Much Finer

I started this blog February 5th, 2012, almost 6 years ago now. Pop quiz, do any of you readers out there remember why I started it?

Here’s my maiden voyage.

I started this blog because my professional life was a bullshit horrible nightmare that made me want to fling myself off a ledge and I needed something to keep myself motivated and sane. Or if you prefer, I was on a quest for positivity and laughs.

A lot has changed since that first post. I’ve grown, I’ve learned and expanded my world views. I left my first job out of school, took another software job at a different company and started a new chapter of my career. I spent my time there building something truly remarkable with my mentor and friend The Magpie. We added more super awesome people to the mix and our dreams were taking off, for reals yo. And even though a lot has changed in my life in the years since starting this blog, life is comically still the same in so many ways as well. In particular, this blurb of text from a post I wrote in April 2012 when I left my shit job to start something new really makes me laugh:

At this time last year my work life was a fucking black hole of awfulness. The bitch in charge of the training department choose someone else over me as her second in command because I didn’t really care for puckering up to provide the daily rim-job that was apparently required to get anywhere in the company. I was surrounded by slackers and assholes who all wanted to call the shots but not provide any actual results.

I found myself at this very same juncture once again, this summer. Everything is cyclical, it seems. The Magpie and I built something spectacular. We really did, I’m not painting it in a more romantic light. People used to be jealous of my job, they’d say “man, your work looks so cool! What an awesome job you have!” And I did, I had an awesome job that was very fulfilling and meaningful to me. Unfortunately, piss poor leadership from the corner office has been slowly and painfully eroding everything wonderful we’ve built over the years. People who used to believe in the dream started feeling demoralized and depressed. When my friend, and my leader/boss said “fuck this shit, I’m out” it was the watershed moment that made me realize the party really is over. She had to leave, otherwise we’d have stayed there forever, fruitlessly trying to convince ourselves that this thing was still viable. But we both knew, long before she decided officially to leave that the dream was dead with management no longer allowing remarkable individuals to flourish. Instead, hiring a bunch of poser asshole entitled men who want to sit in an office with their C-level titles just delegating instead of actually fucking doing the work that needs to be done to make this company BOOM.

It’s a bullshit boy’s club now. A bunch of rich men patting themselves on the back all day, talking about their fucking yachts and how much money they all make while the rest of us break our backs lining their pockets. I realize such is life, you work to make a rich man richer, but most people in executive level roles at least have the class to not overtly rub lower level employees’ noses in their excesses. I refuse, straight up REFUSE, to work for a company like that. Fuck you, dicknoses! My awesome badass workhorse self is going to go work for someone who actually appreciates it. Not only that, incompetent morons getting promotions that they’ve in no way actually earned just because they have a penis and will kiss any ass for a little power? Ugggh, no. Again, that’s not the right place for me.

I value honesty, kindness, and respect above all else in life. At work, in relationships, friendships, every day life, whatever it is, those three values are everything to me. And we used to have all three in spades at work. But we sure as shit don’t have any of it now, which is why I decided to leave. I also think it’s important to work hard and earn everything you aspire to have, not just expect it to be handed to you because you’re a man and you’re there filling a seat.

I invested so much time and energy into that job, I gave it every last bit of grit I had to get shit done, solve problems, make clients happy, and put us on the fucking map. It wasn’t easy saying goodbye to some of the greatest people I’ve ever worked with, because there are some truly impressive people still working there who have become lifelong friends that I will always cherish. But it was incredibly easy saying “fuck you, peace out” to all of the assholes executives, that’s for sure.

On a more positive note, I had been there for about 5 and a half years. 5 years of my time was absolutely wonderful, one of the best experiences for me professionally in terms of growth and learning, becoming stronger and more capable every day with the responsibilities on my plate. Achieving amazing things with wonderful coworkers who inspired and encouraged me, and helped me do seemingly impossible things. The last 6 months of it, since they decided to hire the stubby little Napoleon fuckhead who ruined everything, sucked. But that’s not so bad statistically, 5 great years vs. 6 horribly unbearable months. I purge the bad memories and bottle up the good times to appreciate for what they were.

I feel happy again. I feel excited about doing something new, changing the tides of my career. I’m going to take a new job somewhere better, where I can already tell my boss is super cool and we’re clicking in that oh-so-amazing way that I know means we’re going to be a killer team. I need that in my life, as someone who seeks constant self-expansion and development, I need to work for someone I respect who has a breadth of experience and knowledge that they’re willing to share, to help me learn from.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the phoenix this month. A powerful, awe-inspiring mythical creature that lives a cyclical life of regeneration and resurgence. The nature of this wondrous creature resonates with me a lot right now. I had to burn down what I had before in 2012 and reset myself to start something new. I find myself doing the same thing once again. I burn down that part of my career and myself, incinerating all of files of knowledge in my head dedicated to that software, that industry, those clients. I arise from the ashes, regenerate myself stronger than before, with a fresh mindset and open heart. Ready to take action, ready to build again. Ready to fly, to soar.

It makes sense, burn the past and move on so you can embrace the future. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. I’ll come back more magnificent than the last time. There’s a phoenix in this heart of mine, keeping us on course and cycling us through my life journey. I trust it’s razor-sharp reflexes and immaculate steering, it knows when it’s time to start over and when to take flight. I’m ready for this next chapter and excited to see what the future holds.

It’s all good vibes again, the universe is singing to me and she sounds a hell of a lot like Kathleen Hanna these days. Singing super rad songs of empowerment, resurgence, and badassery galore! And I am kick fight superstar dancing my ass off at her party. Feels fucking fantastic, man.

Don’t you know? It’s our dance-floor.

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How to Turn 30

This is a story I’ve been wanting to tell for a while, but gosh darn it, I just haven’t had the time! But lucky for you, today I do. So pack your bags and hop in the time machine bitches, we’re headed back to April 2017 for this one. (I know it’s not that far of a flashback, so you can pack light, definitely won’t need your jammies, but maybe a light snack?)

Getting older, huh? That’s a thing, I guess. I’ve never felt old a day in my life. I’ve never fretted about age much. I’m not vain, I don’t give a shit about all that superficial wrinkles and bemoaning the loss of one’s youth, it’s not for me. Take care of yourself, sure. But you’re gunna get old and your tits are gunna hit the floor one day, that’s a fact. You can’t fight city hall, amiright?

