Infectious Words

I know more than a few people who pick a word at the beginning of the year, instead of new years resolutions. It's to guide your focus during the year, to inspire how you want to live, to remind you of what matters. Some people choose words like relationships, creativity, authenticity, connection, family, adventure, etc. There’s a whole website dedicated to this idea:

I think it's a cool practice. But I’ve never actively done it myself. Until this year.

Except, it's not quite the same… And it's not just this year?

Around about two years ago the word storytelling started to show up in various areas of my life. At first it was just occasional, appearing here and there in some of the books or articles I’d read, or magazines, or videos I’d watch. I didn’t think much of it, but at some point I did write “tell the stories” on a sticky note and post it by my bedroom door where I’d see it every day. But I never actively tried to tell any stories.

Then in 2017 it started appearing more. In online courses I would take for my job. In workshops I participated in, in conversations with people, and even more frequently in the books, articles, and media I consumed. By this time I had started to notice that it was appearing more and more frequently. But I didn’t know what to do with it. I had lost all confidence in my writing and photography skills. So I still didn’t try to tell any stories.

Then, at the beginning of 2018 the word Storytelling started bashing me over the head. Offbeat, the photography group I am part of, chose it as their theme for the year. We were given a project to do over the course of the year, involving both photography and written words. Then it started showing up aggressively, even unpleasantly, in other parts of my life. It was in less than pleasant critiques, every chapter of every book I read, every single video I watched on youtube, every resource I accessed while learning how to make videos (also, it turns out that video is a pretty fantastic storytelling platform that I’ve never had any interest in learning, until this year), every blog that I visited, every Instagram post I read, in many of the conversations I’ve had.

So now that I’ve been sufficiently threatened by the Gods of Storytelling, I’ve decided it's time to start telling some stories, regardless of whether or not I’m truly an awful writer, photographer, or videographer. The stories don’t care, so long as they get to live.

I didn’t choose the word “Storytelling” so much as it hunted me down and infected me, I’m just a host.

So begins this project of Small Stories.

The Un-Professional Photographers Approach to Harvest Moon photos

The afternoon before the Harvest Moon, discuss the photographic opportunity with other photographers. Determine exactly when moonrise will be (7:28 pm here) and what path it will take over your area (seemingly across the centre of town along Highway 12). Analyze all the different possible locations you could go to figure out which one will be best.

When you get home from work, eat, then fall sleep on the couch until 7:07.


Rush around, slap a long lens on and a stuff a memory card in your camera, rush out the door with your dog. Drive to a brand new location you had not previously considered or analyzed.

Realize you have no appropriate tripod. Luckily, find a point & shoot gorillapod in the backseat. Attach the not strong enough gorillapod. Look around for a minute, realize you’re going to have to get on top of the car. Climb out the window. Position camera with the lens propped on the lens cap on top Subaru’s handy roof rack bars, obviously designed for unorganized moon photographers.

Start to shiver while you wait. And wait. And wait, because you’re there 20 minutes before the moon is even set to start rising, and you're parked below a high ridge, which means you won’t actually see the moon when it first starts to come up anyway. Scramble back through the window and find a forgotten jacket, thank the universe for the person who forgot their jacket in your car. Curse yourself for wearing giant boots that you had to remove before climbing on top of the car.

Climb back onto the top of the car. Sit. Wait. Take a few test shots. Text your brother with questions about when the moon is supposed to rise and if it's supposed to be North East or South East. Glance up and realize the moon is already a couple of inches over the ridge now, way off to the North East. Not anywhere near the building and trees you wanted it to be behind. Scramble to get the camera and yourself back in the car, rush down the road 100 metres until it looks like the moon is coming up right in the spot you want it. Move the car 10 feet forward for good measure. Climb back up on top of the car.

The moon is not quite where you want it, shouldn’t have moved those last 10 feet.

Compose and start shooting anyway, work with what you got. Guessing at appropriate settings. Take lots of shots.

