I'm writing this on our balcony in our AirBnB in Pai, Thailand.
Most of what I can see are big palm leaves but in-between them I can see the tin roofs of houses
a satellite dish, trees
and, way off in the background
some of the most jaw-dropping mountains I've ever seen.
Pai is a tiny city of about 2,300 people high up in the Northern part of Thailand and is a popular spot for hippies
which you can tell right away by the abundance of
yoga studios, meditation workshops
kale and chard growing in every shop, and
more ads for avocado toast since I was in Toronto last fall.
We're here for none of those things because in addition to being a hotspot for hippies, Pai is also close to waterfalls and natural hot springs and a land split we're planning to check out while we're here.
Tomorrow we'll have been in Thailand for a week. We started to leave Canada last Friday and our flights were originally supposed to be
Winnipeg > Vancouver > Tokyo > Bangkok
but because air travel is a shitshow right now our first flight got delayed which threw off the rest of the connecting flights since we only had a 1-hour layover in each place
(which already felt like playing with fire)
but the superheroes at Air Canada booked us on a new route that was
Winnipeg > Vancouver > Bangkok
which came with a 9-hour layover in Vancouver and a 16-hour flight right to Bangkok.
Protip: if you have a long-ass layover, and especially if you have a long-ass flight ahead of you, shell out for one of those fancy lounges with free food, drinks, and omg a shower. Life changing stuff, let me tell ya.
We landed in Bangkok around 5 AM and split a taxi with Cort and Abe and Josh who we met on the plane to get to our respective stays. I was getting crabby in the wet, humid Bangkok heat but as soon as we got into our AirBnB and I showered 16 hours of plane stank off myself
(what is it about planes that makes you so gross?)
I found a new lease on life so we set out to to reacquaint ourselves with that big, bustling, sweltering city.
We haven't been back to Thailand since 2019 and it's soooooo good to be back.
Even though we pulled it together to met up with the boys and had dinner with Josh we were wiped from two days of travel
(we left Friday AM and arrived in Bangkok Sunday morning)
and crashed at like 9 PM like old people.
Over the next few days we got Thai massages, pedicures, ate super cheap (like $2 each) food from roadside stalls, met up with some folks from Winnipeg (!!) and clocked about 30,000 steps every day wandering around.
Wednesday we caught the night train up to Chiang Mai, and waking up to the sunrise over the Thai countryside was every bit as beautiful as I remembered.
Chiang Mai has been my favourite place we've been in Thailand to date. We spent a week there last time and it didn't feel like enough and this time we were only there for two nights because it's the stop-over on the way to Pai and it definitely wasn't enough.
But in two nights and one whole day we managed to squeeze in:
dinner at the Cowboy Hat Lady's stall (of Parts Unknown/Anthony Bourdain fame)
shopping and drinks and wandering around the night market
ringside seats at a Muay Thai tournament
sitting VIP at a drag cabaret show
(where John got pulled up onstage and made his debut as a drag queen)
visiting at least a dozen wats (temples)
and clocking lots of steps
so, so many steps.
This morning we got up early and took a bus to Pai which can only be accessed by infamously windy roads where apparently people regularly barf on the bus from motion sickness.
When I first heard about it I was like "nah"
but after almost 3.5 hours of
twisty, windy, sharp turns
and a body full of malaria meds
(which we started taking yesterday in prep for our time in Pai, and which gave us both some tummy times)
yr girl wasn't feeling so hot.
To be clear: I did not barf on the bus to Pai.
But I definitely had to spend some time focusing on the mountains out the window, taking deep breaths and humming a lil bit to distract myself from the mounting feeling in my throat.
Anyway I was pretty happy to be off the bus.
Since getting here we've walked around
(are you sensing a theme here?)
ate papaya salad and pork, rice, and Thai basil for lunch
dropped our laundry at a laundromat
had a beer and people-watched
talked about new tattoo ideas
and now here I am, drinking a Chiang beer (my fav local bevvy) and writing this to you.
It's wild and exciting to think we have several more weeks of this
to soak up this country and a few others we're planning to hit
(Cambodia, Vietnam, and Japan, specifically).
I've missed travelling and exploring new places, seeing new things
eating all the foodz
and being moved
and humbled by the kindness of the people we meet everywhere we go
especially the lady at the front desk who helped me open this beer, since I was a dummy and forgot to buy a bottle opener.
I took the beer down to the lobby, motioned to her so she knew what I needed, and she laughed
took the bottle from me
and slammed it against the railing, knocking off the cap
(something I would never, ever do somewhere where we were staying)
and said in broken English "you knock off! Is easy! You do upstairs too!"
(something I would have never imagined she'd suggest)
so I bowed and said "krap khun kha" (thank you in Thai), feeling silly, and went back upstairs.
As I walked back to our room I heard her laughing with her friend
and the way she talked I knew they were laughing about me
and my dumb question
and I loved it.
I missed being a dumb tourist.
I follow an Instagram account called We're Not Really Strangers
(which TIL is based on a card game of the same name)
and the other day they shared an IG Carousel with a series of reflective questions about 2022 that got me thinking about the year that's passed.
A lot happened. It was the most difficult year I've ever had.
