinda bad about that actually,  and I'm not sure if my books are still at the library. If they are I’d really like to pick them up but I'll have to wait until I have a little bit more money. Story of My Life.

I've had a couple of really amazing moments in the last 10 days. I did a debrief session with Tim King, he's been one of my clients for Last Resort for a couple of years. We had stopped doing regular sessions not too long ago, I basically graduated him, and I wanted to do a session where I went through the same assessment that I normally do with clients initially. In his case he'd started so early with me as a consultant that I hadn't actually created the assessment yet when we started working together.  nevertheless, when we did this assessment it was a wonderful thing to behold.   He now lives his life in a state of relaxation and balance,  and what was his hard work that did the majority of everything required for this to be true,  I am extraordinarily proud that I was able to be a cog in the wheel of the process that allowed all this to happen, an effective and wise guide. In particular, Tim actually asked for a copy of the emotional inventory that I always do with clients. He was experiencing nearly everything on the positive side and the only items on the negative side he was experiencing were actually completely normal human experiences (like empathy for others) and nothing to be worried about.

To know for certain that what I do as a consultant affects other people's lives in a positive way is an indescribably powerful thing to know. It gives me joy to continue even when it seems like a difficult path to follow financially and personally.

Speaking of time management, for the very first time I did a Click-and-Collect pick up at Superstore last week. For those not knowing what I'm talking about,  last year Superstore started offering a service where by staff of theirs collect your groceries and all you have to do is shop online, pay, park at their parking lot in a two-hour window, and pay $3-6 for all of this, plus I intend on tipping the folks. I ruined it a bit this time by not fully understanding how it worked, and by caring so much about one item they couldn’t find that I went into the store and found that and some more stuff. I did find the staff to be extremely accomodating, at my store at least, and I am 100% interested in continuing this practice when Paul and I are both feeling busy, especially since I can make the order and send him to collect it, or possibly at some point even vice versa. I expect this service to become vital when we are finally able to have children as well.

During the evenings on my calendar, I've had far more than the usual amount of socializing, and it's actually been really good for me. Nearly every night on my calendar over the past ten days has been a time with friends, or trying to make new friends.

I had a really great time at the wedding industry mixer party, a biannual party that happens in early spring in late fall to commemorate the beginning and end of wedding season in Alberta.  I had some long conversations with old friends, and while the topic of CPC came up a few more times than I would have liked,  I was ready to deal with it and knew the potential was there.  I was a little upset that the party featured almost entirely photographers! I have really been hoping to forge some connections with the wedding planner or two,  however I felt welcomed and accepted in this crowd of people and it helps me to feel excited about continuing in photography for the next three to five years at least.

We keep this love in a photograph

We made these memories for ourselves

Where our eyes are never closing

Hearts are never broken

And time's forever frozen still

Considering just a few months ago I was looking at winding down everything photography related this is a very different life trajectory.  There's a whole bunch of reasons for this which I may or may not have talked about on the blog. First of all something happened which I would consider in the terms of Monopoly: a “Bank error in my favor” -  Google changed their algorithm for Google Places,  and with what felt like no work whatsoever on my part - not true, but the work was not linked with the reward. I am certain that it has to do with the fact that I changed the images on my Google Places account at some point in the recent past and they were attractive to people clicking on them, as well as a few other changes regarding the geography of local search and recent website changes - so it catapulted me right to the top again, or at least for enough people as are searching nearby and looking for the kind of services I offer.  I know that if I completely revamp my website -  the process that I started back in December of last year, with recent posts and relevant keywords, things will only get busier around here. One website down - I think I’m basically done with the boudoir wordpress installation, but I have a lot of work left to do on Admire Studios, and tons of work left to do on Last Resort, which is an issue for a few months from now once I’ve got a book in the oven.

Another social news I had a Perogy Double Date with my friend Erin and her fiance. We had a lovely time, a lovely discussion, and a lot of delicious foods, and ended the evening having tea at my place, which was more of the same fun time discussing things. I am grateful to have at least one close friend in town, but glad that the facilities exist - sort of - to have friends outside of it. For example my friend Janet and I finally had a chance on Skype where we Macgyvered it with the use of Skype only for video, and our phones for the audio portion and somehow managed to have a pretty incident-free chat. We were able to both hear and see each other for pretty much the duration of the call. After nearly 20 years of the internet at this point, you’d think that a conference call with video would not be such a difficult thing to achieve. But alas.

