One of the most double-edged blessings in my life has got to be my hearing.
I can often hear things others can’t. It comes in handy for avoiding sneak tickle-attacks and eavesdropping.
BUT, it also means that the littlest, most far away noises are enough to keep me awake at night.
A dripping faucet down the hall on the other side of multiple doors will do it, the rustling of a plastic bag in the hall, or god forbid, the ticking of a clock
Once, when I was in high school, my parents bought a lovely new clock for the bathroom. They found it buried in the bathtub under 40 towels the next morning. (I couldn’t get the batteries out).
So you can imagine the difficulty I had living in a tiny dorm room the summer I interned at a magazine.
If it wasn’t the cornucopia of loud, night owl neighbours I was surrounded by, it was the mice that used the vents as a rodent superhighway keeping me angrily tossing and turning.
I was a sleepless wreck UNTIL my brilliant mom did some research and found me a Sleepmate white noise machine. At first I found the tiny machine’s whooshing roar (and the fact that I could no longer hear every little nighttime sound) unnerving, but after a few nights and playing with the machine’s settings, I was sleeping through the night like a happily sedated baby.
Now I’m so used to it that my response to hitting its on switch is practically Pavlovian and it takes no time for me to drift off amidst its comforting lull of white noise.
My only complaint is that it’s not small enough to cart around with me on sleepovers.
Do you guys indulge in any little luxuries for a better night’s sleep? What are your sleep tips and tricks?
I am not a crier.
To be clear, it’s not that I can’t cry or have never cried, it’s just not something I do very often.
When I’m sad or upset or confused I prefer to talk it out or write it out rather than cry it out.
I have a lot of friends who find crying on the regular is a pleasant or just necessary release.
With the exception of a couple of deaths, a couple of breakups and the first time I saw Miss Representation, I can’t think of any times in the past five years that I’ve cried from sadness, anger or frustration.
Before you start thinking I sound like an unhealthy robot control-freak, I should also point out that I am lucky enough to live a really great life, surrounded by really great people, so I don’t often have the urge to weep in my regular day-to-day. It’s not like I’m constantly holding back tears or anything. I’m just a generally positive and even-keeled sort of person (I think, though who knows, I do occasionally wonder if one day some as-yet undiscovered floodgate will be opened and I’ll cry for a decade to make up for all the missed opportunities to let it all out that way).
However, though I don’t tend to cry about negative things that directly impact my life, I do well-up on command for a lot of happy reasons. Anything touching or cute or particularly fuzzy does it.
Old people in love? Tears.
Random act of kindness? Tears.
Very fuzzy baby penguin? So many tears.
There are some things that make me well up that are contrived to do just that (phone company commercials about calling your grandpa from Normandy where he fought in the war, anyone?), and some where it’s kind of expected, or at least not unusual (birth announcements, weddings etc.).
Then there are the seemingly innocuous things that catch me off guard with the way they sneak in under my defenses and overwhelm me with such exquisitely intense feeling that I guess it has to come out through my face.
When my amazing blogger pal Andrea and I decided that our second in-person meeting should be in Spain (because why not?), one of the stops on our whirlwind tour was Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi-designed cathedral that from afar looks like a sand castle or a a whole mess of candle drippings, but up close is covered in fascinating and gorgeous sculptures depicting the life of Christ. I’m not religious but I was excited to see it because I loved all the photos I’d seen of his imaginative and whimsical architecture. So the reaction I had stepping inside was a complete surprise to me (and Andrea!).
It was like stepping into a secret magical rainforest. I remember being shocked at how bright and airy it was inside. You’d never guess it from outside. And I remember marvelling at how magical it was that this man was able to understand and predict the way the light and the structure would work. That he used math, of all things, to make something so beautiful, and that people believed in his crazy dream so much that he was actually able to bring it to life.
It undid me a little bit.
