2011. Hot damn.

For me, this has been the kind of year that knocks something loose in your soul, that rearranges the furniture in your heart, and after which you will never see the world the same way again.

Explanation of blog name change to follow eventually. Suffice it to say (for now), the original premise has expired.

The Coles Notes version of the plot of 2011 is as follows:

– Quit my PhD.
– Husband and I separated after 9 months of marriage. (We are still friends, love each other and remain each other’s greatest supporters. No really. Airing of dirty laundry not forthcoming.)
– Went on a slew of crazy (for me) adventures this summer. Relationship adventures. Friendship adventures. Thought adventures. Camping adventures.
– Burning Man. ‘Nuf said.
– Met some AMAZING people. Reconnected in a whole new way with other friends I’ve known for a while. Renewed and deepened my wonderful relationship with my sister.

Along the way, I’ve learned a few big BIG lessons:

1. When people do things that are hurtful or (self) destructive, it serves them in some way. They get something positive out of it. We can’t begin to fix the problem (in ourselves or others) until we recognize this. I’ve had to apply this both to my own behaviour, and to that of others around me. (Thanks Aram for naming this. It’s resonated so profoundly for me.)

2. I am weird. I LIKE my weirdness. I only want to spend time with people who also like my weirdness. Thankfully, these people exist.

3. I don’t need to change my introvert HSP self to fit into the world. I can, however, change my corner of the world to fit me one little bit at a time.

4. Depression is real. It is so easy to fall into a pit of darkness from which there seems to be no escape.

5. Love comes in more forms than I had ever imagined.

6. To truly enjoy life, you need to let go of expectations. Especially the ones you have of yourself.

7. It is incredibly humbling and liberating to realize that you can blow up your world and there are people who will help you remove the shrapnel from your soul and hold your hand while you start healing.

8. My sister is the most special companion a girl could ever ask for. In some ways we are polar opposites. In some ways we are thought twins. Don’t ask me how that works. Spend some time with us and you’ll understand. Or be totally weirded out.

9. When you truly, fully, completely surrender to the universe the most amazing and wonderful things happen that you could never have planned or foreseen.

To everyone who has brought some light and laughter to my year, whether it was a funny Facebook post, a hug, or a roadtrip, a million thanks. It’s been the worst of times and the best of times. And I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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I’m still alive.

I know. Blogs are supposed to be updated regularly. And in the last three months, I’ve often thought about it. Written entire posts in my head. But then stopped because I wasn’t sure I wanted to release all of the intense emotions of the last few months out into the world. I’ll give you the big picture though.

Jumping out of the Ivory Tower: Right after New Year’s, I decided to quit my PhD. Probably the hardest decision of my life. But it had to happen. I had never been so miserable. It felt like my soul was eating itself from the inside out. My marriage was probably on track for a quick end (I don’t want to how much longer I had left before N pulled the plug. It probably wasn’t long at all.) My normal happy, easygoing personality was being subsumed into a quagmire of extreme self-doubt, depression, pessimism. A year and a half of misery. The worst of it though was that I kept being told that in order to get through this program, I’d have to basically do nothing else. No dancing. No social life. Someone actually suggested that it was perfectly OK to not do laundry or dishes (ever? I asked myself, incredulously – I’m sorry, but there are very few reasons that I would ever re-wear underwear without a toss in the washing machine. A thesis is not one of them). Spending TIME with my friends and family? Effectively out of the question. And then I realized that this would all be for nothing. I don’t really want to do a thesis. I don’t want to be a professor. I figure if I’m good enough at what I do, I should be able to get whatever job I want, degree or no degree. And more than any job, I want a LIFE. A life that includes all the things I value, like my friends, like travelling, like sleeping, like dancing, like sitting in a park reading a book if that’s what I bloody well want to do.

So I jumped. Scary as hell, I thought I was going to vomit the whole way up the hill to tell my supervisor I was quitting, but I was caught by an amazing parachute of support. The best thing anybody has said to me after quitting: “You’re yourself again”. Who the heck else would I want to be?

Leaving a house, but gaining a place where I can live on my own terms: I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that when your father-in-law moves back in on a day’s notice, you start looking for a new place. So we left my husband’s childhood home (that we’d lived in for almost two years and gotten married in) and, in a bit of a hurry, and with a bit of couchsurfing along the way, found ourselves an apartment. Two blocks away. Which is just far enough. We’d had pipe dreams of raising children in that house, but alas. At least we’re still in the ‘hood. But for someone who is extremely sensitive to space (being an HSP and all), having a month where I didn’t know where I was going to live was unnerving to say the least. Now we’re all moved in.. but it doesn’t feel like home yet. Half of our stuff is still in storage, so there are empty bookshelves and things that don’t have a proper spot. And it feels temporary in a way I can’t quite describe. Maybe this will force me to become completely at home within myself, so I no longer need to define “home” as a collection of space and stuff.