Once a year we celebrate

With stupid hats and plastic plates

The fact that you were able to make

Another trip around the sun

I had a Crazy Hats Birthday party this year that 6 people attended in Edmonton. It felt special to be able to have a tea-and-snacks-and-conversation style party in Edmonton where enough people came that we had to break out the spare chairs and the extra bags of chips! Plus people did actually wear hats at supper, and that was a wonderfully fun thing. Everyone chatted about various different things and got along fairly well. One of the things we talked about was escape rooms - I’d really like to enjoy another escape room experience again soon after Mars was SO awesome. Live or die, I think I’ll always enjoy them!

If home is where the heart is

Then my home is where you are

But it's getting, oh, so hard

To spend these days without my heart

The most inexplicable coincidence happened to me this year - two couple friends of ours were each unable to come to my birthday party because one of the couple (in one case the lady, the other the gentleman) was going in for a minor heart surgery. How on earth!! I told some of my friends about it because it was too bizarre. Apparently that’s the fashionable excuse for birthday party non-attendance these days!

Finally, I found another group of people on Reddit who are meeting up and hosting their own social parties - last night was a board games Meet and Greet with tons of great food and some really fun people. It was a bit of an odd experience seeing as I felt accepted, but not terribly welcomed. (While I was engaged in conversation, nobody asked me what I did for a living all night, it was WEIRD.) I think their group is probably reaching capacity, and I didn’t immediately feel like they were a great fit. This is not to say that I’ll stop trying with these things, it’s extremely hit and miss, but since we have two social groups that I am pleased with already for different reasons, I think I will probably tell them I had a nice time but won’t be back, which is an awkward thing to say, but I always preach the virtues of the breakup (instead of overstaying a relationship) and I think this was a one-night-stand sort of social experience, so I ought to practice what I preach and bow out gracefully.

Murphy has again developed the frustrating habit of waking us up at 2am. When he wakes Paul up, Paul gets frustrated and goes back to sleep. When he wakes me up, I typically am completely unable to go back to sleep. Tonight my twilight mind was filled with odd and grotesque visions and ideas, and since it’s Halloween and we watched a lot of superhero TV yesterday I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. So I’ve been up now for two hours in the middle of the night, but the other middle of the night, the portion after 2am. It’s a productive and nice time I guess, but I’d have definitely preferred to sleep until at least 5 or 6, the hours when normal humans begin. I suppose that being awake for the night hours of Halloween isn’t the worst thing. The darkness becomes the season.

I was saying at the party the other night that I heavily prefer the “silly” Halloween vs. the actually scary and jarring and bloody that tends to come out, but I also understand why we have a grisly holiday - in the same way as our dreams deal with the things we can’t deal with in our conscious lives, I think our holidays help us deal with the pedestrian realities of death finding us all evenutally.

I suppose since it is approaching All Saints Day, and today is Día de Muertos it may be socially acceptable to talk a little about death.

On the topic of Death, Martyrdom, and Unselfish livingCollapse )

I've had my choices

I've chosen today

I've had my choices

And choices remain

Robot of Meloncholy

Down In Flames

In the blink of an eye

Just a whisper of smoke

You could lose everything

The truth is you never know

I got called in to speak at CPC Toronto with only a week before the conference started. It was one of the busiest weeks of my life because I had a lot of photography work to do and hadn’t really planned on putting together a one hour presentation. I don’t regret doing that or presenting it - I do however sometimes wish I hadn’t been there… Though obviously there’s reasons why I’m glad I was, too.

Dream about the days to come

When I won't have to leave alone

About the times, I won't have to say

I’m leavin’ on a jet plane

It feels routine now, getting on a plane to go somewhere. I have been doing it an average of six times a year, counting both going places and getting back, and it’s enough that it feels rather normal on average, even when on nearly every trip you see amazing lights, city centers, and mountains from above, you become a little desensitized to it eventually. I have now flown often enough that I no longer count how many flights, like I have no idea how many road trips I’ve been on. I stayed for that first night at an AirBnB near the airport, and in the morning enjoyed a delicious breakfast and tea at a little chic hole in the wall breakfast place, just down the street from a Catholic school and church with a little garden just off the sidewalk with benches directed to a beautiful statue of the holy family. I sat and prayed about my stress and exhaustion and hopes and dreams, then headed over to the hotel, where I had lunch with a new friend and saw some other fun folks as they trickled in. Setup was very low-key, but since Jasser had introduced the live broadcasting and I wanted to meet some of the speakers I didn’t know well I hung around for a while. Afterwards I was almost falling over falling asleep, but realized I had a thumb drive in my room that they might need downstairs before I was willing to wake up, so I called Jasser over to grab it. When he asked if I wanted pizza I decided that instead of my stomach warring with my need to sleep I’d accept some pizza. Then he told me that he’d attempted suicide in August. (This is now publicly available information, but he said I was the first person that he’d told.) He also said he was on meds and fine now, but I wasn’t so sure.

