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Our Recent Posts

Balance, Habit and Accountability

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Sun, 07/13/2014 - 21:07

I spend a fair bit of time thinking about goals, responsibility, and accountability. I need to spend a bit more time thinking about balance — and then spend time actually achieving some.

Last week, Shawn and our friend Renée made a goal of 10 weeks toward better health. They created an open FB group that has taken off: “10 weeks of feeling fine” with the goals of:

  • regular walking (30 min a day at least 3 days a week)
  • increased water intake
  • getting more greens (officially a salad-a-day).

It’s not about weight loss and there will be no weigh-in, it’s about health and making simple conscious changes toward improvement.

At first I didn’t want to join in — don’t I have enough to worry about with work, writing, gardening, and other responsibilities? Thing is, I know I need more water. I could definitely do with more activity. Salad? Meh. But whatever. So I joined. Will joining a FB group help me with accountability? Who knows? It was helping somewhat with a little “super secret” group a few of us made for goal setting and getting stuff done… but that has fallen quiet.

It’s tricky to get that balance right and no matter how much outside accountability I try to find through friends, family, apps, or other nags, ultimately I know it has to come from me. Ultimately, I have to build habits that allow me to keep things even and maybe if I build enough good habits there will be no more room in the schedule for the lousy habits.

So, at the risk of public failure, I am going to declare four things I want to change about my health in the next 6 months:

1. Drink more water. I started by alternating water with coffee at work instead of just reaching for more coffee. Now I am keeping a tumbler of water beside me through the day while I am home. I am tracking right now, but hopefully by the end of 10 weeks I will just be used to drinking a given amount (around 2 L per day) and it will be a habit.

2. Walk and bike regularly. I would like to aim for one day a week of biking to and from work plus walks a few days a week. Problem with biking is that I am a sissy. I do not enjoy arriving at work drenched in sweat or soaked through with rain (coming home in crap weather is more manageable). Problem with walking is, well, I get bored of it. Also, crummy weather makes me not want to walk I just have to get over it.

3. Increase my flexibility. I have a bunch of yoga and exercise DVDs literally gathering dust (pictured, right). I need to work these back into my schedule (and try those I haven’t even cracked open yet), probably by adjusting my morning routine. I also need to figure out a true measure for flexibility — something I can’t do now but want to be able to do six months from now.

4. Change my snack habits. I need to either replace my crappy snacks with better ones or stop snacking. I was getting pretty good at not eating crappy salt/sugar/fat bombs but I’ve lapsed. I need to go back to having better snacks in the house but also breaking my habit of snacking-when-bored.

I believe these are all do-able — but the exercise ones will be trickier for me.


Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Tue, 07/08/2014 - 03:21

When I was quite young (maybe 5 or 6 years old), my mother took me along with some of our extended family to pick strawberries in the u-pick fields on the Saanich Peninsula. I couldn’t tell you which farm it was, but I do remember being handed an empty 4L ice cream pail and shown which berries were ripe and ready to pick.

When I started, they all went into the bucket but as the time wore on it got to be one for me and one for the bucket. Then two for me and one for the bucket. And so on. After we’d weighed the total and the berries had been paid for, we climbed into the car, berries packed in between us. We pulled out of the farm along the bumpy dirt road and that was all it took.

I barfed up a torrent of strawberries.

After the initial “Oh NO!” and a quick stop to clean me up and open all the windows, I mostly recall everyone laughing about it as I hung my head out the window like a dog, trying not to puke again.

I don’t think I consciously made a choice not to u-pick again, but the incident had enough of an impact that the activity didn’t make it back on my to-do list until this past weekend.

Happily, I was able to resist eating the berries as I picked. Between the three of us we gathered a little over 9 lbs in about an hour of careful picking. The car smelled amazing on the way home — there is really nothing like fresh berries.

Once home, about 5 lbs went straight into the freezer, IQF style. More were prepped for strawberry shortcake desserts. Some are still in the fridge for smoothies and snacks and a few went to my Mother in Law’s.

Proud Mom

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Sun, 07/06/2014 - 21:06

OK, so despite my last post — or maybe because of it — Kiddo excitedly asked any of her friends if they wanted to join her in the parade. Because it was last minute, no one else was available but I stood by my promise to go if she wanted. She wore her tiara and painted her nails (rainbow polka-dots on one hand, “PRIDE” on the other).