Surviving a week in San Francisco: Combine a four-day salsa festival, my troupe’s biggest performance to date, sweaty nights of dancing and partying, a cold that came out of nowhere, a crazy long hike, sleeping in five beds in ten days, a fair amount of wine (almost all swigged straight from the bottle, classy girl that I am), and the only city I’ve ever visited where I could actually see myself living in (like actually envisioned in my head what my life could be like there)… and you get a physically and emotionally drained girl. (Add in coming home to an empty apartment as the Man is on the other side of the country for three weeks). To add insult to injury, I was channel-surfing late last night and happened to stumble across a travel show about the Bay Area. My heart actually ached to see all these streets and neighbourhoods that I’d been in just hours before. Oddest sensation, that.

30 has been the most intense year of my life so far, kinda being a continuation of the craziness that was 29, but with lower lows and higher highs. I keep hoping that at some point things will chill out. I could use a break in the clouds.


DIYODS Tuna Sandwich Awesomeness

So the last week or so, I’ve had this craving for a tuna sandwich. A really GOOD tuna sandwich. These things are hard to find, in my experience. In commercial tuna sandwiches, there’s almost always WAY too much mayo and the bread is soggy, and there’s no complexity of flavour. Or texture. I like some CRUNCH in my tuna sandwiches! So I decided I would have to DIY my sandwich. Or DIYODS (Do-It-Your-Own-Damn-Self).

Started with two cans of tuna (the kind canned in vegetable broth), added some celery, red onion, capers, apples and pickles… made some mayo (I’d never made it before. SO easy.)

Chopped up some cabbage and grated some purple carrots (thanks Mom). Made a simple mayo/rice vinegar dressing for the slaw. Toasted up some rye bread, spooned on some tuna mixture, and then topped it off with Old Dutch Original chips. Yup. Potato chips on a sandwich. Which is really what makes this sandwich AWESOME.

Served up with a few extra pickles on the side, and washed down with a London Fog (using homemade vanilla syrup.. SO easy).

Craving SATISFIED. And hey, I have my lunch for tomorrow. Now if only my PhD was so easy.

Tuesday Tuneage – Toyz Noize by Pogo

I have the biggest heart on for Pogo. Pogo being a 22-year old remix master living in Perth, Australia. He takes classic movies (from Up to Gone with the Wind), and puts together mixes consisting almost (>95%) entirely of sound bites from the movie. And they are MAGIC. Upular was my favorite until last week when my sister showed me Toyz Noize, which is a Toy Story mash.

POGO does some amazing stuff besides remixing soundtracks of course, my personal favorite is Splurgensh**ter; the video makes me smile every time. Darth Vader will never be the same. (Just watch it.. bonus points if you can identify the source of the “I want to move to the beat” clip.)

Obviously, being a remix artist, Pogo has come up against the various laws surrounding copyright, which he discusses a bit on his blog. He has had to go to battle against Disney for remixes of some of their classic movies including Alice in Wonderland.  Some  of his work (including a remix of Hook) is not legally available in online format, you have to go to his shows to see him mix live. Just need to get him to Vancouver.

Pogo’s work clearly embodies sampling as a loving reinterpretation of the original source material, and it is obviously done with a lot of respect for the original movies. And has rekindled many listeners’ love affairs with some of their childhood favorites. Not all movie production companies think so and still insist that this is money-grubbing copyright infringement.

Here are Pogo’s own words: “My work serves as free viral marketing to the organisations that own the films I sample from. It’s high time the music industry pulls its head out of its ass, and realises that today’s remix culture is an asset, not a liability. To shoot down the potential here would be utterly illogical.”

I’m going to go find a Darth Vader helmet and go dance in my backyard now…

Why I dislike Halloween.

I’m going away this weekend with my husband. We’re housesitting on the Sunshine Coast. There will horses. And a hot tub. “But”, you say, “you’re going to miss HalloWEEEEEEN!”. To which I say good riddance. I gotta say, not my favorite holiday.

I’m a very sensitive person. In fact, I fall in the spectrum of Highly Sensitive People or HSPs. (Maybe you believe in classifying people, maybe you don’t, but when I read the description of the characteristics of HSPs, I so clearly recognized myself, and gained a framework for understanding how I fit in the world). Anyways, here, “sensitive” means having a more reactive nervous system than the majority of folks. I’m more sensitive to sound, smell, light, temperature, and texture than most people around me.

I’m also extremely sensitive to imagery, especially of the violent or gory variety. I am the only person I know of who walked out of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because I couldn’t handle the rape scene. My dear husband tried to coax me back by telling me that the victim gets her revenge on the perpetrator, but to me, graphic is still graphic and I don’t want to see it, even if “evil” is getting what’s coming to it. I know, I know, everybody loves the movie, and I was really enjoying the storyline, the characters, and the Swedish scenery, but I was just DONE after that scene. One day I might rewatch the whole thing (with my finger on the fast-forward button of course), but ya. Scarred.