There was a lot of bad, but also a lot of good.
Some years just really do be like that, I guess.
My first thought was to use these prompts in my art journal
(which I will)
but as I get older I'm more and more appreciative of this blog
and the memories
ups and downs
and little snippets into my life that I've shared here over the years.
So in the spirit of that feeling, here's to 2022:
Who are you glad you met this year?
Unlike most years, 2022 wasn't a big year for meeting new people.
Coming out of the pandemic I barely went to any networking events
and I didn't really develop relationships with brand new friends
but I deepened my relationships with people I admire and respect
like Florence, Christopher, and David
who are all people who push me to think outside my comfort zone
who ask smart, thoughtful questions
and help me expand the boundaries of my life
(and social circle)
in unique and interesting ways.
Who helped you a lot?
John, Jasmin, Luke, Tineke, Christopher, and Alex-lee were my rocks this year.
I lost a lot of people in 2022.
There's a photo in my dining room from our wedding
our arms around each other, smiling
and some days I can barely look at it
because several of those people aren't in my life anymore
and I lost them all within the same month.
The period between the end of January and start March 2022 was the lowest I've been in a long, long time.
losing people I loved
and feeling trapped and isolated
left me in a dark emotional place
that I was only able to pull myself out of because I had people in my life who cared.
Each of these people went out of their way to check in on me
send me kind words
gave me space to talk about what I was going through.
2022 was more bearable, better, and healing because of them.
Who did you crush on?
(while wearing a trashy onesie
a crimson robe with feather trim
with two of my favourite humans)
was one of the highlights of my year.
Who did you fall more in love with?
2022 taught me to fall more in love with myself
and the people in it.
Loss cleaves you from everything you knew
about your life, about yourself
makes you stare into the mirror, bleary-eyed
"Was I enough for them?"
"Did they know I thought they were enough for me?"
send the message
write the email
pick up the phone and cry into the receiver
"I love you and you are precious to me"
often enough that there was never a shadow of a doubt?
I'll never know and it gnaws at me, hurts me from the inside.
Because grief is like a weapon.
We can wound others with it
or we can turn it on ourselves
slash at our lives and leave ourselves alone.
And for a while
(longer than I'd like)
the losses that defined the start of this year caused me to
cut at my life
but the people who love me rallied around me.
"did you work in your art journal today?"
call me, send me voice memos
wrap me in their arms
allowing me to sink into the safety of their heartbeats
the softness of their chests
"how are you doing?
How's your heart?"
for weeks on end.
These people helped me stitch myself up
and over time, with care
I started to mend my heart.
Picking up pieces of myself
building a new version of me
based on the
cracks and fragments of what I went through
who I thought I was
who I was working to be.
The people who love me
helped me fall back in love with my life
to feel grateful for all I had
remind me that just because you break
doesn't mean you're broken.
So I built something new
not trying to hide from my pain
but embracing them
creating something new out of the gathered-up pieces
like kintsugi for my soul.
Who did you let go of?
More people than I'd have liked.
I lost Adrian, one of my best friends for a decade
and by extension Carlene, his partner and my friend
because he wouldn't accept that what someone had done had hurt me.
This person drove a wedge
caused a rift
in our social circle by accusing me of things that weren't true
wouldn't acknowledge my side, apologize for the hurt
or even be in the same room as me
and when I explained how hard this was
how I just wanted an apology
an acknowledgment of my feelings
so we could just move on
(not as friends, but for the sake of preserving our social circle)
someone I loved like family
wouldn't give my feelings the time of day
and ripped a hole in me.
I also lost Colin, another good and longtime friend
to the same social rift
though, in a weird
(or maybe not-so-weird) way
his loss stings even more.
As things were falling apart
just after Connor died
I reached out.
I told him that Connor's death had made me realize that
time is short, and we need to cling to the people we love
I regretted that we hadn't seen each other in a long time due to the pandemic
and we would love to have him over.
He told me that sounded great and he would bring some cellar beers.
a few days after my falling-out with Adrian
he texted me
and said he didn't want to be friends anymore.
He told me I "hadn't come over enough"
"hadn't accepted his offers to hang out"
(ignoring that we were in a pandemic
and that the hangs I'd declined were with that problematic person).
He said he wasn't interested in continuing our friendship.
Fuck my loss
fuck my grief
fuck my efforts to reconnect
fuck me, I guess.
I should have seen it coming. He was friends with the girl who started all of this.
But his decision to dump me and John, knowing we were grieving the loss of another close friend
was callous and mean and something I'll never forgive, even as I work to let go of a friendship that helped define a decade of my life.
The hardest person to let go of was Connor.
I met Connor when I was 20 and he and Amber
(one of my best friends and "chosen family")
were a safe space for me as I navigated through years of emotional baggage
partying to mask and attempt to avoid dealing with it.
They were people I loved dearly.
We'd been through so much together.
Then, in the fall of 2021, Amber and Connor moved across the street.
They took over our old rental and it felt like the start of a whole new era on our block.
I loved looking out the window to see Amber gardening, BBQing, and hanging out on the deck.
I looked forward to the end of a long workday when Connor would invite us over to hang out, decompress, and shoot the shit.