I believe that life is a weird and wonderful gift from who knows where and it’s best to just take the biggest, most slobbery bite out of every day you get, because you never know when the buffet will close down for good. Chow down and drink up every last drop of life you’re served. That’s why I love the fucking SHIT out of my birthday. I’m just so happy to be here at all. Getting older means that you add on another year, but also that you’ve hopefully filed away a ton of amazing new memories from that past year to the story of you. And the year ahead is rife with limitless possibilities for more!

Thursday April 20, 2017:
I wake up, and I am officially 30 years old. No more fancy-free, footloose 20’s for me.

I took the day off of work because I wanted the whole day all to myself. So I could do whatever the hell I wanted and spend time thinking about the decade past and the decade ahead. Who have I become? Who will I become in another 10 years? What did I learn? What did I do that will forever make me smile and say, “Godammit, I knew how to live!”

It was kind of sad at first though because I went into it initially feeling disappointed with myself. I was upset about the loss of something very dear to me. Years ago I’d written a letter to myself, only to be opened on my 30th birthday. I thought I knew exactly where I stashed it, but apparently not. A few days prior to my birthday, I went to my assumed secure hiding spot and discovered my letter wasn’t there. I searched all over the place, practically tearing my hair out, so desperate to find that one direct link to a 20-year old me. I couldn’t remember a single word I’d written to myself and I wanted so badly to see that girl again, to see how hopeful she was and compare notes with the woman I am now. But it never did show up. One too many moves over the years I suppose, c’est la vie…

So that was a sucky thing, but only for a moment. I simply refuse to allow any disappointment big or small to hold me back, not today, not ever.

First thing on my agenda for a full day of birthday me time? To the spa of course! I booked myself an exorbitantly priced deluxe facial treatment at Pure and Simple. I love myself, so I’m going to treat myself like the queen that I am. And oh my sweet god in heaven, it was gooood! What was even better? Unbeknownst to me, D called a few days prior and paid for my spa day upfront because he is gentleman and a scholar. Thank you, darling for giving me the gift of flawless skin on my special day.

After the spa, I was looking good and feeling fresh. I snapped a no makeup selfie for instagram to commemorate this feeling. And so I could look back through the cobwebs in however many years and say “yeah, that was me and I loved that badass chick.”

I was feeling hella hungry afterwards, and I needed to refuel. I knew exactly what I wanted next:

Blueberry pancakes smothered in brown sugar butter served with a side of butcher’s crack bacon. Oh honey, yaaasssss! Got this stack of hotcakes at a cool ass diner called Old School at Dundas and Palmerston Ave. I walked in, it was pretty chill for a Thursday mid-morning, and grabbed a seat. There was a super adorable punky couple at the table beside me and I overheard the dude tell the server it was his 23rd birthday. Yay, I love meeting a fellow 4/20 birthday twin! I went “Holy shit dude, me too! Happy frigging birthday man!” And he was so jazzed about it. We birthday high-fived and then his girl paid the check and they went their merry way. It was a good omen.

Oh right, back to the pancakes. They were unreal! Literally the only thing I thought about for a month straight afterwards. And I’ll tell you this people, I ate every single bite in that skillet. Hell, I almost licked that skillet clean but then reminded myself that I’m 30 now, so I should control myself from doing desperate shit like that, at least when I’m in public anyways.

As I was about ready to settle the bill, my server came up to the table and handed me a GIANT COOKIE! My pal The Magpie had called the diner up because she knew I was there and bought me a birthday cookie as a post-breakfast treat. At that point, I honestly starting feeling like a real baller. Everywhere I went people were like “oh, blah blah paid your bill, or bought you stuff.” It was fucking fantastic.

I didn’t know if I was going to be able to walk after that, but walk I did. I strolled around the city and found myself at TOT Cat Cafe near College and Spadina. I wasn’t hungry at all, so I just donated $10.00 to the cafe to play with the cats.

I was at the Cat Cafe for almost two hours! Usually when I go in there with D he’s all “yeah great, they’re so cute but I don’t want to be here all day” and then herds me out after like twenty minutes. Not today though! Not on my birthday. I took my time playing with, petting, and fawning all over every special little kitty in there. They were all so frigging cute.

I wanted to stay there all day, but two hours seemed like it was plenty. I brushed all the fur off my shirt and headed out. I went to Kensington Market after that, and I took my sweet ass time. Walking around, checking out the shops, enjoying the day. I tried on some hats and wondered if I should start becoming a brooch person now that I’m 30. I could be dripping in brooches and elegance!

Ultimately, I decided I’m still to young for that, but maybe for 40?

I started thinking about 40 a lot on the walk home. How far away it was, how I had a brand new decade ahead of me to do whatever I wanted with. I got home and then I brewed myself a spot o tea. Inspiration was flowing and dreams were percolating so I sat down and I started writing a new letter. Even though I really wanted my letter for 30 to reference, it was okay without it. I wrote out all the stuff I hoped and dreamed that a 40-year old Smash would do and be proud of when she looked back.

I hid it in a spot that I absolutely 100% will not lose track of it. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

It was pretty much workday done by the time I finished, then D got home and we ordered an absurd amount of Chinese food. We feasted and I told him all about my day. Then I told him it’s not even close to over yet because we are going out partying and we’re gunna burn the motherfucking house down! He was more than agreeable.

We hopped in a cab and barreled our way towards fun at one of my all-time favourite places, The Office Pub, for Thursday night Karaoke madness. Two of my most cherished pals, The Magpie and DJ Gibbs met us there with their pipes all warmed up and ready to sing. It was the best night, we went apeshit on the mic and on the d-floor. I loved every second of it and I don’t ever want to forget that night.

We closed the place down that night, singing and dancing until the lights came on. Then we hugged the karaoke host because he was the coolest guy on the planet and told him how thankful we were for his service that night. He did a hell of a job allowing us to make merry all over the place.

We worked up a real drunk and crazy appetite and went to get some burgers at the A&W down the street. My face hurt from laughing so much. The Magpie, D, and DJ Gibbs were at an all-time hilarity peak and they were killing me with their jokes and zaniness!

