Empathy vs. Sympathy

photo-1451471016731-e963a8588be8Last week I came across this great short video that beautifully illustrates the difference between empathy and sympathy. It’s narrated by Brené Brown, a well-known researcher, speaker, and author who studies human connection.

I consider myself a pretty empathetic person, and always try to connect with the perspective of how someone’s feeling when they’re sharing something difficult with me, but this rang a few bells! It grates on my nerves when someone immediately tries to ‘silver line’ an issue I’m sharing, but I’m pretty sure I’ve used the words “at least” (as shown in the video) more than once when trying to help. Continue reading

‘Round the Web: January 2016

photo-1445820200644-69f87d946277* How cool is this tiny house on Sauvie Island?

Minimalist Wardrobe Resolutions for a New Year

* The Hollywood Reporter’s 2016 Actress Roundtable (with Carey Mulligan, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Jane Fonda, Brie Larson, Helen Mirren, Charlotte Rampling, and Kate Winslet)

What Being a Single Parent is Really Like

* Are you addicted to distraction? (Are we all?)

* These awesome women have created an invisible bike helmet. For real.

* Joe and I love making this pizza that’s super easy and actually healthy

Against the open office trend

7 Things You Can Actually Do About Climate Change

Amanda De Cadenet interviews Hillary Clinton on The Conversation. (All personal, not political.)

6 Rules for Great Storytelling

Lastly, thank you for all your thoughtful comments on my ‘By Chance’ post. I appreciate them very much. xox

(photo by Dominik Lange)

Line Break: ‘This World’ by Mary Oliver

photo-1444159759392-aeeb3d5851c1I would like to write a poem about the world that has in it
nothing fancy.
But it seems impossible.
Whatever the subject, the morning sun
glimmers it.
The tulip feels the heat and flaps its petals open and becomes a star.
The ants bore into the peony bud and there is a dark
pinprick well of sweetness.
As for the stones on the beach, forget it.
Each one could be set in gold.
So I tried with my eyes shut, but of course the birds
were singing.
And the aspen trees were shaking the sweetest music
out of their leaves.
And that was followed by, guess what, a momentous and
beautiful silence
as comes to all of us, in little earfuls, if we’re not too
hurried to hear it.
As for spiders, how the dew hangs in their webs
even if they say nothing, or seem to say nothing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe they sing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe the stars sing too,
and the ants, and the peonies, and the warm stones,
so happy to be where they are, on the beach, instead of being
locked up in gold.


I started this poetry series a year ago with a poem by Mary Oliver, so I thought it fitting to begin its second year with another one by her. Because we could all use more Mary Oliver in our lives, right? This is the tenth poem I have shared in the ‘Line Break’ series, and I plan to continue it…maybe forever.

You can check out other poems in this series here.

By Chance: Searching for Home in the City of Bridges


Until about a year ago, it never occurred to me to live in a house.

Apartments? Of course. A one-bedroom suite in a character home? Check. A studio in Busan, Korea, that sat six floors above a convenience store selling 12 different kinds of soy sauce? Not so long ago.

But a house — a real house with walls you don’t share with neighbors and a backyard you can walk out onto on a sunny afternoon, if you want, and tend to a tomato plant you’ve grown or read a book on a blanket on the grass; a house with a spare bedroom and a porch and a front door to open wide and let the breeze blow through — this was the kind of home other people lived in. People at “that stage” of life. People with advanced careers and extra cash. People with kids. Continue reading

Half Moon Run

Half Moon Run

Any of you listening to Half Moon Run these days?

A couple different friends raved about this Canadian indie band after seeing them perform at Rifflandia (a music festival in Victoria, B.C.) in 2014, and they’ve been on my radar ever since. They’ve got folk elements like three-part harmonies, but are edgier, using a lot of percussion. In a few songs, I hear a touch of a Radiohead vibe.

Half Moon Run is currently touring the US, and as part of my Christmas present,
Joe got us tickets to see them play tonight at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland! It’s one of those intimate basement venues — the kind your favourite band plays at before it gets huge and only does stadiums. Very, very stoked about this show.

Check them out in this 2013 performance of “Call Me in the Afternoon” in Brussels and you’ll see what I mean about the percussion. If the energy of tonight’s show is anything like this, I’ll be loving it.


Happy Friday, everyone. Hope you have a good one. :)

(Top photo via The Guardian, bottom photo via digitalspy.)

View from a New Year


2016 kicked off with this: A sunny morning, palm-tree reflections on a pool, book (and Joe) by my side, coffee in hand. While this photo probably looks like I was hanging out at a fancy Mexican resort, we were actually in Arizona, where my aunt has a house an hour north of Phoenix. Joe and I flew down New Year’s Day and met my dad, stepmom, and sister at the airport before piling into a rented minivan and driving to the gated community where the house is, shacking up there for five days. (We also ventured to a ghost town called Goldfield.)

The sun was fleeting (it rained every day after), but I savored every second of it that morning, feeling lucky to start a new year with people I love and a beautiful view. 2015 had a lot of highs (Louisiana, Mahood Lake camping trip, awesome concerts, Vashon Island), but there were definitely some lows as well. Sometimes the cynical part of me thinks this whole ‘new year’ business is bullsh*t, since really, we’re the same people with the same lives when we wake up on Jan. 1st, aren’t we? But the other part of me, the part that loves fresh starts and clean slates — the part of me that’s not cynical, but actually very hopeful and optimistic — gets excited about turning the page. Continue reading

What I Read in 2015 (My 2nd Annual Book Look-Back!)