Once the moon is getting high, with just tiny bits of it behind the trees, google “shutter speed for moon photos”. Find out 1 second is WAAAAAAYYYY too long.


Knock it back to 1/50th, shoot some more. Once the moon is fully past the treetops do a couple handheld attempts and climb back inside the car, trying not to slam your frozen sock covered toes off anything.

Go home.

Dump photos.

Write a blog post about how embarrassingly unprepared you were for the adventure.

Lessons learned:

  • 1 second is way too long.
  • Scout your locations on nights before the full moon.
  • Google things you don’t know before you start shooting.

So here's the few shots that came out sort of interesting... 



Victoria, BC - 2017

Back in April I made a road trip out to Victoria, BC, with my parents. My sister flew out and met us for a few days as well. I hadn't been out to Vancouver Island since 2011, and it was so good to be back. I think I'd like to live there for awhile. A friend of mine, Angela Unsworth, moved out there recently and I'm living vicariously through her instagram posts. 

It rained all the way to Golden, the first leg of the journey, and we were hoping it wasn't going to be indicative of weather for the whole trip. We stopped A&W in Revelstoke, as is family tradition, and I snapped a couple cools shots of the train trestle and the main bridge (below). 

After Revy we made another stop between Sicamous and Salmon Arm for some more train shots (below).

After a quick stop in Salmon Arm we did our best to power through and get a good portion of the drive to Vancouver done. The next time we stopped was at Sowaqua Creek on the other side of the Coquihalla. Its a beautiful little spot just off the road, definitely worth a look around if you're in the area (below).

As we got closer to Vancouver I had to make sure we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls. I'm sure I'd been there as a kid, but I didn't remember anything about it, so I made sure to stop this time. It's a beautiful area, although the viewing area for the falls is kind of disappointing. They definitely didn't place the viewing platform in the "best" viewing spot, and as a result people still traipse around wherever they want to get a better view, so their attempt to protect the area hasn't really succeeded. That said, the creek coming down from the falls, and the surrounding forest are beautiful. It's a short, easy walk up to the falls and back, definitely worth stopping for (below). 

After the falls we powered on to Surrey where we spent the night. My sister had flown into Vancouver earlier in the day and met us in Surrey. The next morning, Easter Friday, we got up as early as we could so we could catch a decently early ferry to the island. While we waited at the Tsawassen Ferry Terminal I wandered around with Radar and snapped a few more shots. The ferry ride was fairly uneventful and I only snagged 1 good shot, the last one in this set (below). 

Once we were on the island we headed off to explore randomly until it was time to check in to our Air BnB in Central Saanich. We had fun just poking around the countryside for awhile. We stopped at an adorable little church, then headed off to Mount Douglas Park where we spent a couple of hours on the beach. Later in the evening we headed off to check out Parker Park, the closest dog friendly beach. Radar loved it. I think we both wish we could live near nice beaches (below).

The next day we spent almost the entire day at Butchart Gardens (below), where dogs are welcome! I Victoria and area are so much more dog friendly than Alberta, I wish Radar could come more places with me in Alberta.

The next day we watched the sunrise from Parker Park Beach, and then wandered around downtown Victoria for a bit, and then went back to Butchart Gardens in the afternoon again (below).

The next morning I spent several hours wandering around downtown Victoria with Ang, exploring cool alleys and shops and the water front (below). It was a fun morning and the weather was beautiful. I'm so glad we met up, I hadn't seen Ang since we finished uni and it was awesome to connect again. 

In the afternoon we explored Clover Point Park for awhile, and then the Butterfly Gardens in Saanich, and the Salish Sea Centre in Sidney, and then of course back to Parker Park in the evening for Radar (below). We actually saw a Momma Sea Otter and a couple of cubs romping on the beach, but I didn't have a telephoto lens with me, so we just watched and enjoyed the moment.

The following day we started our journey home, heading up to Nanaimo to check out Cathedral Grove, Goats on the Roof, and then up the Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish and Shannon Falls (below).

