Showing posts with label personal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label personal. Show all posts

Our New San Francisco Home

I probably shouldn't post this because I'll jinx it, but after one night and one full day of looking, I think we've found our perfect San Francisco home. It's located in Cole Valley near the Haight, and about four blocks from one of Facebook's shuttle stops.

The rental market in this city is whack. On Friday night we went to look at a one bedroom apartment that was over $2,000 per month. It was tiny, smelly, on the ground floor, had bars on all the windows and there were about 10 people lined up to see it - and multiple who were willing to make an offer on it right there. It was also located on what must be one of the noisiest intersections in San Francisco - Church and Deboce, where all the Muni trans interchange. No thanks.

I've been warned by lots of people to go to apartment viewings prepared with a portfolio of everything a prospective landlord might possibly need to decide we're good tenants. These include: a contract showing my wage, bank statements showing current assets, references, a credit report ... practically anything and everything imaginable. This would be absolutely unthinkable in the UK where protecting your personal data is such a huge priority. But here where there are far more people looking than good places available, there's no question and if you want to rent you just need to hand it all over and hope for the best.

We're meeting the Realtor to sign the lease and hand over a check in a few hours. It's been a stressful 24 hours though as we waited to hear if we'd been approved, while passing on another really beautiful property in the meantime.

The apartment is located a few blocks from Golden Gate park and about a 20 minute bus ride over the hill into the Mission, about 4 blocks from a Facebook stop. We really like the area - it's got lots of trees and it feels like a real neighborhood but it's also really buzzy with lots of shops, restaurants and bars.

The apartment itself is just under 1,000 square feet, hardwood floors, bay windows, a working fireplace and even, if you stand on your tip toes and look in exactly the right direction on a clear day, a view of the Golden Gate bridge. It's a one bedroom, but with a big dining room in addition to the living room, we've got loads of room. There are even doors we can close to the living room so if we have guests over they'll have some privacy. The really lovely thing about it is that it feels old and Victorian, but it's also just been completely renovated so it's all freshly painted, the floors newly done, the kitchen and bathroom gutted and all replaced with top of the line, modern fixtures. There's no outdoor space, but with the park so close, we're pretty fine with that. 
It's so nice to be able to picture where we're going to be!

That fireplace works!

Washer and dryer - in the flat!

That wooden cabinet is built in and original to the building  - 100 years old!

Dan gets a sink!
The building is tucked away on a quiet street with only seven units. After our location in Vancouver between two construction zones, it's going to feel so peaceful.

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Sometimes I Feel Like This Cat

Take from that what you will.

Hat Tip: Neil Cocker

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I grew up in a place where winter was a long hibernation that stretched from the end of October until early May, where for months everyone prefaced most conversations with "wow! it's cold out there!" and where Jack Nicholson's decent into madness in The Shining is completely relatable because we've all experienced stretches of the sense of isolation that -40 C brings, where we've felt the crazy rushing in.

Since moving to the UK, I haven't really had a proper winter. The closest thing was a one week trip to Val D'Isere, France on a snowboarding trip in January 2010. This year has been particularly void of winter as I've mostly shuttled between different countries in Asia since October (I'm currently in Thailand, where it's well into the 30 degree C mark daily). Most of the time I don't miss winter, and my friends and family who are still caught in the deep freeze would probably laugh that I, one of the biggest complainers about winter, am now complaining about missing it.

I don't miss the -40 degree stretches but I do miss snow, particularly the dry, crunchy, glittery snow so common in Saskatchewan. I miss how quiet snow makes everything feel if you go out late at night when the streets are empty. I miss the blinding light of a snowy day in Saskatchewan: the bright blue sky, the sparkling snow, the sun bouncing off the snow making the world seem hyper-lit.

I love the video above and I want to know where this massive frozen lake is. Lovely.

And yes, I realize that is a study on the concept that the grass is always greener somewhere else. It's not lost on me.

