We are not alone



20131205-184503.jpg Today I had a dentist appointment in Baddeck. My dentist, Stuart MacDonald, books cleanings something like six months in advance, so back in June when I had my last cleaning, they booked my next one. “Does it matter what day it is?” The receptionist asked. “We can do December fifth.”

“Nope, doesn’t matter,” I said at the time, not knowing what exactly I’d be up to on that day in six months’ time.

Then a month ago when I was looking ahead at my schedule, and December 5th was getting close, I thought I might cancel the appointment. After all, it’s right at the end of the term, only one more week til this semester is done, and there is a fair bit still to do on the assignments that are due next week. (The Graphic Design program doesn’t have exams, but we do have a big end-of-term project for each course.)

But I’m so glad I didn’t cancel the appointment. I let the teachers know I wouldn’t be there today, made arrangements for notes (thanks Jacquie!) and went up to Baddeck. To my hometown. North Sydney is my home now, but Baddeck will always be my hometown. It’s different in winter than in summer, of course – more snow, no tourists, and its quieter, overall. It can give me a sad feeling to be there in winter, or it can feel good, more like a village than like a tourist town. It depends on my own mood I suppose.

So it was a lovely day. I took a short walk on Water Street. I visited with friends before and after my appointment. I saw Flossie at the marina. I stopped in at the Drug Store and bought deodorant, and said hello to Beth and Joyce. I stopped for gas at MacRae’s and said hi to Jimmy Bradley, and Jared. I stopped by the library for hugs with Kate and Laverne and hello to Larry. I had tea with my brother and a visit with my Mom.

It was the kind of day that reminds me to take a bit of time away from the ordinary, daily to-dos, and go and physically see the people who I love and miss. Facebook and texting and email and the phone are all fine and good, and they are better than no contact at all. But being in the same place at the same time, smiling at one another, being able to hug one another, is so, so important.

Hearing everyone’s various news of the last few months reminded me, too, that we are not alone. We are all human, we all have foibles and mishaps and difficult times. There is stress in every household. Admitting that to each other, and laughing about the shitty, silly things, may just be one of the most important things we can do.

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making me happy // the walking track


This time of year, I know I need to walk as often as I can, to maintain sanity and happiness. But, walking around my neighbourhood feels lonely. Sometimes you see people, but sometimes you don’t, you just see houses and quiet streets, and cars going past. I find what I’m craving as much as the walk is the chance to smile and make small talk with other people. carmen_young_walking_track2 carmen_young_walking_track3

There is a walking track close to my house, within walking distance, but it’s pretty wide open and by the water, and as it gets colder, that track gets used less and less. So I decided to start going to the walking tracks that are a short drive away, and which I’d never used before. The outdoor one is called the Carmen Young Track.

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I was sort of worried that walking on a track would be lame, would be repetitive and boring. But, turns out that the repetition is actually really nice. And if I’m not feeling great, I can do just a few laps, and then once I do those laps, if I want to do more, I can.

And, at a walking track, you see people. Even if I don’t say anything to them, it’s just nice to know there are others walking there too, in their own thoughts. There is also a skate park for youth right next to the walking track, and it was nice to watch them out of the corner of my eye as I walked, doing their swoops up and down the ramps.

On the walking track, along with another woman walking alone and plugged into her headphones, there was a man helping his elderly mother walk a lap. After one turn she must have been cold because she got back in the car and he kept going. After another two laps, he got her again and they did another lap together. When I caught up with them, I decided to say something.

“Chilly today!”

“Yeah, but it’s not bad,” the man said. “The fresh air feels good.”

I agreed that that was true. I slowed to their pace and we chatted a bit more. “Do they keep the track clear in the winter?” I asked.

“Yes, and they sand it, too,” the woman said. We exchanged names and talked about where we lived, and how the track was really nice, to move the body and get some fresh air.

“OK, well, I’ll see you again!” I said, making ready to walk faster.

“Oh, no doubt,” said the woman.

And then on days when the weather isn’t good for walking outside, there is the indoor walking track at the Emera Center, just next door to the Carmen Young track.

emera_center emera_center2 It’s not fresh air, but it’s still a nice track to walk, and again, there are other folks walking there. And although there is a walking club advertised, that costs $50, you can just go walk there for free. (I asked the Box Office attendant.)

I find this time of year, with the stresses of the end of term, and Christmas, and the short daylight hours, that I crave my walks, crave the magic of moving my body. I’ll be sitting down either on the couch or at my desk, getting all stressed out about something, and I’ll have to remind myself, “Get your walking clothes on, or just move around.” Even doing a few stretches helps!

