Saturday, December 12, 2009

among the 18%

Current state: relaxed, and abnormally sleepy.
Admission: I've been this way since December First.

The Book:
-may have a title
-definitely has a cover photo
-is in a continual cycle of editing
-feels like a firstborn child
-should be printed & available by the beginning of February.

You can read the book: in February
You can ask me about the book: in February
Compare me to: a protective mother hen.
Current mood: whimsical. agitated.

(this is not the cover photo, but isn't it fun!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I AM FINISHED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Since I was a little dorky girl, dreaming dreams from my table in the library, I have wanted to call myself an author. And now, I can. As of 10something pm, this evening, when I uploaded my final word count (50,191) into the word counter, I got this on my screen:

...and you know what? I feel like I did.


Normally, I hate sentences that are typed in all caps. But today, I'm making the exception on the title. Because I literally am: ALMOST FINISHED!!!

Only 1393 words left baby....finish line, here I come!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

an invitation to you!

This month, as you probably know by now, I took it upon myself to participate in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, to the layperson. I started writing on November 4th with no outline and no concept of what my book (which was to be finished in under 30 days) was even going to be about. As I write this invitation, I am 3 days from my deadline and only 10,000 words from the end of my novel. I haven’t seen my friends in almost 30 days. The only thing on my calendar for nearly a solid month has been “Write!” I have ingested more espresso infused drinks in these 3.5 weeks than I have over my entire lifetime combined (don’t believe me? Just ask my innards, they are certainly noticing the diet change). My stomach is a constant ball of tension (will I make it?). In short, I will be pretty frickin ready to celebrate by the time this thing is actually over.

People keep asking me, “So, what do you win?” Well friends, I win that I wrote a novel in under 30 days. I think that’s a pretty sweet prize! Call me a dork, but filling up my word-goal chart with little gold stars has been oddly thrilling, and the anticipation I have for reaching that “50,000!” mark is growing daily. Three more days. (or, depending on when you read this, I could be finished already!)

My original goal was to have this NOVELIST! party the day after my “month” was over (Dec 1); however, the neglect I gave my schedule during the month of November has come back to bite me in the a** and booked my evenings up with a vengeance for the next three weeks. The only free night I have? December 5th.

I’ve chosen theSmall Ritual Coffee Society as the location for this event because this place has been Instrumental in helping me finish this book. Small Rituals is a community based, volunteer run, delightfully inspiring little coffee shop that’s opened up recently in White Rock. Think local art, live music, French pressed bliss.

So if you’re free and want a place to chill for the evening (while rubbing shoulders with an amateur novelist), please join me at the Small Ritual Coffee Society on Saturday, Dec 5 @ 7pm. Bring your friends, or a book to read, or your spouse, or your mother - it's gonna be pretty casual!

I’ll be the one wearing the NOVELIST! pin on my shirt front.

Ps – depending on the interest level, I may have “the book” available for perusal. It’s not finished yet, so that’s hard to think about. Ask me next week.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

i am woman, hear me swoon.

I admit it. I laughed with glee throughout this entire article... Preach it, sista! Ladies and Gentlemen, meet my new hero, Tara Hallam.(article featured in today's 24hr Vancouver newspaper)

(click on  article to enlarge)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

37,000 (words, silly)

I just wanted to proudly announce that I have just passed 37,000 words. Funny how this story just keeps going. Totally different ending than I expected, but hopefully with a little editing it will all make some sort of sense when it's finished.

13,000 words to go friends. That's IT. 13,000.

the goal is....reachable?

Wait a minute. I'm having a minor epiphany.

I've been reading over my tweets/blogs having to do with National Novel Writing Month; my progress reports, my rants of frustration...and I've realized: I'm still writing. The story has taken a direction I did not expect (it's true, even authors get to be suprised by their character's lives), but as different as it is, the story still hasn't ended. I find this remarkably encouraging.

No, really! I am actually in a little bit of awe right now, reading back over my " am I going to get past 10,000!?!?", knowing that actually, I not only passed 10,000 words, I pulverized that word mark; as I currently sit at over 32,000 words. I did not know, at that point just last week, that there were 22,000 more words left in me. But there were.

So, while I am tempted to pull my hair out at the thought that I am only at 32,000 - and very soon need to be at 50,000...I digress. Apparently, it is possible.

Monday, November 23, 2009

NaNoWriMo - Progress Report

Current word count: 28,658 (approx)
Days since I started this: 19
Days since I should have started this: 23

Days that I've actually spent writing: probably...12 or 13.
I feel: like I might have a stomach ulcer. No, really. (although I believe my crush is partially to blame)
I look forward to: The golden moment when I've dragged my haggard self over the 50,000 word mark.

Words left: approx 21,342
Days left: SIX, including today.
Realization: I have to write almost as many words as I wrote in 13 days, in only 6. Oy.
Please, I am begging you: don't talk to me until Dec 1. Unless you are wondering what time to drop the chocolate off on my doorstep.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

National Novel Frickin Writing Month - a frickin update


I've passed 24,000 words. Which is an accomplishment all on it's own (yay me!). But this novel project feels a bit like quicksand, and now that I'm knee deep in it, I realize I'm quite stuck here. Either I stay put (panicky feeling and all) and write even though I can't think of anything to write about...OR, I stay put and sit my cute butt down in the mud and give up.

In order to finish, I've got to get at least 12,000 words down in the next two days. Which still leaves me with 14,000 words for a very busy next week. Boo.

It might be counter-productive, but I think that I'm going to go for a walk to clear my head, unless it starts to rain while I'm straightening my hair.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

put your hands up

In grade one, I had a mad crush on the boy my mom babysat some days after school. His name was Jaime, and he was the cutest boy I had ever seen. Big brown eyes, big smile. And we were friends, too. And he came over to my house lots. On Valentines day, I even got up the courage to tell him how much I liked him on the big Valentine's Day card that had his name on it. Right before I gave it to him though, I got so nervous that I decided I didn't want him knowing, after all. So I took little pieces of paper and taped them over most of my words. Foolproof eh. I can still remember, to this day, what it looked like; it was a horrible tape job that practically screamed: LOOK WHAT'S UNDERNEATH! I also remember, quite distinctly, the feeling I had while I held that taped up little Valentine in my six year old hands in our crowded elementary school hallway: I would be so devastated if he knew and didn't like me back! As it turns out, the whole rest of the day him and his friend laughed everytime they saw me, and we weren't very good friends after that. He must've looked under the tape.

My next crush was in grade four; his name was Jeremy. He was the most popular boy in class and definitely the cutest. But he was dating Catherine, who just happened to be the prettiest girl in our grade. Catherine didn't like me very much, either, although I have a hard time believing that she liked anyone. By grade four I had already started to develop into the tall, lanky girl in the middle-back-row of class pictures. I was new that year too, so I didn't actually have that many friends. I remember playing with my cousin Stephanie sometimes, though she was a grade below me. I also remember my (now longest-time) friend Tyler, who was in my grade; he would talk to me sometimes, too. Other than that, I only remember a really hard year. One time, towards the end of the school year, most of my class was out in the field playing tag. Catherine called to me and told me I should play; I was so excited! This was the first time they'd ever invited me to do anything with them. I ran out to the field to join them; Catherine was it. "GO!" she yelled, and she started chasing me. I'd always been a reader, not an athlete, but I ran as fast as my spindly legs would carry me. To my suprise, Catherine wasn't catching up, and I was almost all the way across the field. I looked behind me to see the whole group (led by Catherine) standing where they'd been before on the other side of the field. They were laughing at me. Jeremy was laughing too. They started to play amongst themselves again as I walked, back turned, in another direction.

