My 3 Summer Projects of 2017 (Because I don’t know how to vacation)

With my new day job, I’ve been spoiled with a ridiculous 10 weeks of vacation. I’ve had summers off, which at first sounded like a really great idea. But by the third week, I’m starting to get a bit restless. So for the last few summers, I’ve tackled a project to keep me busy. Two summers ago, it was updating the main bathroom. Last summer, it was the development and launch of a website for one of my freelance clients.

See? I’m bad at vacationing.

This summer, instead of tackling one big project, I’m working on a few smaller ones:

Setting up the office

I’ve fallen into a bad habit of working from my couch. While it’s nice to have the flexibility to choose to work there from time to time, I’m not a huge fan of the fact it’s becoming my home base. My end tables are covered with office supplies, which frequently end up in my dog’s mouth. There are a lot of distractions when I work from the couch and it means there is next to no work-life separation. I could easily just work all the time.

We do have a home office. It just doesn’t look like one right now. So I plan to set this up so it’s useable as a workspace. This is going to be quite the project. Because there is so much stuff in there that doesn’t need to be.

Which brings me to my second project of the summer:

Decluttering the house

We bought this place 8 years ago and I can’t believe how much stuff has collected in that time. Our guest bedroom, spare bedroom and home office are all full of random stuff that otherwise doesn’t really have a home. Instead of having three storage rooms, I want to restore them to their former glory: a guest bedroom, a workout room/ spare room and a home office.

This means I’ll have to go through boxes and piles of random stuff that we haven’t really used. I have boxes in what should be the home office that are full of kitchen and living room items we packed up three years ago when we tore up and replaced all the floors on our main level and have forgotten about. Clearly, it isn’t anything we need. We haven’t gone looking for that stuff for three years.

There are binders and notes from the various post secondary courses we’ve done that need sorting and consolidation. We have more books than shelves to put them on. There are clothes and shoes and even extra furniture that is just taking up space. So I want to tackle those rooms, decide what’s to be donated, what’s to be recycled and what needs to be trashed. It’ll be awesome to have more useable space and I purging and organizing. It feels so good.

Yes, I know. I’m weird. Stop looking at me like that.

Taming my wild garden

Not a euphemism.  I’ve never really cared too much about our garden, if I’m being perfectly honest. I’ve had gardens other places that I’ve lived. My favourite was the front garden in the house I lived in during my second and third year of college. It was beautiful and full of wild flowers, Black-Eyed Susans, hostas and poppies. Until the new home owners ripped it out the day they took possession of that house. Those fucking monsters.

This could be why I lost interest in putting an effort into my garden. I was fine to let my front garden do its thing, but haven’t really planned it out or planted anything new. It fit it with my surrounding neighbours and their (lack of) landscaping. Everything was cool.

Then last summer, my stupid new neighbours ripped out their garden, built it up with brick edging, planted gorgeous plants and even finished it off with mulch. Their garden makes ours look pathetic. So at the risk of having my heart broken when we sell this place (hopefully in the next few years), and another beloved garden is murdered by some heartless monster, I want to tackle my garden.

Those are my summer projects. Do you plan projects to take on in your down time or vacation time? Or are you better at taking vacation than I am? Can you teach me how to relax?

Tell me all about it in the comments!

What the actual duck: Canadian-ing at its best

Canada doesn’t get much attention these days on the world stage. Our world leader isn’t a racist, bigoted rotting orange in a suit, but nor is he the Prime Minster Centrefold he used to be. Thanks for stealing that attention, Macron.

We are kind of quiet about things and stay as neutral as possible on the world stage while still trying to achieve our goals. We don’t like to cause a ruckus. But when we do, you know we’re super sorry about it.

So it might surprise you to learn that Canada has trouble brewing. And it comes in the form of a giant inflatable duck.

This is a real thing, guys. We have a giant motherducking problem.

