Category Archives: General Narcissism

The personal blog is an important, under-respected art form.

I just got around to reading Anil’s recent post on 15 lessons from 15 years of blogging. Poignant, since I’ve been thinking about what to do with this site.

I’ve been blogging for over 10(!) years, with a few defunct blogger and livejournal accounts before that. The blogosphere has changed a lot since then, but my favourites are still the few personal blogs that exist without a strict adherence to a commercial niche.

I wasn’t sure there was still a place for a personal blog with no theme, direction, beautiful photos or commercial model. And then I realized I was a fucking idiot; there isn’t a rule book.

So, before I delve too far into Anil’s point 9 (Meta-writing about a blog is generally super boring), a few things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

  1. Feminism (in tech, and in general). About 8 years ago I held a job in tech where I was – as is typical – one of only a handful of women in the company. One day I was chatting with the (male) CEO about how to get buy-in from a male colleague, and the CEO said “do you ever think some of the difficulties are because you’re a woman?” I was totally shocked, and blurted out something affirmative (because I agreed, but thought I was crazy for thinking so). And then the company pivoted, and I was laid-off about 3 days later, so never got a chance to follow up. That, and other head-smacking stories rattle around my head a lot while I watch the news on all the new-wave feminism.
  2. Working Parenthood. Closely related to the feminism thing, I spend a lot of time thinking about the day-to-day minutiae of being a full-time working mom (because let’s face it – it’s different for dads) and how to strike the right balance. A thing I’ve noticed is that I have orders of guilt: the worst is when I’ve truly disappointed Isaac (which has only happened once), but a close second is when situations come up where I feel like I am not showing the world that I care about being a good mom. Example: talking about life-changing/affirming moments with (all male) colleagues, the dads in the room all cited the births of their children. I did not. Not because I am callous, but because “the birth” frankly left me a bit shell-shocked, and was just one moment on a long continuum of becoming a mom. Of course my justification came in a moment of l’esprit de l’escalier, so I never articulated that in the moment. And so I retrospectively worry/feel guilty about appearing a cold, uncaring parent. And I do not like it.
  3. The first Tiny Christmas. This will be our third Christmas living in the UK, and the first when we won’t return to Canada. We were sick of the high prices for flights, and the large chunk of time it took out of our holiday allowances, when we’d like to travel to other destinations. I am looking forward to the opportunity to start a brand new set of traditions that are about just the three of us, but I am also a bit nervous that it won’t feel “right” or “real” to celebrate what’s normally such a family-centric holiday for us, without any family around. But you never know until you try? I guess?


Thing I like: Merrell Boots

It’s November. Which means NaBloPoMo. Let’s see what happens when I force myself to blog every day for a month, shall we? 

Since going back to work full-time in April, I’ve also been a full-time bicycle commuter. And Oxford is fantastic for cycling. In fact, because of the way the roads and cycle paths connect between my house and work, it’s actually shorter and faster for me to bike than drive.

And with such a short trip (my ride is about 2.5k), there’s not much need (unless the weather is really awful) for me to wear anything other than regular clothes. I feel very Copenhagenesque, pretty much every day, as I sit up tall and ride at a modest-but-still-leisurely pace.

It’s really a joy to jump on my bike, cruise through town, and then just lock it and walk up to my desk, without a complicated shower/changing/primping routine in-between.

Still, not all clothes are created equal when it comes to bicycle commuting.

For instance, I’m still on the hunt for great trousers, after my favourite jeans wore through in the crotch from too much friction with my saddle. Sadface.


But while I haven’t found a good answer for trousers (lots of great guy bike jeans, not so much ladies), when it comes to footwear, or at least boots, Merrell has filled a gap nicely. I’ve been looking for a pair of chocolate brown boots for a while, and the Evera Amp boot is a gorgeous specimen that’s also bike-friendly! Win!

What I really like is that, unlike so much bike-specific gear, the first impression it gives is fashion over function. But it still packs in plenty of functional aspects. I really notice a difference between these boots and another similar pair I have that aren’t made for cycling: the rigid footbed and increased tread do make a big difference in terms of stability and efficiency.

Plus, they’re comfortable for walking afterward, which is a huge plus.

I really hope this is a new trend in nice ladies’ bike-friendly fashion. Now someone please get on the jean thing. And a helmet that doesn’t give me hat-head.


Note, I bought these boots because I like them. And I’m sharing them here because you might like them too. This was wholly unsolicited, and uncompensated.

Preparation, Inspiration

It’s November. Which means NaBloPoMo. Let’s see what happens when I force myself to blog every day for a month, shall we? 

My grandfather’s workshop has always been fascinating. He was trained as a tool and die maker before immigrating to Canada, and spent the majority of his years as a machinist. He was also a ‘tween’ in the Netherlands during the second world war, when rations and supplies were scarce. Everything was saved, mended, repurposed or refashioned.

