“I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”

This may be my last post of the year. It may not – I always like wrapping up December with reflection, but perhaps just being in the last month of 2014 is enough for now. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately, and a lot of it has revolved around the evolution of strength.

For most of my life, I never considered myself a strong person. I fought so hard against my sensitivity, thinking it weak, and wishing so desperately that I didn’t feel things so very strongly. Then, after reading a lot about INFJs (MBTI’s recent bad rep aside, its roots are still founded in psychology and the understanding of humanity, and it’s got me through a lot in life), as well as realising I’m not the only HSP in the world – I started accepting it instead of seeing it as something abnormal that had to be changed. Handled differently, perhaps, but not eliminated. Feeling things to the extreme is something unique and it genuinely means I care an incredible amount. I’d much rather feel things fully than experience them half-heartedly just to avoid potential heartache.

The thing is, in a few months, I’ll be thirty years old. I’ve had a lot of heartache. I’ve also had a lot of awesome. The good thing about experiencing something repeatedly is that each time you go through it, you can look back and say I made it through. You can reflect on the other things in life that aren’t terrible, and, very importantly, you can count your blessings. You can choose to focus your thoughts. Be consumed by feeling, or feel them and deal with them accordingly. Learning how to process them doesn’t mean they need to be suppressed.

My sensitivity is no longer a weakness. I’ve learned to see it as a strength. But with that change has come a lot of hard work, a lot of reflection, and a lot of practice. Reforming all those neural pathways and stuff that used to see things a certain way; they’re being repaved and lead to a place where everything I once told myself is dying. It’s a good thing.

I remember, years ago, a colleague asking me why I insisted on putting myself at the front of a classroom and leading workshops, teaching adult learners, when I was terrified of being the sole focus of attention and actually gave up on my education degree because I knew I’d never be comfortable in front of a group. She saw how much it shook me up, how scared I got, and how I felt like throwing up afterward. Yet I kept doing it, week after week. Why do you do this to yourself when it causes you so much discomfort? I remember struggling with it; I’d read something that I kind of agreed with, but that went against my reasons for pushing myself into things that made me physically sick.

1. Focus on what you’re naturally good at. If you try to be better at something that doesn’t come naturally, you may go from a 3/10 to a 6/10. But if you focus on improving that in which you’re already skilled and/or passionate, you can go from a 7/10 to a 10.

This makes sense. If I practised calculus, I’m sure solving equations might take me three hours as opposed to 12. But it’s never going to be easy, because it’s not something I give a particular crap about.

2. If it’s outside your comfort zone, you should definitely be doing it.

Also agree. Because if I hadn’t pushed myself with things, I’d likely still be riddled with social anxiety, I’d never have tried doing music or making art or videos – things that bring me such joy today. I was blown away with the reaction to this – something someone once told me I’d never be able to sing, because my voice wasn’t strong enough. I hope I did it justice and proved that I could.

Katy Perry - ET Cover

Katy Perry – ET Cover

I started a discussion recently in a local photography and modelling group. I was curious as to why those with low self-esteem when it comes to body image choose to volunteer repeatedly to have their photos taken if all they’re going to do is tear themselves down afterward and point out every flaw. I’ve done it myself – I’m sure there are many of us who’d jump at the chance for some cosmetic surgery or laser hair removal if we could afford it. I was curious to see others’ motivations for doing so, because I’d been there myself. And this train of thought does indeed come back to my original one about the evolution of strength, I promise.

I used to need external validation from others in order to feel good about myself. Many commenters said something similar. But hearing this just made me feel bad, because it’s such a temporary solution. In my early twenties, I was a bit of a serial monogamist. I’d go from relationship to relationship thinking it was absolutely necessary, and only in another person would I find my true worth. When they inevitably ended, so did my entire world. I lacked the self belief and inner strength to feel good about myself on my own. One thing I’ve learned is that needing attention/external validation is not going to elicit inner strength and self worth. I only felt worthy when others made me feel I was needed. But I’ve learned that feeling unsure of your worth is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you don’t personally know that you matter, then perhaps nobody will ever believe you do. If you don’t feel you do, then do something about it. Make art. Follow a passion. Take up a new hobby. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t matter if you fail, because inside, you’ll have all the validation you need: that you had the courage to try.

Sometimes I like modelling and ending up as a robot mermaid in space. Image courtesy of  the incredibly talented Ian Sokoliwski

Sometimes I like modelling and ending up as a robot mermaid in space. Image courtesy of the incredibly talented Ian Sokoliwski

I’ve also learned that I am the owner of my own time. People complain about being too busy all the time. Too many social obligations, too much work, too many chores, not enough time for the things they want to do. Well, guess what? You get to control what you say yes to. Everyone has the same twenty-four hours in a day. Everyone has to pay the bills. But there are people in the world that still get to do exactly what they want. Why? Because they learn when to say yes and when to say no. We all have desires. Sometimes they involve going to house parties and socializing with thirty people. Sometimes they involve having a friend over and a bottle of wine. Sometimes they involve spending a Sunday morning curled up in bed with a good book and staying there for a good four hours. Sometimes they involve going on adventures, and sometimes they involve going to bed at 8:00 on a Friday night. There will always be demands on our time. But you get to choose whether you spread yourself thin, or put yourself first once in a while. This year, I will be spending more time Google calendaring dates with myself, writing songs, going on photo adventures, and finishing my book.

I used to also let anybody and everybody in. Let me rephrase: I still let anybody and everybody in. I’ve always maintained that by putting absolutely everything out there (come on; I have a blog, a YouTube channel, an active Facebook account and dearest words tattooed all over my body; being known deeply and knowing others is kind of what I live for), you will attract the most authentic relationships with people. They won’t be based on the superficialities of being what you feel you should be. But I also used to need the company of others in order to feel worthy. Learning to love being on my own was a big thing this year. I spent most of it living and being solo for the first time in a very long time. Solitude used to terrify me, but realising just how much I want to learn, make, create and accomplish has made me cherish my time alone, and realise that if I’m going to spend it with others, it will be with a select few awesome human beings; with those people that make each others’ lives mutually better.

I also began 2014 afraid of ever loving again. My heart had soared through what seemed like fairytale highs and been dragged through the most painful of lows. I decided that if I just didn’t invest it, it wouldn’t get hurt. I remember sitting in a food court with a friend saying this, and how I’d given up on magic; that I’d already had it and I was so strange that perhaps I wasn’t meant to find someone that fit, and that I was resigning myself to being a cat lady. I remember being told that was “a crock”. That I had the biggest heart and that I’d been hurt, but there was no way any of this was true. That I’d been “KO’d”, but not killed. I didn’t feel like myself saying the words anyway; and of course they were bollocks. I live to love those dear to me, completely and fully, and I hope with everything I am that those people know it. Now, after a convoluted journey of growth and reflection, understanding and exploration, I feel like myself again. Home, hopeful, and ready for whatever life brings.

f7b5bd0dbd2595f5f12a367f7797f8ecFinally, this year reinforced something I’ve tried to practice for a long time: that happiness is a choice. People may make all sorts of new year’s resolutions in a few weeks, or tell themselves that 2015 will be better… but these are just words, said every year around this time. Words are nothing without action and conscious commitment. 2014, 2015, 2016… life’s going to happen. It’s going to keep happening. The only thing that determines your mental well-being is your own choice as to how you react to it.

The last year of my twenties has been far from what I imagined, but I’ve learned an awful lot. I still have a long way to go, but that’s the brilliant thing about life – it keeps happening, you keep evolving, and you keep learning. Never stop. This Christmas, I hope you spend it in a way that makes you smile. I hope you count your blessings, and I hope you enter the new year equipped with things to be thankful for and dreams to chase, capture, and make reality.

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”

During the first half of 2013, I was absent from blogging because I found myself swept away by a whirlwind of creativity – I was working on my novel, learning an instrument and searching for the courage to sing, and then suddenly, I was in a band. Blogging had always been my safe outlet, and my original reason for doing it remains true: put all of yourself out there into the world, and people may relate and feel not so alone, or someone may just read it all in and decide you’re an awesome person, flaws and fears and history and all. If you put everything you are out there, the ones who take the time to see it all see the real you, and there are no surprises. No skeletons. Just a real person, who believes (despite advice and wishes to the contrary) that only by being a truly open book will any type of relationship be entirely authentic. And if someone can relate to something along the way, maybe we don’t have to be so alone in our struggles. This outlet has taken a bit of a back seat for multiple reasons this year, whether for diving into others or for physically being unable to do the most basic of things, but it’s the end of a year, and I can’t let it slip by without marking something down.