I put that A&W bag on my head and it was game over. This might be one of my most favourite pictures of all time because it STILL makes me laugh to the point of tears when I see it.

D and I hopped in a cab and I smiled the whole way home. I’ve been blessed by the love of so many wonderful friends. The Magpie and DJ Gibbs are two very special people and I appreciate the hell of them for making April 20th, 2017 one of the highest highs of my life so far.

Harv greeted us at the door when we got home and shared some special birthday kitty kisses with me.

I love D and Harv so much. This is our family and we’ve got our own amazing thing going on. I don’t know how the fuck I lucked out so much, but I’m thankful for the both of them every single day. They make my heart whole.

The birthday fun didn’t stop that night either, that was just the day of! D threw me a huge surprise partaaaay on the Saturday night that followed and it was a killer time too. But that’s a whole other story in itself…

So there you have it, folks. I turned 30, and that’s how I did it. I took the fucking bull by the horns and made 30 my bitch. I very much recommend that everyone else does the same. For any birthday, any age! Love your birthday, embrace it, be thankful when the universe bestows a birthday upon you because you never know how many it will give. And you need to make the most of every single one.

Every day is an opportunity to live the life you want to live.

Dear Ashley

I’m hoping that this might help you, girl. Because you need something, and I know it has to come from within. I’m the only one who can give you exactly what’s needed in this moment of complete, abject shittiness.

This is your heart speaking, so stop what you’re doing and listen up.

Writing always helps, you know that it does. There’s that immediate release, that catharsis, sure. That’s very important right now. You have to work through all of the feelings, unpack all the shit you’ve crammed into convenient little boxes and stowed out of sight just so you could get through the days. Rip them all open, tear through them, look and see what’s inside and figure out what stays and what goes. You can’t keep it all, it’s too huge a burden. You’re going to have to let some of it go and eventually make room for new stuff. Then you can reflect, conclude, understand, decide. It might still feel murky for a while, but I know you, and I know you’ll want to write so you can document the journey and so you can reflect on it properly later on.

Looking back is painful, but ultimately, insightful. It’s how you’ll grow, how you’ll persevere.

I know you’re tired. You’ve been through a lot. You’re still going through a lot and you’re not used to drastic highs and crushing lows being the norm. The very mention of perseverance made you tremble. You hate change, you hate it so much. Especially when you have no control over it, can’t stop it or slow it down. Transitioning is hard for you because you get so attached to the way things were. Goodbyes are gut-wrenching, getting over it sucks. Old photos might make you smile at times, but also stir up indescribable sadness. Aching for something that once was and never will be again. It’s a strange masochistic thing you do to yourself, remembering things too vividly, too fondly. Unable to appreciate what’s present and what’s now, until before you know it that’s gone and slipped through your fingers too.

Where does that leave us?

You’re tired and sad. You feel abandoned and rejected. Everything within is in a state of constant conflict. You can’t shut off the negativity and doubt. Some days you do feel a small, hopeful flicker of optimism; even if it hasn’t lasted at least it’s there. And that’s why now is the ideal time for me to intervene, before we hit the point of no return.

I need you to hear these things, really. Not with your ears, with your soul. Take what I’m about to tell you and absorb it wholly into your being.

  1. First and foremost, you are a goddamn Warrior Queen. Capital W, capital Q.
    You came out swinging! From within the womb you faced down your own highly probable death and conquered it. You wanted to live, you wanted to be here, you fought for it right from the start. Always remember that. That fight and that mettle exists at the very core of your being and you will always have it whenever you need it to overcome the impossible. Your heart and your spirit are indomitable.
  2. You have impeccable instincts, I mean really, are you ever wrong?
    Not about the stuff that matters. Not about people and trust. You can size someone up and know right away what their deal is. How many times have you said “there’s something off about blah blah” only to be proven exactly 100% right. You can see through all the garbage with your laser sharp, highly focused senses and put those bullshitters on the no fly list where they belong.
  3. Honesty is the only policy.
    You’ve never been one to dabble in lies, deceptions, or manipulations. Why start now? We ain’t got no time for that. It’s stupid futility going down that path. Maybe it works for some people, but not us. We can never go wrong with our upfront, straight-shooter approach to life. To truly live life to the fullest is to embrace complete and utter honesty with oneself and the people you care about.
  4. You’ve come a long way, and you’ll continue to go a long way.
    A “complete” person doesn’t exist. If you think you’re a “completed” person with nothing else to learn, achieve, or contribute then you’re either dull and uninspiring or pathetic and sad. All four, you’re all four of those things if you think you’re done as a human being, fully cooked and ready to serve. Growing, evolving, maturing, and expanding are so very important. Everything that happens in life is an opportunity to improve. Those who see that too and know it in their souls are your kind of people. That’s who you want to be surrounded by, people who care to improve and evolve themselves.
  5. Trust the universe, it’s always looking out for you.
    You’re not used to topsy-turvy emotions or indecision. You know your own mind. You’ve always known exactly what you want, you just have to stay tuned in to the funky disco jams of the universe telling you where the party at. Everything unfolds as it should, everything falls into place as it should. You can’t force it, you just know when it feels right. Keep your ears open, the universe is singing. It might be some busted broken somebody done somebody wrong jive that you’re not digging now but it’ll change the tune eventually. Just be ready to dance when it does.
  6. You’re not alone
    This is the most important one. I know you come from a long line of people who internalize their feelings. People who minimize and shun emotional overtures and misconstrue the viselike grip of control they have on their emotions as strength. But you know that isn’t the right way for you. Suppressing your feelings does not equal strength. Having the balls to feel what you feel, good or bad, right down into the marrow of your bones is strength. The people who get that and provide you unencumbered space to feel are the ones worth a damn in this life. You don’t trust easily, and you don’t just give your heart away. The people you’ve chosen to share your heart and soul with, the people who have withstood disastrous lows and enjoyed dazzling highs with you, are always going to be there. Do not give old wounds the power to stop you from making meaningful connections and sharing your heart again.

Please remember these things. Please, please. They are very important.