Video found via Samimi-Extremie is Boss

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Not That Kind of Girl

I recently read the article Why I Left My Children by writer Rahna Reiko Rizzuto in Salon and it struck such a chord with me. Particularly these bits:
I never wanted to be a mother. 
I was afraid of being swallowed up, of being exhausted, of opening my eyes one day, 20 (or 30!) years after they were born, and realizing I had lost myself and my life was over ... My problem was not with my children, but with how we think about motherhood. About how a male full-time caretaker is a "saint," and how a female full-time caretaker is a "mother." It is an equation we do not question; in fact we insist on it. And we punish the very idea that there are other ways to be a mother.
From the time I was old enough to understand where babies came from and astute enough to appreciate the dynamics of caring for a child, I knew it wasn't for me: the lack of sleep, the inability think of yourself first (or sometimes even think) and the observation that having a child is more than something people do, it's who they are (and I don't mean this in a nasty way - it seems like an inevitable part of the job description). I generally like kids and have a fondness for a few in particular - my friend Jackie's little boy Hartley is definitely on my list of very special little humans, my nephew Seth is the perfect balance of adorable, clever and mischievous, and the kids of other friends like Jaime and Kulsoom's gentle little ginger haired boy Joe. But for all this, I have never had a moment where I've thought that motherhood is something I want to do.

It's funny how people react to this news. When I was a kid and a teenager, generally people told me that I would change my mind when I grew up. The responses I tend to get now are a little bit more subtle: some people are surprised, some people are ambivalent, a very few totally get it, but there are still a surprising number of people who just don't believe me. Like this lack of desire to procreate is just a problem and we need to diagnose it properly to find a cure: is it my relationship or my job? Maybe I just don't feel financially secure enough to have kids? Or my favorite: when the time is right, I'll know and it will magically happen.

I don't know if men who don't want kids get this same kind of reaction from people, but I suspect not. Actually, I suspect men rarely even get asked the question because it is assumed that with or without children, they are living a complete life. But so many people still equate motherhood with the ultimate fulfillment a woman could possibly experience - our bodies were designed to have babies and how could we possibly go through life without wanting to be a part of this glorious miracle? If you are a woman who doesn't want kids, there must be something wrong with you. Don't believe me? Just scan some of the comments on the Salon article - a shocking number of them express thorough disgust with Rizzuto, despite that she is still actively involved in her kids lives, despite that if you believe the article, her kids are happy and well cared for, despite that she gave custody to her husband - a man who always wanted kids.

Here's a sample:

From the vitriol in some of these comments you would think that she beat them or starved them before handing them off to child abusing strangers. Nope: she went to Japan for six months before moving into a house down the block from where they live with their father, she sees them whenever they want and, it sounds like they have found a non-traditional family model that works for everyone. Would a man writing the same article get this kind of reaction about the audacity of his ego?

I am happy for my friends and family who choose to have kids, despite the fact that I may not relate entirely to the decision. And yes, there are things I'll probably miss in my life because of this choice, but there are also things I will gain: travel, freedom, the ability to put my relationship with my partner first, a greater likelihood of financial security, the ability to sleep in or stay up late, time to read and write, the ability to work when I want to work without feeling guilty ... And I refuse to accept that these things are of lesser value than the sacred calling to motherhood. I'm tired of it being implied.

So that's it world. This is my declaration to you: I do not intend to have babies and it is not because I am damaged or selfish or deluded or deranged. It is highly unlikely that I'm going to change my mind on this and believe me, I take every precaution I can to ensure it doesn't happen. And I am not sad, or lonely and I am not worried about how I'm going to feel about it when I'm 70 years old and this decision is not the result of some horrible trauma I suffered during my childhood. Please save the disproportionate pity, incredulity and sometimes outrage for someone who truly deserves it.

I think Rizzuto made a difficult decision, one that was probably more painful because of the inevitability of running up against the underlying assumption that all women should feel a calling towards motherhood - she expresses more guilt in the article about her lack of calling than her decision to give up custody of her kids. I feel sad that despite the apparent health and happiness of her children, she still feels like "a cold bitch" and that sentiment is reinforced by hundreds of hateful anonymous trolls who only underline that ladies, we actually haven't come as far in our quest for equality as we like to think we have. And to some degree, our freedom to choose is only acceptable if we are making choices within the boundaries of the socially ascribed limitations of our gender.

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To All The Dogs I've Loved Before

I grew up in a home where we always had dogs. I never entirely related to those kids who were always begging for a puppy, because the existence of dogs as part of our every day lives was just natural to me. What do you mean you don't have a dog? How can you not have a dog?

When I was born, there were two dogs in the family. A ridiculously clownish and overweight black short-haired Dachshund named Elsa and her best friend, a small (but not teacup) buttery yellow short-haired Chihuahua named Gaby. Gaby was also overweight, due in part to her favorite food - smarties. 