Hoping I can run today and get away faster

Than ever from here

Another night and who can say if leaving is better

Than living in fear

Here's to all the broken hearts tonight

Here's to all the fall a parts tonight

Here's to every girl and boy who lost their joy

They let it get away

I had a decent amount of sleep, and the first day was fun with a lot of wonderful speakers. Afterwards, there was a happening party in room 420 with a great conversation between a few of us about how your past doesn’t have to define your future. Looking back, so much of what happened those days just bleeds with irony.

I spoke on Day 2 and had a totally weird experience of feeling like I was behind a wall all day and almost nobody could see me - nobody came to chat with me after my talk and barely anyone did before it, and tons of people skipped it too. It was still worth speaking, but I felt really isolated all day. That night there was a kareoke party, which as our parties tend to do got a bit wild, with people crowdsurfing on the teeny tiny kareoke stage, and what I jokingly refer to as a “photo orgy” on the pool table because the light above it was a fun photo light source. Then I came back a bit early to the hotel and ended up chatting with a speaker who was having trouble with his presentation, and with Jasser, who up until June this year was my business partner, and was still a pretty close friend. He was concerned about finances… nothing THAT new. Or at least I didn’t think so at the time.

Whatcha say, that you only meant well?

Well of course you did

Whatcha say, that it's all for the best?

Of course it is!

And then I woke on Day 3 to what was devolving into the CPC Toronto 2016 debacle. It's not everyday that you get a front-row seat to watch something that you loved go down in blazing flames, devastating the close-knit community that you nurtured and cared for over half a decade, affecting hundreds of people and hurting dozens, and be helpless to stop it, even though you tried.

It is an event that felt more like a funeral than a celebration of what has been accomplished, and what happened since has continued to wear me out. It was not the beginning of the end, but perhaps the denouement, as Jasser told me, as a fitting scene of Laurent Martin’s dog funeral slideshow played out on-screen, that he was going to cancel Toronto - and as it turned out, other conferences and plans and even in fact, the payments due to the speakers who were speaking at this conference. He told me this in what was clearly a manic episode, scrolling through Facebook at incredible speeds, and unable to process reasonable thoughts anymore. He was just a drowning man looking for a way out, at all and any costs. And the costs were pretty heavy - emotionally, and financially to others at least. I spent almost four hours on chat, over the course of the next five to six hours trying to talk him out of doing it the way he planned - not closing the conference at some point in the future at a well-planned time, but announcing it there and bringing down the house in a bad way. But I couldn’t stop him, I could only ask for help from others once the word started to get around to the speakers to do some damage control and at least make the announcement a somewhat positive moment of nostalgia and appreciation.

The whole day was just jam-packed with ironies. It was so crazy I even made a list. Like "B***h Better Have My Money" coming on in the party bus as the news started breaking to some of the speakers, who had just found out that after all their support, Jasser wasn't going to pay them anytime soon.

Oh, we're on the right side of rock bottom

And I hope that we keep falling

We're on the good side of bad karma

'Cause we keep on coming back for more

This last few weeks has been dominated by private conversations and public announcements, tearful and heart-wrenching moments, pit-of-the-stomach dread, the day after in which I was alone and so exhausted that I slept at least 18 out of 24 hours and prayed and kept in touch with some allies whenever I wasn’t asleep. There were concerned conversations with people who weren’t there, and people who were, two visits to my therapist, and endless talking and letter writing and processing and official statements and things said on and off the record. There was honesty and tears and the feeling of betrayal, the feeling that it’s too late already, the feeling that even when things aren’t your fault it doesn’t always help with the pain.

You know, for most people the words, “I’m cancelling the conference” wouldn’t provoke such a perfect storm, especially as I'd already left the company. But for me it did, and it called into question dozens of relationships, my reputation and brought up a thousand un-spoken fears about sanity and mental health and responsibility and labels and diagnoses, about business partnerships and seeking after money above all things and finding your voice and teaching. So many things.

Cause when the roof caved in

and the truth came out

I just didn't know what to do

How much is it appropriate to grieve for a failed business? A failed suicide attempt by a friend? More than a dozen people losing money they expected and faith in someone they trusted? And how much can you grieve your own helplessness to stop any of it from happening when your own trust was broken?