New school. My grade five crush, Jimmy, was adorable and super friendly. He had blonde hair that was brighter than the sun. He didn't like me either. From what I remember, he liked April. And then he moved to Nanaimo.

At the end of grade five, after Jimmy moved (and this is where I start changing/not mentioning names! ha) I met the boy that would become my first thought for the next five years. He was dating a girl that reminded me a lot of Catherine; in looks and attitude and social status. I didn't care though; I was pretty sure I had come across the pinnacle of male beauty; he was perfect. He was tall and quiet and as cute as a buttermilk buscuit. He played hockey, too. And even if he didn't notice me, he had the nicest eyes out of any boy I had ever seen in my whole life. Why don't we call him Jason? That seems like a good name. Jason it is.

I liked Jason so much that it hurt to think about; but I thought about him all the same. Every school dance, or class trip, or group project, I knew exactly where he was and who he was talking to. I always pictured our conversations in my mind on the way to said-event. And I always imagined he was talking about me when I wasn't there. Turns out, he was. By this time I had reached my maximum potential as "class poke 'n' prod". Think back as you read this, to your grade seven or late elementary school class. There was a girl in your class, wasn't there, who was too tall and skinny, all knees and elbows, flat chested and painfully shy. I know there was, because that was me; and from what I understand, there's one in every grade school.

Despite the mass amounts of pain inflicted on me by Jason and his friends (he was the most popular boy in our grade, did I mention that?), I still found myself completely enamoured with him. Even though he once called me the ugliest girl in class (yes, to my face), even though I had heard him and his friends make jokes about me. I assumed, as I still would, that Jason actually had a really good heart and was a good person who was just confused; who would someday see the light and at least make me feel somewhat worth it. It didn't happen, but my crush continued. Do you sense a pattern?

I wish the stories stopped in elementary school, or at least after highschool. But they don't. As it turns out, in many ways I still wear the badges of half-truth given to me by the list of guys that I've liked. And in many ways, I am still the nervously awkward adolescent that I was in my youth. And as much as it pains me, I also find it quite hilarious. Normal girls' hearts flower under the eye of a beautiful man's attraction. My heart, however, curls up in fetal position and develops a quivering, panicky lip. My brain swells inside my head. I lose the ability to form sentences. My personality is replaced by The Monster of Silent Awkwardness and Serious Tones. My laugh sounds fake. My smile hides behind frozen facial features. I forget how to stand, or sit, or hold my hands. And worst of all, I am fully aware of how silly I must look, panic stricken and incapable, yet am completely incapacitated and unable to change it.

You would think that after repeating this cycle so many times I'd be immune to the folly of the Crush, or would have at least learned how to maintain composure. It hasn't happened yet.

Ladies, put your hands up: we all do this in some way or another, don't we? (I know we do, because you've all told me about them, or I have seen them). We've all got a pattern of behavior that causes us to second guess ourselves. I wonder what would happen if we stopped waiting for the idiot to strap on a pair and just LIVED instead.

Gents: this is not an invitation to ask me for coffee. You are not the crush I'm silently referring to.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

National Novel Writing Month - progress report

Current word count: 19,783
Days since I started this: 14
Days that I've actually written: much less than 14
I feel: accomplished! And tired.
I look forward to: kicking this deadline in the ass. And wearing my cute "Novelist!" pin on my shirt front once I'm finished for at least a solid week, or until I've seen everyone I know

Words left: 30,217 (words needed: 50,000)
Days left: 12
Realization: The Odds are not in my favor. Good thing The Odds don't make all the rules.

Today's Soundtrack: Josh Smith

Friday, November 13, 2009

NaNoWriMo - update

Well! I just passed the 10,000 word mark (for those of you that haven't been following my Twitter feed on the sidebar). If you think that's an accomplishment, please note that I need to write 40,000 more words by umm...the 30th. Which is in 2 weeks. OH MY.

Thanks to all my friends who've suggested their characters; among my favorites: Sandy with a feather in her hat and high button shoes, Abby the quirky bookstore owner, Bonnie the cougar in leopard print, Nick the vodka drinking Russian mobster, and Dave the jean-shorts wearing homeless guy.

Anyways, I've only got a half hour left before my inspirational coffee shop closes, so I should get back to it.


Friday, November 6, 2009

don't hate the process

I have often heard married couples speak of their morning-after-the-wedding response of "Who is this other person in my bed?!?" Their love hasn't died, and neither has their commitment to the person, but somehow they are faced with reality in a whole new way after "their day" has come and gone.
I am currently experiencing very simliar feelings. NaNoWriMo, my 'commitment to my commitment' to you has not wavered, nor has my love for the process I'm sure this will be. But I feel a bit like a tentative newlywed; I'm not entirely sure what I've gotten myself into. It feels as though there is a stranger in my bed.

But you're cute, so you can stay there :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It’s not personal, it’s NaNoWriMo.

Well it's November, and you know what that means:

Ugh. Yup. Seeing as I am really good at starting things (and I do mean GOOD), I have decided to participate in this venture. Blame Anita, who bought me my very own Kit back in September. 

I suppose I am excited. Well I am. But I am also intimidated. So...that makes me happy, but bloody nervous. It's an odd mix. I don't even have a solid plot idea yet. But I am 4 days behind already (I forgot about it until today), which means that I can't even care about things like plot or perfect sentence structure. I literally just need to write my butt off. My plans tonight will involve me, my computer, and likely, a whole lot of BS.

Sweet :)

A few pointers for the days ahead:

1) My favourite caffeinated beverage is a Caramel Macchiato.
2) I am not above accepting free coffee or meals (who has time to cook? I'm writing a freaking novel.)

And finally, in regards to all other matters of normal social conduct:
3)  It’s not personal, it’s NaNoWriMo.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

cynicism for breakfast, flu for lunch?

I think it’s safe to say that we’re all paying a bit more attention to our health these days; how could we not? So as I sit here at my desk and eat my fries for breakfast, I can’t help but consider the overall picture of my health; especially because my co-worker pointed out to me this morning that, because of my age, I am more at risk for the current media-hyped-illness known as H1N1. I have a post in the works, for my own satisfaction, where I’m hoping to get some FACTS about H1N1 into the hands of my friend group, instead of the hype that permeates the day. But it’s taking a lot more research (and therefore a lot more energy) than I have time for. So for now I’ve chosen to gripe about the lack of clarity and the overabundance of sensation in today’s news reporting.

The news media reminds me a lot of a guy I went to school with. The guy was a hilarious flirt, and if you name a girl I went to school with, you’d more than likely be naming a girl that crushed on him at some point (whether they admitted it or not- my giftings from the Lord knew the truth), and you’d especially be naming a girl that had reasons X Y and Z why so-and-so liked her. But when it came to girls he actually liked, none of us could tell the difference. There was no range in his behaviour between his girlfriends and his girl friends and his girl aquaintances and girl strangers. When it was really important to him, it wasn’t obvious. And if I recall correctly, he confused a lot of people in the meantime – and lost their respect, too.

So, news media, as you dance around and play with fear and flail your arms about at every drop in the dollar, every disease or mosquito bite, you’re really just losing the attention of most of us. Oh, we notice you alright (as one would notice a giraffe splashing around in a kiddie pool full of pennies). But we certainly have stopped paying attention (or is it just me?). Coverage loses credibility when it turns out that it’s been sensationalized for the sake of higher ratings or a larger crowd. When something important comes along, how are we ever supposed to tell the difference between that and the latest money-making “scandal”?

