Blogging is weird.


Compromise Sandwich... the dandelion is from the lawn. The avocado is not.

The other day I was walking down the main street of my town, Chebucto St. About ten feet in front of me, a woman walking slowly with her young daughter was chatting with a man who was standing on the other side of the street. I overheard her say, “The peepers are out!”

I was walking quickly, so I overtook her soon after. As I walked by her, I said, “The peepers are out, eh? That’s nice!”

Tonight I opened the sliding door and stepped out onto the deck. I realized that since that little encounter, I had not actually heard the peepers. I stepped into the darkness, and then my eyes adjusted and I could see. And I could hear, peepers. That spring sound. I love it! It’s comparable in clarity to the sound of a sweet, clean, rushing creek.

(My boyfriend happens to be irritated by the sound of peepers. I really don’t understand that. To each their own, I guess!)

Blogging is a funny beast. If you want your blog to be a Blog with a capital B, that attracts readers and responds to what they like and keeps on growing, then it’s this weird mix of – sharing personal details about your own life, and trying for an intimate voice, but also marketing yourself – which means being hyper-aware of your own looks, your own voice, what you have to say and how you’re saying it. (Or other times, like now, just ignoring what I might sound like to others, just saying “frig it!”)

Sometimes I miss my old blog, where I really did feel I was typing into a void, that there might be 5 or 6 people reading it. I’d share it on Facebook when I felt like it. I’d write a post and then just publish it.That felt good, it felt way more free.

With this blog, I’ve been getting caught up in planning, and in thinking things out. You know, thinking about what will get posted when. Which, you have to do, if you’ve got contributors, and interviews, and you want to give off a certain impression of “having my sh*t together”.

But a part of blogging, a necessary part that keeps the writing interesting and fresh to read, is spontaneity. Bulletins from “the moment,” from whatever the blogger is living.

Even if that moment is just – hey, it’s Wednesday, and the peepers are out, and it’s weird being a blogger sometimes.

(And, I’m happy I’ve got a wider audience now, I really am. Whatever this project is – at the moment I see it as a weird hybrid of research paper, personal + travel blog, creative writing journal, scrapbook, and newspaper – it’s fun, and I’m loving it.)

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Q+A with Carmel Mikol

Carmel Mikol.

Q+A is a regular feature now on Dream Big Cape Breton. These are interviews done over the Internet, via email or Facebook. I send someone 10 questions, then they write back their responses! It’s quicker than an in-person interview, and saves precious time and fuel. The questions vary from person to person but you’ll see a lot of similar questions being asked, especially the first three.

If you would be interested in being a Q+A participant, just contact me. I’m interested in everyone’s story. You can quickly find all the other interviews on the blog here.

Today’s Q+A is with Carmel Mikol, a singer/songwriter who grew up in North River and who is currently based in Halifax, although she tours all over North America. Her website is here and you can Like her on Facebook here. She is also up for the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and you can vote for her song “Twenty Something Girl” here.

Oh and, when we were little, we played Barbies together. We go way back.

1. What’s your age?

I’m rapidly nearing the end of my twenty-something-ness. I vacillate between complete comfort with this fact and utter terror.

2. CB born and raised? Or recent transplant? (Plus whatever biographical details you feel like giving).

I am made in Cape Breton. I was raised on a farm in the North River Valley. When I have the pleasure of truly going “home”, it is still to Cape Breton that I go. I’ve lived many places and currently spend much of my time on the road touring with my music. But the great pull of home never leaves me.

At her CD release party last August, Carmel had this sweet vintage typewriter on hand for people to write her a note with. And that's why she's so awesome.

3. “What are you up to these days?” I.e. what do you do for a living, what are you working on, are you a student, in the workforce, writing songs, etc?

I’m a touring singer/songwriter and writer. I have released two albums and a small collection of poetry & short stories. I’ve been up for some awards; won some and lost some. I help run a concert series called Music Shapes New Glasgow, now in its second year, and I produce a new creation project for Celtic Colours called “Roots to the Future”. I am also in the middle of a funded public art project called “Waywords” that allows me to engage and interact with communities I perform in.