We were building a beautiful future together
never guessing what was coming
what lay on the horizon.
One January morning I saw Connor was shovelling after a big snowstorm
so I ran over with my parka over my PJs and said
"you know this is included in your rental fee, right?"
Connor put down the shovel, smiled at me, and said
"I know, but they won't do it the way I like"
which was such a Connor thing to say that I burst out laughing.
Just like I always seemed to when he was around.
I stayed across the street in the deadly -40C cold
balling my hands into fists to stay warm
Connor shifting from foot to foot to stay warm
as we talked about how life had been.
I told him about some challenges with my company
how much I was struggling lately
he told me about work
about feeling dejected but trying to make the best of it
and when I got too cold and needed to go back home, we hugged
we said we loved each other
and I said "I'm glad I came over, it's been so nice catching up with you"
and Connor said
"Alyson, seeing you has been the best part of my weekend."
I'll hang onto that memory forever.
Who did you miss?
Of all the shit that happened in 2022
of all the people I lost last year
I miss Connor more than anyone.
The last time I saw him was a fluke
it wasn't supposed to happen.
John and I were supposed to go to Falcon Lake for a week
just to get away from the house, the struggles, the stress
the low place I'd been in recently
but a blizzard made it too unsafe to drive on the highways so we had to cancel
and I was devastated.
I barely got out of bed for two days
I didn't shower
I didn't post on social media
I was embarrassed by how much my mental well-being was hingeing
on getting a fucking break from things.
But somehow, I forget how
Amber and Connor wound up coming over
we made popcorn and snacks and watched Connor's favourite movie
Interview With the Vampire
and after the movie ended we all stayed up too late
drinking wine and talking into the wee hours of the morning
until we got so tired and tipsy that we stopped making sense
(just like I'd done with Amber and Connor a million times before)
and it was what my soul needed
and I couldn't have loved them more.
That was on Saturday.
Thursday, he was gone.
It still doesn't feel real.
I still look across the street and expect him to be there, sitting on the deck.
I mourn the loss of my friend and the new chapter of our lives we were starting together.
I miss Connor every day and I don't know when that will stop.
Maybe it never will.
Maybe that's how grief works.
Maybe it'll get better.
But it hasn't so far.
Who did you spend the most time with?
Virtually, I spent the most time with Jasmin and Alex-lee.
I can't thank those two enough for their time
and dedication to our relationships
especially during this last year.
My two best friends may live far from me
but they're always in my heart.
In person, I spent the most time with John, Amber, and Adam and Brittany.
I saw more of Amber because she lives across the street
but also because she went through a tremendous loss and needed to be
somewhere, anywhere else
so she spent a lot of time at our house
out camping with us
and going out to events to help get her mind off of things.
I'm grateful that she lives so close so I could be there like that for her.
I also spent more time with Adam and Brittany this year than any other year.
Part of me thinks that it's just the natural ebb of friendships
some seasons bring you closer together
part of me thinks that
it's because they know how many people we lost
who we loved
and wanted to make sure we still felt loved, too.
Whatever the reason, I'm grateful for it.
I love those two with all my heart.
I also spent more time with John than I did with anyone
and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Who did you become?
I've been sitting on this one for a while because this year really threw who I thought I was for a loop.
When people you love
who you thought knew you deeply
drop you when you need them most
what does that say about you?
(What does that say about them?)
But the experience of losing so many people in such a short period of time
made me take a step back and re-assess the person I thought I was
and the person I was trying to be.
So here it goes:
At the start of 2022 I became an angry person
someone who felt betrayed
and who let those dark feelings
lead how she felt towards others
I became mistrustful
I isolated myself because
(for a long while)
I didn't think I deserved any better.
But I worked hard to pick myself back up
to throw myself back into my business
(which I love)
and the people in my life
who I love so, so much.
And I tried to let go of this
spectre of me that
this person who hurt me tried to turn me into
and who people I thought knew me
believed I'd become.
Over the course of 2022 I've worked to be
a more honest friend and partner
to express how I feel, when I feel it
to recognize my needs
and to ask others what they need from me
so I can be there for them.
I've done my best to be a better
to forgive and accept without compromising my boundaries
and my needs.
(Which isn't always easy
but isn't that family?)
2022 has been one of the hardest years of my life
I doubt it will be the hardest
and while that makes me
it gives me cause to pause in my body
to breathe, let go
and be present
to look around a room
at the people I love
the humans who I've chosen
who choose me
who make every
worth holding onto.
Clinging to, even.
Because, if anything,
that's what 2022 taught me:
someday we might be strangers
we might lose each other
but right here, right now
and I'm grateful for that.
All the best in 2023, pals.
It's Saturday night and I'm home for once.
Our holiday party plans got cancelled so I'm at our dining room table with the lights low, sitting in silence broken by BJ's chatty MEOWS ringing up and down the stairs.
(I'm pretty sure he likes how they echo.)
I'm drinking tea but there's a bottle of wine in front of me that we were planning to take the party that I'm sure we'll crack sometime later tonight
probably when we dig into the dip I made
(also for the party)
and hopefully over a game or two of cribbage while records play in the background.
