Monday, June 11, 2018

Emeco 1006

This is not just a chair. It is the the Emeco 1006 Navy Chair, and it has a storied history.

Originally built for US Navy warships during World War II, the Emeco 1006 (pronounced ten-oh-six) found a second life as a designer chair used in high-end restaurants and by interior designers.

The story of Emeco and its famous chair is told in episode 310 of 99% Invisible. I found it fascinating.

Listen to the podcast.

Or read the transcript.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Berghain tragedy

Creative Commons image sakena on Flickr
Today, when surfing for city travel information, I stumbed across a reference to Berghain, Berlin's famed but unpublicized techno nightclub.

Where have I been living, under a rock? I spent 5 weeks in Berlin, and thought I had researched all the city had to offer, including off-the-beaten-track places and activities. But this place never hit my radar. Upon reflection, it's not really surprising. Not into the drug scene or clubbing, I am more plain vanilla than I like to admit to myself.

I was fascinated, half wishing I'd known about it, so I could have gone, but quickly tossing that aside with knowledge that I'd probably not make it in. I may be able to act bored and non-chalant, but at my core I am naive and wear deception on my face. I can't tell a lie, pull off a prank, or hide a secret - my face gives me away. Not that it bothers me ~ integrity runs deep in my veins, and I have no desire to lie or deceive anyways. So it's not a problem, per se. But I wouldn't have made it across the threshold.

But still, I was curious, and started to write a blog post (not this one). As I was collecting stories and links to augment my post, I came across one story from last month that stopped me dead in my tracks.

It was a story about an overdose death at the club. Sadly, not a rare thing these days, but the subheading caught my eye:
Deafening Silence After Overdose at Berghain - During an around-the-world trip last summer, a couple from California visited Berlin's legendary Berghain techno club. A few hours later, one of them was dead. Even today, no one seems willing to accept responsibility for the tragedy.
I immediately thought of all the travel bloggers trekking the world these days, especially those younger and more carefree than me, chasing excitement and experiences that I can't even imagine. Sometimes I worry about them, so this story just brought that all into focus for me.

The story is on Spiegel, which I appreciate for its thorough coverage of stories, its willingness to go down rabbit holes, to question the unexplained, and to expose loose ends that can't be neatly tied up.

Read it, I suggest.

For me, I think this is going to be on my mind for awhile...

RIP Jennifer.

Monday, May 14, 2018


The "before" -  the former Bell Labs corporate campus 

Today I learned a new word: metroburb.


It's probably not in any dictionary yet, but perhaps its time will come, if more corporate campuses are reborn like Bell Lab's.

If you're not familiar with corporate campuses, they are huge purpose-built structures designed to hold all of an organization's staff under one roof. I've been to a few, including a number of visits to the a certain big box supplier's campus in Minneapolis (think a great big yellow tag). So specific are the designs that its hard to imagine a new use once the the corporate giants have downsized, decentralized or disappeared.

Architect Eero Saarinen designed more than one of these properties, including Bell Lab's monstrosity in Holmdel, New Jersey, USA.

Developer Ralph Zucker had a rather brilliant vision for what the building could become, creating one of his "metroburbs", the word he uses to create each "metropolis in suburbia" transformation of such spaces. The result, in this case named Bell Works, features offices, co-working spaces, retail, restaurants, meeting spaces and a library. A hotel and residential developments are to come.

In A New Urbanist Developer Gives Saarinen a Reboot, CityLab describes the vision and the outcome well. It's a good read. Check it out.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Review: A Higher Loyalty

I thoroughly enjoyed this book by the recently departed FBI Director.

Although I expected to be intrigued by the most recent goings on (his firing, and the fallout), I was actually more engaged when listening to his personal and professional life up to that point.

I found the insights into how the FBI works fascinating, while I founds insights as to how DC works (or doesn't) even more bizarre than I expected.

Most importantly, I found James Comey to be honest and credible. He is a man of strong convictions ~ and I liked them. Mostly, I believe him, and have no doubt as to the lack of integrity of the fool that fired him.

Friday, May 04, 2018

A quarterly box for your cat

Torn between laughing and something bordering on outrage. Well, not quite, but how dense an companies get?

But your cat will like the box...
Creative Commons image chromewaves on Flickr 

A travel magazine has added a whole new feature, launched with great excitement: a quarterly subscription box, that for a mere $89 a quarter - or choose the $39/month option - plus tax (of course), you get your magazine (separate subscription) in a box full of consumer goods meant to inspire you to travel. Free shipping! WTF?!?! Like this makes sense?

