Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Those Moments...

“That moment...” memes have been all over the Internet for some time now. (Side note: I have to confess that although I’m usually amused, I can’t help but cringe at the fact that those “moments” are never described in properly complete sentences. Seriously, how hard would it be to tack on a phrase that explains the “what about it” of the moment instead of leaving it sitting there, alone in the dark, as an unsupported dependent clause, on the dangerous streets of bad grammar?)

Anyway, those moments...those moments are significant, and very often extremely relatable, and I realized this year that those moments are small, quick, bright lights of life that possess an unforgettable quality. Those moments can be a little elusive at first, but once you locate them, either within big events or during every-days, they will shine and become bigger than the flashes of time they were originally discovered in.

This post is about my “13 best moments of 2013” (in chronological order, and you bet I am going to write them out properly):

1.       February 14, at a Tragically Hip concert in Toronto: I laughed at that moment when I was convinced that everyone with seats close to us had to be enjoying themselves more than anyone else there because they got to watch us clearly having a better time than anyone else there, putting on a sort of complimentary performance ourselves. We even made t-shirts, which we proudly showed to everyone around us. We rocked out the whole way through, which ended up giving Joel rock-neck the next day. You could literally feel the pure joy and energy in the brightly lit air around our group of four—it was contagious.
2.       April 22, at work: I’m fortunate to work for wonderful friends of mine, and the business’ office is in their home. I was at work this Monday morning when coincidentally, my friend was in labour upstairs—like, she was having a baby upstairs. That moment when you can almost recreate feelings of labour pain in your mind because your own memories of childbirth are so vivid and so intense, knowing the very same thing is happening a couple floors up from where you are sitting, to a close friend, is really quite a distracting, exciting, heart-beating-fast-and-hands-a-little-shaky-most-likely-out-of-extreme-empathy kind of moment.
3.       May 19, at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery: Joel and I went with the boys to see Hayden perform there during a fundraiser for House of Hope. We’ve been fans of Hayden since Everything I Long For was released in the ‘90s. I’m sure you can imagine our excitement when we spotted Hayden himself chatting with people at the entrance when we arrived. We excitedly walked up to him and introduced ourselves. Joel asked Hayden if he could get a photo with him, to which Hayden agreed (he’s really cool). I was to be the photographer. I had a coffee in hand. The sun was shining brightly, and I was a little star-struck. I couldn’t see the icons on Joel’s phone, so it took me longer than it should have to get to the camera app. I finally did, and then with coffee still in hand, tilted the phone to the picture-taking angle, which also ended up being the pouring-coffee-all-over-my-dress angle. That moment when you pull a dumb blonde move in front of a musician you admire is a combination of embarrassment and hope that this event has made you more memorable to the famous person than just some boring girl taking a photo without spilling her coffee all over herself. (Hashtag: blondeshavemorefun)

4.       June 6, at my sister’s house, for my cousin’s bachelorette party: A group of girls, some family and some girls I had just met, were all dressed up and having photos taken by a photographer (which, by the way, is a fantastic idea for a bachelorette party). The photographer was trying to get us to relax and “act natural,” so we started fake laughing. The moment the fake laughter turned into real, pure, genuine, hearty laughter still makes me smile. The picture below captured that moment.