Having never been, we weren’t sure exactly what the process was but we knew groups would be gathered along Pandora and Broad streets. Shawn dropped us on the Douglas side of City Hall and we wandered in search of people we knew to join. I had open invites to walk with both the Labour group and the Lisa Helps group, plus we knew people walking with other floats and groups too. The easiest to find was the large Labour contingent so we settled in there. Kiddo was so excited she couldn’t stand still. She kept herself busy by photobombing many, many photos.

We walked the whole route — Shawn joined us along the way, after taking photos of Lisa Helps and her group. There was some stop and go but it was fun and nice to see people we knew watching along the way. We didn’t stick around McDonald Park after but instead headed to a late brunch at Heron Rock Bistro before making our way back to the car and home.

Hidden Rainbow

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Fri, 07/04/2014 - 23:40

It’s Pride Week and I have been asked a few times if I will be joining in the Pride Parade on Sunday. Thing is, in past years, no one ever asked me.

Which begs the question, have I been more “out” lately? Or is it just that more people have climbed on the pride bandwagon? Being married, I often wonder if my orientation is taken for granted to be “straight” — as though I’m the ultraviolet or infrared in the pride rainbow: still there but not visible to the casual viewer. I wonder, too, if people who know I’m not straight think I’m “hiding” on purpose.

I’ve never been flag-waving about orientation because frankly, it’s not something I can change. I’ve never ducked the question, but it’s not something most people that I know have felt the need to ask, either. I don’t think it impacts how I do my job or interact with those around me — nor should it. I mean, about as in-your-face as I get is being all a-flutter over both Christina Ricci and Alan Rickman. =shrug=

Back to the parade (because now you’re curious): I likely won’t be marching.

I am not going to skip the march because I prefer to hide, but because I prefer not to amble along asphalt. My hip, ankle, and sciatica bother me when I walk for too long and if it’s too sunny, I will get cranky, too — regardless of how fun the atmosphere might be. (That said, if Kiddo expresses a wish to go, I’ll go with her, and I will find a way to manage the aches and the cranky index.)

As for the rest of it, I’ll admit I’m curious about some of the nightclub events but wonder if that isn’t my nostalgia talking. Most likely, I will end up spending this pride week like every other one in past years — watching from a distance just happy that I live in a country where anyone can march down main street letting their rainbow flag fly during pride week or any other day of the year.


Photo credit: “Pride” CC-BY Michael Ruiz on Flickr.


You can’t make this stuff up.

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Wed, 07/02/2014 - 01:18

The best fiction is always based on fact and hooooooo-boy have I got some fiction-worthy events from the last few days. Bottom line: our neighbours are a problem. In theory they are leaving. In the meantime they are making it a challenge to live here.

We’ve had problems with them blocking our driveway so last night, during my party, they tried to intimidate one of our guests who happened to be legally parked in front of the neighbour’s property.  My birthday was, as a result, pretty “interesting” — I’ve never had a party where cops showed up before, so that’s a first!

Otherwise the whole situation is full of “apparently” and “allegedly.” Difficult to tell exactly what is going on but this afternoon — in the midst of their “cleaning up the place” a white van pulled up, four people emptied it of its contents of garbage, and then sped away again. Seriously? Cannot make that up. After they sped off, this was the resulting pile of crap:

And that is part of what I see whenever I glance to my right as long as the blinds are open. I’ve closed them now.

We’ve been fairly quiet about this situation — it started in March — but it’s gone way too far now. We’ve been threatened, assaulted, and fear for our property (damage and theft). The neighbours are all in agreement that this has to stop. He’s renting, and the landlord says he is leaving, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Regardless there will likely be a block party on the other side of this mess.

And you know what? That is the silver lining around this cloud: the situation has brought us together as a neighbourhood — I now know several of my neighbours by name and they know us.







On the Eve of my Forty-Fifth Birthday

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 04:11

Today largely involved physical work; housecleaning and preparing the deck for tomorrow’s party — we removed the old canopy and replaced it with a slightly larger one that has a sunscreen wall. We were able to position it to block out the afternoon/evening sun, something we’ve previously done using curtain panels and clothes pegs.