A culture of confusion and apathy has been sparked by poor delivery of facts, especially in regards to H1N1. Nobody knows what to do, who to trust, or why it matters. And many of those who are getting The Vaccine are doing so because they are afraid, and not at all because they are educated.

I still can’t decide if I should get The Vaccine. On the one hand, I believe that God’s plan for my life won’t be thwarted by a disease. If I’m supposed to die next week I will, whether it is by flu pandemic or a gunshot wound or getting hit by a bus. But on the other hand, I don’t want to be stupid and make poor decisions that risk my life. I’ve never gotten the flu shot and I've never had the flu (that I know of) – what is so different about this one? That is the question that I can not find a common answer to.

I’m going to end off with a quote that was just given to me this morning, by my boss actually. I don't actually know who it's by, but it seems to sum up the idea in my head right now. It's an encouragement for the days ahead, no doubt.

Nothing ever stays the same.
You can't build fences around life.
It's an ongoing process.
All you've got to do is keep paddling.
There's always going to be another wave coming.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

the journey of a diamond

Listening a lot lately to Graham Cooke in his many facets. Here's one I found today that I found particularly cool. If you're going to listen make sure you actually listen - My blog can wait until he's finished :)

Suffering is always worth it in the end. Think about anything worthwhile, and you will hopefully begin to see the journey that it took to get to where it was. Think about freedom for slaves or equality for the poor or food for the hungry; the world over, it's a fight. But most certainly worth it. Think about the tired hands of a sculptor, halfway through his masterpiece. Or an Olympic athlete ten steps before the finish line. Silver and glass and gold are all held in the middle of fire until they're ready. Think about a diamond: one of the most sought after objects on earth, but formed only under intense pressure and immense heat at incredible depths.

I've spent the past few days doing a lot of thinking & prayerfully considering recent months, and especially thinking about last week (a culmination point, if you will). It has been a hard month for me, if you haven't picked up the cues already. Nothing externally difficult necessarily (no more than an average day on earth), but certainly a lot of inner turmoil. Definitely more than usual. Like so many of you I have felt a stirring in my heart lately to reject the brokenness of my past and present and just move on. To what? To the Truths about I AM, and the truths about who I am, and the life that comes with a life lived in the Spirit.

There's something to be said for saying Yes to the calling on your life. It's beautiful, yes. It's rewarding, for certain. But it is hard, isn't it? Especially because, often, it means difficult sacrifice and obvious opposition. We like our boxes, our cardboard crowns and ill fitted costumes. And even if we don't like them, they're all we know. To step out and say that something might exist outside this tiny world I've created for myself...why, that's largely unheard of. Especially when that "other world" is God breathed.

We were made to be alive in Christ, but so many of us are anything but alive (think: North America). Why is this? Perhaps it is because complacency becomes comfortable, numbness becomes normal, and ignorance becomes bliss. We love to live within our comfort zones and we like to do what we like to do because we like to do it. We construct our little boxes and live in them, never minding how small they make our days.Our faith is placed under the guise of pretense - we say what we believe, without ever having to believe it. We make decisions based on the gutlessness of pure emotion or the emptiness of strict logic. We make ourselves far too small...or far too big. We don't want to move, we are fine just the way we are. We pray sometimes and read our Bibles sometimes and we go to church sometimes. We think about the poor. Isn't this enough?

I'm sorry friends, but it isn't. There is a calling on your life to get up and MOVE, to be the Church instead of just going to one.

So these are the words I've heard lately. And a few weeks ago, a word was spoken over me that changed the direction of my heart - a few weeks ago: about the point where I began to feel the heat on me. In the moment of my hearing, I actually grew to want the things I had said all my life I had been wanting, I actually decided that I wanted to do what I believe, instead of just saying it halfheartedly. To be more specific, I don't want to waste my life. I want to live with Christ as my focus, with God's voice as the voice that I hear and the voice that I choose to listen to. And I want my steps to be directed by this very same God.

As I've walked through the past few weeks, I am getting the sense and a picture in my head that I am under immense pressure. I actually feel pressurized, in my spirit. There are things shifting and changing, and new seasons on their way, in my own life and in the life of so many in my community.  With this change comes...change. Opposition. Brand new and bigger steps of faith.

Understand, friend, that when you act on your word to love God with your life that things are going to change. It might even get really, really difficult to face a day. Friends, to stand up and live in a world full of dying people is GOING to get you some attention - and some of that attention may not be the kind that feels good. In fact it might get really difficult. And while complacency may be easier than feeling the heat of battle, our hope is in this: the battle is only for a time, and it will end. Our opposition is just that: opposition. They will not win, they have not won. The circumstances of our lives are merely circumstances that are in place to shape us (whether by chisel or by heat or by pressure) into the person that we are supposed to become.

I dare you, I suppose, to admit that your life might be meant for more than yourself. That you are meant for bigger things. Because you are, whether or not you admit it. As has been said, your playing small does not serve the world. (Mirianne Williamson).  Even if playing small means you'll be allowed to remain inside while the world is outside, fighting.

There's something to be said for saying Yes to the calling of God on your life.
Even if it's harder than complacency.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

what happens when we pray?

How can we help but believe the lies, unless there is someone there to speak truth to us? I am weak and can not stand against the armies on my own. They overtake me, with no care for my life. With sick grins on their faces, they seek their next victim, without even stopping to see the remains of flesh they’ve just marred. This army has no second glance for those of us they’ve trampled. It walks en mass, crippling and tearing what they can – always hungry, always moving, always brutalizing; never still.

The second wave of soldiers sweeps in; quieter, but just as bent on destruction. They stand beside their chosen prey, working as unnoticed as they can to bruise and bruise and bruise the hearts of the fallen. They seek not death but mediocrity. Their purpose is to numb the wounds, not heal them; to prod the heart enough so that it beats enough to feel the pain, but nothing more. They hate the truth and guard your wounded ears as best they can. All the while they whisper: lies they know will hurt. They’ve studied what they can of you; they work to hit your weak spots.

And so we lay, unmoving, knowing the intentionality of our attacker. Seeing the lies from truth, but believing the lies all the same. If only we would use our dried and dying lips to stake the claim in our inheritance instead. If only we would but whisper the word: Abba.

He is Victor over all, but he comes when we let him. All attempts to save ourselves, to be strong enough on our own, to bear down and withstand this pain for just a bit longer – these attempts are futile. But so long as we deny our need to be saved, salvation’s Captain can not enter. He waits for us, and comes before we know we’ve said his name.

I am victor. Not I, but Christ in me. We are in the land of the Beloved King, and although opposing armies may siege and advance for a time, it is only for a time.

There is no hand strong enough to break the Hand that comes to save us. There is no lie so big that Truth is overshadowed. There is no victory where Christ is not present. Speak the truth to eachother, and listen to the voice of One who knows where you are. So intent is He, on healing and on truth, that all the while you thought you were alone and dying, He was waging war and reigning in victory over your attackers.
You are not lost.

Come quickly to the King who saved you. Know that life without the life He gives you is not life at all.

Be still and know that I am God.
Be unmoved in this: you are mine.

Forgotten? No. You are not forgotten.

Oh how well I see you, says the King.
Oh how well I know the pain of your existence. Come child, sit and wait. Be healed.

And the armies dissipate.

Monday, October 19, 2009

SHOUT OUT - Photobooth Vancouver!

