To indulge, unrestrained

When I am finished with my graduate studies, there is one life’s pleasure in which I will indulge, without restraint and without guilt, deeply and utterly.

I cannot wait to read. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, fanfiction, it’s going be a veritable OCEAN of words that I will dip into. And it will be SO enjoyable. The Kobo reader will never leave my side.

Just a glimpse of some of the books in my to-read list:

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The passing of a dear friend and brother

A couple of weeks ago, mon mari called me at work and asked if he could come see me. This kind of call usually heralds an impromptu lunch date, but from the tone of his voice, I knew it wasn’t one of those times. When I met him, M told me that our friend Josh had called him, and shared the news that another friend of ours, Matt, went out running the previous morning, and then had died. Since I met M over 10 years ago, I’ve seen him in tears less than 5 times, but he was weeping as he told me about Matt, his voice was full of grief.

Of all of our acquaintances, there are very few who have better exemplified the saying, “he has heart.” We met Matt and Jill during our first month in Kamloops at the church we had just started attending. We ended in up in the same small group and this introduction turned out to have a deep impact in our lives, because while we have a lot of friends – many of whom we share similar interests and pursuits (social, spiritual, physical, mental), there are a lesser number of people that truly stand out as those we want to emulate. People we want to emulate are usually older, or are celebrity writers or teachers or leaders, not so much people in our immediate social circles. But I can say with certainty that Matt is one of the people in real life that mon mari respected and admired, and who inspired in both of us – by his zest for life, by his genuine interest in people that shone through and through in his words and actions to both friends and strangers, and in his whole-hearted pursuit of his love for God and his Christian faith – the desire to pursue a sincerity and honesty in our own spiritual seeking and in our everyday choices and decisions.

During the first year of our life in Kamloops, we purchased a house that had a couple of wonky electrical switches. Matt volunteered his time and technical skills to help us out. I remember him in a beat-up blue workman’s suit crawling in between some narrow (and gross) spaces in our walls, only to emerge dusty and smudged a while later, declaring loudly with a bright grin that all should be in working order now.

To this day, every time we turn the switch on in our living room, we have light, made possible by Matt’s generosity. What a completely fitting and perfect metaphor for how Matt will be remembered.

From his obituary:

IN MEMORIUM

October 13, 1978 – May 26, 2015

Matt Vollans, age 36, of Kamloops, B.C. died suddenly on Tuesday, May 26th. He was a loving husband, to Jill, and father to his son Seth, and daughter Keziah. He also leaves behind his mother, father, Oma, brothers and sisters, as well as many family and friends.

Matt had a passion for life. He loved the outdoors and enjoyed challenging himself in mountain climbing, hiking, running, and many other sports. Matt was sensitive, loving, kind, loyal, and a dear friend to many. He always made everyone he met feel encouraged and valuable. One of his greatest joys was spending time with his family.

Above all, Matt lived his life to the glory of God and encouraged everyone else to do this to the fullest. His favourite bible verse was “Be imitators of God” and to this end he strove.

The funeral service will be held on Friday, June 5th, 2015 at 1:00 pm at Summit Drive Church, 1975 Summit Drive, Kamloops. Viewing from 12:00 to 12:30 pm. Should friends desire, donations to the New Life Mission would be appreciated in Matt’s memory.

Flexibility

Never has a word more captured what and where I need to be, for the sake of sanity, of continuity, of getting to and through the next day.

It’s when you have all the best intentions and plans lined up neatly – academic benchmarks to achieve, exciting new photo projects and photo-walk planned, a research interview lined up, transitions in work – and WHAM! a totally unexpected event comes and blindsides you.

hospital Kamloops

An event like a wrenching, devastating fall that results in 5 broken ribs, an inability to breathe properly, a lack of mobility, and a general sense of helplessness and slight depression in the overwhelming defeat that comes with the pain and immobility.

Seriously – who does that? Well, I did last week, and consequently, majorly screwed up my immediate plans for 2015.

