Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bienvenue à Paris!

I made it to Paris! And boy oh boy did I ever received a warm welcome.

First, my friend Melanie greeted me at the airport. She was on her way to Berlin but had a few minutes before her flight so she met me at arrivals and we toasted my arrival with a stealth bottle of champagne.

Second, I had one of those slow-mo moments with Christophe where our heads came together for a big smooch like on Days of Our Lives. I nearly bawled when I saw him but held back. I'm an ugly crier. Red face, scrunched, not exactly kiss material.

Third, my friend Huey (pictured above) helped me figure out the Velib bike situation. The Vélib is the biggest bike sharing system in the world. I remember watching Vélib users with Melanie but we never managed to figure out how to do it. So we let it go. But Huey was determined, so after half a day of sweating through Franglish with locals, he figured it out and shared his findings. Then we tooted around Paris for the day.

I discovered that the Vélib is the best way to get around Paris. I can't believe how much I abused my feet before.  

When you come to Paris, here's the trick to Vélib:

1. You have to pay online for 1 or 7 days of use. That's the first trick, see. There is no card that spits out of the Vélib kiosk vending-machine style. You have to do it online.

2. You'll be given an 8 digit number. And you'll have to create a password. Remember, you do this online.

3. You approach the row of Vélib bikes and choose one. You do this BEFORE you head to the kiosk, otherwise you'll freak out at the kiosk when it asks you to give your bike number. Your bike will be locked up but it will be parked in a numbered spot. Remember the number. Pick a bike that has good tire pressure, not too many dings and a seat that is already adjusted to your level. You can adjust it yourself but you've got enough to think about on your first bike trip.

4. Approach the Vélib kiosk with confidence. And when you get there, search for the English option. You can learn French another day. For the first day, just use the English option. CAUTION: Not all kiosks offer a language option. You'll know that on the front screen. You may instantly start sweating if it's all in French. Try to stay calm. And maybe look for another station. They are everywhere.

5. Follow the instructions on the screen. You'll have to input the number you received online, your password and the number that corresponds with the bike you choose. NOTE: There is no card you'll receive. This confused me before because it appeared that some people had cards with scan codes on them. These are local people who can add Vélib use onto their monthly Metro subscription. These people are cool and confident. You'll be slightly jealous that they have a card and you have a slip of paper.

6. Go get your bike. You'll have to press a button to release the bike. It will slip out of the magnetic lock thingy. This is when you'll want to do a dance of joy but you can't because you're holding a bike.

7. Ride your bike for 25 minutes FREE. Yes, every bike trip starts with 30 minutes free. After that, it's a Euro, then after time, it's another 2 Euros and so on. The trick is to ride the bike for 25 minutes, take 5 minutes to find and park it at another kiosk, walk around that area, then grab another bike and continue on. If you wanted to ride from my place in the 5th to the Eiffel Tower, it would take two or three bike swaps but it would be free. Sweet!
NOTE: You will easily find a kiosk. There are 20,000 bikes sitting at 1,800 bike stations located 300 meters apart. If you stop at a bike station and it's full, you can score an extra 15 minutes at the kiosk to find another bike stand. 
ANOTHER NOTE: You're not being stealthy by riding for 30 minutes then doing a bike swap. The Vélib people want the bikes back so another person can use it for another 30 minutes. That's how they roll here in Paris. It's not all about making big bucks, people.
8. Park your bike at an open slot in the station. If you've insert your bike correctly, there is a a green light that will turn amber then flash green twice. If you haven't inserted your bike correctly, the green light will turn red and you will instantly start to sweat. This happened to me but Huey gave my bike an extra push to park it in the slot correctly. There is no sweeter sight then when the light on the parking spot blinks green twice.

On my first day with the bike, I stopped at a mosque for tea. Parked the bike.

Took another bike to the Bastille area to find a place to eat. Parked the bike.

Took yet another bike to the Marais to... strangely, I didn't eat or drink anything in the Marais. Parked the bike.

Took my final bike to the Pantheon to look at the Eiffel Tower AND the Pantheon at the same time because this town is laid out so well that one can do such things. Parked the bike over in my hood and stopped by the butcher shop for yet another slow-mo smooch with Christophe.

The best part of the Vélib is that you never have to go back to anywhere to retrieve it. Wherever you go, you can find another bike. It's actually better than having your own bike. It costs less (even over time) and you'll never have to retrieve it or worry about it being lost or stolen. Though you do need to have your wits about you when that light turns red. Such a judgmental little light. But once you figure out how to park the bike correctly, you'll find that touring around on the bike is a nice way to see a lot of the city in a short amount of time.

In two days, I kinda feel like a local. Bienvenue à Paris! 

Monday, December 26, 2011


It's my birthday. And for my birthday, I'm packing my bags and moving to Paris to live with Christophe.

Yep, I hooked up with Christophe the butcher.

Last March, on my first day in Paris, which was also the first day of my nomadic adventure, I sat at café and start taking videos of life in Paris. You may recall this video.

That's him. That's my boyfriend.

But at the time, I was just a tourist sitting at a café taking photos and videos like tourists tend to do. But when I came home to view the video, I noticed this handsome Daniel Craig-esque guy checking me out.

So I started checking him out. Day after day, I'd walk by him on my way up to the café on Rue Mouffetard. He'd say Bonjour and I'd say Bonjour. After a few days of this I told my friend Jennifer that I was in a relationship with the butcher.

"That was fast," she said.

Well I haven't talked to him yet. I've only said Bonjour. What if he talks back to me in French?!"

"Good point," she said. "You wouldn't want the guy you like to talk back to you."


But when I told my sister, she said, "You know French. Use your Grade Four French. You know how to say, Hello my name is Janice. What is your name?"

So the next day, I went up to him and said just that. He looked at me and said, in French, "Hello, my name is Christophe. Like on your necklace."

Now if you've been the faithful blog follower that I trust you are, I'd been wearing my St. Christopher's medal around my neck ever since the December prior when my car died and I went through the harrowing experience of being stranded on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. Luckily, I wasn't smooshed to smithereens, but I also wasn't taking any chances. St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers and I wanted him protecting me during my nomadic jaunt.

After Christophe told me his name, I asked him if he speaks English.



But each day I would walk up to him and say something in French that I had pieced together and rehearsed with help from Google Translate. I would see him in the morning and practice my future tense. "Today I am going to Notre Dame. After, I am going to walk around the Marais." He would nod and smile and tell me to have a nice day. At the end of the day, I would walk up to him and practice my past tense. "Today I went to Notre Dame. After, I walked around the Marais." And each day he would nod and say, "A demain?" See you tomorrow? And I would say, "A demain." See you tomorrow.

Then I'd walk home and watch my video of him like I was a crazy stalker lady.

He probably went home thinking I was slow. Cute, but slow.

After about three weeks of talking to him like a three year old, I decided that French was too hard, he was too hard to get to know and I needed to find English people before I permanently turned into a mute. I found a Meetup group for expats. My friend Nancy once said of Meetup groups in Paris, "If you’re an expat vegetarian tightrope walker, there’s a group for you."