Those were different times. There were none of the dire warnings about feeding your dog chocolate and there was no such thing as the Dog Whisperer, dog spas or luxury doggie clothing. Despite this lack of pampering, our dogs were very much considered part of the family - fat, drooling siblings who loved unconditionally and who would never really grow up. 

Although I was too young to remember, my grandmother loves to tell me the story of how Elsa adopted me on the day I came home from the hospital. On that cold February day over thirty years ago, I was sleeping in my car seat and my mom put me on the floor near the radiator - I'm from Saskatchewan, which is mind numbingly cold in the winter. When she came back a few minutes later, the fat Dachshund was laying next to me, her big head resting on my lap. Pretty much from that day forward, Elsa never left my side and would growl and bar her teeth at anyone who tried to get near me, immediate family included. 

Every birthday was celebrated with a Safeway chocolate cake and the dogs were no exception. I can still picture Elsa sitting on a chair next to the kitchen table propped up on her hind legs like a gopher, a party hat on her head, waiting for her bit of cake. My childhood stories are all woven up with memories of the dogs. Gaby and the bright red cloth she loved to chase around and around, Elsa trying to dig up badger holes on our walks - her snout tar black from the dirt, Elsa hiding in the basement whenever there was a thunder storm or fireworks - me opening the door to see only the whites of her eyes as she sat in the darkness, her black coat making her almost invisible. Sometimes I would sit with her while we waited for the storm to pass. 

The really horrible truth about integrating pets into your life like this is that they live such short lives. They feel as close as human beings, but their expiration date is a decade, maybe 15 years if you are really lucky. And as your years inch by slowly, theirs fast forwards until they are no longer the siblings and children you once thought of them as, but rather these little old creatures with legs that barely work, missing teeth and glossy white eyes that barely see anymore. 

Elsa died when I was five and I can remember the terrible shock of it. Some people don't remember their childhood, but mine comes to me in still images that are incredibly clear. She had been chronically ill and my grandmother decided we needed to put her to sleep. I was sent off to my mother's house for the weekend, having said goodbye to Elsa one last time. It was summer and I wandered around Gladmar, a low income housing tenement that had a bit of the community feeling of Sesame Street, sobbing. I remember passing a man who was working on his motorcycle who said, "Those are some pretty big tears for such a little girl." 

"Mmmm-my dddd-dog dddddied," I barely managed to snort, gasping. My heart felt truly broken and at the time, I don't think I could really imagine what it would take for the world to ever be okay again. 

Gaby died a few years later, her time with us crossing with that of another dog we had named Lady - a miniature poodle we'd rescued from some people down the block who were neglecting her. All of these animals are gone now, all buried in a pet cemetery located beneath a katakana tree in the yard at our summer cottage at Regina Beach. To this day, if I see a nice stone laying on the ground, I sometimes pick it up and send it to my grandmother so she can add it to the collection of rocks that mark the graves of the pets we loved so much. 

I am writing this because yesterday I found out that my grandparent's 14 year old tiny poodle Janie died. She had been sick for a long time and it was no surprise to hear the news but still incredibly sad. We got Janie the summer after I graduated from high school and I think for my grandparents, who were now living with only each other, she came to represent the children and grandchildren that had moved out into the world. My grandfather in particular adored her. This rather gruff man could now be seen walking his obscenely tiny dog around the neighborhood in her pink jumper, at meals he would talk to her and feed her scraps off his own plate. 

Now in their late seventies, I doubt my grandparents will ever get another dog. They would be too afraid that it wouldn't be properly cared for if anything ever happened to them. 

When I think back on my life, the animals that have been a part of our family feel as central to my memories as the people. They were my best friends, they protected me and showed concern whenever I cried, they were always waiting excitedly for me when I came home and they taught me an incredible lesson about loss and risk. When you decide to get a dog you know, almost certainly, that it will die long before you will and that you will have to watch it age and care for it when it is ill. But most of us decide to go ahead anyway because it's worth it. It's cheesy, but I think love always is. 