It’s Christmas Eve as I write this, and the year leading up to it has been a difficult one. Life as I knew it this time last year couldn’t look more different than it does now, and with this chapter has come incredible opportunities for learning, introspection and hopefully, growth. Gratitude has stolen the show, and for each soul that not only checked in with me continually to make sure I was well looked after, but also did so much more, with love, encouragement, company, helping me with food, dressing, and bathing as I cried with shame… for those who dropped everything to take care of me, who bought me presents to make me smile, or kept in touch continuously despite being in the midst of a mire of work, homework and exams just to make sure I knew I wasn’t abandoned… words cannot express how deeply my appreciation runs. This year I lost my independence, my dignity, at times, my home, and stability. I felt left behind as the worlds I was so passionate about moved on without me and all I could do was sit and watch. I felt useless, and a burden, and so very scared. I had to visit a food bank several times and say goodbye to things I loved to do so much. I felt it was the biggest curse, to have so much time off on disability – time, the one thing I always wished for to just devote to creating – writing my book, writing songs, playing shows, doing incredible storytelling through photos… I was given the time, but had all ability stolen. For months it hurt so much, but if it weren’t for a handful of the most incredibly kind souls whose hearts are so full of love, I don’t know how I would have made it to today.

There are still many things I’m unable to do, but compared to a few months ago, there are small things I now can – things I will never take for granted again. Being able to sleep lying down. Being able to somewhat return a hug. Being able to open a door to let myself in, and being able to operate a vehicle. Being able to brush my own hair (kind of). These things are taken as a given, but I will never forget how terrible life felt without them. Being poor and kicked out of your home, being in pain every hour of the day, being forced into an existence where everything you love is no longer possible, not being able to afford to eat… these are not things I expected when 2013 rolled around. But do you know something? Life is only 10% what happens to you. It’s 90% how you react to it.

My reaction hasn’t always been the best. I couldn’t count how many times I broke down into sobbing fits, taken over by despair and a flood of worries and frustrations. But the experience has fostered the biggest spirit of gratitude I’ve ever known, and as with every frustration in life, there lies a choice. I can’t choose to put my arm back together, but I can choose to work bloody hard to get it there instead of sitting around. I can’t choose to be able to lift 20 lbs above my head, but I can choose to make the most of the time I’m unable to. I’ve built my knowledge base, I’ve learned how to code enough to make a couple of websites, I’ve learned the finger positions of new chords, and I’ve learned the structures of songs. I can’t choose to have money in my bank account, but I can choose to see that a new top, nail polish, or bottle of wine is not a necessity. And the toughest choice, but still a choice nonetheless, is not to be defeated. There have been times when I’ve felt so alone and lost and in so much pain that I’ve wanted to just give up, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Even if it’s the longest road you’ve ever seen, and the light is a speck as far away as a star in the sky, it’s still shining. But only you can make the journey beginning with step one. And step one always begins with a choice of mentality, and with hope.

This time of year hasn’t traditionally been a good one for me. And I know how hard it can be when the world insists on taking you its Christmas prisoner, with inescapable songs about love and festivity and togetherness poured into your ears at every turn. It is a season of love, but for those going through something difficult, its very existence can exacerbate the toughest of experiences. Even those whose lives are perfectly normal can succumb to the stress of the holidays, the endless pressure to purchase, to visit countless people who don’t stay in touch throughout the year yet are obligatory to give up your time to at Christmas. To spend money we don’t have because the world insists on it; to focus on materialism rather than the true gifts of incredible relationships, unconditional love and friendship, and the making of memories that will last far longer than whatever you found under last year’s tree. There are people out there who, on Christmas Day, will be stuck in a hospital with no-one by their side. There’ll be people at war, or people who’ve just lost someone dear to them. There’ll be people working, stopping crimes, or trying to save the life of someone who’s given up. There’ll be breakups and hearts so heavy with loneliness as the world rubs salt in the wounds. These things happen every day, but the season has a horrid way of turning fairylights into spotlights on the pain felt by those who don’t or can’t fall into the happy togetherness seen on every advert and heard in every December song. The holidays are not supposed to be painful. But the intense pressure we put on them to be perfect can ruin everything. (In writing those words, I feel I just learned something about my own tendency for perfectionism, but that’s a post for another day.)

There’s the operative word. CanIt all comes back to choice. Life is such a fragile thing, and we can be punctured like the shiniest of balloons, leaking out all our joy when life deals crushing blows when we least expect them. But the cracks in our hearts can be filled not just with sadness. We can let love seep in and fill up the holes that have formed in our aching souls. Life can be horrible, devastating and upsetting, but it can also be filled with moments of such kinship, connection, gratitude and joy that we feel it rising from our chests up through our necks and out of our eyes, a feeling of such appreciation that these feelings can still exist within our battered hearts that it has no choice but to come streaming down our cheeks.

Shit happens. At Christmas and on any day. And when it does, we inhale all the pain and misery that come along with it. We sometimes exhale it back into the world because we don’t know we have another choice. But we always do. We can breathe out love instead. Choosing love isn’t always the easiest option. Usually it’s far easier to submit yourself to whatever life has thrown in your path and become its victim, or worse, take it out on others. But nothing in the world, a very wise Mr. Roosevelt once said, is worth having or doing unless it means effort, pain and difficulty. When hardships come, we can experience them. But the magical part is that we can take ownership of our reactions and thoughts before releasing them to the world, and in that in-between state of being done to and doing unto others, we have the power to choose and transform them. Into something that, however hard, will always make the world a better place. Into love.

This Christmas, if you’re hurting, it sucks. It sucks a lot. But try not to let this temporary cage of tinsel and bells turn your spirits to despair. It is just another date on the calendar, but it is also a time for love. When things are hardest, sometimes doing the hardest, most impossible thing leads us to the best path out, and tomorrow is always a new day. What I’m learning is that life is so very fragile, its stability so very precarious. But that when the world turns upside down, these are all external factors, and that there is always something positive, even if in its smallest form of a sliver of hope. The power of choice lies within all of us, and though it may be the most difficult thing to see, if we choose to fuel that tiny spark of positivity before we react, then the world around us becomes that much brighter. People expect us to take the pain and react to it by passing it on. But we can take it in, experience it, and recycle it into love. 

My heart hurts knowing that during the holidays, for so many people all is not well. I hope this week, if you’re reading this, you’ll keep those poor souls in mind and maybe do something send an unexpected spark of love into the world. I like to stop at a coffee shop and buy a hot chocolate for any stranger who happens to be working, away from their families or loved ones, on Christmas Day. It’s a tiny gesture, but this year especially, after so much pain and so much love that’s been given me, I need to exhale that love back. And I hope I continue to build the strength to do so, through this unpredictable journey, no matter what comes my way.

There’s always a choice. It’s not always easy. But it’s there for the taking. Much love being sent to you, wherever and whoever you are, at this very moment.

The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.” – Neil Gaiman

It’s seven o’clock on a Saturday morning, and after eight hours of tossing and turning, waking from strange, sporadic dreams every hour or two (one involving dating someone who wore salad for a beard, and getting upset with my parents for judging him on his choice of facial hair), I think I might be having a Writer’s Moment. A few minutes ago I was tucked away with a happy cat in my arms and an electric blanket warming my toes. Snug, but getting rather tired of focusing exercises designed to slow your thoughts and will you to sleep after every attempt resulted in nothing but more consciousness. So I found myself starting to form sentences in my head instead. I wonder sometimes if there’s something wrong with me. Is the inside of anyone else’s head so busy, so full of an endless rapid fire of thought after thought, feeling after feeling? I’m okay with being a deep thinker, but sometimes (usually around three o’clock in the morning), I yearn to be able to shut off the relentless stream of consciousness.  Especially when said stream is composed of a rather irritating mathematics problem I’d heard earlier that day, which barged its way into my head, grabbed hold of every scrap of drowsiness, and proceeded to promptly punch each one out before putting its feet up, lighting a cigarette, and cranking the stereo. (Sidenote: thank heavens I have someone I can call at 1:30 in the morning to solve it for me. Hopefully I still will at the time of broadcast.)  This morning was another restless one, and I found my thoughts wandering to where I was this time a year ago. I gave up on the idea of a lie-in and decided to write about them instead. This time a year ago, it was the night before my wedding, and I was sitting on my bed in tears with my husband-to-be, torn between calling the whole thing off and trying to convince ourselves we could make something so very wrong work.

