Posts by Alyson Shane
- by Alyson Shane
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!
- by Alyson Shane
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.
- by Alyson Shane
Image via the Prairie Theatre Exchange.
I met Ian Ross a lifetime ago. Or, rather, what feels like a lifetime ago.
We worked in the same building, and when we were introduced our colleague said something to the effect of:
"This is Ian. He's kind of a big deal" and the way he laughed it off and joked about it told me that
1. He was probably kind of a big deal*
2. We'd probably get along
I was in a really bad place at the time, and I leaned on Ian a lot to talk about what I was dealing with, and how frustrated and overwhelmed I often felt about the prospects of my future.
Ian, through the simple act of listening and asking questions (which no "adult" in my life had really done at that point) helped me work through my feelings as I tried to make sense of the world around me.
I was confused. I didn't understand how I'd gotten myself into the mess I found myself in, and I felt at a loss as to the best way forward.
So it was funny, and ironic in a way, that I found myself confronted with those same questions - "how did we get here?" and "what do we do now?" - through the lens of his most recent play The Third Color.
The play focuses on two spirits who have taken the shapes of Indigenous women: Head Full of Lice, played by Kathleen MacLean, and Agatu, played by Tracey Nepinak.
Through dialogue that manages to somehow be sharp, resonant, and often hilarious at the same time, the spirits explore Canada's history from pre-settlers to the present day.
Over and over again, the spirits butt heads (and, in some cases, got into physical skirmishes) over whether or not helping the settlers was, in fact, the right thing to do.
Agatu, who takes the form of an elderly woman, pities the settlers who are sick and need their help. She insists that, even if the outcome isn't what they expect, that it's the "right" thing to do.
Head Full of Lice, on the other hand, is furious. She sees the generational hurt and trauma inflicted upon Indigenous peoples and repeatedly states that she wants to "burn it all down," even going so far as to take out a Canadian flag and threaten to burn it out of rage.
"Where is the third color?" they both ask, looking at the Canadian flag.
Our Canadian flag is red and white. Red is symbolic of England and white of France... but where are the Indigenous peoples in our flag?
Where are their histories? Their stories? Their presence in the literal fabric of our country?
Through their dialogue, Head Full of Lice and Agatu represent opposing viewpoints in terms of reconciliation - should Indigenous peoples accept that "this is what we have" and try to move forward, or should they burn it all down and start again from scratch?
As a non-Indigenous person I have no real understanding of the feelings that Indigenous peoples must feel towards reconciliation in Canada. But through Head Full of Lice and Agatu's discussion I was able to get a glimpse of the complicated - and contradictory - feelings that Indigenous folks like Ian must be experiencing during this period in our history.
Which, I think, is what makes the play such an important contribution to the discussion surrounding the reconciliation attempts happening in Canada right now.
Through its comedy and drama and fierce bouts of emotion, The Third Color represents an important perspective that is timely, relevant, and challenging, while also leaving space for the audience to sit with their feelings, mixed and uncomfortable though they may be.
Art should challenge us to push the limits of our comfort zones, and that's exactly what Agatu and Head Full of Lice do throughout the play.
It made me think of the famous Duke Ellington quote that states: Art should be dangerous.
I couldn't agree more.
The Third Color is playing at the Prairie Theatre Exchange from October 2 - 20. I highly recommend checking it out.
**Big thanks to the PTE for the free tickets, and the chance to see and write about this important piece of art.**
- by Alyson Shane
A few weeks ago John and I performed an original song we wrote at the Rainbow Trout Music Festival open mic.
It's called "Manitobae" and it's about a particular kind of Manitoban man
many of whom were clearly sitting around Carpet Beach listening to us sing, by the sound of the cheers and clapping.
I don't have a great singing voice, and I sounded raspy af, but I'm really proud of our song and of our little band. This is Big Trouble in Little Wolseley's 3rd year performing!
I've experienced a few losses recently and I haven't been feeling the same connection to my community as I typically do.
But this video is a good reminder that there are like-minded folks out there, and instead of focusing on the weird, negative feelings still swirling around inside of me.