The oversized novelty bathtub toy is set to make its debut in Toronto on July 1st (Canada Day) as part of the 150th birthday celebrations. It was meant to be a fun, if not slightly ridiculous, tourist attraction funded primarily by the Ontario government.

Yet the controversies surrounding this 6-storey tall rubbber duck has grown to be quackers.

Controversy one: The cost.

The actual cost of this giant inflatable tourist attraction seems a bit unclear. The lowest cost I’ve heard for the rent and installation of this duck is $70,000. Conservative Members of Provincial Parliament claim the cost is closer to $200,000. Our government (Liberals) and supporters of the rubber duck feel it’s well worth the cost, as such a ridiculous and fun thing will draw tourists and pay for itself. I mean, who doesn’t want to take a selfie with a giant rubber duck?

Conservatives cry that it’s a waste of tax payer money. I mean, it’s a big rubber duck, costing $70,000-$200,000. Imagine all the people we could feed with that! Imagine all the problems we could fix in our country with that kind of money!

This argument makes me laugh for two reasons:

  1. Conservatives never want to spend money on things like ‘feeding the poor’ (the way they put it), because that’s not how Conservatives spend money.
  2. That’s not how budgeting works. This amount of money, whether it’s $70K, $200K, or one million dollars, has been allocated to Canada’s 150th celebrations. So it was going to be spent on something frivolous or stupid anyway.

Controversy number two: The Case of The Counterfeit Canard

There are rumblings that the rubber duck the 150 Canada celebration organizers have chosen to rent is a knock-off. Our duck is coming from a man in the US, and while he is the owner of this particular giant rubber duck, it is not the first of its kind, nor is it a creation of this gentleman.

A Dutch design company is claiming this American duck is simply a rip off of their concept and design, and that the Ontario government should have instead contacted them to ensure the 150th Canadian celebrations were done right. And with the original giant rubber duck, not this so-called counterfeit.

The fight over who has the true copyrights to this giant duck have been going on for a few years now. The Dutch artist, Florentijn Hofman, had been contracted by events producer Craig Samborski to create this duck for an event at the Los Angeles waterfront, but when he failed to deliver the duck drawings as specified, Samborski and his partner Ryan Whaley had the giant duck built by an American company.

When asked if this controversy would impact the decision to include the duck in Canada’s 150th celebrations, the response from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism was basically:

So, that would be a no.

The third controversy plaguing the giant duck: A lack of patriotism.

What comes to mind when you think about Canada? Hockey? Snow? Canadian geese, maybe? Mountie, loons (the bird, thank you), a maple leaf?

Those are all very relevant iconic Canadian things, albeit slightly stereotypical, HOW DARE YOU.

But you’ll notice ‘giant rubber duck’ wasn’t on that list. Anti-duckers are upset that we’re investing so much money is something that doesn’t really represent Canada. See? Canadians can be patriotic. We’re just quieter about it. Why couldn’t we get a giant beave– okay, bad example. Why couldn’t we just get a giant inflatable Tim Horton’s coffee cup? Or moose? Or hockey puck?

This actually ties back into the first controversy about the cost of the duck. If conservatives and other similar-minded people hate that we’re spending so much on an inflatable duck? They’d loose their minds over the cost of contracting someone to create and install a brand-new piece.

It’s all about the Bordens, baby. Which is Canadian for:

The last, and more serious controversy surrounding the giant rubber duck is the fact that not everyone is thrilled to be celebrating 150 years of Canada, period.

See, like most countries that were ‘settled’ by Europeans, we also have a deep, dark history of stealing land that wasn’t ours and treating the people that were already here in Canada like garbage. We’re actually still pretty garbage at taking care of our Indigenous population. So you can understand why not everyone is keen to celebrate the 150th anniversary of this settlement. This is a controversy that of course extends beyond a stupid rubber duck, but whenever we start to talk about celebrating the last 150 years of Canada, it’s an issue that comes up. Understandably.

