Sunday, February 28, 2010

what you want for Christmas

Dear friends, may I present to you:

The Head Massager that looks like a Whisk, but is not a Whisk and is actually a Head Massager.*

Each little knob is magically formulated to remove stress nodules from the brain and several muscle groups.
To describe it in a word would be inappropriate (right, Alisha?), especially if there are any father-in-laws or polite-and-propers reading this. So instead I will say that you have never in your life felt anything so… soo… so tingly. Sensational. Delicious.

Yes, you want one for Christmas.

...or your birthday, or mother's day, or your anniversary - whichever comes first.

*Warning: may cause temporary euhporia. Users may be unable to focus or participate in conversation or the general goings-on in the space around them while Whisk-like Head Massager is in use.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

mumford & sons

The discussion from yesterday's post about tithing has got me deep in thought - so deep that I can't actually make any words come out (even though I have approximately 83 things I'd like to write about). Instead, and for now, I'll promote some music. Music and I are long time lovers; and I'm a bit of a snob about my taste in it. On occasion, I can hear the first chord of a song and know whether or not I will like it. When it comes to the music of this particular band, I decided I should buy the album in that short amount of time (one 4 count lies). I've been listening to these guys nearly non-stop for a over month now, and realized this morning that I had yet to advertise my love for them (you may have noticed that I do this from time to time).

Ladies & Gentlemen, meet Mumford & Sons.

Every now and then, a song comes along that seems to tell me what's in my soul - in this case, it's the mere sound of these 4 guys playing that moves me to understanding. Every single song I play of theirs changes something in me, or keeps it the same, or stirs it up or makes it move. So much of their music has explained the current inner complexities of my heart to my head; oddly enough, I feel like I might not have known myself as well otherwise. Basically, there have been so many moments this year that have left me without an explanation - I have found that in those moments, Mumford & Sons seems to say it for me (or, to me).

Music like this doesn't just happen to our world every day. Truly - sound this pure and gut wrenching and calming and soul-filled is rare. Their lyrics are beautiful and thought provoking, their melodies are heart piercing, and their delivery is epic. I loved what the biography on their website had to say about them:

"Since they formed in December 2007, the members of Mumford & Sons have shared a common purpose: to make music that matters, without taking themselves too seriously. Four young men from West London in their early twenties, they have fire in their bellies, romance in their hearts, and rapture in their masterful, melancholy voices. They are staunch friends - Marcus Mumford, Country Winston, Ben Lovett, and Ted Dwane - who bring their music to us with the passion and pride of an old-fashioned, much-cherished, family business. They create a gutsy, old-time sound that marries the magic of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with the might of Kings Of Leon, and their incredible energy draws us in quickly to their circle of songs, to the warmth of their stories, and to their magical community of misty-eyed men."

Their latest album, Sigh No More, was released in the UK on Oct 5, 2009, but we've had to wait until recent weeks to download it ourselves! But finally, it is here! I bought it yesterday and agree with what I've been hearing so far - this album is the accompaniment to a journey, and should be listened to from front to back (if not always, at least initially).

To pick out one song to show you is impossible; two is just as difficult. However, I've picked the two below simply because they are two of the first ones I heard and subsequently fell in love with. Although, while each song of theirs feels like a favorite each time I listen, these two have typically been my "go to" songs - even before I had the album. Thanks Youtube!

ps - the second song, Little Lion Man, has an expletive in the chorus (the F word, to be precise). Don't listen to the song if this will offend you, because quite frankly, I won't care. Wink. Kiss. Love.

...listening to this song - "The Cave" - again (watching the vid before I posted it here) has gotten me completely giddy.
I've fallen in love all over.

okay, I admit, I might have a favorite... This song has changed my life. It's impossible to explain.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

to tithe or not to tithe

Oh boy.

Disclaimer: I bring this up because of a conversation I've just heard, but also because I am trying to coerce you, my dear readers, into commenting. Bwahahaha.

“As He looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ He said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-3 NIV.

There are many who believe that tithing is a mandatory part of a Christian's life, much like baptism or even salvation (in extreme cases) - in other words, "If you don't tithe, God will not bless you financially." Or, in some cases, (and roughly phrased) "If you don't tithe, you are a bad Christian." Understandable I suppose, and the "proofs" and verses found in Scripture that back up this view are plentiful and convincing. But what about the other side? There are just as many arguments (with just as many proofs) to say that tithing is not mandatory, but rather, that the 10% figure was pulled from the OT and is therefore irrelevant. This side is more likley to argue that giving should be done with joy and not because "we have to." I can't say I fully agree with either side yet - convincing as they both try to be.

The reason I can't agree with one side or the other is because neither side allows room for the human experience. For example - should someone who is excessively wealthy be excused from giving more because "I've given my 10%, I've met my quota. I'm a good Christian", when they clearly have more to give? Or, should someone in mass amounts of debt be expected to give 10%, even if it means bouncing/missing payments?

The second of those two questions is the one that weighs much more heavily on my mind. Reason being, I am that person. Until this past December, tithing was not a regular part of my life. Truth be told, I've made some financial errors that have landed me in a significant amount of debt. You can save me the lecture(s), because I've heard them all - but I will say that my reasons for not tithing before this period were, in my mind, completely legitimate. I had nothing to give. Not even two coins. Did I give of my time? Absolutely. Did I give when I had the chance? Of course. But I didn't set aside 10% every month - in fact, I still don't. I give what I am able, and prayerfully, and am looking each month to increase what I give, but I don't let myself further the debt load to tithe.

I quoted the passage above because it was mentioned to me earlier today, as it has often been quoted to me. The person mentioned that in this case, the woman who had nothing gave all she had, and was therefore blessed - in fact, praised, because she "gave more than the others". This concept I have no problem with, at all. In fact, I love this story. In my head, she looks a lot like Mother Theresa - who couldn't love that image?

The question I am asking (although I've likely brought up hundreds more, above), is whether or not a person should go into debt to tithe. The woman gave all she had, yes, but she did not give what she did not have. We are called to be good stewards of our money, to be frugal and wise - to be open handed and giving, yes - but wise. Is it wise to bounce payments? Is it wise to further a debt load?

Although I already have ideas for what I think, those of you who've been here before will remember that I like to stir the pot every now and then. This is kind of a taboo subject, which makes me want to bring it up all the more (what a brat).

I am by no means suggesting that we all need to agree with eachother, but simply calling for a discussion. Please remember to be tactful and respectful with your responses.

So, what do you think? Should a person give a tithe out of a debt load?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

guess what TODAY is!!! (volume 2)

Well ladies & gents, the time for waiting is over! Laurell's new album, Can't Stop Falling, is available TODAY!!! This is without a doubt the biggest and most important week of her music career! In a word from her manager Sarah, "so many music industry and media eyes are on the album waiting to see if it will succeed or not. The ‘big fishies’ of music don’t give independent artist much of a chance and don’t really believe they can see a lot of sales, so we need to prove them wrong. The sales numbers of the album in it’s first week are huge in determining future support from the music industry and media, and we really need YOUR support right now to make that happen."