We drove up to hope that evening and spent the night, and then continued on to Kelowna the next day. We had a pretty hairy drive over the Connector into Kelowna. Probably the worst blizzard we've ever traveled in (below). You couldn't see the lanes of the road at all, and at one point a couple of pickup trucks passed us and completely obliterated the windshield of the car with snow and slush, we couldn't see anything at all for several seconds. It was pretty scary. As we started to descend from the pass on the other side, it was gone as quickly as it had come and we were back into lovely Okanogan weather.

The next day we wandered around Kelowna a bit and spent some time with my mum's best friend Laura. Later in the afternoon we headed for Golden and then home the next day. Overall it was a lovely trip and I really did not want to come home.

I'd love to live on the island for awhile. I need to have a blogging career of some sort. I'd love to live somewhere new every year, exploring the area, taking photos and blogging about it. And then move on to the next. There's so many places I'd like to live in the world for a year, and watch all the seasons change.


Bentley - possibly the cutest little town in Central Alberta

So now that I work in Lacombe, and its getting warm-ish (currently hailing), that I should start riding my bike to work. My bike has been sitting for awhile, so I figured it needed a tuneup. This morning, my sister and I headed out to Bentley, so I could take my bike to Bentley Cycle. 

We stopped at The Cross-Eyed Giraffe for a fantastic breakfast of homemade cinnamon buns, pan scramble and coffee. It was super yummy!


After breakfast we stopped by Past Connections Emporium, an antique shop. I wasn't allowed to take photos inside which was unfortunate. They have a beautiful collection. 

Then we headed across the street to Queen Bea Clothing Marketplace (also on Instagram), an adorable little clothing shop. Sheila, the owner was super friendly. She has fantastic assortment of unique clothes, including a wide selection of natural eco-friendly fibres. She also has a great selection of accessories like purses, scarves, and really unique jewelry. I bought a pair of bamboo leggings for $27. I'm excited to see how comfy they are, bonus that they're bamboo. It was such a cute shop, I'll definitely be returning!

After Queen Bea's I dropped my bike off at Bentley Cycle, a super friendly family business, with a great selection of bikes. I'm hoping to take my mom back and convince her to buy a bike when I pick mine up next week.

After dropping the bike off we drove around some of the back streets of Bentley, checking out all the adorable little houses. There is so many small, cute houses in Bentley. I'm thinking I might like to live there someday when I can buy a house, such a cute little down. Bently is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. 
On our way home we stopped by to check out Sandy Point, on the west side of Gull Lake. It looks like a pretty nice beach so we'll definitely head out there again when it warms up.

Central Alberta has got some great little communities and small businesses, hopefully I can check out a few more this summer. 


National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month. In honour of that (and also because, lets face it, I'm running out of time to come up with two blog posts this month) heres a poem I wrote several weeks ago. 


A swirling mass of indiscernible thoughts
Fragmented and whirling in a brain hurricane
Anxiety exhaustion
Jumpy restless lost
Confusion and frustration are the wind from no direction
Insecurity is the eye of the storm
Calm, quiet, proud of what it has accomplished
Insecurity will rule
As long as there is something to feed on



There is always fodder

Books that I have Loved: James Herriot

I like books.

That is a slight understatement. Throughout my childhood I was a veritable bookworm. I have memories from long before I started school about books and libraries. One coming to mind right now is about a school library. Before I started school, my mother and her friend cleaned the school that my brother and sister attended. On the days they cleaned the school I often went with my mom. My mom’s friend had a girl nearly the same age as me. We were best friends at that point and basically had the run of the school while our mothers cleaned.

One night we learned how the colour photocopier in the school library worked. I have a fuzzy recollection that maybe my older brother showed us. We loved books. And we wanted to take all our favourite library books home, but we couldn’t (I don’t know why exactly since that is the point of a library). So we put this newfound photocopier knowledge to use, and with plenty of time to kill, we started photocopying our favourite books like mad. My brother, or whomever else it might have been, had failed to mention that photocopying cost money, per page, and that colour photocopying cost a lot more money than just black and white. Or, maybe they mentioned it, and our kindergarten brains just didn’t quite comprehend it, I don’t remember.

