1.14.19

What I’ve been up to:

Got home from an amazing 10 days in Mexico that including a tasting menu at Pujol, exploring the ruins of Teotihuacan, Chichen Itza, Coba and Tulum, scuba diving and taking part in a traditional temazcal ceremony. Pictures are coming but here are a couple:

Then I started grad school for my Masters in Counselling Psychology and from what I’ve seen so far, I am going to love it. Really glad that I have finally made the jump to a career that feels right.

What was beautiful:

All of it — the rings of Saturn and my father’s wedding band, the underbelly of the clouds pinked by the rising sun, Einstein’s brain bathing in a jar of formaldehyde, every grain of sand that made the glass that made the jar and each idea Einstein ever had, the shepherdess singing in the Rila mountains of my native Bulgaria and each one of her sheep, every hair on Chance’s velveteen dog ears and Marianne Moore’s red braid and the whiskers of Montaigne’s cat, every translucent fingernail on my friend Amanda’s newborn son, every stone with which Virginia Woolf filled her coat pockets before wading into the River Ouse to drown, every copper atom composing the disc that carried arias aboard the first human-made object to enter interstellar space and every oak splinter of the floor-boards onto which Beethoven collapsed in the fit of fury that cost him his hearing, the wetness of every tear that has ever been wept over a grave and the yellow of the beak of every raven that has ever watched the weepers, every cell in Galileo’s fleshy finger and every molecule of gas and dust that made the moons of Jupiter to which it pointed, the Dipper of freckles constellating the olive firmament of a certain forearm I love and every axonal flutter of the tenderness with which I love her, all the facts and figments by which we are perpetually figuring and reconfiguring reality — it all banged into being 13.8 billion years ago from a single source, no louder than the opening note of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, no larger than the dot levitating over the small i, the I lowered from the pedestal of ego.”

Maria Popova, Figuring

These inspiring snippets from Ram Dass; “We’re all just walking each other home”

What I’m reading and listening to:

BOOKS –

ARTICLES –

This beautiful issue of Brain Pickings, about children’s books and Patti Smith

The joys of being an untethered woman

It’s 2020 and you’re in the future (!!!)

Why being near water makes us happier

Bucket list trips…planning a big one to the Middle East when I next have a break in school but really they are all tempting.

Edmonia Lewis and her Death of Cleopatra sculpture that was missing for years.

Ancient city found under the Guatemalan jungle

Why Americans work so much; the average American worker labors more hours than her counterparts in just about every similarly rich country, including Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom….because computing has shifted much of the economy from manufacturing to neurofacturing

How to quiet negative thoughts with self-compassion

Making “good enough” resolutions

Santa Claus may have come from shamans on mushrooms

ON RELATIONSHIPS –

3 Rules for Building a Stronger Relationship; give feedback assertively, take feedback constructively, and make a plan to be better

One-sided conversations; when you’re with someone, ask them questions and actually listen

Being an emotionally intelligent partner; every day, ask yourself: “What can I do today to understand & improve the lives of those around me?

Being more likeable by asking for favours

Getting people to open up

The magic of making it work;  in happy couples, for each negative interaction during a conflict, there are at least 5 positive interactions

Choosing the right relationship

How to tell if you’re a boring partner

Personal Geographies

A few years ago I read about Gerald Murnane, an Australian author who won an award that normally required the recipient to travel abroad but instead he travelled to places in his home state that had been personally significant to him – his “geographies”. As I’ve been moving home and settling into life in Vancouver, I’ve been thinking a lot about the areas where I have lived and spent time, how they’ve changed and how we are stewards for places that existed before us and continue on after the relationship is discontinued.

My parents liked to live in new buildings and built two of my childhood homes were built for us, from the ground up, but I have realized that I prefer old places with history and secrets. I love finding evidence of past lives and making things slightly better for the people who will come after. I have realized in recent years how powerful my sense of place is. I can be gardening in a section of the yard and recall an audiobook that I was listening to there the summer before, or driving down a stretch of road recalling memories encoded into something like the shape of a tree. Some places are crowded with memory while others, even if I spent a lot of time there, seem weak.