Find it on iTUNES, at your local music store,, or from her website! (*note: the release, so far, is just in Canada - IF YOU LIVE OUTSIDE OF CANADA - Check out her website - you can order her CD from there and they will mail it to you!!)

One last promo, and then I'm done. (for now. cough).

Party time!

Here's a bit of what to expect: "Handfuls of local business owners and supporters have jumped on board to make Laurell's CD Release Party a night to remember. From Red Carpet door prizes and abstract artwork, to a photobooth, gourmet cupcakes, and unique decorations, Laurell is showing her fans just how much she loves them by awarding luxury "goodie-bags" to her first 200 guests that night! Exchange your ticket for her new CD and come experience a night you won't forget!"

Get your tickets here 

(ps - if you're planning on getting your CD via your ticket at the CD release, why not buy one for a friend or three? Or your mom? Excellent idea, you!)

an Ode to my Roommate.

For some, the term “Roommate” brings fear and dread to the soul. For others it is a neutral term; neither here nor there, just someone that I live with. For me, however, “Roommate” is a term of cherished endearment. In fact, I cherish the role of a roommate so dearly that my current roommate Pam has had to endure many conversations where I refer to her as "Roommate", and not "Pam". I will always remember the very first time I noticed the difference. Pam and I were ending a phone conversation – checking in for the evening, seeing what was up, laying our grandiose plans for the weekend before us (you know, everything roommates do) – and Pam said, “Thanks Friend.” I responded with, “You’re welcome, Roommate.” Awkward hilarity ensued, as I tried to explain that no, really, Roommate is a good thing! Thankfully, it’s turned into a bit of a running joke in our friendship. We’ve even devised a term (by we, I mean Pam…I’m not quite this clever) – FRATE. FRiendroommATE. Pam is my Frate. I have the best friendroommate in the world.

I suppose my idealistic love of all things Roommate stemmed from my very first one, Alanna; we were both in our freshman year at college in Saskatchewan. A little bird might have told you that from where he sat, we were opposites - I, the quiet girl in old man pants bought at the thrift store; Alanna, the sophisticated and confident girl from Alberta. Alanna had a sense of humour, and it was easy to see: the girl was frickin’ hilarious. I had a sense of humour, I suppose, I just didn’t really know about it. Our names were “haphazardly” pulled from a piece of paper and added to the chart of “who should room with who” – and while our leadership may not have recognized it, our roommateship was (in my opinion) Ordained by the Good Lord Above.

If there was ever a girl that desperately needed to break out of her shell, it was me. If there was ever a friend to be the one to do the breaking, it was Alanna… up until that point in my life, I’d never had a friend that I could laugh that freely with and be so myself around. I had also never had a friend that would stay up until the wee hours of the morning with me so we could dismantle the bathroom stalls while everyone else slept – we squished into the shower stall and giggled like mad until Tara finally came in to use the washroom. Tara screamed, I nearly peed my pants from laughter, and Alanna – the next day – took all the blame when we got in trouble (it’s okay though, because I never told on her when she snuck in late after curfew. So we’re even…). Truthfully, I didn’t know who I was until I met her.

Alanna started a bit of a trend for me. Since her, I’ve cherished and wholeheartedly admired each roommate. My next roommate Laura was the prettiest person I’d ever seen close up and one of the coolest girls I’ve ever met. Stephanie was one of my best friends already, and rooming with her (though challenging at times, right love?) shaped me in new and sweet ways and only served to deepen our friendship in the long run. Erin & Joya gave me one of the most memorable and heart-warming years of my life. Natalie, a childhood favourite, was as lovely as can be; devoted and comforting to be around. My next roommate Cheryl, well, I took her everywhere with me (that I could, of course) – she had the softest heart out of anyone I’d ever met and was (like my other roommates), hilarious. She was a close & dear friend, not “just a roommate”.

My current roommate Pam has only continued the trend of beauty, grace, intelligence, and hilarity that I’ve been blessed to have in my roommates since the beginning of time. We’ve lived together for just over a year in a perfect house in a perfect location with the best landlords on earth. We’ve come into a time where our future together as roommates isn’t necessarily a set idea – our landlords are putting their house on the market soon, and our lives continue to move and shift as lives often do. While it’s possible that Pam and I will remain roommates for a long time to come, I have also had to deal with the reality that it may not happen… and as I’m sure you know, the thought of losing something you love is the perfect motivation to recognize how good you have it.

 Dear Pam,

You are the very best roommate a girl could ask for. I can’t even count the amount of times I have been moved to speechlessness over how gracious, kind, and friggin’ hilarious you are! One day we won’t be roommates, and I will cry. But you will always be my friend, and that makes me happy.
                                                     Love, your roommate.

…you know, I’ve recognized recently, through conversations with friends, that I’ve had it pretty good in the roommate department. It took me awhile to realize (and I’m still learning) that not everyone falls idealistically in love with the person they get to live with. As I’ve typed this post out into tangibility, the truth of how blessed I’ve been has struck me in a new way. So with this I say, to every roommate I’ve had: you’re a gem, and I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have gotten to share life with you for a time.

I’ve been talking a lot lately with my friend Bonnie about this idea of roommate bliss. She recently bought her own place and is struggling to find someone to live with. It seems as though everyone we know already has a roommate, or lives at home while in school, or…or…or…Just recently, in fact, she got a response to one of her ads (on a legitimate, roommate finding website) from a girl who, unlike the other responses she'd gotten, seemed promising. The only weird part was that she had “a secret” to share; a secret she was embarassed about... that secret?...."I have a big bag of diamonds."  Bah, hah, hah.

We’ve talked about it often enough that I’ve decided to do what I can to spread the news beyond our current community borders: here on my blog. I’ve listed some of the most pertinent details below for your perusal – please share this link with your friends (on your facebook, etc) and let’s get Bonnie a rockin’ roommate! In her words, and I quote, “I like this idea already...I'm just short of wearing a t-shirt that says I need a roommate, want to live with me!?”

Location: S. Surrey (Canada)
Location Location: two bedroom, two bathroom apartment; fireplace, patio, above ground (ground level; easy access), well lit (natural light is ample). House is fully furnished except for the 2nd bedroom (where you'll live - only one room to worry about!). Equipped with in house laundry, dishwasher, parking spot.
What about tomorrow? Move in date is as soon as you can.
Rent: $500/month is negotiable

Who you’ll be living with: a delightful human being named Bonnie. You’ll also be hearing a lot about Jesus if you live there – perfect for you if you actually love the guy yourself ;) If you don’t like laughing, eating good food, or having people over, you are not Bonnie’s roommate!

My two bits: just ask Pam – I spend a lot of time at Bonnie’s. We’ve dubbed her house as a place of rest, or freedom, or peace – there’s just something in the air there. Bonnie is the queen of hospitality, and through this house has been shown (countless times) what it means to bless others with what God’s given you, and to be blessed in return. To know Bonnie is to know Bonnie – you won’t get any stupid girl drama or secrets, you’ll get the real deal and a whole lotta love!