Because it’s 2017 and 150 years later people still don’t get the point when it comes to our Indigenous peoples.

So there it is. Canada has scandals and controversies, too, guys. We’re just super Canadian about it. Sorry.

 

My Writing Process: 8 Steps for Creating a Winning Writing Ritual

I’ve had some questions about my writing process, so I figured I’d give you a behind the scenes look at how I create the perfect atmosphere and mindset for writing. I hope this is helpful!

Step 1: Finding Inspiration

The hardest part is getting started. I like to start by gathering lots of inspiration. Spend time researching, browsing and brainstorming. Always carry around something to jot ideas down in, because you never know when something might give you inspiration. I find my best ideas come to me in the shower. It’s probably because that’s truly the only time my mind is mostly switched off and focused on one task. That’s also when the anxieties come to get me. But the ideas, too.

After spending weeks or months careening about your daily life, trying to find inspiration, it’s time to start to seek out inspiration with a bit more intention. Browse websites for ideas. My go-tos are Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. Twitter for the hot takes, Pinterest for the pretty pictures and Tumblr for everything else.

Next, try reading. Books. Articles. Blog posts. I try to overload my brain with content.

When those things don’t seem to work, try aimlessly flipping through TV channels, watching the news and current affairs shows. Listen to music. Then try combinations of watching tv, listening to music, while browsing and reading.

Finally, you’ll find that you can start to piece together some ideas. Time for step 2!

Step 2: Fleshing it out

Next, take your tiny, wisp of an idea and start to flesh it out. Build an outline to help frame where you’re going with your writing project. Writing down all of your main points can help you stay on track and figure out if there is enough meat to the project to make it worth writing.

Step 3: Getting down to it

Armed with your notes, outline and any research, it’s time to get down to writing. Some people can work with a lot of distractions, but that’s not for everyone. Listening to music can help tune out the noise around you, or if you need quiet, pick a spot where you can work in silence.  Make coffee or tea and settle in somewhere comfortable and get down to work.

Step 4: Letting doubt creep in

Sitting in front of your laptop, whether you have a completely blank page or a few paragraphs started, it’s time to start questioning the relevance, interest or humour of your writing project. Browsing through notes and your outline, you’ll find the doubt starts to creep in. Then come the questions. Is this a stupid idea? Will anyone care to read this? Why am I wasting my time and life at this? Do I suck at being a writer?

Before you start thinking too hard about those questions, it’s time for step 5.

Step 5: Procrastination

The next step in perfecting your writing ritual is to put off writing at all costs. Because what you’re writing is probably shit, anyway. There are many options to help achieve peak procrastination. Long-neglected house chores, exercise, calling friends or relatives that you haven’t spoken to in a long time are great ways to procrastinate. Playing with your pets or kids if you have them, or go out and find someone else’s pets or kids to entertain. You can stare out a window, try to find matches for all your socks, or learn something new. These are all good methods of procrastination. And once you’ve exhausted all of those options, sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest are great, too. There are so many rabbit holes to fall down, you’ll be lost for hours. In the case of Pinterest, sometimes you can loose days and weeks. As long as you’re not actually writing, you’re winning. Get creative.

Step 6: Panic

The thing about procrastination is that it gives you plenty of time for that doubt to fully take hold and bring about full-blown panic. You may be questioning your choices in life that brought you to the decision to write in the first place. Maybe you’re wishing that you had listened to your parents when they told you journalism was a dying industry and don’t waste your money on that journalism degree. Maybe it’s more of a general panic that makes you question everything and anything you’ve ever done, made or said. Now you have the perfect set up to move on to step 7! Well done, you!

Step 7: Abandoning the project

After spending days, weeks and maybe even months trying to make your project work, you realize this just isn’t what you first envisioned it to be. You abandon your project to sit in your drafts folder forever and ever.

It’s okay. Maybe your next idea will work out better than this one.

