A Leg Up

In honour of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (earlier this week).

I’m so grateful for all the strong, kind, wise women in my life. Let’s keep on supporting and encouraging each other, always.

xox ~C.

p.s. What Women Find in Friends and Relationship Wisdom from My Ladies

Line Break: ‘Birdcalls’ by Anders Carlson-Wee

photo-1434871619871-1f315a50efba.jpegI crept around the dark train yard
while my brother watched for bulls.
Two days deep into the Badlands
and all our water gone. We had a birdcall
for if you saw something and another
for if you heard. A silent yard eight strings wide
with a few junkers parked. The horizon
a dull burn. The rails lit dimly by dew.
I was looking for the water bottles
the conductors used and threw out the windows
with maybe a sip left inside them.
I found one by stepping on it.
I sucked it like a leech. I stumbled
up and down the ballast and found five more,
unbuttoning my shirt and nesting them
against my chest upright and capless.
We had the sandpiper for if you should run
and the flycatcher for if you should hide.
I can’t remember why we had the loon.
I crouched in the space between coal trains,
cradling the bottles and feeling the weight
of how little I had to spill.
I rubbed coal on my face. I felt crazy.
I thought about being found like this.
I tried to imagine what my story would be.
A version with my brother in it.
A version with no brother. I swear
I could smell rain a thousand miles away.
I could smell rain in the soot. I folded my hands
around my lips and made the gray ghost,
which told him where I was.
And also meant stay alert.
And also meant some other things
only owls understood.

***

Anders Carlson-Wee is the author of the chapbook Dynamite and a 2015 National Endowment of the Arts Fellow. He holds an MFA in poetry from Vanderbilt University and, from what I’ve read about him, has spent a lot of time on freight trains. If you like this poem, I recommend checking out more of his work, as well as this interview he did with Sonora Review. He’s a fascinating character.

Riding the Highline is a short film Carlson-Wee made with his brother Kai, also a poet, documenting their train-hopping journeys.

(Top photo by Dmitrii Vaccinium)

Portland Home Tour: Lesia + Sean’s Light-filled Pearl District Studio

DSC_0179.jpgI love discovering how other people live: How they decorate their space, how they spend their downtime, what their habits and rituals are…you get the idea. Maybe I’m nosy? (I prefer to think of it as naturally curious.) People are just so fascinating! And since our homes often reflect a lot about who we are, I’m always intrigued to see “inside”. So I’m thrilled to feature my second-ever Home Tour today, bringing you into the Portland apartment of my friends Lesia and Sean.

DSC_0254.jpgLesia is an account executive at influencer marketing platform company Little Bird and a photographer, and Sean is a visual artist. They live with their dog Bosco in a 636 sq ft studio in the Crane Lofts building in Portland’s Pearl District. Built in 1909, the building was completely restored and renovated in 2006, and features massive windows and beautiful red brick walls.

Here, Lesia and I chat about what it’s like living with her own Bob Ross, entertaining in a small space, how she makes her home smell great,  and what she daydreams about while gazing out their giant windows… Continue reading

‘Round the Web: February 2016

photo-1433424165784-75568b0aca13How’s everyone doing?

Last night I had the chance to see one of my favourite Canadian singers, Basia Bulat, perform in Portland. She was amazing! (I went with Joe, who got us tickets as part of my Christmas gift.) This woman plays a zillion instruments and sings with her whole body, every part of her in the song and in the moment. It’s such a joy to see.

Today we are heading to our friends Dianna and Evan’s place to watch the Oscars with our Portland crew. We all had vague intentions of “dressing up” for the event but have decided to go to to the opposite end of the spectrum instead, with a theme of pajamas/extreme comfort. Dianna is going to make her famous “Rotel” dip, which is literally just canned Rotel tomatoes and Velveeta cheese, stirred and heated. It’s completely gluttonous and stupidly delicious. (I can’t wait.) Very intrigued to see how Chris Rock deals with #oscarssowhite and hoping he doesn’t hold back.

Onto the links, if you’re looking for some coffee (or whatever else you may be sipping) companionship…

What a beautiful Modern Love essay

10 ways to tie a scarf

Breasts: The Odd Couple made me smile and think back to my ‘late bloomer’ years. “I was only twelve, but already understood that a mismatched set put me at a cultural disadvantage. We girls pick things up along the path to puberty, collecting whispers like wildflowers and poring over teen magazines as if reading sacred texts.”

* Currently reading this book. And this one. (Lots of easy-to-implement wisdom in both.)

Barbie’s got a new body (Finally!)

* Have you seen the movie Room? Joe and I watched it a couple weeks ago, and we both thought it was excellent. I enjoyed this interview with Brie Larson, the lead actress, on the radio show q recently, discussing her intense preparation for the role.

The problem with “diversity”. (And a vote for inclusion.)

* Lastly, the best parts of being in love…13 couples and one solo artist on what being in a relationship means.

Have a wonderful Sunday.

xox ~C.
(Photo by Anette Grolle)

Inside Portland’s (One and Only) Cat Lounge

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This winter was the rainiest in Portland since Joe and I moved here, with a streak of 25 days of rain in December — the wettest month ever recorded in the city’s history.