The term 'shout out', according to Wikipedia, is "a greeting or acknowledgment of a person, group, or organization of significance. It is often done as a sign of respect, synonymous with "giving props". I have decided that, as I think of it, I am going to post a SHOUT OUT! where I will highlight some of the sweet local talent in and around BC. Why only BC artists? One, because I live here. And two, because this province is loaded with artists of all kinds; so whether it's a painter, singer-songwriter, photographer, or ______: if you or someone you know wants to be featured in my weekly SHOUT OUT! let me know! Nominations can be sent to me

Well well well - not only is it a Monday, but I'm posting a SHOUTOUT. And for those of you that have followed this blog for awhile you will realize what a MASSIVE accomplishment this is for me! Yay for accomplishments! (hey, did I say I had high standards for myself?) Let's get on with it.
As it turns out, I have a plethora of talented, driven, life-of-the-party friends. This week's SHOUT OUT is no different! That's right, I'm pulling from my very own friend group (yet again...amazing!). Friends, meet my other friends: Angela and Domi, and their baby, PHOTOBOOTH VANCOUVER.

Ang & Domi, a husband and wife team of photographers, decided a few years ago to create something entirely new: Photobooth Vancouver. Photobooth Vancouver rents Photobooths to wedding receptions, parties, and events of all kinds (corporate, personal, youth events, etc). From Go, the company quickly gained popularity and a stellar reputation for delivering the best quality, the best customer service, and the most memorable experiences. Three years into it they find themselves maintaining this reputation: they're expanding the business, wowing their clients and guests alike, and booking like crazy. Example? They're already booking well into 2010 (and even 2011) - so if you want them, you'd better book soon!

A few months ago, much to my delight, Ang asked me to come and work alongside her at a Photobooth event. Obviously, I jumped at the chance! I've often wondered what it felt like to be the coolest kid in the room, and now that I'm with Photobooth, I know. You think I'm making this up, but I'm really, really not. Do people come running up to you at your job, adrenaline and enthusiasm spilling out, and giddily tell you they love you? No? Well, they do at this one; people love us. And that right there is the best testimony to the calibre of the experience you get with Photobooth Vancouver.

Photobooth Vancouver was at the Brockhouse Wedding Show this past Sunday, and I had the delight of being there with them! We got to set up right beside this guy, who deserves a SHOUT OUT of his own (and will get one, soon). Who says art had to be made of paint and canvas? Why not flowers?
Make sure to check out the Photobooth Vancouver website for more info and booking, and their blog for current updates on events they've been doing (look at pictures, check out examples of their work, see where they've been & where they're going, etc). They're also on Facebook and Twitter.

We'll be at the Lovestruck bridal show on November 16 - come check us out!

Friday, October 16, 2009

reminder! support your local artists

Tonight you get the grand opportunity to support a fabulous local artist - a SHOUT OUT of mine, in fact! Laurell, remember? Of course you do. Well friends, consider this your golden opportunity to come out for a night of fresh, live music, straight out of a lovely North Vancouverite.

The deets:

(free EP with entry, tickets available at the door)

See you there!!! Come visit me at the merch table after the concert, it's where I'll be.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

makes you wonder

On a recent evening, I spent at least an hour doing something I absolutely love to do: I wandered through Chapters. Only an hour, but somehow it felt like three. There are no clocks in the bookstore, and everyone moves at their own pace. Lots of slow moving, entirely absorbed individuals; I am one of them. With books you can be captured more by the world in your hands than the world in which you sit; I like this. But as I wandered, I was subconsciously counting covers, authors, pages. I was overwhelmed, as I often am at the bookstore, with the mass amounts of books there are in this world.

One of my favorite scenes in Beauty and the Beast is Belle's introduction to the library (although the Disney version doesn't quite do it justice); the Beast, in his enchantment, somehow has access to all of the books ever written - past, present, future. Name a language, name a topic, name a writer or a year of publication - he's got it. As much as I would love to spend a lifetime's worth of hours wandering around that library, there is a large part of me that fears it all the same.

Chapters alone has the ability to knock the wind out of my confidence as a writer. There are so many books. And this without paying homage to the millions of books that have been written the world over, the books that are being written right now as we speak, or the books that will be written next year...and every year until time stops.

While I don't expect to contribute anything of notable popularity to the expansive world of literature, I do expect that I will contribute...somehow. Mediocrity is something I won't settle for, but I also recognize that in a world filled with so much talent, my best might just be mediocre in comparison. I think I am okay with this reality.

Now to get past the first chapter.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

idyllic sunshine.

in Hand: one large, extra heavy mug of subtly flavored tea.
in Sight: sunshine, and the ocean. My messy room.
in the Air: melodies streaming from Laurell's new website.

Days like today and moments like this one are my absolute favorites. Well, they certainly top the list. Chilled air, cloudless sky, time to wander. It's quiet  and calm, and easy to pretend that everyone is doing what I'm doing: pausing, unbusied. After days and days of muddled non-clarity and foggy vision I am finally feeling slightly awoken. Not forgetting the shadows or how sleepy I have been - my hands are still outstretched and awaiting the same answers - but marveling in the Grace that change a heart in under a day.

To a bird's eye, my life will look the same as it did yesterday. The only trouble with a changing heart is that sometimes those changes can't be seen by others. How do you communicate the rhythms of Grace to the audience of your life? Sometimes, these changes don't have sentences that match. So we do our best, to put the grandiose lessons we are learning into words that make sense. They rarely make sense.

In the past few months, I have had so many opportunities to share my faith and my views on God and the world with people and I've realized...I sound crazy. So much of how I experience the Lord is mystical in nature; undefinable, uncatchable, and not entirely explainable. God doesn't fit into words.

So do I give up? Or do I keep trying to explain this irational Hope to the world?

I certainly won't give up, but I certainly don't want to become a person that talks too much and does too little. I don't want to leave people in the dark, but I also don't want to get so crazy that I think I can save people. So what do I do? I live, I suppose. I live. Eyes up, hands at work, heart in Love.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

i have the black lung, pop.

So I was visiting Dr. Healing Hands yesterday. During my wait in the waiting room, I started to hear a weird sound echoing up the staircase to my left; the staircase that leads the patients to the office. Like the loud smack of a baseball bat to water. I realized after a few seconds that the sound I was hearing was a cough. A succession of coughs. A myriad of wet, hacky, death-resembling coughs. For what felt like a long time. Eventually, a younger un-coughing woman walked in the office. *Phew* I thought. *It’s not the cougher*. Heaven knows I don’t want that person in close proximity.


*Our Father, who art in Heaven, she just walked in the door*

This old lady, germs-a-radiating, checks in at the counter and sits down. In the chair next to mine on the corner.

All the better to wheeze on you my pretty.

(sounds like: DEATH.  DEATH DEATH DEATH)

*Oh dear Lord* I thought to myself, as I tried to discreetly shift in my chair and let my hair fall over my face. Eyes widened slightly, lips set in a straight line, fervent prayers on their way up. I glanced at the girl to my left as she put her hand up over her mouth and nose and became increasingly interested in her magazine.

Puffs of air were hitting my face, and I realized that while this lady was covering her mouth with her wrinkled little hand, much of the air was still escaping. Onto my face.

I froze. I held my breath. I started to sweat in a flurry of nervous thought. I started to number my days aright.

After a few minutes she was called in by the doctor, and the collective feeling of relief in the waiting room was practically audible.

I think my lungs feel different today…I think….heavier. Definitely heavier. And if I’m not mistaken…was that muscle aching before? Ohmygosh I think all of my muscles are achier than before. Did my head feel like this? I feel sick. Well, not yet. But I think I feel as though I could feel sick. Maybe my body’s trying to tell me something.