We finished just before 3, with enough time to meet a friend who was briefly in town, then hubby and kiddo worked on my cake while I napped, watered the garden, and relaxed on the deck under the swag lamp that basically gives us an outdoor room for the summer.

While sitting there, I was reflecting on where I am at, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. At 45, I have decided that my 40s are, so far, the best decade emotionally. I am so much more at ease with myself — sure I am still a work in progress but who isn’t? I’m comfortable in my own skin and that’s key.

Thirty years ago, I’d just finished grade nine. I was awkward in every way imaginable but I was happy. I had a close group of friends, loved my classes, and I had yet to start working, so my time was my own.

Twenty years ago, I was in the middle of my pre-apprenticeship plumbing training. I was tutoring several of my classmates on some basic algebra skills and doing well enough to be selected by the instructor to do side jobs. I was cycling to and from the interurban campus (from roughly Fort & Foul Bay) and in the best shape of my life. While I didn’t end up pursuing plumbing as a career, it was a huge boost to my confidence and gave me skills I still use.

Ten years ago, I was working evenings at the loan desk in the library. Kiddo was three, and we were managing to juggle care for her between the two of us working odd shifts and my mom and mother in law pitching in. It was also when I first dipped my toes into social media with an account on Orkut — Google’s first community, now so popular in Brazil that it is fully managed by Google Brazil. I still have an account there but only login every couple of years. It was how I met Star, who introduced me to Flickr through which I’ve made some of my longest-lasting online connections — many of whom I’ve met in person.

Five years ago, when I turned forty, I wasn’t sure how to deal with it but I didn’t particularly want to celebrate. Hubby and I joked about smashing the cake. Then we went ahead and did it — it’s still one of my favourite moments ever and I am so glad the event was caught on film.

I get a lot of joy out of watching the destruction of things — I suspect this goes back to a childhood where my brother and I would line up his Star Wars Figures at the bottom of a board we’d set up as a ramp, then we would fling Hot Wheels cars at them at high speed — basically bowling in a manner that reduced the “value” of two sets of collectibles. But damn it, it was FUN. Anyway, Shawn gets that about me and he was happy to smash that cake, which made me laugh and temporarily horrified all of our friends.

This year? I asked for a cake similar to one I’d seen online and Hubby was, once again, up to the task. It’s partially finished tonight and will be completed tomorrow, in time to share with friends and family. At 45, I feel ridiculously lucky.

Kiki of Montparnasse

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Sun, 06/29/2014 - 04:18

I just finished reading the wonderful graphic novel, Kiki de Montparnasse which brought back a flood of memories from third year University where I studied the literary Montparnasse of the 20s and 30s through Gertrude Stein’s Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and later looked at the whole community of creative expatriates and bohemians who gathered there from all corners of the globe.

Here’s a trailer for the graphic novel (worth watching if you are remotely curious…)

I knew enough about Kiki whose real name was Alice Prin to know she was a model, muse, cabaret performer, and artist but I didn’t quite realize how many times her likeness had been captured or by how many artists. She posed for sculptors, painters, and charcoal artists, and perhaps most famously for the photographer and film-maker Man Ray. She lived a full life with very few regrets. Even after the war scattered many of the expatriates, she continued to perform and play the life of the party.

I’ve spent a sizable portion of the last few hours wandering internet rabbitholes looking at art, watching films, and trying in vain to find any hint of her singing — she performed live frequently but also recorded some singles that I’d hoped to find on

One detail that caught my attention in the graphic novel was in regard to Man Ray’s Dadaist film, L’Etoile de Mer which the authors suggest was blurred by using a pane of stained glass over the camera. Whatever method was used, the effect meant that the film escaped any censorship. If you can sit through a 15 minute art film, I do recommend it — the ending actually startled me.

Above all though, Kiki will be remembered as the inspiration for some of the most iconic art of the 1920s and 30s:

Failing Up

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Sat, 06/21/2014 - 23:12

Yesterday, I posted, glumly, that I had “failed all over the place” at being more positive but that I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it. I didn’t elaborate, and plenty of my friends weighed in with words of support. Thing is, I already knew it was a step in the right direction because I was more aware of my negative responses — even if I wasn’t catching them before I opened my mouth or acted.