$350 a year can go a long way towards a vacation.

It's certainly not green: that box filled with fancy pasta made in Italy, along with gourmet olive oil, some one-of-a-kind wooden spatula (lovely, I'm sure), a little just-add-water herb garden and a boring (or exciting) scarf won't just sprout wings and fly.

Yes, I am a travel agent, and yes, I help people burn jet fuel to hop around the globe... the contradiction is not lost on me.

But here's what I'm thinking:

What a waste of money and resources.

Why not 'sell' contributions to micro-loans or give-a-family-a-goat or literacy abroad? Send me a story about who is being helped. Maybe fund an annual draw for a trip to a village helped? Or something both innovative and inspiring?

Just getting people to give their credit card (on a non-secure webpage no less), contributes nothing to the greater good.

It doesn't get the subscriber any closer to their travel dreams; rather it adds to consumer debt (for many).

It's madness.

PS. Looking for an image to put with this post, I tried 'carrier pigeon'.. and stumbled across a service that will actually carry a letter part way by bird - delivering it to the postal service to take it the rest of the way (along with a pigeon certification). It's called Pigeongram. More here.

Monday, April 30, 2018

WOW Air's Dream Job for 2

WOW Air is hiring for a dream job for 2. Is that you?

WOW Air is looking for a person - and their "best friend" - to visit some of the airline's 38 destinations around the world and document their travels in a digital guide. The job is just 3 months long. You will be paid, will be given an apartment in Reykjavik and, no doubt, will work your ass off!

Application deadline: May 14

Travel Guides announced: May 18
Start Date: June 1, 2018

Considering the "winners" will be announced a mere 4 days after the application deadline, your video application is going to need to be good! They are looking for you to show off your hometown, so get to work!

Where you'll report for work on Day 1
Want the job? Key links:
Now hiring for the world's best summer job
Travel Guide Job Details & Application Process
YouTube Video

Dream Job Alert: WOW Air Wants to Pay You to Move to Iceland and Travel the World - Mental Floss
Dream job alert: Airline will pay you to travel around the world - Good Morning America

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: Priceless - How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures

As an art lover, I have always been fascinated by stolen art and forgeries. Who did it? Why? How? Where is the work now? Is it hanging on some rich person's wall? (and who does that anyway?!?!). Is it stuffed in a garage somewhere? Did someone stash it somewhere and then die? Can it be covered before it is destroyed and lost forever?

FASCINATING STUFF. If this interests you as much as me, you'll probably enjoy Priceless. It was pretty interesting to learn about how major heists were resolved. It was freaky to learn about works almost recovered and then the opportunity lost due to turf wars and egos. Regardless, listen and you will travel the world in pursuit of lost treasures.

The book was written as a memoir, so it includes the background as to how the FBI's first art sleuth got to his post, which was not what I might have imagined.

It was heartening to learn that the priority was on recovering works first, and catching the bad guys second.

It was equally disheartening to hear about how the art crimes division would fall out of favour, and an intelligent and dedicated agent would be bounced around supervisors that didn't get or appreciate art. But all in all, interesting tales, and a good listen for art and mystery lovers.

Friday, April 13, 2018

A Merchant's Wife Teatime

I love discovering a new artist. Or a new-to-me artist.

Today it was Boris Kustodiev.

I stumbled across Kustodiev's work, A Merchant's Wife Teatime, when I was searching online for a picture of watermelon seeds! Thank you Google.

Boris Mikhaylovich Kustodiev (1878-1927) was a Russian painter, book illustrator and stage designer. If I have seen his art before, it didn't connect with me, as some of it is quite traditional.

But this image caught my eye. The colours, her rich robes, the cat... how WONDERFUL it is!!

Below are a few other works of his that I like.

Boris Mikhaylovich Kustodiev - Wikipedia

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Podcast: Ologies

I have posted before about ologies on my blog (read that ologies post here)... so I was interested to find that there is now a blog named Ologies.

I've subscribed, but not listened yet, but thought I'd post it here, before I forget.

Ologies Podcast - on iTunes
Ologies Podcast blog - Alie Ward
@ologies - on Twitter

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The secret on page 101

Great story on As It Happens tonight, and it reminded me of something from my Kamloops days...

This story reminded me of something my mother used to do, when she worked as the "book doctor" at the Kamloops library in the 60's and 70's.