Now I'm not one to go out on a limb and meet people. I'm introverted and crowds exhaust me. But sometimes you have to be the grown up of your life and tell your inner child who is kicking and screaming, "Get your shoes on. We're going. This is not optional."

So that's what I did. I put on my shoes and started walking up the street to the Meetup group.

But who should be sitting in a bar up the street? Why it was Christophe, wasn't it. And didn't he see me just as I was walking by. Why yes he did. And didn't he jump up like his bar stool was suddenly made of thumb tacks and rush outside to ask me if I would be interested to have a drink? Why yes he did.

But he did it in very few words. He pointed at the bar and said, "Biere?"

Lucky for him, I'm Canadian and know the French word for beer. And lucky for me, when I saddled up to the bar with Christophe, all the bartenders were Canadian and were bilingual.

Oh God in Heaven, thank you for this moment.

Teaming up with the bartenders, we managed to piece together a Franglish conversation of sorts. And when no one was looking, I asked Christophe if I could take a photo of him and I. You know, the kind where you are cheek to cheek and one of you has your arms outstretched to get the photo. And that's when he turned and kissed me! Cue sexy smooching scene.

I never did make it to the Meetup group.

Instead I walked around Paris with Christophe, with stops here and there for late night coffees and smooches. When he dropped me off at my building, I pointed up to show him the windows of the apartment where I was staying. 

But I left him on the street, cheeky monkey.

The next day, I walked by the butcher shop and he said something in French that sounded like this, "Bla bla bla bla more french bla bla bla sdfasdf asdf?" But I heard that question mark at the end of the sentence, so even though I had no clue what he said, I knew he asked a question. I responded in French with, "My window tonight at 8:30?" He nodded. That night when I looked out my window at 8:30, he was standing there ready for our date. And he was standing there every night at 8:30 for the next two weeks, which were also the last two weeks of my vacation.

Cue sexy love affair in Paris.

We walked all over Paris and continued to have late night coffees and wines and beers and food and smooches. We went to the Louvre and to the Eiffel Tower. And many streets in between. We walked and (sort of) talked the whole time.

And then I left, because being a nomad means not staying in one place for too long. For all I knew, this was a lovely experience in Paris and could be just a nice fling. Plus, my European tour couldn't start and end in Paris.

Or could it?

After a few months of touring around Edinburgh, Glasgow, Yorkshire Dales, London, Rome, Venice, Florence and the Amalfi Coast, Christophe asked me to return to Paris, "To see."

When I started my nomadic journey, I thought I'd end up in Rome. I'd meet some lovely Roman man, woo his mamma by being the best version of a Canadian Penelope Cruz I could be, and spend my days clasping my hands in glee and exclaiming, "Mamma mia!" to our handsome brood of Roman babies, whose mere existence would constantly amaze me. 

But in life we must accept who is asking and accept who is not.

No one was asking me to stay in Rome, but I had a handsome, kind man asking me to return to Paris.

So I did.

And so commenced a summer in Paris with Christophe. Each night before bed, he would say, "A demain?" See you tomorrow? I would reply with, "A demain." Yes, see you tomorrow.

I returned to North America to clean out my apartment in Santa Monica, get my French visa in Toronto and be with my family in Norfolk County for Christmas. (FACT: Norfolk County is the baked goods capital of Canada... which means I've got good training for the bakeries of Paris.)

So tomorrow, when Christophe calls me and asks, "A demain?" I'll be able to say, "Oui. A demain." 

Yes, I'll see you tomorrow. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Inside the Actor's Studio Questions

You know you've imagined it.

You were flipping around the rot box and came upon James Lipton's Inside the Actor's Studio. You didn't even care if you liked the actor being interviewed because every actor has something good to say when James asks the same questions he asks everyone at the end of the show.

Even days after catching an episode, you wonder to yourself, "What is my favorite swear word" and "What would God say to me at the pearly gates?"

Well here's your chance to be like a famous actor! Answer Lipton's questions in the Comment section below.

Ridiculous FUN good times! Just for the hell of it.

If you're feeling shy, email me your answers. It will be like giving me a birthday present. Did I mention my birthday is December 27th? Did I mention I like gifts of the answer-actors-studio-questions variety?

If I get a big enough collection, I'll repost for all to enjoy... and adhere to any requests for anonymity. I've answered mine below to get this party started. Swear words are welcome.

Without further adieu:

1. What is your favorite word?

2. What is your least favorite word?


3. What turns you on?

4. What turns you off?

Bragging about being busy and tired

5. What sound do you love?

6. What sound do you hate?

7. What is your favorite curse word?
Fuck you and the horse you rode in on

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

9. What profession would you not like to do?
Professional baseball player

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
See? I told you it would all work out

Inspired? Leave your answers in the Comments section below. Time to par-tay.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A year in review

It was this week one year ago since I kaiboshed my job as a copywriter in an advertising agency.

It was a good day.

Except for the bawling and yelling.


Since then, I've managed to leave my life in California, travel throughout Europe and blog about it to you, dear reader. If you've skipped a few days throughout the year, no worries. Here are some highlights:
  1. Channeled higher beings in Hawaii. 
  2. Broke up with AT&T. Hateful company.
  3. Hooked up with the butcher in Paris.
  4. Fell in deep love with the Citizen M hotel in Glasgow.
  5. Had my nipples scrubbed by an old Korean lady.
  6. Crashed the Royal Wedding.
  7. Fooled around at the Vatican. Yet still managed to eke out a blessing from the Pope.
  8. Danced in the fountains of Rome. Drunk. At midnight.
  9. Blew a monumental wad in Florence.
  10. Sighed on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.
  11. Sailed away from my old mafia king fling in Sorrento.
  12. Went to war with les souris in Paris.
  13. Found Wanda Sykes in a cemetery in Paris. She's alive. She was on vacation. And only one reader guessed who it was. Go Erik!
  14. Let's not forget the tea party with Kathy Bates. 
  15. Went on a digital diet in Poland. And almost got hit by lightning.
  16. Unraveled my Santa Monica apartment.
  17. Made love to my favorite gelato. He was delicious.
Not bad.

But just wait until 2012. I've got big plans brewing. I'm hanging out in Canada with my family until after Christmas. But on my birthday, December 27th, I'm packing my bags again. Here's a clue:

I'm holding my passport but that's not my passport photo.

That's a visa.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Nurture Project

So I'm sitting at the kitchen table after dinner with my sister and brother-in-law. We're talking about so-and-so who is going through a tough time, and so-and-so who is also going through a tough time. And that's when we started talking about the Nurture Project.

Drum roll please...

The Nurture Project is when you pick a person that needs a little nurturing and you nurture them. Pretty simple stuff. There is only one rule: You can't tell them. It's a big fat secret.

If they knew they were officially being nurtured, they may feel like a charity case. Nobody wants that.