Today, I spent a wonderful day out and about, hitting yard sales, enjoying brunch with friends, and wandering town with Hubby and Kiddo. I managed to get some good selfies while we were in and around Chinatown:

Pauses in my day were spent considering what a simple “mantra” might be for me; I think I finally came up with something:

Be present, be patient, be calm,
be open, be thankful, move on.


I could have added things like “drink water,” “get moving,” and “create things” but I feel like the emotional/mental/spiritual things need to come first and will need more reminders.

Be present reminds me to focus on what is happening around me. Be patient should be self explanatory. Be calm is my cue to breathe and to think before I speak or act. Be open reminds me not to dismiss things, and to consider saying “yes” to things that are outside my comfort zone. Be thankful is because I need to practice gratitude. Move on is to remind me not to get hung up about things I can’t change, projects I’ve finished, and people who are toxic.

A lot of this is going to manifest as internal self-speak as I try to form new habits, and hopefully it will also be reflected in my behavior. If it works, I’m gonna cross-stitch that mantra and maybe even write an e-book about the process.



Would changing my outlook change me?

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Thu, 06/19/2014 - 19:38

OK, that is probably a rhetorical question, but what I wonder is how would others react to a different version of me? What if the “new me” isn’t as funny or interesting? I shouldn’t care, but on some level I do. When I do something “out of character” Shawn will joke about checking for body-snatcher pods in the greenhouse or ask what the ransom is to return the “real Cheryl.” While I laugh it off, it does make it difficult for me to make conscious meaningful changes to my outlook and habits.

I know I have become set in my ways of sarcasm, snark, disdain, dismissal, impatience, and bitching or ranting. All of these are distinctly negative and carry a certain mental weight — baggage, or ballast if you will. Last year, Shawn jettisoned some of his negative baggage through a rebirth ceremony that allowed him to make a break and assign old habits to “Mike” and take up new habits as “Shawn.” I am content to remain “Cheryl” but I still need to lose some of this ballast.

Some changes are easier to make: consciously making an effort not to “dismiss the familiar” led to my going into a thrift store that I’ve dismissed many times because “they never have anything in my size” — and what did I find but an almost perfect pair of shorts on the $5 clearance rack (thank you, universe!).

Some are more difficult: I know I am an aggressive/angry driver — hell, I am an angry passenger. Being behind the wheel frequently pushes my impatience buttons. I noticed a while ago that I “let go” of my impatience almost entirely when I am on the bus (now, if I am waiting for a bus that is increasingly behind schedule, that’s another story). So how do I translate being a calm bus passenger into being a calm car passenger and driver?

Some can be dialed back but not likely abandoned. Sarcasm is the language of my people — or certainly of my generation. GenXers are the most sarcastic people around and we’re a bitter lot for it, but it is ingrained. This doesn’t mean I can’t change, just that this is an area where change will be difficult.

There are others but basically, I need to focus on shifting from negative to positive – even incrementally at this point — and on taking myself out of situations and away from people who feed that negativity. I need to stop bitching and ranting and start doing more meaningful things or spending my time on stuff that makes me happier and/or a better human.

As for how to do that, one of the books I am reading right now* is Choose Yourself! by James Altucher (the Kindle edition is just over a buck right now!) in which he talks about getting your mental-emotional-physical-spiritual self in order before you try to make changes to how you get through life (i.e. work/relationships). He promotes a “daily practice” of consciously shedding or forgoing negative attitudes, people, and situations. This, along with some of the spiritual/Buddhist concepts I’ve been exploring, some personal reflection, and talking with others, will help me make those changes.

I had an interesting talk last night that got me thinking about the need to stop doing things I feel obligated to do, things I do because, “If I don’t, no one else will.” This practice is also selfish, because how do I know that the person who might want to do that task/work isn’t waiting in the sidelines, afraid to come forward because the position is filled? My Father once told me never to make myself irreplaceable at work because it’s like building your own cage; he was right. It applies to more than work. The negative emotional cage around me is my own construction; I just need to cut through a few bars.