I don’t know how we’re going to sort this out in the end. There are no guarantees in life, but I do know that I am still and will always be your one true constant. When you feel lonely and the aching starts to get unbearable, I’m still here. I’m still beating, still pumping, moving you along. We’re gunna dance this mess around together, like we always do.

Snowy Day Memories

It was quiet this morning when I woke up. And calm, very calm. I could feel Harvey’s warm little body at the end of the bed, nestled against my legs. He loves sleeping in as much as I do. I stretched and opened my eyes. The daylight peeking through the blinds hinted at another drab winter day. Time to rise, no shine permitted today though.

I was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw when I stepped into the living room. Huge, incredibly fluffy snowflakes were swirling and twirling all around outside. The roads and rooftops had all been blanketed in crisp white snow. Watching it fall, fluttering to the ground in fat sticky flakes made me feel like I was inside a snow globe. It was beautiful, and about damn time.

snowy days

Our winter hasn’t been very magical at all this year. It’s been downright depressing actually. We’ve had barren, snowless grey days and bizarre temperature spikes, where it feels practically balmy one day then aggressively cold the next. We’ve had more rain than snow, and it’s been a bloody nuisance. I’d take snow over rain any day. It makes me so happy seeing actual snow, falling with purpose, taking off its coat to stay a while. My heart rejoiced watching the snow fall, unrelentingly, all morning long. There it is, there’s the winter I know and love. Winter is all about snow. I love the feeling of snow falling down all around me. Snowflakes sticking to my hair and coat. Tromping through the snow in thick clunky boots. Mischievously balling it up to toss at someone unsuspecting.

I remember winter stretching out forever when I was a kid. Long endlessly sunny and snowy days out in the burbs, my sisters and I laughing and playing with our neighbourhood friends. Building snow forts, making snow angels, having snowball fights, sledding down huge mountains of plowed snow in the library parking lot. Racing down the snow banks on our Krazy Karpets with reckless abandon. Being told to come in for a hot lunch, soup and grilled cheese, to warm us up. We’d come home, blasting through the front door like a pack of wild dogs, hungry and hyper from our morning adventures. Peeling ourselves out of our snowsuits, so impatient to be free of them. Boots, hats, mittens, socks, and scarves cast off and flung all over the foyer, Mom rounding up all those winter necessities and dispersing them throughout the house to dry over heating vents and radiators.

We’d scarf lunch down like we hadn’t eaten in days, recouping all the energy burned that morning. Stockpiling more energy, fuelling up, eager to get back outside again for more snowy fun. My imagination already a hundred miles ahead of itself, dreaming up an outlandish afternoon caper. That’s all you needed back then to be happy, a fresh snowfall, some pals, and your imagination.

I have fond memories of super special winter days when my dad would take us skating. He’d shovel off a sizeable patch of pond, over at the golf course, where nobody would bother us. My sisters and I had the whole pond to ourselves, around and around we’d go, skating until our legs were jelly. Skating until the sun started setting. Begging our dad for just five more minutes, please!

I remember a whole day spent sledding with my family, mom and dad, my sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins. Everyone was there. Again over at the golf course, at the back, off of the 16th or 17th hole I think. Where the snow was freshly fallen, completely untouched, not a track or footprint in it. Where nobody else would be, our secret sledding place. The hill was steep, so enormously steep. It was a long ride down and a difficult climb back up. Dad and the uncles would pull us kids back up the hill on the sleds when we whined about having to climb it, only to launch us back down it again once we reached the top. I watched with shock as my older sister went whizzing down the hill at an incredible speed, narrowly missing the trunk of a massive pine tree. A close call if ever there was one. I remember tripping up the hill, falling face first into it, getting the neckline of my coat full of snow. Being dusted off by my mom and sent back on my way. We all went back to my Oma and Opa’s house afterwards, to warm up by the wood stove and sip hot chocolate.

We still talk about that day at family get togethers. That perfect winter day following an enormous overnight snowfall. The sun was out and the air was crisp. The day primed for adventure. Everyones hearts overflowing with laughter and joy.

That’s the winter I know and love best, snowy and enchanting. Inviting endless possibility and glee, promising lots of lovely memories. I hope today that some lucky little kids got to have a day of perfect winter fun with their siblings and friends, like I got to plenty of times growing up.

Knit 1, Purl 1, Knit 1, Purl 1…

I’m the kind of person who has a billion hobbies and is always searching for more. I go through phases, or cycles of them. I’ll find something interesting and engaging, throw myself into it wholeheartedly and see where it takes me. I have a lot of creative energy, it makes me feel happy and fulfilled to craft or create. That feeling of accomplishment when you’ve produced something is a rush like no other. It makes me feel interesting and special, crafty and crazy. But most importantly, it’s an outlet. For all the thoughts, feelings, dreams, and internal strangeness that cannot be expressed any other way. If you’re a fellow zany, creative, crafter type, you’ll know what I mean.

A couple of autumns ago, I fell in love with ponchos. It was one of those days where you think it’s going to be warmer than it is, but the season is taking that sharp turn from refreshing crispness in the air to face numbing harshness. D and I planned to be out, walking around the city for a bit. I thought I’d be fine, but I wasn’t. We jumped in a shop and I started looking for an extra layer of warmth so we could carry on with our day. I found this gorgeous navy blue poncho with a cozy cowled neckline and lovely red accent stripes that appealed perfectly to my sense of style. For forty bucks, it was a steal. It started me wanting to buy and wear only ponchos and big chunky sweaters all the time. Shopping is great, but sometimes you find things that you would almost buy, but then not. Because something isn’t quite right enough to merit a purchase. If only something could be done or changed to make it more you.

I started thinking about how awesome it would be if I could just knit my own ponchos and sweaters. That idea simmered in the back of my brain for a while, I was still consumed with wedding plans and other things. It would have to wait, I’d circle back later. And life went on.

Flash forward a couple of years, the weather starting to dip into colder territory again, I was digging into the depths of the closet to pull out all of my ponchos and sweaters for another cozy autumn. I was starting to feel restless with current creative endeavours. It was time to pivot, try something new. That thought of knitting my own things started to heat up again, bubbling and eventually boiling over. I wanted desperately to start knitting, I could think of nothing else. I needed to try it, see if it was something I could do.