Earlier today John sat in the kitchen with me and helped "map out" all the cooking we're doing for Christmas Eve. My parents and brother are coming over next Saturday
which means I'm hosting my very first Christmas
and I'm cooking enough to feed an army.
Ham and cheese pinwheels
Potato wedge "nachos"
Baked ricotta dip
Plates of cheese, meat and pickles
and grebbles (from my Grandma's recipe).
I'll have bacon and rye bread for bacon sandwiches in Christmas Morning
(my dad's tradition for as long as I can remember)
and he's bringing a kielbasa from his favourite North End butcher to fry up late at night when we're full of wine and scotch and beer.
Everyone is sleeping over and we'll be spending Christmas morning here, at our house.
Opening gifts and drinking cup after cup of coffee
(or tea in my mom's case)
and I'll be sitting in the living room in my pyjamas
soaking it up.
There was a long time where I didn't think I'd celebrate Christmas with my family again.
The hurt felt too deep
the pain felt too raw
and I'd cry at least once over Christmas because I missed the feeling of "home" that had always felt so palpable during this time of year.
And sure, this Christmas hasn't been without its drama
and there have been times when I've felt like
throwing in the towel
calling it all off
and going on without my family this Christmas
but I'm glad I didn't.
I'm grateful to have this time with them
making memories in our home
filling them to the brim with food
and figuring things out
When we moved in to this house the old owners left a bunch of garbage and old stuff lying around everywhere.
Most of it wasn't worth keeping or donating but one thing we decided to hang onto was a 90's version of the board game Mouse Trap.
I love that stupid game.
It's janky as hell, never quite works, and there are what feels like 3967475867 pieces which could get lost
and as it turns out there was a piece that got lost.
Maybe the most important one, in fact:
The diver who "jumps" into the bucket at the end of the game and triggers the mouse trap to "fall".
In what I'm sure was only an act of humouring me, John and I tried to find replacements for the Diver piece but nothing worked.
The piece needs to be light enough to "jump" up and shaped the right way to land in the basin.
It also needs to stand upright and not fall over as you play through the game.
It's a tall order for a small piece.
As it turns out buying the piece individually would cost more in shipping than just re-buying the game again, so a few weeks ago when it went on sale yr girl bought another version of Mouse Trap.
Now we have two Mouse Traps.
One from the 90's, and a new one that feels completely different.
You still play as a mouse
and there's still a trap
but you don't go through the game building a janky Rube Goldberg machine, in the new one because it's all pre-built before the game starts
which I guess is what they meant when they wrote "Easier to Set Up Than Previous Versions" on the box
and had me feeling an awful lot like an old man yelling at a cloud as we played it
(because of course we played both versions back-to-back)
When we got to the end of the Mouse Trap version I played as a kid John and I were both in the "cheese wheel" loop at the end of the game where you go around and around in circles until you catch all yr friends
but that never happened because the machine never worked properly.
The marbles were the right weight
the table was even
but the "Helping Hand" piece kept getting knocked so it didn't push the second marble into the bathtub so it could fall and make the Diver jump into the tub.
Eventually we did what everyone does when they play Mouse Trap: we gave up.
But before we packed everything away we did a side-by-side comparison of the two versions.
The newer version of Mouse Trap feels like it's for wee children because, like I said, you don't build the machine as you go.
You go around the board collecting cheese and the person with the most cheese at the end of the game is the winner
which is not the "last man standing" cutthroat version of Mouse Trap I know and love
but I digress.
We checked the number of pieces
(which are different)
we checked the number of tiles
we checked the number of cheese pieces
(also, you guessed it, different)
but the biggest difference we found when we compared the two was the most shocking of all:
the new Mouse Trap Rube Goldberg machine actually works.
Every time. Without fail.
The sign hits the tub
which hits the marble
which hits the broom
which spins around
knocks the marble into the tub
that hits the Diver
who jumps into the tub
every damn time.
So as much as I'm loathe to admit that a newer version of something I grew up with might be superior
I do have to admit
it's nice to have a version of Mouse Trap that actually works for once
even if it does feel like it's for wee babies.
It's Sunday night and my movie date with Jasmin is about to start.
I'm sitting in my art room - a space I haven't had the time/energy/motivation to curl up in over the last few weeks because I've been so busy.
But tonight's different. Tonight I finally have some time to myself.
My body is tired but I feel serene.
We spent the afternoon at a local pool brushing up on our scuba skills so my muscles feel used in a good and familiar way. I was nervous about going for a refresher
(scuba freaks me out a bit until I'm actually in the water, breathing)
but we had a ton of fun and went out for dinner and drinks with some of the people who run the dive shop after. It's been a busy weekend with lots of socializing and running around,
between PIE: The Music of Cake at The Good Will on Friday
and DnD last night
then scuba today
but right now it's just me, my mug of hot chocolate, and my 379257497 Signal messages from Alex-lee
and the little crafts, art projects, and small tasks I'm doing before my movie date starts.
Feeling perfectly content.
It's been almost a month since I've blogged because October has been busier than expected.
Between going to Leigh's cabin at the end of September
leaving for Falcon Lake the following weekend
then going to Toronto last weekend
I've barely had time to breathe or focus on anything else other than
prepping to leave
and prepping to leave again.