So, going forward, I will be focusing on some self-messages, reminders, mantras or whatever you want to call them – like the conscious reminder not to dismiss what seems familiar — in an effort to make some changes. I hope I will have your support as I shift the polarity of my self and surroundings, but if not, well, I probably won’t be hanging around with you.

*I realized that I read self-help and motivational books to break up the very dark books I tend to read. All the other books I am reading or recently finished are about death, murder, horror, and things that go bump in the night. 

Cumberland Miners’ Memorial Weekend

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Sun, 06/15/2014 - 03:43

This weekend, I had two events in one to attend: the Pacific Northwest Labour History Association Conference and the Cumberland Miners’ Memorial Weekend. It has been a whirlwind of labour learning in a village that has become my favourite place on the Island. (Yesterday, I found myself wondering, “What’s the catch?” presuming it must be something like a Shirley Jackson style lottery.)

I arrived early and took in some guided tours of the museum and the town — Shawn and Kiddo joined me for the museum tour and lunch. The view above is a block and a half away from the museum with the beautiful mountains of Strathcona Park in the near distance.

I had virtually no knowledge of Cumberland’s past until this weekend so now my brain is swimming in new local history facts and new threads to follow up. At the centre of this weekend is mining history, and that history can’t be told without talking about Ginger Goodwin, “a worker’s friend.” He was integral to the two year long miners’ strike from 1912-1914 and was killed a few years later for being such a troublemaker.

Every year since 1986, the Cumberland Museum has organized the Miners’ Memorial which started as a day and grew into a weekend. All aspects of labour history are celebrated, with a special focus on “Songs of the Worker” along with a full graveside memorial at Ginger Goodwin’s grave. The memorial has grown to include “miners row” and ceremonies at the Japanese and Chinese cemeteries.  So when I posted the photo below on social media this afternoon, one friend thought it was a “crazy party among the graves” and she wasn’t completely wrong.

There is a focus, among the speakers, on the inspiration we can draw from activists like Goodwin, and on the fights for workers rights and safe working conditions that continue to this day. More than one speaker mentioned the recent mining disaster in Turkey. There is also a celebration of solidarity. The event had representation from many unions and labour organizations — including a large number of IWW wobblies.

This year was the first time that the PNWLHA held its annual conference and meeting in Cumberland, and it was a challenge to find spaces and services for everyone but the village really pulled every possible string to make it happen. (At one point today there was a “perfect storm” of tech need — all five workshops needed digital projectors — and they managed!) The conference concludes tomorrow then I will return home… dreaming of the 1893 house just a block from the Village core that I fell in love with. It’s for sale, too….

I am familiar with that story

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 02:43

How many times have you stopped someone who was talking and said, “I’m familiar with that story,” or something similar? Or maybe not said anything but internally tuned out?

I stop reading if an article seems too familiar or a movie gets into that predictable zone. I roll my eyes and talk back to the television when they run regular-as-clockwork “news” pieces — there was an earthquake somewhere on the globe? Let’s do a streeter to ask if people here are prepared for the inevitable big one! It’s the week before school starts? Get our camera crew to Staples and find a parent who can talk about how expensive it is to buy supplies! End of May? Time to interview the city workers putting together our city’s “iconic hanging baskets.” Lazy journalism delivers these and other stale tropes.

We spend a lot of our life on autopilot with the familiar — the same route to work/school; the same path worn through the same supermarket to get the same groceries and eat the same food each week; the same schedule of activities each week. We paint politicians with the same brush because it’s always “same shit, different pile.” It becomes easy to dismiss things that seem familiar as being just so much of the same old story.

The past few weeks, I have been reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for the first time and while I grabbed it to read as the Evil Book Club selection for June, I figured I knew the story and it would be a quick read.

What I discovered was that I didn’t know the story at all.

I kept checking that I had downloaded the right book from Project Gutenberg (I had) because it really didn’t align with the Frankenstein monster story that I grew up knowing.  I know that Hollywood is notorious for changing stories — look at almost every Disney princess, so far removed from their fairy tale tragedies. I kept getting angry just how severely films have misrepresented Frankenstein and his monster but then I realized, all I had to do was read the book. I could have done so years ago.

