John got the jab today


and I'm relieved as heck. Today Manitoba opened up AZ vaccine eligibility to people 40 and up so "Good Luck Luxford" hopped on the horn at 11:30 AM and by 5 PM today he was vaxxed up with the first of two jabs.

I gotta say, with how badly Manitoba has handled the pandemic so far this was an unexpected and happy surprise. Most days I get up and gird my loins and wait for the news about more cases, more variants, and more bad news, but not today.

No, today I got GOOD NEWS, and I got to witness a rare Nice Day on Twitter, which is where people wish each other well and cheer each other on and

for a few short hours

it feels like the old Internet I fell in love with

back when it was mostly just nerds and weirdos hanging out on forums and making art.

These days the internet is a different and angrier place, so it was nice seeing those tweets saying "just scheduled my appointment!" or "going in today!" and everyone piling on with gifs and well-wishes and congrats.

It was like the opposite of doomscrolling because every time I came back to my feed I saw all these messages of hope and relief

like we'd been holding our breath and we all let it out at the same time.

Everyone was either eligible or knew someone who was and being a part of our collective exhale is a feeling I know I'll come back to when this is finally behind us.

And though I know the pandemic isn't over, and though I know we're still in the middle of the third wave, and though I know that we've still got a long way to go before we get back to "normal"

god damn it

today I witnessed a Twitter miracle and the man I love got his first jab so I'm gonna call this a win.


 

It's been a good day for business


I inked a new deal, two new hot leads fell into my lap and I'm 99% sure they're gonna close, and I finally finished the giant "how to write good SEO copy" blog post I've been working on all week.

I don't talk about my business much on here because a) this is my personal blog and b) I assume you guys don't wanna know about it, but I feel like my agency is on a real upswing lately and that feels really fucking good and I wanna talk about that.

I've been hearing from a lot of people that the stuff we say about

focusing on good content 
providing value 
and being strategy and process-driven
really resonates with them

and that feels great because those are my values being expressed through my agency.

Also I learned we have a reputation for being positive and helpful.

Last Friday one of the owners of the big, old agencies in town called me up and (after venting for several minutes)

asked me for help with Facebook.

I LOVE THIS. 

I love that the owner of a place I sent a resume to out of university called me for help

I love that I'm considered enough of a subject matter expert to be the one to call

I love that he felt comfortable enough with me to talk about how he felt

and I LOVE that I have a reputation as someone people can call up out of the blue and ask for help.

What a life I lead.

What's weird about being in this position is that I never thought I'd be here.

I didn't want to be a business owner

I never wanted this kind of responsibility and pressure

I never thought I would be comfortable with the spotlight, or with monetizing my craft the way that I have

but a few years ago I was listening to a podcast and one of the hosts said a famous Andy Warhol quote that changed things for me. Here's how it goes:

"Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art."

When I heard it I felt like a light switched on in my head because — eureka! — I had a framework for understanding what I was trying to do.

Because what is art, anyway?

Art is creative output
Art is helping people and doing good
Art is creating something out of nothing
Art is being true to yourself and leading with your values

Art is about adding meaning and leaving your mark on this world before your memory is lost to the void of time.

I want my business to be all of those things. It is all of those things.

And the fact that I can articulate that in our marketing and speaking and consulting I do

and it resonates with people and makes them want to work with us

is the best damn feeling I could ask for.


 

I've been thinking about revenge a lot lately


I'm reading the Count of Monte Cristo and I'm almost done, or at least as close to "done" as I can feel when I'm 1245 pages into a book that's 1468 pages long.

(Yes I've been reading it for a while, why do you ask?)

I've struggled with this book. In case you haven't noticed, it's really fucking long, and I've wanted to quit reading it more than once. But I've heard it's worth it from several people so I've slogged through chapters that often felt irrelevant or meandering anyway.

The thing I've struggled with most though is the main character. The Count of Monte Cristo.