A year ago, I was writing the following words. It’s hard not to see the signs from every direction pointing out the enormous mistake I’d be making:

It all started last Thursday night with the rehearsal dinner. The plan was to have everyone have a quick run through at the church,  head out to a restaurant that’s usually one of my favourites, then head home for our last night as Mr. and Miss. And words cannot begin to describe how polarly opposite the evening went. The rehearsal itself was fine until the very end, as everyone was departing, when something very dramatic, very unpleasant, very… conniving, and very unexpected happened. It wasn’t the best way to head off to a dinner that was supposed to be a celebration, but we got there, met our friends and family, and ordered what looked to be a fantastic meal. Until the table became a battleground. And we were told they had no beef. Or wine. And it arrived over an hour late. One meal missing. And they refused to give us a discount. And then it broke into a rave. It was kind of beyond ridiculous… but after talking with some married friends, I found myself slightly reassured when I was told “I don’t think there is such a thing as a smooth rehearsal dinner”.

I then arrived home and thought I’d do one last Facebook/Twitter check before logging off for the weekend… when I was met with one of the most horrible things you could imagine two nights before the day you get married. An anonymous comment on my blog, held for moderation, on the post immediately following the one about Internet Trolls and the exceptional cowardice it shows when someone takes the time to invest in attempts at sabotage, and doesn’t have the balls to attach their own name. But since this person’s contact information was limited to “”, I have no choice but to respond to it here.

“I wonder if you really should be getting married. You seem so ready to emerge as who you fully are. It seems to me that you could be traveling around the world, doing great and amzing things, playing the field, flirting with all sorts of things.  If your married, day-after-day you’ll wake up with nothing to take you beyond yourself and your husband can only challenge you so much. Really, as exciting as it sounds, how is a theater production going to make you a better person in the grand scheme?

Maybe its just that we’ve all watched you grow so much in the last little while that it seems foolish now to throw all the opportunities that life has to offer to settle with one person in a cold city that really has nothing to offer. When your husband comes home after a long day of work, won’t that bother you that hes content living in a city with his family and you’re so far away from the amazing things you could be doing elsewhere?

When you say, “I do” it may be like your a princess but the very next day it’s just routine and a drag. You can’t be happy with that. I think that married life is going to stop you from growing into the person you’re becomming and I think you know that. You’re going to be stuck and I think you’ll grow to resent the fact that your husband is keeping you down. Well, its not him but its married life. You could be hanging out with so many interesting people, going interesting places. Instead you work (I presume) only 9 to 5 and write about music and doing drama. Already your relationship has limited you.

Sorry Emily but I had to say it. I fear this marriage might just put you in a rut. Every day, the same person… the same place… the same routine. That’s not the emily I know.”

To this day, the author’s identity remains unknown, but it’s interesting to see that despite everything around me telling me to turn around and run, I still went ahead with it. Yes, hindsight may be 20/20, but there’s something unsettling about having gone ahead with something when logic had been flashing neon BAD IDEA signs at every turn. I know there are thousands of people who make the same decision I did – who defy logic and instinct and get swept away in the pressure of having spent a great deal of time and money investing in something, in the fear of judgment, and in the idea that maybe true, fairytale, soul mate love really does only exist in stories and films, that nobody’s perfect, and that maybe this is as good as it gets. It’s unsettling to look back and see how I prioritised what was comfortable, despite knowing that what I longed for was so much more. How many people, I wonder, unwittingly spell their own life sentence of settling for something just because what’s comfortable is an easier option than the risk of never finding what they truly desire?

I had a conversation with The Professor recently, about our past relationships and how we’d both been subject to criticism for some of the decisions we’d made. In my early twenties, likely tying in to a bit of self-esteem issues, I went from relationship to relationship, not spending much time alone because being alone was scary, all the while knowing deep down inside that every one was wrong – that somewhere, I was always wishing for something more. Not the healthiest of way to spend a few years, but then again, perhaps going through the so very wrong allowed me to truly recognize what was actually right and acceptable. Perhaps if things had been too comfortable, I wouldn’t have had any motivation to get out, and the opportunity to meet the someone I was more suited to would have sailed past into the sunset, and I never would’ve known otherwise. Contrarily, he’d spent the same years doing quite the opposite – avoiding relationships like the plague because they never met the hope of what true love should be, spending years in solitude and breaking off potential connections soon after they’d begun because that nudging feeling of knowing they weren’t it was ever-present. It’s funny, the way people spend those first few years of adulthood, and how attitudes to relationships are formed, shaped, altered and evolved, and I don’t really know what it means, but I don’t suppose it really matters, because each path led to the here and now.

I just realized this post isn’t going to end up being big on coherence, but since I’ve been a tad absent over the last few months, I felt a strong urge to write one last post before the year was out. A few noteworthy incidents have taken place recently – my job for one has turned out to be an absolute dream, and I can genuinely say I’d be happy to spend seven days a week there! I’m up on the fourteenth floor of the tallest building in the city (I think), and I arrive each morning to a view of downtown stretching as far as the eye can see, the sun illuminating an expanse of morning cloud cover in bright pinks and oranges, and spend my last hour of the day watching it retire as the lights of the city below slowly come out like stars. I work with a brilliant group of people who seem to accept, like, and even encourage me to be my nerdy self, and I’m somehow seen as the extrovert of the office. It’s become a safe environment for me to be exactly who I want to be, and I absolutely love it.

Six months past deadline, I finally checked off the hardest thing on my 26 Before 26 list – learning to drive. I’d written about it this summer after driving out of the city for the first time, spent looking at the biggest, most glittering night sky I’d ever seen, and the sense of accomplishment outweighed the fear I’d had for so very long. But then winter came, and dropped a whole pile of snow and entirely foreign driving conditions on top of me – three days before my road test. I panicked, but did kind of okay – took the test, parallel parked perfectly, and promptly failed – I got five points too many, for not knowing how to turn the windscreen wipers off. I was really disappointed and cried like an absolute child for a good half hour – I’d never failed anything in my life, and when you pride yourself on overachieving, it feels like the end of the world – but I made my second appointment, and will be trying again right before New Year’s Eve. Fingers crossed I don’t bugger it up this time – although getting into a giant car crash and totalling my boyfriend’s car last week isn’t exactly the smooth sailing I was hoping for. I was driving down a main street on the way to the last of the Christmas shopping when out of nowhere, somebody ran straight through a stop sign to our right and pulled out immediately in front of us. The road was icy, there was less than a second to impact, yet it felt like everything was in slow motion. I could see it coming, I could see there was nowhere to go, and we ploughed straight into the side of the other vehicle in front. The airbags immediately went off – and those are not the soft, cushiony things you’re led to believe will save you from rocketing headfirst out of the window – they’re a sudden, very solid punch in the face, and they emit some kind of smokey gas which absolutely suffocated me. I couldn’t breathe, and the door was jammed, so I couldn’t get out of the vehicle. I looked to my right and saw my love with blood all over his face from the smashed passenger window. I kept saying I couldn’t breathe and scrambling to get out of the car, the door not opening… when the other driver opened it for me from the outside. Apparently The Professor had been trying to help me get out of his side, which I don’t remember, and apparently I’d had the car in park and my foot pressing wildly hard on the accelerator while I struggled to get out… which I also don’t remember. I just remember panic, shards of glass flying into the car slowly as it filled with smoke, and ending up in tears in a fire truck next to my poor boyfriend, whose nose had bled all down his face and onto his coat and hoodie, unable to stop shaking. The funny thing was I knew the other driver – a rich older gentleman I’d done some design work for a few years ago – who gave me an enormous hug and apologized profusely. We exchanged details, and my dear in-laws came to pick us up and take us for something to eat. I felt terrible I’d completely wrecked somebody else’s car – a really great car, too – but was thankful it wasn’t so much worse.  It hasn’t done wonders for my road confidence, but I figure now’s as good a time as any to get back behind the wheel – and hopefully we’ll be mobile again within a couple of weeks.

