Showing posts with label Love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Love. Show all posts

Welcome to 2011

It's  beautiful, sunny New Years day in Luang Prabang, Laos. Yesterday we ended the year with a 34 kilometer bike ride (up mountains) that almost finished us off, a stop in a hill tribe village to take polaroids of the kids and leave them as gifts (they were amazed!), a wander through some of the most beautiful waterfalls I've ever seen, a visit to an Asiatic bear sanctuary, a lovely meal, watching dozens of handmade paper lanterns float up into the night sky, and a count down at the stunningly beautiful local bar Utopia. It was pretty much the most perfect way to end the year and I couldn't have dreamed up anything better.

We stumbled home along the river, slightly tipsy and a little bit achey from our bike ride, but happily calling out "Sabaidee Pi Mai", which means happy new years in Laotian, to passersby and settled into our little room for a long sleep. This morning I was briefly woken up by the resident rooster and then again around 9 am by the sound of monks chanting across the street. Then a nice brunch next to the river.

Dan and I have discussed resolutions a lot this New Years and I think I've narrowed mine down to a few basic shifts in behavior that can mostly be boiled down to mindfulness:

  • I want to eat less meat and when I do eat it, I want to be more conscious of what it is I'm consuming. I love animals and in a country like Laos, where water buffalo wander out into the street, and chickens are part of the community, it's much harder to divorce what I'm eating from the idea of a living, breathing animal. I just want to be more responsible and aware of what I'm putting into my body and the impact that has on the world. 
  • No more pop for me. It's bad and filled with nasty chemicals and I don't need it in my body. 
  • I want to do a better job of letting things go and spend less of my time dwelling on people and things that make me unhappy. There are so many wonderful things in the world - I don't want to waste any more time on negativity or on trying to work out the motivations of other people. I would like to master the art of throwing up my hands and walking away (in a good way). 
  • I want to do a better job of really committing to my creative writing practice. Setting tangible goals seems like an important things to do so here's mine: 5,000 words a week creative writing. Doesn't matter what it is, doesn't matter if it's any good, what matters is that I put in the time. 
  • Be more mindful of how I'm spending my time and do a better job of setting hard daily goals so that I spend less time floating around the internet without any direction. 
  • Move my body more. The bike ride yesterday was hard and I don't know that I'll be doing 30+ km uphill on a regular basis, but it felt good to by physically active. I want to spend more time walking, swimming, biking ... I don't want exercise to be something I need to go to a gym to do, but something that is just part of how I live my life. When I see the kids running around here playing, I'm reminded that our natural state is to move through the world and to take pleasure in doing it. I want to remember what it's like to enjoy my physicality. 
  • Career wise, I want to keep moving forward, keep feeling excited and inspired by what I'm doing and continue to surround myself with passionate, creative people. We started Contentini: Content Strategists this year and it's been more successful than I could have imagined (thanks clients!). I've done a lot of thinking and writing about web content - something I'm passionate about - and have had some great responses. The idea of content strategy as a professional focus is still relatively new and I am beyond excited to see how it evolves over the next year and how my own practice will change with it. 
I hope you all had a peaceful and joyous New Years and that you're as excited for the year ahead as I am. We've got another few days in this country that I've fallen completely in love with and on January 3rd we fly to Hanoi, Vietnam. I will be sad to leave Laos and I'm always a little nervous when visiting a new country but really, I couldn't be in a better place to enter 2011. 


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Happy Holidays!

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Love and Marriage

Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo

Ever since I was a little girl, people would ask whether I wanted to get married and have kids. I don't know why this question is so often asked of little girls, as though it should be the focal point of our lives; maybe times have changed and this doesn't happen as much as it did when I was a child, I hope so. My response, for as long as I can remember was always: no friggin' way! (and I'm afraid it's still no friggin' way to having kids)

I think that part of the strength of my reaction came from the fact that I never wanted to be 'normal' or feel 'normal'. When I imagined a future, it was never one that kept me forever in the beautiful Canadian Prairies where I grew up. Especially as I child, I imagined that living fully meant living far away and doing exciting things every day. Now that I'm a bit older, I realize that this whole idea I had about 'normal' doesn't really exist and that location does little to create happiness except maybe in extremes (if you are lucky enough to live somewhere you love passionately or unlucky enough to be somewhere you hate). There isn't really a normal, there's just life, every day, every moment, and no matter where they're located, people are just trying to make the best of what they've got.