In theory, he's the main character, but the novel focuses on the other characters instead. What they're up to, who they see, what they talk about. It gets boring sometimes because conversations get too detailed and can seem irrelevant to the plot, and it's normal to read several chapters without the Count even showing up to pay anyone a visit.

Dumas talks about him so little that sometimes you forget he's in the book.

Now I'm at the point where things are wrapping up, and I still don't know who The Count of Monte Cristo is. What he thinks about. Who he is as a person. He's this enigmatic figure everyone seems to revere and admire, but he seems like a facade, like he's hollow inside.

Compared to the other characters, whose feelings, motivations, and private thoughts are described at great length, The Count of Monte Cristo is still a one-dimensional character. I've spent nearly 1400 pages with this person and I barely know him. 

This character who apparently knows so much, has been to so many places, has impeccable taste, etc etc etc

feels like a paper cut-out. It's disappointing.

John's read it before, and when I was talking to him about it he turned to me with one of those looks that makes my heart drop to my feet and said

"well, maybe that's the point?"

and it hit me like a ton of bricks: The Count of Monte Cristo is one-dimensional on purpose.

I started reading the book expecting to root for The Count. For the first few hundred pages you're right alongside him, and he starts off feeling like someone who will change and grow as the novel progresses. But that doesn't happen.

Along the way, you lose sight of the character. The book starts to focus on pretty much everyone else, doing what feels like pretty much everything else, and the Count starts to feel like a spectre haunting the other main characters, and less like one himself.

The others have their own motivations, many of which change over time throughout the story. But The Count of Monte Cristo's never changes. He remains focused on his goal.

This person who has everything anyone would ever want — money, luxury, the admiration and respect of his peers — seems oblivious to it.

He goes to the opera, to parties where everyone fawns on him, and lives in luxurious spaces where he only eats and drinks the very best. He has more money than he could ever spend in his lifetime, and could live anywhere in the world doing anything he wanted.

But he stays above it all.

His obsession with revenge, of completely destroying his enemies and making them suffer

robs him of living his own life, too.

I'm not finished — like I said, I still have about 200 pages to go — but I'm curious to see who the Count is at the end of the book. Wikipedia says The Count of Monte Cristo is an adventure novel, but right now it feels like a tragedy.

Tags: Books

 

I've been journaling lately


except it's more tactile than a regular journal

if you want to get technical about it.

It's a journal of ideas and feelings and exploring my life in ways that
scare and intimidate me
and make me feel silly.

I started journaling by accident
or maybe I came to it by accident

because I've been futzing around with collage for months now.

I spend hours cutting up magazines, and books, and old copies of National Geographic

and then I spend hours organizing them into binders that are organized by theme:

people and animals
backgrounds and abstracts
food and things
and
words

and lately, when I feel like it

(which is often, which is nice)

I paste those
things and words and
feelings
into an unassuming brown notebook.

But before I paste them I "set the tone" for what I want to explore.

I sit down with a bunch of coloured markers in different 
thicknesses
and do free-form writing until a page or two is full.

Sometimes when the pen hits the paper everything I'm feeling falls out of me onto the page
and it's scary because sometimes I say things I didn't know I was feeling
or didn't want to think about
and I see my words and the weight of them

and I make myself sit when them for a while
before I cover them up.

But I don't cover everything up, at least not all the time.

I find colours and textures and words I've cut out
and layer them over parts of the page
some here
some there
sometimes with smaller pieces of paper
where I've written thoughts out more intentionally.

The journal entries change into
more than words, they become
layers
of feelings

it feels cathartic to tear up pages
make jagged edges
cut up faces and paste them in anew.

It's a place where I can dismantle the world and make it
into something that makes sense.

People keep asking to see it
but that's not what it's for.

It's for me.

And after all these years of making art for other people
putting myself in the spotlight through my art
it feels so
nice
to have a place to explore myself that's

just
for me.

 

Left the house the other day


to spend a week at a cabin out at Falcon Lake because we haven't gone anywhere since before Christmas.