Another thing I never expected to choke me up was an episode of Human Planet (which I can’t recommend highly enough). It’s the jungle episode and one of the segments features footage of one of the last uncontacted tribes of humans in the world. The footage was taken with powerful lenses from a helicopter extremely far away from the village so as to disturb them as little as possible while still proving they exist so that the area they live in can be protected and they can remain uncontacted by the modern world. I think I just assumed that with all of our technology and our greed for natural resources, there were no such people left, so to learn that there actually are, still, now, today, well it blew my mind a little. The idea that there are still new things and whole damn new tribes of human beings to discover in the world puts some of the mystery and magic back into it. I think I assumed we’d devastated so much of the earth, that anything we hadn’t discovered and corrupted by now, would be lost to the ages. So. tears.
By far the strangest one to me though, is that every so often I eat something so delicious that it activates something deep in my brain and unlocks some hidden door of emotion that also makes me weepy.
My friends will never let me forget the time I looked up at them with tears in my eyes after trying my first bite of the ridiculously tasty sticky toffee pudding at Harbord House.
Tears of sadness are common enough, tears of joy or wonder, sure, tears of cute…ok…
but tears of food?
Well, once again it was a mad damn dash of a weekend.
I’ve done this silly thing where I have multiple writing deadlines which all fall at the end of the month, and while of course I always intend to get them all out of the way earlier in the month, there just always seems to be something more immediately pressing to do (my full-time job or this blog for example) and I wind up scrambling at the end of the month.
There was also lots of fun on the schedule for this weekend, but trying to work that in around said deadlines just made the whole thing more stressful than it needed to be. Ah well, lesson learned. I’ll try to do better next month.
We’re also getting into the part of the year when I start despairing at the rampant consumerism and waste that comes along with the holiday season and form conspiracy theories about “Jingle Bells” in fact being a jingle written by the marketing department at One Horse Open Sleighs ltd. I mean, jingle’s right there in the title!
(fun fact: Did you know Jingle Bells was the first song broadcast from outer space?)
Anyway, after all of the running around and the despairing, it was a real treat to put up my feet and get into the real holiday spirit of comfort and joy with a classic holiday tree-trimming party at my friends’ Emma and Vanessa’s gorgeous apartment.
I can’t wait to do the same at home with my family in a few weeks.
It’s that time of the month again! The wonderful time of the month when it’s my turn to post a little something for the fantastic collaborative blog with the terrible name, Pooping Rainbows.
Its intricate bead work shimmered and sparkled, winking and beckoning to me from the shop window.
I spotted it early and was suddenly glad we hadn’t eloped.
It slid on effortlessly, skimming here and hugging there.
Like him, I thought. A perfect fit.
We hadn’t yet decided on a degree of formality, but I figured it would be perfect for an elegant cocktail sort of celebration, or to wear as a reception-rehearsal dress if I suddenly found myself swept up in the idea of something more traditional.
I posed and twirled and shimmied in front of the mirror, grinning like the fool in love I was.
Click here to read the rest and check out some of the other great bloggers involved while you’re at it!
I first came across fellow Canadian Peter Dewolf’s blog about five years ago when I started my very first blog.
We quickly bonded over our small-town adventures and struck up a pen pal-esque friendship that we’ve kept up ever since.
Peter writes with an easygoing grace and has the prized (by me) ability to make me laugh out loud with his quirky and quick-witted choice of words.
His series of “future wife” posts, where he chats with a fictional (or perhaps not so fictional now that he’s fallen for another fantastic blogger) dream woman about their life together, have a way of making me nostalgic for something I never had and I jumped at his challenge to write my own version of one.
In fact, Pete seems to be able to talk me into just about anything, as evidenced by the fact that I write once a month for his brainchild, the collaborative blog, Pooping Rainbows, despite my total revulsion towards its terrible, terrible name.
Pete was kind enough to answer a few of my questions to help us get to know him and his blog a little better.
