Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Time So Short

Ah, freshman year of university. I was 17, away from home, maintaining a high GPA, and navigating a new social landscape. Those were also the days when I could still sleep in like nobody's business. And sleeping in was what I planned to do for much of the Christmas holidays after completing a very full first semester of post-secondary.

In the depths of sleep that first morning after I arrived home, I was roused to consciousness by noise and light and movement. My father had come in, flipped on the light, and was pumping my mattress up and down with his fists.

"Hey! Wake up! ...It's the shortest day of the year, and you've slept through half of it!"

He exited the room, leaving the light on and the door open to the hum of the house beyond. I opened one eye to the clock; sure enough, it was approaching noon.

I know I got out of bed at that point, though I could not tell you what I did with the rest of that day. Or any of the other days that holiday season, for that matter. All I know is that every year since, on the winter solstice day, this memory plays out in my mind shortly after waking. It's the shortest day of the year; don't sleep through half of it!

My dad just meant it to be funny, but I have to admit, it's become a bit of a mantra for life of which I am reminded as I approach every new year.

Our world is busy. It moves at an incredibly fast pace and we are encouraged to keep up; always keep up. Work, home, extracurriculars, social functions and social media; people demanding our attention through each of these. We forget that life keeps happening while we are busy going from thing to thing on the agenda--and if we're not careful to stop and notice, we will end up 'sleeping' through half of it.

I hate "keeping up." I am not immune to the busy-ness of life by any means. Some days, some weeks--some seasons--are just full. But one of my least favourite feelings is that of feeling rushed--moving from A to B to C with no time to stop and breathe in between. And somewhere along the way I realized that I had the power to make that feeling the exception rather than the rule.

In the work I've chosen, the people I'm committed to, the hobbies I'm involved in, I have learned--am learning--how to set very intentional boundaries with my time and energy. I have learned to ask myself questions before committing to everything under the sun; before trying to "spread my social" across too many spheres; before getting caught up in the spiral of insanity that seems to be the 'norm' of the 21st century.

Winter Take-Off

What are my top values/passions?

Is what I'm doing in line with those values/passions?

Is what I'm doing negatively impacting my commitment to one of my other values/passions?

Is this task I've taken on something that I can do independently, or do I need to be honest and seek the support of others?

Will committing to this thing allow for the valuable recharge time I know I need?

Is my heart attached to this person/these people?

The answers to these questions mean that I have been more forthright with others as to how I'm feeling.* It means I interact with social media differently. It means volunteering for this, but not that--sometimes even when I value both equally. It means living at a pace that is often out-of-sync with even those closest to me.

But it also means more social energy overall for the people who matter most to me, richer memories, more pause and less rush--more peace.

As the new year approaches, what questions do you need to ask yourself to ensure a healthy balance of your time?

Because this life is beautiful, and amazing, and rich.
And it is short.

Don't sleep through half of it.

* Which, if you know me at all, you know that this is not something I come by naturally or easily.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

SOTC 222/365

Fisgard Pano (SOTC 222/365)

I am so impressed at my iPhone's capabilities sometimes. #easypanos

SOTC 221/365

Viewing the layers atop Lone Tree Hill on Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island's Layers (SOTC 221/365)

SOTC 220/365

It always fascinates me where stuff finds a place to grow.

Brick's Green II (SOTC 220/365)

SOTC 219/365

On a clear November evening...

November Twilight (SOTC 219/365)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Sunrise with New Eyes (AND SOTC 217/365)

I can be kind of grumbly when I have to wake up early on a Saturday against my own volition. I like to take my weekends at a slow, easy pace, and having never been a morning person, I generally don't like to start my weekends with an alarm. However, sometimes those gentle Saturdays are not meant to be, and so it was that I found myself up early this morning to take the cat to the vet for follow-up to some recent surgery. Oh, the things we do for those we love.

Needless to say, it's not what I would choose to do with a Saturday morning, but I placated my grumbles knowing that the day could likely be redeemed by a nap later on, and if not a nap, then at least by an extra hour of sleep when Daylight Savings Time ends tonight.

