By Chance: Searching for Home in the City of Bridges

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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

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View from a New Year

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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.

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

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.

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

Thoughts on Living in the ‘Land of the Free’

photo-1434077471918-4ea96e6e45d5 (1)There was another mass shooting in the U.S. yesterday—14 dead and 17 wounded in San Bernardino, California—by a man and a woman, now also dead.

But that’s not news.

News is something new. Mass shootings happen every day in America.

I don’t mean ‘every day’ in the figurative sense. I mean literally every day. In fact, according to yesterday’s article in the New York Times, titled ‘How Often Do Mass Shootings Occur?”:

“More than one a day. That is how often, on average, shootings that left four or more people wounded or dead occurred in the United States this year, according to compilations of episodes derived from news reports.  . . . a total of 462 people have died and 1,314 have been wounded in such attacks this year, many of which occurred on streets or in public settings.”

When I moved to Portland three years ago, at the forefront of my mind was creating a life here with my then-fiance (now husband) Joe, who happens to be American. Continue reading

Line Break: ‘Home’ by Warsan Shire

3500no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay. Continue reading

On Seeing Hozier (and Choosing Our Experiences)

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I’m a sucker for a beautiful voice.

Musically speaking, I don’t care about light shows and theatrics and complicated chord progressions. What I crave are lyrics that sound like poetry and voices that make my soul light up.

A handful of male vocalists have impacted me in this way over the last 20-odd years: Eddie Vedder, Bob Marley, Otis Redding, Ben Harper, Neil Young, Ray Lamontagne and, most recently, the Irish singer Andrew Hozier-Byrne.

Recommended to me a year or so ago by my friend Gaeli (who, now that I think of it, also introduced me to Ray Lamontagne—thanks, Gaeli!), Hozier instantly became a new favourite. His voice has so much power and sensitivity. He’s just 25 years old but his lyrics sound like the reflections of someone very wise.

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So when I heard he would be performing in Portland in October, I really wanted to go. But Joe and I treated ourselves to a few live shows this summer (Alabama Shakes, Beirut, Ben Harper etc.), and in an effort to be responsible adults/save for the future, we had to draw the line somewhere. Continue reading

My Working Life (and a big change!)

For the last two and a half years, about half of my work week has been devoted to writing articles for a Canadian Magazine called Fine Lifestyles. It’s a group of glossy publications distributed across Central and Eastern Canada (and two US cities) that features a mix of small businesses, travel and home design, with a leaning toward the luxury market — hence the ‘Fine’ in ‘Fine Lifestyles.

Since starting with the company in 2013, I’ve written somewhere around 230 articles, published in cities like Halifax, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Regina, Swift Current, Saskatoon and Santa Fe. It’s been a good gig. From my home office in Portland, I’ve been able to conduct all my interviews via skype, write the articles, communicate with my team of five editors, six other writers and a bunch of sales reps, and meet my weekly deadlines…with a schedule that’s fairly flexible, accommodating the freelance copywriting and editing I do for my own clients.

I’ve learned a lot. I’ve written a lot. I’ve created strong relationships with editors and developed my portfolio exponentially. And earlier this fall, I made the decision to move on.

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Editorial piece for The Royal Winnipeg Ballet. I interviewed the director.

You know when you’re ready to make a change, but instead of doing it, you find yourself waiting until the ‘right time’? That’s been me for the last several months. So a few weeks ago I decided the ‘right time’ to leave was…when I decided it was right.

I came to this decision for a few different reasons. These are the top 5: Continue reading

On Two Years of Marriage

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Today Joe and I are celebrating our two year anniversary! We went camping on Saturday to Silver Falls State Park and enjoyed just hanging out and relaxing with some red wine, dinner and a campfire. It was our last camping trip for the year, and we learned an important lesson: when camping in fall temperatures, bring an extra blanket. The weather was beautifully clear and sunny in daytime, but got pretty crisp overnight. While warming up with coffee Sunday morning I said to Joe that on one hand I like to think we are seasoned travellers prepared for anything, and on the other hand we still do things like forget to bring enough warm layers on a trip. Life, the continual learning curve. :)

Two years into marriage, I am feeling Continue reading