The weeks blurred together in a way that makes it hard to remember when one thing ended and another began, but last weekend was one for the record books because John, Adam and I were in Toronto to see Loop Daddy aka Marc Rebillet.
I scored us a super cute AirBnB in the heart of Trinity-Bellwoods
(my favourite part of Toronto besides Kensington Market)
and we spent our days walking around the city, soaking up everything there was to see
(RIP Adam's feet)
We landed late on Thursday night but managed to skip over to Bellwoods Brew Co. for a nightcap and I fell back in love with the city and how late everything in Toronto stays open.
We cheers'd and tried sours and stouts and IPAs laughed until our faces hurt and it felt like coming home.
The next morning I woke up early so I could go visit my Grandma
usually I only get to see her once a year, maybe
but over the past two months I've seen her three times
and I'll always be thankful for it
since she's 100, now, and I'm more aware than I've ever been that every visit might be our last.
(Hug your loved ones close.)
It was a hot, sunny day so I grabbed a coffee and walked the 2.5 hour walk from Trinity-Bellwoods to Yonge & Eglinton where she lives.
Sure I could have taken the subway but I wanted to soak in the city.
I listened to the new Taylor Swift and CRJ albums
walked through parks where old Asians were doing tai chi
past a skate park where a bunch of dudes were practicing on the half-pipe
next to a dog park filled with doggos of every shape and size
skipping over streetcar tracks
peering into all the little shops and stores
and getting a booty workout because (holy heck) I forgot how hilly my favourite city can be.
I had lunch with my Grandma and Aunt and held my Grandma's hand
and hugged her
and told her I love her
over and over and over
because I do, and I miss her.
After we'd said our goodbyes I met up with John and Adam at Bar Volo that was doing a cask tasting event and drank too many tasty beer samples
(or just enough depending on how you look at it)
before we walked to Kensington Market and I hagged for $50 off a stunning leather jacket with faux fur that gives me big 90's vibes.
We stopped in for a couple more beers in the Market then gorged on Thai food at a place in Chinatown before catching an Uber to Meridian Hall to see Jim Gaffigan
(whose intensely white sneakers almost blinded me.)
Even though John fell asleep in the Uber back to our AirBnB we somehow managed to find a second wind and stayed out wandering around and soaking up the city until after 2 AM.
On Saturday we engaged "maximum tourist mode" and went to see the fishies at the Ripley's Aquarium before heading back to our AirBnB to get dressed for Marc Rebillet
(Us, being chuffed)
The show was at a big bar called REBEL which was in a part of Toronto I'd never been to before
(it's apparently where Drake hangs out? Weird flex but ok)
so we snapped some photos of the skyline before filing into one of the biggest bars I've ever been in. It had
a crazy lighting system that moved up and down
stripper poles everywhere
huge bird cages to dance in
a crazy AV setup behind the stage
these jets that sprayed cold air onto the crowd as we danced
which is a revolutionary idea that all bars should start doing.
After the show we swapped our housecoats for jackets we prowled around the city again, splitting some beers in Trinity-Bellwoods Park
(one of my traditions since forever)
walking to The Horseshoe and catching a terrific cover band and going for late-night dim sum at one of my favourite spots
(which I can find while under the influence in the dead of night but never during the day, it seems)
and we made Adam try cuttlefish and a bunch of other stuff I'm sure he didn't like as much as we did.
(Sorry/not sorry, Adam)
On Sunday, our last day, we slept in (understandably).
Adam went for a burger and we went for sushi before meeting up to check out some breweries and some incredible live blues at The Rex
where we split some nachos that would put Carlos & Murphy's to shame
(sorry/not sorry Winnipeg)
before grabbing some teppanyaki, more craft beer, and finally crashing early to wake up at 3:30 AM (uuuugh) to catch our early-morning flight back to Winnipeg.
As our Uber rolled through the streets of the big city I tried to stay awake and watch the buildings go by.
Remember the shapes, colours, and weird facades on all the mixed-use space
the brick exteriors and front porches
the looming towers made of steel and glass.
I'm always to happy come to Toronto. It's been my favourite city since I was a kid
but holy heck am I glad to be home.
He's been gone since February but his birthday would have been last Friday,
so a bunch of us got together for snacks and Rocket Fuel (his signature boozy beverage)
and shared stories about our larger-than-life friend.
I've never dealt with a loss
so personal and unexpected before
and the process of grieving has been
than I would have expected.
As part of his celebration of life John and I both spent some time writing about what he meant to us and it felt
cathartic, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders
to speak and write about someone I loved and who was such a fixture in my life for so long.
Here's what I said:
I’ve known Connor so long that I don’t really remember how we met.
It was probably at some party, or rave, or MixHard event, but regardless of how and when we met, from about the time I was about 20, Connor’s presence felt like a fixture in my life.
He was always there, telling some unbelievable story, cracking a weird joke, or filling up my wine glass to at least double what I should have been drinking that night.
We all called him “The Enabler” because he loved to party, but Connor wasn’t just a “party friend” for me — he was someone I could be myself around; who I could talk to about literature, poetry, philosophy, or whatever stupid bullshit and gossip I was consumed with that night.