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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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Life Lessons: Things I've Learned Since Turning 30

I'm not a self-help kind of gal. I'm a bit too cynical for things such as The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People , Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience or the belief that my star sign will somehow reveal some mystical path I'm meant to take. I believe that the 'secret' to finding wealth and happiness is that it's a slog every single day and nothing is guaranteed and that the best way to make friends and influence people is to be yourself; and if that makes you unpopular then bugger them all anyway. As a rule, I don't practice the act of faith and I'm pretty sure that most of what occurs is up to chance and occasionally, if you're lucky, good planning.

Until October of 2008 my life was completely different from what it is now and then four and a half months ago it changed drastically again. In the first instance, the change included selling my house, quitting a job that I loved and leaving my family and friends to move to Cardiff in the United Kingdom. It was a huge step and I can remember how frightened and overwhelmed I felt about it and how excited I was about what my life would look like.

After moving to Cardiff I took a job that I initially enjoyed, was in a relationship and even made friends - all the things one is meant to do after moving to a new place - but I still wasn't happy. If anything, I felt even more stuck than I'd felt before leaving Canada. So I ended my relationship, began a new relationship and eventually moved to London.

It was like the children's game where one person hides something and as the others look for it they are told if they are getting 'warmer', 'colder' or 'red hot'. After this second change I was definitely getting warmer. I loved London, had some wonderful friends there and was in the best relationship of my life. But there were still things that made me really unhappy. I had some bad experiences at work with a group of mean girls (I use the word 'girl' loosely here) and was increasingly feeling stressed and unfulfilled professionally. Because of the intense negativity of that situation it began to feel like a shadow was cast over all the good things. So we decided to make a change, again. Four and a half months later I'm writing this from Melbourne, Australia in a freezing cold little room we've rented in a bustling little neighborhood called St. Kilda where we can get boiled bagels and kosher meat and see orthodox Jews walking around with their tall hats and long curls on either side of their faces. And the sea with Luna Park is only a fifteen minute walk away and there are wonderful markets. Things aren't perfect and they never will be, but so many things are wonderful and I'm so glad we decided to do something about a situation that made us both unhappy.

Image: Luna Park at Night by katclay

And that's it basically. I've learned that if you don't like the direction your life is headed, if people are unkind or going into work makes you feel sick to your stomach, you can change things and you owe it to yourself to at least try. It's scary and depending on your situation it may be more difficult and there may be greater or lesser degrees of risk you are able to take on, but it is possible to throw up your hands and say "this isn't for me so I'm going to try something different". Small changes, big changes, whatever.

Some people will try to tell you that you've got a problem, that you're afraid of commitment, that you're insecure. They will try to make you feel like you need to accept your lot and live with it. Those people are probably just as miserable as you're feeling and are terrified that you'll prove that change is possible, terrified that they'll be left behind. And some people just like being miserable and they'll cradle it for the rest of their lives. Leave them to it.

I am so deeply grateful for all the wonderful people in my life who haven't told me I'm a lunatic for traveling around the world at the ripe old age of 32: my mother, my aunt, my grandparents, my lovely friends (Jackie - I'm looking at you) and all of our clients who just 'get' the concept of what we're doing and who continue to pay us to work on very cool projects regardless of where we happen to be located in the world. Finally, I am most grateful for  Dan who is always so good to me, always an anchor no matter how bat shit crazy I'm behaving at any given moment and who keeps me warm, even in this cold little room in Melbourne in the early spring time.

Sometimes you just have to stop moving for a second an appreciate where you are. And yes, it's enough. More than enough.

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Farewell Canadia

We flew into Canada on July 25th and as I write this I am sitting in the Los Angeles airport waiting for a flight to Sydney, Australia. The time went by quickly, too quickly in fact and I was reminded that being 'home' - whatever that means given our current wayfaring lifestyle - is a bittersweet, lovely and sometimes heart wrenching thing.

I spent time with old friends and made new ones, we babysat a dog named Paco who stole our hearts, we got to attend two beautiful weddings, I danced my ass off at O'Hanlon's and reconnected with my family. I played with my sister's little boy Seth who is talking like crazy since last I saw him a year ago, watched way too much Sesame Street with the baby, ate foods I missed (like poutine and Saskatchewan pizza, which is amazing), went to my grandparent's cabin at Buena Vista Beach and drove half way across Canada and then back again. It all went by so fast but when I take stock of the time, it is so full that I don't know how we managed to do so many things.