An aesthetic side note: the place is beautiful & Bonnie’s put a lot of work into making it that way!

Email me if you’re interested, and I will pass you along to Bonnie (pictures available upon request)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

goodbye telephone

Well, I can't say I ever thought I'd pull inspiration for a blog post from Lady Gaga's lyrics, but here I am. When I first heard Telephone on the radio, I turned it off almost immediately ("so annoying!"). But then, a few weeks later I was listening to the song with my sister on iTunes in an attempt to show her how annoying it was, and I actually found myself enjoying it. Now, admittedly, I turn it up when it comes on the radio. It's catchy, I admit. However (and you know this is coming, don't you) I have a small piece to chew about the lyrics.

The whole song is about a girl in a club who is getting really annoyed because her 'boy' won't stop calling her. Beyonce pairs with Lady G on this song and she sings quite forcibly at one point: " I shoulda left my phone at home, cuz this is a disaster! Callin' like a collector - sorry, I cannot answer!"  The main line in the song is "stop telephoning me."

You know, I don't really have sympathy for you, ladies. Okay okay, so you forgot to leave your phone at home. Boo hoo. Wah wah wah. But your phone still has a power button... you can still turn it off.

*shock and awe ripple through the crowds, young people everywhere are holding their breath, waiting for me to retract that statement*

Please do give the crowd my sincerest apology for ruffling their adorable feathers, but also do let them know that I meant what I said. Phones have off buttons. Off buttons on phones don't actually hold power over the spin of the universe or the gravitational pull of humans to earth or the ability of the sun to make light.

he missed a call.

In short, the world will not end if you turn your phone off. It also will not end if you don't answer a call right away.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn. I remember when I first got a cell phone just over 4 years ago I was permanently attached to it. Admittedly, I was so desperate to receive every call I got in the moment I got it (because I feared that the moon would fall from the sky if I didn't) that I had my phone on, and on me, all the time. It became so that I grew a tic (much like Teretz) where I would "check my phone" with alarming frequency; even if it was ON and on LOUD and BESIDE ME (and I therefore knew that nothing had happened in the last 5 minutes).

I started using my phone to check the time in the presence of clocks. Then text messaging became popular, and I got a new plan and I started texting more and before you know it I was communicating so frequently with everyone I knew and whenever someone wanted to get a hold of me I could be reached at any given time day or night even if it wasn't an emergency and even if I was really busy and didn't have time to take their call I would because my phone was on and beside me and that is just what you are supposed to do with cell phones!


I remember the first time I decided to turn my phone off overnight. It was a big step. I was so afraid that someone would die and that someone else would be trying to get a hold of me because that person was dying, and that I would miss it because my phone was off. But when I awoke the next morning, I discovered that I did not, in fact, have any phone messages or missed calls, and I discovered that everyone else I knew had - like me - been sleeping (not dying).

Near the beginning of my cell-addiction, I forgot to pay my phone bill. By "forgot" I clearly mean: did not pay. And by "did not pay", I most obviously mean: purposely avoided paying, for three months straight. Ouch. (It was a bad time for me, let's leave it at that). Long and short: my phone got turned off. For two months. At first I was devastated; I even cried. But after a week or two, I found that my breathing was lighter, I had more space in my head, and -shock of all shockers- the world kept on turning. I still had friends. I still knew how to communicate with others, and did so quite often; all without my phone.

in the olden days, telephones were attached to walls by a chord.
today, phones are attached by invisible chords - to their owners.

As I write this blog post it is Sunday, and I haven't looked (really looked) at my phone since Wednesday night. Save the odd text message (and one remarkably poignant and memorable call from dear Lavonne), I haven't looked at it. I don't know who called me on Thursday (sorry friend), I don't know who the missed alert was from yesterday. Because, quite frankly, I didn't look. I saw that there were missed alerts but that's as far as I took it.

...why? Why would anyone do this? What if this person had an important message? What if this person just wanted to talk? Or hang out? This person is a friend, and is therefore important, and therefore deserves my attention. Yes, that is true! I love my friends, and anyone who has my number was given that number by me, which meant that I expected them, at some point, to call me.

I suppose I felt the need to disengage myself from my phone this time because it was the easiest thing to shut off; the need to disengage from over-activity became a mandatory requirement for survival. While I am enjoying my schedule, I am working through an adjustment period with how full it is. As an example, I haven't spent any time at home in weeks (literally), and my brain has been just as active in pursuing outward stimulation - when I say I'm not at home, I mean that I'm not at home even when I am at home. This weekend was scheduled and full long before this month even began - and while I enjoyed it, my brain had reached capactiy. So, I reached back into the recesses of my mind to a time when I felt the most relief and clarity: those two months when I did not have a phone.

You know, maybe it's okay that people aren't able to get a hold of us exactly when they want to; maybe it's okay that I have to wait three days for you to call me back. The Human Race has survived incredible odds, and while it may be hard to imagine, there was actually a time in history where phones did not exist (!). Yet, suprisingly, we're still here. If our ancestors can make it through thousands and thousands and thousands of years without telecommunication... perhaps we could each survive a weekend?

***Disclaimer: to maintain musical integrity with the best of you, I will say that there are still parts of that song that don't meet my musical standards.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Laurell - one more time :)

Eventually I'll tire of telling you about the happenings of Laurell's music career....nah, who am I kidding!? Here's the latest info from Laurell. See you March 2!

Hi everyone! :)

Just wanted to share my latest with the GREATEST fans around..... in point form! So much exciting stuff is happening lately! In a nutshell, I'm having amazing chances to share my music on a much bigger scale, and it's humbling and exciting to be in this place. So.... here's the scoop!

1.My single, "Can't Stop Falling" is available TODAY on iTUNES RIGHT HERE !!!!!

I just received word it's broken the top 40 on the Canadian Hot A/C Charts! (#34!! What? Crazy!!)

Please keep requesting "Can't Stop Falling" on your local radio stations and more importantly, sign up to choose the music they KEEP PLAYING (especially on Virgin Radio in Vancouver)!

This helps it climb higher!

More news about the single winning CHUM RADIO's emerging artist initiative on my blog!

2. My NEW ALBUM will be in stores FEBRUARY 23, YAY!!! You can pre-order it RIGHT NOW on my website (physical copy) and on iTunes!

Thought this was all happening on March 2nd? Me too!
Due to popular demand, Warner Music/Pacific (my distributor) has moved up the release date!
Sales in the first few weeks are CRUCIAL, so if you want to make a huge difference, please RUN to the store and do all your early christmas shopping on FEB 23rd!!! Can't thank you enough for this kind of support! :)


Without a doubt, The BIGGEST NIGHT OF MY CAREER presented by The Beat 94.5!!!


Here's a bit of what to expect: "Handfuls of local business owners and supporters have jumped on board to make Laurell's CD Release Party a night to remember. From Red Carpet door prizes and abstract artwork, to a photobooth, gourmet cupcakes, and unique decorations, Laurell is showing her fans just how much she loves them by awarding luxury "goodie-bags" to her first 200 guests that night! Exchange your ticket for her new CD and come experience a night you won't forget!"