I am incredibly lucky because I am able to live a lifestyle that really suits me. I get to travel, do mostly fulfilling freelance work on my own schedule, I have the time for creativity and although I'm not wealthy, I've got enough to get by. I am also engaged to a wonderful man who genuinely makes me want to be a better person just because he is so bloody good and kind and brilliant. We're not getting married for religious reasons or because we have to, and we're not getting married to throw a lavish party. I can't speak for Dan, but my reasons are wrapped up in how certain I was as a child that I couldn't possibly be happy or fulfilled and be married. Marrying is my way of formally acknowledging that I can live the life I want and do it alongside someone who always reserves a soft place for me to land even when I'm not at my best. Instead of trying to control or shelter me from the world, I feel like he is there with me, opening every door, trying every lock, not afraid to see what fits and what doesn't. It's been an easy decision to make, which surprises me because I was always the girl with the reoccurring nightmare of walking down an aisle that I desperately wanted to flee from, but who also didn't want to embarrass anyone or hurt their feelings.

Are you throwing up yet?

There are some really bad statistics about marriage: the huge divorce rate, the high number of spouses who cheat and the lackluster reality that so many of us have witnessed first-hand in our own families: people who are not in love with but stay together, tormenting one another for years, wasted decades. I'm not a religious person, but marriage really does feel like an act of faith. If it all works out you'll both fight hard to hold onto the feelings and moments that brought you together in the first place and you'll continue to try, even in the face of illness and tragedy, to continue to see one another as a life raft, rather than an albatross. And even with all that, you might fail. But isn't it beautiful that knowing all that we do, we are still winning to try? This faith, it melts my heart a bit.

At the end of July my friends Carrie and Michael got married in Ucluelet, British Columbia on a beautiful beach. The ceremony was officiated by a rabbi and there were so many elements to their ceremony that touched me, that seemed to reflect so much of what a marriage should be about. The rabbi began the ceremony by asking them to look around at the 100 odd guests who were gathered in a circle around them and to realize that every single person made the long journey to be there out of love. And cheesy at it sounds, I could feel the love. About half way through the ceremony each of Carrie and Michael's siblings read a personal message to them about themes like love, patience and understanding. It was so much more powerful than just reciting a poem or scripture, every person had taken the time to write something personal and to impart some beautiful truth to them. Finally, and my favorite part of all, after the ceremony, Carrie and Michael walked away down the beach to spend 15 minutes alone together, to talk, to enter into their first moments of marriage in quiet contemplation with one another. I love that they prioritized their connection above the hoopla of the day. It was inspiring to witness a ceremony that made marriage feel real and true and not just a gong show of tulle and lace.

I'm fairly certain that wherever we decide to get married, it will be small - maybe even just the two of us. We'll come in together and leave together and in-between, we'll try to enjoy every single moment.

Photo of Carrie and Michael's Wedding by Dan.
Danny and Annie video found via the lovely Anna Coe

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Another Reason Not to Eat Octopus

A mothers ultimate sacrifice from Koos du Preez on Vimeo.

I really like octopi. As a species they are incredibly intelligent and there have been many documented incidences of their amazing problem-solving abilities and overall cleverness. But I had no idea about the tragic selflessness of the Octopi reproduction process - it seems so needlessly self-sacrificial. But maybe motherhood is like that and it's why all my friends with babies look so exhausted all the time.
Once the eggs have been laid the female uses a string to attach them to her lair. She spends her time watching over the eggs and protecting them from predators and blowing water over them to provide them with oxygen. This last approximately 50 days during that time she will not eat or sleep.
Once the eggs have all hatched the female will die of starvation and exhaustion leaving the babies which are about the size of a grain of rice to survive on their own. They become part of the plankton that floats on the top of the water and if they are lucky enough to survive the first six weeks they will gradually start to sink towards the bottom of the ocean as the develop and take on the shape of an octopus.
The reproduction of the octopus is rather disheartening they basically exist to reproduce. The average lifespan of an octopus is only five years however, for the octopuses that reproduce it is almost half that at 2.5 years old. ( source )
There's often a tendency to believe that the capacity to do wonderful, selfless things is strictly a human impulse. I don't believe that these female Octopi understand or think through why they are doing what they're doing, but I also don't think most selfless acts are rationalized or deeply considered. There's some instinct, which occasionally bubbles to the surface that makes conscious beings sacrifice themselves for others.