I'd like to share this moment in time with you because it makes me happy.
I hope it makes you happy, too.
- by Alyson Shane
I miss him like crazy.
Jack Layton was the second politician to make an impact on me and my political views.
The first was Barack Obama.
I met Jack Layton at a campaign rally here in Winnipeg during the election of 2011. He was shorter than I'd expected but his charismatic energy filled the room so much that it didn't matter. I still caught myself catching my breath.
He talked about ideas that make sense, like inclusivity, combatting climate change, and true universal health care, and that were grounded in an unwavering belief that by working together we could achieve much more than we ever could by competing against one another.
The room was filled with young people and people of colour and it felt good to be among hundreds of others who believed, like Jack, and like me, that we all become better together.
During his speech Jack talked about being a Canadian Idealist. I didn't know what that was, so I looked it up later, and this is what I know:
Canadian Idealism is a philosophical belief founded on three principles:
1. The Enlightenment (capitalism) has suppressed culture in our society.
Culture is how we make sense of our values and beliefs as a society. We need to invest in preserving and promoting our culture because it's how our knowledge and historically inherited ideas are passed down through generations.
2. Philosophy must include a study of history.
We need to thoroughly understand and study history and see where we went wrong in order to keep from making the same mistakes. This is the only way to build towards a society that can balance the civic unity (aka, the common good) with individual freedom.
3. We achieve freedom through the ethical life of our community, not in spite of it.
By participating actively in our society, and by putting social systems in place where people feel empowered to thrive and pursue their goals, we can build a society that is truly free (aka, positive liberty).
Turns out, I'm a Canadian Idealist. Who knew.
At the end of his speech Jack stuck around to shake hands and take photos, and I snaked my way through the crowd and ohmygod somehow wound up right in front of him. I felt overwhelmed and slightly sick, like meeting your idol for the first time. I blurted out something dumb like:
"I really admire what you're doing and I believe in you."
And Jack Layton took my hand in both of his hands and looked me in the eye and said
"I believe in YOU. We're in this together, and we couldn't do this without you."
I get misty thinking about how empowered he made me feel in that moment, and clearly it made an impact on others, too:
That election cycle, thanks to his leadership, the New Democratic Party more than doubled their seats in the House of Commons, and the NDP became the Official Opposition party for the first time ever.
Everything felt hopeful. Sure, we hadn't quite given the Conservatives the boot (yet), but the Orange Crush had come and the tides appeared to be turning. Canada, finally, started to look like it may become the kind of country that 30.63% of Canadians just like me wanted to see.
(Remember that the Conservatives won with 39.62% of the vote - just an 8.99% difference.)
Then, too suddenly, Jack Layton announced that he'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and on August 22, 2011, he died.
I still can't believe he's gone.
He was a beacon for the kind of person we should strive to be, and is someone I try to model myself after when it comes to how I live my life and advocate for the things I believe in.
You could tell that he was one of those rare people who got into politics because he believed passionately in the need for positive change. Not just through the policies he pushed for, but because he lived and breathed his beliefs in everything he championed, and everything he did.
He founded The White Ribbon Campaign, a movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls.
He was one of the early advocates in the fight against AIDS.
He championed same-sex marriage.
He installed solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling in his house.
He rode his bike everywhere.
Even in his death, he managed to inspire so many of us with his last words.
As he lay dying, all that he could think to do, after spending his whole life in the service of others, was to leave us with a message of hope, forgiveness, and unity.
I'm going to copy/paste it from the CBC website below because you should read it. We all should. We live in scary, divisive, and uncertain times and it's important to be reminded of the good that resides in all of us.
So let's pour one out for one of the kindest and most compassionate Canadians of all time, our good friend The Honourable Jack Layton, PC MSC
Canada could really use you right now.
August 20, 2011
Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.
Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.
I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.
I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.
A few additional thoughts:
To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.
To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.
To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.
To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.
To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.
And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
All my very best,
- by Alyson Shane
This morning I was having a dream about being in school, or on a campus of some sort. My dreams are typically pretty vivid and have been positive and adventurous recently, which I've enjoyed.
