I read a lot this year.
I read more because I made time to read more, but also because I got a head-start while we were in Thailand for a month. I read three books during that trip.
I read a lot of books that I liked. A lot made me cry. Some I didn't like, but finished anyway because
(as I learned while reading Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms")
sometimes the point of reading a book isn't about enjoying it.
In any case, here's what I managed to read this part year in (somewhat?) chronological order:
Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers
I started 2019 with a business read that made a profound impact on how I approach marketing and selling.
Crossing the Chasm is about marketing for tech startups, and I read it to learn more about how to launch HeyAlfa. But I also found gems of wisdom that I could apply to the work we do at Starling Social.
The book has a sense of humour and uses timely examples to draw interesting conclusions about product/market fit, marketing to the right customers, and how to build a business that doesn't crash and burn.
It's a good read, and something I'd recommend to anyone in my industry.
This might be one of the best books I've read to date.
"Things Fall Apart" is a Nigerian novel written by Chinua Achebe and published in 1958. It follows the life of Okonkwo, an Ibo man who is a wrestling champion in his tribe, and chronicles life in pre-colonial Nigeria, and how the arrival of the Europeans impacts and changes their way of life
Sometimes, reading this book felt like watching a car crash in slow motion. It's horrible, but you can't look away.
I read it in one sitting on our red-eye flight from Vancouver to Shanghai, and I cried at the end.
How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die
In this book, psychologist Keith Payne examines how the subjective experience of feeling poor impacts how people think, behave, and make decisions.
Citing the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioural science, he shows how people who see themselves as poor make different (and generally worse) decisions than people who see themselves as wealthy.
I spend a lot of time thinking about policy and politics, so this was the perfect read to dive into while on the Night Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
I learned a ton, and have a deeper and more empathetic view of poverty (and what we can do to solve it) than before.
This, and Things Fall Apart, are from Barack Obama's 2018 book list.
It took me a long time to get into Dickens.
He's too wordy for my taste; Hemingway has ruined me forever. But once you can get past the flowery wordplay and run-on sentences and
honestly just too much dialogue in general
it's a powerful story that crashes into you like a tsunami and leaves you wrecked up on the beach. It makes you gasp for air. It scared the living daylights out of me.
I wasn't expecting to see so many parallels between the French Revolution and what's happening in the world today, but I saw a lot and I'm shook.
I think a lot about things like
the coming wave of automation
the impact of climate change
the disparity between the ultra-rich and the poor
and reading A Tale of Two Cities was a horrifying example of how people who have nothing retaliate with
and how quickly even the best intentions can be twisted into eating itself alive.
If you haven't read this book, read this book.
But know it's not the best thing to read on a crammed nighttime flight from Vancouver to Winnipeg because you will ugly-cry while reading it.
Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions
My friend Brent recommended this book, which argues that the real causes behind rising rates of depression and anxiety can be found in how we live our lives in the modern world.
I think a lot about how aspects of our culture and what living in a capitalist society does to us, and how that impacts our happiness. This is a book about how those things are making us depressed, and some things we can do
individually, and as a community
to stop trying to medicate away a problem that is potentially the result of more environmental causes.
I didn't always agree with everything the author had to say, but it was an interesting approach to a problem that I struggle with, and that seems to be increasing.
Another year, another Murakami novel.
(I haven't read the third book yet, but intend to.)
These novels, like most of his others, feature apathetic narrators who float through a series of events without reacting that much to them.
There something about this style
the weird way it allows Murakami to write about odd things, like living with twins whose names the narrator doesn't know
that I love. These books are interesting explorations of companionship, loss, and obsession, and I loved every minute of this read.
This was one of the best books I read this year.
I read this book because I saw the move and didn't like it very much. I decided to look it up on Wikipedia, and as it turns out the book is (predictably) way better than the book.
This book is like a blend of Lord of the Flies with American Psycho with a retro twist. The novel focuses on a state of the art high rise with a pool, supermarket, hair salon, even a school, located within the building. Naturally, the richest people live in penthouses, with middle-class people occupying the middle section, and poor people on the lower levels.
The building starts to fail, and the tensions between floors escalate in crazy and unnerving ways.