Even though you can't tell the person, you can tell your Nurture Project Circle, which happens to be my sister and my brother-in-law. It's good to have compadres along the way to get ideas on how to nurture your recipient, and better yet, brag about how well it's working and how good it feels. Because it does and it does.

There at the table, I said a name, my sister said a name and my brother-in-law said a name.

It was a holy moment. 

Three people are getting doused in our loving kindness this year, but I'm not going to tell you who because that'll just ruin it for everyone.

If doing a Nurture Project sounds like a rockin' good time to you, keep these tips in mind...

9 tips on nurturing your Nurture Project recipient:
  1. Send good vibes. In church, they'd call this prayer. In Spiritual Psychology, they call this Light. At Agape, they call it Love. Call it what you will. It's sending good vibes to your recipient.
  2. Send cards and letters. I love doing this anyway. I just do it more often. And how nice is it to get a card in the mail? Read more about the impact of handwritten notes here.
  3. Text, call, or even Like their stuff on Facebook. Just stay connected in a few of the thousand easy ways there is to do so. You can even nurture them by leaving comments on their blog. *Hint*
  4. Do it for a year. If you flood them with attention all in one month, they might think you're stalking them. Nurturing for a full year also means you can see their progress. The Universe gives feedback. Someone will secretly tell you how they secretly told them how great it feels to get your missives in the mail. Stuff like that. It's awesome.
  5. Keep their mailing address on hand. So simple, but if you send out Christmas cards, you know how monumental the task of sending a card can be if you don't have the mailing address.
  6. Replace your New Year's Resolution with a Nurture Project. It's a heck of a lot more fun. It takes me out of myself and my own ego. It makes me kinder and happier than I would be if I were just pushing myself to drop 10 pounds or some other inane punishable New Year's task. 
  7. Stay somewhat organized. Just like a New Year's Resolution, it's easy to forget about it two weeks in. I try to make note of when I've sent a letter. You'd be surprised at how much time goes by if you don't keep track. I've tried to send out a letter on the 1st of the month but I forget unless it's on my calendar.
  8. The Nurture Project is meant to be fun. If it's not fun or if you ever feel like you're doing so much for this person and not feeling positive vibes PULL OUT OF THE PROJECT and find someone you want to nurture just because it feels good.
  9. Be open to miracles. Trust me on this. 
The Nurture Project is nothing new. Church ladies have been doing it for ages but calling it Prayer Groups. The Catholic Woman's League in my hometown has a Secret Pal project. They pick a name out of a hat at the annual Christmas party with a person's name, address, birthday and anniversary. The nurturer sends cards on these special days but often throws in a few other cards and gifts throughout the year. At the Christmas party the next year, your Secret Pal is revealed. Then you pick a name for the coming year and it happens all over again.

One year, when my aunt had cancer, my other aunt secretly arranged to be her Secret Pal. What a rebel... throwing the Secret Pal election like that. But my aunt who was going through a nasty bout of chemo was showered with gifts all year long. And all of us got to hear about it and marvel at this wonderful Secret Pal who was more like a Secret Santa that decided to show up all year long.

Oh it was devilish good fun.

And I think it helped heal my aunt.

That's another thing about the Nurture Project. It has the ability to heal people. Now, I probably shouldn't take ALL the credit for healing the physical, mental and emotional wounds of my past Nurture Project recipients, but there was a definite positive shift in their happiness level by the end of the year. I'd like to think part of that was from getting a nice note in the mail once in awhile.

Try it. I double dog dare you.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why you can't achieve your dreams... yet

I'm in Toronto because I had to visit a certain consulate about a certain visa so I can fulfill a certain dream.

(I don't mean to be so mysterious, but I'm letting you in on my plan on December 27th, which also happens to be my birthday.)

This visa application was more than just filling out a form. It was over two weeks of running around. I had to get a police report, travel health insurance, ask friends from other countries to run around and send me papers, find a lawyer to notarized a letter, save and prove I had enough money for this trip, make two appointments at the consulate and arrange to be driven to said consulate each time, which is a two hour drive.

It was a whole thing.

And the moment the interview at the consulate was over, BAM! I wanted to blog again.

I have been going through a slow down with the blogging lately. I'm sure you noticed because I'm sure this site is the first place you check every morning. In fact, you probably can't even think of me without wanting a morning coffee. I can imagine it. It's chilly in the morning so you put on your favorite cozy pullover, make a cup of coffee and sit down to read whatever wit and wisdoms Janice is sharing today.

Or it's 4 pm, you're at the office and tired and you want to look like you're working but not actually work so you check out the blog.

Either way, I'm glad you're here.

Before I wanted to blog again, I had to take care of that visa thing, which took up a lot of my time. Prior to the visa paper harvest, I had to move out of my Santa Monica apartment. And before that, I was blogging par usual.

And that's why you just can't achieve your dreams as soon as you'd like to achieve them.

You lost me.

Okay. Imagine this. You want to achieve a dream, but first you've got to get that big project done. Your project is necessary and takes up a lot of mind space. Once the project is complete, the mind has room for dream achievement.

Your head is only so big.

Unless you're Kid Rock.

Now don't go bad mouthing Kid Rock. You were singing All Summer Long/Sweet Home Alabama along with the rest of us.

I'd love have gotten my visa papers together AND moved out of my apartment AND blogged every day AND done all the writing that I wanted to get done BUT, even though I WISH I was WONDER WOMAN, I'm not and CAN'T do all of it at the same time.

Balance is bogus. It makes us juggle rather than hunker down and finish something. It makes us stop doing something that is UP for us and start doing something that isn't.

Look, I'd love to meditate for an hour, go to yoga, climb the mountain, write the greatest blog post ever, and take care of all my paperwork so that at the end of each day I could lay in bed and feel perfect/satisfied/content/bliss/whatever.

But that's not how it goes. Today, I am going to bed knowing that for the last two weeks I haven't written creatively, I haven't gone to yoga, hiked or returned that email/voice mail/whatever.

But I took care of that paperwork. And the interview happened. And now it's over. And that's awesome.

And the two weeks before that? I didn't go to yoga, write creatively or do the paperwork.

But I moved out of my apartment. And now it's done and over. And that's a good thing.

Sometimes we just have to take care of business before we can chip away at our dreams. 

Like last year. I wanted to quit my job and travel. As I looked around my apartment and thought about the reality of ACTUALLY quitting my job and traveling, I realized I had a lot of stuff in my apartment. I'd have to deal with it before I left on my travels. Big things like my furniture. And small things like canceling or changing the addresses of my loyalty program cards. Do I really want an Express card so I can buy MORE office clothes? And I didn't have enough cash to quit my job yet anyway. Plus, I didn't know where the heck to go. So I spent the better part of a year cleaning out my apartment to get it ready for when I WOULD have the cash and idea of where to start my nomadic journey. 

The dream was to quit and travel. For a very long time, the reality of that dream was less about packing bags and more about cleaning out closets. Pondering as I went.