What is the concept behind your blog and how did you come up with it?
I would say that the concept of my blog is that it is my writing notebook. It is where I experiment with whatever project is currently blowing my skirt up. Most people would use an actual notebook for such things, but my massive ego requires constant adoration. So I loved the immediate feedback that I received from using my blog as a way to share my writing.
When did you start blogging and how has your blog evolved?
I started blogging a loooong time ago, Sarah. It was on LiveJournal and, I believe, it was 1999, if not a bit earlier. And the writing was terrible. Seriously. It was really bad.
This has been the evolution of my blog: journal to writing note book to way to try to impress women to Dawson’s Creek fan fiction to place to workshop bits of my novel to anti-government rants to cob webs to podcasts to… more writing. Soon.
Over half of that was true.
What piece of writing on your blog are you the most proud of? Why?
Oh. Man. This is a tough one. I once wrote a poem called “i like your bum” and told everyone I knew about it. I really think the comedy worked in “two dudes talking.” You could ask me this question every day and I could give you a different reply.
And I’d likely start wondering about your memory.
What is the biggest challenge you face or have faced as a blogger?
I’ve always struggled with the privacy thing. Despite using my real name everywhere online, I am a private dude. When I first started blogging and readers would ask me where I’m from, I would reply, “Why?” It was even more of a challenge when I started dating a fellow blogger. Then there were two of us trying to figure out what content we were comfortable sharing. I voted that we share “Nothing. Not a damn thing!” But we settled on sharing a little, and making sure to discuss anything that might be touchy before posting.
What has been the most rewarding/exciting thing about blogging for you so far?
I feel like I’ll be in so much hot water if I don’t reply with “Met my girlfriend.” And it’s true. I was hopeful, as I figured out where blogging was going, that the 30-1 female-to-male ratio in its heyday could lead to me meeting a nice girl. And it did! Brilliant, sweet, fun, funny and scorching hot. Plus she’s short brunette! You know how irresistible they are.
But I’ve also met some other amazing people, and gained some great friends. Like you! I’ve worked on projects with like-minded folks. I’ve debated ideas with not-so-like-minded folks.
And I’ve practiced writing.
If you could take credit for someone else’s blog, whose would it be?
Tony Pierce’s Bus Blog. I feel like if he didn’t invent personal blogging – and I still give him credit
for it – he absolutely perfected it. When I was losing interest in livejournal, it was Tony who inspired me to start my own real blog. He’s been doing it for ever. And you’ll never mistake any other writing for his. I admire the shit out of that.
If you were a Golden Girl, which one would you be?
When I think about which Golden Girl I would be – and it is something I do quite often – I always seem to end up imaging myself as an amalgam of all of them. I have Dorothy’s biting wit. I have Sophia’s storytelling talents. I have Blanche’s undeniable sexuality. And I have Rose’s age-defying breasts.
What are three things you would eradicate from the world if you could?
Cancer. Hunger. Violence.
I feel like if we didn’t have those things on the planet, then surely, as a species, we could figure the rest out, right?
We might also have to send our politicians to colonize Mars.
What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
Your reaction to an email I sent you earlier. But before that it was my girlfriend. Last night, after spending 30 minutes (probably 9 in reality) outside in Texas, where it was 39 American Degrees, she told me she thought she had frost bite on her toe. And I laughed. And then she showed me the thick socks she was wearing, inside her shoes, and I
laughed even more. Americans, right?
How do you define success?
If you’re happy with what you’re doing, and you’re being good to others, then you’re a success.
Especially if you’ve found yourself a hot brunette.
Well, I can hardly argue with that. Check out Pete’s blog and podcast here! ( I recommend starting with this one. Spoiler alert: the guest is me!) and follow him on Twitter here if you’re so inclined.
I had a delightful post about the equally delightful blogger, Peter Dewolf to share with you today, but as some of you may have noticed, all that was published this morning was his photo, with my carefully crafted post nowhere to be found.