Oh Gosh. I have the black lung.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

so, would you?

More on the retreat later, as I unpack all the wonderful analogies that come with pulling weeds on an apple orchard. For now, a thought to consider.

First, some context: Much of our weekend was spent learning about things like
-what it takes to grow an apple
-what it takes to grow an apple that will SELL (shockingly, a big difference...I'll explain later)

Then we expanded: global issues
-worldwide water shortage
-climate change and how it's effecting food markets the world over
-how many resources does it take to produce meat, veggies, wheat, rice etc
-what is it like to live in a country with no water/oil/natural resources? What do they eat?
-what it will mean for the countries (like ours) who outsource most of their food growth to other countries, once this water shortage/etc becomes more prevalent?
-eating local vs. outsourced food - does it really matter?

Okay so the jist: took a pretty close and heavy handed look at food, and how much we WASTE (financially and otherwise) just putting the elaborate meals we eat on our tables. Considering what it would be like to live without these unnecessary luxuries.

At one point in the weekend, while we were debriefing about what we had learned, Colin started laughing (out of nowhere, it was rather entertaining) and said, "I JUST HAD THE WORST IDEA!"

His idea? Eat beans and rice for a month. Give the rest of your grocery money away.

To be honest, the idea appeals to me. I like a challenge. I am seriously considering doing this, soon. My only adjustment (for the sake of my digestive system and overall health) is to add local veggies to the mix. I think it would be interesting, to say the least.

So. Beans, rice, and local veggies.*
For a month.

...definitely possible.

Could be.

What do you think? Is this something YOU would consider doing? Why or why not?

*canned beans aren't necessarily healthy in mass, either, what with their high salt content and preservatives.  SO thinking about buying raw beans and learning what to do with them.

Friday, October 2, 2009

things to do while I'm gone

Hello friends,

I have a few posts in the works! But alas, I am going away for the weekend. While I'm gone, here are a couple of things you can do.

1) Visit the following websites and be entertained.
(* =parental discretion advised. don't go here if you've got strict linguistic morals or if you are judgemental)

Amusements: * (true stories, sometimes crude) * (submitters swear on occasion)

Whimsy: * (true confessions: sometimes disturbing, but more often beautiful, sad, shocking, funny, etc)

2) If you've visited all of those websites and are still looking for more, write me a story and leave it in the comments section of this post.

have a fabulous weekend & see you when I return!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

improving peripheral vision: world news in brief: Mau Forest


I want to focus your attention for a minute or two on an area known as the Mau Forest, in Kenya. The Mau forest is the largest forest in Kenya; it's rivers are the dependancy of over 10 million people. The rivers that come from this forest source eight wildlife reserves and feed into six lakes, one of which is Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria is one of the primary sources of water for the Nile. (facts gathered here). The Mau forest is currently the center of a rather large conflict; although it seems to have been skipped over in much of our recent media (I could only find approx 10 news articles on Google news specifically devoted to this topic: all came from BBC. Compare this to how many articles you'd find on...say..Rob P).

What's happened in the Mau forest is that "a quarter of its 400,000 hectares have been destroyed by farmers and loggers" (BBC). A quarter. You might think this seems like an insignificant number, but as it turns out, it is seriously damaging the country's eco-system. As stated on  BBC News: "Mau forest is Kenya's largest water tower - it stores rain during the wet seasons and pumps it out during the dry months." But what happens when your wet seasons aren't really that wet at all? You rely on your water tower...and what happens when someone's poked a giant hole in your water tower?

The past 3 years have seen a shortage of rain during the "wet" seasons. In April of 2009, which is usually a wet season, it hardly rained at all. Literally millions of cattle fell dead into their fields, and over 10 million people came face to face with starvation. Why? All due to the lack of water, which has been spurred on by the huge dent in the eco-system of the Mau forest.

The trouble is, the trend seems to be continuing. The rainy seasons are becoming less and less...rainy. And a forest that was once capable of providing a buffer for these types of situations has been and continues to be depleted. But it's just a forest, you might think. How much of a difference can it really make? According to Prof Wangari Maathai of the Green Belt Movement, it makes a big difference: "If you destroy the forests, the rivers will stop flowing and the rains will become irregular and the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation". That's a succession a lot of people just don't think about.

Animals are dying in droves either because of lack of water or poaching. Elephants are now being poached for meat; people are so desperate for food (their other food keeps dying). Entire herds of wild life are being forced to relocate. Pretty soon (and I do mean soon), it's going to start taking the lives of people, too.

If the 100million trees that need to be planted were somehow all planted tomorrow, it will still take decades to repair the damage done. The people of Kenya (and Tanzania, and Egypt, etc) are going to be feeling the effects of this for years to come, especially if action isn't taken.

I suppose I brought this up because I of how alarmed I was while looking at pictures of dead animals (which I've chosen not to post, you can find them on the BBC articles), and thinking about the people suffering because they didn't have any water. I was alarmed because I realize how easy it is for me to just forget about it; to fill up my brita every evening and my water glass 10 times a day and run my shower and my dishwasher and my taps and do my laundry...And realizing that it isn't just me. I live on a continent of wasters. I am a product of a spoiled culture; a culture that simply doesn't care as long as its own belly is full and its own thirst is quenched.

To be honest, I'm not sure where to go from here...I'm still working that part out in my own head. But maybe, just maybe we should stop caring so much about clean vehicles and technicolor lawns. That's probably a start.

There is so much more to this story, including some very complicated social and political factors. Hit up Google News and look up "Mau Forest" or "Kenya Drought" for more info

Monday, September 28, 2009

apples to phobias

Hey God.

Hey Ashley, how's it going?

Great, it's great.

You don't sound happy.
I know this tone.
...go on.

Well you know how I’m
afraid of spiders, right?


And worms?


And all other creepy crawlies?


….basically anything
smaller than a bird?

Mmmhmm…your point, darling?

You really don’t see
where I’m going with this?



Fine. Well, there’s this retreat coming up,
in which we will be spending our time in
apple trees, picking apples, gettin' back
to nature…you know the drill.

Yes, I think it’s a wonderful idea.
I am actually really looking forward
to meeting with you this weekend.

You are huh. Don’t you think it’s possible
to meet me uh, I dunno…in my living room?
In my car on the way to work? Or any other
sterile, bug free environment?

Of course.

Then why apple trees?


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Faith, I think.

So much of who we are is largely unanswerable. Who am I? What am I here for? When will I know? Where am I going? Why? (oh, the Why’s). Because of the frequency and occasional severity of these questions (and their seeming lack of answers), much of who we are and where our lives lead us is based entirely upon faith. Not necessarily Faith in God, but just faith, in general. Faith that I am strong enough, faith that I am here for a purpose, faith that I am making the right decision. There are very few things we can know with certainty; there are plenty of things that leave us wondering.

Depending on your personality type, your upbringing, and who you are as a person (in general), you are going to process these things of life differently than the person you sit next to. Some resort immediately to distraction, others to fast, shallow answers, and some are satisfied with never having asked at all. There are still others – and I include myself in this group – who spend much of their lives forming questions. Those cliché 5W’s are cliché because people like us made them cliché. Gosh, it’s exhausting. But, tiresome or not, it’s all I know how to do. I can’t settle myself on complacency of mind; if there is a question to be asked my brain will most likely form it and throw it up to the heavens before the rest of me knows what’s going on. And I'll stay with that question, for a little while anyways. Even if I know it’s unanswerable. Even if I know it’s not a “good” question, not a “holy” question, not a “wonderful example to the believers” question.

Because, truth be told: I am a faulted human, too.