I’m quite sure we got in a fair bit of trouble, my family was pretty poor so my mom was probably understandably angry at the expense we racked up. I don’t remember the punishment, though I’m sure there was one. All I remember is feeling ecstatic that I could copy all these things I wanted to read, particularly Sally Dick & Jane and some sort of ‘modern’  encyclopedia type book that had cool pictures in it of all the things it described, and take them home with me.

I also recall, in first grade at that same school, my teacher helping me clean out my desk once. There were 31 Berenstain Bears books crammed into my desk. I distinctly remember reading those books, tucked halfway into my desk, during class. Clearly I thought I was being quite sneaky about it, looking back I’m sure it was not even slightly discreet. Those desks were fairly small and children are never as discreet as they hope to be.

So, books and me go way back.

There are plenty of books that I have loved enough to read multiple times in my life. But there is only one set of books & stories that I have read over and over and over and over. I’m not sure where or when I found them, I assume it must have been the library here in my hometown. It started with the children’s books Bonny’s Big Day, Only One Woof, and Moses the Kitten by James Alfred Wight writing under the pseudonym James Herriot.

I have loved the stories Herriot told since the first time I read then. I have gone back to them many times in my life. At some point in my life, when I was still quite obsessed with horses, my sister bought me a giant hardcover copy of The Best of James Herriot for Christmas. To this day it is probably the most cherished book in my collection. Those stories held the most amazing commentary about the things I loved most: animals. I believe those stories also planted the seeds for my current obsession with England and my desire to live in the English countryside. Though now that I’ve visited England, I’d happily stretch that desire to include the Welsh, Scottish, or Irish countryside, just to keep my options open.

In 2012, when my sister took me to England, we visited Thirsk, where Alfred Wight actually practiced as a country vet. I am quite sure I slept for most of the drive to Thirsk, which is a shame. When we got to the James Herriot museum I was quite awake, and I remember being totally enthralled by all of it. That afternoon is probably my clearest memory from the whole trip. I think I took more pictures of that museum than of any other place we visited on that trip. I also learned, as you can see in the photo above, that technically, in a perfect situation, I am strong enough to pull a calf.

More recently my dad has read the boxed set I brought home from that trip, and so I’ve gotten to share some of my enthusiasm for the books with him as he read through them.

Of all the books I’ve read so far in my life, those have stuck with me the most.

A few months ago I pared down my book collection and took a large stack to the used bookstore in town. After giving my books to the staff person, my sister and I browsed through the stacks. In them I found a few more Herriot books, and old copy of  All Things Wise and Wonderful, and James Herriot’s Yorkshire. The latter is a beautiful photo book, with wonderful stories, of his beloved Yorkshire countryside. The photos are accompanied by historical information and stories about his experiences in each place. I’m slowly working my way through that one right now, and as I go, adding place names to my “need to visit” list. I also find myself looking up many of the places on Google Streetview and exploring them after reading the stories.

Herriot also has a wonderful writing style. It is simple to read and understand and just flows beautifully from one page to the next, drawing you in. His stories are filled with the full range of emotion, and I feel like I experience every single one of them as if I had lived the moments myself.

I aspire to write as compellingly as him. James Herriot’s stories fill my heart with joy, curiosity, laughter and peace. What more can you ask of a book?


Remarkable Women in History

In honour of International Women's Day 2017, this past week, I thought I'd post about a few remarkable women I've discovered.

Jane Addams
Renowned as the Mother of Social Work, Jane Addams was inspired to open Hull House in Chicago after a visit to a London settlement house. Hull House provided daycare and kindergarten, adult education, and health care services. Hull House later grew to include many more important community services. Addams worked tirelessly to improve working conditions, labor policies, and education standards. She acted as chair of the Women’s Peace Party during WWI. In 1931 Addams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the first time it had been awarded to a woman. (Women Who Dare, Library of Congress, 2008.)