5.       June 8, at my cousin’s wedding: The song “Knights of Shame” by AWOLNATION was played at the end of the reception, and after having fallen in love with this song over the past few weeks, I completely let loose and “became” the song, together with a dance floor full of other people equally excited about it. During the song, a moment flashed by in which I felt so fully alive because I was participating in a collective celebration of a couple, of family, of marriage and of this totally awesome song. I loved that moment. I loved that moment and that song so much that I actually wrote a post about it earlier this year.
6.       June 29, in Tobermory: Joel and I were to be attending our friends’ wedding the next day in Owen Sound, so we had decided to make a weekend of it and drive up a day early and go to Tobermory for the afternoon (Tobermory is one of our favourite places). That afternoon, at around 2 p.m., we were on the beach at Singing Sands, the temperature was perfect, the breeze was light and gentle and the sun was shining. The moment that we heard a child’s cry riding on the wind and carried over to our ears, that sound registered as the most beautiful sound we could hear because it was someone else’s child crying. We did not have our children with us.
7.       August 16, at the Angel Inn: As Joel and the rest of Mosaik rocked out “Don’t Walk Away Eileen,” things got a little crazy on the dance floor, and in a burst of wild energy, I began fake punching a guy dancing near me to the rhythm of the song. This was all in good fun, I assure you, and of course Joel was standing a few feet away, probably wondering what was up with me and then quickly dismissing it as the legitimate behaviour of a mother of small children who doesn’t get out much. The moment I looked around and saw a lot of people laughing at me made me feel good, the way a comedian feels when people laugh at his or her jokes. As Gob said in Arrested Development, “They’re laughing with me, Michael!” (hopefully...)
8.       September 2, in Niagara Falls, on the Skywheel: This was Labour Day, and Joel and I had the opportunity to go on a date, but as it often is with dates when you have kids, and gracious grandparents offer to take the kids for a block of time which provides the opportunity for a date, the dates occur at unconventional date times. We went to the Falls and rode the Skywheel at about 9:30 in the morning that Monday. This was that moment when you are kid-free and you are riding a Skywheel cabin up, up, up, and the giddy feeling of being on a teenage-type date at age 31 dissolves slightly into a moderate nervousness because the cabin is shaking and you don’t remember this thing going up so high before, but then being glad of that fear because it means you did something “exciting” that day.
9.       September 8, at a Zusters rehearsal: We were jamming out one of our new songs, and what was originally a song that risked being left out of our upcoming album altogether, with a few adjustments, swiftly became a favourite. My sister and I had gone back to the drawing board, and I had edited the lyrics a bit, and she had made some changes to the verses. All of a sudden, on this day, when we started jamming out the song, a funky beat emerged that melted effortlessly into our revisions and then flowed into a chorus and a moving ending, full of strings, and tucked between the notes on the staff was a moment—that moment when you are participating in making music with ones you love, and everyone participating believes in the song with all the passion they can muster, which forms a layer of light that surrounds each sound wave and assures you without a doubt that this is what you are meant to do. Seriously, it happened just like that. 
10.   September 28, downtown St. Catharines: I was out with a group of friends to celebrate my birthday. While waiting in line for the bathroom with a friend, we asked a random girl to take our picture for us. We smiled, the flash flashed, we thanked the girl and then eagerly looked at the photo to see if it turned out. There was a blonde girl peeking out from behind me, who had totally photobombed us, and she did it so seamlessly that she looked like a legitimate friend of ours! The moment we saw that picture and marveled at the girl’s seamless photobombing skills was unforgettable—I still laugh whenever I look at this photo.

11.   November 1, at home, at night: Arcade Fire’s new album Reflektor had just come out a few days earlier, and I had been listening to the album nonstop. Quickly, the song “Afterlife” became one I would often skip to. Joel was out, the boys were asleep, and I went downstairs with a glass of wine, blared the song and danced by myself in the dark. There was a moment in there during which I stopped feeling silly, finally turned off enough lights to make me feel comfortable and let myself “dance like no one’s watching.” I may have looked a little like Greta Gerwig in the video below—which I am totally cool with (she is pretty awesome).
12.   December 7, at home in my bathroom (I hope this isn’t too much information): That moment, during the grueling process of toilet training my 3-year-old, after having fought a desperate battle with him all morning, and a losing war for the past four months, when my one-year-old dropped a deuce in the toilet after telling me he had to go—that moment was so hilariously ironic that I felt a little lightheaded when it happened and had to pinch myself to believe I wasn’t in Bizarro World. The leverage from that moment was ultimately the toilet training turning point – so in other words, my one-year-old helped to train my three-year-old.
13.   This moment happened with both of my boys, on different days, and on dates I cannot remember. With Emmett, it was a voluntary “I love you so much, Mama” when I was unknowingly hungry to hear those words from him, and with Lennon, it was a few minutes after his nap one day when he sat snuggled contentedly and quietly on my lap for a long while. Both of these small moments displayed the immensely satisfying and calming feeling only brought by the intersection of two things: both parent and child wanting to show their love for each other—to each give and receive that love—at the same moment in time. Of course, parents love their children always, and children love their parents, but let me tell you, the moments that these expressions reciprocate at the same time can be rare. My kids don’t regularly offer up that “I love you” statement (which is totally fine), and they often wrestle out of or run away from a hug when I just want to hug them (which is also OK). On the other hand, they sometimes really want to be held or to have my attention, and cry recklessly for it when I am in the middle of doing something else, and so regrettably, I pick them up out of frustration or tell them to wait until I have a minute. You see, the stars were aligned in those two different-but-the-same moments, those small moments that meant a lot to me.
There you have it. My 13 most memorable moments of 2013.

What were the tiny-in-time, brightly-lit moments of your year? 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Six-Month Fast from Buying Clothes - One-Month Progress Report

One month down, five to go.