No matter what we talked about, Connor always found a way to add his unique spin on it with a quirky story, joke, or larger-than-life anecdote.
As a fellow anxious person, Connor always felt like a safe space where I could share what I was struggling with and not worry about being judged. He was always there with a hug and some reassuring words like
“Alyson, you know we love you no matter what.”
“You can make it through anything, you’re Alyson Shane!”
or my personal favourite:
“Fuck the haters. Life’s too short to worry about other people.”
I didn’t get to see Connor as much after our wedding in Belize because of the pandemic, but as things started to open up I’d run into him when I’d work down at Hargrave St Market, and I often went out of my way to walk though or pop in just to see him.
I loved how his face would light up when he realized a friend had come by, just to say hi.
Last fall he and Amber moved into our old rental and I was so excited to see him more often. John and I would see him sitting across the street and run over with a bowl and a beer and just shoot the shit about how life was going.
It felt like we were at the start of a new chapter together.
One of the last times I saw Connor was the day after a big blizzard.
He was outside shovelling the front walk, so I threw my parka over my pyjamas and ran over to remind him that, actually, snow shovelling was included in his rent.
“I know,” he said, “but they’ll just do a shitty job and I want to make sure it’s done right.”
That’s Connor, for me. Particular to a fault. Always needing to do things his way.
We stood out there for about 45 minutes, shivering and talking and smoking j’s (of course), and before I went back across the street Connor hugged me and said:
“Thank you for coming over. Seeing you was the best part of my week.”
I told him I felt the same and I meant it.
I still do.
I miss my friend and I wish we’d had more time together, but I was lucky enough to share 15 years of my life with a wonderful, larger-than-life person and there won’t be a glass of wine, a j, or late night where I won’t think of him and wish he was still here.
I know that if Connor were here right now he’d do what he always did when I was sad: He’d throw his arms around me, give me a big hug, and pour me a glass of wine and tell me to smile. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Cheers to The Enabler.
I’m writing this on a plane from Winnipeg to Toronto. We’re going to celebrate my Grandma’s 100th birthday and I’m thinking about death.
I’ve been reading Slaughterhouse Five despite my own efforts to distract myself from writing.
I start wanting to write as soon as I get on a plane. As soon as it starts to taxi, as soon as I see the tarmac beginning to move, that little voice in my head starts talking.
The voice has been with me for as long as I can remember. I think it’s how I knew I was supposed to be a writer: words flow through me and out of me whether I want them to or not.
I read somewhere once that a certain percentage of people don’t have inner monologues.
That sounds like a lonely existence if you ask me.
So here I am, sitting in a tube in the sky listening to the hum of the engines, reading a book about the war and thinking about death.
I’m thinking about the characters in Slaughterhouse Five, dying
about how, almost every time I talk to my Grandma who turns 100 tomorrow she says
“I wish I was dead”
and maybe that should upset me but it doesn’t. I get it. I understand her perspective.
She lived most of her life as an independent, able-bodied person who took care of herself and lived her life on her own terms, and as she’s gotten older and older she’s lost more and more of what made her feel like herself.
I feel for that. I fear it.
So now I’m looking out the window at nothing and thinking about death and what I’ll say at her funeral.
I think it will go something like this:
“My Grandma was the only person I know who thought about death more than I do.
One of my first memories of her is standing on the back step of her house in the North End. I’m in kindergarten or one of these early grades, in elementary school for sure.
I’m looking at my Grandma’s feet, slacks, shoes, and she’s saying
“I’ll be dead before you graduate high school.”
As I got older she kept moving the goal posts on me:
“… by the time you graduate from university”
“… by the time you get married”
“… by the time you start a family”
I guess she figured that if she kept moving the deadline out into the future, some day she would be right.
When I went to visit my Grandma for her 100th birthday I read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut on the plane.
It’s an anti-war book and darkly funny in the way you’re not supposed to laugh at, but makes you want to anyway.
In the book the main character suffers a head injury and comes to believe that he was abducted by aliens who can see in four dimensions.
As a result, these aliens don’t perceive time the same way we do. They see a dead body as just a way that person is existing at that moment in time, but that person continues to exist in throughout all the other moments in time before, too.
So when someone dies they aren’t sad about it because that person isn’t really gone. They’re just not existing in that moment of time anymore.
They shrug and say: “So it goes.”
Which seems like a flippant thing to say but when I think about it, it’s true: the universe and time works in ways we don’t understand and even though Slaughterhouse Five is a story, I figure maybe those aliens who see in four dimensions may be onto something.
In some ways my Grandma isn’t really gone.
She won’t be in my present moving forward, but she’s in my memories and in moments of time in the past.
She’s still sitting in her sunroom on Mountain Ave with me on her lap as I eat an ice cream out of a crinkly plastic container with a wooden spoon.
She’s still buzzing around in her kitchen making me perogies for lunch when I’m a university student working on my bachelor’s degree.
She’s still walking around the basement of The Bay in her determined, thorough way, chatting with all the clerks who know her and talking about how much she likes having “the groceteria” so close to her apartment.