We drove up on Monday night and stopped at Gimli Fish on the way out to get crab legs and lobster tail and the biggest scallops I've ever seen, and after unpacking and getting a fire going we sauteed it all up in a butter and garlic sauce and ate it with a salad and a bottle of rosé.

We stayed up late and got drunk and cold running back and forth from the private hot tub on the deck to the house to get more beer. I had a killer hangover the next morning but powered through 100 pages of The Count of Monte Cristo

(I'm almost 950 pages in!)

and popped an Advil so we could hike up the side of the mountain that overlooks the lake.

I haven't walked that much in months and felt it the next day. It was worth it for the view tho.

After so many months in the house it was weird to have so much space to

think
and spread out
and walk
and not worry about other people.

We heard some families in the other cabins and waved at a few of the staff from afar, but it was mostly just us and the deer and the birds. I loved waking up and putting fresh birdseed in the bird feeder every morning to see what kinds of birds showed up to eat.

(Did you know that bluejays aren't actually blue? Look it up!)

That night we grilled homemade burgers and had some special banana bread that put us to bed at 10 PM. I fell asleep watching Robocop (which has so many gun sounds, wow) and woke up at 7 AM feeling more rested than I have in months.

The next day walked out to an island.

It gets so cold in Manitoba that the lake freezes completely and you can walk right across the ice to a bunch of the little islands, which feels scary until you've done it a few times

(or have a few beers in you.)

The island was beautiful and scenic, but spooky too. There's a menacing beauty to the Canadian wilderness. It feels tough and rugged, like it will kill you if you let it

(which it will.)

Then we came back and played Scrabble and made out in the hot tub and I laughed until my face hurt. We got distracted and almost burnt the shit out of our homemade taquitos, but saved them in time and covered them in sour cream and the enchilada sauce I made before we left to cover up the "extra crunch".

John made breakfast every day. Egg sandwiches or scrambled eggs and breakfast sausage. One, sometimes two coffees with Jameson's. We ate sitting across the table from each other and I grinned at him like a maniac every time because after almost seven years together I'm still crazy about him.

After dinner every night we sat in the hot tub, soaking it all in. I tried as hard as I could to lock in how the cold air felt, and the way my beer tasted, and how John's hair caught in the light.

On our last day there he asked me "what are some moments you wish you could stay frozen in forever?" and because I'm cheesy and because it was true, I said

"this one, right now" and I meant it.

If I close my eyes it's almost like I'm back there and I wanna hang onto that feeling so badly.


 

RIP @howwon


aka, the #pizzafriday guy.

Howard was one of the first people I met on Winnipeg Twitter after I started "getting into" the platform. One of the first times he tweeted at me was a reply to a tweet I'd shared of a photo of a hot dog I'd just bought for lunch. Howard wrote:

"would have been better if it was pizza for #pizzafriday"

Howard was obsessed with pizza and let everyone know it, and #pizzafriday became one of those weird inside jokes that small towns and tight-knit communities have. He'd tweet "what's your position on #pizzafriday?" at local politicians, and reply to pretty much any tweet about anything other than pizza with a statement about pizza, like:

"I can pickup pizza at -24C or +24C"

"Eating pizza would never give you sore legs"

and

"I can eat pizza with or without pinkeye"

We only met in person a few times but every time he mentioned pizza. A few times I saw him actually eating pizza and BOY did he look happy.

Twitter has changed from when I first started using it. There's way more fighting and drama, and even though I'm lucky that the algorithm serves me up the best and brightest in my city, it's become less fun some days. Howard was one of those people who made our community a nicer, funnier, and more pleasant place to be.

Howard and his dry, pizza-loving sense of humour was the perfect example of someone who leaned into what they were into and brought joy to other people as they did it. He was a nice guy who wanted to spread happiness through pizza and especially double pepperoni slices (so I hear).

He was a fixture in the Winnipeg Twitter scene. It seems like everyone knew Howard, even if they hadn't met him in person, and based on the tweets I've seen about him today he was probably a lot more admired and appreciated than even he knew.

(I hope he knew.)