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Currently: a November evening

currently Currently…

  • Working on a “creative brief” about a consumer product though the ages, for my Art Direction project. (The consumer product I was assigned is felt pens, which is perfect, because I love Sharpies!)
  • A tad overwhelmed at all the work that needs to be done over the next two weeks, although trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel. (Christmas holidays! Only two and a half more weeks.)
  • Wishing I could have been at the special meeting of the CBRM on youth issues, but knowing that some amazing people were there (like Kelsey and Brandon), representing.
  • Eating a lot of rice, eggs and miso soup, and yogurt (no, not all at once) which is all my stressed-out tummy can handle these days. One day at a time, right? Luckily there are some good days too.
  • Considering going to the Emera center here in North Sydney to take walks in the evening, or else busting out the sweet reflective safety vest Adam gave me last year, so I can walk at night. These early-dark days do get to me.
  • Hoping its normal to feel this way, with a semester left to go in my diploma, that I’m totally not ready to graduate and totally not ready for the workforce. I’ve chatted with some of my classmates and they feel the same, so I think it’s a normal feeling.
  • Thankful for family and friends who make me feel “normal”. Whatever that is!


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making me happy // offset printer

press Today my class went down to KKP (formerly known as Kwik Kopy) on Charlotte Street in Sydney, to watch some business cards we had designed get printed on an offset printer. Most of the time in printing these days, work gets printed on a digital printer, but there are some projects for which an offset printer is still used. (I think Tom at KKP mentioned envelopes, and other things I can’t remember.)

We did this project on the offset printer mainly to see how the machine works, as part of our Studio: Print class. These old machines are being replaced by digital printers, and although I get that the digital printers are a lot easier to run, it still makes me a bit sad to think of all that knowledge and a way of printing going the way of the dodo.

It’s chilly here on the island today, although I hear that it’s meant to warm up in the next day or so.

Other things making me happy today: I found miso paste at Charlene’s Health Food Store, as well as some ginger chews. (My stomach has been upset lately and after eating one ginger chew, so far so good, it’s a bit better.) I also took my walk after I got home from school, and smiled at some folks and petted a dog. These little encounters with the people all around us in the world are so important, even though they seem so small.

What’s making you happy in this dark, gloomy month?


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making me happy // mailing a letter

mailaletter1 mailaletter2 mailaletter3 mailaletter4 mailaletter5 Last night I finally wrote a letter to my pen pal Haya in Ontario, which I’d been putting aside for a month. This morning, on my walk, I took the letter along and stopped at the Canada Post box at the Community Guest Home, the one where I mail most of my letters, since it’s the closest one to my house.

There is something so physical and real about mailing a letter, so much more than clicking “Send” on an email. I love holding the real letter, for one thing, the paper texture, the thickness of the papers inside, the handwritten addresses, any decorations. And I love opening the heavy metal door, putting the letter in, shutting it closed with a clang. And I always open it up again to check and make sure the envelope went down into the box.

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making me happy // maestro fresh wes

maestrofreshwes2 Today at school, Wes Maestro Williams gave a talk! It was super cool. This is a Canadian rapper, actor and author, who has been around since 1989, with the hit “Let Your Backbone Slide.” He talked about how he never let people tell him what he couldn’t do. They said ‘just stick to rapping,’ and he got into acting, for example, and now he’s a respected actor as well as a musician. Then he wanted to write a book, and through circumstance and luck, it happened. A lot of his stories were about how you never know who you’re going to meet who is going to help you out, connect you to the right people, help you bring your vision to life. You’ve got to do the legwork, go to the events, meet people. Because you just never know.

He talked about how he’s had low points too, but he’s stuck to his vision and let that keep him moving forward.

“A vision is a forward-moving, motivating intention,” he said. “Look back at what you’ve accomplished and let that be a catalyst to move you forward.”


My brother Mat, who doesn’t attend NSCC these days, came anyway because he loves rap and hiphop and someday is going to be a big star. (Shh, don’t tell him I said that!) My classmates Meaghan Ganaway and Aleena Ashfaq were there too. I don’t know who the guy on the podium is, or the lady in the purple dress, haha.

One of the main things about meeting famous artists or writers that I really like, is that you’re seeing them as a fellow human being, with flesh, bones, clothes, living in this moment that we’re all living in. Not just as a pretty portrait of them on their website, not just as the creator of perfectly polished books or albums, but as a real person who goes through the same life, the same creative process we all go through. That, to me, is the inspiring part about meeting someone who’s had great success.

Thanks to NSCC and especially Bradley Sheppard, the African Canadian Coordinator at NSCC, for bring Wes Maestro Williams to our school.

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making me happy // morning walk

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Elise Blaha, a daily must-read blog for me, sometimes writes a post called “Making Me Happy”. I like that category because it’s wide open, it could be anything, from big to small, but choosing to focus on positive things is so important for getting through a tough time. Yesterday on Instagram I shared a photo of something that was making me happy and today I want to share something else that brings light to me in the November gloom, my morning walk.

It’s definitely not easy to get my shit together in time to walk for 20 minutes in the mornings. I would so much rather go back to bed for any time at all, and just snooze. Seriously. I’ve got some energy in the mornings, and I’m generally happy, but to take that happiness to the next level, and put pants on, and shoes, and a coat, and actually turn the doorknob and leave the house? That takes… I’m not sure what. Stubbornness, I suppose. Just the mental determination of, I’m going to do this, gosh-darnit.

The first few strides are a little like “What am I doing out here?!” Then I ease into it and it actually feels good. And I remember, again, every day, why I do it and why it’s important.

And then you get to see cute ducks waddling across the neighbour’s lawn. Bonus!



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