- by Alyson Shane
Two months ago I was boarding a flight to Belize to get married. My worst fears were a sunburn and thunderstorms and whether I'd be hungover for the big day.
Dumb, stupid things, in hindsight.
(But you know how weddings are.)
In late January I was standing in our AirBnB, listening to NPR as we packed up. Reports of Coronavirus spreading. Worrying that it would come to Toronto before John and I could safely catch a flight home.
Just over a year ago we were walking down one of the main streets in street in Old Puket, Thailand. There was an old temple on one side of the street and the other was a line of storefronts spilling onto the sidewalk. One of those stores was a "pet store" of some kind I guess, because all we could see was one lonely dude eating while surrounded on all sides by cages and cages of stinky, squawking pigeons and random animals that aren't allowed as pets in North America.
As we walked by I joked
"that's how you start a pandemic!"
Don't I feel like a real asshole right now.
Just a few weeks ago we were out at Fort Gibraltar drinking beer in fur coats and listening to hip-hop while eating poutine. There were at least a hundred people at that event and we're being told to meet in groups of 50 or less right now. 10 or less if you're in the US.
A few weeks after that I was lugging extra bags of cat food and tins of fish home in case we needed to start social distancing.
That was last Thursday.
We're been at home nonstop since then. Neither of us want to get sick, or risk spreading anything around if we get sick
(I'm worried about carrying the virus and being asymptomatic)
and since we can both work remotely that's what we're doing.
But it's hard to stay cooped up and I miss my friends and I miss my city and I miss all the small businesses I used to frequent and who I know are struggling right now.
(If that's you: I see you. I understand what you're going through.)
As an anxious person it's been a challenge. I've worked a lot because work is easy and gives me a sense of control when I feel powerless, but when I'm not staring at a screen I need to do something with my hands so I clean or cook or scroll Instagram or pet the cat.
Thank goodness for the cats.
It's a weird, strange time and I'm sure good things are coming, but right now all I want to do is stay home and curl up and hide from the world until this passes
which luckily is what we're supposed to do
so maybe I'll figure out a way to make this work.
- by Alyson Shane
the province is starting to confirm cases and things are going on lockdown
shows and events are cancelled
the universities and colleges are cancelling classes and moving online
buses are empty which is great because apparently they're cesspools
the lines at the stores are nuts, several aisles long
and businesses are being encouraged to let people work from home.
John's office went remote so he's home and I'm home since this is where I work, and we're cancelling any social plans and not really going outside for the next while.
We stocked up tp and disinfecting wipes just like everyone else
but we went the extra step of buying lots of canned goods and dry goods and freezing extra produce as well
(because you need to eat in order to use all that tp, duh)
and as far as social distancing goes I'm feeling pretty good about it.
I worry about my Grandma, though.
And other people's grandmas.
And even John because he's 39 in a few weeks and apparently this thing takes down people in their 40's now and there's no way I'll risk losing that strange bird if I can help it.
In a few hours I have a Zoom call with the TEDxWinnipeg steering committee to talk about our event in June and whether we'll cancel it.
I'm not 100% sure but I have a feeling that I know how it will go. Who knows.
Everything changes so quickly these days.
It's hard not to be glued to Twitter and the news and all the damn articles and that guy on Joe Rogan and
then there's the debate on Sunday night which you know imma watch
and you know they'll be talking about it in that big, empty studio with no people in it because social distancing
but I'm gonna try and not obsess.
At least we just got a ton of alcohol delivered so if things turn pear-shaped I can drown my sorrows in chocolate porters and box'o wine.
Stay safe and don't forget to wash your hands!
- by Alyson Shane
It still feels weird to say. Especially out loud.
Though I do find the idea of being John's "wife" pretty satisfying, mostly because I'm obsessed with that John Mulaney bit where he yells
THAT'S MY WIFE
and secretly I kinda wish I was the one with a wife instead of a husband, because
THAT'S MY HUSBAND
just doesn't have the same oomph to it.
But that's okay, because being John's wife comes with a lot of other good stuff. Like getting to hang out all the time and know all his weird idiosyncrasies and massage his back when it gets sore and have unusual amounts of fun doing mundane things like grocery shopping or waiting for a flight.
I always hoped I'd marry my best friend, and here we are all these years later.
Married. Still best friends.
Would ya look at that.
We got married on a dock in front of the setting sun and it was beautiful and magical and silly and weird.
Beautiful and magical because of the sunset and how good John looked in his bowtie
(blue with flamingos)
and silly and weird because we're silly, weird people with a made-up language and a pretend history as Bears in Space
oh and also because Adam (aka "Reverend Grey") married us wearing a MONK COSTUME and also wrote and performed a freestyle rap about us called
"The Fresh Prince and Princess of Belize"
which is exactly what we felt like that day. 33 people took a chance on our weird stories and descended upon the tiny island of Caye Caulker, BZ and spent several days drinking in the ocean and eating way too much seafood with us.