There is a lesson in here for me, and it goes deeper than really needing to be familiar with the original text in order to appreciate changes made to subsequent retellings — although my academic self should have been all over that “primary source” research. I think the lesson comes back to my dismissive attitude toward the familiar:

I need to change my approach, not just to literature but to all the other stories around us.

I know I am guilty of glazing over when I think I recognize a story — but maybe I am missing important details. Maybe it’s only the once upon a time that sounds familiar and the whole contents are different.

I’m sure we all do this from time to time — whether we use a broad brush on any group of individuals or tune out when someone is talking because “it’s always the same thing” or skip that latest remake because we saw it the first time or read the book. What else are we missing? What am I missing?

Over the weekend someone told Shawn and I that we “really should” do more within a given niche. I’d heard that particular suggestion before and had never given it too much thought. This week though, rather than just hearing (and potentially ignoring) what they said, I listened. I thought about it, and I am starting to think it is a niche in which Shawn and I actually can work together. I was excited enough to search for and purchase a new domain, and to dust off a project that I’d put on the back burner. I’m hopeful about prospects for both the project and the niche.

On the reading front, I’ve already downloaded a batch of classic novels to try and read — not because they are on lots of “must read” lists or that they are cannon but because I am genuinely curious to learn if I’ve unfairly dismissed the original, seemingly familiar stories.


Smaller Garden Year

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Sun, 06/08/2014 - 22:17

The last few years, I’ve struggled with the garden. Bad luck with weather (crazy wet followed by crazy dry spells) and poor soil meant lousy yields. This year, I am a month behind because of my back. I was dreading dealing with the sorry state the beds had become.

Today, Shawn and Kiddo pitched in to help me weed two of the four beds and turn in some compost and fresh soil. Working together, that part of the task took about two hours. I’ve also partially cleared a third bed, which I will work on later for plants that will grow through the winter (with any luck).

After lunch, I planted tomatoes and carrots in the smaller bed; squash (two kinds of zucchini and Delicata squash) plus bush beans in the larger bed. There’s room for more in both beds — additional rows of carrots for successive yields, and about two thirds of the larger bed, still to decide what to do with it — likely onions, beets, radishes, and greens (the back portion is partial shade). Here’s the before and after shots….

Large bed, before:

Large bed, after:

Smaller bed, before:

Smaller bed, after:

Stripping and Redressing

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Sat, 06/07/2014 - 21:43

No, I haven’t taken up exotic dance; I realized in all my many site changes and redesigns, the one set of pages that has fallen out of synch is my personal site which, since about 2006, has been “Cheryl’s West Coast Life” with the magazine cover image map to one side.

This is what the “writing” page looked like this morning:

When I started thinking about rebranding my creative & writing image, I knew that the above page would have to go. I thought I would just replace it with something specific to my needs and that the rest of the site could continue in its archaic format. I came to realize though if part of what I was showing off was my ability to create good looking things in the digital world, that my personal page — the anchor of my online life — needed to be responsive (i.e. flexible design that is readable on any device) because we have reached the tipping point: more web hits are coming from mobile than desktop devices.

My automatic response was “fine, I’ll do another WordPress install” but this blog is already in part of the directory and WP doesn’t really play well when you try to nest installs. Shawn suggested Drupal but I do not enjoy managing Drupal installs. He asked me how many pages I was talking about and when I mapped it all out I figured I would need up to ten pages to really cover off what I need to do. He suggested a managing a site using Dreamweaver templates. After I calmed down and figured out what he meant, I realized I knew how to deal with that — I had just forgotten because, as he said, I showed him how to do it nine years ago.

I went searching for responsive templates and found a few that seemed like they’d work; downloaded a couple, then had another panic attack until Shawn explained that they would look “borked” until they were viewed live on the intended platform. I dove in. It was awkward at first but I soon found my stride. Five hours later, I have a new site. It will need some more work on copy and content, and I have to clean up the detritus left in its wake, but here’s what the “writing” page looks like now:

It’s mobile friendly and should be easy to navigate — please let me know if you have any problems with it:


I also wanted to archive the old magazine covers because while I was quite attached to them,  they had long since passed their prime (in order, covers from 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012, all created using FD’s Flickr Toys at

Compounded Guilt

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Wed, 06/04/2014 - 17:51

I recently found myself in that endless cycle of feeling guilty about stuff I haven’t done — I haven’t prepared the garden, I haven’t published the SmoothieJune Book –and now it’s June!! — I haven’t kept up with other writing.