So if you're wanting to achieve a dream right now, look at the steps it will take to get there and plug away at those first. Take care of business. Pay off those credit cards. Give away those books you'll never read again. Take that jar of pennies to the bank. Your dream will arrive soon enough.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Craigslist Parade of No-Shows

My final teeth brushing at my old apartment had to be recorded for posterity.
Well where the hell have I been?

I was on a stealth mission to Los Angeles to clear out my apartment.  

Exsqueeze me? I baking powder? Why didn't you CALL ME?


When I left for my nomadic journey back in February 2011, I left with one suitcase, but I kept my apartment in Santa Monica just in case I freaked out and came crawling back, begging for my old life. Basically, I built a take-back into my travel plans. It helped me feel brave enough to go.

Turns out, I won't be needing that take-back. So I returned to LA for two weeks to move out. Move to where? Announcement coming on December 27th. Stay tuned. 

When I arrived in Los Angeles to clean out my apartment, I thought I'd go to yoga every day, see a bazillion friends, and sell my furniture lickity split.

No. No. And no.

Craigslist, while an amazingly wonderful site to post items for sale, attracts lame ducks that don't show up to purchase the items they agreed to buy. At first this was annoying, but after awhile I learned to roll with it. We can't get mad at what we can't control. Who knows why people didn't show up. I tried not to be judgmental about it. And by the end I was even laughing about it. I'd just repost the listing, see if anyone else came along and try not to feel disillusioned with humanity.

But there were blessings in this parade of no-shows. Because the unraveling of my apartment took me much, much longer than I had originally anticipated, I had to simplify my visits with friends. Historically, I've made too many plans, ran around like a crazy person trying to fit everything in and consequently overwhelm myself and didn't enjoy a thing.

This is just the kind of thing about self that annoys self. 

But the Craiglist Parade of No-Shows had other plans for me. Sweet, wonderful, almost miraculous moments unraveled all around me.
I met one woman who bought my fireplace (after three no-shows from others). When she saw it, she asked me if I knew about the law of attraction. I could recite the film The Secret. She pulled out a print out of the fireplace she wanted. It was exactly like my fireplace. She almost bawled she was so happy. 
Finding spirit animals at West Elm.
Another woman showed up to buy my bed frame. I thanked her for showing up and vented about the No-Show Parade. She was the sweetest, kindest, almost pixie fairy of a girl. Then she said in a deep loud voice, "People are assholes" and laughed. Yikes.
Then there was Jennifer, who made me have fun when I could have just wallowed in Craigslist email misery. She was staying at my apartment with me. She'd wake up in the morning, look at me and say, "Let's sell some shit, then go to the Apple Store. We've got a date with Dakota." Dakota, our favorite Apple Store employee, would meet up with us after work at whatever random restaurant we were in. A random new friendship formed during a time of letting go of so much.
iFriends rock.

And four friends that I really, really wanted to see but thought I couldn't because they work all the time? They either quit their jobs, were laid off, on a break from travel, or their shifts were canceled. I was able to spend time with them. 

My time with friends turned out to be perfect. The ones that mattered tended to show up more often. The ones that didn't... well, somehow they were busy or stuck in traffic or whatever.

I used to bend over backwards to make friendships happen. When Craigslist forced me out of this habit, I had a better time with those I did see. And they happened to be around.

Lounging at Nordstrom with iFriends.

There was one friend I couldn't manage see because I was hauling furniture out of my apartment on the night before my flight. And another that I couldn't see but we'll meet up in another city next week. I also managed to burn a bridge on one fakey-fakey friendship. Why do we try so hard to please or avoid hurting someone we don't even like and who we know don't like us?

There is no room in life for friends that aren't awesome. 
Stopping by my favorite guitar shop for a guitar shipping box. Guitars are good friends, too.

As for Craigslist? I managed to sell off or give away everything in my apartment. I was even loading a mattress on a truck minutes before heading to the airport. And when I sat down on the plane, I collapsed into a puddle of fatigue and weepy gratitude for the friends I kept and also for those I left behind.

It's time to go. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

World Domination: How to rule

The backyard is great for conjuring evil plans.

Since I've been hibernating in Canada's autumn wonderland, I've been reading Hugh MacLeod's Evil Plans:

"Everybody needs that Evil Plan that's going to pry their lives out of the jaws of crap jobs, cubicle hell, mediocrity and general despair." -- Hugh MacLeod
In 2010, my evil plan was to save up cashola, get all my belongings down to one suitcase, quit my job and trot around the globe.

So I pretty much rocked that one.

Now I'm conjuring up another evil plan for 2012. It's gonna launch on my birthday, which is December 27th. Feel free to get me the gift that won't take up room in my suitcase by clicking the Donate button on the upper right.

Shameless plug.

Since the success of my last evil plan, I can't imagine not having an evil plan to plug away at on the road to world domination.

So if you're thinking of creating your own evil plans, take my advice:
  1. Get a journal. Evil plans take a lot of pondering and note jotting.
  2. Steal time every day. Concentrated effort is needed for evil plan manifesting. If you don't have time, steal it from your day job, spend more time in the bathroom, do whatever it takes.
  3. Give at least 20 minutes a day. Seriously, all it takes to rule the world is 20 minutes per day of concentrated effort.
  4. Believe you're worth it. Being successful in something that brings you joy won't make you a crappy mother, friend, spouse or person. It will make you inspiring. Be inspiring. 
  5. Do the teeth-tingle check. When you think of your evil plan, do you get so excited that your teeth tingle. Doth it keep you up at night smiling? If not, edit and ponder further until it does.
  6. Remember that no evil plan is too big or small. Sure, I had a big evil plan last year, but sometimes I think an evil plan may be as small as learning how to make gourmet cheese at home or growing a garden... or having furniture.
  7. Believe fortune favors the brave. Magic happens to evil plan doers. When your idea moves from your journal into action steps, God will rush to meet you with good luck, perfect timing and the right people.
Maybe you want to open an online business
write a book
make pottery
get your taxes up to date
clean out your storage space and sell it all on ebay and craigslist
or open a pie shack
begin a drum circle
write a blog
give tours of maple sugar bushes
or share your knowledge of your favorite wine region
become a psychic
or tap dancer
hone the art of parenting
forgive your parents
begin it or end it with someone or something
learn to play guitar
or grow closer to God

That thing you just thought of? That's your evil plan.

And yes, it is possible.

Last year, when I was doing my evil plan, I didn't realize how much planning it would take. It's not as simple as Save, Quit, Go. Every day I wrote out the What's and Why's and Who's and plugged away at the tasks at hand. There is something that can be done every day to pull your evil plan out of the pages of your notebook so that it will one day dance with you in daily life.

So what are you waiting for?

Bwah ha ha haaaa.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Relaxing feels strange

Do you ever feel like the laziest version of yourself? Like you were once the kind of person who was known for getting it done and now you're just Whatevs about pretty much everything? And it's not even about depression?