Part of her job was to put the library's rubber stamp on page 101 of every book. If the book was shorter, the stamp went on page 51.

I think it had something to do with people stealing books, then saying it wasn't the library's, that it was a book they owned. As I write that now, it seems illogical, because if that was the case, why would the thief even appear at the library with said book?

Maybe there are librarians out there that know more about this.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Review: The Hunger Games

I bought The Hunger Games not knowing what to expect, but encouraged by the reviews. I don't often read fantasy, so it's not a category I usually consider, but there was an Audible special, so it was a good time to try something new.

Right from the beginning, I enjoyed the characters and the narration was good. I forgot that I was reading/listening, and just disappeared into the book. The premise was so far from anything I could imagine, there wasn't much opportunity to think about what things meant, or what might happen next. The story clipped along, and what happened next was always a surprise.

I did like how the advanced technology and capabilities of the powers to be were slowly revealed, and I liked the juxtaposition of almost primitive conditions played off the surreal.

I accomplished nothing on my weekend, except drawing while I listened, until I was finished. Total escape, but not so good if you have things to do!

I gather this was #1 in a series (it ended with many unanswered questions), so I'm sure I'll partake of the series. Though will save the next one until I can afford to listen non-stop.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Review: Code Girls

Code Girls break the code

Code Girls is an excellent "read" and I'm glad I didn't pass it up.

Creative Commons peskylibrary on Flickr
My mom worked in Communications in WWII (though on the Canadian side of the border), so was always curious about what she really did. There were many parallels with the story of the women in this book, which I enjoyed.

Regardless, it's a fascinating story. The lives these women led, and the very real contribution they made ~ for which they were never recognized ~ made for a good book. The details on how they broke the codes - and how complex they were - largely kept my attention. As I read other reviews before I purchased, I intentionally did not try to keep the women straight, and it was fine.

For the last 1/3 of the book, I was falling asleep with it at night, and although I set the sleep timer, I kept needing to rewind. As a result, I felt the same stories were being told over and over again... I don't know how much of that was repetition, and how much was my dozing off. But the end of the book wrapped up well. Very insightful.

See the great pictures on author Liz Mundy's website

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


I stumbled across this innovativc company today, making a dofference... and allowing others to do the same. Check it out.

Artisan Box Subscription

Every month, GlobeIn brings the world to you in our signature handwoven basket, filled with heart and soul. The soul of craft and of far-away lands; the soul of our artisans, their cultures and the hours of work they’ve put into their creations. What you receive in the mail every month isn’t just a basket; it’s a treasure chest connecting you to the palm trees of Sri Lanka, the sugar cane fields of the Philippines and the desert sun of western India.


It’s our passion to discover extraordinary, useful finds from all over the globe and share them with you. Our shop features products sourced from direct relationships with artisans as well as vetted partner organizations. From Mexican woven baskets to Ghanaian coasters, each handcrafted good we share with you is remarkably distinct.

Social Good

We are dedicated to supporting artisans from around the world and in developing countries where, after agriculture, artisan goods are the second largest source of employment. By supporting us, you help reduce poverty by giving these artisans and their communities, a global audience. To help you connect with our gifted artisans, every month we highlight one artisan or artisan collective and ask you to crowd-fund their special project.

Creative Commons images 577 on Flickr

GlobeIn website
GlobeIn blog
@globein_world - GlobeIn on Twitter
GlobeIn on Facebook

More from GlobeIn

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Yes, I'm an introvert

Yes I am an introvert.

Yes I am shy.

Yes I am sometimes antisocial.

No I’m not stuck up. I’m listening and I’m observing.

I can’t stand small talk but I’ll talk about my interests for hours with anyone who will listen.

I’d rather be at home with a close friend or two than among a big crowd of acquaintances.

Don’t scold me in public.

Don’t embarrass me in public.

Respect that I’m reserved.

If I open myself up to you know that means you’re very special to me.

- unknown, from the Introverts are Awesome Facebook page

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Jay Cross

It's been 9 years since I was totally immersed in the learning and development world, and aside of the occassional reflection on now being an elearner (vs creating the stuff), so I rarely think of all the people I used to follow in the industry. In scrolling through my old blog posts tonight, looking for something, I arrived at the beginning, in 2003, and my first posts. I posted a lot about learning and elearning in those days. My curiosity was sparked, and decided to see what one of the more delightful thought leaders was writing about these days: Jay Cross.