I even killed a lobster and then ate it! It was weird to kill my own food, but when the guy killing the lobster at the very sketchy wooden table next to the restaurant we were eating at asked "who wants to try?" and John jumped up and pointed at me and said
obviously I had to step up and take a life.
I've never travelled with friends or family before and it was a nice treat to walk down Front St and see Eddie and Kim sitting on their balcony, surveying the landscape and offering shots of Patrón to passers-by
or finding Alex and Rob hanging out in the hammocks along the beach (again)
or walking outside to see Jasmin and Matt hanging out in our shared yard at Wish Willy's
or waving at the Gilvesy's lined up along the bar at Paradise Restaurant having breakfast
or hearing Adrian and Carlene laughing from inside their AirBnb from the street
or a million other memories that I hope I can hold onto with as much detail as possible.
Because I know that the next time we visit Caye Caulker it won't be the same. Our little village of people won't be there, walking with a beer from the corner store or hanging out at the Sip 'n Dip or eating at Fran's for the umpteenth time. This trip, and our wedding, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But at least I can look forward to knowing that the next time the lobster dude asks "who wants to try killing a lobster?" John will jump up and say
MY WIFE DOES.
* Photo via Les Klassen. You'd better belize that coconut had rum in it.
- by Alyson Shane
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.
- 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
The wedding was was funny and unique and weird and wonderful, just like them.
I was happy to be there even though my purse broke and my romper's zipper broke and my hair didn't hold all the nice curls Katrina did for me
oh and I left my dumb, broken purse (with my phone in it) at the venue.
But it was one of those blurry evenings spent staying up way too late drinking and celebrating with people you love that makes the next day's hangover
so worth it.
It moves me to see other people who love each other and compliment each other so well
and who appreciate and promote each other's weirdness
and I feel so lucky to not just be their friend, but to have been invited to share in their special day with them.
Congrats again, Adam and Brittany
thank you for throwing a baller party, and for being in our lives
and for hanging onto my dumb, broken purse when I left it at the venue.
You guys are the real MVPs.
- by Alyson Shane
It's raining and we've been inside for most of the day except the part where we wandered around the garden to check on our tiny tomatoes and baby peppers and little sprouts.
The cats are snoring.
I took a long nap this afternoon.
After being sick earlier this week and busy every night/day for weeks
it's been nice to take it slow and have nowhere to be.
We made breakfast. We made tacos.
John made of cups of boozy coffee with vanilla.
We did a crossword puzzle together and I played some Zelda.
It's damp and grey and smells like it, and the rain mixing with the incense I'm burning that I bought at the hippie shop up the street
along with a vegan recipe book (naturally)
is soothing and making me drowsy.
I know our bedroom is going to be dark and cool and smell like earth when we curl up together.
I hope we set aside some time to read our bedtime book together. John reads to be me sometimes before we go to sleep, and we're halfway through Life of Pi right now.
I've read it before - it's one of my favourite books - but it's a slow read aloud and we've been so busy that we've been falling right to sleep most nights.
But tonight feels perfect for it.
- by Alyson Shane
I've always been a "good sleeper". I usually don't have trouble falling, or staying, asleep as long as I'm in my own bed and am not in the throes of some anxiety attack or panic-inducing situation.
I also have really vivid and interesting dreams, which helps.
The last few years though, I've been getting more into early starts.
Part of it is that I don't party as much as I used to. When you're awake for days doing bad things to yr body, yr body needs to crash and reset and it does so through sleep.
I also like being awake more. In my pre-therapy days, lots of days felt like I was just trying to muddle through until I could crawl back into the safety of my bed and my dreams.
Sleep was more like an escape.
But in the last few years that has changed a lot. I still love sleeping, but if I could go without sleep for several days just so I could be productive and also do all the things I want to do, then I would.
I still want to stay up for days on end, but for different reasons.
I haven't been able to stay up for days per-se, but lately our jet lag has me waking up at 2 - 3AM most mornings, and passing out before 8PM. It's been weird, and is kinda like getting the flu at the end of your day because yr body is super confused internally.
Yesterday and today I woke up at 5:30AM and it was great.
Turns out I can get a lot done super duper early in the morning, and since I'm one of those people who are very very on and clear-headed and productive right after waking up these early-morning hours have been great.
I'm not going to miss falling asleep sitting up at 8PM, but y'know
- by Alyson Shane
Yesterday as I was on my way to a meeting my toque blew off my head because it was windy af and I had to chase it down the street like a chump
which wouldn't have been so bad, except as it was blowing away my toque blew into some dude's legs as he was also crossing the street, and you know what he did?