Then I compounded my own guilt by feeling guilty about “shoulding on myself” I should be outside, I should be writing, I should work around the issues I have and just get it done. My internal critic was chiming off around the clock.

So I told that voice in my head to shove off.

I regularly get comments — in person, not so much online — from people who are amazed at how much I do get done. In part, I think it is because I relentlessly document things on this blog, Flickr, Facebook, and now Instagram. In part, because very few people see just how many balls are in the air at any given time — how many projects are on front or back burners, which ones have been relegated to the UFO (unfinished object) pile, and which shiny new ones have caught my full attention — so when I finish something, I see it as 1/173 things but for most people it’s just “Wow, that’s a great thing you did!”

If you ask me though, what is the biggest thing holding me back? It’s finishing things. I am great at starting things. Ideas? FULL of them. Inspiration? Got it! That first sprint of “YEAH, LET’S DO THIS!”? All over it. Finishing? I suck.

In 2011, I had a goal at the start of the year — I called it “11 for 11” and I picked 11 projects from my UFO pile and back burner and told myself I would get those accomplished inside the 12 months. Here’s a look at what was on that list, with my notes on what was finished:

  1. Home Staging in a Hurry — finished the ebook but didn’t do the extras we’d planned.
  2. Zibbet shop — completed the main task (to list at least 100 items) but didn’t update my main stock database until last year.
  3. Monetize & — hmm. Sold — that is sort of monetizing it.
  4. — completely abandoned this concept and let the domain lapse.
  5. Urban Haiku book — did nothing. I still want to do it, and the revisiting of my Coffee Haiku book was sort of a “proof of concept”. This is high on my guilt list because most of the pieces are done, I just have to make some decisions about the format.
  6. CafePress/ThoseDeWolfes — I don’t know whether this was done in 2011 or 2012, but I did re-theme and reorganize our CafePress store.
  7. ebook for Unofficial Victoria — again, not hard to do, just a matter of curating existing content, adding a few extras, and formatting the final product. I didn’t make any progress in 2011 and now the site is re-branded as Views of Victoria.
  8. LOC Rap (song/video) — I am stunned this unfinished project is three years old. GAH. Need to make this happen. SOON.
  9. Digitize my LPs — toward the end of the year, I did spend one afternoon getting a few of my albums transferred to MP3 format but it was such an enormous hassle, I didn’t continue.
  10. “Undead” fiction in progress — this YA novel still languishes as an unfinished draft. It’s probably at the 1/3 to 1/2 way mark but I kept finding other shiny things.
  11. 12 Days of LEGO Animation Project — something Kiddo and I had plotted. Never got near doing.

I’ve tried analyzing this many times. One post that I should just print out was written about 18 months ago, Squirrels, Elephants, Mosquitoes, and Chupacabras — at the very least I need to put those three Ps  (is it something I am passionate about? will it bring me pleasure (or profit) to see it completed? is it possible?) somewhere prominent so that I stop being sidetracked by shiny ideas. I also need a running list of blog ideas, ongoing projects, and the shiny parking lot, so that I can track all of these things. To be honest, I had completely forgotten about the 12 Days of LEGO project until I looked back at this list. And then I found two other project lists. SIGH.

So aaaaanyway, the guilt, I don’t need it. I don’t need to add anxiety to my world. I have a job and at the moment am not in a rush to leave it. I also have relationships to tend (family & friends), responsibilities with the Union (all volunteer, and while some of it does get done on work time, a lot of it does not), and of course household stuff.

Household stuff includes the garden. I lost two weeks due to back pain/injury and I intended to work on digging up the beds last night. Instead I just glared at them and wished I could just splurge and hire someone to do the heavy work of digging out the weeds and turning the soil. At this point, I will be content to get two of the four beds planted. I think I can manage that with the addition of some tomato seedlings. Beans, squash, and carrots can go in over the weekend. The squash starts in the greenhouse are just starting to bud — I really need to get them in the ground ASAP.