Oh, another noteworthy event – my tattoo! I got a beautiful old quill pen on my inner forearm a few weeks ago – an eternal reminder of my love for the written word, and to draw me to the activity I love more than anything in the world. I also spent four hours getting black out of my hair for good and going a bold red I really love. I finally feel comfortable and confident enough to carry it off. 🙂

Outside of work and big scary accidents, I really should write about something that’s been quite a prominent feature of my life over the last month or so. I guess it could fall under the category of “general health and wellbeing” – very much so, for reasons a handful of you know, regarding The Professor, but also in terms of really dealing with my anxiety. I think a number of factors contributed to it getting to a breaking point. The thoroughly traumatic dissolution of my marriage, the subsequent moving home, the new job… the letting go of everything that had become comfortable, and immediately focusing on forward movement rather than allowing myself time to heal properly was definitely a factor – and I’m at a point where I’m reframing how I deal with the world; retraining myself and rewriting my attitude to life in general. I’d always felt so strongly that life was short and no moment should be wasted, and only recently am I learning that an attitude I felt so positive actually caused a lot of harm in the long term. By not allowing myself time to deal with what happened and diving straight into creating a new future, the damage was never given the opportunity to be resolved in a healthy way. It began to affect everything around me: I spent every day in a state of constant worry, and subconsciously allowed the fear of history repeating itself to manifest and weasel its way into everything I did. I started getting upset for no reason at all in the real world, seeing tiny, insignificant things as the catalyst for what happened happening all over again, and reacted accordingly. I became an insane person. I’d get into fits of tears and despair over trivial things; I’d take out my worries on those I loved as if they were actually doing the very thing I feared most; I’d worry about being fired for not learning quickly enough at work and was shocked to receive a glowing review from my coworkers and bosses about how I’d done the opposite. “Not wasting time” and focusing so strongly on shaping the future right now prevented me from dealing with things healthily. It came out in disagreements, too – I’d want to move on immediately, when what was needed was some time to cool down, and my insistence on “making the most of the time we have” was the very thing that exacerbated everything. So for the last few weeks, I’ve called that into question. I think my tendency toward impatience definitely plays a part too. I started seeing a counsellor who’s helped me recognise the destructive thought patterns that had begun to take over, and provided me with tools and techniques to catch myself in my tracks, break bad habits, and make healthier choices.  I’ve done a lot of work over the last few weeks, recognised my habits, and been able to react differently – and life has been so much easier. No longer am I consumed by worry, or desperate for reassurance. No longer do I fear being physically alone in my own company – something that had for a long time been a territory of fear and overthinking things, a place to allow my thoughts and worries to take over reality and lead to panic. I’m learning slowly to break the compulsions that almost destroyed everything, and for the first time, I feel genuine. All the endeavors at conquering my anxiety up until now definitely helped me in a way, but those unhealthy thought patterns were never properly addressed. I was building a house before laying the foundations – it’s no wonder everything came crashing down. So I’m starting again. I’m not just focusing on actions lining up with the person I want to be, but thoughts, too – that’s the hard part, but the important part. And at the end of the day, they’re just a habit. And habits can be broken, and new ones can very much be made.

So it’s a few days before Christmas, and after an eventful year, I have a feeling that things paved the way for what’s going to be the best one yet. I’m in a place where everything is clearer – the past, present and future are written in a language I finally understand perfectly, and 2012 is looking brighter than ever. I’m heading into it with more certainty, knowledge, and tools than I think I’ve ever had, and I think those are going to lead to more happiness, confidence, deeper connections, less worry, and a better person for people to be around. I’m not proud of how badly I slipped up, but what are mistakes if we can’t learn giant life lessons from them? The darkness does, after all, define where the light is. I’m looking forward to a holiday filled with real friendship, genuine happiness over obligation, seeing the looks on people’s faces when they open presents I have a sneaky feeling are rather awesome, the Doctor Who Christmas special – and course a good old EastEnders massacre. I’m looking forward to a year where every thought, feeling and event of every day shines a little brighter. I’m looking forward to more tattoos (thank you Frank Turner for the endless inspiration), more risks, more meteor showers, more writing, brilliant music, more laughter, more growth, and life truly, finally, being exactly what it was supposed to be.

Happiest of Christmases to you, and I apologise wholeheartedly for the lengthy ramble. I just felt I ought to note a bit of life as it is here and now before heading into the new year. 🙂 I hope 2012 is everything you hope and dream for. I started this post quoting my favourite author, and I think he’s pretty good for wrapping it up, too:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”


I’ve been pretty absent over the last week or two. The last little while has been brimming with laughter, tears, frights, delights, and of so much activity I haven’t had time to write – so I think the best thing to do is sum it all up in snapshot form. Let’s start with Christmas. It was our first as a married couple, and I’d had lots of tips offered from all over the blogosphere as to how to spend it, for which I was really thankful. A good point was raised – that now is the time to start our own traditions as well as continuing some we’d grown up with – which was interesting, since our childhood Christmases couldn’t have been spent more differently! We both agreed, especially since we hadn’t had any time off work since the wedding, that it was important to make time for the two of us, so we began on Christmas Eve starting a tradition I hope will continue. It was an idea of Sweet’s, which I thought was absolutely fantastic: cooking as many Christmas dinners as we could together, packaging them all up with cutlery, insulating the lot and driving around some of the “bad areas” of the city looking for people on the streets going hungry. We drove through downtown, the words of Fairytale of New York filling the car, a stack of dinners piled on my knees. It was -26°C that night, the wind bitter and the streets slick with ice. We ended up at what’s commonly known as one of the scarier street corners in the city, and ended up giving away everything we had. I know it’s a dangerous thing to do, but we took precautions. We stayed together. And the chance to make someone’s Christmas Eve a little more bearable was worth it. I held on to his arm tightly as we approached people queuing outside shelters, people under the influence, people huddled in doorways… it was a heartbreaking, terrifying, eye-opening experience, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that we are all so incredibly lucky just to have a roof over our heads over the holiday season, and even more lucky to be able to have someone to give a gift or a card to. We can get so wrapped up (pardon the pun) in ideas of presents, of family dinners, of decorations and of BBC Christmas specials that it can often go unnoticed that there are people living in the very same city for whom Christmas is just another day without food, warmth, friends or family – and I’m really proud of Sweet for wanting to spend Christmas Eve doing something small to acknowledge that. I hope this is a tradition we can continue over the years.

Christmas itself was just about perfect. We slept in a little, exchanged gifts (any girl whose husband buys her a levitating TARDIS is a lucky lady indeed!), ate a wonderful lunch with my Dad and stepmum, Skyped with my Nan (and watched her open pictures and videos from the wedding – magical), watched Dumbledore in Doctor Who, visited my new in-laws (who were incredibly kind and generous!), and spent the evening together, as husband and wife, just curled up with a warm drink, a cuddly cat, ’80s sci-fi Schwarzenegger movies and The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was fantastic.

This was also the first year in many that I’d had to work between Christmas and the new year. Which was pretty rubbish. The rest of my department were all on holiday, leaving me responsible for all 30 participants in our program, which on a regular day would be out in the field, either job searching or providing housekeeping/snow shovelling services to seniors. However, it was decided that instead, during the days I’d be the sole member of staff, I would keep all of them in and teach them computer skills and resume/interview techniques. Now, I recognised what was happening immediately as a case of “be careful what you wish for” – number fifteen on my list for this year was to “teach a full class of people without shaking with nervousness and actually be excited about doing it.” I was being handed the opportunity to do exactly that. I spent the two days prior carefully collecting information, building activities and curriculum, and arrived the morning of to a full class. I was in a noisy computer lab, so I, soft-spoken by nature, had to learn to project. I’d grabbed the wrong PowerPoint file, so I also had to learn how to wing it. I had to answer difficult questions, so I had to learn how to think on my feet. But you know what? I got exactly what I wished for. I can now say I had the experience of a real teacher – and I came out the other side. I stepped out of the building after two days of instruction and literally SKIPPED, clapping as I got into the car. I took people from not knowing what a mouse was to being able to type, e-mail, attach resumes, answer real-world questions, and hopefully, be that much better equipped for success. I definitely don’t want to be  in front of people full-time. But I’m happy I tried. 🙂

One of my closest and best friends in the whole world was in town for the holidays, and I was so beyond thrilled to see him after being able to communicate only by text and Skype for months that I made sure I was at the airport the second he arrived in Winnipeg! We spent numerous nights over the last couple of weeks catching up, each time cramming everything we’d missed over the last few months into four or five hour conversations. I even got to play matchmaker for the first time, which didn’t work out too badly at all! 🙂 I hate that some of the people who mean the most to me have to live so far away, but I’ve come to learn that distance doesn’t have to mean the end of a friendship – it can be the fuel to keep it growing even stronger. I’ve also learned that absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, and to cherish the time you can actually spend together in person.

It’s 2011! New Year’s Eve was spent celebrating birthdays, watching Harry Potter, eating gourmet burgers, and ringing in the new year dancing with a wonderful group of friends in a living room to Stevie Wonder’s Superstition. It was brilliant. I didn’t make resolutions, since I’ve still got a few things left on the 26 Before 26 – hopefully in 5 months time, I’ll be able to say I stuck to them all – or at least attempted them. 🙂

Happy New Year everybody! I can’t wait to catch up with you all soon, and I sincerely hope this year is your best one yet. 🙂

Gift Giving

It’s the holiday season, and I’m sure most of us have spent the last few weeks scouring shops and websites in hopes of finding the perfect present that will undoubtedly light up the face of a loved one come Christmas Day. Gifts of all sizes are wrapped in pretty paper and adorned with ribbons and bows, and tucked under a warmly glowing tree for safe keeping, until the day arrives when they get to do their job: make someone’s day. Gift-giving has undoubtedly been on many minds these last few weeks, and I’ve seen no shortage of wishlists floating around the blogosphere – but today, I want to address something else related to gifts: those which were given to us at birth.