But, I realized last week that it doesn’t mean my plans are now dead in the water. It just required, still requires…rethinking, retooling, shuffling timelines around a bit (just a bit, please!) and accepting that things don’t always work out the way we want. Being FLEXIBLE as to goals and working with thank God, very good people, who can work with me and help me through those rescheduled timelines (and in some circumstances, graciously shifting their expected deadlines), and more importantly, keep me on track and accountable – this realization has kept me sane and optimistic that not all plans are lost in the face of sudden, in-your-face life events.

Things DON’T always work out according to the timelines we have in place, but if we can be flexible and accepting of changes to our schedule, and when we have people around us to work with and to accommodate and sometimes facilitate those changes, than things are still do-able.

I’m feeling kind of grateful here.

Refreshed and roaring to go

Just following up with my annual goals. It’s as if publicly sharing them makes me more likely to stick with them. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

An annual review of last year’s goals revealed that 2 goals were 100% completed, 4 were partly accomplished, and 3 were not achieved at all. Worse average than in previous years, but hey, that is life.

Well, let’s roll some of those goals over and make another, intentional, serious stab at them for 2015!
goals(Trying out Wunderlist for project and list management this year.)

Look forward to checking things off as the year progresses. Allons-y!

Oh, Rdio, Rdio, how do we love thee

A few weeks ago, we had a family outing to the cinema for the first time in years. We watched Guardians of the Galaxy, and all of us thoroughly enjoyed it. I was also enchanted by the 70s music vibes, a period whose music I almost never listen to. We got home from the theatre and I opened my music app, typed in a few words, and voila, we had the soundtrack playing in our living room in seconds.

In 2011, our family became a subscriber to streaming music. The selection of services in Canada for streaming music at the time was very limited, and we ended up joining Rdio. I’ve not regretted it at all, even with the $9.99 a month we’ve been paying for years.

Not only is it a company that keeps on improving its offerings to users every year, but it really does have one of the nicest designs among similar services and offers a very logical, clean user interface experience across all platforms (web, Android, iOS, Mac), since very early on. Three words: so – dang – gorgeous.

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The best part, of course? It’s brought us hours and hours of soundtracks to our lives. Some of the specific occasions we turn Rdio on include:

  • while doing housework
  • expanding our repertoire of French singers and musicians
  • blocking out life noises in order to read and study
  • for occasions of just dancing (all ages!)
  • providing us with road trip tunes
  • keeping le Petit occupied during a 15-hour trip to Hawaii
  • setting the scene for dinner parties
  • providing emotional, angsty backdrop tracks for restless late nights
  • and lately, filling our house with groovy 70s tunes.

On walking and noticing

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We had a small car accident that rendered us auto-less for the weekend. On foot, we had a chance to enjoy the city of Kamloops on footpaths not normally part of our routes, and change things up to fulfill our everyday tasks in a manner not usually part of our routines. It was rather wonderful.

The experience reminded me of Alexandra Horowitz’s book, On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. Just changing our form of transportation, having to do things on foot and giving up activities that we couldn’t access, made us…slower, more aware of time and doing things NOW, rather than planning for and looking five steps ahead. When we pay attention, when we have singular focus on the here and now, we become aware of so many things we miss, to our detriment, in daily life and all around us.

Turn of the season

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There are signs of the turn of the season everywhere. Summer to autumn. It’s lovely and brings anticipation of the sight of glorious fiery foliage, of warm cinnamony baking smells and rich harvest meals together with friends.

This is also my first post using WordPress on the iPhone since the iOS 8 update, and a new photo app, Pomelo.

It’s always a bit nerve-wracking committing to an update, especially on a 3-year-old phone that is practically ancient in technology time.

Happily, I can say that it’s been fine so far on my 4s, contrary to many online writers bemoaning the hit to speed and productivity and usefulness of iOS 8.

The feature set I wanted the most was the ability to edit photos using app features, directly from the stock photo collection without having to open an app to do so.

Lucky me, this works – but with limitations. Newer apps, Fotograf and Pomelo, for example, work fine with the “open in…” function. Alas, my favorite app, Afterlight, does not probably due to hardware limitations of my older gadget. I still use Afterlight the “old” way: open app, import and then edit and save back to Camera Roll.