I was dreaming about sitting in a too-hot kiddie pool and talking to a boy named Eric that I went to high school with about politics when John slid back into bed and brought the cats with him.
We lay there for a long time pressing our bodies together and talking while the cats crawled over us. We talked about the future and our hopes and dreams, and when it got too hot and uncomfortable to lie in bed together we untangled ourselves and went upstairs.
John makes coffee every morning, and this morning while he was catching up with his mom on the phone I went into the sun room to spend some time reading.
I've just started a new Haruki Murakami novel and I'm already halfway through.
Not that I'm bragging or anything; the intro and story are 101 pages total and I can usually read 50-100 words in a sitting, so having started it yesterday and finished it today is pretty standard for me.
But then again I've always read quickly.
I'm reading Wind/Pinball, which is a collection of two of Murakami's first stories. Hear the Wind Sing is the first one, and Pinball is the second.
I like Murakami's novels because even though they explore themes like relationships and loneliness and loss, on the surface nothing much ever happens.
At least, not in the traditional narrative sense.
Humans like to read stories that have a complete narrative arc. We like beginnings, middles, and ends that arrive at conclusions that make us feel like everything's resolved.
I read a book in university called The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell about this exact topic, and he says:
“The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It's usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.
I've read several of Murakami's novels now, including:
- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
- Kafka on the Shore
and my favourite Norwegian Wood
and can say that generally speaking the stories in his novels don't follow this arc.
Most of Murakami's stories are about a series of normal and benign things that happen to people (usually men) peppered with strange details, made-up references, or the occasional quote so striking that you have to go back and re-read it a few times.
Things happen, and characters explore their feelings and experiences, but his novels feel subdued and introspective and placid in a way that makes him inaccessible for a lot people, I think.
I'm the only person I know who has read any of his work, come to think of it.
Lately I've been trying to do as much of my reading in the sunroom as I can.
Our sunroom is walled-in, but has several large windows that we keep open spring, summer, and fall, but close when it gets too cold in the winter.
I like to work there, or sit and read, and listen to the sounds of the neighbourhood go by.
Today, after I finished reading Hear the Wind Sing, I sat in the sunroom in a beam of light, sipping the coffee John made for me and watching the neighbourhood come to life. A dog was barking down the street. Kids were playing in the front yard across the road.
In front of my house a man walked by pushing with stroller with a small baby tucked up inside of it. He had on sandals, jean shorts, a band tank top, Ray Bans, a man-bun, and was holding a coffee from a trendy little shop up the road.
His other child, a boy of one or two, toddled along ahead of the stroller, teetering on his newly-found legs and feet.
The dad watched after his older son, balancing the coffee cup on the handle of the stroller as he pulled the shade down over his infant's eyes, protecting his infant from the brightness and heat.
He couldn't have been any older than I am.
Watching him reminded me that in a few months I'll be married. Moving into the phase of life dedicated to homes and kids and parenting.
No more lazy Sundays spent sipping fancy coffee with whisky in it watching the neighbourhood come alive through a beam of sunlight in yr sunroom.
Nothing makes you feel older than being around other people.
In the story I was reading Murakami says: “all things pass. None of us can manage to hold on to anything. In that way, we live our lives."
I think he's right.
- by Alyson Shane
who is friendly and sweet and kind, and has a terrific memory for names.
I see them at my local watering holes; at the bars and coffee shops where I sit with my laptop to work when the weather is nice, or when I've been feeling a bit stir-crazy from working from home all week.
We've had lots of conversations. They regularly ask me how I'm doing, even though I'm pretty sure they don't fully "get" what I do for a living. They tell me about the odd jobs they take, how hard it can be to get a full-time gig, and how much they like working outside, and with their hands.
Everyone at all of the places I go knows them and asks how they're doing.
All the staff know their name. The people working behind the bar, or behind the counter, will say hello and goodbye and tell them to come back and visit soon.
Everyone asks what they've been up to, and gives them advice when they ask for it.
They get, and give, a lot of hugs.
I love interacting with them, and watching them interact with others.