It was the year of the memoir, friends.

Five out of the eleven books I read in 2015 were memoirs, one was on how to write a memoir, one was a book of essays (half of them personal/memoir-esque), and one a collection of true-life letters. (The other three fall under fiction, home style/decor, and…a guide to de-cluttering. What genre is that?) Despite proclaiming in last years’ ‘books’ post that I would “mix up my choices with some male writers” this year, all but one of my 2015 picks were written by women. Oops. Oh, well.

The fact that I’ve been leaning (heavily) toward memoir isn’t surprising: I write non-fiction, I love to read non-fiction, and I’m fascinated by stories of people’s lives, whether in book form or being told to me by a close friend during a long conversation. I read memoir both to understand something about the writer as well as to better understand something about myself. Good writing does that. Not everything on my list this year was literary gold (though some of it was!) but each of these books helped me grow, even if that growth was in a simple discovery, a fact of life I had never known or put words to before.

Let’s dive in: Continue reading

An Easy DIY Pick-Me-Up (your face will thank you)

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My friend Lesia (pronounced La-sha) is the kind of person that literally brightens up a room the second she enters it. This woman exudes a happy glow that’s proven to be contagious.

When we get together, we usually block out a whole afternoon, as we have the kind of conversations that need time…for backstory, analysis, and a lot of digression. We also like to fit in little mini-adventures around Portland, which have included a hike through Forest Park, a wander through the Lan Su Chinese Garden, a trip with our guys to nearby Sauvie Island, and a photo session at the beautiful downtown library, which we did for this blog post.


A few days ago Lesia shared a homemade recipe for Continue reading

Line Break: ‘Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving Up’ by Kaitlyn Boulding

photo-1442405740009-7b57cca9d316Questions to ask yourself before giving up:

Are you hydrated?
When did you last
glut your thirst
with a handful of spring?

Have you eaten anything
besides emails or your fingernails
in the last three hours? Have you
pulled the protein out of an oak
tree or palmed an avocado
pit this month? Are your forlorn probiotics

languishing on your butter shelf?
Are you dressed? If so, does your skirt
strike matches alight
as you walk by? Can you melt
it a little around your waist
and ribcage? Are you resisting

a dream? Wrestling a dreamless night? Let yourself
take a bath in your bed
clothes for fifteen minutes,
no pressure to fall asleep. But make sure
to turn off all your beehives
first. At least take them out
of your bedroom.

Have you uncoiled the ropes of your legs
and strung them along the length of the city
today? Have you let a lake or a snow bank
sketch silent letters on your back?
When did you last give away

your unworn clothes, your well-fitting
metaphors? Tell a neighbour or a person across
the coffee shop counter how well
they catch the light.

Have you snugged into a seedpod
in the past couple days? Do you need
a massage? Complete something

smaller than a lichen: return
a library book, or a letter, or a look,
or a relationship you regret. Sew
a button on that’s come loose. Crack
a window. Crack an egg.

Do you feel unattractive? Rub your skin
with smooth stones
or strong magnets. Wear sunglasses.
Take your reflection in
on the surface of a puddle.

Give yourself ten minutes.
Give yourself ten years.
Give yourself an orgasm.
Give yourself a change of seasons.
Give yourself a new lover.
Give yourself a to-do list
written with sidewalk
chalk and hopscotch across it.

Have you been working really hard
shovelling all the sidewalks
of your friendships?
Remember it takes time
to recover from exertion,
especially when you are a seedling.

Know that your friends want to send help.
They want to send daffodils and their extra hands
to braid your hair. They all want to be deciduous trees
and long semi-coloned sentences for you.
They want to.

Remember: you are a comma, one
beloved earring, a house
circled on a traveller’s map,
sometimes misplaced,
but never an imposition.

Everyone feels like a hallway
at some point or another.
But you are a room
that people enter to stay.

(This poem was published in the Canadian feminist magazine Guts. I discovered it via my friend Leah Shumka, who shared it on social media. Thanks, Leah!)

Vashon Island Getaway (or how to combat the winter blues)


IMG_1781I don’t know about you guys, but for me, November hasn’t proven, historically, to be the happiest month of the year.

The days get dark. That ‘look out the window at 4 pm and the day is basically over’ kind of dark.

The sun slips into its winter cocoon, peeking out only when it’s in the mood. (With little to no consideration for the moods of the rest of us.)

Time outside becomes limited to wet walks among bloom-less branches.

And the Western world decides it’s time to flip a switch that screams HOLIDAYS! MUST. CELEBRATE. HOLIDAYS!!!!!!! (That is the last time I will ever use all caps for multiple words and more than one exclamation mark at a time, I promise.)

To combat the somewhat SAD syndrome last year, Joe and I bought a sun lamp, which I think did actually help, and which I might dig out of the cupboard again in the coming weeks.

But this year, with November looming, I opted for a more aggressive approach: Book an escape to a cottage on an island with my best friend.


I am here to say to all of you, Continue reading


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