He’s the original lifehacker. A maker, before makers were cool. Throughout my childhood, he was constantly creating little tweaks and gadgets to improve some aspect of their house or garden. Little things, like spring-loaded door stops, or squirrel-proof bird feeders. Or that time he rigged up a contraption to bypass the safety latch on an electric hedge trimmer and put it on a pole to trim a tall tree. He always had the perfect bit of something he’d saved that he could hack into something else. It seemed like magic.

In contrast, there is  a large part of me that likes to live lightly. Nothing like schlepping all your worldly goods 1/3 of the way around the world, and then still having to pack/move/unpack them annually because you can’t get a lease longer than a year, to make you want to own much fewer things. I throw things out fairly indiscriminately. This is how I end up needing to do things like take seventeen trips to the photo place for tiny pictures.

Somewhat related, I have always been bewildered by people I call ‘crafty.’ Those who always seem to show up with a beautifully wrapped gift, or send the perfect (handmade, natch) card, or throw together a last-minute holiday-appropriate decoration or embellishment. How do they do it? Pinterest has not helped my lack of self-confidence in this area.

Then one week, I managed to actually  send a card in a timely fashion, wrap a lovely birthday gift, and bring an appropriate hostess gift to a party. 

Those things are rare enough in and of themselves. For all three to happen in a single week, in my world, is basically unheard of. I felt, dare I say, prepared, instead of frazzled. Like I was, for a short time, the person I aspire to be. How on earth did I do it? A happy coincidence of having the right things around.

And somewhere in all that, I remembed my grandfather’s workshop, and realized, having extra stuff around, sometimes, can be useful. These confusing ‘crafty people’ have a stash of things they can pull out whenever an occasion comes up and inspiration strikes. Like my grandfather’s workshop, ready for any small hack thanks to his habit of stashing any bits that might be mechanically useful, other people’s craft cupboards are apparently full of things just waiting for an opportunity to be used. They aren’t running to the craft store for a set of cutout letters, or wasahi tape, every time an occasion comes up. 

I don’t know why this never occurred to me before. Our kitchen pantry basically operates like that. We can always throw together a pretty decent meal, or afternoon tea, or drinks and snacks, out of whatever’s around. 

So now I’ve started making sure we have a few other things around to contribute to what I call (for lack of a better term) the ‘hospitality pantry.’ Note and occasion cards. Pretty wrapping papers. Small gifts and decorations. I’m not totally there yet (exhibit: Halloween 2013 – we had zero decorations. Not even a pumpkin.) but it’s coming.

More often than not now, a social occasion is cause for a tiny bit of self-congratulation that I’m equipped to handle it graciously, instead of turning myself into a crazy person or being embarrassed that I’m the one showing up to a kid’s birthday party with a gift awkwardly wedged into a leftover wine bag that someone else gifted to us (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

So now, I try to cull my possessions a little  more carefully. I still aim to reduce the amount of useless stuff around, but maybe not be quite so quick to have nothing extraneous about. I’m far from a hoarder of materials and supplies, but I do now keep some extra ‘crafty bits’ around on purpose.

Are there any occasions or situations that you’re always ready for? What’s in your stash?

2013: a little more conversation, a little more action.

I was going to go for a run today. Instead, I am watching the “fitness” app on my TV update. And will then proceed to do nothing about it once it has. I’m really just curious about the app, not interested in exercising right this moment.

That is very much 2012 speaking.

I took a glance at my resolutions at the beginning of 2012, and had to laugh about how irrelevant they are, considering where we ended the year. But, scanning through what little I’ve blogged in 2012, and reflecting on the year I’ve just had, I definitely have a resolution for 2013: Lean In.

I feel like I have been hanging back for a while. Carrying around a bunch of baggage. Nothing big on its own, but enough pieces that, combined, I’ve let slow me with their weight.

So in 2013 I’m resolving to lighten that load.

Moving abroad has made one thing crystal clear to me: I need to DO more. To lean in. To “Ship.”

I feel like I’ve had ideas about things like connecting with friends, making new friends, and finishing stagnant projects for a couple years. I’ve been telling myself that when things “settle down” I’ll have time for all these. Time to do them properly.

Therein lies the error of my ways. Things do not “settle down.” And in the meantime, I’m a continent and an ocean (in either direction) away from friends and family who don’t often hear from me, and I continue to unpack projects that I need to either do or dump. It would also probably do me well to get over myself and ask one of the casual acquaintances I’ve made over for tea.

It all sums up to dropping the baggage and quit waiting for everything to be just right before I send an old friend a note, or ask a new friend to tea, or take the next step in a project, or do something about getting up off my ass with that fitness app. To stop worrying about perfection, and do it anyhow.

So, here’s to 2013. Let’s do this thing.


I never realized how much I look to Thanksgiving as a passage into Autumn. A time to start reconnecting with family & friends after the frantic, flighty summer.

And while it might be Decorative Gourd Season all over the Northern Hemisphere, England doesn’t have Thanksgiving.

Decorative Gourd Season
Photo by Reclamation Revolution on Flickr

We’ve started down the road to amassing a collection of acquaintances, but are still a bit thin in the friends department. Family is 1/3 of a world away.

