First week of Facebook holiday

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So it has been a week since I started my Facebook “holiday.”

I kind of feel like how I imagine smokers might, after they quit: both relieved, and also itching to go back to the old habit. And, amazed that the time has passed. A whole week!

Another way to put it is that it feels like I’ve left my house for a whole week, and have no-one staying there in my place to check up on. I keep wondering what’s happening there. Has the driveway piled up with snow? Is the mailbox crammed full of flyers?

Overall, though I’m really glad I am taking a break from Facebook. Here are a few things to note, that I’ve jotted down throughout the week, as I think of them:

  • I definitely thought, many times, “Oh, maybe I’ll just sign in and see what’s going on. What’s the harm? Then I can go back to my holiday.” But I stop myself. I want to be “impeccable with my word,” and I said three weeks.
  • I’ve had two dreams about Facebook. In the first one, I was checking Facebook. In the dream, I had no notifications showing, but when I scrolled down through the list there were all kinds of things that had happened. I had missed out on so much! Another night I dreamed that someone had spammed my “Dream Big Cape Breton” Facebook group, by writing something that sounded like it came from me, but was really inappropriate. When I signed in (in the dream), everyone was writing to me as if I had written it.
  • A few times I would be thinking of looking up a business or a person on Facebook, to get in touch or ask a question, and then I’d remember that I couldn’t. I had to think of an alternative, which really wasn’t that hard. It just took a little bit of effort to remember that there are alternatives to Facebook. (The phone book, or Googling them to find their webpage, for example.)
  • And a few times I would think of a person, an acquaintance, wondering how they were doing. I would think, “I could look them up on Facebook, and see what’s new with them.” (Look at their photos, scan through their wall posts.) But it was nice to just think of them, and then think, “Whenever life randomly puts them in my space again, it will be nice to see them,” and let it go.
  • Overall I feel cleansed. Not stress-free, because hey, it’s life, and there will always be stress. But I feel like a huge obstacle that was in the way of doing work or relaxing has been removed. I put obstacles in my own way, for sure, and I’ve been turning to Instagram or Pinterest in the same way I was turning to Facebook before: for procrastination, for distraction, for little hits of dopamine in the brain. But I run out of things to look at on those sites, quicker, and without Facebook to turn to when I do get bored, or want a distraction, I remember more quickly that I’m supposed to be working, or relaxing. Not plugged in.
  • Getting more in touch with myself feels really good. I have the time and mental space and energy now to stare off into space for a minute. To focus on my breath. To entertain myself with silly sayings that I might before have been tempted to type into Facebook as status updates, and then waited and checked and re-checked to see how many “Likes” I got. I think the thoughts, now, and then let go and move on.
  • I’m undecided about if I’ll go back on it after the retreat is over. To be honest, I’m really tempted not to. I know it helps promote my blog and my work, and that’s something I don’t want to give up. (Free promotion: you’d be silly not to use it, right?) But, along with that free service comes all the other stuff: the addiction, the clutter, the artificial sense of community. And I don’t know yet if I’m the sort of person who can limit herself to only checking it a few times a day. It seems so far that it’s cold turkey or nothing.

This is from Good Morning Glitterbomb, a free daily dose of awesome in my email every day.


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multitude monday / mar 3


The herb garden waits for spring.

My friend and classmate Katie MacLennan writes a great blog called Polka Dot Soup. On it she writes a post some Mondays called “Multitude Monday.” She writes, “Mondays are about documenting the little (or big!) things in life that make me oh-so-happy. Let’s make Mondays a day to reflect on the goodies, and not the baddies.”

I also recently read Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly,” in which she writes, “The shudder of vulnerability that accompanies joy is an invitation to practice gratitude, to acknowledge how truly grateful we are for the person, the beauty, the connection, or simply the moment before us.”

Katie’s been doing it long enough that she’s up to over 700 things (doing 10 each time). Week before last, I posted my first ten, and last week I posted another ten. Here are the ten things right now that I’m thankful for:

21. The winter. I know, we’re all sick of it. I am too. But I walked on Sunday through the snowy woods and I am so grateful for the winter season and all it contains: quiet, retreat, reflection, exercise (shovelling, for one), contrast and texture, ice patterns, and the necessary balance to summer’s heat and growth.