This was a great read if you like a book that will mess with your head and leave you feeling off before bed.
I debated leaving this book off the list because it's a manga and not a novel, but screw it — I loved this book, and if you're a cat owner like me then you should check it out.
In case you're not a huge nerd like me, Junji Ito is a famous Japanese horror manga artist behind scary stories like The Enigma of Amigara Fault, and a lot of the weird manga art you may have seen online.
I liked this little read because it was charming
(and a bit creepy)
to see illustrations of normal "cat stuff" like poohing outside the litter box, or jumping on you while you're asleep in creepy af manga style.
This is a collection of poems about abuse and cats and it made me laugh and cry and feel understood and
not so alone.
I love Bukowski's poetry, and highly recommend this collection.
Here is my favourite:
“the courage it took to get out of bed each
to face the same things
over and over
I just finished this book today, actually, and it didn't live up to the hype. Let me tell you why:
1. It's too long winded.
Like Dickens, but more prone to tangents that I'm sure were intended to paint a vivid tapestry of characters... but felt over-complicated. The book could have at least a third shorter.
2. I struggle with stories that treat obsession like love, and that glamorize men stalking and harassing women as "romance"
not to mention several unsettling instances where people fell in love with their rapists?
I appreciated the themes of the book, like love being akin to a disease (cholera), but this one felt like a slog, and not in a good wa
There were moments that were touching, and where the complicated writing made way for some truly beautiful turns of phrase
but honestly, I didn't care for it all that much.
And that's okay, because we don't need to enjoy everything we read.
What did you read in 2019? Tweet at me and let me know which books you loved.
It's odd to be in a calm, happy place.
I don't feel this way very often, so I try and enjoy it when I can.
Usually I feel all wound-up inside, at least to some degree, with a worry or a nagging feeling or an anxiety I'm figuring out how to put down. But every so often I find myself in a place where I can
feeling the air filling my lungs and really being present.
I struggle with that sometimes.
Tomorrow's the last day of work before the holidays. Our offices are both closed until January 2nd and I'm really looking forward to spending a few days relaxing and recharging with friends and family and writing and painting and playing Final Fantasy VII.
I've been burning the candle at both ends since September and yr girl needs a break, which is why I'm staying in tonight.
John's at the Complex Games holiday party and I'm sitting in a the kitchen with a glass of wine surrounded by the smell of the oranges I'm drying in the oven to make Christmas ornaments.
Once I'm finished writing this I'll make some mushroom soup
(Campbell's brand, my guilty pleasure)
and a grilled cheese with the dark brown rye bread our upstairs neighbour gave us and watch the Dem Debate.
Maybe I'll get more work done after that, but I'm in the home stretch of fine-tuning and reviewing and making sure everything is in order as we move into the new year, and I need to draw up a contract for a new client Starling just landed, but that's it really.
My fellow business owners know the relief of having all your ducks in a row before you go on vacation, and that's the vibe I'm feeling right now.
Tomorrow I need to go to The Bay downtown and shop in that big, old department store that I love. I need to find a bodysuit and skirt for my wedding dress
before heading down to work from Forth until John and I meet up after work. We're going to the local legion to cheers under the glow of the rainbow Christmas lights that looked so charming as we walked by along McDermot last night.
It gets dark so early these days and I can't wait to look at the man I love under the glow of all those cheesy festive lights and honestly
it's nice to have a second to breathe and get excited about that.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go interrupt my calm, serene silence by watching a bunch of grown adults yell at each in front of a million plus viewers
(you bet I'm watching the Dem Debate)
Happy holidays, my loves.
It doesn't seem like 2019 was the best year for a lot of people and even though by and large I'd say it was pretty okay, especially between the spring and summer, around the start of early fall a bunch of things happened that just started to
grind me down.
John's grandpa passed away
I dealt with losing a friend to suicide for the first time and had to navigate a very public crisis both personally and professionally
I had a falling out with my aunt that dragged on for weeks
John lost a friend to suicide
I lost another friend to suicide
we learned some scary news about someone else we love
all while running both of our companies
starting another business together
planning our wedding
and generally trying to just
keep everything from falling apart around us.