However, because the clocks haven't changed yet, it meant that I was up before the sun this morning. ...And then the sun started to wake up too. Alberta has a knack for glorious sunrises, especially in the fall and winter, when the increased clouds give something for the light to bounce off of in a million different directions. I stood in the kitchen, pouring milk over my cereal, and glanced out the east-facing window. In the last bit of twilight, I could already tell that the sun was going to give a lovely show this morning. As I ate, I watched the clock, and I watched the sky. I think I can catch this one. A band of bright light hit the horizon; time to get the camera.

One of these days I will organize myself to catch a sunrise from one of Edmonton's beautiful River Valley parks, or from some rolling farm field. However, the limited radius I had within my neighbourhood this morning did not disappoint--the beauty of my surrounding streets is one of the reasons I love living here.

Stand Tall this Morning (SOTC 217/365)
I turned trees into models as the sun surfaced over the horizon--and the sky... the sky. The whole neighbourhood became awash in pink and orange.

It had been a while since I'd taken my camera out for a spin--Thanksgiving, when a soft blanket of snow quieted the city. That was about a month ago. And as I stand beneath the fiery glow of the morning, I realize that it's the first time I'm using my camera with my 'new' eyes.*

My heart sings.

The sky continues to break open into full daylight; it's time to move on--there are places to go and things to be done. I am still hoping for that nap this afternoon.

But for now, my grumbles disappear and I breathe in the fresh new start to my day.

* I corrected my vision with LASIK surgery recently, and am now glasses-free!

SOTC 216/365

When autumn and winter coincide.

Flakes and Berries (SOTC 216/365)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

SOTC 209/365

Photo Scavenger Hunt: Red (SOTC 209/365)

SOTC 208/365

In Hastings Lake, Alberta, I seem to have found a new photographic gem.

Something Like Rorschach (SOTC 208/365)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Every Day

I don't speak of if often.
I tend to keep so many stories my own.
Plus, it can be an uncomfortable topic of conversation in certain social circles.
And it's not exactly something I share in common with my friends.
But it was life-altering.
Sometimes you don't realize how much so until you look back over time.

...Today marks the day my father passed away, a full decade ago.* Even as early as January and February, I started to find myself thinking, "ten years; my goodness." It's amazing what changes and what stays the same over the course of a decade.

I have seen many individuals mark the anniversary of a loved one's passing with some sort of yearly ritual--a changed profile picture; a special activity; simply taking the day. For me, that tradition hasn't really ever been a part of my grief story.

Don't get me wrong; I do think about him on this day, and it is certainly important. But I think about him every day. 3,653 days he has crossed my mind, either fleetingly or all-consumingly. And in nearly 1/3 of my life without him, I've learned that it's not the obvious occasions where I miss him the most, or that catch me by surprise. It's every other day around them.

It's the amputee I see at the mall.

It's the red Chevrolet I see on the road.

It's making spaghetti from scratch.

It's picking the cantaloupe out of my fruit salad.

It's driving in Calgary.

It's that photo of his that eerily resembles one of mine.

It's when he's in my dreams and I wake up to find he's just out of reach.

It's watching my friends with their dads.

It's milk and sweetener in my coffee.

It's cleaning the house with music at full volume.

It's Yiddish colloquialisms.

It's olive skin and brown eyes.

It's the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

These moments are endless. These moments that remind me of experiences we shared, ways he acted, traits he passed on. The past infiltrating my present. And on the flip side, the life events that happen to me now leave me looking for him when I least expect it.

Dad, there are these great people I want you to know.
Dad, what do you think of my new kitchen?
Dad, why haven't you texted me lately?

There are so many questions I will never know the answer to. There are ten years of stories I haven't told him, and many more years of stories to come.

What is it to mark his passing one day a year when I face it day by day?

Somewhere along the way I found that I needed to honour the moments as they came. And it probably takes a different kind of energy than finding a single tradition with which to honour him each year. But the moments are going to come anyway, and for me it has been a meaningful way to connect his memory to my present.

And so I make the spaghetti; I listen to the Beatles; I enjoy the drive; I tell friends about the things we did together; I take the photographs.

And sometimes I still miss him.

And sometimes I still wish I could have a conversation with him.

And sometimes I just wish he was RIGHT.HERE.

But more often than not, the memories are an embrace instead of an ache. A reminder of the man who helped shape the woman I am today, both when he was alive, and after he passed. And a man who continues to do so.

Every day.