Two months long!!! Dates below, more info at

Please spread the word to those you know in other cities, Canada, here I come! (again)
That's it!! Thanks again for being such awesome fans. I am beside myself with gratitude for how much is happening with my music lately. Exciting times - I'm so thankful for you guys. See you very soon!



Come visit me at the show, and make sure to get your copy of Can't Stop Falling from iTUNES! (links in message above).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

10 things I’ve learned... watching the 2010 Winter Olympic Games:

1) the value of time one tenth of a second.

2) That I’m not as lazy as I thought I was…in fact, I’m lazier.

3) Falling down is not what matters. It’s when you fall that counts…and who you knock over in the process.

4) If my team is up, even the most mundane sport becomes exciting. Until my team leaves, of course, then that sport is boring once more.

5) Watching moguls makes all my joints want to die, watching cross country makes my stomach muscles convulse and watching downhill stops my lungs from working. In short, I’m a delightful spectator.

6) Cheering for the same team makes people like you, if for no other reason at all.

7) Did you know that biathletes can slow their heart rate from hyperactive to resting in under a minute? It’s how they shoot the guns so calmly. That’s about as fast as I can eat a Big Mac. I win.

8) I’ve learned that even though I’m the least athletic person I know, I’m still oddly and falsely competitive, “Fine, so you’re a really good athlete and you just won a gold medal. But if you ever have an essay to write I could… edit it for you… and increase your grade… by a marginal amount.”

9) If people loved and devoted themselves to loving others like Jesus did as much as they loved and devoted themselves to the world of sports, we’d live in a very different world.

10) And finally, I've realized that Countries and people groups may war for a time, but they will always – at some point – put down their guns long enough to play hockey. Maybe instead of war we should just have more sporting events? Winner takes all.

I love this picture.
Alexandre Bilodeau takes Gold for Canada
 at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You Are Special

I am really, really good at starting things: small businesses, creative projects, and the all-too-familiar self improvement plan. Finishing, however, is another matter entirely. I am always (and I do mean always) in one of the following places: jumping out from the gate in a ball of fiery passion, meandering slowly through an idea that now bores my every cell, or pausing briefly to think of a new ‘kick’ (before I start again at the proverbial gate). It’s a continuous cycle. Recognizing the pattern is one thing, I suppose. Doing something about it, well that’s another route entirely.

When it comes to creative process, the concept of “finishing” has always seemed somewhat foreign to me. There is always something else that could be changed or altered; there is always at least one crack in an otherwise glassy appearance. It was Leonardo Di Vinci who said that “art is never finished; only abandoned”, and oh what a comfort these words have been. There is freedom here; that I can only do my best until I can do no more; that I am not the only one in an artist’s tumult. In recent years, I’ve had to make some seemingly minor (although drastically effective) changes to the way I perceive my own process as an artist. First: to accept that I am, in fact, artistic. Isn’t it the case that most artists don’t recognize how truly gifted they are. Second: to admit that I might have something to offer the world through my gifts. Finally: to accept that my artistic side is entirely unique, never perfectly copied, and never entirely like someone else’s. Comparisons are ludicrous, especially in the realm of giftedness. I have been given the gifts that I have been given for a specific purpose; my means and end are unlike those I see around me. So are yours.

The concept that “comparisons are ludicrous” expands far beyond “the art world”. In everything, each human is as unique as their own fingerprint, and the cost of Comparison is high and dangerous. I can say this with authority because I have been there, unrelentingly, from birth; I have either been the one doing the comparing, or I’ve had the unfortunate role of becoming a weird sort of measuring system for people around me. I have not always been stuck here; and in recent years the temptation to compare myself has grown less and less appealing. But as I’ve shifted my focus from outward opinions and back to the One that matters, I’ve begun to notice a few things. I’ve observed that those who are the least comfortable with themselves are the most likely to be vocal and brash with their comparisons, especially if you are the target of their resentment. I’ve become increasingly aware of the fragile state of human independence: I know of not one person who has escaped the temptation to measure themselves by the standard of their neighbour. Finally, I’ve learned and re-learned that confidence and validation can not come from external, human sources.

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said “no one can make you feel inferior
without your consent” – beautiful words. Words I have often read and re-read and repeated to myself as I’ve grown throughout the years. But I think it would also be fair to say that we are often too quick to give ourselves over to feelings of inferiority; within our own minds and in regards to our own decisions. The weirdest part about this self-inflicted feeling of inferiority is that it is often a comparison of ourselves to…ourselves. Sure, we do compare to others. But what I have seen in so many individuals is that the consent to give way to inferiority is provided solely by that person’s own self-constructed mindset about who they are. “You are not a good enough mother”; “You are unattractive”; “You are not smart enough”; “You are not a strong enough husband”; “You are worthless”. These kinds of statements can be made without ever having to compare ourselves to another, and often, our comparisons in this realm are far more dangerous in that they have become the truths we know, instead of the lies we question.

Where does this pattern start? It starts when we believe the lies we’re told, instead of counteracting them with the truths about who we are. Once the lies become comfortable enough to feel like truth, we no longer need the outside comparison – we simply believe them as though they were sewn into our soul’s very fabric. There are countless factors that come at us from all angles, telling us what we’re probably worth; images and messages and measuring sticks. Despite these bombardments, however, there is only one person who can actually do something to change your self perception: YOU. You can not wait for someone else to come along and heal you. Stop where you are, let yourself grieve the pain of the many wounds you’ve received. And then, even if it is one baby step at a time, start moving. Give yourself permission to move past the obstacles that other people tried to put in your way. Stop agreeing with what they said. If you agree and don’t like it, then make the simple decision to change.

You are the only person who can give yourself permission to have a purpose beyond your current situation. If you want to be the kind of person that eats better, then eat better. If you want to be the kind of person that reads more, then read more. If you want to be the kind of person who spends more quality time with their children, then spend more quality time with your children. If you want to get back into a lost passion or skill, then start practicing. These are not unreachable goals; they are simple decisions. Why must we coddle our negative emotions, our self chosen labels, our excuses (legitimate or not) for being stagnant or insecure in one area? Drive yourself towards personal growth. Expect heartache and challenge, but at least get going.

I can say this so readily because I AM that person. The labels I had growing up (self inflicted and others-inflicted) included (but were definitely not limited to): painfully shy, awkward, un-likeable, unpopular, unloved, loser, friendless, ugly, talentless, afraid, weak, etc. To be honest I lived with those labels for years, and eventually lived with them by choice for years, until finally something clicked and I decided not to be that person anymore.

One of my favourite books in the whole wide world is a book called You Are Special, by Max Lucado. In the book, a town of little wooden people (called Wemmix's) spend their days sticking gold stars or black dots on the other villagers. You guessed it, the stars are given to the most beautiful, the most talented, the most lovely townsfolk. The dots, of course, are reserved for the lesser in society; those that trip or stumble, those that sing off key, those with misshapen heads. One day, it is discovered that there is a person in their town who has no stars or dots on her at all – and when someone tries to give her one, they don’t stick! We learn that it’s because she visits her Maker every day, and she listens to what He has to say about her and eventually, her stickers don’t stay stuck any more.