What I learned is that Jay passed away in 2015. I'm sorry to hear this. He really contributed a lot, and shaped much of the dialog of the day, so I am sure he is missed.

I met him a couple of times, at conferences, and attended some sessions with him. Always thought provoking, and down to earth. Jay was huge advocate of informal learning, while the industry was going crazy with structured learning.

Jay's Informal Learning Chart
View full size high quality image

Perhaps what I remember most, and loved, were Jay's observations about the world around him. After each conference he would post photos of odd moments and unusual discoveries he encountered. He always made me think.

RIP Jay.

An Industry Remembers Jay Cross

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Why truth matters

Peter Mansbridge's acceptance speech when presented with a lifetime achievement award, standing up against fake news and attacks on journalism. Well said Peter.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Farewell Stephen Hawking

It almost seems like he planned it, Stephen Hawking died on Pi day, the day Albert Einstein was born...3.14.…
@Kilderok on Twitter

It's not the only remarkable date in Hawking's life: he was born on Jan. 8, 1942 ― the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death.

Reading the Huffington Post's extremely well written story on the passing of Stephen Hawking, I was struck by how his brilliance was hidden by the very things we (society) criticize youth for:
  • "Hawking was an indifferent student, preferring to spend his time playing board games and tinkering with computers."
  • "He rarely attended lectures and has said that he spent only 1,000 hours on studies during his three years at Oxford, or just an hour a day."
Hawking was given just 2 years to live while he was still a student. An excerpt from the same article:

During a symposium at Cambridge on his 70th birthday, Hawking reflected on how much he struggled to stay motivated after his diagnosis. "Why work so hard for a Ph.D. when you could be dead in two years?"

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet,” he said. “Try to make sense of what you see and about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

Hawking's book, A Brief History of Time, was published in April 1988 and shot him into the limelight. Both a Newsweek magazine cover and a television special described him as "Master of the Universe".

Hawking travelled extensively to promote his work, and reportedly enjoyed partying and dancing into the small hours.

But his schedule left him little time for work and his students, and some colleagues were resentful of the attention Hawking received, feeling it was due to his disability. I personally find this both sad and disturbing.

A Brief History of Time sold an estimated 9 million copies. And, no, I have not read it (yet)...


  • Hawking reportedly declined a knighthood.
  • On 28 June 2009, as a tongue-in-cheek test of his 1992 conjecture that travel into the past is effectively impossible, Hawking held a party open to all, complete with hors d'oeuvres and iced champagne, but publicised the party only after it was over so that only time-travellers would know to attend; as expected, nobody showed up to the party.
  • At the release party for the home video version of the A Brief History of Time, Leonard Nimoy learned that Hawking was interested in appearing on Star Trek. Nimoy made the necessary contact, and Hawking played a holographic simulation of himself in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1993.
  • Also in 1993, Hawking's synthesiser voice was recorded for the Pink Floyd song "Keep Talking".

Hawking's website
Stephen Hawking collected news and commentary - The New York Times
Iconic Physicist Stephen Hawking Dies At 76 - Huffington Post

Monday, March 05, 2018

Vexatious litigant

Love it when I hear a word or phrase on the radio or a podcast that is new to me. Today it was "vexatious litigant". The context was a new story about a woman being declared a vexatious litigant. I wasn't really listening to the story, so the details didn't register, but the term did. Google certainly did help me, as I couldn't have guessed the spelling.



1 Causing or tending to cause annoyance, frustration, or worry.
‘the vexatious questions posed by software copyrights’

1.1 Law Denoting an action or the bringer of an action that is brought without sufficient grounds for winning, purely to cause annoyance to the defendant.
‘a frivolous or vexatious litigant’
‘No man, let alone a vexatious litigant, has a vested right to bring or continue proceedings which are an abuse of the process of the court.’

Source: Oxford Living Dictionaries

 'Wasteful' B.C. woman who 'wouldn't take no for an answer' in court banned from suing opponents - the CBC story that started my investigation this morning

My choice of Oxford for my source today is not random. I've recently started listening to the Audible version of "The Professor and the Madman" by Simon Winchester, which tells the very remarkable story behind the Oxford Dictionary.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Review: The Girl from Krakow

I just finished this book, listening on Audible, and can definitely recommend it.

Only towards the end of the book I started wondering about the book's title, because she wasn't actually from Krakow. Poland, yes, but not Krakow. Thanks to Alex Rosenberg's unexpected storyline, I was satisfied to understand by the end.