Dan would say it's all about biology - survival of the gene pool and pure drive -  and he's probably right. But at the risk of sounding like a ridiculous hippie, I prefer to think that it's all about the love, baby.

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Laundry in Mexico

I love the colourful lines of fabric stung together over ever outdoor surface in this country. It's beautiful. I could do without hand washing soiled clothes though.

The above photo was taken out the back of our flat in San Blas at sunset, right before a rain storm.  On a related note, I've been approved to sell photos on iStock. Yay!

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Exuberant Motherhood

I've been working with the lovely team over at Exuberance Beauty on a special mother's day feature for their website. We've been lucky enough to have the participation of some wonderful writers who have shared their experiences and the result is a pretty inspiring group of posts - you can read them all here. (PS: for UK readers, North American Mother's Day is this Sunday)

I struggled a bit with my post, because I am not a mother and cannot claim to understand what that experience means. Initially when I sat down to write, I thought I would pull together something more political about how women and mothers in particular still struggle (I've been very inspired by J K Rowling's Single Mother's Manifesto). But instead of being clever, I kept coming back to the memory of a particularly difficult summer my mother and I had with my sister Jennifer (pictured above at her graduation), who suffers from a number of physical challenges in addition to being sensory deprived and autistic.

If you want to read the entire piece, you can do so here. Also, Exuberance is a pretty great company - they make healthy, organic, lotions and potions you can feel good about using. And, importantly, they give back to their community. If you are still struggling to find something to buy your mother for the holiday this weekend, you might want to check them out.


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Ephemera of Crystal

I know some genuinely lovely ladies and lately I've been feeling the urge to write about them. Recently I blogged about my friend Vanessa and over the last week, I've been running into images and things online that remind me of my best friend Crystal (pictured with me, above left).

The summer before grade ten, I was home alone on a hot day when I got a frantic call from the sister of my neighbour, who had lived alone in the big house next door since his lovely wife passed away a few years earlier. I'd known and loved the Howards all my life - the older couple were always sweet to me, and I spent some wonderful days playing with their visiting grandchildren every summer. The call I received was worrying - no one had spoken to Mr. Howard for a few days, which raised their concern. They asked if I would go next door to check in.

It was late morning and I can remember the heat had already settled in. I got to his door and rang the doorbell. After no answer, I opened the screen door and knocked on the inside door, which caused it to open slightly. The house was dark and still and it was difficult to see anything beyond the sliver of bright sunlight just inside the doorway. Against all the voices in my head (similar to the ones most people experience when watching a horror film - "DON'T GO INTO THE BASEMENT!") I went in and the only happy ending to the story is that, a few months later, Crystal's family moved in.

The worst part probably wasn't finding him (he had been gone for awhile at that point and it didn't look like it had been a struggle) but the part afterward. I am pretty sure I called an ambulance (just in case) but then I had to call his sister back and tell her what I'd found. My own family was about a half an hour out of town at our cabin and, at the time, we didn't have a phone out there so I couldn't get a hold of them. The ambulance took him away and his sister and some family members came to the house next door - I'm not sure why. And I made them sandwiches and things because that's what one does, or at least it seemed so to me.

So this incredibly sad thing is how Crystal and I came to be good friends. I already knew who she was (we went to the same relatively small high school) but when I randomly got a phone call from her that summer asking me if I lived anywhere near her new house and we discovered she was moving in next door, there was barely a blip between her changing from a girl I knew to someone I loved.

We spent our last three years in high school figuring out ways to thwart her mother's rules - often unsuccessfully - and dancing to oldies in the attic of the big old house she lived in. Our friendship hasn't been perfect and we've fallen out in the harsh, horrible and hurtful way that only good friends can do - but, even thousands of miles away, I know she's one of those stand-out significant people in my life.

Since moving to the UK, I don't often get to see my ladies (with the exception of Jackie - the only one who lives close by from the short list of women I would put into this category) but distance and time never really matters with that special category of friend. I'm hoping to see a few of these gals during my travels over the next few months (and some of them have been kind enough to offer us a place to sleep en route - thank you!) and will even get to see one of them get married (swoon!).

So, my lovely Crystal, here are some things I've come across online lately that remind me of you:

Image Credits:

Movie Still from Heavenly Creatures, found here
Moleskine image from here.
John and Yoko image from here.
Tavi image from here

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