I love this story because it works on so many levels, and though it was written as a children’s book, I discovered it first in adulthood and found comfort in its pages even then (and still do). One thing I’ve noted, though, is this: the stars and dots stop sticking to her not because she visits her Maker every day, but because she believes the things He says about her. She chooses to believe the truth about who she is, and in that belief, nothing else matters…or sticks.

Maybe it’s counter cultural to say it, but confidence is a decision. You can’t buy feelings of self-worth at a store or borrow them from your friend. At its surface, this statement feels very juvenile – have we not heard this very thing since our first day of elementary school? We have. And yet, so many of us still permeate our minds with the idea that if only we ____________ (lost five pounds? had more money? had a spouse?), then we would know self-worth; then we would know confidence. Really and truly, though, this isn’t the case. Dropping a pants size won’t affect your worth, and neither will the friend count on your facebook profile.

Should you live a healthy lifestyle? Sure, absolutely. Eat lots of veggies, join a running club, take the stairs. Go on a date, dance in the parking lot, join a book club; meet new people, build relationships. But you should do these things from a place of self-worth, not towards it.  You live a full life because you know you are worthy of living a full life; you enjoy life because you have been given this life to enjoy; you laugh with people because you are worthy of laughing alongside them. You don’t do these things to try and obtain self worth along the way. You’re already there. You’re already worth all that. And the best part about all of this living is that you get to be you the whole time.

My own journey, much like yours perhaps, is a constant cycle around the following question: who am I, and what the heck am I doing here? It is an intrinsic part of my personality to constantly redefine the answers to these questions. Perhaps you aren’t the same in this regard, but I would cease to believe that you’ve never pondered the reasons for your existence. My knack for redefining what defines me has actually been something of value (although it feels, at times, quite cyclical). Suffice to say, I have not always been as sure of myself as I am now; and I guarantee you that in a short amount of time, this cycle will start over, and I will be asking myself those same questions all over again (sure of myself or not).

I have spent so many years of my life wishing I was better at remembering details, that I could small talk with ease, or that I was the kind of person who enjoyed center stage. I’ve wished I wasn’t so darned shy when I first meet people, and I still can’t stop clinging to the hope that one day, I’ll be able to do simple math in my head. The truth, though (that liberating truth) is that I am none of these things. I have a horrible memory for details, and if it weren’t for the invention of the calendar, the Day-Timer, the paper and the pen, I would get nothing done and remember very little. I get so nervous when I have to make small talk that I actually spend most of those few short minutes telling myself not to panic – but you know, I’m an excellent listener, and I love deep conversations. As far as worrying about math and numbers, I have decided instead to embrace my dependency on the calculator.

I learned quite awhile ago to enjoy my position in life as a helper; behind the scenes, away from the front-middle. Not only has it relieved a lot of stress and self-critique, it has opened doors I didn’t think were there in the first place. I have discovered that I am not only really good at helping people, but that I actually love it. Menial tasks are the new imperative. The mundane is now significant. All because I stopped believing that I had to be something or someone else to live life well.

The people I admired, when I did not admire myself, were happy. It took me awhile to realize that they were happy because they liked who they were; it took me a bit longer to realize that both of those things were simple decisions that I too could make.

It’s alarmingly abnormal to be unwavered by the opinions of others; I know this because I’ve experienced it. Like the characters in Max Lucado’s book, the little stars and dots aren’t sticking anymore. They don’t stick because I don’t care if they do or not, because I am only looking for my Maker’s voice to define me. I’m not saying I don’t forget who I am on occasion, and I am certainly not saying I don’t admire those little golden stars every now and then (or wear the dots on purpose). But what I am saying is that most of the time, I am stickerless.

My name is Ashley, and I am really, really good at starting things. I can’t do math in my head or remember what the date is. But I know Who defines me, and that is enough.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to hold a grudge: four easy steps.

Step one. Pull out your magnifying glass. Look closely at things like glances, gestures, and breathing patterns – pay the most attention to the details that are poky and annoying.

Step two.
Run over their words and actions with a fine toothed comb. Write your interpretation on top of their words in permanent ink. If there is more than one possible meaning, choose the most personally offensive option.

Step three.
Get out your big fat box of crayons. Colour the other person in. Show everyone else your picture. Be sure to point out which areas of colour are the most important.

Step four. Tape the coloured picture and the permanent ink on the inside of your forehead, just above your eyes. Make colour copies, roll them up, and stuff them into your ear drums. Eat the extra copies of your picture for a snack (goes well with milk). Save some for later. Mail some to your friends. Submit a copy to the church bulletin. Write a letter to the editor; include colour copy.

Congratulations! You are now an expert grudge holder.

Monday, February 15, 2010

they that wait

this is me:
trying hard to be poetic
or profound
or notable
or well spoken.
this is me, fumbling instead.

this is me

waving my little white surrender flags
from my quiet little corner

this is my hope:

that instead of constantly seeking,
I would one day be Found.

this is Your word:
You see those little white flags and
the sentences I can't quite form
and the hope that pours itself into molds of pre-thought conception.
You saw all this beforehand,
and you picked me for your team anyways.
this is Your word,
and Your word is my hope.

good news for radio stations everywhere

A wee update.

Remember this post?

Well, word on the street is, she's number 39 on the Canadian charts.
Yes, that's right - she's in the TOP 40!!!

Thanks for supporting local art, y'all.

ps - you can purchase her single, "Can't Stop Falling" on iTUNES tomorrow - and the full album is available March 2!
pps - check out this link for an updated list of which radio stations are currently playing her stuff! (also, if yours isn't on the list, feel free to harass them until they play it! I've done this before and it works)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Fiction based on truth is the most compelling type of fiction, in my opinion. Because at no point can you settle your emotions by saying, “Well, this didn’t actually happen.” Stories about wars that didn’t happen feel much lighter than stories about wars that did happen – “fictional” or not. It’s the difference between Pirates of the Caribbean and We Were Soldiers; or ET vs Forrest Gump. No, Forrest Gump was not a real man. But he could have been. And the things happening in his world were real; therefore, he becomes real. The same thing happens in books.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (written by Mary Ann Shaffer) went from a book I’d never even heard of to a book I passionately enjoyed within the first three pages. Early on, I knew it would be a favourite - later on, my opinion hasn't changed. The structure of the book is different than most in that the story is told through correspondence; letters, written from one character to another.

Juliet, the main character, is a writer in her early 30’s who is living in Europe, post WWII. She is itching for new writing material, and Sidney (her publisher and best friend's older brother) agrees it's about time. The book opens as Juliet struggles to come up with a good enough subject to fill all those blank, awaiting pages. No sooner have we met her, than do we meet Mr. Dawsey Adams. Dawsey is from the tiny island of Guernsey, in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. He originally writes to ask a simple favour of Juliet, and through the letters that follow Juliet is introduced to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; a group of unlikely literary hounds that formed during the war. They started the Society to survive; they kept it going because they grew to love it, and to depend on it; and each other. The cast of characters expands and the stories they tell (as well as the characters themselves) quickly make their way into the affections and imagination of Juliet.