Step 8: Starting over again

It’s been a while since your last (failed) attempt at getting a writing project finished. Maybe you’re feeling the itch to write again. Maybe you desperately need to pay some bills. It could be an assignment for school or work. Maybe you’re stubborn. Perhaps you have a spiteful God. Maybe you hate yourself a little bit. But whatever the reason, you’re faced with the task of writing something again.

Since you clearly haven’t learn your lesson, you set to it again, getting ready to write again. Time to start again. Back to step 1, my friend. Start from the beginning. Rinse and repeat.

 

Did any of my tips help you? What steps do you take to create your writing rituals? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

Currently: Dystopian Future Edition

LOL, JK. This isn’t a Dystopian Future Edition. Because we’re living it.  The dystopian future is now.

Anyway. Let me tell you about the escapism things I’ve been enjoying to help cope with the fact that the whole world is basically on fire:

Currently

Watching:

NBC’s The Blacklist. I’ve watched this show from the beginning and found the last season and a half to be…. rough. The writers really didn’t seem to know what to do with actor Megan Boone’s pregnancy. I was so irritated with how they handled it that I nearly quit the show. And I ranted about it a lot. Because misogyny and pregnancy tropes really hit my rage button. The writers seemed to be writing themselves out of that hole, and by the time the show went on its winter hiatus, I was back onboard. Especially because M and I guessed the BIG TWIST that really makes for a compelling story. Good job, Blacklist. I figure this show will be canceled after this season, though, because I can’t have nice things.

Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’ve been watching this series for Snark Squad, and we’ve finally reached the penultimate episode. Or as we liked to call it, the episode that destroyed us. I won’t go into spoilers here, but you’re welcome to check out our recaps over on the Snark Squad website.

Reading:

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. I haven’t been reading as much as I was earlier in the year. I’m going to do a more in-depth review of the books I have read, but for now I’ll say that this was a fun read*.

 

*With caveats

Listening:

I haven’t been listening to as much music as I usually do because I’ve found I’ve been needing quieter things to focus on. Instead, I’ve been listening these podcasts:

Gilmore Guys, turned Bunhead Bros, hosted by Kevin T. Porter and Demi Adejuyigbe. A podcast that was originally just two dudes, special guests and Gilmore Girls discussion (sometimes), that has now moved on to another Amy Shermin-Palladino show, Bunheads. I quit it for a while, because I never really watched Bunheads and then when I tried to watch the show, I hated it. But I came back because these two dum-dums are pretty entertaining.

Welcome to Night Vale is a War of the Worlds-esque podcast, presented in the form of community updates for a small desert town called Night Vale. It is creepy, bizarre and funny. This would appeal to people with slightly twisted senses of humour. So of course, I love it.

Porch Club popped up in some recommendation for podcasts I might like. I gave this a few goes, but man, it’s tough to get through. I find the hosts’ navel-gazing a bit too much to handle. I think if I knew the hosts, it might be slightly more appealing to me, but there is a strange, deeply religious undertone that makes me feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because I’ve retired from organized religion. Maybe it’s the twenty minutes of laughter at inside jokes that are only funny to the hosts. Or maybe it’s not my bag.

EOS 10 is a sci-fi radio play, reminiscent of Welcome to Night Vale. My friend Wendy recommended it to me and she gives good recs (She also introduced me to Saga and Bitch Planet). The story follows two space doctors and their team on a space station and a deposed prince who has taken up refuge in the station’s food court. Definitely worth a listen if you’re down with radio plays. It’s also a great distraction from the sci-fi world we’re currently living in.

 

Loving

I’m also addicted to the Sodastream that I was given for my birthday. I drink a lot of water a day and pretty much drink water (When I’m not mainlining caffeine in the form of coffee and tea) these days. I try to get 2.5 litres of water a day, and I’ve taken to drinking sparkling water for about half of that. But it’s expensive. And not super environmentally friendly. It sounds crazy, but I love, love, love my Sodastream.

I mean, this is the tagline on their website:

It’s the little things in life that make me happy these days.