I decided to recreate Murnane’s experiment (inasmuch as I could remember it) and visit all of the places I have lived in Langley, Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle. It was a fascinating journey down memory lane but also eye-opening in terms of what we remember. Some places I found I could not recognize at all, others only from photographs.

  • Langley
  • Victoria
  • Vancouver
  • Seattle

2019 in the rearview

That was not my favourite year (nor my favourite decade) but I did a lot of work to get things pointed in a great new direction; quit my job & career, moved back to Canada and got prepped for my Masters of Counselling Psychology (that starts on Thursday EEEK!!!! 😳). In between, I snuck in sundry other adventures, a bunch of dancing and some travel. Bonus round of firsts and life list items:

  • Visited Cuba and México City (twice!)
  • Visited the Smithsonian in DC
  • Performed flamenco in public
  • Did a solo moto trip through Oregon, Idaho, Montana & California (plus the regular parts of WA and BC)
  • Rode > 1000 miles in 1 day
  • Sold our house in under a week
  • Finally made a paella over an open orange wood fire
  • Rode my vintage bike in the pride parade (first time back on it since it launched me into a truck in 2017)
  • Bought a home in YVR
  • Rode motos through England and Wales (including cruising past Stonehenge!) to see our friends married in a castle
  • Participated in a week long art retreat in Oaxaca during Day of the Dead
  • Got an A on all of my undergrad psych courses (including one I failed in my BA)
  • Renovated our basement suite and have almost finished amazifying the dining room
  • Visted Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza ruins and dove in a cenote

I’m grateful for all the opportunities to learn, experience, explore and adventure – and especially for the support – and I am super looking forward to a less intense year in 2020.

12.19.19

What I’ve been up to:

Recovering from all the cramming that went into November, and enjoying the calm before grad school starts in January. So, lots of tea, sleep, dog walks in the woods, freshly made everything, books read for fun…but also catching up with friends, repairing the damage to my body (as best I can), and some work on the house.

Pretty soon we will go to Mexico for 10 days and somewhere in there I will need to do my goal setting for the year but it’s not going to involve much more than going to school and getting back into shape.

What was beautiful:

A journey to the deep sea

What I’m reading and listening to:

BOOKS –

ARTICLES –

Leonard Cohen, as well as his posthumous album, which is excellent

Simplifying Your Life

And the result of having it forced on people…this janitor photographed items confiscated from migrants at border patrol

Life Hacks from Death Notices

Mumbai from Above – Can’t hide the inequality

How to be an Artist

On public libraries

“What is the bare minimum we expect of society, and how does that differ from a fully human response? It is the bare minimum for a city to provide shelter beds to its homeless. It is human to create a sanctuary for them in their daily lives. It is the bare minimum to pay librarians to take on an unthinkable range of tasks to maintain this sanctuary. It is human to deal with the deep internal struggles and burnout this will cause.”

ON EMPATHY –

Empathy is Tearing Us Apart

ON HAPPINESS (& GRATITUDE) –

ON RELATIONSHIPS –

The Golden Rule of Relationships – Make your relationship the top priority 

Or else, maybe predict the end. Four communication styles predict relationship failure – criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling.

Three kinds of friendships – utility, pleasure and deep connection

ON AGING –

Aging Fast

How Youth Obsessed Culture Hurts

The secret life of anger

11.24.19

What I’ve been up to:

A LOT. I was in Mexico and then cramming to get my schoolwork and application done, getting our suite ready for rental and dealing with some health stuff and construction projects. And really just trying not to freak out about how little time I have left. This year has been nuts.

What was beautiful:

Mexico, duh! Pics and posts coming soon.

Every single person in my art group now owns a piece of jewelry from this Argentine designer

These reflections in Venice by Photographer Jodi Cobb.