Which brings me to: the new absence of Camera Roll in favor of photo Collections. To see all my photos, I can only view them in groupings organized, inconveniently, by location/date, rather than one massive collection ordered chronologically. I much prefer the old way, as do scores of other iPhone users, according to Internet forums and posts. Errrrrrr. This is a gripe, and one I fear I will have to come to terms with as Apple steamrolls user options in favor of whatever new features they are attempting to integrate.

(There is a whole other discussion here about how users are conditioned or trained to use technology in particular, prescribed ways, but let’s save it for another time, or for my other blog.)

But regardless of this one rather big downside, in general I am very pleased that my (old) iPhone is not functioning any less efficiently or smoothly since the iOS 8 update.

Recapping a first-time American road trip

Yellowstone Norris

I am so bummed out that I haven’t posted since June! But at least we had a summer full of interesting and time-consuming activities, if not all productively undertaken.

Certainly, the highlight of our summer was our long-planned trip through the American northwest to Yellowstone, something we’d envisioned for over a year, that at last became reality at the end of July. Eleven days on the road, then a few days resting at our friend’s place in Vancouver, was a totally do-able trip that wasn’t exhausting (like some camping outings are).

We had pre-planned some camp sites and motel nights in Yellowstone Park, and then winged the rest of our itinerary, other than a general idea that we would drive through Washington towards Yellowstone and meander our way back to Canada somehow. We had couple days where we didn’t move – just stayed longer in one spot, no driving, no into-town visits, just reading, resting and playing in the water – and I think that was crucial to helping foster a sense of vacation, versus the pressure to get somewhere, to see something.

The best part of the trip, aside from the wonder of discovering the varied and rich geography and history of certain parts of the USA with le Mari and le petit, was the visual feast that the different, sometimes surreal landscapes provided. Yellowstone Park especially blew us away – it was much more interesting and beautiful than we had expected. We stayed 5 days here, but if we go again, we would stay longer to explore the various corners and less-travelled quiet places all over the park that we didn’t have a chance to visit this time.

In addition to the fascinating geological features of the hydrothermal basins of Yellowstone, I loved seeing: rippling wheat fields, dry hoodoos and red rocks, flat plains, and rolling dry hills, and this all in just one tiny northwest/central region of the vast US. We are planning for another trip further south in another couple of years next time.

Idaho Plains Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Yellowstone Lake Grand Prismatic West Yellowstone Norris Hills of Montana Larrabee Park

A space of one’s own

The writing process is so unpredictable – sometimes the words and ideas just flow, and other times they just stutter and stall and the screen or page is left blank, or in my case, some words and phrases have been jotted down, only to be deleted.

Today’s Daily Post is so timely to working out my own process – it asks us to think about our writing space. Place can be so important to writing. In our current living conditions, I don’t have an ideal place in my home or city for writing, but at least I’ve identified some minimum requirements to make a space to call mine, even for a short period, to be able to grapple with ideas and words and get them out into some tangible, logical sense.

The minimum requirements for a writing space are:

  • room enough for my laptop, notebook, articles
  • room enough for a drink without worry of knocking it over
  • quiet – low music with no lyrics is ok, conversation is too distracting.

coffee, seattle, cafe

That’s it. Things I bring along to help with the environmental factors include:

  • headphones, to block out external sounds and sometimes listen to music (I love Klipsch in-ear headphones with inline mic for controlling volume and music, and for providing some barrier to external noise)
  • my laptop charger, though I prefer to leave it behind, since my recent MacBook more than lives up to its claim of 8+ hours of battery
  • fruit jelly candy, which tides me over when I’m a bit hungry, to finish that paragraph or section until I take a real meal break.

Places I’ve worked lately include: our dining room table, university library, public library, upstairs at an art studio, on the living room floor, my office desk on the weekend, a corner table at 3 different coffee shops, an airport waiting area during a 6 hours stopover, and a hotel room.

The best location was the hotel room, because I could spread out my research materials and supplies, without having to tidy them up or move them for the duration of 5 days straight, which helped with the visual organization which I’ve learned is a part of my thinking process.

Not my ideal set-up, but we make do the best that we can! Here’s to writing well.