Sometimes I worry that getting older is just learning to move from one emotional crisis to the next without letting shit get to you as much.
We just get more weathered, like Clint Eastwood's face.
I've never gone through this much heartache and disappointment at once and in such quick succession but even though it's been a crash course in
communicating my needs
managing grief and loss
struggling with a lack of control
it's over and it happened, and while I'm not happy it happened
at least I can understand that it's making me
which maybe is all we can hope for, sometimes.
I hope 2020 is better for all of us.
The Seven Oaks Library, located on Jefferson Avenue in the heart of Garden City, might be closing as part of a sweeping round of cuts proposed by the Winnipeg city council.
Before I tell you why this matters, and why I'm angry, I want to tell you a story about the Seven Oaks Public Library:
I don't remember feeling happy very often growing up, but I was always happy when we went to the library.
When I was little my parents enrolled me in Story Time, and every Monday they'd take my two brothers and I to the library to borrow a big stack of books and VHS tapes. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, but the library gave us something to do, and look forward to.
As I got older and things got worse at home, my local library became somewhere I could go when I was upset, and where I could pass the time in a warm, quiet place.
I loved having a place where I could go and escape my life by diving into a good book.
I felt safe in the library, and accepted there.
I fell in love with reading, and became a writer, because of the Seven Oaks Public Library.
Without that library I wouldn't have this blog. Or my business. Or my sense of curiosity and eagerness to learn, both of which are the result of becoming an avid reader.
I wouldn't have any of that without my local library, and it might be closing.
But that's not why I'm angry.
I'm angry because our mayor and city council are lying to us about why they want to close it.
A few weeks ago the city released a budget proposal that says our city is so tight on cash that they need to make the following cuts:
- 5 pools closing
- 3 libraries closing
- 5 arenas closing
- funding cuts to all community centres
- all improvements to athletic fields cancelled
This is upsetting news on its own, but yesterday I read that even though all these cuts are coming, the city is quietly pushing through a $71 million dollar community centre called The South Winnipeg Recreation Campus in Waverley West.
What's included in this fancy new recreation campus being built on the very edge of our city?
- a lap tank and leisure pool
- a fitness space, walking/running track and gymnasium
- a community library
- community recreation program space with *multiple gyms* and multi-purpose spaces
- athletic fields and park space
- a twin arena
Our civic government is cutting and under-funding programs and community centres for inner-city residents, and literally building the same things in a brand-new, high-income neighbourhoods.
This is literally robbing from the poor to give to the rich.
Through this move, the Mayor Bowman and City Hall are saying that kids like me don't matter.
Kids like me, whose parents were strapped for cash and needed a way to keep their young kids busy by borrowing books and videos and signing us up for programs
whose home lives were negative and chaotic and stressful, and who needed a safe, calm space to be alone when things got tough
who found a sense of identity through reading and felt motivated to achieve more than we felt we were worth because of what we read
according to city hall, kids like me literally don't deserve these opportunities, because we need to make sure kids in wealthy suburbs get them instead.
It's no wonder we have a meth and violence crisis in this city. It's pretty easy to see which voters City Hall and the Mayor think are most important.
Oh, and if you're wondering why you didn't hear about this when the budget was made public?
It's because the city deliberately left the dollar amount out of the capital budget:
So not only is our city lying about not having money in the budget to fund these spaces and programs and pushing through a project to build literally the same thing in a rich suburb
they've also been hiding it from us and hoping we don't find out.
See why I'm angry?
I'd like to give a big shout-out to Dear Winnipeg for doing the deep-dive on the topic that inspired the post. You should read it.
It's okay if you feel sad. Feeling sad is normal, and even if it feels like you're sad more often than you're happy that's also pretty normal.
But that's okay! Because that means your feelings aren't that
as maybe you think they are.
I want you to know that pretty much every single person you see on the street, including me, gets scared and feels lonely and feels like a burden on those around us sometimes.
That's also pretty normal.
But that's okay, too. The world we live in tricks us into thinking technology connects us when most of the time it doesn't, and we're all trying to navigate this weird world that we've suddenly found ourselves in
that feels so connected, but can be so isolating at the same time.
We're all just figuring it out together.