* It is also the anniversary of my parents' wedding. I actually find the shared occasion of this date to be beautiful in its own way, but I digress.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

SOTC 204/365

I don't know what it is, but I love rustic-looking windows.

In the Window at Fort Edmonton

SOTC 203/365

Those Lashes (SOTC 203/365)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Eye to Eye

Photography captures moments. It's one reason I love the art--I can go back to cherished moments again and again, reliving the beauty, the wonder, the peace. These are often moments close to home, but almost just as likely to be moments abroad. In all seasons, there are moments waiting to be noticed. Some of my favourite kinds of moments include...

...the first blossoms of spring...

...the fragrant scent of lilacs through an open window...

...the pounding of the ocean surf... patches on mountain ranges that go on forever...

...the vast expanse of a desert landscape...

...something like standing on top of the world...

...and a gentle stroll under a quiet green canopy:

But what if I told you...

That even though I have discovered or sought out each of these kinds of moments, none of these photos reflect my own experience.

Because they are not my photos.

They are my dad's.

They are his moments. Snapshots of time one generation removed from the here and now.

And yet.

The aspects of each moment that drew him to capture it on film are--in a way--shared. Epigenetics at work again, such that as I traipse through the world on my own, I seem to be drawn to the same kinds of colours, the same patterns and details, the same breathtaking scenes. It's in my DNA; it's in my very soul.

In many ways, my photography is actually an act of worship. It is a way to honour my Father and the creation He has painted over the globe. But in the last couple of years, I've also come to realize just how much my photography is a way to honour my father as well. The eye he had lives on in the way I capture many of my images, without me even realizing it. Often as I sift through his old photographs, I notice similarities between our compositions. It is both humbling and affirming.

As I consider the feelings that are often stirred within me when I photograph, I can only imagine that similar feelings must have been evoked in my father when he held his camera up to a particularly striking scene before him; yes, this.

Oh, Dad. That we could have traipsed through more of these scenes together.

But don't worry; I've got this.

It's a beautiful summer afternoon, and I'm headed outside with my camera. The sky is your favourite shade of blue, Dad; and the colours are calling.

Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

SOTC 197/365

It amazes me every spring how such a fluffy explosion will come out of such a small bud.

I'll Come Out When the Rain Stops (SOTC 197/365)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

SOTC 195/365

"Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart." - Unknown

Blossoms Full (SOTC 195/365)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

SOTC 194/365

A Tulip's Secret II (SOTC 194/365)

SOTC 193/365

Blue Bow (SOTC 193/365)

SOTC 192/365

Touch of Last Evening Light

That Time Spring Came Early (SOTC 191/365)

The river is low, desperate for water;
the branches have yet to bud,
and feet still shuffle through brown leaves
unearthed by the melted ice.

But the sunshine still feels
SO good.

Spring Stretch! (SOTC 191/365)

SOTC 190/365

Easter Lily III (SOTC 190/365)

Friday, March 18, 2016

That Person in My House

At the time of this writing, I have been a host through AirBnb* for about a year and a half. For those unfamiliar with the concept, AirBnB serves to connect travellers to local accommodation experiences. Hosts list their available space on the AirBnB website, and guests book online.

Several circumstances aligned in the summer of 2014 that motivated me to try it out. My brother, who had lived with me for two years while going to school, had just moved out. Not only did having him around provide a nice chunk of change, but I realized that--despite my fierce independence and introversion--I didn't actually mind having another person in the house on a regular basis. That being said, I wasn't sure how comfortable I was with the idea of being a landlord to a long-term tenant I didn't know.

Around the same time, a friend of mine told me about this experience she'd had with AirBnb while travelling in the States. She'd absolutely loved it, and I was intrigued about the flexibility of the service in terms of the type of space one could offer, and how guests can go about booking.

Combine this with a strong value in living local, and suddenly I found myself deep-cleaning my house and prepping the main floor guest room for its very first guest in September of 2014.

Eighteen months later, I have not looked back.** Being an AirBnb host is a unique privilege. Sure, I've had a few strange personalities meander through; but in roughly 70 bookings, I've never had a negative experience.

One of the first questions people ask me when the topic comes up in conversation is, "so, how is that, having complete strangers in your home?" To which I generally shrug my shoulders a bit and reply, "it's totally fine!" Which it truly is! And yet I've never really been able to elaborate on why that is--which surprises me, considering how much I generally reflect upon and analyze my own experiences.