This first month wasn’t all that difficult, for two reasons. First, I had shopped quite a bit in September, so I have been spending this month wearing several new pieces. Second, with the change of seasons, I’ve brought out the fall/winter clothes that I pack away every spring. Not wearing or seeing something for about six months makes it feel sort of new. With all of these options, the fact that I couldn’t buy anything new this month hasn’t been all that devastating. I definitely haven’t even come close to running out of ideas for what to wear.

That said, this month has taught me a lot about my behaviour toward shopping. I kept catching myself innocently perusing Joe Fresh when at Zehrs or the Superstore, scrolling through Pinterest’s fashion category only to repeatedly tap away to get to the sites the images were posted from because I wanted to know what brand those amazing distressed jeans were, or whether that “site with reasonably-priced decent dresses” actually did have nice stuff, or how much that killer dress cost. I’ve been to the mall, and I have felt the occasional sweater and flipped the occasional tag—you know, just to stay in the “know” of what is out there.

Anyway, all of this to say that October has been a month of noticing my shopping behaviour and then working to train myself otherwise. I’ve had to constantly remind myself that I can’t buy anything, so why bother look? I’ve steered myself out of stores and forced my index finger to click the mouse on the “x” and close the tab of the clothing sites I started searching through online. I’ve also had to train my thought process about clothes a bit. Instead of seeing something, wanting it, figuring out whether it’s a viable option and then going on the hunt for it, I’ve seen things, wanted them, and then had to stop there.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that while I haven’t bought clothes for myself this month, I have bought clothes for everyone else in my household. They basically needed everything I bought them more than I would have needed something new, so I felt kind of good about shifting my focus to the rest of my family instead of myself.

Lastly, it was only one or two days into the fast that I started to feel the urge to spruce up my basement and make some improvements in my living room and kitchen. Instead of spending hours online looking at clothes, I have been looking at fabrics and pillow covers and throws and curtains until my eyes crossed. Interestingly, my quest for improvement and for the best option for the best price seems to have moved from my closet to my home in general. I rearranged our bedroom. I even bought new salt and pepper shakers and a new can opener—both of which I can totally justify buying; these purchases just amuse me because I never really cared about the state of either item until I stopped focusing on my clothes. That made me feel a tad gross.
One teeny confession: I bought two pairs of socks. My excuse: Most of my socks are getting holes, and I didn’t even realize I needed any until October hit and I started wearing socks and boots. I started to justify the socks with the logic that socks are more of a necessity thing than a frivolous clothing purchase. Either way, I bought socks.

There’s Month #1 in a nutshell. So far, so good!

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Three-Hour Comedy of Errors

These guys contribute to the adult-energy-depletion phenomenon known as a side effect of parenting.

In the middle of the night, I wake up to use the bathroom, and I realize after being semi-conscious for a few moments that it’s early Friday morning, which means that I don’t have to get up at a specific time because it’s my morning off. I am so excited at the realization that I almost do a half-asleep happy dance, but I don’t because even half asleep, I understand that a half-asleep happy dance would end badly.

A few hours later, in the dark, at 6 a.m., about an hour before I was planning on getting up, I hear it.

The sound of my one-year-old, Lennon, calling me. “Mama!”


Oh gosh. Really? He’s awake? Wait, I rationalize. Is he fully awake, or maybe just partially awake? Will he fall back asleep? Yeah, he probably will. It’s still pretty early.



I get up. I go to Lennon’s room. I think of what I can do to appease him while I take a very fast shower. Joel still hasn’t left for work, so he feeds him breakfast for me, bless him.

My three-year-old, Emmett, is apparently also awake now. He gets up and proceeds to the kitchen. The entire house is awake, and it’s only 6:15 a.m. Joel needs to leave for work soon, so I need to hurry it up and shower before he leaves.

I jump in the shower in fast mode. Did I wash my hair yesterday? The day before? I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter anyway – I will wash it tomorrow, I promise myself.

 As I am showering in fast mode, I start thinking on the positive side of things: it’s only 6:15, and thus I have three hours to get us ready and vacuum my house before we leave to visit a couple of friends. Plenty of time. I can leisurely do everything and still have time to spare, I think.


I spend the next three hours feverishly rushing around until the minute we step out the door.

Joel leaves for work and the boys flock to the bathroom as I am blow-drying my hair. Somehow the boys’ distractions cause me to forget about the whole parting-my-hair thing and only remember an hour later, when it’s way too late. I guess it looks passable. I really don’t want to throw it up in a ponytail because that would be “giving up” and I really want to feel like keeping it together today.