Last night we had dinner in Vancouver with friends as a way of celebrating our last night in Canada. We ate at Les Faux Bourgeois and it was so nice to see everyone again on such a wet rainy night. Sadly, we had bad news yesterday afternoon. Paco, the little chihuahua we'd looked after during the month of August suddenly passed away. He was only eight years old and so full of life and if I spend too much time dwelling on it here I'll start crying again. I just feel so lucky that I was able to spend so much time with him.

I'm excited to go to Australia and Japan and all the other wonderful places on our to-do list, but leaving home is always bittersweet. I wish there was a way to make time move more slowly. This year is moving too fast; Life is moving too fast. I am struggling to hold onto the moments but it feels almost impossible. And so I'm working on letting it all flow past me, on letting go, on not trying to squeeze it all too hard. Which is almost impossible for someone like me.

Love to all the Canadians and to little Paco. x

Garden State Image from We Heart It 

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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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I've scheduled this post to go live when our flight to the US is taking off from Heathrow.

Later gaters.


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Light Enough to Travel

We've spent the better part of the last week selling, cleaning and re-organising ourselves for our huge adventure. I can't believe we leave on Saturday ... only two more sleeps!

If I had to pick one song to sum up the last few days it would be Light Enough to Travel by the Be Good Tanyas, especially in view of today's terrible hangover. We had an informal going away party last night. It was good fun but dutch beer is strong - yay for 2 am food in China Town! Thanks to all the lovely people who came out - we'll miss you. Come and visit us somewhere on the road - seriously. 

In the meantime, we're still not light enough to travel, but we're getting there...

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Ten Things Meme

From LA at Freckled Nest... 

1. Favorite hobby?

2. Favorite tv show?
Warning - spoilers and much sadness below!

3. Favorite restaurant food? 

Image by Sebasitan Mary

4. Favorite thing to shop for?
Dresses - not Blythe dolls. 
Image by Ro/Wererabbit

5. Favorite animal?
Image from Ffffound

6. Favorite song?

7. Favorite word?

8. Recent favorite youtube video?

9. Favorite movie?

10. Favorite childhood memory?
Being at the beach.

Ok, now you do it (Friday, Carrie, Brette, Claire, Rhiannon and Michelle I'm looking at you...) and put the URL of the post in the comments so I can read it.

All unattributed photographs above were taken by me.

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Less Than Two Weeks Left...

"She was woozy and heart-swollen in the downtown, wandering wet streets that gleamed as you would have them gleam in the sweet summer film of your life."

From Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower

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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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Sing a Travelling Song

Some of you may have guessed that something like this was coming, especially since I posted an advertisement to fill my current job earlier today ... Big news indeed... Dan and I have decided to leave the UK to spend a year traveling around the world. We've been talking about it for awhile and during a lot of that talking, I was pretty convinced that it was just that, talking. But then we bought plane tickets, and have started selling off our belongings, and have given notice at our flat and ... well, it is really happening, and soon.

We fly out of London on May 1st and we've got a series of flights that takes us right around the globe and back into London mid-April 2011. Our intention is to spend a number of weeks - in some cases months - in our various locations and during our North American stint, we'll mostly be house-sitting/staying with lovely, generous friends.. We don't want fleeting, stressful experiences of wonderful places - we're going to spend some time, get to know the flavour of things. We're also going to be doing some freelance work while traveling, details TBA. So if you need anything brilliant done and want to talk, please get in touch.

In the meantime, here's a little map to show you (somewhat inaccurately) many of the places we'll be touching down - you should be able to click on the image to for more detail. If anyone has any suggestions of places you think we absolutely need to fit into our journey - particularly in South East Asia - please do let us know.

Good night beautiful people.

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This is Vanessa

Don't let the sweet look she wears in the photo fool you. She is tough and ridiculously, inappropriately funny and probably the most bad ass person I know. She is also the luckiest unlucky person you will ever meet and, if I was ever stuck anywhere sketchy and needed someone to fight my way out with, she would be one of the top people on my list.

I met Vanessa when she was a few days old. I was about three and shortly before her birth, my family moved in next door. I'm not sure if I actually remember her parents holding her up to the window when they brought her home from the hospital, or whether I've imagined I remember it because it is one of my grandmother's favourite stories about Vanessa (our parents are still neighbours).