22. Poets. None in particular, just that there are folks out there brave enough to dance with language, and challenge how we think words ‘should’ go together.

23. Tap water. I love a glass of tasty cool water straight from the tap so much! Especially after a walk. So refreshing.

24. The little things in love: when he downloads a movie for us to watch, when he takes his plate to the kitchen, when he thanks me for cooking, when he gives me a smile that’s just for me.

25. Hand-lettering: I put about seven hours in on the weekend, on a project I’m working on. It’s hard! I have a newfound respect for the masters of hand-lettering (like Mary Kate McDevitt).

26. Auto Mechanics. I have no idea how to replace my water pump, but I’m glad someone does, and that they will do it for me quickly and not charge me an arm and a leg. (I love the guys at Jed’s in Balls Creek!)

27. My friend Kate Oland’s gift to me last week of a vintage silver-plated business-card holder. Someone had given it to her years ago when she had her own design firm. Now she is no longer in the business, working instead as a librarian in Baddeck. So she “passed the torch” onto me. It’s a beautiful case and the fact that it came from a dear friend means it is even more beautiful.

28. Feminism. I’m reading “American Jezebel” at the moment, which is about a woman in the 1630’s in New England. It makes me look around at the freedom I enjoy and go, “Holy cats, I cannot imagine living without this freedom.” There is still much work to be done, for sure, towards true equality for women in the world. But it is also good to remember what has been accomplished already, and not take it for granted.

29. The longer daylight hours. Sometimes I feel as though I am a plant, drinking in the sun’s rays and turning towards windows involuntarily, needing that sunlight so much.

30. New music in my iTunes: lady bluegrass with flair by Sarah Jarosz. (Album is “Song Up In Her Head.”) I have been listening to it on repeat all weekend. Great music to work to! Here is a video of her playing and singing the title track.

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links loved / mar 1

linksloved This shot was snapped quickly while I was driving across the Seal Island Bridge yesterday, on my way to Baddeck to my friend Tanis’s hair salon. She’s been doing my hair for years and so I trusted her to chop off my long hair so I can go short! (Edit: this shot shows the hairdo better.) I love a good change of hair style. It feels so refreshing. I don’t have much money these days to go out shopping for a new wardrobe, so this will have to do. And so far I am loving it.

Here are some things I’ve seen lately that I thought I’d share. My #1 blogging inspiration, Elise is doing them once a week now and it’s inspiring me to do the same.

8 Things To Do Alone for a change.

Sweet version of Mo Kenney’s song “Sucker”.

James Victore on getting lazy as a designer.

Elise, three years ago, on social media and what’s the right fit for you.

How to stop comparing yourself to others.

How cooking for others comes back to feed you by the Nova Scotia Local Traveller blog.

A beautiful 2 minute video in this post, about a beautiful greeting-card company that was started to cultivate gratitude. I also love the little peeks at the printing and design process.

I recently began a three-week retreat from Facebook. This article at the Globe and Mail from 2010 (four years ago!) is interesting: “Focusing on too many things [says Julie Morgenstern] impairs our ability to get anything done. “And the feeling of not getting anything done,” she says, “is very, very, very de-energizing to people.””

Have a great weekend, whether plugged or unplugged.

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storefront dreaming


The more I think about it, the more I realize I was made to go into business. I mean, some guys and gals drive by houses for sale and dream about decorating the home, doing the garden, et cetera. I go by storefronts for rent and dream about renovating them and putting a design studio in them!