It’s happened a few times that I read a book and instantly identify with the main character; on many levels, I will feel as though we are the same person. Juliet is no different. This makes a book more interesting, to say the least. My emotions get snatched involuntarily from my chest and thrown onto the page, a lot more readily than I care to admit. As I’m reading through Guernsey, I'll read a thought of Juliet’s and it will feel like my thought; I will read what she says and it will feel like my sentence. When a book like this ends, I usually go through an odd sort of grieving process.

The Guernsey folk have become a group of people I care about greatly and hope to meet someday. Even though I know they are only characters in a book…I believe they are based on real people and I could therefore ask Dawsey to carve me a wooden mouse; if only I could get myself over to Guernsey.

In 50 more pages, I will be finished the book entirely. While I am dying to know what happens next and will therefore plow through those 50 pages as fast as I can, I already recognize that owning a copy Guernsey will very soon make its way to the top of my financial priority list. Pretty soon, I’ll have to give this copy back to Anita, and I’m not sure I want to be away from my friends for that long.

“I can’t remember the last time I discovered a novel as smart and delightful as this one, a world so vivid that I kept forgetting this was a work of fiction populated with characters so utterly wonderful that I kept forgetting they weren’t my actual friends and neighbors. Treat yourself to this book please—I can’t recommend it highly enough.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Elizabeth, you read my mind.

*Update. I have just devoured those last 50 pages. Delicious.
My heart is now surrounded by mist.

the pages of a magazine: spotlight on lily&jae

As I sit here, I am the Picture of Fashion in my old Batman t-shirt (that I bought for $1, thank you very much) - at 1am, I'm comfortable with my selection. Laurell's new music is coming through my headphones so loudly that my ears are threatening to go on strike. My roommate is sleeping, and I should be too. But you see, I promised my friend Bailey (and myself) that I would write a blog post about the new lily&jae collection. I want to - I'm just not entirely sure what I can say; a girl in a Batman t-shirt.

Well, child's shirt or not, I still know good fashion when I see it - and for those of you who know me, you'll know how much I love LOCAL art. Fashion is Art, my friends, and this clothing is made (and sold) right here in Vancouver! Shout out - to lily&jae, perhaps?

...looking at these dresses is enough to inspire even the smallest imagination. What I love about their style is that it is SO SIMPLE. Great colors & sweet patterns; girly, without going over the top. Pick your favorite summer memory and combine it with every heartbeat you have for your best friends. Add a romantic evening. There go you, the new collection by lily&jae. Also: killer boots, man.

These are just a small sampling of my favorites from their latest collection

So - where to from here? To my Financial Management course tomorrow, obviously; first class of thirteen. Hoooboy.... I'm certain they'd be impressed with me if I showed up wearing a new outift, don't you think? Not to fret though, dear friends - I've just been entered to win a g/c from the dears at lily&jae themselves! Isn't that nice of them? When I win (aw, how adorable, look at all that faith!), I'll post pics of me modelling my new l&j finds - you lucky reader, you! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

whimsy and suspicion

If my posting habits lately have been any indication, you may note that my brain is working on overload (even I have trouble keeping up with how often I've posted). The need to output “information” has been vital (although it’s not vital information) because there has been so much input lately, and my brain is a slow computer. I can remember three things at once, tops. Maybe four. After that, give me my day planner or my calendar or a pen to write on my arm with; or, of course - for any thought too big to fit on a 'to do' list, give me my blog. Once I have a thought or a theory, or come across something I deem to be exciting, onto the blog it goes. Whether I’m ranting and raving (politely, of course), drawing horribly amateur doodles as a mode of personal therapy, or telling you things you probably already know – I have lost the ability to keep it all in. In fact, it has become a part of my pre-conscious instinct to write it down; usually here. Like an electronic version of show and tell.

…I appreciate that you come back here to see what the day has brought my mind, and what my mind has done with it. In fact, I may love you for it. But I’ll save my odes and poems for Valentines Day (a day typically used to exchange these types of flattery).

In the meantime, I would like to acknowledge a fact: at times, I make no sense.

I made a comment yesterday (on another venue for personal thought) that sounded something like this: “I am holding hands with Whimsy, and I am loving it.” In saying this, I must admit I had a wee moment of self-satisfaction. There is a little nerd inside of me – let’s call her Mildred or Gracie or June (or maybe there are three?) – who likes to say things that won’t make sense to anyone else. “I am so poetic” she states with pride, pushing her glasses up with one index finger. This joy usually ends, however, when someone actually makes a comment like, “Um, what?” In this case, my mom came to the rescue of my flailing ability to communicate with normal words and said, “Elaborate, please.”

Elaborate!? cried Millie.
Elaborate!? repeated June, with a bit more emphasis.
Does this thought not speak for itself?? said Gracie, aghast.

“No; no it doesn’t,” said everyone else within earshot.

Now, I don't think my mom meant to set off the little nerds in my chest cavity (pipe down Millie). You'll have to forgive the girls mom; they're a bit moody. To explain the thought I will say this: I suppose that I enjoy turning things that aren’t things into Things. Like whimsy. It’s not actually possible to hold hands with whimsy (unless, of course, Whimsy was an actual person’s name. Dreadful thought). But yesterday as I dreamt about the things I dream about, my little heart started to pitter patter its way toward the clouds – and it was then that I realized: I was holding hands with Whimsy.

That didn’t make any sense. says Mille.
You are entirely gone, aren’t you? confirms June.
Gracie, at last, has no words to add.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date.

With Whimsy.

MADNESS.... yes please :)

Chelsea phrased it "NO SLEEP UNTIL MARCH!", and I agree. There are SO MANY FREE CONCERTS throughout this great land (oh, just the lowermainland - wink) during the next few weeks that I can already feel my caffiene addiction coming back with full force. Like Sharelle and many others, I feel the need to make a schedule. Even still, I am overwhelmed at how much I'm missing, even though I will be seeing more concerts in the next 2 weeks that I've taken in during my entire life. Thank you tax dollars, for finally doing something cool with yourself.

Here's a large list of concerts to see. For more bands (yes MORE) and other events that aren't listed below check out this link. Or this link. Or this link.