4. When you are back on the island, what are “must dos” for you?

I must sit in my father’s workshop and watch the pines sway outside the window. I must jog along the sea in Jersey Cove. I must walk to the top of the hill by the house where I grew up and look down at the fields. I must visit my friends. I must make supper for my mother with food from local farms. I must write.

5. What are your favourite things to do outside, in CB?

Hiking. Running. Walking through the trees. I also go to where my father is buried and watch the clouds move in and out over St. Anne’s Bay.

6. Favourite Cape Breton music venues, past and present?

I love the beer and sweat of Governor’s. I like the good surprises you find at the Upstairs Club. I love the quietude and intimacy of the Cape Breton Fudge Company. I swoon for the wide opened piano at the Red Shoe. But nothing beats the North River Hall when it’s filled with good friends, and my dear friend Rosie MacKenzie’s kitchen when she has her fiddle out…

7. Tell us a bit about your creative process.

I live and work by this simple motto: A writer writes. This reflects my firm belief in creative work ethic, commitment, and the importance of production. You cannot only dream of writing, or think of writing. You must actually write. I write constantly in a cycle of joy and despair that sends me reeling through poems, stories, journals, and always back home into the warm arms of songs. I am seeking a great story. One day, I may find it.

I snapped this shot of Carmel at the CD release she had for "Creature", her second album. Her live performances honestly make the hair on the back of my neck stand up - such good writing, such beautiful singing and playing.

8. Are you planning on sticking around in CB? Why, or why not?

I plan to have my own small house in Cape Breton someday, a place that is not my mother’s or my father’s or my childhood home, but a home of my own. I would like it to be a place of art, food, conversation, music and love. A place where I can find solitude to write and still welcome others warmly. A place that gets buried in the winter and breathes in the summer. A place where I can have dogs. Until then, I rack up miles coming and going and coming home again.

9. “Dream big” for a minute: what are some innovations or events or just plain old “big ideas” you think Cape Breton could use?

I want to start an annual Folk Festival on Cape Breton Island that showcases songwriters, story-tellers, poets, and modern folk artists. I want to unite the already rich cultural community behind a new arts venture that empowers small communities, engages young people, engenders a culture of community, volunteerism, and innovation, and brings new people into the heart of Cape Breton.

10. Finish this sentence: Being from Cape Breton, to me, means…

I get to sleep in my own bed when I come home to play Celtic Colours.

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Around here lately: April

Top: a plate on the wall of a home I took care of last week. Bottom three: a Buddha and a willow at my Dad's place. My hand on my coffee mug on Sunday morning. Me in the window at home.


Around here, lately…

(That handwritten font is not my handwriting, it’s a font I found for free on the Internet. It’s called Arsenale White.)

Things are busy, but I’m actively working to slow them down.

Does that make sense? Actively going slower?

Well, it does in my head.

What happened was, I was preparing for a trip I’m about to take (Quebec City by train, then Toronto, then fly home). I was trying to get some stuff done in time for it – this ridiculous amount of projects I had taken on, mostly because it’s hard for me to say no.

And I realized: hey! There is no possible way I can get all this done in time! Unless I pulled all-nighters, and that’s just silly.

(No really, I’m not an all-nighter kind of gal. I wasn’t in university, except for once, and I’m certainly not now. Tasks done for the boards I voluntarily sit on really aren’t worth it!)

But that guilt, it was hard to scrub away. So I employed “what if I were sick” thinking – as in, “What would I do if I were getting sick? I’d cancel this, right?”

So I cut. And cut some more. Cut back the schedule. Gone was the promise I’d made to design a website (I know, right? Because I’m totally trained for that, haha, NOT). Gone was the pressure I’d been putting on myself to plan a whole art show for the art contest I organize – I delegated that to someone else who had, after all, offered to help out.

I didn’t apologize for all this cutting, either. When I was twenty, a whole seven years ago, I always felt I had to offer a bunch of excuses to someone when I cancelled a plan or a commitment.

Now, I know better – they honestly don’t really care why, and it saves my breath. “Sorry, I can’t make it.” It gets to the point. It doesn’t waste my time or the reader’s. Done. Moving on!

And so now I don’t feel as stressed. I have a few days left before getting on the train in Truro (because that’s the closest a passenger train comes to Cape Breton), and I feel that what I have to get done in the meantime is manageable.