I thought I could just waltz into the craft store, grab a knitting magazine and some yarn then get started. I’m no virgin crafter, I’ve seen some shit in my time, man. Trust me, some crazy shit. I got this.

Wrong. I was wrong, all wrong, I take it back. Totally, utterly wrong on all the levels. There is so much to know about knitting! It’s overwhelming actually. And I’m very tactile. Seeing, seeing, and seeing again, then repeating is what I need to process and understand how to do something that’s totally new to me. I need help and feedback, lots of it. So I did some googling and I found this wonderful little shop in the west end that offered classes. I registered right away and I was so excited. So very excited. I’m going to learn something new, I’m going to knit!

I could think of nothing else the day of my first class. I couldn’t wait to finish work and dash off, yarn and needles in tow. I was the first one to arrive, helplessly early, twenty-five minutes early. That’s too early! But that’s who I am, eager and enthusiastic. The instructor was very warm and welcoming. She sat me at a table in the back of the shop and took the skein of yarn I’d purchased a few days earlier. She placed it on this amazing contraption she called a “swift”. Round and round the swift turned, I was mesmerized. It transformed that skein of yarn into a fat little ball that she then called a “cake”. So many new terms!

Other classmates started arriving, mirroring back at me the same mingled expression of trepidation and excitement. There were seven of us total, all women, all knitting n00bs. Everyone was so friendly and encouraging. I loved that, I didn’t know there’d be this great social element.

It was hard at first. Trying to hold the needles in a way that felt right, they were so foreign to me. We started with casting on. The only place you can start. And it was tricky, but I got it figured out. Then we talked about muscle memory and the knit stitch. Everything felt so floppy and uncertain. I felt floppy and uncertain! I didn’t know what to do after I had knit my first row, what was next? The girl beside me told me to just do it again. Move the needle back to my dominant hand and do that same thing again. Mind. Blown. So this is knitting! Huh.

I got home and showed D the few little rows I had knit, I was so proud of myself.

first knit rows

D was excited for me. He loved how happy I was. But I struggled with the yarn I chose. It was too fine for my beginner’s hands. I took it off the needles and “frogged” it, another fun new term meaning that I destroyed all progress and went back to start. I bought larger needles and bulkier yarn. I started again.

bulkier!

That felt better. I could see the stitches more easily and make corrections when I messed up. I started to feel really good about it as the yarn grew longer. I loved feeling the yarn, watching it expand row after row. And I knew this wasn’t just another hobby, it was a lifelong passion.

I had three more classes, one a week. We learned how to purl, how to read patterns, weaving in our ends, planning projects, and so much more. We learned how to make hats using “DPNs” or double-pointed needles. We were knitting “in the round”, “tinking”, and “ktogging” with confidence! It was wonderful.

I’ve been very productive since that class, knitting up a storm. I love the way it makes me feel. It’s so rhythmic and relaxing. I feel inspired by so many things, the possibilities from here are endless.

My first attempt knitting in the round…

in the round

Wearing the first scarf I ever finished…

my first scarf

Crazy leg warmers!

leg warmers!

The infinity scarf I knit for my lovely friend the Magpie for Christmas. She loves it so much and that makes me so happy!

peattie's scarf

The first hat I ever knit, successfully. I gave it to my uncle who is so very proud and impressed with my work. And he’s worn it everyday since I gave it to him, even though it’s purple. He’s so rad.

wienie's cap

A teeny tiny little scarf I knit with leftover yarn for Harv, haha. (He actually hates it so much.)

Harv's scarf

And the project I’m most proud of so far, the seed stitch scarf I made for myself, with that very first ball of yarn I bought. This is a real accomplishment. I had almost written that ball of yarn off altogether because it was so tough at first. But after some practice with the bulkier yarns, my skills started getting better, and I felt brave enough to try it again. Progress was slower, but I had the patience for it now.

my fave scarf

I love this scarf so much. The texture is divine, I’m obsessed with seed stitch. I made this, me. I can’t stop marvelling at the fact that I knew nothing about knitting three months ago, and now I’ve made so many things. Damn, that feels good.

I love knitting, it is the greatest. It makes me feel so purposeful and inspired. And although I’m nowhere near ready to start knitting my own ponchos, I’m headed in that direction and I know I’ll get there eventually. I’m enjoying the journey, I don’t need to rush it. I have a dream that is simmering for now. One day in the near future, when it’s time, that dream will start to bubble and boil over too.

Words for Nana

My Nana passed away last week. My cool, awesome, adorable, totally rad nana. My mom called last Monday night to tell me. We knew things weren’t good, but I didn’t expect it to happen as quickly as it did. It sucks.

My mom also asked me to write something to read aloud at the funeral, she said she trusted me to find the right words. Nana used to love reading my blog, she was so proud of me for writing. It wasn’t easy, but I would never refuse my Nana anything. I thought about it constantly in the days leading up to the funeral. Planning, writing, re-writing, editing, revising, reading, reading aloud. It had to be perfect, nothing less would do. Writing this piece helped me work through my grief, it helped me find closure and say goodbye. I’m so glad I got a chance to honour her memory in such a personal way; a way that I know she would have loved.

And so, here it is.

For Nana

There was this project I had to do in the tenth grade, for one of my English classes, an interview with a grandparent. The point was to learn how to conduct and transcribe an interview, but also to connect and learn about someone else’s life, to gain some perspective. I chose Nana to interview because I thought it would be fun. And it was. It was always fun spending time with her. But it was also a very meaningful experience because of how candidly she spoke about her life. We talked about everything… her siblings, her marriages, her kids, her homes, her travels and how she felt about all of it. Her stories were full of ups and downs, laughter and sadness. She told all of it to me like it was, she didn’t gloss over any of the tougher details and none of it was romanticized either. She was very matter of fact about it all.

It certainly wasn’t an easy life from the start, there were a lot of painful memories early on. We talked in-depth about what it was like for her to lose her mom at such a young age and to have to quit school to help raise her siblings. That tragedy set the tone for her life; after such a significant loss she had to grow up fast. She became first and foremost a caregiver and a nurturer. Someone who helped, guided, supported, and cared for everyone else. She always put the needs of everyone else first, and she sacrificed a lot doing that. Never once did I get a sense that she was complaining about it or feeling sorry for herself because that’s just what she had to do. That’s a core fundamental of who she was as a person, you always did whatever you could for family, without hesitation. That was very important to her.