Somehow, Lennon is hungry again, an hour after Breakfast #1, so I feed him some fruit while I eat (Breakfast #2). I think that he might stay in the kitchen while I vacuum, but alas, as soon as I leave the room, he starts whining. OK, I think, he’s in his clingy-whiny mood. I can totally handle that.


He follows me around as I vacuum, crying sometimes, which I can sort of hear over the sound of the vacuum, and as quiet as it is, it still has the effect of a cheese grater on my nerves. He finds something to do, and I think, OK, this is great. I will just hurry and get this vacuuming done. I speed along, and since my hair is down, I try to see through my curtain of hair while I vacuum bent over, and it’s hard to see what I'm doing, so I bump into things and bang the vacuum cleaner into things all for the sake of me keeping my hair down and looking like I have things together.

I glance over; Lennon’s opened Joel’s sock drawer and is emptying the contents into a laundry basket. In his mind, he’s “helping with the laundry.” He’s not.

Little kids are constantly making messes, and I am constantly rationalizing in my mind what to do about it, by weighing the amount of time it will take to clean up the mess vs. the importance of continuing to do what I am doing.  For example, I think, Oh, it will only take about 10 seconds to put the socks back in the drawer, so I will let him continue “helping me with the laundry” until I’m done vacuuming.

I didn’t take into consideration the trail of rogue socks that managed to migrate around the house.

Lennon is now bored of “helping me with the laundry” (can you blame him?) so he makes his way to the kitchen and starts unloading the pots and pans from the cupboards. I can hear the clinking over the vacuum. Again, I’m in the vacuuming zone and don’t feel that stopping to stop him would be worth it, so I let him.

Essentially, I’ve traded off cleaning two rooms while he makes two messes. Totally worth it.


Now I have to pick up socks, swinging my hair to and fro so I can see the socks, and pick up pots and pans and lids and put them away so I can keep vacuuming.

Lennon’s really bored now, as he’s “helped me with the laundry” and “cooked a meal” (housework sucks, right!) so he starts whining again. I give him some Cheerios, which quiets him down again. (Breakfast #3, if you are counting.)

I finish vacuuming, and find Lennon in the freshly-vacuumed living room, sitting amidst scattered Cheerios.

Totally fine. I will just pick them up myself.

Meanwhile, Emmett has been lying in his bed this whole time, “sleeping,” because he usually sleeps for a good 12 hours a night, but was up late last night and up early this morning. He proceeds to tell me he’s had an “accident” (I will spare you the details).

I clean it up. I make my way to the bathroom to put on some makeup before I forget and walk out of the house looking like how I really feel (tired, old-ish, a little worn out). The kids flock into the bathroom like zombies and won’t leave me alone, even for a couple of minutes. Seriously; what is with toddlers’ fascination with all things bathroom-related?

I weigh my options. If I kick them out and lock the door, they will scream like I’ve told them I don’t love them anymore. Not worth it for makeup, I decide.

Lennon further helps me make up my decision as he repeatedly cries, “Mama!” and clings to my leg, burying his face into my pants. What does he WANT? I ask him, and he replies, “Mama! Mo! Waaa!” Seriously; I cannot possibly decipher those syllables. My gut instinct is totally stumped, too. I don’t know. I could go with the excuse that I’ve nick-named “Ol’ Faithful” because I use it all the time and it’s usually appropriate: teething (an excuse I can only use for probably about another year, so yeah, I’m milking it). This time, however, I realize that Joel probably didn't know how much Lennon eats for breakfast and probably didn't feed him enough, so I decide that he’s just hungry again and maybe needs some more protein.

I take him into the kitchen, pull off his shirt, add a bib, and give him yogurt. He’s happy again. (Breakfast #4, if you’re still counting.)

OK; I’m back in the bathroom to deal with my face. Emmett’s there, but I can handle one child. The ratio of parent-to-child as 1:1 is pretty dealable. I quickly try to apply some makeup while he stands on a stool that is negative-1-inch from me and starts to pick up everything on the counter and examine it, asking me questions all the while. It’s only a matter of time before Lennon is done with the yogurt and I have a massive mess on my hands to clean up. Be it known that the longer you wait after a toddler is done eating, the bigger the mess it ultimately is. My heart starts to beat a little faster with the urgency of finishing the mascara, and trying to answer toddler questions while I contort my face into my mascara-application position. 

Emmett’s attention moves to the pair of underwear he had had an accident in previously (yeah, I didn’t have time to deal with those yet), and picks them up.