He laughed and kicked my toque off his leg and I swear I could have chewed him out for being a tool right then and there but I was worrying about catching up with my toque and also getting my hair, scarf, and glasses which slipped off my face as I was hustling in place
(I must have looked like a hot mess)
then as I was bending down to snatch up my hat my phone went flying out of my pocket and wouldn't you know it
the damn thing hit the pavement and the screen shattered into a bazillion horrible and depressing shards.
It was heartbreaking.
But I had to go to a meeting with a new client and my account manager so I had to keep my shit together even though I was freaking out internally because now I needed to get a new phone. There was no way I could use this broken POS. Ugh.
So after my meeting wrapped I headed to my friendly neighbourhood Rogers kiosk to get it replaced. As I was going through the transaction I mentioned that I was heading to Thailand in a few months and the dude said
oh no way, I just got back from Thailand and Indonesia!
and gave me a ton of tips and tricks to traveling through Thailand including making sure we do some scuba diving off the islands on the southern part of the country
(which we were planning to do)
and also to take as many night trains as possible since they're affordable and beautiful and offer lots of chances to actually interact with real Thai folks and not just dumb tourists like us.
(we're now booked on a night train to Chiang Mai which I am PUMPED about)
"Sorry about this" he said "but it's gonna be $300 to buy out of your contract and get a new phone" and I said well, that sucks but OK. I'm not a baller but my corporation can afford it so I'll just buy it now and get money back on my taxes since it's a business expense.
And he said, oh you run a business, what do you do?
And I said I run a digital marketing agency blah blah and he said are you looking for copywriters?
And I said, why yes I am
and he told me his gf was a CreComm grad and is a copywriter and is looking for more work and I thought THIS IS PERFECT because I have lots of work I need done and I'd rather pay someone to do it than do it myself because yr girl is busy af
so I left him my card and have a potential new hire without doing any work.
What's weird about that whole exchange is that if I hadn't been chatty and pleasant and probably bordered on over-sharing what my company does, what our Thailand plans are, etc.
(luckily for me I live in a city where everyone is unusually nice and talkative with strangers)
I might not have gotten those travel protips or had the potential to meet a new person who can help me grow my company and do good work for my clients.
The moral of the story I think is: be chatty and pleasant and good things will come to you.
It always seems to work out that way for me, anyway.
- by Alyson Shane
I'm sitting at the Fyxx on Broadway and eating lunch: Tandoori's Box sandwich (pretty good) and some chicken gumbo soup (very good) and a glass of water because I have a thermos of coffee in my bag that John made for me this morning before I left the house.
He makes coffee in a Chemex during the weekdays and has a system of pouring the water, waiting, and pouring that it part Chemex-specific, and part his own process.
On the weekends he makes coffee using the Aeropress but the coffee also includes tasty stuff like a shot of Jameson's or Baileys or Kahlua if we're craving something sweet.
John's coffee is one of the highlights of my day-to-day and I will be the first to admit that I am completely spoiled in this regard.
I only make my own coffees when he's travelling for work or out of town and I can tell you that even though it's hard to fuck up coffee, whatever I make isn't nearly as good.
Back when I worked in an office he would make me a big thermos to take with me so I didn't have to drink the Maxwell House that every office seems to defer to.
(We do not drink Maxwell House. We drink fair trade coffee from our local coffee shops like Thom Bargen and sometimes Parlour Coffee or Little Sister).
(Though we often cut our fancy beans with flavoured beans from Bulk Barn which means my coffee is half French Vanilla or Hazelnut or whatever, which is isn't as fancy but is way more delicious).
When I started running Starling a few years back I switched from going into an office every day to working from home and I'd assumed for some reason that my thermos of coffee would go away
after all, if I'm at home with all the coffee stuff why would John bother making extra for me?
But every day for the past three-plus years John has not only made me a thermos of coffee every weekday
but he brews it, mixes it, and drops it off at my desk in the morning before he leaves for the office
so by the time I'm finished getting ready I have a cozy office with a big 'ol thermos of coffee waiting for me on my desk.
A while back we had a big fight in the morning before work.
I forget what it was about, but it was one of those stupid fights where you're probably too emotionally volatile (and fully not awake yet) so everything is a problem and the other person makes you so mad you could spit.
I said to John "just go away. I'll see you later" and I started getting ready like I usually do
and that wonderful man, you know what he did?
He went upstairs and made me my usual thermos of coffee
and then he dropped it off in my office as usual
even though we were in the middle of a fight and I was, in hindsight, probably not being my best self
(I'm not a morning person)
he still went out of his way to be kind to me.
Later in the day after we'd calmed down and had a chat and things were back to normal I said
"why did you still make me coffee this morning?"
and he said
"just because we're fighting doesn't mean I get to be a dick about things. I love you."
Thank god I'm marrying that man.