What an engaging story, and a character so well developed, I was sure she was real. World War II from the perspective of a Jewish woman who survived, in the open, in a disguise of her own creation, was remarkable. An interesting book on so many levels, with stories from Barcelona to Moscow built in. The loves and losses of Rita were brought to life through Michael Page's excellent narration.

Alex Rosenberg - the author's website

Thursday, February 15, 2018

BIG list of museum podcasts

I stumbled across a great blog post the other day, essentially a collection of podcasts by museums around the globe. Whether you're preparing to visit a particular museum, are a podcast-addict or just live a curious life, Hannah Hethmon's hard work collecting all these podcasts, is sure to please.

Hannah Hethmon's BIG list of museum podcasts
Every Museum Podcast in One Big List
My own podcast about Icelandic museums, Museums in Strange Places, has given me the chance to see “behind-the-curtain” in so many amazing museums, and if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that museums are leaving so many of their most human and compelling stories untold. Since it’s through podcasting that I’ve discovered these stories, I started to wonder how museums around the world were using podcasting to have a more intimate platform for telling stories and engaging their audience. To that end, I scoured all the podcasting platforms and reached out to the Twitterverse and Facebook groups to compile the most complete list of podcasts by museums on the internet. 
How the List is Organized (and Who I Left Off)  
I’ve divided the podcasts I’ve found into history museums, science and natural history museum, art museums, and a category for mixed-interest and other museums that don’t fit in the previous groups... [continue reading Every Museum Podcast in One Big List].

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train was the first Audible book that I was left feeling that I probably wouldn't have enjoyed as much by physically reading it.

I found the voices of the characters (nice job by the 3 narrators) carried me along, each drawing me into their inner world, and their lens on the story. As it was revealed, anyways. Just like if you were thinking about your day, you'd leave obvious stuff out, because it just IS, the unsaid hung around, waiting to be revealed. Then, ah, the penny would drop... that's what happened there.. and another piece of the puzzle fell into place.

I admit to being more intrigued at the start, when so much was unclear, than later as things became more grisly, but overall, a good story.

A good listen. I'll be on the lookout for Paula Hawkins' other books. Skillful narration by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Sickle-cell anaemia

I knew Floyd had a medical condition that, despite his appearance of robust health, could and would see him land in the hospital for very long stretches. I recall that he needed to carry an epi-pen-like device, and also that he did not seem worried at all. I remember asking what I (as a co-worker) needed to know, and he would smile, chuckle and tell me not to worry. I understood this to be a philosophy of living fearlessly in the moment, as opposed to recklessness. I also remember him once telling me that his treating hospital said he had the thickest medical file of all patients they treated. So as shocking as his death was, I knew there were underlying issues.

I have been trying to remember what that was, and found the answer in a comment in FB RIP's: sickle-cell anaemia.
Sickle-cell disease (SCD) is a group of blood disorders typically inherited from a person's parents. The most common type is known as sickle-cell anaemia (SCA). It results in an abnormality in the oxygen-carrying protein haemoglobin (haemoglobin S) found in red blood cells. This leads to a rigid, sickle-like shape under certain circumstances. Problems in sickle cell disease typically begin around 5 to 6 months of age. A number of health problems may develop, such as attacks of pain ("sickle-cell crisis"), anemia, swelling in the hands and feet, bacterial infections, and stroke. Long term pain may develop as people get older. The average life expectancy in the developed world is 40 to 60 years... [continue reading on Wikipedia].

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Reflections on the passing of Floyd (RIP)

I find myself trying to get a little perspective today. It has been a roller coaster of emotion these past few days. Tremendous grief and shock to learn if Floyd's passing. How is it that the warmest, kindest, most positive man with the BIGGEST HEART has a heart attack? And how is it possible that this vibrant, strong and vivacious man relied on life support to stay alive? It is hard to imagine him just going quietly when his family made thr difficult decision to take him off life support... How did that huge, generous heart cease to pulse? He touched sooooo many people. Hearts were breaking everywhere.

The only way I can make sense of it is to believe that Floyd was put on this earth to shine his bright smile, spirit and optimism to everyone he met, so that they would know it is possible to live like he modelled.

In between episodes of weeping, I have been inspired in so many ways.

Floyd passed on my birthday eve, at the end of a day when I had started feeling blue and moping about turning 59. Well, that didn't last long. I am devastated that someone as young and full of life as Floyd could be gone so fast. It's true, the good do die young.

My perspective flipped to being thrilled to turn 59. Holy shit, look how far I made it!!