Which is why I don’t really like the whole gore aspect of Halloween. Putting little kids in cute costumes? Great! Carving pumpkins? Fun! (I think the R2D2 pumpkin below is freakin’ sweet). Dressing up? (Great if I’m in the mood, but I generally hate that too because I feel pressure to come up with something awesome). Anyways, all the storefronts in my ‘hood with the blood and guts and meat hooks stuck into fake mangled torsos? I CAN’T LOOK AT THAT STUFF. It upsets me. Real people get murdered. Their brains spill out of their skulls, and their blood gets spattered on the floor (this is exactly what goes through my head when I see these things). I seem to lack the filter that most people have that tells their brains that the fake gore is fake. It bothers me to the core.

To quote my sister (who is also an HSP): “I hate that we’re disturbed by the psychopaths who murdered that poor girl on the island, but people will go out this weekend and see Saw IV and be all titillated.”

Couldn’t have said it any better myself.

So perhaps now you understand that I’m really quite content to be away relaxing in a hot tub on Halloween instead of stressing over some costume and trying to not be overwhelmed by all the zombies and headless horsemen and psycho killers and fake-blood-soaked “victims” out there. I admire your Halloween enthusiasm, I’m just not really able to share and enjoy it. However, feel free to bring me any leftover candy you might have… 😛

Side note: I’m also a bit of a cynic (“Shocker”, you say). So I really loved the Oatmeal’s comic How Different Age Groups Celebrate Halloween. I laughed out loud. (Especially because I hate raisins.)

Walkman retired!

I just read that Sony has officially retired the Walkman and has ceased their production in Japan. Somehow I was surprised that the trusty cassette player (in all its incarnations) was still being produced at all…

Here‘s one of the many stories that appeared about the announcement.

I never had the sporty yellow Walkman that EVERYBODY ELSE had back in the mid-90s… I couldn’t afford one of my own until halfway through university; I bought a slate grey version with digital FM radio (whoooeee!). I don’t know where all my mix tapes ended up, but I can tell you that I listened to way too much Dave Matthews on that thing (I was 18 and a romantic at heart… now I’m, well, 30 and a tad more cynical).

I then graduated to a Discman (it actually was a Sony). Which I loved because I could burn MP3 CDs and fit like 10 albums on one disc.

A few years later (2004-ish?) I bought myself the biggest brick of an MP3 player that has ever graced this planet: the Creative Zen Xtra. 40GB. Almost the size of my original Walkman. But with my entire music collection on it.  Which was great for a while until I realized I wanted something nice and small that I could take to the gym (back when I regularly WENT to a gym). So I got myself a little Creative Zen Micro. Which I loved until the battery door  fell off. I’m hard on my electronics, what can I say.

Then, two years ago, after a lot of jealous oogling, I finally joined iPod Nation with my purchase of a cute seafoam green 3rd generation Nano, which I still use daily and love. But of course, y’all know how it is with Apple products… you can’t buy just one… so now I have a MacBook… and an iPhone… and I’ll probably soon have an iMac…

That’s 12 years of portable music technology in my life… I wonder how I’ll be getting my daily tune fix in 30 more years? (And if I’ll still have a soft spot for Dave Matthews when I’m in a wistful mood… is it still wistful when you’re 60 or just nostalgic?). Subcutaneous implants that wirelessly sync with your computer and connect to some kind of cordless earbuds? Or still some form of small device with an earphone jack like today?

Word of the moment – Epic

I will firstly admit that I am guilty of overusing this word (usually to describe particularly awesome nights of dancing). But I’m trying to phase it back out of my vocabulary except, when, it is actually appropriate. Which is surprisingly rare. Clearly, I don’t read enough poetry or do enough heroic things.

The word of which I speak is: epic.

No, wait:

Dictionary.com gives the definition as follows:
epic [ep-ik] –adjective Also, ep·i·cal. 

  1. noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style: Homer’s Iliad is an epic poem.
  2. resembling or suggesting such poetry: an epic novel on the founding of the country.
  3. heroic; majestic; impressively great: the epic events of the war.
  4. of unusually great size or extent: a crime wave of epic proportions.
In the last while, I’ve heard this word used to describe everything from shoe sales to sandwiches to drunk nights of foolishness to early-season hockey games. Dunno, but if you’re going to really, truly, earnestly call a sandwich “epic”, it better be either the size of my head, or have gold-flecked mayo on it or something. Actually, of all those aforementioned things, the drunken nights of foolishness could probably lay the closest claim to being legitimately epic because some of the stories I’ve heard could almost pass as Homeric. But more Simpson than Illiad, I suppose.
So I will try to reserve this word for truly epic occasions and return to more mundane but appropriate adjectives… (I’m personally pulling for a revival of “rad”. Yes.)