These are the questions that plague me when I cannot sleep, that bite into me with a cutting sorrow in the moments when I should feel happy and don’t even remember why my heart is heavy, and the days I cannot see past my own pain to a potentially bright future, to sunny days.

We see the problem and the risk
But nothing's solved, we just say

Tsk, tsk, tsk and shame, shame, shame

Then I went home to Saskatoon for Thanksgiving and missed every meal, every service, and almost every friend and family member (mainly anyway) in a haze of anguish and exhaustion. I saw my Aunt and Gran briefly at a Fuddruckers breakfast where they gave me a beautiful crystal key pendant and some grocery cards for my birthday, and I really truly appreciated both gifts, but I was so tired I could barely function, and I was also upset because we were late and I was there because it was one of the architectural sites I was supposed to shoot. It hit a nerve that I had forgotten, since there was an epic situation in my past where someone else was trusted with setting an alarm so I wouldn’t be late and it caused a fracturing of friendships and a lot of hard moments, so when Paul innocently enough slept through the alarm he’d set for us, I was pretty irate, as we were supposed to leave that day. We were both absolutely out of energy, and Paul decided to take a personal day off work that he didn’t have to justify, which I certainly felt was warranted.

Looking back perhaps it was fore-ordained that we stay, as I spent several hours with friends sharing about our sorrows and helping each other with tools and coping strategies and advice in a way that built our friendship after we hadn't spoken often.

We both slept like logs all night and then headed home, and whenever one of us was driving, the other was sleeping. There was also the joy of the Lloyd Pizza Hut buffet, a traditional oasis mid-trip.

With eyes wide open at the wonder of it all

Or with broken wings when I'm spinning in free fall

'Hallelujah, deliver me'

One night soon after we made it back home I asked for a personal thanksgiving meal, desperate for gravy and tradition and looking on the bright side.

There was only one sunny day since I got back before yesterday, and I had architectural shoots to do, so I did a boudoir shoot and 5 architectural shoots that day and came home with absolutely zero energy left for the rest of the week. I am so grateful that Google changed their algorithym and prioritized me to the point where I'll probably be able to financially be alright even though one stable source of income is out of my life completely. No fallback. No nets under the great trapeeze. Back to shooting almost full time, and thank God, I'm actually enjoying it again. I just need to update practically every piece of software and hardware in the arsenal - that will only cost about ten grand. No pressure. Get a text from Jasser asking if I was okay... too late now.

I went to a friend's house and told her the story, complete with "commercial breaks" for tea and maple cookies and cat cuddles and colouring together on the living room coffee table sitting on the floor. Thank God for empathetic friends with big hearts. (Even if those hearts require surgery to sustain life.) The healing begins in those moments.

Yesterday the sun shone, and I was super guilty about how little I had been minding my poor Murphy, who hadn’t had much excitement and didn’t know why I was being an irritable sod. The sun shone, and I took him to the dog park near our home, and he practically leaped for joy at exploring the smells of the marsh. There’s something irrevocably touching about seeing a beast or a child innocently leap for the pure joy of living. It’s medicine to the weary soul, for the healing of the heart in the sun-lit, beautiful world.

No matter how many more explanatory conversations and lifestyle changes and ideas and upgrades and naps will be required before I can call things normal again.

Here come bad news talking this and that

Yeah, give me all you got, don't hold back

I should probably warn you I'll be just fine

Because I'm happy

  • Current Mood: distraught, earlier anyway
No Loafing

September's fine melody

I act pretty when I'm with my girls
And you act silly when you're with your boys
And I got problems, but I guess they're mine
And I got issues, well, I guess they're yours

It's pretty hard to believe that it's almost the end of October already. Sometimes I don't really know what to say.  In this case the main reason I don't know what to say because it's been a really long time and so much has actually happened in my life. So much in fact that I’m honestly going to split this post up into at least two parts, and check my calendar for anything I might have missed...

My September was pretty nutty. I had a lot of photography inquiries and I'm still getting at least one a day. Over the course of September I did quite a bit of coaching for CPC,  and it was a really excellent experience to be able to help so many people with their lives and businesses.