Apologies for any confusion (and thanks for nothing, internet!) I’ll do a rewrite as soon as possible since obviously I didn’t save my post anywhere outside of wordpress (thanks for nothing, cavalier faith in technology!) so that y’all can be as entertained and delighted by Pete’s Must Reads interview answers as I was as soon as possible!
It seems that every year around the time we have our first snow fall, a trigger somewhere in my brain is pulled, and I get the urge to craft things.
If my friends and coworkers are lucky, I channel this crafty, create-y energy into baking. Green tea and white chocolate or candy cane macarons, anyone?
Sometimes I’ll muck about with watercolours or pastels (and I do mean muck as I am quite terrible at using them but always love the idea) and last year I went through a nostalgic embroidery floss friendship bracelet phase.
But mostly, when the urge strikes, I dive into the bag of yarn snuggled cozily down beside my couch and find my crochet hook.
My mom and one of my aunts taught me the basics of knitting and crochet when I was little, but it wasn’t until my first winter living alone in the country that I developed a bit of a fever for it.
I started with a youtube video (probably from the incredibly helpful Crochet Geek, if memory serves) to remind myself of the basics, and suddenly transformed into a human crochet goods factory (some of you may recall, I didn’t have a whole lot going on in terms of a social life during my small-town reporter days).
There was a moment, probably around when I figured out how to crochet flowers, where there was a danger I just might never be heard from again.
I love that (depending on the project you choose) you can finish what you’ve started fairly quickly and see (and wear) the tangible results.
I love that it keeps my hands too busy to feed my mouth an entire bag of cookies while I watch Love Actually for the eleventy-hundredth time.
Most of all, I love the meditative quality to it. Something about the repetition and the rhythm you get into once you’re past your first disastrous attempt or two is just so calming. Somehow busying up my hands that way seems to free my mind to wander or just to rest.
Plus, it’s a totally portable activity!
The staff at my dentist’s office laughed their heads off when they came to check on whether or not my mouth was numb enough for whatever godawful thing they were about to do to my teeth only to find that I was taking full advantage of the chair’s lounge position and contentedly crocheting away the time.
Are you crafty? Do you find a kind of zen in creating crafty little somethings?
For the most part, these days I’m a wash-and-go gal. I value extra precious minutes of morning sleep and I just can’t justify choosing makeup over breakfast. So it is that I usually head off to work completely bare-faced.
There are quite a few benefits to going makeup-free most of the time. As well as being a time-saver, it’s also a money-saver and my skin seems to appreciate it. There’s also the fact that when I want to feel fancy, all it takes is a dot or two of tinted moisturizer and a swipe of mascara, and bam! All those people who are used to seeing my plain old face, are dazzled!
Or so my theory goes.
Anyway, on days when I do feel like making the old peepers pop, the very best mascara I’ve found to get the job done is DJV Beautenizer Fibrewig mascara. It’s on the expensive side, but for me, this little luxury is totally worth the splurge.
I love it not only because it makes my eyelashes crazy long, but because no matter how long I wear it, it does not smudge. You can sleep on your face in this stuff and you will still not wake up with raccoon eyes. Believe me, I’ve tried.
The worst you’ll get might be a little bit of flaking off if it’s old and you’ve been wearing it for 24 hours.
And, while it won’t come off if you get caught in a blizzard, all it takes to remove it is warm water and learning how to gently pull it off with your fingers once it softens, without pulling off your eyelashes in the process. I swear that’s easier than it sounds, it just takes a little getting used to.
Sadly, my former Toronto supplier, Sephora, stopped carrying it, so now I order it online from Beauty Bay.
Are there any pricey (or not) beauty products you guys can’t resist treating yourselves to? I’d love to steal your beauty secrets…I mean…hear about them in the comments!
“Let’s run you a nice warm bath, Little One,” the voice says after I’ve had a particularly grueling workout.