Sesame Street for Syrian refugee children

Listening to the rain.

This incredible a capella rendition of the Sound of Silence

This passage about Petra in NatGeo and the singing too (in the link):

Petra: the hidden heart of Nabatea—a 2,300-year-old empire, a crossroad of antiquity, of fabulous monuments, of palaces and grand avenues chiseled into a sandstone canyon far above the Rift Valley of Jordan. Towers. Columns. Stairs. Altars. Pediments. Aqueducts. Palaces. Petra is a city scooped from living rock. Its architecture rivals the majesty of Rome, the clean beauty of classical Greece—just two of the many empires with whom it traded. The Nabateans were once nomads, proto-Arabs. For centuries they monopolized the incense trade. Their gods are depicted as cubes, as pure geometry, as triangles, as abstract squares. (Al Qaum, the warrior god, a night deity who protected the caravans, was a guardian of all sleepers, whose wandering souls took the form of stars.) They held wine-soaked feasts for their dead. In Mada’in Salih, Saudi Arabia, they carved gigantic tombs from bergs of rock that stand like colossal Fabergé eggs in the barren deserts. Awesome. Imposing. Monuments to raw power. To monomania.

1940’s Photo Essay of Women Motorcyclists

These vintage Vancouver photosets I came across; Old Vancouver and the City Archives. Such neat stuff in there. And:

Also some pretty things around town in (modern) Vancouver:

What I’m reading and listening to:

BOOK –

ARTICLES –

Dogs communicating

Belugas playing fetch

Probably my future

Hopefully my future

Ditto – BFFs living together in tiny houses

Always following along with the Out of Eden Walk at NatGeo

And annually studying the Guide to the Vancouver Culture Crawl

On kindness:

Tips for living a kinder life from kindness expert Gabriella Van Rij

  1. Truly start listening to others (instead of already formulating the answer in your head)
  2. Answer rudeness with kindness (think of someone being extremely snippy to you, then say in a friendly tone “did you have a hard day?”. You will have already diffused the moment)
  3. Include someone who is on the sidelines. By doing this, you have valued them – it’s dehumanizing to go through life unnoticed, unwanted and unloved
  4. Action/reaction. Understand when there is unkindness, it is not about you. When you are triggered, take a deep breath and step back
ON GIVING BETTER ADVICE
Researchers identified three factors that determine whether input will be taken to heart. People will go along with advice if it was costly to attain and the task is difficult (think: lawyers interpreting a contract). Advice is also more likely to be taken if the person offering counsel is more experienced and expresses extreme confidence in the quality of the advice (doctors recommending a treatment, for example). Emotion plays a role, too: Decision-makers are more likely to disregard advice if they feel certain about what they’re going to do (staying with a dud boyfriend no matter what) or they’re angry (sending an ill-advised text while fuming).

*ON ADHD & RELATIONSHIPS –

What ADHD feels like

Too Much Fighting

Best Marriage Advice

I can relate to so much of this I bought the book.
So much good stuff in here

ON TRAVEL –

Travel as a political act

MISCELLANY –

Canada creates two huge ocean sanctuaries in the Arctic

Rejection Sensitivity

Self-care based on your love language

The symbolism of Mary and Pachamama

SF Chef takes the meat off of all her menus

When you feel like garbage (most of the past few weeks for me)

(And related) how to feel better

10.20.19

What I’ve been up to:

Listening to flamenco, and the rain.

Still studying, but we are getting pretty tired of it
I also went to my 25th high school reunion. First time for everything!