It doesn’t really matter if it’s a suitable storefront or not, I can’t help myself. If I see a “For Rent” signs, I start imagining opening a business there. What’s close by? What’s the parking like? What’s the foot traffic like? What needs work? What architectural details could really shine with a little work? Does it get lots of natural light?

storefronts3 This spot above, 268 Commercial Street, has been empty since I moved to North Sydney last year. Whenever I walk by it I peek inside and mentally set up my studio.

storefronts4 storefronts5 And this place became available recently. I absolutely love the art deco-inspired entryway.

storefronts6 storefronts7 And then there is this building (above) which was a bank ages ago, and then was the library, and recently has become a number of shops, including Escape Outdoors and La Quaintrelle. I love what the new owners are doing with the space!

storefronts8 I just love the feeling of a downtown, too. The hustle and bustle, and mix of so many different businesses, and types of people. I don’t know when it will be, it could be years down the road, but I hope to someday be able to have a brick-and-mortar location for my work. And, I hope it’s a building with lots of character (and hopefully not too many leaks!).


Want more downtown-business inspiration? Here are all the posts on A Beautiful Mess about their shop Red Velvet (which recently closed because they are moving on to new ventures, but which was awesome from the looks of things). It was in a beautiful old building and I love how they decorated their shop.

Also on A Beautiful Mess, these are all the posts they do in a series called “At Work With…” and there are lots of great renovated workspaces to check out.

And this video, which aired during the Super Bowl, is an ad for jewellery design company Alex and Ani, but the ad is about how they purposefully locate their stores in downtown areas to help revitalize them.

Posted in Business ideas, Community, Design, Leah's thoughts, Outdoors, Towns + communities, Work | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

First day of Facebook holiday

20140227-100541.jpg Yesterday I felt pretty dang frustrated about having so little time to get my schoolwork done. I feel like great graphic design springs from a happy and balanced designer, and for this designer, happiness and balance is equal parts “time with other designers critiquing and collaborating” and “time alone to really focus on the project at hand.” I was feeling super distracted by constantly checking Facebook, worrying I was missing out on changes to assignments, class time, or events, or whatever else goes on, on Facebook.

So on my drive home yesterday I decided to do something I’d been imagining doing for some time, but didn’t have the nerve to do yet. I decided to take three weeks off Facebook.

Now, my Dad, ever since I was a kid, has gone on meditation retreats every year, taking a week or two to himself to sit in silence and meditate. Friends of our family have gone to places like Gampo Abbey for an entire year to take retreat. So I’m used to the idea of taking retreat, but sort of felt like I couldn’t do that with Facebook.

I mean, there’s all those connections and networking! And my classmates and teachers use a hidden group on there to share stuff and talk about classwork. And I share this blog on there, which is about 70% of where my blog traffic comes from. And, and, and. It’s endless, the excuses.

But the way I was feeling yesterday, I needed some retreat time more than I needed all those “ands”. I needed some private time. All those little 10-minute bits of checking-Facebook, throughout a given day, they add up to the opposite of privacy. They break focus on an activity. They make me feel my brain is open for other people to see inside.

Now, I may be more sensitive than you to this sort of thing. You may be reading this and thinking, “That gal’s nuts! I use Facebook and I’m totally OK with it.” That’s OK. Everyone’s different and not everyone needs a Facebook holiday! But, some people do.

I’m also going to stop checking email after 6 pm. I took a trial run last night and it actually felt amazing. Freeing, slowing, happy-making. So far, so good!


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two walks


At the start of this year I set myself some goals. One of them was to move more. To that end I’ve been keeping track of my daily movement on a little calendar, in crayon. (And no, the colours of the crayons are not keyed to anything. Just random, as I pull them from the box!)

I’ll be writing about my goals and what I’ve done towards them since January 1st, soon, but for now I just wanted to share some photos of a walk I took two days ago and one I took yesterday.


The day before yesterday I got to school early and parked my car. Then I locked the doors and headed along a road that goes behind the school. It goes out to the orange water tower and then to a sort of gravel pit/dumping area for old concrete, and I’ve done the walk a couple of times now, usually after school, before I leave for home. There is also a field out here and what looks like a one-track lane, heading out over the field. (It’s covered in snow right now so it’s hard to tell for sure.) There are usually cross-country ski tracks along it, as well.


I like the fifteen minutes of “woods time” that this little walk gives me. I hear birds in the trees, a crow that sits on the water tower or on the electrical towers, and the silence of snowy woods, a dense and delicious silence.


Day before yesterday, I looked across the field and happened to notice an orange sort of smudge along its edge. It reminded me of the willow that Mum grows in her garden. I thought, “Is that a willow plantation?” So of course I went to nose around.