Thanksgiving this year meant one more hurried, nondescript meal in the midst of unpacking our newly arrived belongings, and homesickness.

I do have so much to be thankful for here. The experiences we’re having, the people we’re meeting. Our things have arrived without damage and without any additional customs duties. Despite our extended family and friends being spread far and wide, our little nuclear unit is all here, healthy and happy.

I told someone online a little while back that our move has been 80% awesome, 12% frustrating, and 8% lonely.

Reading Facebook and twitter updates, seeing statuses and photos about friends and family gathered around tables of turkey, just happened to make me feel that 8% a little more keenly than the rest.

Life List

One of the things I resolved to do in 2012 is to write down my Life List.

I have been fortunate enough to do some of the amazing things that are on other people’s lists, like visit the place my family is from, swim with dolphins, ride an elephant, visit some stunning world sights, eat incredible things in incredible places, and meet & marry the love of my life and become parents.

But the world is so incredible and amazing, there are still so many more things I’d like to do. I’ve tried to collect them here, but I expect the list will have more additions over time.

Neil and I have also had a very interesting experience with writing things down; somehow every time we make a list or commit our goals to paper they have an amazing way of working out faster and more spectacularly than we planned.

So I’m looking forward to seeing where the creation of this list leads…

Family Things
Complete our family (one kid down, one to go?)
Go camping as a family
Wake up before the sun and take the kid(s) fishing
Live abroad for a year
Take my parents on a vacation with us
Read the Harry Potter series with the kid(s)
Celebrate my 10th, 25th, 50th wedding anniversaries with Neil
Live on a small farm or rural property for some amount of time
Become millionaires
Help the kid(s) find a cause that’s important to them, and volunteer with them
Take a family trip to Disneyland
Teach the kid(s) to cook well enough they can make a meal for the family

Travel Things
Visit every continent (so far: Asia, Europe, North America, Africa)
Spend Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Hike the West Coast Trail
See belugas in the wild in Hudson’s Bay
Visit every Canadian province & territory
See the Fall foliage in New England
Tour distilleries in the Scottish Highlands
Visit Italy (Rome, Vatican City, Venice, Tuscany, Florence, Cinque Terre)
Visit Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto)
Bicycle winery tour in Napa
Go on Safari in Africa
Sail Across the Equator (and get corresponding Anchor tattoo)
Roadtrip down the Pacific Coast from Vancouver to Baja
Visit the Great Wall of China
Visit a great party city, party until sunrise
Visit the Galapagos Islands
Visit Australia

Fun Things
Go somewhere for High Tea
Compose a song on the piano (which requires learning anything about composition)
Attend Camp Mighty
And a Mighty Summit
Participate in the Vancouver Sun Run (ideally running the whole way)
Eat a bug (cricket flour does not count)
Host a beachside clambake
Pay for a stranger’s meal in a restaurant
Make it to 100 blood donations (currently at 10)
Participate in a Cattle Drive

Learnin’ Things
Learn how to use my camera in manual mode
Learn enough of a second language to have a conversation with a native speaker
Learn how to sail
Learn how to code enough to create a simple app
Learn how to drive a standard transmission car

Making Things
Finish Isaac’s baby book
Make an advent calendar book collection
Cook every recipe in a cookbook
Grow a vegetable garden

Career Things
Earn a 6-figure salary
Give a major conference presentation
Become a VP of Marketing
Make a proper portfolio of my work
Mentor someone
Get a mentor (or two)
Do an MBA

What’s on your list?

I was alone, I was all by myself

After a whirlwind week last week in which I dragged Neil and Isaac off to a few auditions, mostly for my own entertainment, it turned out we booked a shoot for an upcoming diaper commercial.

Except at the last minute they changed the job from “families” to “dads & babies” and expressly asked the moms not to come along, because it makes the babies act differently.

So I find myself unexpectedly alone, all day. For the first time in most of a year.

I’m totally discombobulated.

It’s not that I haven’t been away from Isaac for long stretches of time. He spends lots of time with just Neil while I go get any number of things done. He’s also in daycare once a week, and is watched by family or sitters when Neil and I go out.

It’s just that whenever I’m away from the rest of my family, it’s usually because I’ve got to go off and do something. This time it’s them doing something away from me, and I didn’t have a chance to fill the time with chores and errands in advance.

Frankly, I’m a bit delirious with the possibilities!

I rattled off a list of things I’ve considered to a friend on twitter: baking, shopping, cleaning, napping (glorious napping!), spa-ing. I might actually get to a few of them.

But so far I’m reveling in drinking coffee while it’s still hot, eating cereal without anyone begging to share it, and reading the internets without a million tiny tugs on the computer power cord.

You people whose days still primarily belong to yourself: what else should I do? I have forgotten how this works.

Ready for his Closeup

Edited to Add: that was remarkably short-lived. Isaac was in the group of “backup babies” in case the primary babies didn’t perform well. Except they did, so he and Neil were sent home early. They arrived about an hour after posting this. Oh well.