Why do I write these things? Because I am afraid, I think, of what’s coming. And it worries me that I am afraid.

I suppose I am wondering what it looks like to Follow, when it’s obvious that people are watching. Is humanity accepted or shunned? Are mistakes forgiven or put on display? What kind of standard am I putting on my weak shoulders?


I want/feel the need to assure you of a few things. One: I know that He who called me is Faithful, Two: I know He has me here for a purpose. Three: despite what it might seem, I do have moments of clarity that remind me of these things. And finally, there are moments when I really am not asking this many questions (ha!).

If you are in my community, you know in many ways what God has asked of me this year. The irony is, however, that I feel largely unequipped. Perhaps you know the feeling? I am not good enough or talented enough or brave enough to do all that He’s asked of me. As I wade deeper and deeper into this transition, I find that I am fighting off whisperings of inadequacy by the minute, realizing more and more how odd it is that He would call someone with so many cracks to assist in leading the whole; that he would ask the quietest voice in the room to speak louder.

But, I’m still a sinner” I fret, to the Unfrettable. “Look at my hands,” I say, “they are filthy.”

The truth is, dear friends, that I still ask some of the very same questions I mentioned at the beginning, even though I know the Who, the Why, the Where and the What For. I know Him, but not enough; I hear him, but I don’t always listen; I walk His way…mostly.

The truth is, I am still not perfect (ouch, that hurts to admit). But what is more true than that is the One who is perfect has called me to work alongside of Him. He asks even me to contribute to His world, which is something I find entirely strange.

What is the point in all of this?, you may ask. Good question. 
I don’t really know.

A dear friend of mine was recently instructed (as a leader in a churchy setting) not to ask her doubt-filled questions in such a public forum (her blog). Maybe I should have held back as well? Am I a bad example, am I confusing others, am I being inappropriate? Maybe I should only post things when I am in a good mood, and when I am certain of the things I am certain of. Maybe I should wait until my heart stops beating anxiously at the thought of all my frailties. Maybe I should wait until all my Questions have been answered? Maybe.

But maybe instead of pretending to be where I’m not, I’ll do my best to continue being honest with where I really am. Not seeking vulnerability above all else, like most of our generation (that’s another post entirely). But rather, seeking to be genuine in my faith and love for the One who IS Love. I don’t want to walk this earth in complicated silence, I want to walk it with the certainty that despite my many (many, many) faults, I am not lost. I am not beyond hope. I am still worth saving. Because if I am not lost, that means, dear friend, neither are you.

the problem with being human

So I finally took a day off; slowed the brain and schedule long enough to realize the extent of my exhaustion. Phooey. I’ve had a headache since I stopped the rushing timetable. I’m suddenly noticing body aches that weren’t there before and feeling an increasing need to take hourly naps. I caught a cold. In the aftermath of my R&R, my low-level-functions are having trouble keeping up with my busy calendar. Some might call it irony, that Rest&Relaxation has an aftermath. I just call it standard protocol; I have yet to “break” without collapsing afterwards. There’s probably a lesson to be learned in this somewhere…something about balance, perhaps?

Obvious Statement #1: It’s a lot easier to be high functioning when I am actually functioning at a high level.
Obvious Statement #2: I could really use a nap.

Today’s Applicable Quote: "I believe humans get a lot done, not because we're smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee." Flash Rosenberg

Friendly Reminder: Please see the latest SHOUT OUT (3 posts down) and mark Oct 16 in your calendar (read the post to see what’s up). See you there!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SHOUT OUT! - Laurell & Jamie

The term 'shout out', according to Wikipedia, is "a greeting or acknowledgment of a person, group, or organization of significance. It is often done as a sign of respect, synonymous with "giving props". I have decided that each Monday, I am going to post a SHOUT OUT! where I will highlight some of the sweet local talent in and around BC. Why Mondays? you ask. The answer is simple: we can all use a little something to look forward to at the beginning of yet another work week (haven't I retired yet??); and if you're anything like me, your "please entertain me" internet surfing habits skyrocket on Mondays. Why only BC artists? One, because I live here. And two, because this province is loaded with artists of all kinds; so whether it's a painter, singer-songwriter, photographer, or ______: if you or someone you know wants to be featured in my weekly SHOUT OUT! let me know!

So WOW. How long has it taken me to get here?? Too long. And what is up with Oct 16, anyways?? Get your calendar marking tools ready -  let's get on with it!

I am SO excited about this "two-at-once" SHOUT OUT - music and photography all in one! I am friends with one of them and hope to utilize the talents of the other at some point in my future. Normally, my close connections would imply a bias. But I think you'll see after admiring their gifts yourself, bias' don't count when the people are this good.


I first met Laurell almost 5 years ago (if I've done my math right) when she came on tour to the blip of a town I lived in while attending college. My friends and I went to her coffeehouse concert and were quickly impressed. We each took our turns remarking, "wow, it's like she's read my journal!" After her show, she announced that she'd be hanging out in her tour bus (read: sweet babyblue school bus) and welcomed the audience to come by and say hello. My friends Jen and Hannah and I took her up on that offer, and got to hang out with her the whole afternoon! Later, Laurell even got me to make an announcement for her on the foyer stage. Overall, she won us over not only because of her sweet music, but also because of her absolute genuine friendliness. 

When I moved to this area a few years ago I began to go to any show of hers that I could - introducing my friends to her music along the way. I went to so many of her shows, in fact, that we are now friends. There are a few lessons to be learned in this. One: persistence pays off. Two: good music is made better when the musician is a warm-hearted gem who doesn't arrest you for stalking.

Laurell has been featured on one of Vancouver's biggest radio stations, toured extensively, and has won countless accolades (so many I can't actually name them all), including the "We are Listening" singer/songwriter of the year award, the grand prize in a competition featured on, which won her exposure through Bell Canada and Sympatico/MSN, as well as a nomination for a Western Canadian Music award for Outstanding Pop Album of the Year.

Laurell, to date, has released two full length albums and one EP. After (what feels like) years of waiting, she is releasing a BRAND NEW ALBUM! Aaah!!! As one of her biggest fans, and as a friend, this is something that is very, very exciting. She's scheduled CD release parties in Courtnay, Victoria, North Van, and Vancouver. That last show (Vancouver) is being held on October 16th @ Coastal Church. Admission is $15 and a FREE CD comes with admission. If you want more details on this or any other tour date, or are interested in getting your hands on her music sooner than that, you can check out her website, her myspace, or her facebook fanpage, or on itunes.

Good photography is something that absolutely slays me - I love it. While most of the population now has their own "professional" camera, there are still only a fraction of those people that actually know how to capture inspiration in the moment. Jamie Delaine is one of them; she's got the eye. I actually discovered her photography through Laurell; Jamie is her "go to" photographer for promo shots...and it's not very hard to see why! The photos I'm going to post of hers are obviously going to be of Laurell (keeping with the whole "two in one" theme), however there are countless others of hers that make me excited to my very core. She does wedding photography primarily, but also works with families, children, couples and individuals to produce captivating, unique, emotive images from one appointment to the next. Her work has appeared in Real Weddings magazine (Summer '09) and one of her weddings was featured in the Urban Wedding Dictionary ('09). You can see more of her photos on her website or on her blog (updated frequently...a good excuse to stalk!).

Let's get to it - ladies and gentlemen, Laurell & Jamie. (click on the photos to make them bigger or go here to see the full photoshoot)

 Don't forget! Mark Oct 16th in your calendar!
Jamie & Laurell, you rock.