What was beautiful:

Photos from Burning Man

Bach on the cello in the rain

What I’m reading and listening to:

BOOKS –

VARIOUS PIECES ON UNCEDED TERRITORY –

A guide to acknowledgement

The incredibly cool Native land map really shows how complex this is. Another map is here

Canada’s Impossible Acknowledgement – at the Guardian

Vancouver Milestone (2014)

BC Milestone (2017).  “the courts have been increasingly firm that the Crown in B.C. does not have clear title to the land and its resources…In the rush to establish the colony of British Columbia, governor James Douglas skipped over the stage of negotiating treaties. In 1859, he issued a proclamation that declared all the lands and resources in British Columbia belong to the Crown. At that time, the colony had about 1,000 Europeans and an estimated 30,000 Indigenous people.”

Our home is on the traditional and unceded territories of the Musqueam (xʷmәθkʷәy̓әm), TsleilWauthuth (Sәl̓ílwәtaʔ/Selilwitulh), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Kwiketlam (Coquitlam) First Nations.

We acknowledge our home is built on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Coast Salish people – səl̓ilwətaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsleil-Waututh), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), S’ólh Téméxw (Stó:lō), Qayqayt, and Stz’uminus, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) First Nations.

And then there’s this:

VARIOUS PIECES ON DOGS-

Dogs can pick up on our stress

Dogs understand our feelings

And a similar piece on raven communication

Some more articles –

The positive effect of puppies on marriages. For a school paper I’m writing.

Turkish temple pre-dates Stonehenge by 6,000 years

Narcissists in relationships

Why women cheat

On attachment (and love)

Having someone to love and something to do isn’t everything. Do less and disconnect?

How to choose a psychotherapist

Cats on leashes

10.13.19

What I’ve been up to:

Still dancing and studying and puttering…in between naps.

walking dogs in the fall sunshine and watching our neighbourhood turn to gold.

What was beautiful:

Important instructions from Flying Edna: making stars
Fall sunshine in East Van
Tim Burton exhibit now at the Neon Boneyard in Las Vegas

What I’m reading and listening to:

BOOKS –

ARTICLES –

On procrastination. So very relevant.

What to do about climate change. All of my banks are assholes. I hate banks.

Preparing my garden for winter. I didn’t inherit much of one at the new house but I want to have a good one next year.

Principles of a climate-friendly diet. I feel like I have the basics down but definite room for improvement, especially with regards to packaging and processed foods. Also wine.

Why some people become life-long readers. Not an introvert, didn’t see parents read, didn’t have books at home growing up…somehow (my birth mother was an avid reader), I am the exception and just like them.

Relationship expectations. Also very relevant.

When you lose momentum, you become vulnerable to distraction. I go through this nearly every day these days.

The myth of soulmates. “while I hate the idea of marriage as “hard work,” long-term relationships are borne out of deliberate choices, not fate. We choose to stay together, or not; we choose to put the other person’s happiness first, or to lay it aside in favor of our own. We decide to stay faithful or cheat, to be an equal partner or let the other carry the weight.”

On life after 75. I’m with this guy, I can’t get into it.

Benefits of short-term therapy

Dog owners may live longer

Alternatives to meditating

Learning to be happy alone

Communication and lasting relationships

Talking to therapists about climate change

More and more Canadians getting banned from the U.S.

Using dogs to re-seed the forest

Neil Gaiman tells an amazing story about David Bowie and compassion:

9.29.19

What I’ve been up to:

Dancing and studying mostly. Bit of stuff around the house.

What was beautiful:

Portraits of our addiction to smartphones. beautiful project, not so much the sentiment / trend / reality
This amazing picture of a Namibian mining town, with no photographer attribution on facebook.
this table, that I accidentally fell in love with while looking for lighting

What I’m reading and listening to:

BOOKS –

ARTICLES –

How to experience wonder as a grown-up

The Origin of all 651 Street Names in Vancouver. I love maps and origin stories so this epic nerdery is right up my alley. Or my street, as it were, which is named after a landowner.

Signs you may be an introverted extrovert. Or maybe just shy.