“NO!” I cry in distress. “Don’t touch those!”

Emmett runs out of the room, hurt that I told him not to touch something that was on his body less than an hour ago.

I chase after him and wash his hands, and tell him to just please stay out of the bathroom for like 5 minutes. I figure he’ll be okay, and I hear Lennon making noise again, which probably means that he’s stopped putting food in his mouth. I imagine that he has a liquid Santa beard of yogurt on his face right now, and who knows where else the yogurt has seeped.

OK. Makeup done. Underwear dealt with. I’m in the kitchen now, and just as I arrive to marvel at how accurate Lennon’s Santa beard of yogurt looks, he drops the spoon on the floor, which makes a pretty impressive-looking splatter pattern on the floor, except that I have to clean it up, so I can’t appreciate it for its artistic, accidental type of beauty.

Yogurt cleaned up. Lennon’s fully dressed again and his stomach is full enough that he won’t be asking for food for another 45 minutes, if I’m lucky.

I see a window of opportunity to send a quick text message, and so I do, but not without Emmett asking me, “Whobody" am I texting?

OK. That was kind of funny. “Whobody.” I didn’t even correct him.

Text sent, bag packed, 4 breakfasts fed to Lennon, and 1 to Emmett, house vacuumed, two accidents dealt with and I can’t even remember what other things came up in there, I think I may have put in a load of laundry, but anyway, the kids’ shoes are on, and Emmett says, “Mama, my sneakers are really ‘coolio.’”

Some of the frustration from the morning vanishes as I take a moment to appreciate the reference to the ‘90s that Emmett has no idea he made.

With “Gangsta’s Paradise” in my head, we step out the door, and although Lennon’s whining has started up again, the minute we hit the outdoors, he’s quiet, Emmett’s asking me more questions, some of which I ignore (I’m sorry, but it’s true), and I’m spent, and it’s only 9:15.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Six-Month Fast from Buying Clothes

One of my last purchases - I will miss Zara!

That’s it. That’s it for six months...SIX MONTHS!

I’ve joined my sister and a group of over twenty people who are not going to buy any clothes for themselves for six months...SIX MONTHS! From October 1 to March 31!

Needing to organize my thoughts about this challenge, I’m writing a post today, on the eve of the six-month fast, to record my feelings.

My thoughts and feelings on not buying clothes for myself for six months seem to be in a bit of a sword fight in my mind.

"What am I doing? I love clothes shopping!" is being pitted against "You don't need more clothes! You have more than enough! Do something else with that money!" 

On the one hand, I am freaking out a little. I love to shop, I love fashion, I get a lot of satisfaction from retail therapy. I love all kinds of clothes shopping: as much as I love malls and outlets and the amazing efficiency and ease of online shopping, my shopping adventures often take me deep into thrift shops, where, if I commit enough time, flip enough hangers from right to left, and check out enough labels, I can end up finding the choicest, most interesting and high-quality pieces of clothing that bring me the most compliments! Oh the thrills of shopping! I will miss being able to go out shopping and bring home a new piece of clothing to add to my collection.

On the other hand, the gleaming sword coming from the other direction makes the first sword feel slightly guilty and a little off-balance. There’s nothing wrong with loving to shop (at least, I hope, because I do); however, “I am freaking out because I voluntarily agreed to not buy any clothes for myself for six months” is clearly a first world problem. Actually, it’s even more than that—I’m sure that there are many “first world” people who don’t buy clothes for themselves more often than once in six months, probably because they don't feel they need to, or just don't want to. While part of me is wondering how I am going to have the self-control not to buy clothes until April 1, the other part of me feels bad for feeling that way.

These sword-fighters are quite evenly matched, and I expect to keep feeling a bit of both as the six months progress. The “I love shopping” fighter might gain strength at times, causing me to hit the malls, buying clothes for my nieces and sisters and husband and boys (which is a positive because sometimes I have felt that I’ve neglected their wardrobes and focused too much on padding my own). When that fighter is exhausted, perhaps having transformed into a bit of a “shopping zombie” as a result of the walking, the bright lights, the examining of material, prices and sizes, the lack of water (oh man, that shopping zombie is frightening), the “you really don’t need an umpteenth [pair of shoes/scarf/pair of pants/collared shirt/cardigan/insert your clothing weakness here]” sword fighter will regain her strength and create a feeling of happiness in the good that this fast is doing for my bank account and for my time.

Now, let’s get to what is the primary wonderful effect of this clothing fast (so far, at least).