One of the biggest highlights of September of course was my friend Kori’s wedding in Saskatoon. It was, hands down, one of the absolutely most hilarious and most fun wedding parties, and since I'd had a chance to get to know a lot of the ladies while I was at the bachelorette party, it felt like being among friends even more so than usual. To top it off I met an old friend from high school who I hadn't seen for over a decade, and not only did we rekindle the friendship I found out that I might be able to get some work from his company in Edmonton, even though we met in Saskatoon!  Serendipity is a fantastic thing…

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me

One of the cool things that I did in September was schedule a phone call with someone who was planning a new business, I won't share much about what his plans were here just on the off chance that someone else decided it was a great idea but I do think that he has some interesting ideas about saving memories and his questions and conversation were really interesting. There's a creative energy that comes with planning a new business that I find a little bit addicting! It’s cool to have been a part of this person’s story, however briefly.

Paul and I went to the Edmonton Comic EXPO again this year and as usual my very favorite part was just to go through all the artist’s tables and see the different kinds of drawing, painting, sculpture, and all sorts of other cool things.  I had the pleasure of going to see a concert by one of my favorite web comic artists, Rock, Paper, Cynic.  it was my second time meeting him in person and this time he created a little drawing for me of a space puppy on the cover of my fresh copy of his new book. He's currently launching an attempt to work as a full-time artist which is exciting. (check him out if you think that you might like a nerdy webcomic!) As usual some of my friends were attending but the only one that I actually got a chance to see was Erin, and briefly her fiance as well. This particular visit to the Expo felt a lot less rushed and a lot more interesting than some of the previous times.  I did get to see the star of Arrow as he walked past me, and I was struck by just how piercing his eyes are, just like they are in the television series. He was definitely a good superhero casting choice. Here's hoping for Daredevil next year though!

Tell me did the wind sweep you off your feet?
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day
And head back to the milky way
And tell me, did Venus blow your mind?
Was it everything you wanted to find
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there

In a completely different form of nerdy entertainment, Paul and I and one of my friends and some of their family went to Mars a few weeks ago…  or at least we went on a mission to Mars in someone's appropriately red garage. I think I’ve talked before about how much we LOVE escape rooms - well someone and some of their friends created one as a prototype and ran it as a by-donation experience. The whole experience was absolutely fantastic! Though, as I have discovered, I don’t think I’ll ever get through an escape room experience where Paul and I don’t have a small tiff over me giving him bad directions. Whoops.

Long story short, our pod succeeded (80% of the teams don’t!) with less than a second left on the clock, but a few brain cells missing since we hadn’t properly repaired the air filtration system… It was a wonderfully fun and appropriately difficult mission, and the puzzles and clues were excellent - as was the beautiful set that we were playing in. There’s a cool interview with a couple of photos from the room I found online, and a video special on CTV news, likely by the same people who interviewed me awhile back for my dudoir work.

I see that look on your face
You ain’t hearing what I say
So I’ll say it again
'Cause I been where you been
And I know how it ends

I had a brief (and I stress the word brief!) love affair with Amazon reviews  before controversy and bad press* forced Amazon to discontinue the practice of sellers asking for reviews in exchange for discounts or free merchandise. *Actually to be honest I think Amazon mainly did it for its own financial gain, as it could help businesses other than Amazon to make money! While it's a smart business decision for Amazon, taking a broad view, it's not great from a consumer perspective. I saw a lot of press accusing these reviews of being positively biased and skewing the norm but unfortunately there's plenty of data stating that the majority of people only really review things when they're unhappy so I personally think they actually provided a much more balanced reviews landscape. Nevertheless, Amazon the giant has made the decision and unfortunately that leaves me with many items that I received in response to requests through reviewing sites. I'm dabbling in video lately so I'll probably be putting up some YouTube reviews for several of the products I received. I am very pleased to have purchased many necessary and useful items in the process of looking into becoming an Amazon reviewer,  things that I was hoping to purchase anyway and then I might have had trouble finding.  In the end I think I'm quite happy that I had a chance to do it even for a few weeks,  and I have an assortment of products that I use on a daily basis and a few that I use a little bit more rarely but are equally necessary to the various pursuits that I want to spend time on.

The items that were involved in this foray into internet reviewing include a Phone mount and head and tail lights for my bicycle, a wireless mouse for ye olde TV computer in the living room, a brand new set of nice laundry bags since mine were cheap and falling apart, some photo reflectors that I haven't had a chance to use in a session yet - but I had been thinking about purchasing anyway to use for fill light in backlit evening outdoor portraits instead of a flash. There was also a high quality, compact USB charger for the car to keep both of our phones and other electronic gadgets charged while we're travelling and a large and Powerful battery pack for our smartphones - again, mainly for travelling and playing Pokemon Go, and finally, a computer adaptor for HDMI, which was the first thing I ever ordered, since my current adaptor was old and fizzing out, and I use it every day. So electronics and household items basically. All stuff I’m very excited to own and paid VERY little for - most of which I wouldn't have been able to buy without the review sites. Well, at least I caught the tail end.