Marian Anderson
Marian Anderson, Baby Contralto, was a successful singer, and the first black regular member of the New York Met Opera Company. She travelled across the US and Europe, performing for a wide variety of heads of state. in 1939 she was banned from performing at Constitution Hall in DC because of her race. An alternate concert was organized for Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, by Eleanor Roosevelt. Anderson performed for over 75,000 attendees, and innumerable radio listeners. Anderson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Kennedy Centre Honors, National Medal of the Arts, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. (Women Who Dare, Library of Congress, 2008.)

Valérie André
Valérie André, a french neurosurgeon, served in the french volunteer forces where she also became a licensed helicopter pilot and parachutist. She flew 129 missions in the Indochina war. She rescued 165 wounded soldiers from the jungles of Vietnam from 1952-53. She also flew 356 combat missions in Algeria. In her career, André logged more than 4200 flight hours, and in 1976 she became the first female General in the French army. (Women Who Dare, Library of Congress, 2008.)

Constanza Ceruti
Constanza Ceruti is the worlds only female high altitude archaeologist. In 1999, with Johan Reinhard, she performed the highest altitude archaeological excavation at more than 5,800 meters, on Misti volcano. At age 26, Ceruti was named Argentina’s woman of the year. in 2005 National Geographic chose Ceruti as one of its Emerging Explorers. (Women Who Dare, Library of Congress, 2008.)

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is the first female president to be elected as leader of an African country. In 2006 Johnson-Sirleaf took office as the 24th president of Liberia. She promised women a government to “restore their dignity and deal with the crimes that dehumanize them.” She also promised to promote education for girls. Never afraid of a challenge, she has been dubbed “Iron Lady”. (Women Who Dare, Library of Congress, 2008.)

Kenojuak Ashevak
Kenojuak Ashevak was a notable Inuit artist from Baffin Island. Her Enchanted Owl may be her more renowned piece. It was featured on stamps in 1970 to celebrate the NWT Centennial. Ashevak became an artistic icon, and a role model or Inuit artists. (

Mary Ann Shadd Cary
Mary Ann Shadd Cary was the first black newspaper editor in North America. She founded the Provincial Freeman, a paper focused on women’s rights, temperance and abolitionism, based in Windsor, Ontario. She was the second black women to earn a law degree in the us, at the age of 60. (

Ethel Dorothy Blondin-Andrew
Ethel Dorothy Blondin-Andrew was the first indigenous woman to be elected to the parliament of Canada. Blondin-Andrew is Dene. She was an MP for the Western Arctic and NWT, as well as Minister of State (Northern Development) in PM Paul Martin’s Cabinet. (Wikipedia)

have a great weekend!

I <3 MOOCs

I started a new (read: AWESOME) job in January. As part of my training for this job I’m working my way through two MOOCs. What the hell is a MOOC you say?
MOOC stands for: Massive Open Online Course

Most MOOCs have an audit option, where you can take the course for free, you just don’t receive a certificate for completion. Lots of course have an option where you can pay around $50 and then you will get a grade and a certificate.

I love MOOCs because they allow me to continue learning new things about the world. I really miss that aspect of being in school. It gives me exposure to new ideas and perspectives which helps me adjust my own views and beliefs. MOOCs also give me the opportunity to explore some of the interest areas that I discovered in uni, but was unable to pursue in depth due to other class requirements and scheduling conflicts.
As Henry Ford said, “anyone who keeps learning stays young.”  Similar to any other practice (yoga, meditation, running, working out), it becomes somewhat easier if you do it regularly. I’ve included a list of some of the MOOC’s I’m currently taking, as well as a few sites to check out if your interested in taking a class.

Library Advocacy Unshushed
Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education
Indigenous Canada (this one starts in March, so I haven't gotten into it yet)

U of A

Go do some looking, theres bound to be a free course somewhere about a topic you're interested in!