I grew up in rainy Victoria, B.C. and love the Pacific Northwest, so I’m no stranger to wet days. But this was a LOT of rain. Combined with the short days and dark looming by 4 pm, the weather started to feel a touch limiting. Working from home, I love/need to spend time outside, especially on weekends, partly for the dose of nature and fresh air but also so I don’t become a total hermit. (I am definitely one of those half introvert/half extrovert people…but winter tends to play up my introvert side.)

What are your rainy season activities? Joe and I have been watching lots of movies (not to mention the series Master of None, Making a Murderer, and Transparent season two), reading books, playing board games (in which he continues to kick my ass at scrabble, don’t get me started), de-cluttering the apartment…but recently a twinge of cabin fever had me craving something totally different. I wanted to visit somewhere in Portland we had never been, in a part of town we don’t usually hang out in. I wanted to shake things up and do something weird. I researched a bunch of options and came up with a random list of ideas for what became our ‘weird day’ mission, which happened to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

Top of the list: Purringtons Cat Lounge.

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Purringtons is a cafe in Northeast Portland where people go to hang out with cats. Cat cafes are popular in Korea, so I had heard of them while living there, but I never visited one which, looking back, was a total missed opportunity. Now they’re popping up all over North America! Purringtons opened just over a year ago, and it’s Oregon’s first-ever cat cafe. Continue reading

Freelance Dispatch: My (Unexpected) Business Card Design

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I’m excited to introduce a new series on the blog today: Freelance Dispatch! (Insert hi-hat cymbals sound.)

As the name suggests, this series is going to dive into aspects of the freelance/creative life, with topics from my own experience and insights I come across from other people and places.

I might share posts on things I’ve learned through some of my client projects, or tips from creative professionals I respect and admire. I might discuss the challenges of working in ways that are both creative and efficient (hint: they don’t always go together). I might feature different kinds of creative work spaces or the rituals of famous artists and writers.

I might even share a few secrets.

Whether you are a creative professional or not, if you’re at all interested in the creative process, creative people, or creating an unconventional life or career, my hope is that this series will be filled with useful stuff that sparks or speaks to your own creative thinking and projects.

On that note, I’m kicking things off with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of my new business card design.

I’d been wanting to get cards made for a long time, but put it off for a couple reasons:

*I’m super picky about aesthetics when it comes to things like layout/format/font/size/colour etc.—basically everything that would be needed in a card design. I knew the design process would require making a lot of decisions…and while I trust my taste, I can sometimes be indecisive about the details, which both exhausts and annoys me. (See, I am already telling you secrets. I’m actually a bit picky about most things. So much so that my mom nicknamed me ‘Pick’ as a kid. She still calls me that sometimes.:))

*I needed to find the right designer, which meant researching options, comparing portfolios, finding out pricing, etc. It’s time consuming and again, requires deciding on THE ONE…which, see above.

What I really wanted was a designer who I knew was talented and who I trusted would collaborate well. For me, this means understanding my vision, offering their own creative input, giving options, making changes graciously, and communicating in a way that’s friendly and professional. I wanted someone who truly cared about the design and would put in the effort to make it a successful project. I did some research, and ultimately went with my gut: I hired Shaun Kingerlee, a Vancouver, B.C.-based graphic designer who I had recently worked with (indirectly) on a website for a mutual client. I found Shaun really easy to communicate with on that project, which, along with his obvious talent, is one of the main reasons I hired him.

Fun fact: Shaun and I have known each other since 1988. We were both in Ms. Martin’s grade 5 class at Saanichton Elementary School, and I remember him often drawing in his sketchbook. Around the same time, I apparently told my mother I wanted to be an “author” when I grew up. So, the seeds of our career paths were already sprouting for both Shaun and I by the age of 10.

When I first reached out, Shaun responded within a day and said he’d be happy to take on the project. A fast first response goes a long way, in my opinion. Prospective clients are typically shopping around, and when a company gets back to them quickly, it shows they are genuinely interested (and bodes well for future communication). I make a point of responding within a day myself when someone contacts me for writing services, as I know they may also be contacting others. It’s such a missed opportunity if they go with someone else just because that person/company replied faster!

This is what I told Shaun at the outset: I don’t need a logo, so the design should be fairly straightforward…keeping in line with the clean look of my website, but perhaps with some element that makes it really stand out as well.

Looking back, ‘straightforward’ was probably a bit of a stretch, as we did A LOT of back and forth on this design, but it’s true that I didn’t have or need a logo.

Shaun then asked the following: Firstly, are you married to the fonts and colours used on your website? If so, can you tell me the names of the fonts? Also, what kind of quantities are you looking to have printed? Lastly, can you send me all the content you would like to have on your card?

And we were off! To the design collaboration races…which, in current day, means a lot of emailing back and forth. Thankfully, both of us were able to clearly articulate ourselves via email, which is NOT a skill that everyone has, I’ve learned.

I sent Shaun a document with answers to his questions, links to some card examples I liked on pinterest, and some of my ideas for design and content. These included:

*A two-sided card on a white background

*Using one or more of the accent colours from my website (teal and violet)

*My name in large font on front, list of specific services on the back (I provided all the wording)

*Using the font on my website or something similar…but I was open to font options

This is what Shaun came back with, first round: Continue reading

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

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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