I need to start with a confession: I shopped a lot in the past six weeks in preparation for this fast. You could call it a compromise—I needed some items, but I also just needed to shop hard for a while to “get it out of my system.” Thankfully, I ended up going through a very useful exercise in the process.

I made a list of all the items that I either wanted or needed, and I even went to the trouble of deciding on a colour palette that I would focus on. (I went with jewel tones and grays/blacks for neutrals, generally speaking.) My goal was to purchase pieces that would fill in the gaps to create a cohesive wardrobe. For me, part of feeling like I have my life together is looking like I am put together, in terms of my outfits. I strive for the put-together looks. I have also realized that even those people who look “effortlessly amazing” probably just spent more time building a good wardrobe foundation, which makes the outfit creating process much simpler. Anyway, the list of clothing I compiled focused on items that I could use in a lot of situations and would allow me to pull together outfits as “effortlessly” as possible. We'll see how that works out for me.

Next, I estimated a reasonable cost for each item. I wanted to make sure that I could purchase reasonably affordable pieces, but of good quality, so that I won’t have to discard them in a year.

Once I made that list, the Dutch in me took the wheel. Fortunately enough for me, my birthday was yesterday, so I was able to utilize some birthday money toward this whole venture. I also redeemed credit card points toward gift cards and cash, which helped. Lastly, I worked some extra hours (thankfully there were extra hours for me to work), which I also put toward my shopping list.

Anyway, I shopped promotions as opposed to sale racks (as was the advice in an article Danielle posted recently on Facebook), which meant that I was able to purchase some nice, fresh styles. (Being Dutch and loving to shop means that there has been in the past a magnetic force that draws me to the sale racks, but I rarely find anything worth even the discounted price...the clothes are either not the right size or I don’t love them enough, so I end up wearing them to get some use out of them but not really feeling good in them). 

Once I subtracted all these shopping credits, and the money I made from extra work hours, and with some savvy searching and, yes, one "tent sale" purchase (sometimes you really do luck out with sales), I ended up only “spending” about $100 of the $650 that I had budgeted. Dutch high five! (I was at the Niagara Falls outlet mall and encountered a black blazer from Mexx that was originally $140, but it was marked down to $30.) 

This whole exercise allowed me to thoughtfully construct a wardrobe that can support itself because of some strong foundations—i.e. good-quality basics, tops and bottoms that go with a variety of items, a harmonizing colour palette, and of course, enough interest—and also challenged me to figure out a way to purchase everything without spending so much money that a six-month clothing fast’s purpose was defeated.

Right now, I am feeling positive about this whole fast: my money can be spent elsewhere, and I hopefully won’t spend as much time as I have spent researching clothing that I am “in the market” to buy because I won’t be in the market to buy anything until next year! I am also looking forward to the challenge of creatively rethinking my clothes, re-styling things and reworking outfits to keep things fresh (I do like change). 

One last thought I wanted to share: the primary challenge here is obviously to not buy clothes for myself/yourself for six months. There is a secondary challenge, though, which I think is possibly the more significant one: What are you going to do with the money you would have spent on clothes? Will you save it? Will you give it away? Will you use it to buy other unnecessary items? Will you use it to focus on improving other areas of your life or your home? What will you invest it in?

To really benefit from both of these challenges, I know I need to consciously pay attention to the money I am saving from buying clothes and thoughtfully do something else with it. If I don’t pay attention to that, then I think the challenge loses some of its true significance.

I’m going to post something at least once a month to journal my experience doing this fast! Let’s see how I feel on November 1st!

If you are up for the challenge, don't forget to use the #6monthsnobuyingclothes hash tag for Twitter/Instagram/Facebook posts on the subject!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

We Will Love [What] We Love

We all love different things for different reasons—and that’s one aspect of humanity that I find both intriguing and endearing. What we love, and who we love—it’s like we were programmed to find certain things extremely appealing and others not. It’s like we follow a flow chart of “nos” until we find our way to the ultimate “yes” of art, music, style, author, genre, significant other—and the list could go on forever...

Why we love our favourite things can't always be explained. Sometimes no gene, trait or life experience can be held responsible for what we love: we just do. Some like one thing, some like another, and I am constantly amazed at the subtle flecks in our brains that cause us to prefer one thing over another. (I often wonder why some people love spicy food and others absolutely hate it—things like that.) 

Arcade Fire is my favourite band. 