It doesn't feel surface, it feels deep. Rather than weaken me and discourage me, I feel strengthened, with a new resolve.

Today I'm tired, looking around for a little of that passion, but its not so far away...

RIP Floyd ~ I feel so fortunate that you touched my life. I love you buddy.

Also: - Floyd's art
Black Vancouverites respond to question 'Where are you from?'

PS. My later blog post about sickle-cell anaemia

Sunday, January 28, 2018


My list... of the things I have experienced in the last 2 months:
2 dental surgeries
Weathered a financial crisis
Engaged in a battle in which I acted disgracefully
Was forgiven
Lost a gig
Gained a gig
Donned a dress I bought in Paris 8 years ago
Managed to get someone who hasn't spoken to me in 4-5 years to speak to me
Lost a friend, it shocked me to the core
Had a birthday

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review: Fire and Fury

Bizarre beyond words....

Glimpsing behind the veil of the Trump Whitehouse was a temptation I couldn't resist. I was aghast, I rolled my eyes, I gasped, and I laughed, but I did not cry. But if it was my country, I probably would have. Absolutely bizarre.

I now know more about The Donald than I ever wanted, or is good for my psyche. Knowing what has been going on in the inner circle at the helm of USA government is both entertaining and frightening. More of the latter.

The book itself was good, but you could tell it had been rushed into print (audio): rambling, repetitive in parts, jumping around... but it would mean less if it was honed for another month or two.

The narrator was ok, but in the last 1/4 of the book I keep falling asleep. Kind of strange in a riveting tale. I must say, it was equally bizarre to be listening at the same time as the outfall about the book was going on.

Interesting enough for political junkies and average folk.

• Interesting... fake news or real? Article claiming Obama will narrate an audio version

Friday, January 05, 2018

You just might find me training you...

Yeah, it's true. 

If you've ever thought of turning your love of travel into a flexible career where you are your own boss, join us to learn more (this is the team I am part of):
Vacation Consultant Information Session 
Expedia CruiseShipCenters Sidney
Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - 6:00-7:00 PM PST

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Seeking clarity

I am seeking clarity.

In a sense, nothing new in that. But I really am.

So many balls in the air, so many mixed emotions and issues, I have been living in the blur. But no more. I need to break things down. Put each thing in it's own tidy little corner. Look at them individually. I need to look at them in relationship to each other too, of course, but first, I need to divide and conquer.

I was inspired yesterday by someone I respect tremendously, posting the reality of their life in the last year. It was an 'oh wow' moment. We have no idea what people are going through.

What struck me most was how brutally honestly he described what depression does to you, and the dance between depression and grief.

I experience both. It's only recently that I came to realize that depression is present in my life again. I am well aware that grief is something I am living with, though I was 'surprised' to realize that on New Year's Eve it had only been 3 years since I lost my mom. So recent. Yet it feels like I've been living with it so long.

What struck me yesterday, after reading his post, was that I hadn't been trying to separate them out at all. I'd just been living in an overwhelmed state, and doing my best to get through it.

Or not doing my best.

But I was doing what I could.

Now, a bit of clarity, a sliver of light bringing things into focus, just a bit.

It's not just depression and grief, of course, why would things be that simple? It the continual adjustment to no longer living alone, being overwhelmed at work, losing my second source of income, my own personal issues intruding on my interactions with others, to the point of acting out (badly) and living with the fallout. Through in being beyond broke, and falling back into debt, and feeling grounded (aren't I supposed to be travelling the globe, without a care in the world?). It's noticing that I haven't really landed "here", not putting down roots, even not building relationships, as I haven't acknowledged myself, where I am. It's living in a sea of boxes, as I come up on 2 years in my apartment. It's making a stupid financial mistake and recovering from it by the skin of my teeth (try paying your bills from your bank account after your rent has come out... only to realize that it hadn't come out yet, and scrambling down to the $10 to cover the shortfall in the moment... now fixed, but geez, I've never done something like that).

I have signs all around me that I'm a mess. But I've been trudging through it, what, thinking it would change?

So, the post I read just gave me a fresh perspective on the difference between depression and grief, how they get intertwined, and what we need to do to slay each dragon. Hard go slay two dragons at once, unless you're superman, or superwoman... and heck, they are my dragons. I'd rather understand than slay. They calm down and lose their power when you look in their eyes, question them, and listen, and repeat.

I have had a few other themes relating to clarity going on this past week, as well as sources of inspiration to help shift my focus.