Lastly, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family lately. My aunt has been sick since the middle of March, so we’ve been helping out, visiting, trying to keep her distracted while she’s gone through a million tests, treatments and doctor’s appointments. It’s weird to say that I’m ‘loving’ all of this time that has come about due to a family emergency, but I’m trying to look at the bright side of things. Because haha, lol, there is so little of that these days. Hi, political world climate.

 

How’re you surviving and coping with the strange, Twilighty Zone world we’re all living in? Tell me all about it.

January Reading List

The last few years, I haven’t been reading nearly as much as I’d like to. I’d had lofty goals on my Goodreads profile to read 20 books a year. Maybe ever 30!

That didn’t happen.

This year, I set out to read different kinds of books. Books I may not normally pick up. And with that, I set a really sad, but hopefully attainable goal. I was going to read 6 books in 2017. That’s a book every two months. Surely I could manage that.

Apparently, I need to set my bar very, very low in order to achieve success. Because in the month of January, I read 4 books.

They were (with brief, spoiler-free reviews and out of 5 star ratings):

The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

It seems like my friends were either reading this book or had read it. I was super curious, so I picked it up. This was easily the best book I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t put it down. Nicola Yoon creates diverse, beautiful characters, with an amazing story. Everything about this book was gorgeous.

I rated it 5 stars on Goodreads.

 

Scrappy Little Nobody By Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick is the next in a long line of actors to write a memoir/autobiography. Anna Kendrick is funny on Twitter and I have enjoyed her as an actor, but there’s a loss in translation from funny actor and tweeter to author. Some of her insights were funny and interesting, but other times the book really dragged. Scrappy Little Nobody was fine. I rated it 3 stars.

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelves for a long time. I tried it and just couldn’t get into it. I loaned it out for a while. Then it went back to sitting on my shelf. I was desperate for something to read, so I picked it back up again. This time, it was a completely different story. I read it quickly and ended up really enjoying it. It definitely falls into the chic lit genre. The twists and turns were pretty predictable. At times, it felt like Lauren’s main character was an alternate-universe Lorelai Gilmore. But it was enjoyable enough. I rated it 4 stars.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

After reading The Sun is Also A Star, and loving it so much, I decided to pick up her other book. Everything, Everything is Nicola Yoon’s first novel. It was a fast read and again, full of interesting and diverse characters. The relationship between the two main characters was quick and predictable, but cute. While this book didn’t grab me the same way The Sun Is Also A Star did, it was still a really good read.

I rated this book 4 stars.

Currently: January 2017

Currently

watching: A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix

I read the books and was a fan, but never watched the movie adaptation. I had zero interest in the film adaptation, probably due to the casting of Count Olaf: Jim Carrey. He’s ruined so many of my favourite things by starring in film adaptations: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol. So I chose to skip A Series of Unfortunate Events.

However, when I heard Netflix was doing an adaptation, and that Neil Patrick Harris was starring in it as Count Olaf, I was really excited for it. And it’s been decent so far, and I have zero casting complaints.

We’re recapping it over on Snark Squad, so if you’re a fan or just checking out Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events for the first time, join us.

 

reading: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

 

This is the fifth book I’ve read so far this year. It’s something I borrowed and is not something I’d pick up normally, but I’m working on broadening my reading choices.

I’m also reading Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. It is the fourth and final book in the terrible, horrible, dumpster fire of a book series the Twilight Saga. Why? Because we’re recapping it on Snark Squad. I can’t tell you how thrilled we are to be finishing these books.

listening: Fire in my Soul – Walk Off The Earth


The latest single from Walk Off The Earth. I may have mentioned that I’m a fan of all their work? Covers, original songs, it’s all good. So when I saw on Twitter that they were going to be releasing a new single, I couldn’t wait. I like the feel of this tune.