I think it's just cozy autumn weather settling into my soul.

Or I'm ill. Tough call. 

I've been spending time on the shores of Lake Erie, Ontario, which was once called "Ontario's North Shore" but now all the signs say "Ontario's South Coast," which I suspect is an attempt to bring in more tourism. Rebranding is always a valiant effort, unless it's done often, then it's just a shit product.

It's been 10 months since I quit the ol' advertising job where I had to consistently think up rebranding strategies. Since then, instead of running around the office like a nut bar, I've been running around the world like a nut bar. You got a tourist attraction? I'll be there. How about hours of urban hiking all around your city? I'll do it twice. You've got a train departing every hour on the hour and all I've got is time? I'll take the 7 a.m.

Go go go.

It's all a bit much.

Now, I'm taking a slow down.  I think. 

Sure, there is a giant project or two swirling around in my head. I'll have to get on that. But not today.

Instead, I'm reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

I look just like that when I'm in Paris.

It's written from the point of view of Hadley, Ernest Hemingway's first wife. And it takes place during their courtship and their time in Paris. They lived in my hood in Paris, which back in the 20s was actually a dodgy part of town. Now it's swankville and where I spent a great deal of time with the lovely Christophe.

(The world waits with eager anticipation. What happened with Christophe?!) More on that later when I'm not too lazy to write about it.

In the book, we learn how she observes Hemingway struggling through his writing.

It reminded me of something. Oh ya, the observer side of myself watching my workhorse self struggle through her writing... or not writing, as the case may be.

And the parallels don't end there, folks. While Hemingway was off mingling with famous expats Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F.Scott Fitzgerald, I was watching Baby Einstein videos on Repeat Play, changing diapers and napping.

Not my children. Heavens no. My sister's kids. We're hanging. It's good times.

You can learn more about Hemingway's time in Paris in his book A Moveable Feast and Woody Allen's film Midnight in Paris.

You can't learn more about this in my novel because I'm too lazy to write it.

My workhorse self opened a few documents today. Then my lazy self showed up and said Whatevs. So that was the end of that. But not before I went through some self-judgment about laziness.
I forgive myself for judging myself as lazy. The truth is this just isn't the time to do those projects. There will be time. It's just not today. 
Why is it, when you're aiming to be evolved and enlightened, you have to do so much self-processing?

I can't help but think as I slink through the house, What is my deal?

Am I going through a dormant stage like all the trees outside? They are performing spectacular costume changes. It's really quite something to see, especially from the swing set in the park where you can swing so high that you actually get nauseous. Trust me.

Or perhaps this is the calm before the holiday season hustle and bustle.

Or perhaps I don't know how to relax.

Ah yes, that's it. Relaxing feels the same as laziness but without the judgment.

So this is what relaxing feels like.

Feels kinda lame. And tiring.

I hope this "relaxing" ends soon because it's seriously harshing my mellow. (As if I knew what mellow felt like.)  In the meantime, I'm going to sit back and admire the autumn. Why? Because I'm too lazy to bother doing anything else.

Relaxing feels strange.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tossing photographs. Sacrilege or no?

I wonder...

If your house were on fire, what would you grab first?

To play this game fairly, let's assume the people and pets are already out of the house.

Most people say their photos. Fair enough. These precious and priceless records of their life can't be replaced. I imagine with the advent of digital photography, these people would change their answer to grabbing their laptop because that's where the original photos live. But basically, it's the photos people are after.

After my weekend at my mom's house, I can assure you that I'd be fine with my photos melting into oblivion. 

Cold, heartless bitch.

Ya ya. Since I bought my first camera, I've been obsessed with photos. I remember the joy at buying film (the canisters were so cute!) and taking photos here, there and everywhere of this, that and the other. I especially enjoyed the teeth tingling splendor of picking up my envelope of photos from the printer. Then there was slight disappointment since, of my 24 photos, about 3 would be great. But whatevs. I shoved almost all of them in albums for posterity's sake. Big beautiful albums. Hours were poured over organizing the order of photos the way some people agonize and lament over the order of songs when making a mixed tape for their latest crush.

Back then I had a powerful disdain for those who developed their film and left the envelope of photos in a drawer. Sacrilege.

For years these beautiful albums that reflected some of my A-Type personality traits sat on the bookshelf of my room at my mom's house. Now that I've become rather minimal with my lifestyle, I decided that this weekend was the weekend I would cull the photos.
tr.v., culled, cull·ing, culls.
  1. To pick out from others; select.
  2. To gather; collect.
  3. To remove rejected members or parts from (a herd, for example).
A herd is right. Do I really need all these pictures of my cats? Two photos, sure. Two albums, no.

Or how about the photos of me at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena. What do I remember? Not the day itself, but the day I got this photo developed and was horrified at the size of my thighs. Why did I wear those khakis? Is my ass really that big?

Or the photo of me and an exboyfriend on our tour of Alcatraz in San Francisco. What do I remember when I see this photo? Not the romance. Not the budding love. Not even the prison. I remember him rushing to the boat, late, from yet another work-related task. And me, stressed and afraid, not knowing what to do if he didn't show up. Fear welling that he'd never show. Stranded. I was a young traveler back then. And I remember that this moment was a preamble to our future fights about he, me and work.

Or how about that birthday party of my friend who was in the middle of a rough year. The photos is of her smiling right before she blows out her candles, no doubt wishing for a better year ahead. When I see this photo, I know that it does, in fact, get better, but not before it gets a whole lot worse.

All these photos were tossed. I don't need to dredge up these memories anymore. They are heavy memories and I'm aiming for light. Yes, they were from an important time in the past. There were stepping stones and lessons. But they are done now. They were hard enough the first time. No need to relive these memories again. Lessons learned.

While pouring through these photos, I noticed some slivers of pain come up. I know enough now to know that when something disturbs our peace, school is in session. So as I sorted, I worked my process and practiced compassionate self-forgiveness.
I forgive myself for judging myself as heartless kitty mommy for tossing photos of cats I've loved so much. The truth is these photos are not the actual cats. I'm not tossing actual cats.
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that my body was anything less than a super hero at holding my soul in this journey on earth. The truth is my body is really good at carting me around the globe. And now I know that being overweight is a spiritual issue, I realize I had much spiritual growth based on how I judged those thighs.
I forgive myself for judging my ex-boyfriend for being late. The truth is he was doing the best he could do at the time. And thank Christ we broke up. For a thousand reasons. We both found better, bigger love with someone else.
And that photo of my friend at her birthday? I imagined myself going back in time to hold her and whisper, This moment will pass and I know it will get better.

In between two of my many photo albums I found this:

This is not what you think it is. Math was never my strongest subject so when I was a young girl I took the instruments out of this tin container and added these:

There were many evenings during my childhood when I would sit in my room and try not to hear the shouts in the kitchen. I would sit on my bed, open this tin and look through the stamps for ideas of where to travel. Anywhere but here. Steve Jobs said in his famous Stanford commencement speech that we cannot connect the dots moving forward, we can only connect them looking back. These stamps were dots that led to my advertising career in direct marketing and to my current nomadic life on the road. But I didn't know that then. All I knew is that they comforted me during a really shitty time in my past.