I want you to know that if you've ever thought about disappearing, that the hole you'd leave in the hearts of the people who love you will never heal.
Every single person who loves you know would rather stay up night talking to you, or help you when you're in crisis, than live in a world without you in it.
But it's okay if you sometimes feel the opposite as long as you don't let those feelings, and the guilt you may have about them, to stop you from reaching out.
Please reach out.
I want you to know these things for a few reasons:
1. they're all true
2. sometimes we forget them
3. sometimes I need a reminder
4. maybe right now you do, too.
I want you to know that you're not alone if you feel sad, or stuck, or depressed, or feel like what you've been trying isn't working and there's no alternative.
Anxiety and depression are nothing to be ashamed of.
What matters is that we don't let those feelings define us, and that we remember that
it's okay to feel sad
you are not a burden
you are loved
everyone wants you around
and getting help is always the better option.
If you're struggling with suicidal thoughts, or you think you know someone who might be, please call one of the numbers below:
Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line (24/7)
Toll free: 1-877-435-7170
Klinic Crisis Line (24/7)
Phone: (204) 786-8686
Toll free: 1-888-322-3019
it goes like this:
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
It's a quote from C.S. Lewis (the guy who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia) and I've been thinking about it a lot because there's been a lot of
going around recently, and when things like death start to hit too close to home people start to do crazy things.
We become mean
and we start to push away people around us because the hole someone leaves in your life when they die is like a big, gaping maw that can swallow everything up if you let it.
So instead we over-react and become hyper-sensitive to
because the damage the distractions cause is better than facing what's in front of us.
We panic in the face of death.
And why wouldn't we? I want to. I'm scared shitless of dying.
My mind starts feeling like a level of Monument Valley the minute I start thinking about the idea of my consciousness not existing and the meat sack of my body rotting away and becoming hopefully part of a tree or some nice-looking edible plants like watercress or blueberries.
(I tried to lighten it up at the end there, did you notice?)
But panicking doesn't make anything easier. Not in the long run anyway.
And I've been thinking about that C.S. Lewis quote because I know a lot about how being afraid makes you say and do things you wish you could take back.
When you grow up afraid you lash out at other people as a way to make sense of, and to some extent, validate what you're feeling.
At least, in my experience.
Going through grief for the first time and watching other people close to me go through it
(in some cases way worse than I experienced)
made me realize that grief looks a lot like fear, just like Mr. Lewis said.
It's scary, but it's a reminder that in the face of that big, gaping maw that obliterates everyone we've ever known and loved
all we ever really had was each other.
So hold on tight.
We'd planned on going out but it was too cold so instead we stayed inside and snacked on leftover potluck food. In my younger years this would have stressed me out
what do you mean we're not going out to do something on my birthday
but these days it's nice to have an excuse to stay in my pyjamas and play video games on my day off (being born on Remembrance Day has its perks.)
Last night we hosted a pun-themed party where people brought dishes with names like:
Curry on My Wayward Son (There'll be Eats When We Are Done)
The Beaning of Life
The Lamb Before Thyme
and a whole bunch of other gooders that I can't remember
possibly because I'm old now.
But I'm not really old. Not proper old, anyway, like my Grandma or the lovely folks who lived in the assisted living facility where I worked in university helping residents write emails to their grandkids
(no joke, that was my job. It was sweet and wonderful and I loved it)
but I'm older, which means I have license to gripe about the usual things like aches and being tired and what have you
but honestly I don't have a lot to complain about these days.
I do cool stuff and have dumb problems like
waah I've been running too many workshops recently and I need a break
really, girl? I remember back when I used to daydream about having this problem.
I guess I could say that that's the reason I don't blog as much, but tbh it's because I spent a lot of time writing in my journal, or reading, and there's a flow between my brain and my hand when I write in a journal that I've been enjoying a lot recently
and though I firmly don't believe that blogging isn't dead
it's one of many creative outlets right now
and it's been nice to have the time to explore them.
Plus with all the workshops and startup stuff and etc
sometimes I don't have the mental energy to be witty or quippy or clever or smart
which I feel more pressure to be the less I write here, ironically enough
but goddamn it, it's my birthday, and I only have so many
so let the record show that this was a good one that was spent surrounded by people I love
and I'm thankful for it
and for them
and thankful for you, too.