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There was this old beauty of an apple tree, too. I’ll bet in springtime, this is frothy and fabulous with blossoms.
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One of the piles of concrete loves me!


Then, yesterday, I was a few minutes early to meet Adam at the grocery store in Sydney River. (Tuesday is our grocery day, as there is a 10%-off student discount.) I decided to take advantage of the minutes before he got there, and stretch my legs and get some movement in.


It was cold and windy, but I had on my long down coat, which I affectionately call “the sleeping bag.” And I wanted to have a look at the bridge that is getting replaced. I only got as far as the first parked car you can see in this photo before getting nervous of seeming weird, hanging around the construction site, so I turned back.


(So instead I seemed weird by taking photos of the “Riverview” train trestle.)

walk_two4 walk_two5 Have a great Wednesday!

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money money money, must be funny

money1 So I keep thinking to myself, “I really want to write a post about money. And about not having any. And how much that sucks, how much it messes with your head in a culture that loves to sell things to people, that’s all about conjuring desire for things.”

And then the other voice in my head says, “Yeah, but what are you going to say beyond that? You don’t have time to do research on poverty and mental health, or go finding the statistics to back stuff up. It would just be your thoughts on money, so what? You should be concentrating on your schoolwork! Then you can get a job, and you can stop worrying so much about money, ya twit!” (Come to think of it, that voice is kind of a jerk – why do I listen to it, anyway?)

I don’t have the time to do a bunch of research, its true. And I’m hot on the heels of yesterday’s Multitude Monday post, which is all about finding the things in life to be happy about, so I don’t want you to think I’m a downer.

But, I really do want to talk about money. And about how tight things are financially for a lot of people. Including me. This winter I’ve been broke, pretty much the entire time. Saying this on the Internet feels a little bit like I’m blabbing secrets about my sex life — makes me feel a little too vulnerable, if you know what I mean.

(I also want to say that I’m not looking for advice on managing my finances, because I get that from my Credit Union and from my Mom, and I think I’m doing as good as I can be, given the circumstances.)

But, even though it makes me feel vulnerable, I think it’s important to talk about it in the open, not just hush-hush in private conversation. If we all are going around thinking “Everyone else has it more together than me!” then we’re beating ourselves up for no reason. How much stress would you let go of, if you knew that most of the people around you were just as deep into their overdraft and credit cards as you? I think that in order to “dream big” as an individual or as a community, you’ve got to be able to look at where you are right now, and own it. And tell the truth of that place, of what it’s like to be at the start of a journey.

Since the coal and steel industries petered out and ended, Cape Breton has been known as an economically-depressed area. There are some businesses doing well here, for sure. But overall there is a reason people are leaving to go out west. That’s where the money is. And our overall culture, the North American capitalist culture, runs on people spending money. From big corporations to small mom-and-pop places, the whole economy, the engine that employs people and gets work done, runs on you and I opening our wallets and hooking up our bank accounts to automatic withdrawals, and spending.

So no wonder there are ads everywhere you turn. And no wonder I feel like a failure if I have to say to someone, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t do that simple, cheap activity with you, because I actually can’t afford it.” I mean, I’m pretty good with my money. I shop in thrift stores part of the time, I’m a little impulsive but I do think about things I’m buying, and I keep track of my spending in a cheque-book and online. But, even still, my bank account is a sad dry well, getting partially filled up every two weeks from EI, and then quickly depleted again with the regular bills of a relatively-simple modern life.

As for what to do about it, well, I think talking about it is a start. And from there, I can work on my attitudes towards money, and re-thinking what I’m spending money on and why. I want new clothes because I feel good in them, for sure. It sucks to have only two pairs of jeans, neither one fashionable, and just not have the funds to go buy a new pair, now or for several more months. But, it’s not the end of the world. That’s where things like Multitude Monday and gratitude journals come in. To remind myself that while money may matter, some things — like a roof over our heads, warm food in our bellies, and just having one another — matter more.

As always, thanks for listening. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted in Day to Day Life, Leah's thoughts, Work | 11 Comments