Fri Feb 12th - Venice Queen - 10:15 @ Ozone
Fri Feb 12th - Bedouin Soundclash - 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Fri Feb 12th - Blue Rodeo - 9:15 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 13th - Jet's Overhead - 8:00 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 13th - Five Alarm Funk - 9:00 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 13th - Daniel Wesley - 10:00 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 13th - Califone! - 7:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sat Feb 13th - Hey Ocean - 8:00 @ Ozone
Sat Feb 13th - Bedouin Soundclash - 9:30 @ Ozone
Sat Feb 13th - Jessie Farrel - 10:00 @ Livecity Downtown
Sat Feb 13th - Default/Wilco - 6:15/10:00 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sun Feb 14th - Keisha Chante - 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Sun Feb 14th - Mother Mother - 8:00 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sun Feb 14th - Rich Hope - 8:00 @ Livecity Downtown
Sun Feb 14th - Daniel Wesley - 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sun Feb 14th - Elliot Brood - 9:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Sun Feb 14th - Serena Ryder - 9:00 @ Holland Park
Mon Feb 15th - Sloan - 10:30 @ Atlantic Canada House
Mon Feb 15th - Serena Ryder - 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Mon Feb 15th - Jet's Overhead - 9:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Mon Feb 15th - Matisyahu - 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Tue Feb 16th - Fresh IE - 7:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Tue Feb 16th - Alexisonfire - 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Tue Feb 16th - Buck 65 - 9:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Tue Feb 16th - Eliot Brood - 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Tue Feb 16th - The Trews - 10:30 @ Atlantic Canada House
Wed Feb 17th - DRUM! - 5:00 @ Livecity Yaletown
Wed Feb 17th - Corb Lund - 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Wed Feb 17th - The Arkells - 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Wed Feb 17th - Hawksley Workman - 9:30 @ Ozone
Wed Feb 17th - Hot Hot Heat - 9:00 @ Holland Park
Thur Feb 18th - Jully Black - 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Thur Feb 18th - Keisha Chante - 8:00 @ Livecity Yaletown
Thur Feb 18th - Corb Lund - 9:00 @ Holland Park
Thur Feb 18th - Rumba Calzada - 9:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Thur Feb 18th - The Arkells - 8:30 @ Ozone
Thur Feb 18th - Our Lady Peace - 9:45 @ Ozone
Thur Feb 18th - Marianas Trench - 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Fri Feb 19th - Deadmau5 - 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Fri Feb 19th - DRUM! - 8:00 @ Ozone
Fri Feb 19th - Jully Black - 10:00 @ Holland Park
Fri Feb 19th - The Arkells/Sam Roberts - 7/9:00 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 20th - The Arkells/ Sam Roberts - 6:30/9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sat Feb 20th - Marianas Trench - 9:30 @ Ozone
Sat Feb 20th - Mother Mother - 10:00 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 20th - DRUM! - 6:30 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 20th - Hey Ocean - 8:30 @ Holland Park
Sun Feb 21st - 54-40 - 9:00 @ Holland Park
Sun Feb 21st - Jully Black - 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Mon Feb 22nd - Colin James - 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Tue Feb 23rd - Wintersleep - 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Wed Feb 24th - Wintersleep - 10:30 @ Atlantic Canada House
Wed Feb 24th - Damian "Jr.Gong" Marley - 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Thur Feb 25th - Illscarlett - 6:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Thur Feb 25th - Wintersleep - 9:30 @ Ozone
Thur Feb 25th - Inward Eye - 11:30 @ Livecity Downtown
Fri Feb 26th - Tokyo Police Club - 9:45 @ Ozone
Fri Feb 26th - Inward Eye - 6:00 @ Holland Park
Fri Feb 26th - Illscarlett - 8:00 @ Holland Park
Fri Feb 26th - Marianas Trench - 9:00 @ Holland Park
Fri Feb 26th - TBC - 8/9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sat Feb 27th - The Stills - 10:15 @ Ozone
Sat Feb 27th - Illscarlett - 10:00 @ Ontario Pavillion
Sat Feb 27th - Blue Rodeo - 9:30 @ Livecity Yaletown
Sat Feb 27th - Wide Mouth Mason - 9:30 @ Holland Park
Sat Feb 27th - Tokyo Police Club/Wintersleep - 9/10:00 @ Holland Park
Sun Feb 28th - Five Alarm Funk - 9:30 @ Ozone


Monday, February 8, 2010

SHOUT OUT - Hope Rises (a film about Rwanda); an interview with Trevor Meier

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.


Every once in awhile, I come across a story that forces me to stop and look closely at just how selfish and naive I can be. I was in my friend Jody's kitchen a couple of years ago when the small group of us began to discuss the Rwandan genocide. Well, I should say - they began to discuss it. I had nothing to contribute because, at 24 years old, I had never heard the entire story (if any of it). Sure, I knew that Rwanda was kind of an important topic; I'd heard it mentioned more than once. But sadly, that is as far as it went. So by the end of our conversation I had expressed enough suprise (and shock, and tears) and asked enough "really?" questions, that Jody offered to lend me one of the books she had just read. I was nervous to read about it - after what I'd just heard in conversation, I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to sort through even more details - but I quickly shushed the voice of my hesitation; all I had to do was read about it.

To "sum up" this story of the Rwandan genocide is pretty impossible, but here are a couple of quick points to get you thinking:
Death toll: 1,174,000 in 100 days (10,000 murdered every day, 400 every hour, 7 every minute)
To Americanize that statistic: imagine three 9/11's every day for three months.

The book Jody lent me was written by a woman named Immaculee Ilibagiza, called "Left to Tell: Discovering God amidst the Rwandan Holocaust." It is one thing to hear a story told third hand by a friend at her kitchen table; it is another thing entirely to read a first hand account of the same story. This book and Immaculee's story sat heavily in my chest; and still sits there whenever I let myself think about it. The emotional journey of a story like this one is pretty significant, to say the least. The things that happened were horrific, shocking, devastating, and sickening. I felt responsible: why didn't I know!? and after that, why didn't anyone tell me!? More than anything, though, I felt completely helpless and angry: why didn't we do anything??

Transition: Hope Rises
Pain is not trivialized by the beauty the inevitably comes after it, no more than the dirt stops existing once a flower grows - but rather, the focus of the stories change. They end differently and are told differently, as time passes and hope takes root. We see beauty from pain, instead of just the pain. Immaculee's story of hope is not the only one to come out of Rwanda. There have been countless books, songs, and stories about these beautiful, resiliant people. Today, I am going to highlight one of them.

Introduction: What is Hope Rises?
"Rwanda: Hope Rises is a documentary exploring how Rwanda is healing in the years following the genocide. It's a story of a scarred nation's restoration and healing, and their struggle towards a hopeful future. When genocide explodes in 1994, Nicholas, a Hutu, must discover how to protect his wife Elsie, a Tutsi, from the murderous Hutu militias. Elsie assumes a false identity, and the two begin a dangerous journey to flee the country. When they finally cross into neighbouring Congo, Nicholas and Elsie discover their journey has only just begun. After such evil, how can Hutu and Tutsi forgive one another? How can a nation heal? How can husband and wife face their past, forgive, and rebuild their family?" (1)
Introduction: Who is Trevor Meier?
Trevor Meier is the director/producer of this documentary. A few months back, Trevor contacted me and asked that I share Hope Rises with my readers. I immediately said yes, but struggled to find the words to say (and the time to devote an appropriate amount of attention to a project so wonderful).  Instead of just writing my own thoughts on this piece, I thought it would be better to go straight to the source. What follows is an interview with Trevor; you can hear first hand why this project was started, filmed & finished.