This post is not going to include 101 reasons why I love Arcade Fire and why you should love them, too. Maybe you love them like I do, but if you don’t, I would not be offended because I can appreciate the variety in our preferences. Guess what? I have never been a fan of James Taylor. Something about his voice makes my neck and shoulder muscles tense up, and my mood gets a little darker. I don’t know why because I can appreciate the fact that he can sing and that his music has been loved by millions. I hope you don’t judge me for that!

Anyway, my goodness, how I love Arcade Fire. It’s like I was programmed to love them or something. Somehow, they fit every criteria—even those I didn’t even know I really had—for what the most significant and impactful and inspiring musical artist to me should be. I hope I don’t sound kind of “out there” or selfish by saying this, but it’s almost as though if I didn’t know better—knowing full well that they don’t know me by any stretch of the imagination—I would think Arcade Fire wrote their songs to impact me specifically. That’s the connection I feel: those songs electrify my arms, resonate with me and inspire me to create. Listening to Arcade Fire makes my pulse quicken, my spirits brighten, my emotions swell and my soul soar with inspiring ideas and a renewed drive to just be me. Their music, their lyrics (many of the best lyrics I’ve ever heard in my opinion), their vocals, their choices of instruments, even the look of the band members—all combine to form a sound and an image that appeals to a very deep part of me. That is, a deep enough part of me that I prefer to listen and experience and be inspired by Arcade Fire when I’m mostly alone—it’s hard to fully appreciate and be emotionally affected by music like that when I’m hanging out with a bunch of people. It requires introspection only available with solitude. Arcade Fire is not background music, to me.

How does this happen? How is it that when one person creates what is in them to create, that creation and the emotion behind it has such power to affect other people so strongly, so profoundly? How is it that one person’s DNA and destiny can combine to give something to someone—something that is exactly what someone else’s DNA and destiny have combined to desire to receive? Is this a random, lucky accident, or is there something more to it all? Obviously talent and a certain general appeal is part of it, but there’s that other sort of mysterious, intangible quality to this whole phenomenon—that is, the connection between creator, creation and receiver/audience.

What I love the most about this whole idea of certain things affecting certain people is that it basically perpetuates creativity. I am very much inspired by Arcade Fire when I write my own lyrics. I’m sure that Win Butler and everyone in the band have similarly been inspired by other creators when writing their own songs. The cyclical nature of creativity makes me feel like I have a part in creating these things we love—as though everyone who creates is connected somehow. God has given us countless different ways to connect with other people.

Perhaps that is the very foundation of this phenomenon. We feel a connection with others’ creations because we are all part of the creative cycle when we are affected and inspired by someone else’s creation. After all, we are not so different from one another on a deeper level. Sure, we all love different things for different reasons (many reasons that can’t easily be explained), but those differences are superficial to the deeper, God-given, significant similarities that we as human beings all possess—i.e. the way we love what we love, and the way connections are made through our creations, and perhaps most significant, the amazing feeling that accompanies the connections we make with others throughout life.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Knights of Shame"

“Knights of Shame” by AWOLNATION: Released in 2011, it was completely new to me two months ago. A song that clocks in at almost 15 minutes, but ironically is never long enough—it ends way too quickly. It surprised me with its twists and turns and builds and crescendos. It impressed me with its transitions, yet it progressed in a way that felt right to my listening ears and listening mind. The song sounds and the steady rhythm turns into a smiling face and two hands that excitedly pull me off my couch and across my living room floor, my kitchen floor, my hallway, every time I play it. It's not tangible...just sound waves...yet I feel quite certain that it's made a tattoo-like imprint on my mind, just as other songs have in the past. (Perhaps my brain is completely tattooed, at this point, with song impressions!) The words are strong and the acoustic guitar is sweet and the intensity is infectious and the driving beat pushes it all forward like a story. It came boldly up to my ears and crawled inside my mind with the confidence that it would make me really, really delighted to hear it. It was right--I was delighted. There is nothing hesitant about the Knights of Shame who bring energy to an otherwise lifeless living room or dance floor alike.

This song, like many others, changed me, in a way. I don’t like to throw the word “epic” around, but I would throw it around all day long to do “Knights of Shame” some justice. In whatever way a song can impact one’s quality of life, this song impacted me into next year...or somewhere even farther...I’m not quite sure yet.

I love the way that the discovery of a new song adds a new dimension to my mind’s concepts of music, emotion, joy and life. I love the way a new song changes me—changes my outlook on life, heightens my expectations of what music can do, and refreshes my repertoire by providing me with a new sequence and combination of sounds to love, enjoy and be inspired by. After all, what impacts and inspires us, in turn, becomes a part of the inspirations we create.