There are certain things I know are my own memories:
  • Trying to swing like mini-tarzans off her parent's deck, using the branches of a poor weeping willow tree (much to her parent's displeasure) when, inevitably, Vanessa would fall flat on her back and knock the wind out of herself ... 
  • One morning, waiting for the school bus, when Vanessa decided to use a plank of wood perched across a small icy puddle as a tight rope, only to fall in right as the bus arrived ... 
  • Smuggling water balloons on the school bus (we were about twelve years old) and throwing them at high school students (we were caught and hell reigned down) ... 
  • Making 'soup' out of left overs from her mother's garden ... 
Mostly I can remember long, lazy days of being young and naive, of riding our bikes up and down the alley way, protecting the lilacs from being picked and making stink weed perfume (we actually tried to sell it). I remember going out early in the morning and playing until my grandmother's voice would call me home across the dimming, lilac-scented evening. It wasn't all perfect - we also fought like crazy people but we were always, always friends.

Over the last half a year, Vanessa has been living and traveling through various parts of South America. She's worked in Costa Rica and wandered through everywhere from Nicaragua to Peru. Early on in her journey, a scorpion crawled up the leg of her trousers and stung her ass (unfortunately her Spanish wasn't great at the time so she had trouble communicating her uncomfortable predicament, or the reason she was hopping around without pants on) and a bit later, a spider decided to make it's home in her ear and had to be extracted by a doctor. Sometimes her unlucky trials actually turn out to be lucky - a few days ago she was driving through the deserts of Peru and her van broke down. As a result, she was diverted from being smack in the middle of the earthquake that recently rocked Chile.

I've learned a lot from keeping track of Vanessa's Facebook page and from the infrequent emails and messages we've exchanged. She is so good natured, so willing to accept that she can't control everything around her and as a result, she lives with an inspiring amount of joy. I hope she won't mind me sharing a recent email she sent me. The next time I travel, I'm going to print this off and carry it around in my pocket. Every time things don't work out exactly as I want and I feel a tantrum coming on, I'm going to read it and try to be a little bit more like the lovely Vanessa:

Subject: Dear Shipping God


Well I am now in Ecuador after a nice little plane tour of Colombia. Shane [her brother] and I booked the cheapest tickets we could find to get us to Cali Colombia - which is just a short 10 hour bus ride from the Ecuadorian border.

We flew into Cartagena at about 11:30 at night - went to a great hostel for the night. We wandered around the city in the morning before our 12 noon flight to Bogota. If I ever get a chance I would love to spend more time in Cartagena it was great. In Bogota we only had a three hour lay over so we didnt want to leave the airport. But, we found a great place for a drink - Bogota Beer Company - it´s a micro brew place in Colombia and two of the beers reminded me and my bro of Bushwakker beer - a red and black and Cheryl´s Blond ale. What a nice surprise.

We flew into Cali around 5pm and went to a great party hostel. Cali has a super intense nightlife - especially if you like to salsa.

The next day we began to make our way to Ecuador. We travelled about 26 hours in a bus but it wasnt that bad. If the bus stopped everyone had to be super careful because if they decide the coffee/bathroom break is over... the bus leaves with or without you! The bus rides were routinely stopped by police and the military where we would have to get off the bus men on one side women on the other and they would ID us and search our bags. It was slightly strange at first but we got used to it.

We got into Guayaquil at around midnight on Sunday. We had to rush to get here because our van that we shipped from Panama was scheduled to be here Monday. That´s when things got messy....

Ben and Jess the other two that are travelling in the van took a different route through Colombia. Right as they were boarding their bus in Bogota their bag with their passports got stolen. They are now stuck in Bogota waiting to get temporary passports. Shane and I are here trying to figure out what we can do for the van. The van´s title is with Ben - and his name is on it - so he needs to be the one to pick it up from the port. The van can only be on the port up to 6 days after it gets there .. or else we arent really sure I'm assuming large storage fees... all I know is that when we shipped the van the company said - whatever you do dont let your van sit more than 6 days on the port in Guayaquil....we all laughed at the time because we all knew that we would be here right on time....ha ha ha - what a mess.

But on the bright side my Spanish is improving like crazy - I have had to talk our way out of a lot of problems at the borders and now this - the more Spanish you know the less bribes you have to pay.
Shane and I are working on the 'Case of the Astro Van' here but we are still having a great time. This place has super cheap food and in the centre of the city they have an iguana park. It´s free and you walk in and there are huge iguanas just walking around climbing trees... there arent any cages they are free to walk all over the place. There was also a tortoise and a lot of turtles. One guy tried to eat a banana in the park and these large iguanas ran over and started crawling on him - I would have freaked out - he had scratches but that was it.