“Come on, out of bed, honey. I’ll put on the kettle and you can have a nice cup of tea while you wake up,” she coaxes, as I burrow deeper under the covers on a Monday morning.
It occurred to me recently that this might not be totally normal.
Especially when you consider that I live alone.
It’s the same voice that says, “Enough, already,” when I’m having a bad day and hiss a cruel, shallow insult at my reflection, and helps to keep my self-bullying in check.
It’s the voice that told me, “You’re all right,” when I cried in the shower after my fiance left. “Breathe, girl. You’re ok. You’re going to be just fine.”
It’s the voice that called me a super genius last week when I solved a fairly rudimentary math problem at work (maybe a stretch, but I’ll take it).
It’s my voice.
My internal monologue, to be precise. And I’ve recently realized she’s really, really nice.
I’m not sure when or how exactly I developed this habit of half-consciously soothing myself (with pet names, no less!) I wonder if it’s something I developed while living on my own or while living in the country, when my thoughts were often my only company, but, besides the concern that I could be developing multiple personalities, I think it’s kind of great!
My internal monologue says to me the kind of things that I would say to my friends and often, the things my kindest friends would say to me when I need to hear them.
While it’s no substitute for the wise counsel of people who love me, I think it definitely helps get me through rough days and keeps me smiling on good ones.
I wondered if I was alone in this, but reassuringly, my friend Sam says she too has a sweetheart of an inner voice, who frequently refers to her as “Baby Girl,” as she goes about her day.
So either this is fairly normal, or we both caught the same strain of weirdo disease.
Hopefully it’s contagious.
Do you guys ever pay attention to your internal monologue? What does it tell you?
Start calling yourself the thing you are in your heart, the thing your mind bends towards when you dream, the thing your fingers itch to do.
Start describing yourself in terms of the things you do from 5-9. Because we’re not defined by our 9-5s.
The first time I heard Texan lawyer Lainey Balagia’s voice was on a recent episode of the Petecast. The second time I heard her voice was immediately after that when I clicked on a link to listen to her belt out a tune.
Because while the funny and charming Balagia spends her 9-5 practicing law, she spends her 5-9 working away at her other passion: music. Country music, to be precise.
Is it wrong of me to hope that she might be kind of a terrible lawyer? Because let me tell you, this woman is a very talented singer, and it doesn’t seem to be quite fair for her to be equally stellar at both.
When I got in touch with Balagia to get her take on the idea of being defined by our 9-5s she told me that when someone asks her the question “What do you do?” she typically tells them that she is a lawyer, because, “At the end of the day, practicing law is what pays the bills and allows me the financial freedom to perform without being worried about the money associated with music (which is usually little to none by the time the band gets paid). It’s also something to which I devoted three years of graduate school, a hellish summer of bar exam studying, and the majority of every day since then…I delve deeper if they seem like the kind of people who would appreciate my passion, but I find that sticking to “lawyer” ends the kind of conversations that start with “what do you do” more quickly than “singer/songwriter.”
While she’s quick to point out that she is actually passionate about her 9-5 (she describes the law as a logic puzzle with really high stakes), there are a lot of other things that she’d prefer people use to form an opinion about her, including her culinary skills. “If I could do anything in the world other than the things I’m already doing, I’d open my own restaurant and just make 3 specials a day, and it would be magical. And there would be live music at night. And people would call it their second home. And it would just be the very best,” Balagia says.
“My songwriting is really the best way to understand who I am as a person. I think you can listen to my last 2 records and pretty fully understand my sense of humor, my sense of heartache, and my love of literature. That would be a great source if you were attempting to form an opinion outside of my job title. And I have a fantastic wall of Broadway Playbills in my office that I have accumulated over a life of musical theatre nerdiness. It’s my pride and joy.”