She went through a lot, her entire life she was constantly having to rise to the challenges set before her. Helping her bereft father run the household and raise her siblings. Starting a family of her own and then having to go through the process of divorce before it became common to everyday life. Marrying again, having more children, seeing them grown and start lives of their own, then being widowed. She went through so much, and she did it all with a lightness in her heart that is just unimaginable to me. But again it comes back to her learning at a young age that such is life. You just have to keep going and you find it within yourself to keep giving as much of yourself as you can to the people who need it.

A recurring theme throughout all of the stories she told me was that even though times may have been tough, there was always something to be thankful for. They didn’t have much growing up, but they had each other. There was still so much love and fun all around her, wherever she went. She brought that fun-loving energy with her to everything she did. A coin has two-sides though, and I learned that despite her easygoing demeanour she was a very strong person. She had a quiet kind of strength though, it ran deeply, worked behind the scenes. She could find it when she needed it and use it to keep moving forward. But she didn’t make any scenes about it, or ask for any special attention, she just did it. Having to be so strong and shoulder everyone else’s worries throughout the many varied phases of her life didn’t define her. She didn’t let any of the hardships change her attitude or outlook. Tragedy would strike, and she would keep moving, she’d get through it, she knew how.

Later on, she married again, to Poppa Al, and the second half of her life she could finally begin putting herself and her dreams first. They travelled together, a lot when they first got married and that made her so happy. She saw the world. She rode around on Poppa’s motorcycle. She walked on the Great Wall of China! I remember how thrilling it was for her, telling her grandkids all about Beijing, bringing us back beautiful treasures she knew we’d love. She was finally getting to have her own adventures and do things she never thought she’d get a chance to. She loved being a mother and grandmother. A great-grandmother too! Her kids and all of their kids were her proudest accomplishment, she said that to me. But finally getting to travel and experience more of life made her feel young.

And that’s what I remember the most about her, her youthfulness. Never, not once did I ever think of her as an old lady. She was way too hip and stylish to be an old lady.

She had a beautiful, charming laugh that matched the knowing twinkle in her eye. She was funny and sassy, quick with her wit. She had a keen sense of humour and knew how to use it; we all laughed a lot with Nana. And she was a social butterfly, she loved meeting people, making friends. She forged lasting, meaningful connections with everyone she met because she was genuinely interested in and cared about others. When she hugged you, you felt it right down in your soul. Because she loved you unconditionally and you could feel it.

She was an incredible person. She was encouraging, generous, compassionate, and wise. Which is why this loss feels so unbearable to all of us, she was the heart and soul of our family. It’s hard to know what to feel and what to do from here. But we’re not alone, we’ve always got each other and Nana would want us to be strong together. Do lots of hugging, find ways to laugh. She’d want us to take care of each other, same as she always took care of us when we needed it.

I’m so grateful that I got to spend the time with her that I did. Every moment in her company was a joy. And I know there isn’t a person here who doesn’t feel the same.

Thank you, Nana. Thank you for sharing your stories with me, for helping me with my project all those years ago. And thank you for being such a remarkable role model, you’ve had more of an impact on the lives around you than you might have realized. You showed us how it’s done, with dignity and class. You are so loved, and you will be missed, deeply.

Nana

That Night in Toronto…

If you read this blog, you know me. You know that in my core, in my bones, I am passionately, proudly Canadian. I’m a hoser, man. Through and through. I fucking love the shit out of Canada and I am especially proud of our incredible music. I could get lost in Rush for days. The first concert I ever went to was Bryan Adams. I worship The Barenaked Ladies and hum Crash Test Dummies in my sleep. And honestly, I know the words to a lot more Shania Twain songs than people even realize. If I listed here every single Canadian artist on my iPod right now, you’d get dizzy. CanRock is everything. It’s just simply a fundamental of who I am.

And yet, none of these gods or goddesses in the great CanRock pantheon come even remotely close to inspiring the devotion in me that The Tragically Hip does. This band is Canada itself, personified. Their music reaches me on a cellular level and connects to parts of me that nothing else can. And I’m not being intentionally hyperbolic, this is serious shit. If there’s music in your life that you fucking love like I love The Hip then you get it. If you’re some kind of weirdo that doesn’t even like music then I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry that you’ll never know what it’s like to be affected on every level of your being by artistry so divine. Artistry that nurtures and nourishes your soul. It’s crazy, but that’s what it is. It’s the life-sustaining thing that my soul needs. I need The Hip’s music like I need air to breathe.

That’s what I thought when I heard the news about Gord; the air that I need to breathe, to live, is being taken away.

Yeah, I’ll always have their music right at my fingertips anytime I want it. But knowing that there will eventually be an end to it, no more new stuff to get lost in, its unbearable. I’m not a “just the hits” kind of gal, I live for it all.

Deciding to tour after going public with Gord’s news about the incurable brain cancer was absolutely the right thing for the band to do, the only thing. And after the concert on Wednesday night, I’m convinced that he’s immortal anyways. Cancer won’t kill Gord. When he’s good and ready he’ll just decide to start his next chapter, that’s all it is. Cancer doesn’t get to have a say, Gord’s in charge and he does things his own unique way, he always has and he always will. It’s why I love him so much. That casual cavalier who-gives-a-fuck-what-anyone-thinks approach to just being himself, it’s inspiring.

I’ve seen The Hip live a number of times, and you never get the same show twice. You can’t ever tell what Gord will do next and it’s thrilling. You follow where he leads and you love every goddamn minute of it, that’s how you experience The Hip.

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the first in a series of three Toronto shows on their final tour. I got hosed on the pre-sale and the general public sale, but a couple of weeks later when more tickets were released I’m convinced that my kind and generous CanRock Gods let favour swing my way. Like I said, I’m bonkers for this band. While I saw plenty of other people give up saying “I’ve seen them before, guess that’ll do”, I wasn’t willing to give up hope so easily. I thought about it every single day. I even considered shelling out thousands for platinum seats in more feverish moments. If it came down to it, sure, I’d bend the knee for the StubHub lords, whatever it took. I just felt it, that I would go to this show. I needed to be there and the universe gladly obliged. I got an email through the fan club about more tickets being released, I marked it in my calendar and I wished with all my might. The day of the sale, it all worked out and I’m eternally grateful.