Hope all is well and I will keep you updated on when we ´free the astro¨¨

Lots of Love,
I can't wait to see her again. Stay safe lady!

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Valentine's Day

We were lazy and slept in. Dan surprised me with champagne and chocolate and I made 'love stew' (beef stew with lots of red wine and yorkshire puddings) for dinner. Lovely, relaxing, perfect.


Hope everyone feels loved today.

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I'm not sure how I missed Tavi. She's a thirteen year old geek from Chicago and she's obsessed with fashion - not in the celebrity, Le Chateau rip-off wanna be way but in this really earnest, creative, not-afraid-to-be-weird way.

It's hard not to fixate on the fact that she's thirteen, because she is so far removed from how I was at that age - how most people were/are. The most marked difference is how brave she is. Yes, the fashionistas love her and have christened her this season's mascot, but from some of her posts, I get the sense that her classmates don't appreciate her unique spirit in the same way. Their reaction when she dyed her hair blue:

Why'd you dye your hair? BECAUSE I HATE BLUE HAIR.
Did you know your hair is blue? WHAT?! IT IS??! NOBODY INFORMED ME OF THIS!
Well aren't you a little badass/rebel! FIND A BETTER LOCATION THAN THE LIBRARY TO TELL ME THIS.
Sadly no funny analogies today! Come ON kids, put your brains to work and deliver the goods next time! Luckily this stuff will be in for a couple months so get your brains to work.
Not that Tavi needs advice from me, but if she did, or if I could talk to myself at the tender age of thirteen: I would like to tell you it gets easier and people get nicer as you get older, but it's really not true. Some people get a life and stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and whether they are conforming, and others never do. If you're lucky they'll be honest enough to be bitchy to your face and if you're not, they'll do shit behind your back (usually not very subtly). There are always going to be mean girls and boys. An unfortunate truth. Most of them are insecure and unhappy, but some of them are just mean and bored or stuck in a pond they don't like. The good news is that as an adult, you generally have a greater ability to avoid the bitches - unlike in school which pretty much has you stuck with the same kids five days a week. Hopefully, with age the filter gets a little better and you stop letting the scum get right up close to you. The water is a little clearer.

Tavi dies her hair silver and blue and wears odd things that don't look conventionally beautiful and writes her blog and does her thing. I'm sure the meanies get to her (including the lurkers who post mean shit anonymously on the internets) but she strikes me as stubbornly and uniquely herself, which occasionally means being a bit of a freak.

I am turning 32 this week (32!!) and I could learn a lot from her. Fuck the haters. I'm flying my Tavi flag.

Both images from the Tavi website.

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After a stressful, cold (for London) winter, we've made a pact to get in shape before our lives are turned upside down (this time in a good way) in the spring. For me, it's not so much about being svelte and I certainly don't have any illusions of being waifish. I love good food, good wine and my life is far too full of wonderful things to waste too much time comparing myself against the likes of Kate Bosworth. Besides, I like my hips and my boobs and I like that, even in the dark, no one would mistake my body for anything other than that of a woman. My new fashion idol these days is Christina Hendricks, the red haired actress who plays Joan Holloway in Mad Men. Good god that woman is hot.

Right, we were talking about running. The thing is, when I actually make a point of doing it on a regular basis, I really love running. I like being outside, I like turning up peppy/poppy music on my iPod and letting it propel me forward. When it's really good, it feels almost like dancing. My adrenaline level goes up and I feel like I could run forever. So today, for the first time in a good two months, I went for a run and it hurt and my lungs felt like they were on fire. A few months ago, I was at the point where I could do my 2 km at a decent pace without stopping much to catch my breath. Today I was pretty much back at square one - huffing and puffing and trying to bargain with myself - "OK, just run to the end of that block, then you can walk for a minute!"

Not fun, but strangely, still rewarding. So I have made a pact with myself to go between three and four times a week and keep this up until I have my easy 2 km back. Awhile back I bought a Nike + Kit for my iPod. It gives me the little bit of extra motivation I need and I really like getting back to see a graphical representation of my run. How far I went, how fast, how many calories. Back when I was going more regularly, I loved hearing the Nike + voice tell me, "Congratulations! That was your best time!"