It’s a good feeling, but it’s also a funny one, since I’m not overly used to it. It’s like, Really? I can just take a deep breath, and let it out, and then watch Jeopardy! while eating ice cream with cookies? And the world’s not going to end?


(This is a subject I want to explore more in upcoming posts – that of stress, and balance, and especially in relation to volunteering your time in your community. Is it possible to have time to yourself, and say no to demands and requests, and also do meaningful things in your community? I think it is, but it takes work and practice. And I’ve got lots of tips rolling around in my head that I want to share.)


  • I’m so happy that I get to drive around back roads, ramble in unknown fields, and take pictures. It’s probably on my Top 5 fave things to do anyway, and now I have a semi-legitimate reason to do so! (This blog is the reason, in case you were wondering.)
  • Speaking of that, I’m working on getting some advertising spots on this blog, so that will be an upcoming announcement. Wouldn’t that just be my dream come true – to make (something of) a living from writing and taking pictures?
  • Spring is here. It’s the season of things opening up, breaking up (think ice, not relationships), coming alive, starting to move. Businesses are opening up again, for the summer season, and people who spent the winter on EI are getting back to work, including me! It’s exciting, it’s inspiring, and it feels really good.

While I’m traveling, as long as there is Internet, there shouldn’t be any disruption to your Dream Big programming. In addition to my own rambling thoughts, I’ve got more Q+As on the way, as well as contributor posts, and I’ll share a few travel pics as well!

Are you excited that it’s spring?

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The Easter Eggs of Cape Breton

There were eggs from all over! The main locations were Baddeck and the Sydney/North Sydney area, but there were also entries from St. Peter’s, Gabarus, Tarbot, and the Two Rivers Wildlife Park. (You can see all these pictures on the Facebook group.)

The winner is Cari MacLeod of Baddeck, as chosen by the Random Number Generator website. Congrats Cari, and we hope you enjoy the lovely items in the basket!

And, as a special “Happy Easter” surprise for the other entrants, you can come into the FINDERS KEEPERS shop to pick up your own you-win-just-by-entering custom magnet featuring your own photo! Made by Laura Moore herself. To pick it up, visit the shop during open hours, which are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from noon – 5:30, or call if you can only come by on a non-open day. (902) 736-2500.

Thanks again to all who played along! This was great fun, and a great success for the first Dream Big Cape Breton “reader participation” contest, which bodes well for future giveaways and draws, in partnership with local businesses.

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Dream Big Cape Breton and FINDERS KEEPERS Easter Contest!

Laura Moore of the FINDERS KEEPERS shop and I both love Easter, and springtime in general. So we teamed up to have a fun contest here on the Dream Big Cape Breton blog!

To enter:

  • snap a picture of an Easter egg (could be one you drew on paper, could be a dyed one, could be a foil-wrapped chocolate one – or any other kind of Easter egg) somewhere outside, in your community. I picked the Baddeck sign as an example but as you can see I also took some shots around the sign and around the town.
  • Upload the picture either to the wall of the Dream Big Cape Breton Facebook group, or email it to me at . Remember that if it’s not immediately obvious where your picture is located, to include the name of your community in your message.
  • This contest is only open to folks physically on Cape Breton.

The prize is the fantastic, hand-picked basket you see in the top photo, of items from Laura’s shop. Laura did an amazing job of putting together a sweet, charming and totally awesome basket of goodies, that fits in with Dream Big’s goals and values – caring, connecting, wishing, imagining, nurturing, creating, recycling, supporting local, and thinking. (To name a few!)

Draw date is April 9th, Easter Monday.

Pictures will all be on the blog following the contest! I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with.

Now – enter the contest, and have a lovely Easter weekend! I’m off to find some chocolate. (Nom, nom.)

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The Cancer Society daffodils on the desk at the Baddeck Library.

An egg I dyed with the Ukrainian method, Pysanky.

A painting in the hallway at CBU that I spotted last weekend. It looks like an egg!

Watch this space for a fun announcement coming up, to do with Easter, and reader participation!