Happy birthday to me.
I'm sitting at Espresso Junction in The Johnston Terminal, at The Forks. I've been coming to this coffee shop since I was 18, when my boyfriend Peter took me here on a date.
I'd never had a London Fog before, and he ordered one for me and told me "they're the best in the city" and I still agree.
After that I started coming here whenever I had time in-between jobs, or when I had a long wait to catch the 18 bus home to the suburbs. I've started, finished, and cried over lots of books here.
Boys, too, back in the days when relationships were volatile and immature.
I didn't come back here for a really long time because of something bad that happened
or rather, started, here
but enough time has passed that the wound I used to feel has become softer and less raw, to the point where it almost feels like a scar on someone else's body.
Memories that belong to a person who feels like a dream.
Coming here feels like looking through a yearbook, back through years of coffees and London Fogs, layered and blended over the years.
Winnipeg, through the virtue of being a Big Small Town, is full of these spaces.
Places you visited when you were a different version of yourself, that come to mean mean complicated and layered things just by the virtue of existing or staying in business long enough.
Places that look, sound, and smell the same; that are familiar in a way that almost feels like it's in your bones,
because maybe in some small way it is.
so now I officially own two businesses.
Or will soon, I guess.
We're building a company that does a really cool, unique thing and people are excited about it. Last week during a meeting with a beta tester they told me
"what you're building is wildly important"
which was a bit overwhelming but also...
I agree. It is an important idea.
I like solving problems (it's what I like about business) and lately I've been spending a lot of time working on a tool that solves a very specific problem in a really creative and useful way.
Best of all: it's efficient.
(I love efficiency.)
What I love more is working on something that makes people excited, and happy. Running a marketing agency is great, but solves different kinds of problem-solving than a piece of software and even though it makes me feel like I'm juggling a dozen balls at once
it's pretty effing exhilarating.
Wish us luck!
I woke up to my cat, who I love, stepping on my face and my partner snoozing beside me.
We rent a lovely place in a great neighbourhood.
We have some debt, but we have savings.
We don't own a car, but we live close to lots of major bus routes and can walk or bike to pretty much anywhere except St Vital Mall or IKEA pretty easily.
John and I spend our days working, making food together, puttering around the house on little projects, and laughing a lot.
I have good, kind friends who care about me and lift me up when I need it, and who set me straight when I let my anxiety to get the better of me.
I still get anxious, but not as much as I used to.
It's been years since I talked to my parents and even though I didn't ask for this outcome, I like it this way.
I see my brothers from time to time. It still feels a bit weird, and being around them feels familiar in a way I guess only siblings understand.
I like getting to know them as adults, away from the chaos, on our own terms.
I don't see my Grandma as often as I'd like, but we call when we can.
Life is simple; no drama.
I live in a city that (while imperfect) is home to so many incredible people, places, food options, events and music.
In a few months I'll be able to take the bus to The Forks, have a couple of pints of local craft beer while I work, and skate home along our frozen river all the way to my house.
Winter can suck, but Winnipeggers really do make the most out of it.
I'm thankful for the people in our city who continue to push for interesting, cool, and fun ways to celebrate unique the place we live.
John and I both own our own companies, and we've started a new company that one of our users called
and I really think it has the potential to go somewhere.
Most days I wake up excited to get to my desk and get my workday started. I've never had a job that makes me feel this way before.
I never expected to feel this way.
About my work. About my life. About anything.
10 years ago I would have laughed at you if you'd told me this is where I'd be today. I wouldn't have believed you because I didn't think this version of myself - this version of my life - was even possible.
To be honest I'm not really sure how I got here. I can go back and trace the steps. Note every big decision, every scary new risk taken but...
what matters is that I got myself here, somehow.
Sitting in my living room, snuggling my cats, watching the snow fall.
In a little bit John will get up and make some coffee and we'll putter around working on HeyAlfa, or our companies, or our Halloween costumes, or whatever we feel like.
It's Thanksgiving Day here in Canada
and I sure do have a lot to be thankful for.