Trevor! I know there’s lots of info on the website, but I’d love to hear a bit more in your own words – how did you get involved with this project? Why? Who started it?
The project started when a friend of mine (Richard Taylor) returned from a trip to Rwanda. He and another friend from university met Nicholas and Elsie in Rwanda and were inspired by their story. They founded a non-profit to help get their vision for quality education off the ground in Rwanda, and Richard – naturally – was hitting up all of his friends for money :) I didn't really have much to offer financially (we were all fresh out of university), but I thought the story would make a great film.

Four friends (myself, Lyn & Jesse Rosten, and Chris Davies) got together and agreed to work together on making a film. I'd been to Africa a few times by this point filming other projects, so I felt like I had a handle on what was needed. I was completely wrong, of course, but we gave it a go anyway. The four of us went to Rwanda for the first time in April 2005. We filmed over 20 interviews and shot a lot of b-roll, and brought the footage home to attempt to sort out what we'd come away with.

I wish I knew then what I know now, but that's how it all started. We did a total of three filming trips over three years, and created a story out of it that I think is a good testament to the courage and spirit of the people in Rwanda. Everyone in the film is Rwandan, telling their own story of what it was like during and after the genocide, what it's been like to forgive and the whole process of building a new life after such a tragedy.

What was it like to work on this film?
It was really inspiring to work on, and more so as time has gone on. These people – Nicholas and Elsie especially – have been through so much. For them to be willing to relive those moments for us is an honour. The courage and determination they showed through the events of the genocide, and their willingness to forgive and attempt to reconcile is really inspiring to me.
What do you hope to accomplish, now that the film is done?
That's a big question for me right now... I think in the big picture I feel that empathy for "the other" – people who have a different life experience than us – is one of the most important elements of being a global citizen. I would hope that people watching the film would get a sense of camaraderie with the Rwandans in the film and feel a sense of co-ownership of their story - not in the sense of living through the events, but in feeling more like neighbours than looking through a looking-glass at "those Africans over there." What went on in Rwanda is a result of the kind of belligerent ignorance we see on our own continent, when tempers flare and others aren't willing to respond with grace to another person's perspective. I'm not saying we're at risk of genocide, but our lack of empathic action makes us complicit in Rwanda's genocide, and the genocides happening now in Darfur and the Congo. So I guess my hope is that viewers would feel a connection to Elsie, Nicholas, and the others in the film in a way that opens up the world to them.

I often ask myself  "But...what can I do?" when it comes to tragedy on a grand scale. Truthfully, I think this is something I will always be asking. Instead of taking a defeatist's approach, however, the tone of my question is changing; it's gone from a helpless shrug to a challenge I'd like to meet. Thankfully, there are people like Richard, Trevor, Lyn, Jesse & Chris to show us by their own example what knowledge, acknowledgement, and action can do. These people are leading by example - perhaps we should all do the same?

The DVD can be ordered from the official site:

**Important Note from the creators**
Rwanda: Hope Rises - Film Screenings

Rwanda: Hope Rises is available for public screening. We have specially-formatted DVDs that are licensed and formatted for large-screen presentation, as well as various HD formats. If you would like to host a screening, please contact us.

Please note that the DVD for sale on this website is for home-use only. If you would like to hold a screening outside of your home, please get in touch.

happy monday.


Mornings: A Haiku
the haughty alarm
the soft voice of my pillow
...guess who wins this one?

...coming soon - a really sweet SHOUTOUT (remember those?)

Friday, February 5, 2010

joy joy joy

It’s the end of another work day; the middle of another day. I am having a crazy feeling inside my chest; like the end of an eclipse, like newly born light – as refreshing as the sound of a carbonated beverage being opened for the first time. Perhaps it is the busy weekend ahead of me, or the goals I’ve decided I want my life to accomplish – perhaps it is something big, or small. But whatever it is, it has me feeling absolutely giddy to be alive. I want to run around in the streets and yell: I LOVE MY FAMILY! I LOVE MY FRIENDS! I EVEN LOVE THE PEOPLE I DON'T KNOW! I want to shake people dramatically by the shoulders and ask them what their favourite thing about being alive is… and then subsequently, to dance a jig.

I hope that you let yourself experience the world this way, and often – to let the joy of living sweep you away into borderline hysteria. I hope you open up your heart to give… or to receive; to be the best part of someone else’s day. I hope when you forget your sunglasses on a day too bright for words you smile, not cringe. I hope you buy a homeless man lunch at least once. I hope you sit with him at least twice.

There is so much life to be lived. There are too many notes not to sing at least one of them - loudly. The sound of your laugh is so uniquely you that I can’t help but be brought to life by hearing it. Your gifts are a part of your fingerprint; they are inescapable. Don’t deny them, don’t try to escape them. Every bit of good in you is there for a purpose and adds to the world; to my world.

I am happy to be alive and I am happy to be breathing. I am humbled by the human capacity for hope, and inspired by it all at once. I want to lead the kind of life that points others Homeward. I want to love people in a way that causes them to see the Source. I want to keep breathing in, so long as I have the capability.

I want to live, and then write about it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

doodle therapy

my uneventful kitchen

As I was making dinner for a friend a few weeks ago, she was commenting on how good the chicken was and I said, "Yes, well, this is the only kind I ever make!"  Now, while I've noticed my less-than-noteworthy cooking habits in the past, something about saying it out loud changed the way my brain processed the information. It went from being a passing thought I could ignore to an argument between my Brain and Reality. I really do have a small repertoire of know-how in the kitchen.

Brain, on the defence:
"Well, you also know how to make…um….well…sometimes you cook tha…uh…you don’t alw…"

"Bahaha. I win."

Truthfully, I don’t actually spend a lot of time in my kitchen. I am usually running between jobs or meetings or social gatherings or squeezing the last drop of time I have into an agenda of some sort. Most weeks, I don’t spend more than 4 hours at a time in my house (unless, of course, I’m sleeping). This doesn’t leave a lot of time for meal prep, and it certainly doesn’t leave a lot of mental space for creative food ideas. So, essentially, I do a lot of eating out (for those that know me well enough to know why that’s ironic, I ask you to ignore it, for now). But even when I am in my kitchen, or at the store picking out ingredients, I’m usually at a loss for what to put together. Chicken and rice? ....*yawn*

I have been intentionally writing “TIME OFF: STAY HOME” in permanent ink onto the pages of my trusty day planner every few weeks (between pre-scheduled engagements). So while choosing one day a week for cooking doesn’t work for me (let me show you that day planner), I am trying to be more intentional with the time I spend in my house. I’ve been paying more attention to what time I get home in the evening and how long I stay there before I go out.

Logically, I would use some of those hours to cook and prepare food for the days to come. But here comes the trouble: I am idealess.

I can follow a recipe and can improvise when needed, but the few recipes I have/know are far from enough to keep me from getting bored in the kitchen again, and fast. What I need are simple, delicious, quick-to-make, non-complicated meal ideas. For example, Anita just reminded me that Fritatta exists and is not only easy to make, but delicious.

Tonight is a “TIME OFF: STAY HOME” night, and I am going grocery shopping as soon as the clock strikes 4. But friends: what should I buy?

(**HINT** suggestions can be left in the comments area! Don't be shy!)