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Youth Social Enterprise Boot Camp – A Kickass Time

Top: musicians on the first night. Bottom left: social enterprise is the intersection of community needs and customer desires. Bottom right: issues on post-it notes on category flip charts, waiting to be pared down.

Friday night: I was scared, a bit. Unsure of what this whole weekend was going to be like, and nervous to do my speech. I was trying to be kind and open, meet new people, get over my fears, and not be afraid of talking to other people just because I didn’t know them. All the others coming into the room looked kind of nervous too, or at least quiet. We were all figuring out what this event was going to be about.

After my speech, (which you can read here), I felt pumped and supported, smart, capable (“yeah! I did it!”). After the other speeches, we did one last exercise where we drummed up ideas and put together a list of social issues we wanted to work on.

On the drive home to Adam’s place that night, I stopped at one point just to have a bit of a breather. A moment of stillness. I pulled over and turned the car off, and got out. I looked at the starry sky over Leitches Creek. The silence felt good in my ears.

Pick a topic. Brainstorm a vision statement. Come up with business ideas that could bring that vision forth. Do feasibility studies and put the ideas through the wringer. Work with other people, some of whom you've just met, on this whole process.

We broke up into groups based on the issues we wanted to spend out weekend on. I chose ‘agriculture’. Then we brainstormed ideas for businesses that could meet a need, and help create our vision.

All in all, the day was about: Just going for it, dreaming big. Making snap judgements and also having to seriously think about elements (costs, possibilities). Learning, learning, til our brains kinda hurt. Marketing, SWOT analysis, unique selling points. Calculating breakeven sales.

My drive on Sunday morning.

Cape Breton University.

Sunday: The knowledge from yesterday, that felt so overwhelming at the time, was starting to sink in. The new relationships with all these other folks was also starting to sink in. It really is so good to hang out face to face instead of online (although online has its place.)

We had to present the business idea from yesterday to a panel of judges. Really “on the fly”, but it was good and it worked out well. Hearing the others’ ideas and seeing them present them to the judges – I was so proud of everyone! Presenting is really hard!

Out of this weekend bootcamp came five viable business ideas, as well as dozens of new connections and lots of new knowledge about local funding sources, local support for small business and social enterprise. I can’t share the business ideas, because some of the folks who developed them this weekend will be working on creating them in real life, so I don’t want to jump the gun on that. But, they were super exciting!

At the very end we all stood in a big circle, and each said what we had hoped to get out of the workshop, and what we were coming away with. Then we would toss a ball of yarn to another person, while holding on to the end. We created a colorful ‘spiderweb’ in the middle of the circle. It was pretty amazing to feel the power of everyone’s voices, and physically SEE our connections to each other made manifest by the yarn.

It was also really inspiring to see Meghan Farrell, who is my age, lead everyone in the spiderweb exercise (as well as throughout the weekend, in various ways). She’s a born leader who has honed her skills. She makes me feel that yes, I can do this. I can be a strong female, leading, kindly, with joy. It’s possible. WE are possible.

On the way back to my boyfriend’s place, the sun was shining and I felt like I could take on the world. So proud, of myself and of everyone who was there. I stopped to take some pictures outside of a little yellow abandoned cabin.

And then, and I think this is worth sharing, too, I felt a real letdown. I got back to the house, and everyone there was in their own routine. A relaxed Sunday. Not on the same excited page as I was. I found myself feeling hurt that they didn’t share in my excitement, my pride. But, I didn’t want to lash out at them. I knew what I had to do: go for a walk.

So, I did. And as I walked along, I cried and cried. Letting it out, letting it out. It’s hard to admit that I cried (and even as I type this, I second-guess it, think “Man, do I really want to put THAT on my blog?”) – because in our culture, crying means failure or weakness.

But I’ve come to realize that for me, crying is a necessary part of my emotional health. It’s a release. It actually feels really good, in a strange way!

So I went and walked, and cried. Then I walked back again, feeling much better. More relaxed.

This world we’re in can be tough on sensitive people. It’s either “crisis! urgent! the world is ending!” or it’s “yeah positive! we can change things!” A real broad spectrum. It’s good to practice detaching from those emotions, sometimes.

Anyway. Here are the necessary links for more info about Social Enterprise in Cape Breton:

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