I went back in time to hold my young self who was playing with the stamps. Even though I know now that it got a whole lot worse before it got better, I held her and whispered, This moment will pass and I know it will get better. It will be a wild, fun ride. There will be a whole world to explore and you will have the time and means to do it. You will find true love. This is just the rough patch. Remember, this too shall pass.

I wish I would have told myself to spend more time learning French. Do you think I could go back in time again and magically wake up tomorrow morning bilingual? That would be awesome. I might try it.

I implore you, dear reader, to toss the photos from yesteryear that do you no good now. Or to your future self. There is an expiration date on childhood.

Quick tips:
  1. Do it alone. This is not a committee project. 
  2. Be quick about it. You'll likely have less than 2 hours before you get tired of it. 
  3. Have the garbage bag beside you. Be ruthless.
  4. Don't set aside photos to send to people. Unless you're into making more work for yourself.
  5. Work your process. If something triggers you, use self-forgiveness. 
    • "I forgive myself for judging myself as..." 
    • Also, "I forgive myself for buying into the belief that..." 
    • Then add "The truth is..."
      (see above for examples)
This works wonders. You'll feel lighter. You'll feel peace. You might have to wear heavy boots just to keep yourself on the ground. Floating freaks people out.

All the photos aren't worth keeping. Believe me... and Timothy Findley who wrote where they go in You Went Away...
"In the flea market, a shoe box filled with photographs. This is all we have. Whose lives might be recovered, if only the box had been labeled?... The box itself has been destroyed beyond recovery. Time and the elements have done their work. Nothing remains to tell you who these people are. Or were. We know that some of them are dead—dying gently or killed. We know this because they disappear all at once and do not return to stand beside the people with whom they were formerly seen." 
Way to be a downer, Tiff. But it's true. Be the one who sorts through them now so some stranger at a flea market won't be pawing through them with his greasy fingers.

I was ruthless but wasn't evil. Here are a few keepers that still make me happy:
Laundry with my younger sister.
Sears special with my older sister.
Not smiling for the camera.
Likely self-conscious about my bangs.
Wallpaper and sofa mayhem.
Fun times during my Little House on the Prairie phase.

Save the good times. Chuck the bad. Work your process. Move on.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My underwear drawer

My nomadic journey started in my underwear drawer.

Further explanation is probably required. 

The other day, I received a comment on my blog from Mandy_Fish who wrote,
"Now it makes me curious as to why you are a nomad. I'm going to have to go back to the beginning of your blog and find out..."
And that got me wondering about when this nomadic journey started.

I didn't start this blog in January 2010 with the end goal of being a nomadic blogger. I started it because I wanted change in my life. My dreary corporate job was sucking the life out of me. And all the time I wasn't working was spent recovering from working. It was a vicious cycle.

Someone told me once at the beginning of my advertising career that it's easy to burn out. I thought this was crazy talk. I had just landed my copywriting job at an advertising agency. I was writing the back of cereal boxes. I thought I had hit the big time.

And for a long time, I devoted all my creative energy to advertising. Awards, accolades and raises poured in. Well, they didn't pour in, but there was a consistent trickle. And I loved every bit of it.

But after the millionth headline and billionth copy change, I couldn't use advertising to burn through my creative juices anymore. I had to find something else.

Hence the blog in January 2010. My main goal was to find a new creative passion. I wasn't planning on quitting my job. I wasn't planning on traveling the world. I was just hoping to find some pleasure in my life.

So I spent the first part of 2010 painting and bookbinding. The energy for all these pursuits waned quickly. Bookbinding sounds like fun, but there is a lot of paperwork. Folding. Piercing. Sewing. Ugh. And at the end of it, I'd create a journal that took more time and cost than my favorite journal, the Twin Ring Notebook, which promises on its cover:

It keeps its promise, too. It DOES have the most advanced quality with the best writing features that gives satisfaction to me. And it's a better journal than I can bind myself.

So that was the end of that artistic pursuit.

And painting... that went well for a long time but it was messy. And I don't want to clean up messes. That's what my day job was for. (If you've ever been a copywriter, you know what I'm talking about.)

So how does this relate to underwear?

In my pursuit for my new art, I kept a journal. I wrote three pages a day as instructed by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way. And after writing a whole lot of blather that helped release my pent up frustrations with my life, I found I was writing lists of things to do. Massive lists. Big things to do and little things to do. Things to do on the weekend. Things to do in life. Lots of things to do.

And one of the things on this list was to clean out my underwear drawer.

So that's what I did.

Turns out, it takes virtually no time to sort through underwear drawers. I don’t have to try them on to see if they will fit like I do with the clothes in my closet. A quick glance at each pair makes sorting easy. And there is no question of whether or not to donate these undies to a thrift store. That can’t happen, right? People know not to do that, right?



Turns out, a quick online search tells me that not only do people donate underwear if it’s “gently used” but that not enough people donate to homeless shelters. I also read there is a shortage of plus-sized underwear at women’s shelters. Further research says that skid marks or bloodstains are not okay. Holes are also not preferred. No one is interested in unsightly knickers.

So there you go.

But mine were pitifully worn out, so in the trash they went. I was shocked to learn that I had underwear from five boyfriends ago. A decade’s worth of undies was still under my roof long after the lover for whom they were purchased for his viewing pleasure was out the door.

In no time, I had a drawer of three tiny piles of underwear, all neatly folded like envelopes. This was more than just satisfying. A tiny chasm opened in my soul and peace began to trickle in. I felt lighter.

This was such a lovely feeling that I moved onto cull my closets, which led to sorting through my papers and files. Eventually, I gained enough momentum to revamp or toss entire photo albums. Do I need to keep photos of five-boyfriends-ago? No. I tossed them as quickly as I tossed their matching gotchies.

With each bag I dropped off at the thrift store, with each pile of papers I shredded, with each drawer that became empty or sparse, that chasm of peace opened wider. And it stayed that way. I was no longer hypnotized by the fallacy that material things bring happiness. They don't. (Except for Apple products and soft bed sheets.)

I found great satisfaction in crossing tasks off my list as long as I gave myself enough time to do so. I think that's the trick with lists. One needs to be gentle with timelines. The lists morphed from lists of unfinished tasks to calculations on how much money I could save by a certain date. They morphed again when I printed out a map of Europe and taped it on the inside cover of my journal. My lists became names of places to visit.


By the end of 2010, I got my apartment down to the one suitcase and carry-on I now use to travel the world. Toni Morrison was right when she said, "You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down."

When I started this journey, I didn't know I wanted to fly. But in giving up the shit that weighed me down, I felt so light that flying seemed like the most natural thing to do in the world.

And the creative pursuit? Turns out it was this blog. Turns out it was writing all along.