It's party time
and not one minute we can lose,
pretty baby

On a completely different note, I've been trying to host lots of little events in Edmonton, and unfortunately we rarely have more than a couple of people show up to our little tea parties. On the other hand I have a semi-regular kareoke night at a friendly little bar (that serves the best shirley temples and the stickiest honey garlic wings and the waitstaff already knows my order) with one or two Edmonton friends who sometimes invite others, and on Tuesday night I finally sang “Rolling In the Deep” almost perfectly despite the fact that you really only breathe three times the whole song, and they’re all catchbreaths. I was proud! And the kareoke host complimented my voice which made me happy.

That’s not all either! I started a board gaming group with people I met from the internet whose only definite shared interests were both frequenting Reddit and enjoying board games - but after several months it's still going strong and all of the people in the group like each other quite a bit and love coming out. I routinely laugh until my gut hurts whenever we get together -  our latest meeting was actually tonight and my gut literally does hurt from all the belly laughter from our game of advanced adult telephone pictionary. On yet another social note, Paul and I together also joined a small youth group at one of the Catholic churches in Edmonton,  and we've actually found that we really enjoyed the people there as well and we're developing great relationships with them. Slowly and steadily I'm starting to feel like Edmonton is not isolating anymore.

On another related note, having many new guests over to our house as we've tried out AirBnB for the last year or so has been a truly interesting time for me. There are things to love and things we don’t love so much about sharing our space with others, but in general it has been a socially rewarding experience, as I have had some amazing conversations with some amazing Canadians and Americans.

I have met a teacher at a middle-class school in the USA, a woman who teaches piano and composes, a man who spent quite a few years as a businessman in Dubai and gave it up to seek a more meaningful life. I met a man who works as a social worker, a young girl who was delighted to stay in our fish-themed room because of her degree in aquamarine biology, and a very tall man who talked little with us, but who called his wife and children every night, and as I would pass his door in the hall, laughter came through the thin walls of his room. What an amazing cross-section of people, and an amazing opportunity. We’ve hosted so many people in fact that just a few days ago I got the news that we’ve been declared AirBnB Superhosts - which means that people see a stamp of excellence on our place. What a great honour to be officially declared a good host.

Your words are spirit and life, oh Lord,
Richer than gold, stronger than death

I have set up a small space in my home for prayer and contemplation. I remember at various times in my life wanting a prayer closet, and being most recently greatly inspired to do this when Paul and I went to the church art museum in New York, and there were hundreds of personal devotional items on display from the tiny carved triptychs to the grandest multi-panel pieces commissioned for the homes of the rich. Catholics and the Orthodox often have spaces like these in their homes, often called a home altar, or a prayer table. It is common to many types of Christians who don’t have a problem with imagery.

I created this space originally to deal with a specific problem - that I had on some occasions, and once was too many times, promised to pray for someone’s specific intention or request and completely forgotten them. Creating a specific spot in my home to go to when I had a prayer to offer helped me to make sure I wasn’t neglecting something important. As I was thinking about this, I discovered a stunning white ceramic candleholder shaped like a cathedral at a thrift store, and I immediately snatched it up as the centrepiece of my prayer spot, beside a candle featuring Mary. My favourite chair, the one my Mom made for me, is in that spot, and the dog’s bed is there too. Sometimes I use it as a place to sit, or alternately, it could be used to kneel if one felt the desire for that. It is in a corner of my house that otherwise had no purposefulness, and is now wonderfully meaningful, and a great space to retreat to.

Little did I know how important that space would become, as I had one of the busiest weeks of my life, found out a close friend was going to require open-heart surgery, another friend’s parent was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers, and generally had an awful lot of happenings.

Skip to my next post for the main event.

My lover's got humor

She's the giggle at a funeral
We were born sick, you heard them say it

flying paper

Frozen In Time

The hot and the cold are both so intense,

Put 'em together it just makes sense!

Winter's a good time to stay in and cuddle,

But put me in summer and I'll be a - happy snowman!

It is actually been a really eventful week, what with the road trip to Saskatoon for the wedding that I shot on Saturday, tons of editing, and lots of new inquiries for Admire Studios.

Because we had put Murphy in daycare for the weekend we were able to spend our evenings and part of the day on Sunday staying with my favourite in-laws and their adorable kids. We watched Frozen again, and I was struck by how brilliant a movie it is about emotions and relationships. Also, Olaf is freaking adorable.