She’s still sitting across from me at The Paddlewheel Restaurant, picking away at a cheeseburger and saying “I’ve never been much of an eater”
(A sentiment I’ve never truly understood if I’m being honest.)
My Grandma is gone and I’m devastated. I have lost one of the only people who made space for me, listened to me, and made me feel seen and heard and loved when I didn’t feel like most people did.
Losing her feels like there’s a part of my that’s missing and that I won’t ever find again.
But my Grandma will always exist because she existed once, and she still continues to exist in those moments in time.
She continues to exist in our memories of her, which are also snippets of time.
She exists in my dad, my aunt, my brothers, and in all the lives of the people she touched.
She’s gone right now, but she isn’t really.
Time isn’t linear just because we perceive it that way. That’s just us, being humans, making sense of a universe that folds and expands and works in ways our mammal brains can’t comprehend.
That doesn’t make losing her any easier, but it does give me solace to think that she’s still around in the annals of time, watching baseball and Wheel of Fortune and wearing slacks with perfect creases in them.
But my Grandma won’t be around moving forward and I’ll miss her for the rest of my life.
So it goes.”
The pilot just announced that we’re starting our descent and now I’m back here up in the sky, thinking about death.
My Grandma is probably asleep right now, but in a few hours it’ll be her 100th birthday. I wonder what she’ll thinking about but I think I know.
I’m sure that tomorrow when we all get together she’ll find some way to slip it into the conversation. Remind us that life as a centennial may not always be what it’s cracked up to be.
She’ll say she’s ready. That she wants to go.
It will upset everyone but me and I’ll feel bad and guilty the same way as I do now, looking out the window for signs of the city and still seeing nothing but a red light blinking in the darkness, thinking about death and time.
So it goes.
I'm testing a theory I have that goes like this:
Whenever I sit down to blog I get maybe 5-10 minutes into it and John finishes whatever he's doing and wants to come hang aka interrupt me and pull me away from writing here, which isn't a huge deal but also UGH I haven't had the mental bandwidth to sit down and write this month and it's kinda eating at me, y'know?
So instead of trying to write some big, prose-y post like I sometimes do I'm gonna sit here and barf out as much of my stream-of-consciousness bullshit as I can before the inevitable happens
aka, John wants to watch an episode of The Sandman which we've both been obsessing over.
Summer's basically over and I'm sad about it even though by anyone's standards (including mine) we did a pretty good job of making the most of it.
We camped or went to a cabin or a music festival basically every weekend
which is both exhilarating and a bit chaotic since every Thursday night is Prepping to Leave night and Sunday/Monday are Unpacking and Endless Laundry nights
but even though it's felt overwhelming at times we made memories that I know I'll cherish so it's worth a little low-level anxiety in my view.
(Omg I hear his chair moving what did I tell you.)
Speaking of never being home, we're leaving to go to Ontario on Thursday night and though Manitoba is a big, stunning province I'm so excited to go literally anywhere else for the first time since 2020.
Friday's my Grandma's 100th birthday so we're celebrating with her and some fam in Toronto and spending a few days in the city before catching a train to Windsor to stay with John's fam and catch up with all of them.
I'm excited but also very much looking forward to coming home and spending more than one consecutive weekend in my actual bed, cuddling my cats and making art.
This past weekend we managed to stay in the city and it was GLORIOUS. We biked to the Beer Can on Friday night and had drinks with my friend Florence and her cool husband
and on Saturday I remembered that there was a vintage sale happening at the hippie bookshop up the street so we hustled over there and I scored a bunch of cool things, including:
- A nice wicker basket
- A cheese board that says "SAY CHEESE" on it
- A mug with an illustration of a cat that looks like Toulouse
- Like 20 cards (they were $1 a pop, how could I say no?)
- A cool hanging ornament of bright fabric elephants
- A battery-powered "galaxy" light for the bedroom
- A necklace holder that was white but I painted gold to match the bedroom
Everything came to like $80 which was an absolute steal and I'm over the moon about it.
We wandered past a few yard sales, too, and I snagged some outdoor lanterns that are currently white but that I'm also planning to paint over at some point in the future (colours tbd).
Saturday night we had a bonfire with my brother and his gf out at her place where she made us dinner
(lemon pasta with scallops and beet salad with beets she grew, yum)
and I nerded out waaaaay too hard over her chicken coop and super large garden setup. It was nice spending some quality time with both of them since we're all so busy and you know how life can be.
Sunday I spent most of the day cooking since I've recently become obsessed with that style of Asian cooking where you have like 4-5 dishes instead of one massive dish on a single plate
(this website has been a huge inspo)
and a lot of the dishes require some meal prep which is honestly fine with me. I like cooking and trying new and weird stuff so pre-steaming spinach and yam leaves and letting 'em sit in a sauce all day in the fridge is my idea of a good time
(when did I become a real adult? Please call my 20 year old self)
and we FINALLY booked our flights to Asia this winter which means I get to do my favourite part of travelling: creeping on AirBnBs and daydreaming about all the food I'm going to eat.