More to come...

Monday, December 25, 2017

Meaningless? No.

Mom and B in the Christmas spirit
People around me think that because I don't "celebrate" Christmas that it is meaningless to me. Not so. How could it be?
Growing up, like most kids, I loved Christmas. No religious context, but trees, gifts, stockings (I can still picture mine exactly), turkey, snow, skating in the backyard, and in later years, the arrival home of siblings to visit. At this moment, I am remembering Carol surprising us by coming home unannounced from Montreal, and me not recognizing her (fancy makeup, wig, white go-go boots...).
As a young adult, Christmas remained one of highlights of my year. Tree in my apartment. Xmas music. Walking to enjoy the lights. And I always came (went?) home, an important family time. 
Aside of the disastrous boyfriend breakup year, in which I agreed to hide my pain, there weren't many low points. The otherwise very nice bf I had been living with for a couple of years confessed that he had fallen in love with a co-worker, but could I please say nothing, as he didn't want my parents to think ill of him over the holidays. We still didn't know what we were going to do, so I naively agreed (I was, what, 22? 23? so young...). I left for the holidays while he spent a "trial" weekend with her (!). When he arrived at my parents house a few days later he told me, yup, that was it, they were in love, and I would need to move out. I can still see a picture of me, trying to put on a brave face, saying nothing, while my heart was breaking. In the end, they got married, had kids, and I moved on to eventually figure out who I was (and it wasn't the cookie baking, pork chop making homemaker I had been playing at). 
In the years that followed, perhaps in part to compensate, I became obsessive about Christmas, to the amusement (?) of my friends and co-workers, and to the point of becoming intolerable to my family. Totally overboard. If anyone who knew me then could see me now, they probably wouldn't believe it. 
By the time I faced issues that had been haunting me, and I went into therapy, the only way I could cope, and find my way through the mess, was to cut myself off from my family. No more trips home. I can't even remember when I stopped gift-giving and receiving. Maybe it was that first year, or later, but I found my way free by announcing to family that I was no longer "doing" Christmas, don't send me gifts, and I would give money to charity . Confused and baffled everyone, but I was in survival mode. I've kept that charity Christmas ritual to this day though. 
To say Christmas was a dark period for me would be an understatement. I hated the whole season, and Christmas Day was particularly painful. It was like I broke my own heart, but it was the only way I could break free, get in touch with issues, find my way through them, and begin to heal. In the process, I hurt family members who had nothing to do with the underlying issues at play. It's only recently that I've been acknowledging that.
That first Christmas on my own, I remember walking around the Stanley Park seawall ~ I still thought I should do something to mark the day ~ and being so sad and alone, walking amongst families at their happiest time of the year. Oops. That didn't become a ritual. 
I hated Christmas so much, and all the pain it evoked in me, that I would start to get tense by the time fall came around. Instead of enjoying autumn, I could feel the gloom setting in, dreading the next 4 months. Black. Dark. Painful. Unavoidable. Holding on until the whole damn season was over. Boxing Day was like freedom day for me, I'd made it through another year, and wouldn't feel the world pressing in on me. I could breathe.
My coping mechanisms changed over the years, for the most part settling on Hawaii as a better place to be, though I still had to cope with trees, carols and grocery stores that closed. The sun helped me too, as I eventually discovered I had S.A.D. and benefitted from the dose of sun. 
I can't remember when Christmas stopping being painful, or at least tolerable. But this non-celebration of the season just became the fabric of my life. I still didn't like trees, carols, lights and Merry Christmas wishes, but I tolerated them. At this point I think I fooled myself into thinking that Christmas was meaningless to me, but of course that wasn't so. 
The dynamic began to shift for me when Patti came to Greece in 2009 and we spent he month together, in Athens and Rhodes. Very gently, things started to become ok, such as the touches of Christmas that surrounded us. The lights were kind of pretty, and I enjoyed learning about how the local in Greece celebrated. And as it was still a special time for my sister, I experimented with breaking my own rules, suggesting that a small gift or two would be ok, and did we have any socks we could put to use? In the end, we sang, drank ouzo, picked up a few Greek trinkets, and I made Christmas dinner (!), though it was pasta. Nothing bad happened, and my heart started to melt a little. Imagine that. 
The timing was fortuitous, as it was in 2010 that I found myself living with mom, and creating Christmas for her. She didn't really "do" Christmas anymore, at least no tree, but a kind neighbour came every year to put up lights on the house for her. I learned her rituals, of inviting him and  his children in for hot chocolate when the lights were hung. This same family shovelled her snow and took the lights down again, so more hot chocolate. And so it came that I was actively involved the fabric of her life, including how she marked all the seasons.
At this point, mom's dementia meant she really didn't remember those difficult years (a blessing), so she took in the love and joy of her family, and enjoyed the little things. Her favourites were Christmas music (oh, how she loved music!), and all the lights. Mostly my sister made the season, and I played along, and it became easy to just be in the moment, and enjoy it all with her, and enjoy her enjoyment. Suddenly, it wasn't about me anymore, and I found myself listening to Christmas carols and enjoying the lights. I'd spent so many years pushing Christmas away, that I was surprised to find I didn't hate it anymore. Imagine that!
Eventually, as she slipped further away, she retained a childlike delight in carols, bells, lights and treats. Mom was so sweet in her later years, it was a joy to sing with her. Oh, what pangs of sadness it brings me in this moment to remember... I miss her so much. I cry. And I am reminded how much grieving I still have to do.
But, for today, I embrace mom's joy and love. I sing the way we would greet each on Christmas mornings, the same as we always had, the love stringing together the moments that matter. 
Today, I reflect, try to enjoy memories that don't make me cry, or not too much, appreciate my blessings, and avail myself of a few treats. I feel joy for those with their families, and compassion for those who are without. I am happy for the kids who must be delighted to ind snow when they awoke. 
I am especially appreciative of the love of both my brother and sister. There are just three of us now, and I cherish them. My brother still doesn't know what to make of my solitude at this time of year, as he's the opposite, but he puts up with his Scroogy sister and we'll connect at some point. There are times even I am tired of my aloofness, and how it must come off to my extended family, but this is me at the moment.
It's at times like this, when my sister is home with her daughter, that I get a bit of time to reflect and relax. And, for today, aside of a little writing to start my day, no heavy thinking. Just nuggets of happy memories, as I listen to Christmas music on CBC, and perhaps the crackle of the Shaw fireplace, putter in my home, eat a few treats, and pause. Maybe a Christmas movie or two, some drawing, a toast or two, a snooze or two, and just being. 
Merry Christmas to you.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Prevent heartless "eviction" at Woodwynn Farms