I’m working on our costumes for comic-con this year (in about a week, eep!) which involve a LOT of craft foam. A whole sheaf of it. I am pretty darn proud of the first of my many foam creations that go into our outfits. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

I have had a massive to-do list for Admire Studios over the past week, and I am pleased to say that I have completely conquered it! Several things that were overdue, or just due in general, got finished. I have things to edit next week. In celebration of work well done, I am planning to take a week for personal growth, fun, and some work-bee style work in a few of the more neglected spaces in the house in preparation for winter. I’ve been focused on me treehouse and hammock areas of the backyard while we could spend time there, but I want to have non-office rooms for relaxation, and I have some pretty major plans for that. Our landlords had left behind some old furniture that we asked if we could purchase from them - a soft 70’s style rocking chair, a bookshelf, a double bed, and a long solid wood coffee table which really needs refinishing, but could match the rest of my living room furniture.

A week or so ago I ordered a bunch of things off of Amazon and felt kind of guilty about it. And when I say a bunch I mean 4. One of those wonderful things was a rotary cheese grater.  we started buying the giant hunks of Parmesan a few years ago, and it takes an awful lot of energy to grate cheese. So after seeing rotary cheese graters for years at pasta places, A couple of years ago I decided I desperately wanted one. Somehow it was always just a touch more expensive than I was willing to spend, except for the part where I spend that much on pizza three times a month. So I finally bought the cheese grater.

Along with three other things, it came yesterday, and I grated all of the parmesan cheese we still had left in the house into a Tupperware container and planned a pasta supper for tonight.


This Is Just A Simple Post

From this day on I will make a promise

To be true to myself and always be honest

For the rest of my life, I will do what’s right

I will do what’s right

I saw a meme today on Facebook. It was a photo of a fence post, and beneath it were the words “This is just a simple post, It's not political, racial, or about the economy.” On one hand it’s funny, on the other, I think it raises the same frustration I’d been having about Facebook for a long time.

It is possible, though unlikely, that some of you reading this are among the vast numbers of people I have unfollowed on Facebook. You see, it used to be that one could only unfriend people on Facebook. This posed a problem, because a number of the people on Facebook whom I had on my list were those whose views and opinions on life were, quite frankly, either a constant avalanche of armchair activism, or some combination of angry and offensive to me personally. Unfortunately for me, they were also people I wanted to continue to be connected to for business reasons, or occasionally personal ones.

Most people who only use their Facebook for personal use can do whatever they like with their friends list, but for entrepreneurs like me, Facebook is a resource for my businesses (past and present, since almost 40% of my friends list is photographers from CPC since I am a big personage there), and a way to keep people in touch when I need to spread a wide net for something I need or want. It’s my own personal crowdsourcing service. Unfortunately, it’s also a provider of content that I like to read. Or in the case of Facebook, often don’t like to read.

For a while I put up with it, while I was in and out of being depressed and lacked energy. Finally one day, whenever something would come up that I hated, I would evaluate it, and 90% of the time I would unfollow the person. Then I decided to unfollow anyone whose name and face I didn’t recognize who I wasn’t currently trying to get to know and spent nearly an hour going through about a quarter of my Facebook friends. I still need to finish the process, but the worst of it is gone.

See, I don’t think that Facebook is going away anytime soon. It’s a bastion of the internet age, and of my generation. It’s also something that I want to fight to protect, because it is a place of connection with my many friends in other cities. Of my very closest best friends, only two live in the same city, another in the same province one city over, three in the city I grew up in six hours drive away, two in the province I grew up in, one way up north and one down south, and I have one in Vancouver and another in Toronto, which are fortunately cities I visit for conferences. The breakdown for Family is much the same, though we do have a huge concentration of Paul’s family, Uncles and cousins from both sides, just a few hours drive from here - we really must plan to visit this Fall.

So it’s vital that I preserve the place on the internet that connects me to these people from the pollution that fogs it over. I’m mainly talking about angry posts about cultural, social, political issues and secular humanism. I’m also talking about useless things memes that talk about being angry without your coffee in the morning.

It was like light pollution. I couldn’t see the stars anymore.

You've got me seeing stars,
Brighter than ever,
Shining just like diamonds do
I know that in time it will be all ours

Brighter than ever

The people and things I cared about were being obscured, so I cleaned digital house. It took time. Weeks, really. It's not totally finished yet. But finally my feed is full of people producing their own content, and a few people whose quirks I either don’t mind tolerating, or am obligated to tolerate by virtue of their being family - and that is fine.