Monday, September 21, 2009

an important distinction

"Where do you go clubbing?" asked my coworker, once upon a time.

"Hah" I laughed, "I don't go to clubs". Clubs are for silly people, I tell myself. And I feel quite self important at the end of this brief conversation.

I feel I need to make this important distinction. I do not like clubbing, but I do like to dance. A lot. In fact, I may love dancing.
...Maybe, if we spent more time together.

Dancing punches stress in the face. Dancing makes me laugh from sheer joy. Dancing meets that burger in the middle, wrestles it for awhile, and keeps it from clinging to my aging fat cells. Dancing takes my cares for a long, long walk.

Clubbing means beer breath, negative stereotypes, frosted tips and shiny shirts. To club is to walk through a land where physical boundaries bend in new and frightening ways. Clubbing shocks my innocence (and I am not even entirely innocent); like MTV in real life.

To find a place where you can dance and let the heavy, weighted beat move you how it moves you is rare; to find a place where you can dance and not have a sweaty crotch-wrangler* grab your waist and pull you close is even more exceptional. Which is why I have fallen in love with Girl Talk.

Girl Talk, once you've showered I would like to give you a big hug to say THANK YOU, for making dancing fun again.

the girl who likes to dance but does not like to club.

*my new term for the men who frequent clubs. Vulgar? Yes. Fitting? Absolutley.

another shoutless monday

Two things you should know about me:

1. I have really good intentions
2. I am in serious want of a day off

I have said before that if you ever want to get a glimpse into the state of my mind, take a look at my bedroom. That being said, my bedroom is currently up to my knees (higher in places; blame the furniture), from wall to wall, in clothing and other items in desperate need of organization. Ironic, after a post about the excess of stuff, I suppose (except that my room was the very reason I wrote that post).

The last evening I spent at home was on September 4th (which was roughly 17 days ago), and that day was spent throwing items into a bag for my week-long trip back home. Days before that were busy too, finishing up projects and attending meetings. I spent very few hours in my house, aside from the ones where I slept. In the 30 days that follow today, I have 19 evenings “out” (or booked) in the schedule. That’s much more than half, you know.

But – sweet breath of Life! – I get to spend tomorrow evening at home!

This means that I can do laundry, and unpack from my trip, and reunite my wardrobe with my closet, and if I'm really really productive I might even get to vaccuum my floor (can I get an Amen?)

I can’t even tell you how happy I am that I don’t have any plans, and am asking that everyone I know help me celebrate by not calling me.

No offence.

…where was I going with this? Oh right.
The point is that I do apologize for the lack of SHOUT OUTS (because I’m pretty sure I’ve hit a solid month without one. Lame.) but want to ensure you that tomorrow is the day! Yup, tomorrow during my free evening I will post the much anticipated “double hitter” I brought up last week. There are so many pictures and links in this one that it would be rather difficult to post it at work and go unnoticed (unlike the rest of my photoless posts). And not that you care, but blogger doesn’t work properly on my office computer for some reason, and posting photos isn’t even a possibility. Ha. So there. I can't do it now.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

In the absence of Pity Cake.

Normally, for our admin-office birthdays, a cake is purchased on the sly & a card is passed around in a folder for everyone to sign. It’s a great tradition: Surprise! Even though you knew it was coming, we bought you a cake!

Nothing like finding out the tradition is over - on the day of your actual birthday, at the time the cake would have normally arrived.

News Update! A cake was brought today (2 days later), to share with the other birthdays that were missed (one on the same day as mine, one earlier in the summer - which we all forgot about because she took vacation right over her birthday). So it's not a lost tradition, it was just on a break for awhile. Good to know; I've been enjoying the 8 times yearly birthday cake parties (this doesn't include the 5-10 times yearly retirement/birthday cake parties for the other staff in the building). Next stop: Christmas season and the daily chocolate boxes the rest of the building feels compelled to buy our admin department. Thank God the rest of the women here are on diets - more for me! Diabetes, here I come.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SHOUT OUT - coming soon!

Don't worry all, I realize I have forgotten to SHOUT OUT for the past two weeks (or has it been three? pitiful). I have a sweet Two-In-One coming soon, by the end of this week. Hang on to your hats! And get ready - this one rocks.


ps - mark your calendar for the evening of Oct 16, check back soon to see what's up on that date!

Monday, September 14, 2009

on the unimportance of stuff.

I’m sure most of you have been asked the following question at some point or another: “if your house was burning down and you could only grab one thing before you left, what would it be?” Most people, most normal people I assume, would be able to answer this question with some level of clarity and speed. “I’d grab my _______” or “my _____, no question!” The logical, life-is-more-important-than-things side of me answers that question quickly, too. “Nothing! Get the H outta there before you die from smoke inhalation!” But if you know me at all, you know I am largely ruled by Nostalgia, and I therefore have another “side” that would like to voice its opinion.


The truth is, that as I sit here and envision myself in the middle of a burning room, trying to choose what to take with me as I jump out my bedroom window (and hopefully make it down without breaking both my legs), I’m stuck. I’m not actually doing anything in the picture; not unless you count my pained expression and frantic, worried looks around the room as “doing something”.

…maybe I should take my childhood bear. He’s been a constant companion since I learned to walk; he’s been with me through everything, why should I leave him now? I could never let him burn. Oh, but what about my box of writing, or my old journals, or my laptop? The combined total of written, sporadic, inspired thought in these mediums is quite vast and definitely irreplaceable. I’ve been writing since I was little; it’s shaped me, it’s become a part of who I am and how I journey. Could I really let the pages curl away in smoke and flame? And what about my mother’s artwork? Also completely irreplaceable and one-of-a-kind and beautiful. Each time she puts a brush to canvas it’s like a part of my heart gets splashed on there with the paint. It would kill me to know these were lost.

The point is, I could never choose between these things. If I tried to choose, or tried to get everything of nostalgic value out the window, it would likely make it out alive long before I did.

You’ll notice that I only mentioned three things in the what I would save list….okay so they aren’t necessarily individual items, they’re actually “Topics of things you’d find in Ashley’s Room”…give me a little credit. That took a lot of work! Truthfully, not everything I own is held in such high regard. In fact, I have a lot of STUFF that isn’t really that important to me at all. So why do I have it? In this post I want to explore this idea a bit further. We could call it, “The Mystery of the Stuff and Where it Comes From”. Here are a few things you need to know before we continue:

1) I admit that I am, by nature, a keeper. I keep things that mean something to me. Cards, letters, books, items of clothing, trinkets, etc. If you ever write me an honest, funny, or charming little note I will probably still have it 20 years from now. I will keep it in one of my letter boxes. Especially if you put stickers on it or draw me a picture (kidding, mostly).

2) I am, by nature, an item-purger. I loooove to get rid of things, to clean, organize, systematize and give away. Nothing feels better than the filling up of a bag and the getting rid of those unnecessary pounds of STUFF.

3) In relation to point 1 and 2, you can guess that there’s a bit of a cycle when it comes to my room/belongings. I always have a give-away pile on the go, and am constantly re-evaluating what I own to see what can go and what can stay.

I’ve always had a weird love for organizing, but it was my friend Christina that really kicked me in my nostalgic-gonads. Her life was so…simple. When she packed up to move it was so…simple. Her space was always clean and organized because there was a place for everything. She kept what she needed and she kept what was of the utmost importance to her; anything else fell by the wayside into a giveaway box or the hands of someone else. Yet, as simplified as her belongings were, she was constantly re-evaluating what she owned, what should be kept and what should go. And inasmuch as I had spent my entire adult life (literally, all encompassing) getting rid of things, organizing boxes, and learning not to live under the heavy hand of Nostalgia, there was something about her approach to “things” that really made me wonder. And so I started to go through my “STUFF” with a fine-toothed comb. Why am I keeping this? What does it mean? The end result: I have given away more stuff in the past 3 years than most of the world comes to own in a life time. That’s right: a life time.