In some way or another, we are all gifted. Some of us are fantastic listeners, great writers, artists, or musicians. Some of us understand chemicals and equations, or the inner workings of technology, and some of us are born to sing or spread a message throughout the world. Some of us are born to be on the stage, and some of us allow our imaginations to soar onto the pages of books published by the million, working their way into the hearts of a generation. Let’s think about that for a second – because there are so many of us out there who’ve written about hopes and dreams and secret passions, yet used fear and excuses to not explore and develop them. “But what if I’m not good enough?” has become something of a mantra throughout the collective consciousness, resulting in thousands of potential gifts being locked up and hidden away, quashing any potential in the slightest they could have to make this world or someone’s life that little bit better.

I received an e-mail recently from a man whose story I was lucky enough to hear last summer, Patrick Combs. He had an interesting point about worldwide phenomenon Stephenie Meyer*, the biggest selling author of the last two years: she almost didn’t submit Twilight to publishers because she thought her writing wasn’t good enough. [Pause.] Potential irony aside, clearly by taking a leap of faith in offering her gift to the world, she found her calling, made millions, and won over the teenage masses with tales of angst fantasy, romance and adventure. What if dear old J.K. had never allowed Harry Potter to see the light of day? What if she continued to write on trains and in coffee shops, and kept the stories bound in paper journals, only ever given to her children and perhaps a few friends? By choosing to give her gift to the world, she helped a generation move away from their Playstations and fall in love with reading all over again. Patrick had further interesting points:

Five years ago I had a strong sense that I wanted to be a speaker and I became one. But now I’m back to wondering what I should TRULY be doing with my life, and now the ‘What to do with my life?’ question seems more important than ever. First off, the panic I’ve felt this week stems from a deep seated fear: Fear of missing my calling.

Wouldn’t it be awful to miss your calling? What could be worse? Also, I’m certain that “success” isn’t what I’m after. Simply reaching the top is not what I’m out to do. I’m out to give the gift I was meant to give – whether doing so ultimately makes me rich, middle class, or poor. Famous, notable, or unknown. Getting to the top of your field can’t be as important as becoming what you were put on the planet to become. Fulfilling your calling has to be the peak of the pyramid. Giving your gift – the one gift you can and were born to give – must be the ticket.


I’ve seen countless people going through their lives – myself very much included – being held back by feelings of inadequacy. I believe we were all given gifts the day we were born, and we are all drawn toward certain interests, hobbies and passions so we can tap into them, open them up, and give them to the world. Yet so often, they are held hostage, hidden away untouched and unused, and never given the opportunity to shine.

As I’d mentioned, I’ve seen a lot of wishlists floating around in the last few weeks leading up to Christmas. TV boxsets, makeup, gadgets, and mp3 players may result in a smile for a few days, but they are all temporal. Why not choose ones that could last a lifetime? We’ve all had great Christmas presents, and we’ve all had one or two pretty rubbish ones. Why is it that when it comes to a naff Christmas gift, we don’t hesitate in going straight back to Best Buy on Boxing Day to exchange it for something better, yet when it comes to the gifts we’re given in our very souls, we’re perfectly content to accept the useless (fear, anxiety, and self-doubt), and refuse to enjoy the brilliant?  On my wishlist this year, I want to open the great gifts. The ones I want to someday offer to the world through compassion, song, speech and written word. I want to make the choice to accept and recognize them instead of settling for a cheap, half-hearted knock-off tainted by what I’ve settled for for so long.

This Christmas, in the spirit of gift-giving, ask yourself if you’re ready to give yours. Follow those passions and release those fears, do what feels comes naturally, and go after what makes you bubble with enthusiasm. Cultivate your talents, listen to your dreams, and follow your heart. You never know whose Christmas you might end up making the best yet.

* While we’re on the subject of Twilight… (I’m sorry :))

I Got Chills (They’re Multiplying)

Just a quick post to acknowledge the beautiful Matt Cardle, the adorable ex-painter/decorator in plaid shirts and worn-out newsboy caps, my pick from the very first auditions, who just won The X Factor! This boy has the most beautiful, haunting voice I’ve ever heard in my life – I seriously got chills all over every time he opened his mouth. A-mazing. Congrats to the best contestant ever – here’s hoping we don’t get another festive civil war and he manages Christmas Number One this Sunday!

Indie Kids Get Early Christmas Presents… again

About this time last year, I wrapped up a selection of indie Christmas tunes for all you lovely people (somehow the link’s still active!), and since music is very dear to my heart, I thought I’d grab a load of new ones and share another festive package to put on in the background while you’re decking the halls and putting up the tree. 🙂 This one starts off with the new Coldplay Christmas record, Christmas Lights, which is just lovely (and another total anthem), with a few fun alternative holiday records thrown in – and it all fits on a standard blank CD. Just click the image to download. Enjoy! 🙂

1.  Coldplay – Christmas Lights
2. The Wombats – Is This Christmas?
3. Slow Club – Christmas TV
4. Manic Street Preachers -Ghost of Christmas
5. Travis – Colder
6. No Use for a Name – Fairytale of New York
7. Kill It Kid – Just Like Christmas
8. Goldfrapp – Winter Wonderland
9. Smashing Pumpkins – Christmastime
10. The Raveonettes – The Christmas Song
11. Tom Jones and Catatonia – Baby, It’s Cold Outside
12. Gustavo Santaolalla – De Ushuaia A La Quiaca
13. The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells Ring)
14. A Change of Pace – Christmas on the Coast
15. Hunks and Friends – The Magic of Christmas
16. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
17. Esterlyn – Christmas Time
18. Lindstrom – Little Drummer Boy
19. Rufus Wainwright – Spotlight on Christmas
20. The Fire Apes – Last Christmas
21. Joshua Radin – Winter
22. The Hooves – A Hooves Christmas
23. Danny Elfman – Christmas Eve Montage

NB: If you enjoy the tunes, please support the artists by purchasing their music 🙂

Post-Christmas Wrap Up

So this is Christmas… and what have we done? Another year over, and a new one just begun…

Well lovelies, another one has come and gone, and, without fail, Christmas 2009 was nothing short of a tumultuous rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, laughter and tears, and realisation that the people you spend Christmas with says a lot about how you really define “family”.  I spent mine in the wonderful company of my dad and stepmum, sharing dinner and playing games with Sweet’s family, braving a blizzard, watching old 80s Christmas movies,  and talking to friends through fits of sobbing who left me feeling incredibly grateful, and got me back on track to being able to really enjoy Christmas after all.

I finally spoke to my nan, who’s still in the hospital, but in good spirits and absolutely thrilled to have had visitors on Christmas Day. Two girls I’d grown up with in England who lived across the street from us were in town for Christmas, and braved the icy roads on Christmas afternoon to visit my poor old nan in hospital.  This Monday, they’re taking her up some clothes and sorting out the house, and it just meant the world to both me and my dad to have two people who weren’t even family give up part of their Christmas to help somebody in need, when our own relatives wouldn’t even lift a finger.  It was unexpected, altruistic and demonstrated the holiday spirit more than I could ever say.

I received a bizzare card from my mother, once again an endeavour to make me feel bad about myself, which I almost let get to me – but I refused to allow it to affect me any more.  I put it aside and went ahead with spending Christmas with the people who really showed their love and care, and who make me feel truly lucky to have in my life.  Sweet’s family blessed me with amazing and thoughtful gifts, good times and memories in the making.  My dad and I shared a meaninful conversation summing up all the bad Christmases we ever had and vowing that from now on, we were going to focus on what was really important in our lives, and enjoy the seasons to come with the people we love.

Sweet and I exchanged gifts (this boy got me the BEST gift ever – a Doctor Who t-shirt!!), snuggles, and words that made me feel that no matter what else is going on in the world, whatever else is going on in our lives and whatever the state of my family situation might be, what’s really important is the family you make for yourself .  This time next year, I’ll be officially “integrated”, with a mother, father and sisters-in-law I already love dearly.  I’ll be married to the person who’s taught me how to be thankful in times of adversity, believed in me, and pushed me to get to where I am today.  I’ll be ringing in the holiday season with my dad, counting our blessings to have each other, and I’ll still be spending it with girlfriends I love just like I would my own sister.