This recent TED talk, however, helped me start to understand why the whole AirBnb experience has likely been so positive: it was designed that way.***

It's quite obvious on their website and blog that AirBnb is about fostering community. One of their hashtags is (or at least, was) #OneLessStranger. But to say you foster community, and to design your whole system in a way that invites community are two different things.

In the video, Joe Gebbia talks about designing for trust. I think it can be easy for the skeptical person to look at that negatively, as in, he's designing AirBnb to manipulate us into trust, the same way commercials make their products look more appealing than they likely are. But I don't think that's what he's meaning at all. I hear him saying that he believes in the inherent good of people--something I believe in as well--and the desire to connect. But he recognizes that societally, we are taught not to trust--stranger danger and all that. And so he's designed AirBnb to overcome how we've been 'programmed' for mistrust; he's designed the system to invite trust, the way our basic human instinct does when someone smiles at us.

I feel like AirBnb invites trust while at the same time maintaining healthy boundaries. There are checks and balances in place to ensure that guests and hosts are safe, identities are authentic, payments don't get awkward, reviews are honest, and both guests and hosts are supported as needed. I've also traveled almost exclusively using AirBnb for my own accommodations, and I feel like the system is seamless both ways.

I have had so many interactions that never would have happened were it not for being a host. I have met people from all over the world. With some guests I've stood in a River Valley clearing to take in the skyline; with others I've stood in a wheat field. I've tasted Austrian candy. I am proof that a Muslim and a Christian can live together and enjoy each other's company. I have fostered friendship. And through all this--I hope--I have played a role in enhancing trust between people--not just because AirBnb has designed for trust, but because we are designed for that too.

* Disclaimer: This blog post was created entirely on my own initiative--I have not been requested or required in any way by AirBnB to promote their business; I guess it's just a happy perk for them!

** I am actually excited to find myself prepping my downstairs guest room to open to guests in a few weeks!

*** If you're the kind of geek that wants to look more closely at the research behind the design not mentioned in the video, check out this link.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Photography and Myers-Briggs

I first took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in my high school's health and wellness* class. It was the first time I'd taken any sort of standardized personality questionnaire--prior to that, all my personality quizzes had come from teen magazines. It was also the first time I remember being able to give names and identifiers to the awkward individual that was me.

I came out of the Myers-Briggs as an ISTJ.** Now, with two psych-heavy degrees behind me, I'm well-aware that the entirety of one's identity is not limited by just four letters. Nevertheless, in the twenty or so years since I first took the MBTI, it has continued to resonate with me in terms of understanding myself and as a starting point to understand others. And of all the different personality tests I've taken since then in my educational aspirations, the MBTI still stands out as one of the most robust.

Whenever I reflect upon or consider how I approach the world, it is the "I"--introversion--that dominates the discussion. Perhaps this is because, of all four continuums, the introversion/extroversion seems to be most widely-recognized. I tend to credit (or blame) a lot of my actions on my strong introversion--my perfect contentment in doing almost any activity solo, my quiet demeanour, the reason I'm absolutely exhausted most Friday nights.

I have read about, of course, and know, how my place along the other continuums--Sensing/Intuiting, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perceiving--contribute to my perspective on the world, but I don't generally stop to consider them as deeply.***

And then I stumbled upon this blog post. The author is talking about the Sensing-Intuiting continuum in terms of how each type tells a story, but then she used this image as a metaphor to summarize what she was talking about:

And I sat there going, "ohmygoodness." I could have taken those top four photos. The author's not even talking about photography in her post, but in that moment, I realized that not only does my Myers-Briggs type help explain my love of photography (a very introvert-friendly activity), but it has a role in explaining my style too!

When I got into photography, I quickly recognized that I enjoy close-up and macro work. Don't get me wrong, I love me a good landscape, but more often than not, I prefer to isolate my subject in some way and really exploit its detail. It's satisfying to take a different perspective on an everyday object. And I refer to this when I talk about my style of photography.

Yet I've never stopped to think about the factors that contribute to that style.