Premier John Horgan:
Lana Popham, Min. of Agriculture:
Judy Darcy, Min. Mental Health & Addictions:
Selina Robinson, Min. Municipal Affairs & Housing:
Carole James, Min. Finance:
Andrew Weaver, Leader, BC Green Party:
Rich Coleman, Interim Leader, BC Liberal Party:
Adam Olsen, MLA:
Central Saanich Mayor Council:

Please support Woodwynn Farms in everything they are trying to do.

Woodwynn Farms is heroically trying to provide a healing environment for people recovering from addiction and helping them get back on their feet. The opportunity provided - to work and contribute productively on the farm - is golden. Yet they are thwarted at every turn.

The lack of services to support people recovering from addiction is a huge problem in BC, at the same time there is a drug crisis and a housing shortage, is both shameful and tragic. The situation is appalling, and I expect better from all levels of government in BC.  

Without your support, the individuals recovering at Woodwynn Farms will slip through the cracks. Aside of miracles, it is very likely they will end up back on the street or dead. 

Woodwynn Farms is such a miracle.

Rather than try to find ways to shut them down ~ the latest by finding a loophole to "evict" residents from the roof over their heads ~ initiative should be enthusiastically supported. 

There are regulations to be considered? Get out your scissors and cut through the red tape. Ask yourselves what CAN be done, not what can't.

If the facilities are so risky, move mountains to fix the issue short term. 

Rent or buy a handfull of the RV's sitting idle for the winter. Poof, problem solved, at least for the short term. 

That's not reasonable? So BRAINSTORM until you can find another way to help. 

Collectively, you can make a difference if you want to. 

Roberta Westwood



If you want to write your own message, you can grab the mail addresses here:;;;;;;;;;

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: Bellevue Square

Oh, what a story. I couldn't put it down (yes, I still use that expression for an audiobook!). Lots of twists and turns. What happened next was always a surprise that I couldn't have anticipated.

The premise, that you have a doppelgänger out there, is clever.

The setting, in Toronto, in the present (legalization of pot coming soon), draws you in.

No wonder it won the Giller Prize!

I look forward to reading more by Michael Redhill.

I liked Sarah Mennell's narration.