This year, I’ve learned that you don’t have to become the product of your past.  Just because you may have been made to feel by numerous people who were “supposed” to love you that you’re worthless in times gone by, doesn’t  mean you have to resign yourself to believing it.  You can choose to become the person you want to be, and if you’re lucky enough to have people believing in you, you can make your own reality independent of anything you’ve ever been told before.  Just as you can choose to spend not just the holidays, but birthdays, weekends and any other time you like with the family you choose for yourself.  Significant others, new families, blog friends who’ve done more from far away than some people next door, and friends who’d do anything for you – these are the people who truly count, at Christmas, and in life.   This year things may not have fit the traditional mold, but I’ve learned that that’s okay. I’m heading into the new year more sure of myself, more determined to do what I can to make this world a better place, and to continue to push myself, and most of all, more appreciative of the people I have in my life who’ve done so much for me.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and I want to say thank you to all of you for reading, encouraging, supporting, commenting, sending me things in the post… I feel blessed to have you in my life.  Happy holidays to everyone, and I genuinely wish you all the very best for the new year. 🙂

Blessings in a Bittersweet Christmas

In this week leading up to Christmas, there have been several thoroughly unfestive incidents affecting me personally, or indirectly through friends, family and other bloggers, which have left me desperately endeavouring to keep my holiday spirits high.  I’ve been shocked at how much death and illness has surrounded us at this time of year; lives of friends, relatives, and celebrities have all recently fallen into cessation, leaving behind heartbroken families at a time of year when goodwill and festivities are supposed to eclipse the worries of the rest of the year.

But it’s tough, when life insists mercilessly on throwing lemons, on a schedule inconsiderate of Christmas spirit.  I’ve been reading blogs of friends who are going through loss, grief, infertility and sadness, and all I want for anyone right now is to be able to enjoy the holiday season.  It’s just so hard to raise a shield and feign holiday joy in the face of adversity’s relentless persistence.

My heart goes out to anybody whose Christmas this year is tainted.  I’ve spent more than enough Christmases dealing with breakups, surgery and divorce, and everything at this time of year seems exacerbated by the inherent expectations of festivity and merriment.  I want you to know that if you’re going through something challenging this year, my thoughts and prayers go out to you by hundredfold.

In the last two weeks, the incident with my mother exploded as a result of her determination to maintain vendettas, as opposed to recognising someone in need and having an actual heart.  After years of disproportionate efforts, I’m finally done with her negativity.  She knows where to find me, should she suddenly grow a conscience, but until then I made it very clear I was done, and she was not going to be coming to my wedding.

My dad, who I love dearly, got laid off from his job.  A pretty high-end management position, two weeks before Christmas.  Luckily he has a few interviews this week, but in this economy and at this time of year (especially when you’re paying spousal support to someone who refuses to recognise the difficulty in actually paying when you don’t have a job…), I just hope and pray he gets something soon.

Because his mother, my dear Nan back in England, is in hospital.  She gets dizzy and has falls and lives by herself in a 2-storey house which poses more of a danger these days than a home.  Recently she had a fall, and fractured her arm and a rib, and is being kept in a hospital until at least the New Year.  The hospital is out of town, and the only relative who’d actually visit her doesn’t have a car, and hasn’t been able to take her up some clean clothes, or even visit.  My dad and I are totally helpless from halfway round the world, and it’s just so disheartening that we have other relatives over there who, for the sake of maintaining grudges, won’t go and visit.  And my dad can’t go over because he has interviews all week.

Last week I just broke down.  Things are supposed to be happy at Christmas.  And so I did everything I could to try and refocus my thoughts on how much I actually have.  I have wonderful friends who come round with hugs and cake and amazingly thoughtful gifts (we even got each other the same present!).  I have coworkers who send me emails, invite me to their holiday parties, and get together and pray for my Nan. I have you guys, who despite being miles away, read and write to me,  offer your support and even send me cards in the post. And I have my dad, who’s been there for me my whole life, and I’m trying to be able to do the same for him.

I put up decorations, hung the cards, downloaded a bunch of Christmas music and cranked it, singing at the top of my voice while I did laundry.  I made little snowflake cupcakes and bought stuff to make my first mince pies since I moved here ten years ago.  I dug out Love Actually and the Polar Express and my next two nights are full of plans of cat snuggles, movies and some Hot Butter Rum. (Seriously, make some – it’s the best Christmas drink ever, and it’s the only time of year you can drink it and not feel guilty about the calories!)

I’m really thankful for what I have, for my little cat, for my friends and family, and for all of you I’ve found this past year. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to personally grow, the wonderful conversations, and the chances I’ve had to give back.  If you’re going through something tough this Christmas, my heart honestly goes out to you.  I hope you can take a moment to count even the smallest of blessings; those of friendship, of the work you do, of the gifts you have.  And I sincerely hope and pray that 2010 brings good things for all of you.

Nothing says “Christmas” like Civil War…

Today marks the start of the last weekend before Christmas.  It brings shops filled with exhausted workers and frantic last-minute shoppers.  It brings TV specials, Advent services, holiday parties and, somewhere, in a little country elsewhere in a world filled with countdowns, festivities and frenzy, it brings a race to the annual Christmas Number One

Growing up in England, every weekend was an exciting time for music.  Friday nights were spent glued to the television for half an hour watching Top of the Pops, and Sunday afternoons to the radio, listening eagerly to the weekly Top 40.  I remember walking home from school, through the town centre, cutting through Woolworths just so I could check out the new singles chart, and often pick up a few on cassette tape with my £2 pocket money.  The music charts were a definitive part of Britain’s weekend, taking over the television, radio shows and shop displays, and in the leadup to Christmas, the chart battle for the number one spot took over the nation.

Bookies released the odds, bets were placed, and the nation held its breath during the week leading up to the Saturday before Christmas to see who’d hold the coveted number one position on Christmas Day.  Today, the UK finds out who their nation’s 2009 Christmas Number One will be.  But this year, it’s a little bit different.

This year, it’s become a full-out war.  Christmas charts of the last few years have undoubtedly been dominated by the winning single released from that year’s X Factor winner.  I have nothing against this – I love the X Factor, and this year have followed the journey of an absolutely lovely young lad who’s worked hard, won the heart of the nation, come from a humble background, and I’m excited to see him get the opportunity of a lifetime.  Previous years’ winners have gone on to break all-time records, or shoot to international superstardom, selling out faster than anyone in UK chart history, selling multi-platinum level albums and becoming three-time Grammy award nominees.  I love the show, and am thoroughly behind backing these kids who come from all walks of life, and giving them a shot at making it.  This year’s winner was incredible, brought tears to my eyes, a skip to my heart, and what’s happening to him this weekend makes me very upset.

The nation’s been split by a husband and wife team, who decided they were sick of X Factor taking the fun out of the race to the Christmas Number One, and set up a Facebook campaign to get an old Rage Against the Machine song to the top for 2009.   The band’s Killing In The Name track was chosen by the anti-X Factor campaigners because of its message of taking a stand against authority.  And the success has been staggering. The group’s membership has hit half a million, and alternative radio DJs across the country have spread the people’s discontent at the state of the music industry today.   “Fed up with Simon Cowell’s latest karaoke act being Christmas No.1?” the group asks Facebookers. “Me too… So who’s up for a mass-purchase of the track ‘KILLING IN THE NAME’ from December 13th as a protest to the X-Factor monotony?”

Unfortunately, the rebellion has divided the nation, with odds fluctuating drastically all week long, and what initially appeared to be a small internet campaign has taken over the country, with the story being broadcast across the planet.  This kid’s worked hard for months, spending time living in a house of strangers, having to learn musical arrangements and dance routines within barely a week, and living away from friends and family throughout the holidays.  And his shot at a number one single is being taken away by people backing a foul-mouthed, rap-metal US band with a single from years ago that has no place in contemporary British music charts!

With less than 24 hours to go, I’m reading all sorts of articles.  The odds are too close to call. Public opinion is divided.  But the X Factor winner has spent his first week of fame meeting soldiers home from Afghanistan, and sick children in a London hospital.  He says these visits have helped him put his chart battle into perspective.

“This week I have been faced with soldiers who have had their limbs blown off and children who are dying or seriously ill in hospital.  That to me is so much more important than getting to No 1. You just don’t know how lucky you are.”

At the end of the day, I guess it doesn’t really matter who’s at the top when the charts are announced this time tomorrow.  But I can’t help but root for this guy, who’s worked hard, and ultimately, with a journey of hard work behind him, his compassion and sincerity will go on, and I wish him every success in the world – but I’ll still be sitting here, halfway around the world, with my fingers crossed very tightly indeed.

Indie Kids get Early Christmas Presents

It’s December! And what better way to kick off the holidays than with an awesome, non-retail nightmare soundtrack.  I love mix tapes – and I love all my new bloggy friends – so I thought I’d give you all a little early Christmas present. 