More than anything though, I’ve had to ask myself the following question: WHERE THE CRAP DOES IT ALL COME FROM!? How is it possible that I am constantly purging through a closet that is seemingly always busting at the seams? How is it possible that I have so many random pieces of kitsch, so many pieces of paper that feign importance? The fact of the matter is, I am a product of my culture by and large, as much as I don’t like to admit it. We earn enough money so we can “live” – we earn as much as we do so we can buy things. We’ve all got our weak spots when it comes to what we buy. Some have an addiction to buying expensive electronics or other gadgets, for some people it’s shoes, still others love a top-of-the-line kitchen. Some people don’t care what it is, as long as it’s on sale. If we were honest with ourselves, we’d realize that much of the STUFF that we buy is unnecessary for life. Our money could be better spent elsewhere.

My own “shopping” weak spot is clothing. Wearing some new-to-me item is such a good feeling. Like a mini fresh start. I don’t shop a lot; the majority of my income is tied up before the paycheck even gets to me. Admittedly, however, I still do buy things on occasion. Weird and alarming, that “on occasion” is enough to cause such large ripples in the tide pools of ownership. I actually hate the mall (blech) and spend most of my shopping time in a sweet thrift store I’ve found; I rarely leave this place empty handed. But despite my thrifting habits and my overflowing closet, I feel like I’m making strides, at least. Here are a few tested and tried theories that have helped me slow the turnover rate in my wardrobe and curb my need to spend on impulse.

For one, I try not to thrift/shop with other people. I know, I know. Anti social. But when it comes down to it, the clothes I own that have the shortest turnover rate (from purchase to pile) are the ones I’ve purchased with the encouragement of others (“oh that looks GREAT!”). It took some serious evaluating, but in testing the theory out this summer I’ve found it to be true: It’s better for me to shop alone. Maybe for you, you need to shop with a buddy – someone who will tell you what looks good and what doesn’t; someone who will remind you that you already have six pairs of jeans. Maybe. But for me it’s just the opposite.

In addition, I’m proud to say that I’ve stopped shopping on impulse. It was a painfully hard habit to break, but I did it (and I’m still alive!). Here’s a little tip I discovered that changed my life (hah): let yourself pick up the item. There’s something about the weight of its existence that brings our weird habits into the light of day. Typically, when we know we want something on impulse, we resist the temptation to throw it in our basket – we leave it on the shelf. We then walk around the store and get everything else we need, all the while thinking about that perfect set of bowls over in the housewares section (on sale!). Then, right before we leave, we give in. We go and get the item, we make it through the cash counter without a hitch – the item is ours! And then, on the way out to the car, the weight of it starts to hit us. They’re heavy; they’re a tangible, real item. And I’m not entirely sure I need a new set of bowls, pretty as they are. Won’t there be others, later? …By putting the items in your basket right away, this thought process starts a LOT sooner, and with a little self discipline you’ll soon find yourself able to (gasp) put the item back onto the shelf and leave the store without it.

My final encouragement is to go through your bedroom and PURGE. Watch shows like Clean Sweep on TLC for inspiration (or a show called HOARDERS…but only if you’re in the mood to be seriously disturbed). Organize your belongings into KEEP, GIVE AWAY and TOSS piles (Clean Sweep has a “sell” pile instead of a “give away” pile – I’ll let you decide how badly you want to have a garage sale). The point is that you create a simple system that forces you to be cut and dry with what you own. You may need a buddy for this. (I volunteer my brutally honest opinion for what’s in your closet and my love for organizing others for the rest of your stuff). Next, choose an organization (thrift stores, youth centers, women’s shelters, kids clubs usually all take donations of clothing and household items) and give them your purged items.

There’s something psychologically freeing about getting rid of the tangible things we’ve been holding on to, especially when they carry no meaning. Physical space means mental and emotional space; once you’ve begun to experience tangible simplification you’ll find it easer to wrap your head around the things of life. No better time to clear the space around you than now, as we head into another dreary, greyed out winter. Let me know how it goes!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kleercut - Case Closed!

Well, I had intended on writing this post as a way to highlight a movement called Kleercut. This movement was launched in 2004 by Greenpeace as a way of holding big-name-brand Kimberly Clark accountable for their actions (outlined below) that were devastating the environment. But when I went to check up on the movement today, I came across some very VERY good news!

That's right! The mission was successful! Read on to learn more.

What was the company doing?
Formerly, as many of you will be aware of/remember, Kleenex brand tissues advertised that they were made from "100% Virgin Fibre!"; this was advertised everywhere they were in print. This means they were using straight up, non-recycled, fresh cut trees from the ancient forests (such as the Boreal Forest). In fact, most (if not all) of Kimberly Clark's products were made this way. With this method of production, the math worked out to this insane (but true) statistic: It takes 90 years to grow ONE BOX of Kleenex. 90 years! And that's just the impact that was being made by the one brand name.

Thankfully, that's no longer the case for Kimberly Clark! They've taken some drastic, exciting, industry leading action.

What is Kimberly Clark doing now?
Here's the official press release:

"Washington, D.C., United States — Greenpeace and countless activists [yours truly included] have asked Kimberly-Clark (K-C) to help save the Boreal forest since 2004, when the Kleercut campaign was launched. In a tremendous victory for ancient forests, including the Boreal, the company that makes popular brands like Kleenex, Scott, and Cottonelle has announced a new policy that places it among the industry leaders in sustainability, bringing the Kleercut campaign to a successful completion.

Kimberly-Clark has set a goal of obtaining 100 percent of the wood fiber used in its products – including the flagship brand Kleenex – from environmentally responsible sources. By 2011, Kimberly-Clark will ensure that 40 percent of its North American fiber is either recycled or certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – a 71 percent increase from 2007 levels, representing over 600,000 tonnes of fiber. Also by 2011, Kimberly-Clark will eliminate any fiber from the North American Boreal Forest that is not FSC-certified.

“The revised standards are proof that when responsible companies and environmental advocates come together, the results can be good for business and good for the planet,” said Scott Paul, Greenpeace USA Forest Campaign Director. “Kimberly-Clark’s efforts are a challenge to its competitors. I hope they pay close attention.”

K-C’s sustainability policy: Not just about protecting the Boreal

The Canadian Boreal Forest is North America’s largest ancient forest, providing habitat for threatened wildlife such as woodland caribou and over 1 billion migratory birds.

But clearcutting doesn't just wipe out the biodiversity of a forest – it wipes out an essential carbon storehouse. Canada’s Boreal Forest stores an estimate 186 billion tones of carbon, 27 times the world’s annual fossil fuel emissions -- meaning that a victory for the Boreal is also a victory for the climate.

While protecting the North American Boreal Forest has been a focus of the Kleercut campaign, K-C’s policy is about protecting Endangered Forests the world over. Greenpeace would not have agreed to anything less.

Because of K-C’s place in the paper products market, the company’s new policy will send a strong signal to its competitors, Procter & Gamble and Georgia Pacific, that creating a policy that protects ancient forests is a key element of sustainable business.

Woo-hoo!!! So with that, how about a BIG round of applause for Kimberly Clark! I think it's important that we all take a moment to say thank you to Kimberly Clark for taking appropriate action to protect our ancient forests!