Bastille Day in Paris, 2011.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Destination: Home(s)

Not having a home is emotionally exhausting.

And after having been on the road since February, I'm feeling it.

Yes, I was in Paris for a long time, but the traveler in me couldn't make it my own home beyond buying myself a comfy pillow. I was still unsure. I was still seeing about Christophe. Stay tuned on that one.

(The world waits with eager anticipation.)

Rather than settle down to one place on my travels, I decided to set my bags down in many places I once called home and soak up rejuvenating energy.

First stop was my sister's house where I have my own bedroom in the basement. Then my mom's house, where I technically still live according to the address on my passport and voting card. I slept a few nights in my old bedroom surrounded by yearbooks and photos of my youth.

I hopped a flight to Los Angeles and spent my days at one friend's house where I lived on her couch one summer. And spent my nights at another friend's house who bought my bed when I left, so I was able to sleep in my old bed. I stopped by my old apartment for tea with my friend who is now living there. Same bones. Different tchotchkes.

Then I zipped up to Carmel and Big Sur for a retreat. When there, I was able to revisit hotels I stayed at in my dozen years of California living. One of my favorites is the Gorda Inn. Just off Highway 1. Looks like an old western hotel. The second floor gives full ocean views, perfect for whale watching and daydreaming. It's on my list of places to haunt when I die. Do you have a list of haunt-worthy places, dear reader? 

And now I'm back above the border and writing from my uncle's house in Toronto, where I lived a few summers ago doing a freelance gig. It's nice to have them make me coffee and toast in the mornings. The cousins are out of the house so my bedroom is surrounded by diplomas and trophies of their youth.

In all of these places, little habits have resurfaced. I still look on top of the microwave for my mail because that's where they'd set my pile. I scrounge around the back of the cupboard for my favorite mug, which is thankfully still there. I even received a new Restoration Hardware catalog with my name on it at one of my old addresses. Of course, nothing in that catalog will fit in my one suitcase but it was nice to see my name and old address on the cover.
My favorite mug at my uncle and aunt's house in Toronto.
I toggled between saying big hellos to some friends and saying silent goodbyes to others. When you go away, you just can't keep them all. Thankfully time takes care of the awkward reality of tough and possibly hurtful choices. Silence can be a salve if we let it. And there are some friends I couldn't see because my time was limited. How I yearned to go for dinner with so-and-so or for a bike ride with so-and-so. Instead, they found out I was in LA through a tag by another friend on Facebook, then they were confused as to my whereabouts. I thought we'd have time to visit.

I have a friend who, if I email to say I will be in town on a certain day, will only respond to my email the day after I've left. At first, I was confused by this behavior and feeling a little bruised. Now I understand. We just can't see everyone all the time, no matter how much we wish we could. And then there are some that you haven't seen in so long that you want to jump into their pockets and stay all day, all year, forever.

Sentimentality also required another visit on this whirlwind tour of North America. To be so attached to the people, places and things of the life I left can put an uncomfortable squeeze on my new life of new people, places and things. How can I roam around Paris and BE in Paris when I'm lamenting about what to do with my couch left in LA or feeling guilty about not keeping in touch more often with friends?

Last year, I culled my physical possessions down to one suitcase. This year, I'm taking a deeper swipe at the sentimentals I wasn't ready to release back then. Revisiting all my homes has helped me feel confident in taking a solid step back from the past and toward the next step in my nomadic journey.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

If Steve Jobs ruled the world

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

If Steve Jobs ruled the world...

I'd go to his iHotel. I would never have to wait in line in a hotel lobby. I could walk into the hotel, having already checked in on my iPhone and use a generated code on my phone to open the door to my room.

I'd fly on his iAirline. I would pay more for the airfare but I would truly know on an experiential level the meaning behind the old adage that it's the journey and not the destination.

I'd bank at his iBank. Online. At home. In my pajamas. And if I had to go into a banking center, the posters would be elegant. There would be no stock photography.

I'd drive in his iCar, blasting iTunes music through my amazing speakers.

I'd live in an iHome of his invention. Clean line minimalism and crazy cool gadgetry.

It's election day in my home province. The only thing everyone can agree on is that there is no clear favorite. This would not be the case if Steve Jobs were in the running to rule the world.

I was at dinner at a friend's house last night when the text came in, announcing the news that Steve Jobs is now reinventing on another plane. In that moment, there was silence, a common knowing that the news would come, and an awareness that forevermore, we would remember where we were when we heard it.

I told Christophe this news last night on FaceTime. He in Paris. Me in Toronto. "C'est la vie, baby." That's life. Simple. Direct. True.

Steve Jobs was aware that death was part of life, too. I've posted his Stanford commencement speech before, but somehow it seems fitting to repost today. If you have 15 minutes, take a gander. It's inspiring and gives us a glimpse of the inner thought process of one of the greatest inventors of our time.

Steve, you rule. Thank you.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Minimalism: What's in my suitcase?

While I've been in Canada, I've been hanging with my family. On the weekends, the kiddies and I go to grandma's house. My sister or brother-in-law pack a bag for the kids. All weekend long, my mom and I have a constant refrain:
"Where is the bunny/diaper/cream/blankie/toy/kitchen sink?"
"Look in the bag."
The bag is the nucleus of the weekend. It's the apex. The center of our weekend universe. The entire contents of their weekend life can be found (hopefully) in that bag.

As a minimalist in the making, I've managed to get the entire contents of my life to into one suitcase, too. It includes:
  • One pair of jeans
  • Yoga pants
  • Tights
  • A small pile of t-shirts
  • Three thin sweaters
  • One thick sweater
  • Five dresses
  • Flipflops
  • Flats
  • Running shoes
  • Dr. Scholl's insoles (GET THESE... walking on clouds)
  • High heels I never wear
  • Undies
  • Bikini
  • Makeup bag 
  • Corkscrew... There is nothing worse than arriving at a destination after a long day and wanting to settle down with a glass of wine just to realize you can't.
The rest fits into my bookbag:
  • MacBook Pro
  • Kindle
  • iPhone
  • Camera
  • Cords for all four for constant recharging
  • Wallet
  • Two Burt's Bees lip balm
  • Hankie... I went old school and can't go back to scrounging for little packs of tissues anymore
  • Sunglasses
  • Pens
  • Journal
  • Vitamins... A Canadian brand whose fantastic tag line is: A special formulation for a special population.
  • Allergy pills
  • Gravol... Canada's secret sleeping pill
  • Noise canceling headphones
  • Itinerary
And then I wear one travel outfit that includes:
  • Boots
  • Jacket
  • Dress
  • Cardigan
  • Scarf
  • Necklace
My niece who is a toddler saw me packing my bags today and decided to pack her Dora the Explorer knapsack. She included:
  • Bunny
  • Barbie clothes without Barbie
  • Sippy cup filled with milk
  • One pair of her sister's undies
  • Bowl
A minimalist in the making. I'm so proud. Though I wish I would have noticed the full sippy cup earlier.