 

making: Labels

For Christmas, my mother gave me a label maker. And that might seem like an odd thing to be excited about, but I was super excited for it. I’ve been using it to organize all of the important papers, contracts, manuals, warrantees, and other documents in the house. It’s a system I’ve been using at work to keep track of templates and master copies of things and it translated really well into a system to use at home. Nerdy and OCD enough for you yet?

 

feeling: Cold

Winter is my least favourite season. I’m just not here for these long nights or freezing, sunless days. And I have the worst time keeping warm. I layer on the clothes, the blankets, I even own and make use of a Snuggie.  But I just can’t seem to get comfortable in the winter, temperature-wise. Is it spring yet?

planning: A retirement party

Not mine! (If only). My mum is retiring this year and we’re working on planning her a bash to celebrate.

 

loving: Spending time with my niece

I haven’t actually talked about this on my blog too much, which is surprising because it’s been such a huge change in my family life, but my brother and sister-in-law had a baby this summer. I am so in love with my little niece and am really enjoying being an aunt. It’s also been really cool to see my other brothers embrace their new role as uncle. It’s been awesome and I’m so lucky to be living close to them and her. I don’t know my other niece and nephew very well, and spending all this time with baby Squish is something I’m really loving.

 

What are you guys up to lately? Let me know!

 

And then it was 2017

It’s 2017! Somehow we managed to survive the dumpster fire that was 2016. As per usual for me, I attempted Nablopomo in November. My goal for Nablopomo 2016 wasn’t to blog every day in November, but to blog a few times a week, every week in November. I felt pretty good about this goal.

And then the American Presidential Election happened and I sort of lost my will to live.

Okay. I’m being a little melodramatic, but honestly. What the fuck happened there, America? You guys okay?

For me, I was sort of at the end of my rope with coverage of the Human Cheeto. And it was depressing to me that so many people looked at this dude that was dumb, hateful, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, bigoted blowhole and say ‘He’s the better choice.’

So after his election, the realization that he wasn’t going away any time soon, left me feeling really overwhelmed. It was depressing. Disheartening. Anxiety-inducing. It was triggering to see a man that bragged about sexual assault, spewing such hate and bullshit being given such a large stage to continue to bully and harass people. And this guy wasn’t even going to be my president.

I was worried to see the trickle down effect he was having. Hate crimes were being committed in my country in his name.

I ended up having to take a bit of a media break. I avoided watching the 24-hour news stations. I switched the TV or radio off if there was coverage of this dude. I ignored the click-bait articles.

In place of those things, I spent a lot of time doing other things. Reading. Working with my hands. Visiting with my family and friends. Spending time with my newborn niece. It’s amazing how newborn baby smell and cuddles can lessen anxiety symptoms.

My media diet definitely helped me feel less overwhelmed, less disgusted and less anxious. It’s not realistic to ignore the news. I actually believe it’s important to stay aware of what’s going on in the world around us. But like everything else, it’s important to keep a balance about media consumption.

Have you ever had to take a break from the news media, or social media to keep your sanity? I want to hear all about it.

 

Friends, don’t fuck this up.

Oh my god

I am so very happy to see that November 8th has finally arrived. And I’m not even an American. I will not be voting today. I will not be getting a new leader of my country today.

But the American election season has been an ugly, triggering mess ever since a certain individual declared his candidacy and I am so glad to see the end of it.

When I look at the two candidates, I’m confused as to how this is even a race. Now before you start in on your tired argument…

hold on

Yes, Hillary is a politician and has probably been involved in questionable stuff. And yes, she’s a woman and some people don’t like that. But like, guys. Guys. Look at your other choice.

dumb people

Seth Meyers did an excellent job of spelling it out:

 

…How is this a choice?

Get out and vote today, American friends. This is a big one, and it’s an election you don’t want to sit out or throw away by spoiling a ballot.

You guys can do it. I have faith in you, because President Melting Hunk of Uninformed Apricot Jello doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue:

And I only have so many guest rooms if this doesn’t work out for you all.