BUT, in all of this, I reject the guilt! I am instead thankful:

  • I have the luxury of choosing what to do in my spare time.
  • My back pain has mostly passed, and I am able to return to regular physical activity.
  • We have a yard in which to grow food but do not need to rely on that as a primary food source.
  • I have more ideas than I know what do do with. Creativity is not a curse but a blessing.
  • I have already accomplished plenty of things; my dent in the universe is visible.

And of course that I have the support of my family and friends regardless of how much or how little I accomplish.


image credits: top, “ennui” self portrait by me; bottom, “chalk thankful heart” CC-BY-NC-ND Judy Merrill-Smith

Rethink, Reflect, Relax.

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Mon, 06/02/2014 - 01:52

For three days, last week, I was at the CUPE Political Action Conference. I traveled and stayed on my own; Shawn and Kiddo joined me on Friday. I spent yesterday mostly in “hang mode” on my return, but the concepts from the conference continued to spin in my head.



Personally, I have a lot of issues with “partisan politics” — specifically with individuals and groups who spend a lot of energy pushing their ideology and their candidates on other people. I’ve always felt “icky” doing that — even when hubby ran in the municipal elections years back. I felt uncomfortable when I first took on managing the listserv for the union because I could see the unsubscribe notices that followed after every political post.

My issue with using union member lists to broadcast partisan politics comes down to the fact that union membership is not a choice — if you accept a particular job, you join the union — rather than opt-in lists like Greenpeace or even to some extent a church congregation.

If you’d told me even two years ago that I would attend a Political Action Conference which is basically building the front line of organizers and activists for upcoming campaigns, I’d have presumed you were sadly mistaken and had me confused for someone else.

Yet, there I sat, being urged to join the NDP, to work on local campaigns, to promote progressive candidates, and to GOTV (get out the vote). And gradually, my thinking started to shift.


Shawn and I have had a lot of discussions lately that maybe we aren’t where we want to be because we are playing from a different rule book — and that our own rules are too strict. In a post about finding success, he blogged recently about the fact that a lot of people “cheat” — they take shortcuts, skirt the truth, change the rules and otherwise find a different way forward.

A little over a week ago, I found a photo of mine that had been used in a commercial article with attribution but without permission — it was not one I had licensed as Creative Commons so I was annoyed.

Usually, I would wring my hands and maybe send a letter trying to educate the author that “just because you can see it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s free.”  When I put the question out to other freelancers, most said, “invoice them.” So I did. And much to my surprise, the company paid the bill – $120 for a “single use in a web article” for one photo. I’ve always thought that was kind of a “dick move” but no one else did, so I decided not to angst about it.

I guess the realization I’ve come to is that it is time to start playing from the book everyone else is using. When it comes to partisan politics that means understanding and accepting a few things:

  1. Unions are inherently political organizations and historically left wing or even blatantly socialist.
  2. Every political organization uses the platforms available. In some cases, this means using media outlets to reach outside the organization; in most cases it means using member lists for member-to-member communication.
  3. Conservative and other corporate-backed campaigns can and do buy their way into the voter’s awareness. They have access to more money to throw at advertising for both the candidates and key issues.
  4. It makes no sense to vote for candidates who are going to work against one’s economic interest (or social interest, for that matter).
  5. It is in the union’s interest to inform and educate our members as to which candidates will best work to support our economic and social interests.

I am determined to find a way this can work so that I don’t compromise my own values — so that I can educate without evangelizing and promote without being pushy.


In between the keynote, panel, and classwork, I had time to myself — a rarity for me as I usually travel with my family. On the afternoon I arrived, I just hung out in the hotel in silence. No music, no tv, no chatter, no meowling cats or barking neighbourhood dogs. I bought a tub of yogurt and box of cereal which was my breakfast in the mornings so I didn’t have to leave the room too early.

Day two: I found a fantastic place for lunch — amazing food. That night, I debated where to eat and ended up walking almost 3 km from the hotel to the other end of No.3 Road where I had dinner before taking the Skytrain back.

Day three: hubby and kiddo arrived in time for lunch — dim sum at a place our friends recommended — and then met me again after the conference was over. We had dinner, shopped, and headed back on the last ferry, watching the sunset as we pulled out and headed toward the Islands.