I'm so delighted to live out of my one suitcase that even when I decide to stay in one place, I'm going to make sure I keep the contents of my life minimal. I never have to scrounge to find anything. I love everything in my suitcase. And it keeps me from buying clothes just because they are on sale or am feeling bored, sad or off in some way. Now, if I want to buy a sweater, it has to replace the sweater I already have, which means it has to be better than the sweater I already own. And if it's not, I don't buy it.

I also don't have big decisions to make when deciding what to wear. The entire contents of my wardrobe are memorized in my head, which is easy because there isn't much to remember. I also have found a great pleasure in wearing my clothes to the point of wearing them out. Then I take great pleasure in replacing them. The hunt for the best has made shopping fun.

Before my minimalist life, I found shopping overwhelming. I found dressing rooms torture chambers. I found the cost of clothes always too much. But now, if I'm in a dressing room and the dress doesn't exactly work, I don't hesitate. I put it back and walk away. See, I've got a suitcase of dresses that fits me perfectly and a new dress has to fit me as good or better than the dress I'll be replacing it with. If it doesn't, I don't buy into these illusions anymore:
  • It will look better in my own mirror at home
  • It will fit better after I wear it a few times 
  • It's such a great deal that I should just get it
Insanity. Minimalism is kinder to my wallet and my body image. I only buy what makes me look fabulous.

Packing my suitcase isn't stressful either. I grab my small pile up my clothes and toss them in the suitcase. It doesn't take military precision packing to close it either because my suitcase must be under the 21 Kg weight restrictions for EasyJet, the most stringent of all cheapy European airlines. I always see people sweating in line at the ticket counter, wondering how much their bags weigh, concerned that they'll be dinged with an overage charge. Meanwhile, I'm singing pop tunes in my head all the way to the conveyor belt, weighing in at an easy-to-carry 19.4 Kg.

When traveling alone, one must be able to carry one's own luggage.

Minimalism is kinder to the planet, too. All that consuming is raking our resources into uninhabitable landfills.

Living out of one suitcase was the best move I ever made.

Now I've got to zip it closed. I've got a flight to catch.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Canada: Three times a charm

Sometimes we have to leave a place, grow a little, then return to recognize the charms it possesses.

When I walked away from my childhood home of Norfolk County, it was more of a run. A run away from what I perceived as the boring smallness of country living and toward the exciting bigness of city life.

And that run lasted a very long time.

Now that I've returned (temporarily), I've noticed a few things that I didn't see before.

For instance, driving can be treacherous in September. Not because of weather or speed or bad drivers. It's because of these:

It's not uncommon to be driving along a country road, when someone glances a roadside stand and suddenly slams on the brakes and throws it in reverse so they can get their hands on some yummy delectables from the neighbors back 40.

Someone... like my mother:

Along with roadside stands, there is also something called Cemetery Sunday, which is the social event of the season around here. It's much like the CWL Bazaar, which was the social event of last season.

On Cemetery Sunday, the Sunday morning mass is in the grotto, which is the outdoor chapel that resides between the church and the cemetery. Everyone showed up with their lawn chairs and blankets.

The priest told the story of how many of the local farmers who built the grotto years ago are buried in that very cemetery. Church felt like a picnic and everyone was chatty and friendly with each other. The way church should be. Afterward, the congregation went to stand in front of their family plots. The priest went to every plot and gave it and the family a special blessing. Father Mo gave me an extra blessing for coming all the way from Paris to attend Cemetery Sunday. Thanks, Father. I'll take your blessing.

I love any good spiritual mojo coming my way. Blessings. St. Christopher's medals. Prayers. Light. Charms. Bring it. I'll soak it up and take it with me. Bonus: Blessings of any kind always fit in my one suitcase lifestyle.

I recognized a few faces from my childhood years. And honestly, there was a part of me that cringed. I wasn't exactly the most popular girl in elementary school. I was quiet and an easy target for ridicule. So now, years later, and after a lot of self-work, when faced with these people, I took a deep breath and remembered what the Dalai Lama said:
My religion is kindness.
And I'm thinking this at the Catholic mass.

But I've learned after all my religious study that the base of all religions is kindness.

You can decide right now how offended you're going to get by that statement. But truly, at their base, it is love and it is kindness. Even that religion that isn't yours. Now you know.

So I decided, whoever I see today that made me cringe in my past, will be met with my religious practice of kindness.

And what happened?

I was met with loving kindness from everyone, including those cringe-worthy people of my past. Smiles. Waves. Kind words. Laughs. It was fantastic.

After the service, the community had a barbecue. Everyone had to bring a salad or dessert. The dogs and burgs were supplied. I chatted in between face-fulls of fresh homegrown tomatoes.

In Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, he writes that this is the one time of year people lock their cars at church, not for fear of the vehicles being stolen, but fear that if they don't, someone desperate to offload their garden's bounty will leave a bag of vegetables on the front seat.

Our bag had tomatoes and broccoli. Charming.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Canada: Practicing my poker face

They say that if you introduce a new chicken to a flock, you should do it in the middle of the night while they are all sleeping. Then when the brood awakens, they figure that newbie has been there all along.

That's how I was hoping to feel when I returned to Canada in the middle of the night. My mom's birthday is today and all she wanted from me was to come home. And all she wanted from my sister, who is a flight attendant, is to bring me home on a buddy pass. As for my other sister? I dunno. Maybe she'll get mom a sweater or something.

Anyway, the prodigal daughter returned to the flock and instead of blending in like she was there all along, she was met with the question:

"Don't you think you should get a job?"

Even my niece who is smart as a whip noticed that I wasn't going to a job every day like mommy and daddy. I told her I was a writer. She said, "So you don't have a job then."

"I have a job. I'm a writer."

"But you just write in bed."


"And sometimes in the kitchen."

"Ya, because writers get to do that."

She had to mull on that for awhile. 

What astounds me is that people don't think I've got a plan. That I'm just traveling all willy nilly and not thinking of the future.

Don't they know I've been the boss of me for a very long time?

Don't they think I'm conjuring up evil plans?

Do they think I'll just hang out and wait for the funds to dry out?

Don't they know me at all? Me who is always coming up with something fabulous to do with my time?

It's tough for an artist to constantly have to justify her behavior to the world. Because the world seems so focused on the 9 to 5 slugging and the thought process that one shouldn't consider being an artist a real job. And one certainly shouldn't enjoy one's job.

Ya that's not gonna fly with me anymore. And I pray to God that my God children don't pick up this thought process.

In the wisdom of Christophe, when I lamented about this with him on the phone, he said in his BetterEnglishThanMyFrenchNotThatI'mJealousOrAnything, "They will understand later."

Later? I've already got two books out in the world that are shining wit and wisdom in the lives of those experiencing the trials and tribulations of dating.

Later. After I've finished plugging away at making my evil plans a reality.

Later. After I reveal my evil plans to the world.

In the meantime, I'm keeping my evil plans to myself and practicing my poker face.

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