See, it’s funny. I don’t worry much what others think of me anymore, compared to when I was younger. It’s really not that relevant to my life. I don’t stand to lose anything particularly valuable doing this, but it was hard to do because I kept thinking, “What if someone figures it out?”

And that really boils down to the fact that I have a metric ton of unpopular opinions and associations - and what’s amazing about that, is that no matter which side of an issue a person may fall on, I might be considered pretty radical. I can't think of a single person I know - family, friends, acquaintances - who wouldn't have the opportunity to be pretty majorly offended by something that's true about me. The people I'm close friends with are pretty good at choosing not to be offended, or providing good arguments for their alternate ideas, which I am always careful to listen to. The only true prerequisite of being okay with yourself, long term, is not being too afraid to be wrong and to consider alternatives.

I have friends on radically different ends of the political spectrum from Liberal to Conservative to Green Party, even a few dyed-in-the-wool Libertarians - and my own political views do not fit neatly in any party because they are all much too close to spectrum center. (I took a test in high school that split almost all my honest views between Communist, Libertarian, and Fascist - I kid you not. My teacher was a little taken aback and felt he had to ask if I answered honestly.) I have a close friend who is a gay agnostic from the middle east, another who is a liberal feminist unitarian, I know and love Christians from all ends of the theological spectrum - protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox among others, I have had long, deep conversations about faith and family with a devout LDS man who I met in art school and now lives in Calgary, and one of my favourite connections is a devout Muslim who got married in an arranged marriage to a man her parents chose for her after she finished her degree in science - she is a wonderful person I met on the internet and then got to know in real life while I was in college. And when her adorable son pops up on my Facebook page, it makes me beam. I have really appreciated getting to know people of all walks of life and types of work, especially blue collar people, since I grew up in a really white collar environment.

I don’t believe that connecting with another person depends on them making similar choices to you. I don’t believe that the call to love everyone or to serve the Church, or even the call to evangelism, always means vomiting your beliefs on them in the first few weeks of your acquaintance. In the immortal words of St. Francis, for whom our Pope is named, "Preach Jesus, and if necessary use words."

I believe that Jesus was in large part remarkable, mainly in his own time but also now, because of his associations. He kept company with a ragtag group of mostly blue collar Jews, rather than a consortium of philosopher-rabbis. He went to dinner with a table full of the outcasts, rather than crossing on the other side of the road to keep from becoming unclean. A man who needed a treasurer who could steal without most people noticing from a clearly overflowing mission purse who, instead of sleeping in lavish hotels, relied on the kindness of others for a place to sleep. That was all part of his radical call to be different. It was all part of the love he demonstrated.

I don’t think his resounding call of “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” would ever be followed with, “he who isn’t interested, that one can burn in hell for all I care.” Sure I believe in a literal hell - not sure what it might look like of course, even if fire is how we communicate it - but if a person truly does believe in a place that isolates a person with their guilt, why would you want anyone to go there? Even those who have committed the worst sins against God, goodness, and their fellow man. I feel much the same about prisons, especially private ones.

I know someone who has a relative in prison who killed his own father during a bout of extreme mental illness - he doesn’t remember doing it. That man despairs that God will not accept him, and yet still longs to die. The system is isolating and hard. His only contact is with some family who haven’t given up on him, and the men who give spiritual care to the inmates. The world reviles him, but I don’t believe God does. He’s human.

But as long as everything is Us vs Them, the brokenness will intensify. As long as we keep this luxury of labelling people in ways that allow us to marginalize them or make fun of them, love will lose out. And to me that’s unacceptable.

I do not appreciate or grow as a person from having other people’s beliefs, particularly the angry ones, projectile vomited onto me, either. Especially passive beliefs. As an opposing example, a comic demonstrating a method of interjecting into a public display of racism to help protect the person who is being discriminated against came across my Facebook feed the other day through someone I don’t know well, but I was thrilled to have a new tool in making whatever part of the world I happen to be going into a potentially better place. I also saw comments hating on the guy who spewed racist comments at a black man in Edmonton last week - and I unfollowed the person who made them because honestly, that kind of thing is against my religion and my humanism.

All of my close family, friends, and acquaintances have just a few things in common - they are interested in life, willing to talk about issues with listening ears, and care about people. For the large majority, they care about relationships, and having a family (whether that family is blood or not.)

They love. And that’s who I want to keep spending time with.
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