When the tour started I devoured every single piece of news about it. I loved seeing the band’s set lists on their Instagram account. I read so many fan reviews and stories about the shows. All of it just stoking the fire of my anticipation. Waiting was excruciating, but so worth it. It was impossible not to get emotional any time someone asked me about the show. I feel my feelings quite freely, no shame in that, and plenty of times I cried just telling people what this concert means to me personally. And most of the people I talked to were kind enough to not call me insane directly to my face, instead they probably thought it politely in their heads while nodding along, which I appreciated.

And then all of a sudden it was time.

5 minutes

This night will live in my heart forever.

the hip show

We had rear view seats, which I was a little worried about, but turned out amazingly well. There were massive screens on all four sides of the stage, so we didn’t miss a single thing. I saw every beautiful nuance of Gordie’s face while he sang to us. It was also really cool getting to see the bulk of the audience facing us, seeing what the band sees when they play to these sold-out maniacal crowds. What an amazing view!

audience

And the setup with the screens was perfect. Gord knew where the cameras were and he didn’t shy away from them at all. He loved using the cameras as a way to connect with everyone. There was this really wonderful moment where he just stared straight into the lens, a myriad of expressions passing across his face, and it felt like he was looking right at you, looking into you. Such a special thing, it allowed 20,000 people to feel like they got to have one personal moment with Gord.

They played so many great songs. The Hip have the most incredibly robust catalogue. So many crowd pleasers, too many for one performance. Some fantastic deep cuts too, stuff that is just always so surprising, but awesome to hear live. The new material fit right in. What Blue and Tired As Fuck felt like they were old gems I’ve always loved. Grace Too, 50 Mission Cap, Lake Fever, Little Bones, Three Pistols, Music at Work, Fully Completely, Wheat Kings… they just gave and gave.

Gordie

I expected to cry the whole time, to just be overcome. But I wasn’t. We rocked the fuck out, the band made sure of it. They played for over two and half hours and while there were lots of emotional moments peppered throughout the evening, the overall tone was much more triumphant than sad. It was a passionate and heady performance. I cried as soon as I heard the first few notes of Fiddler’s Green mostly because that’s just such a weighty song anyways. And again I cried hearing one of my personal favourites, Ahead By a Century… that lyric “disappointing you is getting me down” just felt too real.

But the most emotional moment of the whole concert was after the encore, Bobcaygeon, when Gordie bowed to the crowd and said “Thank you, Toronto. Thank you forever.” Instant waterfall of tears. Bawling, all of us, a whole stadium of people.

Gordie

It couldn’t last forever though, no matter how much I wished it would. All things end.

When it was time to say goodbye we cheered our hearts out for Gordie for a full three minutes while he stood there soaking it in, waving and bowing so appreciatively back at us. A thunderous amount of love for the man who means and has meant so much to so many of us, to this nation, for over 30 years. That was our moment to say what we needed to say to this great man. We fucking love you. So much.

You can watch it, our applause for Gord. And if you couldn’t get the tickets that you desperately wanted for one of the shows, I’m sorry. That fucking sucks. But you can take comfort in this little sliver of the magic that I bottled up and saved for you:

Best concert ever. Period.

The Hip

I’ll never forget that night in Toronto.

Your Son is Wonderful, Mrs. Hoben

Don’t any of you bother with housewarming gifts because my buddy Hoben has already won. He can’t be beat. I don’t even think I’ll be able to speak to it properly, it just so totally blows me away. But I’ll try anyways and hopefully won’t wind up sounding all syrupy and hyperbolic.

I’ve been friends with Hoben for a long time now, over a decade. And those of you who’ve been reading this site for a while might even remember I’ve spoken about our friendship before and how awesome it is. I’ve told you about how he started the grand tradition of deckers and how through him I met D. I’ve mentioned how fantastic his parents are, Glenn and Gloria, for always letting us kids pal around and party on their deck. Hell, I name-dropped the Hobens and their deck in my wedding vows and the speech I gave that night because it’s such a wonderful detail of my love story with D. Detail seems too small. It’s the cornerstone of our story, really.

My buddy Hoben is a party animal. He’s fun and funny. But he’s also accurately described as prickly, curmudgeonly, and belligerent. Especially belligerent. It’s a point of pride for him, so don’t misconstrue what I’m saying as insult. He’s got a big heart, too. It goes with his big wise-cracking mouth. And I’m realizing now that he’s also sentimental and tremendously thoughtful.

You can only imagine how I felt when he handed me this last weekend:

the step

The first step off of his parents deck. Re-painted, beautifully, with our names and possibly the most apt description I’ve ever seen.

It is the literal first step in our relationship. I can’t even begin to thank Hoben for how fucking awesome and amazing this gift is and how much it means to us. All I can say is that I’m so goddamn lucky to have such a thoughtful and caring friend.

You’re the best Hobs, we love you.

piece of the deck

And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get lucky. Maybe he’ll drunkenly conceive the first Hoben grandchild with Shannie on my floor or something and I can pry up the floorboard and gift it back to him. You know, even things out a little.

Insta-Obsessed!

I’m pretty sure I’ve told you guys about how I was a really staunch holdout on getting a new cell phone, right? I got my first cell phone in April 2012 and I was twenty-five years old. People thought it was weird that I went that long without having any form of cell phone at all, but I kind of loved being out of touch with the world. I could go and live my life and nobody could ever get a hold of me. It was awesome. It irritated D to no end, but that was a minor detail. People always had these great stories about how difficult it was to “track me down” and I exalted in that chase, I really did.

Then, when I finally caved and got a phone people made fun of me for getting a Blackberry Curve. It was 2012 for chrissakes! Blackberry had fallen. What the hell was wrong with me? But I’ll tell you, I loved that little thing. What it lacked in style and current-ness it made up for with that amazing little QWERTY keypad. I could pump out text messages and emails like nobody’s business. My fingers lightning fast with LOLs and OMGs.