Why all your relationships turn out the same

Maybe you’re unhappy because you’re trying to be happy

The American Brain

The power of consistently doing the right things

How to age with elegance

Unlearning how to complain

Making your relationship better

The Tukoyuktuk travel brochure. You can now drive there year-round and Instagram shows many people posing with their vehicle in front of the Arctic Ocean sign… but not a lot else going on. I have been obsessed with Tuk for about as long as I can remember and I will get there at some point but it seems like it’s going to take about 100 hours.

Also, the Greenland Hiking Guide and the Arctic Trail Intro because I am also obsessed with hiking the Arctic Circle Trail. 2020 is the year that I will get to the Arctic and it is going to be a dive trip but I feel like these are not far behind.

Also thinking about sneaking a trip in between Mexico / finishing my pre-req classes and Mexico / starting grad school. Current shortlist: Zambia, Norway, New Zealand, Beijing.

The practice of self-inquiry – ask yourself these questions.

You can’t afford to be a fragile little tea cup

On the strangeness of Octopuses. I will always read anything on this subject.

How to be kind

The absurdity of having one soulmate

On nature-deficit disorder

On the pursuit of happiness

Learning to articulate a wider range of emotions

On good and healthy food

On difficult conversations

How to silence negative thinking

440 pairs of shoes hung on a wall in Turkey to commemorate the Women Killed By Their Own Husbands Last Year

9.10.19

What I’ve been up to:

Whoosh! The past 2 months have gone by in a blur, as I knew they would. Right in the heels of moving countries and getting unpacked and back into school, I took off for a motorcycle ride on Vancouver Island. It was a lovely event, combining a loop around the southern tip of the island with refugio stops along the way where we had small tasks to complete that would cause us to reflect on where we were (literally and figuratively.

Then some Ravens came up from Seattle to go on a motorcycle ride up to Lillooet and over the Duffy Lake Road loop. Matt was meant to come with but just before we left, Riley got stung by a wasp and her poor jowls swelled up like crazy.

The next weekend we were off to Wales for the wedding of our dear friends, Jules and Dan, which was not made less sudden and exciting by having be planning the trip for over a year. Moving countries is tiring! Weddings are exciting! These are the facts.

We didn’t have a lot of extra time, but Matt and I did some favorite (British Museum, 7 Dials, Shoreditch) and new (National Gallery, Dishoom, Bletchley bar, Shakespeare at the Globe, Tower of London) stuff in London then rented a couple of triumphs to ride out to Wales, passing Tintern Abbey on the way out and Stonehenge on the way back. Unfortunately on our last day in town our airbnb got broken into and our laptops and Matt’s camera were stolen.

Last weekend we had a housewarming party, at which the only photo I took was of our handsome (and delighted) host and now I am back to the books for real, trying to get finished the Psychology pre-req classes that I’ve been taking online so that I can get into the real meat of grad school and a job. I’ve also started flamenco classes in earnest, kicking it off with a bang in conjunction with the Vancouver Flamenco Festival and some workshops with visiting teachers this weekend.

What was beautiful:

Studies in purple and blue, from Vancouver Pride and Hotel Zed in Victoria:

Vancouver Murals

and this one in Victoria
this powerfully old tree

Stuff around town:

Netsuke

This episode on the Sycamore tree at the Anthropocene Reviewed

This Chinese script used only by women

Stuff around London and Wales:

What I’m reading and listening to:

BOOKS –

and I have finished one Psychology textbook but there are still 4 more to go, plus all my notes.

ARTICLES –

Life Quotes

ON HEALTH & RELATIONSHIPS –

Joy is Rebellion

Dance as an intellectual pursuit

More on drinking culture “high risk’ drinking in women (four or more drinks a day on a weekly basis) rose by 58 percent between 2002 and 2013, and 65 percent in other adults. Among women, alcohol abuse and dependence rose 83.7 percent.” from this study

Reframing – “You can transform anything into gold.”