1. No Use for a Name – Fairytale of New York
2. Phantom Planet – Winter Wonderland
3. Death Cab – Baby Please Come Home
4. Manic Street Preachers  – Ghost of Christmas
5. My Chemical Romance – All I Want for Christmas
6. Relient K – Angels We Have Heard on High
7. Bird and the Bee – Carol of the Bells
8. The Hives & Cyndi Lauper – Christmas Duel
9. The Eels – Xmas is Going to the Dogs
10. Fuel – We Three Kings
11. Raveonettes – The Christmas Song
12. Bright Eyes – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
13. The Fray – Happy Christmas (War is Over)
14. Yo La Tengo – It’s Christmas Time
15. Ryan Adams – Hey Parker, It’s Christmas
16. Snow Patrol – When I Get Home for Christmas
17. Sufjan Stevens – Star of Wonder
18. Various – The Christmas Song
19. Band of Horses – The First Song
20. The Dandy Warhols – Every Day Should Be a Holiday

Okay, I promise, no more Christmas posts for at least a week.  Hopefully this’ll keep you company while you decorate the tree, bake cookies, rock out and wrap up for the oncoming snow.  Hope you like it it!

NB: If you enjoy the tunes, please support the artists by purchasing their music 🙂

Traditions and Wishes and a Well-Dressed Little Tree

It’s officially Advent tomorrow – even if it’s not quite December, but that pretty much means I can now unashamedly inundate you with posts about Christmas!  (Okay, maybe just this one. MAYBE another one closer to the 25th.)

Sweet finally caved after I’d wrapped 2/3 of our presents and they’d been piled on the coffee table for weeks, and let me put up our little tree.  I’ve never had a real tree like my friends, or an 8 ft high pre-lit monster of festivity to take over the room like my dad  – but my little 4 ft one comes out of its box every year, perches on a table with a little red tablecloth, an excited Rose Kitten pawing at it, and gets decorated with baubles and bows from the dollar store (goodness, I’m starting to sound like Charlie Brown here).  This Christmas may be our second one together, but it’s our first proper one living together in our own little house, so I decided the tree deserved an upgrade.

We bought a nice big long string of lights – the twinkly, warm, environmentally unfriendly ones because they’re so much more cosy than the LEDs.  We bought Proper Decorations that cost more than a two dollars.  (Except they came without hooks or strings – point?? – so we had to improvise with paperclips.  I swear that’s the only ghetto part of the tree this year.)  We bought bows and garlands and even some really meaningful ornaments that’ll serve to remind us how blessed we are, and to do what we can to help others.   I lucked out on amazing wrapping paper and spent an evening curling ribbons to a collection of indie Christmas music (I’m allowed to bring out the indie versions before December – I’m hoping to get around to posting a mini indie Christmas mix! – but next week, bring on Josh Groban).

My dad always asks me for a Christmas list every year, and the last couple of years, my lists have really made me feel like I’m getting old!  Over the last couple of Christmases I’ve asked for (and received!) an electric hand mixer, canisters to store teabags and sugar, a crock pot, a rice cooker, and a sewing machine.  What happened to gizmos and music and makeup and clothes?  Looking at this year’s list, I tried to make things a little less quarter-life crisis and a little more fun.

This Star Trek T-shirt from the amazing  Or just a gift voucher for their whole online shop, because everything is way too awesome.  Especially the office supplies 🙂  This Doctor Who one is pretty cool too.

The most amazing USB hub ever:

Yes, I found it on – I don’t care!! I want one!

Books!  Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry, Terry Pratchett’s new one The Unseen Academicals, Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked and The Lovely Bones are all on my wishlist.  I plan on reading way more in 2010 than I did this year, and these all sound like very good books to take with me to the Dominican in January.

Games! Because Sweet and I live together now, we can get each other something we’ll actually use together: A WII. So I asked for rock band and karaoke revolution.

A cheap laptop, so I can go be a Starbucks blogger, a ceramic curling iron, ‘cause I’ve never owned a curling iron and I think it’d be fun, and gift vouchers for restaurants, because nothing beats a nice night out.  Not a utensil in sight!

Now we’re living together, we’re also starting our first holiday traditions.  Last year we snuggled in my little apartment and watched Love, Actually (incidentally the first movie we ever saw together at the cinema) and The Polar Express next to our little ghetto tree.  I also made a batch of hot butter rum batter for warm drinks.  We’ll be doing the same this year, and throwing in a holiday (/engagement, since we never had one) party with friends, drinks, games and good times – and one year to go until we officially tie the knot this time next year!  I love starting traditions, and I love the anticipation of them when December approaches.  A personal one of mine every year?  Cranking up No Use for a Name’s punk rock cover of the best Christmas song ever.

What are some of your holiday traditions? And what’s on your list this year?

Holy Crap

I decided to entitle this post as above because I haven’t written in a good few weeks and I know what’s about to come may very well be pretty lengthy. I’ve got so much ground to cover it’s ridiculous, and I usually do an “end of year” post, but being away over the new year made that slightly difficult so I’m going to attempt to cram everything from the last few weeks into this post. Grab a cup of tea.

Let’s start with Christmas. I can pretty much say this was the best Christmas I’ve ever had in my entire life. It all took place between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day (as Christmas tends to), and involved playing fun games with one side of the boy’s family, my first Catholic Christmas service (which involved a beautiful communal rendition of ‘Silent Night’ in a pitch dark church), seeing my own family (and playing Rock Band with my little brother who I talk to maybe five times a year), and meeting the entire extended French-Italian other side of Sweet’s family all for the very first time. I’m just glad I know enough French to be able to understand what’s going on – there was probably over 50 people there for an enormous Italian feast out in the country, and it was quite the evening!

After it was all done, I packed my bags and the next day headed out on my own to California. I had to go through the “we don’t like non-Canadians” customs, involving retina scans, thumb and finger prints, and countless questions about why I was going and why had I not got my Canadian passport yet. Two planes and several screaming babies later I arrived at midnight in Los Angeles, and spent my first night on Shelby’s boat. I’d heard lots about the boat, but I had no idea what to expect. It was a cosy little thing – he put it as “kind of like camping” – there was no heat or lights and barely enough room for one person, but it was in the middle of Marina Del Rey, surrounded by palm trees, boats with Christmas lights on the masts, and a sky so full of stars I could’ve sat out on the dock forever.

We didn’t spend much time in the boat anyway, and the next few days were packed with bike rides down Venice Beach, healthy lunches in the park, improv shows with Sarah Silverman, jazz clubs, photo ops with Jeff Goldblum, Universal City and Rodeo Drive. It was a whirlwind of a couple of days and then I packed my bags and hopped on the Greyhound to Palm Springs, where I found my boy and his wonderful family waiting for me.

The next few days were spent in the enormous Great West house. It had four bathrooms, two living rooms, a hot tub and a pool which we decorated with candles for New Years Eve. We explored the vast Indian Canyons – an enormous forest of palm trees, went shopping, swam, and just spent a glorious time in the sun with some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. Our flight home was delayed because we had to wait for the plane to be de-iced, but spending the delay sitting in first class was nothing to complain about at all, and we got home, safe, cold, exhausted, and collapsed in each other’s arms for a little while before parting ways and getting some much needed rest.

I started my new job on Monday – I’d spent most of the Sunday crying and fretting, which was very bizarre because I’d never been that way about a new job before. I worked for three days but decided on the second that the reason I’d been in such an awful mood and so upset and stressed since we got back was because I just wasn’t comfortable working for a place that encouraged and promoted the idea that if you want to be beautiful, you come to us and we’ll give you as many boob jobs, facelifts and botox injections as you can handle, and then you’ll be attractive. It went against everything I believed about beauty and I felt pretty much like I was betraying myself in working there. It was a nice environment and the people were nice, but I couldn’t let myself be okay with working in a role that contributed to one of the things I consider wrong with the world today. So after a few sleepless, tear-filled nights, and consequently being a huge cow to my wonderful boyfriend who stood by me for standing up for my morals, I quit. I felt like I was letting everyone down. But I have an interview in an hour with Manitoba Music – they asked me on the phone if I had an interest in music and the arts. HELLO. This place sounds like HEAVEN! So fingers crossed, next time I write it’ll be about my awesome new job.

I’d also really like to say how grateful I am for a certain few people in my life right now, and you know who you are. Love to you all.