As for why she doesn’t just save herself some time and energy and stick to her more lucrative passion, Balagia explains:
“There’s really nothing in the world like the moment when you finish writing a really great song and you’re struck by the notion that something really magical just happened and the fear that it might never happen again. But it does. And when someone tells you that your songs matter to them, that a song helped them make a decision or brought them comfort or just made them sing along with the windows down, that makes you want to do it one more time. Then one more. And one more. And so on.”
Still, she acknowledges that finding a balance between her day job and her music and everything else she manages to fit into her life takes some creative and savvy scheduling. I suggested she must be in possession of one of those time-freeze, spinny necklace things Hermione had so that she could take multiple Hogwarts classes at once.
“I wish. Or a clone. People ask me that all the time and I usually tell them I’m highly medicated and poorly rested. Which is not entirely untrue. But the real answer is that I have to prioritize. If I have too much work to do, I can’t play a show. If I have a huge show, I have to work late the night before and come in early the day of. I leave shows as soon as they’re over so I can get to bed, which prevents me from getting to spend time with people who want to talk after the show, and I hate that I have to do that,” she says.
“But even Superman disappeared as soon as he finished saving someone’s life so that he could get back to Clark Kent’s super dull existence. And you know Superman would have loved to give autographs and sell copies of his biography.”
Fortunately, rather than sapping her (incredible to me) stores of energy, Balagia says music actually energizes her, at least moreso than her 9-5. “When you perform, you get all this wonderful feedback, she elaborates.
“People applaud. They tell you how great you are. They buy things that you created. They take pictures of you. They wear shirts with your name on them. I mean, if I walked into my office every day to applause from the secretarial staff who were all wearing my shirts and singing my songs, I’d probably find more energy there.”
I would give up practicing law the way I do it now. If I could work solely as a full time singer, I would donate my time as a lawyer to people who can’t afford their own counsel. I do that now, but not with the freedom I could if I had another, legitimate source of income.
Interestingly, money is not the largest obstacle Balagia has come across while navigating the music industry.
“Music is still very much a man’s world,” she says. “It’s the same challenge I have faced in law. I’m a woman trying to pursue a dream that is historically dominated by men. In music, I have found that by singing backup for people I’ve been able to get the initial attention needed to direct people to my solo work. But it’s still a system where if you’re a woman, you must be 1) attractive 2) connected and only lastly, 3) talented. Whereas the men in this genre simply have to be connected. So, it’s a challenge.”
Luckily, the rewards for taking on that challenge make it all worthwhile. Balagia has been fortunate enough to play shows with performers she grew up listening to, and has had the opportunity to meet incredibly talented performers and songwriters in the U.S., many of whom she says she might never have heard of if not for being a part of the industry herself.
“I’ve played stages I used to dream of playing. I’ve had people email me out of the blue to tell me how much my music has meant to them. I’ve had my songs played at weddings and funerals. I’ve gotten to be on the radio. I’ve gotten to do really great things like this interview, and my podcast with Peter, and several articles with the Houston Press. All of these things that are so special. I wouldn’t have any of them without music. I’d just be one of those people who sings in her car and cries a lot after too many vodkas.”
I asked Balagia what advice she would give to someone who feels they are too busy working 9-5 to pursue their passions.
“Life is so short. I have lost so many friends over the last decade. People who should have had 90 years but only got 20. For all I know I may get hit by a bus tomorrow. There is no guarantee that you have time. You have today. And if you died tomorrow, would your last day have been spent wishing you were doing something you actually cared about? How awful would that be?” she asks.
“If I die tomorrow, I can say that in this life I sang on the same stage as some of my heroes, ate fried fish with Ray Wylie Hubbard, had a song on the radio and loved a truly wonderful man, all while practicing law in the greatest state in the Union and making my grandmother proud. I could go Home tomorrow and know that I really lived. And if you can’t say that, then it’s time to make a change. Today. Cause you might not have tomorrow.”
She might just have the makings of a song there.