Getting past stonewalling

How to Live Intentionally in the 21st Century

Assessing Health Outside of BMI

The Subversive Power of Gratitude

How unreliable memories of your past shape your present

How to handle other people’s bad moods

How to stop interrupting

ON POLITICS –

No country for old moderates – “The middle” is a fairytale for Democrats who want to believe it can save us from Trump, and a lie conservatives need to stop us from fighting for what’s best for Americans. But we don’t have time for fantasies, and the stakes are too high to let Republicans tell us what to talk about and what to fight for.”

ON TRAVEL –

Planning our London trip

Newfoundland Foodie Roadtrip

ON ANXIETY –

Groundedness in the age of Anxiety

Embracing stress

The relationship between screen time and depression – “Does social media use go up among depressed youth because they remove themselves from real-life interactions and only connect to others online? Or does social media interaction cause depression?”

What is mental toughness and where can I get some? – “According to Clough’s model, mental toughness is made up of four components that psychologists call the “4Cs:” challenge, control, commitment, and confidence. A mentally tough person interprets challenges as opportunities and believes they can maintain control in their life.”

Some people won’t like you and that’s ok

ON WORK –

Who heals the healers?

How psychiatrists are preparing to prescribe MDMA

Professionals want to know what they’re bad at. I’m so glad this is out there. I think about this all the time.

You are your work (and that’s a good thing)

Question asking increases liking (a study)

7.21.19

What I’ve been up to:

Largely just unpacking and trying to find places to put things. This house and garage are slightly smaller than our place in Seattle but we also have tenants that live in the suite downstairs so we are Marie Kondo-ing the hell out of our stuff.

Whenever we need a break we take the dogs and head out to explore the neighbourhood – Hastings-Sunrise – in a new direction. It has historically been an Italian neighbourhood and you can’t go a block without passing an urban farm covered completely in tomatoes, grapes, runner beans, huge fig trees, and at least one mature olive tree. We’re walking distance to Rupert park, New Brighton Park (and pool!), and an excellent cafe and coffee roaster. All the delicious restaurants and small grocers on Hastings and Commercial are within reach as well and getting out of the city is so easy. We (dogs included) are so stoked.

We celebrated being moved in by going to see Rebirth Brass Band perform at the folk festival in Jericho Beach Park and it was so great to hang out in the sun with our friends, listening to great music. The night unfortunately ended with me losing my phone, getting a parking ticket and discovering that someone had hit my truck in the parking lot, but our happiness remains unaffected. It is so good to be home.

What was beautiful:

Our new house and our neighbourhood are basically the best but seeing the sun set over the city from the folk fest at Jericho Beach Park – as well as this rad split-window VW bus – was incredible.

What I’m reading and listening to:

BOOKS –

Nothing new. The paper books were all packed and I lost my iPhone so no audiobooks either.

MUSIC –

Our neighbour is a very accomplished ragtime pianist so we’ve been enjoying hearing him, and it seems our tenant also plays guitar.

ARTICLES –

Creating intimacy – how to do it and why we need it so badly, but also includes this gem that feels very true:

“Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer.”― Ed Cunningham”

How I made myself lose my phone – interesting read made even more so since I lost my phone last night

Climbing Mt. Rainier. This is something that I really want to do so the detailed account is pretty great

Coral Bleaching Caused by Excessive Nitrogen Levels (and not *just* from global warming). I’m not sure I care that much about the cause, but it’s good to know.

Habits of UNsuccessful people. What not to do.

Floating artist residency re-established in Vancouver. This is just so unbelievably cool. I want in.

>6500 recycled flip flops used to create wildlife art

What to do when the excitement fades

Noble Pursuits:

  • Inward (health, joy, and peace)
  • Outward (communion, purpose)
  • Upward (wisdom, freedom)

Hacking your creativity – “particularly creative people have higher levels of alpha activity, the brain waves that are associated with a relaxed and “ready for anything” state of mind. And how can you encourage this alpha activity? Meditation.”

More on quitting drinking

ON HASTINGS-SUNRISE HOOD –