Christmas with the Cops

This weekend went by way too quickly and I don’t even know where to begin! I guess a good place would probably be on Saturday morning… which I spent in the company of two of the Winnipeg Police Force. You guys all know about my roommate situation: he’s stolen from me, is a walking health hazard, and is generally a complete prat, and this last week I came home to find myself unable to get into my own bedroom. Recently, I’d had a lock fitted on the door to prevent further things being stolen (and to prevent him entering and stealing usage of the new Internet account I’d had to set up after all the money I’d been funnelling to him for ours went straight into his bank account… and got us disconnected). This had worked pretty well until last Wednesday, when I got home to find that my key no longer fit. After several failed attempts with hair pins and credit cards (I knew I should’ve stayed in burglary school), two of my favourite people in the world helped me cut off my insect screen from the bedroom window, and after climbing up through thoroughly negative winter temperatures and a copious amount of snow, I hopped in. A total ninja moment which I thoroughly enjoyed. My dad proceeded to remove the lock and doorknob and replace it with another, and took the jammed one home for further inspection. The next evening I got a voicemail. He’d taken it apart to find the end of a broken key, jammed in the lock. My flatmate had actually tried to break in.

I was infuriated!! It was about 11:30 at night and I’d spent an hour trying to curl up with cats who wanted to do otherwise, so I got up, made some warm milk (closet grandma, I tell you) and checked my messages. I found myself with a ridiculously strong urge to find him at work and punch him in the face. There’s not a lot of things that’ll get me angry, but this was definitely one of them. I spent the next hour talking to a good friend who calmed me down, and the next couple of days seeking advice from friends on what I should do. I talked to the landlord, who couldn’t legally do anything because he was still paying rent and still on the lease. So we came to the conclusion that the police now had to be notified as it was now officially attempted breaking and entering. I called them, and that’s how my weekend began.

Two cops showed up at my place on Saturday morning. I told them what had been going on, they asked if he was home, and, it being 11:00 on a weekend morning, naturally my flatmate was still in his bedroom, passed out and more than likely hungover. The best part of this day was seeing the police hammering on his bedroom door shouting “OPEN UP, IT’S THE POLICE” and dragging him out of bed through a frightfully embarrassing bedroom full of dirty plates and cigarette butts. Actually, make that the best part of the last six months of living with him. They spent a little while in his room and came out to tell me the bad news: they couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t get a protection order against him because we weren’t in a relationship and were just roommates and there hadn’t been any actual violence or threats. Couldn’t get him evicted because both our names are on the lease and they couldn’t break a lease. And the best part, couldn’t do anything about the breaking in because he “didn’t do it to break in… just to piss me off because I’d been nagging him to clean up after himself.” Is it just me, or is that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard? A friend said he’s found a new line of crime: throwing bricks through my flatmate’s window “not to break it or anything, just to piss him off.” Ri-diculous.

The rest of the day was pretty good though. Finally finished up my Christmas shopping, and boy am I glad I did it before December struck. This does mean I am officially a hardcore poor person for the next two weeks but it also means I don’t have to endure Christmas Shoppers. It was bad enough on Saturday. People with trolleys and bags and prams just barging in front of you just so they get their hands on that video game before it sells out. Good cheer and respect for fellow human beings is thrown out the window, replaced by a goal to buy, buy, and buy some more. I went to St. Ignatius last night and the pastor was talking about this. What comes over people in December to make them behave in ways they wouldn’t normally dream of? There was a story in the paper this weekend too, about a Wal-Mart employee who got trampled to death by Christmas shoppers, who didn’t stop to help. A life was lost as a result of this seasonal insanity, and a pregnant woman pushed over and injured. I’m very glad to be done my Christmas shopping, and most of it online, too. But if you still have gifts to buy, please keep your basic human decency intact!

Went to a wonderful concert in the evening; Steve Bell was playing with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. It was totally sold out, and it was just a wonderful evening with wonderful music, a good message (he was giving away free booklets and DVDs on “Fast for Change”, after a trip to Ethiopia, after really realizing how much we overconsume in Canada) and Christmas spirit. We wrapped up the evening with some friends at Luxalune for a quick drink and then proceeded to spend the next three hours just talking. It’s crazy how sometimes time can fly so quickly. 🙂

Yesterday we put up the tree and I am officially ready for Christmas. This month has so much to look forward to. Tonight I get to spend with a wonderful friend in amazing seats at Lord of the Dance, I have the theatre and the Cannes Lions, an annual tradition that I always enjoy thoroughly. Later in the month I have two concerts, then there’s going to be probably the best Christmas I’ve had in years. And then I get to see one of my favourite people in the world, live on a boat somewhere close to the Hollywood Hills, and then spend New Year’s with a group of people very dear to my heart. Flatmate incidents aside, I think this month might just be the best one yet. At least I have a good story… 🙂

Good news, oh wait, bad!

So this week has been pretty eventful. I was supposed to have my surgery on Monday, which I spent all weekend fretting about, and got a phone call Monday morning from the doctor who said the anaesthetist was sick that day so all the non-emergency surgeries had to be postponed. Until January! Hurrah, I thought – no missing out on any holiday festivities, just 2-3 weeks off in the coldest month of the year drinking soup and lots of water. But then my boss told me that wasn’t acceptable and that January was one of her busiest months, and to phone back and try and get in this month. Which I did… and I did. December bloody 17th, which means “no you’ll definitely not be able to have Christmas dinner, you’ll probably be feeling okay in the New Year”. My ENTIRE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY is ruined!! I was so sad, and it did cause a bit of trouble with family stuff etc. but I guess we’ll just see how it goes on actual Christmas day… *sigh* And I thought LAST Christmas was bad!!

What else happened this week… oh my microwave broke, haha, but some dear friends who I love to bits are giving us another one. Because they’re that awesome. Last night I went out with my dad and Nicole to this REALLY FANCY event at the convention centre. He’d won tickets at work and they were $125 tickets – each! – we had a massive “feast” with all this fancy food, wine, and the servers and other staff were all dressed in medieval costumes, and they had “Wassailers” singing between courses and Buffy Sainte Marie did a small concert. And Al Simmons was there too. There was a massive silent auction with something like 200 prizes, ranging from concert tickets to a weekend in Scotland (minimum bid $2000!) – this was seriously a “rich people’s” event!!

Tonight I’m finally finishing my Christmas shopping and then this weekend’s hopefully going to be pretty relaxing, see some friends, bake some cookies, all that holiday season stuff. Hope everyone has a great weekend 🙂

Almost Christmas

Only 3 more weeks until an entire week off and Christmas; it’s going to go by so quickly, November seems to have just gone in an absolute flash. I need to go Christmas shopping! Yesterday I bought my first very own Christmas tree – it’s about a foot high, lol, it cost me $1.50 and I bought a little mini garland and star to put on it, and it’s sitting proudly on my side table by the TV with little candles around the base! I also strung up some Christmas lights (which I plan to keep all year) around my whole kitchen, which looks really lovely 🙂

This weekend’s going to be fun, I wish I was in LA seeing Shelby’s Cowboy Max show, I’d’ve loved to go so badly! But this Friday I have special tickets to this show and Christmas party at the Empire, so that’ll be nice to dress up (and freeze our arses off, lol) and then Sunday another “hibernating” sort of day in with movies and baking cookies, and possibly Christmas shopping. This week I got given an invitation from the dirtiest old man in the world, apparently he used to be this amazing award-winning photographer and he made me this package of a load of his pictures of models (for Playboy, haha) and an invitation on the front to his “dirty old man” hot tub party, “bathing suits optional, and if we can get a hold of the neighbour’s dog, various kinds of illegal sex!” LOL! Wanted to know if me or any of my girlfriends were interested in a part-time modelling job… no thank you sir! 🙂

On a more serious note I had this old lady come in to work this week asking me to type this letter for her, she was writing to Gary Doer and Stephen Harper and the Minister of Health and all those sorts of people, she has 4 children, 3 of which inherited this awful kidney disease from their father, and the one that didn’t inherit it can’t be a donor because she’s not compatible with her brother or something, and anyway it really got me thinking. There’s HUGE wait lists for organ transplants, and if we can live just fine with one kidney, why don’t more people donate? Just because you’re not dead doesn’t mean you can’t be an organ donor. I’ve been doing a little bit of research on it, and I think that at some point in the future I’m going to do that. I don’t know about the NEAR future – looks like I’d need 3 weeks off work to do it, and I just can’t afford that right now, but maybe in a couple of years. Why not? It’d save someone’s life, and that’s got to be an amazing thing. And the research I looked at said there’s basically no complications after successful surgery, and of like a 2000 person sample, 87% of them didn’t want to have kids after donating and the 13% that did had no complications and were successful in doing so. Of course it’ll take a lot of thinking about, and I’d need to be financially okay enough to take that sort of time off (it was different when I was living with Dan and I had my appendix out; rent was way less and I wasn’t in debt as much as I am now). But I think if I can do something to save a life, it’s something I’d really like to do one day.