This time we're meeting up with Adam and Britt to hop through Vietnam and Japan after John and I spend a few weeks in Thailand and Cambodia
(Adam may join for part of this but it's all tbd right now; all we know is when we're leaving for our leg of the trip and I am seriously losing my mind with excitement)
so all in all we're looking at being gone for about 8 weeks which makes me thankful that I work for myself and can bring my laptop and do as little work as possible/monitor things from afar while still exploring temples and shrines and taking night trains and lounging on beaches and swimming in the Andaman Sea.
(I keep hearing John's chair moving and it's making my ears perk up)
Anyway back to travel: I'm a big believer in unplugging as much as possible when travelling
so while I'm technically always tethered to my business, I spend a lot of time working/planning ahead so I can basically check in once a day
(more for my own sanity/anxiety than anything really)
usually all I need to do is fire off an email or assign a task to someone on my team
(who are amazing bless them)
and then get up to whatever shenanigans I have planned for that day. I miss being in places where the air smells like lemongrass all the time and walking until I feel like my feet are going to fall off.
This time I'm bringing my laptop and not just John's lil Chromebok so sorry/not sorry if this turns into a travel blog for a few weeks while we're out there. My biggest regret from last time was not documenting the trip in more detail so I'm gonna work harder to share/post more so I can look back on it someday
which is what this blog is supposed to be about anyway, I guess?
It's not always just a place for weird rambly posts
or pretty thoughts
or work through things
it's also supposed to help me remember who I was and what I was doing, thinking, feeling at that time.
So even this has been a bit all over the place I'm glad I snuck in some time to write this down.
(Omg his door opened... I think it's happening?!
Aaaaaand here we go! CALLED IT. Night folks!)
A year ago on Monday, John and I biked to our mortgage broker's office, signed some paperwork, picked up our keys, and walked into our house for the first time.
I'll never forget that experience.
Opening the heavy wooden front door, looking down the main hallway that opens onto the library, living room, dining room, and kitchen. Rooms that felt
waiting to be filled.
We wandered through them, running our fingers along the walls, the heavy doorframes, the wainscotting, the bannisters, holding our breath.
"this is really ours?"
our voices echoing off the 11-foot ceilings as we talked in hushed tones
as if a sudden movement or noise would break the spell this old, beautiful house had cast on us
as though we'd blink and be back in our rental; everything we'd gone through just a dream.
It all happened so quickly. A conversation, then two, then a house tour.
Intense conversations about money, savings, affordability. Turning over records and statements and exposing my life, my business, my finances and my savings.
We bought our house during the peak of the housing crisis when other people we knew were looking at 15, 20, 25 houses. Bidding on all of them and winning none. Houses going for $100,000 over asking.
I'd read Twitter and Reddit threads about competition in the market with a pit in my stomach. Home ownership felt like a distant, unattainable, unaffordable dream.
But we saved anyway. What else could we do other than
As we toured the house with the previous owners I tried not to picture myself here. I didn't want to get too attached, to picture
hosting dinner parties in the dining room
soaking in the claw-foot tub
reading in front of the wood fireplace
eating breakfast on the porch
cooking and singing in the kitchen
building a life in my dream house.
A three-and-a-half storey built in 1912
original wood floors
wood panelling, doorframes, high baseboards
Queen Anne-style with a big porch
a large, spacious kitchen
and more rooms than I thought I could fill
The weeks after the tour were brittle and tense. I'd catch myself holding my breath while we waited for emails, approvals, and confirmations to come through.
Somehow, through the miracle of planning and preparedness, we were approved for our mortgage. I felt like a stone had been lifted off my chest. I was floating,
if John didn't grab me by the ankle I might have just drifted away, blissfully happy at this turn in good fortune.
We sent in our offer and after a little back-and-forth it was accepted.
Signed on the dotted line.
We negotiated for and bought the house directly from the previous owners
no realtors, no go-betweens, just adults coming to an agreement
I'll always be proud of that.
The house we bought is right across the street from the rental we lived in for over a decade
(11 years, in John's case)
and because we'd agreed to be flexible on possession our actual move-in date was a few months out
so I'd sit across the street, looking at the house, wondering what it would be like to make it my own.
When we took possession on August 1st of last year I found out:
it's a lot of hard work. And expensive.
Over the course of August we spent almost every night here after work, cleaning or painting, listening to podcasts and music and staying up until 1, 2 AM sometimes just to get things done.
We were exhausted but elated.
Slowly transforming every room into spaces that reflected us and our tastes and our vision for what they would become filled me with a joy I'd never felt before.
The house felt like it had so much potential, then, and though it still does it isn't quite the same.
We've nestled in. Nested. Built a sanctuary out of chairs and couches and beds and desks and books
(so many books)
that feels safe and warm and welcoming.
A place we love to come home to.
I spend my days working in my bright second-storey office, a far cry from the basement where Starling Social got started
or making art in my "art room", a whole space dedicated to exploring my creative side
or in the garden, a project that's still not quite finished but will yield years of enjoyment and food for years to come
or on the porch, watching the neighbourhood go by and witnessing our old rental change and evolve.
We've hosted parties, dinners and board game nights
had friends from out of town stay over
strung up lights, planted seeds,
and weathered the ups and downs of life within these walls.
I feel at peace. I feel at home.
I feel like we're still just at the very start of an amazing chapter in our lives.