About five years ago, I took Krav Maga with my friends Carrie and Jackie (pictured with me at the top of this post). For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Krav Maga is essentially Israeli street fighting and it's one of the strands of training done by the Israeli army. It's hard core, even in my little Canadian prairie town. I remember feeling like I would die during those first weeks of classes. I simultaneously felt like I might pass out or vomit, all while wishing a little that someone would render me unconscious so that it wouldn't hurt anymore and so that god damned Richard (our instructor) would stop yelling at me to go harder and faster. Our knuckles bled and we were black and blue, but we kept going back and eventually, it didn't hurt as much (except for the knuckles, those always hurt). And we were motivated by the fact that we felt strong and empowered and like we could quite likely kick the ass of any idiot stupid enough to try anything - or at least kick his ass long enough to run away.

In one class our instructor taught us what to do if someone was choking us - how to get away. It involved a quick twist, an elbow to our attackers face and a quick knee in the balls. For weeks we went around saying, "Come on, grab my neck!" to friends so we could demonstrate the technique, sometimes with not a lot of success. It was fun and challenging and we all loved it, even the inevitable stiffness the day after hard workouts, which we would whine about over brunch.

Being healthy shouldn't be a chore and it makes me sad how many people (usually women) feel they need to starve themselves to feel acceptable. Admittedly, I've had a pretty bad winter health-wise. I haven't been sick, but I haven't been taking care of myself the way I should. I don't feel strong and I want that back.

So my fitness goal over the next six months isn't to loose a certain amount of weight or fit into a smaller dress size. I want to feel like I can run forever.

Images of Christina Hendricks from here and here.

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Busy Little Bee

We just got back from Val D'Isere, France on Saturday night - more on that another time (oh the stories!). It hasn't been all fun and games though. When I'm not at my full time job, here are some of the things I've been spending my time on:

We've been tooling away at this little project and although sometimes it's hard to make time for it, I genuinely think it's an interesting little online space. I was really excited when the amazing Cory Doctorow linked to one of my posts on the wonderful Boing! Boing!, resulting in thousands of hits to the page. I'll admit that I was a bit star struck (Cory Doctorow said, "Amy sez!!!" OH. MY.).

Anyhow, here are links to some recent posts by me:

Lost and Looking is a project I came up with because I find the Missed Connections posts on Craig's List to be heartbreaking, sad and hopeful all at the same time. I am also trying to take more photos and push myself a little bit in terms of what I am photographing. The goal is to post one image a day to loosely correspond to a Missed Connection post from the previous day. You can learn more about it here, follow along on Twitter or join the Facebook group. Oh, and this was my first experience buying and figuring out how to use my own domain name. Yay me!

I am currently working with a fantastic group of people to bring Ignite London #2 to this wonderful city. The first one was amazing - great speakers, a supportive, capacity crowd and a wonderful venue partner in Ginglik. The next Ignite London will be held on Tuesday, March 2nd at The Luminaire to coincide with Global Ignite Week. O'Reilly has managed to get people from six continents and 60 cities involved and are expecting 600+ talks and over 10,000 people to be involved. There's even one being held in Antarctica!

It is pretty cool to be involved in this kind of global event. I also love the sense that we're all working towards creating this great experience together, though in some cases we are located hundreds of thousands of miles away from one another. We are currently accepting proposals from speakers (until February 9th) and will be releasing information on tickets within days - along with the launch of a new website and an announcement about some pretty fantastic speakers we've already confirmed. If you want to follow along, visit the Ignite London website or follow us on Twitter.

Last, but nicest, is that we're getting married this spring. Neither of us are fussy wedding people and we're just going to do something very small with a few very close friends and family. I really never thought I was the marrying kind, but I'm excited about this - not the wedding itself but being married to this particular, quirky, kind, wonderful man.


Those are the highlights, crammed in between a week in the French Alps and obsessive reading of the Steig Larsson Millennium trilogy. I've got a few things up my sleeve yet and have been doing a little bit of freelance work for some lovely companies in my homeland. It's not perfect and sometimes I feel a little overrun, but as the days stretch longer and it gets a little brighter outside, the only word that feels really appropriate right now is, swoon!

How has your January been? Are you working on anything you are proud of? I'd love to hear about it.

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