I cherished that phone. When the battery started trudging along, getting weak and needing to charge every few hours, I’d just order another one from Amazon for like six bucks. I had a sweet ass grandfathered plan that basically gave me unlimited data and I loved the Brickbreaker game that was pre-installed. Many a slow subway ride home I spent breaking bricks and avoiding eye contact with whatever creep du jour had gotten on my car. But like all good things eventually do, our time in the sun came to an end.

My boss called up our CIO and told him what a piece of crap phone I have and somehow that turned into me getting and iPhone 5S quicker than you could say “but BBM rules!”

It was a bit of a struggle, getting used to my iPhone, but I knew the change was inevitable. My service had been getting more and more unreliable, D missing texts that I’d be working late or there was a subway delay and wondering where the hell I was when we were supposed to be meeting up. So I grudgingly made the change for the greater good. And after a few months, I think I’m used to it now. There are pros and cons to everything you do in this life.

I got to buy an adorable flowery case that proudly proclaims to the world that my phone is a strong independent woman. Mmm hmm, that’s right girl. You ain’t need no man telling you what to do. And I’ll also freely admit that the camera on this phone fucking annihilates the grainy, found-footage seeming pics my Blackberry used to half-assedly capture with an obnoxiously loud CLICK.

I so despise the fucking dickcheese autocorrect jerk on this iPhone though. That’s one major drawback. One time I tried to say “husband” and it turned it to “Hubbard” for some unknown reason. Or when I’m excited about something and want to respond “Yayy!” that somehow becomes “tasty” instead. The people I’m texting must think I’m this mega-weirdo trying to create my own goofy adult slang that will never catch on. Trying to out-cool the kids these days.

But the best thing about it has been this really amazing app I installed called INSTAGRAM. Ooo, aaahhhh. A way to take pics and immediately post with some pithy-in-my-head caption? Sign me up!

I frigging love this shit. I could Insta all day every day. I’m learning all about memes and really seeing for the first time how many goddamn cute cats there are out there who really really need my approval by way of many “likes”. All that time I used to spend clogging D’s phone up with great shots of the city or food I was eating or weird shit I’d see around has become so much more efficient, me now doing these things from the comfort of my own phone.

It’s also been a really awesome outlet for me since I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to full-out blogging lately. It’s micro-blogging, the kids say! You’ll love it, they decree!

And I do. I frigging love the shit out of it. Have I mentioned that yet? I am full-blown Insta-obsessed!

Heres’ the link to my page: my fabulous instagram account! You like what you see, you follow me. It’s mostly what you’ve come to know and love about this blog: my zany meals, Harv, partying, Toronto, the weird shit I think is amusing. It’s great. @smashingthroughlife that’s my handle so you can find me super easy.

Let’s be Insta-obsessed together!

P.S. here’s a picture that shows how wonderfully feminine my phone case is. That’s the kind of phone case you take to a nice seafood dinner and then call again, promptly, to make another date. Mmm hmm.

flowery phone case

Everlong

It’s our first wedding anniversary today.

I walked down the aisle to this song:

It’s always been one of my favourites. And when I hear it now, I tear up remembering our wedding.

I planned, and wished, and hoped with every inch of my being for that day to go as planned. While some things worked out really well, like the weather, and others left a lot to be desired, the shitty old man DJ, overall I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. The wedding was a dream.

Ashley and Darren (214)

Photo by Jennifer Moher Photography: http://www.jennifermoher.com

And marriage has been the greatest blessing of my life. That’s no lie, or flowery sentiment to make things seem rosier than they are. That’s just the truth, stated plainly from my heart.

It’s so easy these days for people to create the image of a perfect, happy life. Today we present the best possible versions of the life we wish we had, sharing photos that have been filtered and edited to look “just right” or posting to Facebook brief blurbs of ourselves that make us appear more thoughtful and caring than maybe we actually are. Posting only the stuff that helps corroborate our stories of “super awesome” lives. It makes it increasingly difficult to be certain, everything consumed with a giant grain of salt, because we’ve become so accustomed to seeing one perfect version of each other online.

Marriage is very similar. It’s hard to know for certain if the people in a given marriage are genuinely happy or putting up a front. You never can tell, and frankly, it’s not anyone else’s business. Yet we wonder anyways. It doesn’t stop us from prying and asking, reading into and analyzing what we think we see in the lives of others. People are curious and overstepping by nature.

We were asked a lot right after we got married, “so how’s married life?” As if some enormously earth-shattering change had happened to us and people wanted to know how we were coping. We always replied the same: that our life together still felt exactly the same as it always had. It did, it still does. That may be a product of having been together for nine years before we married, or that may just be a product of the kind of relationship we have. Life just carried on, same as it always had. That’s the end result I wanted, so I can’t complain.

All I know is that I married well and I am truly happy. I married someone who is unconditionally loving and supportive. Someone who values my opinions and treats me with respect. Someone who values honesty and trust as deeply as I do, and who I know will never give me cause for doubt. I married someone with all of the qualities I knew I needed my partner in this life to have in order to make a meaningful union.

And that’s my oh-so-sage advice to anyone who wants to marry. Don’t do it because you think it will fix something or bring about some tremendously needed change in your life. Don’t choose someone based on superficial qualities like looks or the balance of their bank account. Be with someone who puts the same level of importance on the same core values that you do. Anyone can just say the words “I do”, but they don’t have to mean it, or maybe they don’t realize how much meaning those words do have.

For all my planning and hoping and wishing we did wind up having a wonderful wedding. It was an amazing day, the party was a total blast, it was fun. But you have to remember that the wedding is just the shiny veneer put on your relationship that day for the sake of ceremony. The real treasure can only be realized in time, when at the end of the life you built together you can say with certainty that you did in fact have an amazing life together.

We’re only one year, of hopefully many more, into our marriage. We’re still so green. But I trust in my heart that we’re off to a very promising start. We put together all of the elements that we believe we need to make our marriage a remarkable one. And with every anniversary accumulated, we’ll get a little closer to seeing how well we’ve really done.

Ashley and Darren (502)

Photo by Jennifer Moher Photography: http://www.jennifermoher.com