I will be forever grateful to my cousin and her husband, who had asked me to compile some music for their wedding and reception. They had chosen “Knights of Shame” to be the last song of the night, which is how I came to know it. At my cousin’s wedding, when “Knights of Shame” was played to end the celebration, the group on the dance floor danced with so much passion and joy, and the fullness of the moment will probably stay with me forever. I will be forever grateful to my cousin for introducing me to this song. 

This is me, at my cousin's wedding, totally in the zone when we were dancing to "Knights of Shame."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Quest for a Quest

A song came on the radio in my car a week or two ago, and I instantly clicked with it. Sirius Radio conveniently told me what it was. Then I forgot about it until I heard it again yesterday:  “Make It To Me” by Manchester Orchestra and Grouplove. 

Last night, I was sitting on my couch and thought, “Oh yeah! That song! I want it! I’ll just pick up my iPhone, which is generally beside me at all times, go the iTunes Store and buy it!”

I went to iTunes. The song wasn’t there.

What??? Not on iTunes?

How first-world-problem-y of me to get all frustrated that I couldn’t buy a song with the push of a few touch-sensitive digital buttons!

Then I Googled “Make It To Me Manchester Orchestra” and found the song on a couple of web sites like Sound Cloud. I had to stream it to hear it. (I recommend you give it a listen... here.)

During my Googling, I found out that this past Saturday, April 20, was Record Store Day. Have you heard of that? Apparently Manchester Orchestra and Grouplove collaborated and recorded “Make It To Me” especially for Record Store Day, and the track was released on 12-inch vinyl on Record Store Day, in record stores only (unless it’s available somewhere else that I do not know of yet). A host of bands had released songs/albums specifically for Record Store Day to promote independent record stores. I think that’s a great idea—as easy as it is to purchase music from iTunes, there is a certain experience associated with the record store that threatens to be lost by the convenience of digital downloads.

All of a sudden, through all of this searching and researching, what was a song that I really liked (I thoroughly enjoyed the interesting, energetic electronic dub-step part that was an exciting surprise, and Andy Hull’s voice is always beautiful to listen to) became a song that I sought after with a strong desire. If I could have purchased the song from iTunes, I probably would have listened to it a few times, rested in the thought that I had it and could listen to it whenever I wanted, could add it to whatever playlists I wanted and could burn it to a CD to listen to in my car if I wanted. I may have even forgotten about it altogether.

However, because I can only listen to it online via YouTube or Sound Cloud—because the song is not 100% available to me—I want it even more. I like it even more. There is a certain air of mystery about the song because it’s something I can’t “have.”

This experience made me realize that nowadays, with our smart phones and all, we can find answers and songs and information—whatever we seek—so quickly and easily that it has taken the fun out of “the hunt.” Finding answers is too easy. The less effort we put in to find something, the less satisfaction and appreciation we feel when we find the answer.

Remember the days before smart phones? Remember hearing a song on the radio before Sirius was there to tell you the artist and title?  Remember waiting and waiting, listening to five more overplayed songs until the DJ came back on the air and wishing that maybe, just maybe, he/she would tell you the name of the song you heard that you loved?

I remember, maybe 10 years ago or more, hearing a song I loved on the radio several times before I found out the name of the song. Every time I heard it, I loved it even more. (The song was called “Like a Criminal” by Sheila Divine—great song.) When I found out the name, had to say it in my head over and over and then write it down on a piece of paper so I wouldn’t forget it. When I had a chance at home, I went to my computer, using, hmmm....I don’t remember—KaZaa Lite? LimeWire?—to download the song and then burn it to a CD (I still have that CD) with a collection of other songs I had sought for in a similar way. I love those CDs. They represent a lot of time and effort—and the satisfaction of a quest completed.

Obviously, to find songs and listen to them today is so easy, and that is often really convenient. However, I do miss the quests. There is nothing more satisfying than searching for something, and in doing so, developing a strong desire for it, and then finding it. In many ways, the Information Age is increasingly denying us of the excitement and adventure of the quest.

“Make It To Me” is a really good song, but what makes it special to me is the fact that Manchester Orchestra and Grouplove have made it a little harder to get—hard enough to remind me of the wonder of the quest.

Now I find myself wondering, How often will I be able to experience the quest for information that is not easily attainable? What can I seek to find out that will be a challenge to find out? How can we enjoy the sense of adventure today in desiring an answer that is hard to obtain but totally worth the effort? How can we provide ways for the next generation to experience the healthy desire for information that is hard to achieve, so they can in turn experience the reward of satisfaction?

Perhaps I have now found myself on a quest for a quest.