This person, by the way, has a developmental disability.
It's worth mentioning because I don't think people usually come together around each other this way. There's a sense of collective caring that seems to manifest itself in the right people.
Every time I sit at a counter or a table or a bar and listen to the people around me come together to care about, support, and create a community that is inclusive for everyone it makes me a bit emotional.
Because I read and listen to a lot of news about people who don't give a shit about one another, and it's pretty easy to start assuming that other people around you are malicious, or ill-intentioned
instead of being, I dunno
just a regular person trying to do their best and get by
and it's nice to be reminded that most people you meet are kind, and decent, and willing to create a community together
and all you have to do is say "hello" to become a part of it.
- by Alyson Shane
You never know when yr last conversation with someone is going to be.
I have an Old Grandma so I think about that a lot.
It's why I try not to go to bed without saying "I love you"
or end a phone call without saying the same
but people fight and have disagreements and not everything can end on a positive or constructive note every single time.
People are people, after all.
Which is why it's important to say those things when you mean it
like when you feel like you could burst because you're so happy to be talking to someone, and you're sure they can hear how happy you are in the excited pitch of your voice
- or at least, you hope they do -
and you know in that moment: this is fleeting.
That these are the best days of your lives
because they're spent together.
It's hard to remember that sometimes
until it isn't.
So consider this yr reminder to hug everyone you love real tight tonight.
And tell the people you love that you love them.
(I love you.)
- by Alyson Shane
I got my first LiveJournal or maybe Xanga back in 2003 and started writing before it was cool to use your real name on the internet.
We called ourselves dumb stuff like moon_meditation, rainbow__heartache_, planetaryattack_, and Sonic_Cry and, thinking back
we were all really into underscores for some reason.
Nowadays it's cool and almost expected that you use your real name online but back in the day we called our blogs dumb things like
The Lost Planet
Marduk The Invincible's Blog
The Lolita Chronicles
and literally just:
We used avatars to set the tone for the way we were feeling with each post. People used Disney images and anime characters and illustrations and animated gifs instead of profile pictures and would cycle through different ones depending on how they felt that day.
At the top of each post we could list a bunch of info, like:
and you'd fill it in like so:
Title: Without You I'm Nothing
I am...: Home sweet home
I hear...: Placebo - Every You Every Me
I'm feeling...: Reflective
I miss those days when blogging was simpler and you could say whatever you wanted.
Back when the internet was young and we poured our hearts here and talked about troubles and heartbreak and didn't give a damn if
things lined up or looked good
or if yr punctuation and grammar wasperfect
because you were writing as fast as you could think, unhindered and unencumbered, and as you poured the words out of your fingertips and onto that digital page you would feel this deep sense of relief and
after hitting 'Publish'.
I miss those wild west days.
But being a blogging dinosaur isn't so bad. I've spent nearly two decades working through my bullshit and honing my craft and watching as the way people communicated online has changed
and my blog has changed me just as much as any social media network
but goddamn if I don't still miss using gifs as avatars.
- by Alyson Shane
It says: "the purpose of this cycle is to alter any assumptions that life will always proceed logically."
Which is spooky-true in the way that only something written to sound intentionally vague enough to sound applicable in 99.9% of cases can be.
Mercury is in retrograde, or so says my horoscope, and I should hold off from buying, doing, or planning significant things like
buying a new house
planning a wedding
launching a business
and other big-ticket life events until a planet has stopped looking like it's moving "backwards" across the night sky.
I don't believe in horoscopes, but I like reading them because they give me ideas to chew on.
Are things feeling a bit tense right now?
Should I be taking more time for self-reflection?
Is there something I should be addressing, or resolving?
What could I be doing better?
Truth is, I read these dumb horoscopes because it gives me a sense of control.
I don't believe in God or the prophets or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but I believe in a person's ability to use tech to feel empowered and better manage their life.
Like the apps I use to track my anxiety, my steps, my period and my screen time, reading something that makes me reflective helps me not feel so helpless when plans change, or when things don't work out the way I'd hoped.But that being said
I'm so ready for Mercury Retrograde to be over already.