The Sensing personality type tends to be characterized as detail-oriented, pragmatic, and focused on the here-and-now rather than on hypothetical possibilities. Facts, figures, and experience dominate the Sensor's decision-making process. We can see the big picture, sure, but we are more interested in all the little pieces of the puzzle, because we feel it's hard to get the big picture without them.

So when I see the above image that visually portrays the difference between Sensor vs Intuitor, I think "of course this is why I see compositions the way I do--how did I never connect that?!" 

It seems so obvious, now, that my spot on the sensing/intuiting continuum might influence more than just the way I work and make decisions--that it permeates my passions as well.

Or perhaps, in true Sensor fashion, I was simply just missing the forest for the trees. ;)

* Affectionately known in Alberta as CALM--Career and Life Management.

** Since then in various educational settings, I've taken the MBTI 4-5 more times. While I will identify first as an ISTJ, I actually tend to flip-flop between ISTJ and ISFJ, because I tend to hover around the middle of the Thinking/Feeling continuum.

*** Well, except maybe the T/F continuum, because I find I feel things quite deeply, and then often think about those feelings even more deeply...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Friday, February 26, 2016

Urban Tension

Chinook arches
over mountain tops;
I let go of the breath
I didn't even know I was holding

but not home

Winding down the arteries of this urban heart.
A beat I once knew;
knew differently.

I gravitate northwest
where I can still stand upon the earth
with a sense of place;
I venture elsewhere
and things become unpredictable
   Maybe I've been there,
   maybe I haven't

It's hard to tell
and it's not always the same
as what my mind recalls

--it bugs me.

Footprints left
so many years ago
   That's the street where...
   That reminds me of the time when...
   Oh, yeah, and that spot where I...

And just when I think I've come up
from almost drowning in memories
I turn around and
another childhood moment
that I had long forgotten
throws itself upon me

The memories were made
with child's eyes
And I have come back with adult eyes

And so I find my heart
craving what I remember
and trying to make sense of what is new

Leaping a chasm
that I created in time and space

And all I want
is a bridge

Sunday, February 7, 2016

I Still Don't Like

About a year and a half ago, I challenged myself to use Facebook differently, and I stopped 'liking' posts. The original motivation came from a woman who tried it for two weeks; I decided to make it a permanent practice.

True, there have been some occasions where I still 'like' a post--but they are few and far between. They are used in the moments where a post has been made that really resonates with me, but where words would only take up digital space rather than enrich a 'like.' Sometimes a virtual nod of the head really is the best way to communicate.

I must admit, this intentionality around 'liking' posts was kind of the starting point for many other little changes. I like to think that I engage with/on social media differently than I did even a year go. In addition to not simply 'liking' posts, I have become more intentional about a few other social media practices:

  • Who I'm Following - the Facebook feed can get filled with a lot of garbage. As with real life, I need to pay attention to whom I'm giving my energy and attention. I wouldn't stay in a room full of people spouting useless or offensive rhetoric--why should I put up with it online? So I made the decision to unfollow individuals on Facebook who contribute to unnecessary 'clutter' (and yes, I realize that what I consider 'clutter' may be interesting to someone else, and that some may have 'unfollowed' me using their own similar process; no offence taken). 
  • Where I'm Posting - In addition to Facebook, I actively engage with Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. And in a very Gina fashion, I've tried to silo out what gets posted where. For example, I will not post recipes on Facebook (that's what Pinterest is for). I will not Tweet about my social life (that's what Facebook is for). Sure, all social media has a bit of overlap, but if I don't want certain clutter in my feed, I've realized I should be cognizant of what I'm putting into other peoples' feeds.
  • How I'm posting - should my own posts be in my feed, on someone's wall, in a private message, or maybe should I skip FB and text someone directly? Social media is supposed to connect us with others, and I need to take care to stay authentic in the way I communicate.
I feel this has been a step in the right direction. Social media has changed over the last several years, and will continue to do so, I'm sure. In order to be a user of social media and not simply a consumer of its contents, I also need to change my practices every now and then. It's been an interesting process, I must say. I go through bouts of enthusiastic daily posting, followed by periods of not posting anything at all, and simply lurking beneath the surface of all these online platforms.

Overall, mind you, I've noticed that I actually have more conversation with people; I tend get through my news feed much quicker at the end of the day; and I find it much more interesting. And that I 'like.' ;)

Friday, January 1, 2016