Tonight I, like many other people in Winnipeg, will be ordering pizza for #pizzafriday in his honour.

RIP Howard. If there's a heaven, I hope there's pizza there.


 

Every day is the same


that's hyperbole but only somewhat.

We're in the part of the winter where it always feels like night time and every day feels the same, and it's normally the time when I'd go on vacation somewhere warm but there's still that pesky pandemic so we're staying put and as a result every day I go from

my bed, to
the room next to it, to
the kitchen, to
the living room (maybe), back to
the room next to my bedroom,
back to
my bed

things could be worse but the days have been slipping by in a weird way they weren't before. I've worked from home for years and kinda go into a "fugue state" around this point (which is why I take a vacation) but not even leaving for meetings or meetups is really blurring everything together.

Luckily John and I anticipated this happening so back in the fall we booked a private cabin out at Falcon Lake and we're leaving in a few weeks and the concept of, omg

leaving my house
seeing other places
sleeping in a different bed

almost doesn't feel real.

We had a lil panic the other day when we realized the cabin doesn't have wifi, which was something we should have considered but when you haven't left yr house in pretty much a year you forget about basic stuff like how cabins in rural parts of the province tend to not have great wifi

but you know what? I'M PUMPED ABOUT IT.

Pandemic aside it's been a crazy-busy year for my agency and I spend my days in meetings and working on it and then break for dinner and spend my evenings working on HeyAlfa

(which is so crazy and going to blow you away I promise)

and part of my infinite-loop-life really just comes down to working so much and I know it. It's fine to love what you do but when it's all that you do that's not healthy.

I love my work and try to find a balance but living where you work and working where you live makes things bleed together
so I'm looking forward to forcing myself to take a break

even if it's just for a few days in the middle of snowy nowhere.

Tags: Life Random

 

A weird thing happened last night

I was having one of those "stress dreams".

You know the ones: something's wrong, and it's stressful, and you spend the whole dream trying to manage or resolve it and wake up feeling anxious or stressed-out or out-of-sorts. I get them when I'm under a lot of pressure, or when I have a deadline looming, or when I'm about to go back to work after an extended break

(which is what I assume this one was about.)

For me, these dreams typically centre around a few themes:

- I'm in school and I have an exam and I've forgotten to study for

- I'm in school and I've forgotten to do an assignment

- I'm trying to get to school/work but stuck somewhere

What's weird about these dreams is that even though I'm in school (usually it's high school though sometimes it's university) I always know I'm not actually in school in real life, so I spend most of the dream trying to convince people that I've actually graduated, or that I'm working full-time, or whatever.

(Trying to get people to listen to/believe what I say is another recurring theme in my dreams which tells you a lot about the trauma/baggage I'm still trying to work through I guess.)

Anyway. Last night I'm having this super-vivid dream about my old high school, Garden City Collegiate

(except it wasn't actually GC since that's just how dreams work sometimes)

I'm sitting in a classroom with all the girls I went to school with, Candice and Dyan and Kaitlin and Kristen and Meaghan and so on, and I'm feeling stressed because we're all about to take a giant test and (surprise surprise) I'm not ready for it.

We're all sitting on the floor for some reason and I get up to go talk to my old guidance counsellor, Mr. Loeppky, to tell him that, hey, there's been some mix-up because I don't even go here.

But since it's a stress-dream obviously he isn't listening to me and keeps walking away, and I'm running around the school dodging students and shoving past people to keep up with him and explain the situation and then I bump into my ex, who looks at me and just

pukes all over himself

so I stop chasing Mr. Leoppky and take him to the bathroom and try to help him wash up, but he's covered in vomit and it's all over his black shirt and it's squicking me out so I leave to find Mr. Loeppky again

but instead I wind up back in the original classroom, because dreams.

I'm sitting on the floor again, talking to the girls I grew up with, and this other girl Jessica (who bullied me abit when we were kids) comes up, points at me and starts screaming about how much I smell.

I look down and realize I'm also covered in puke. Oh hell.

I start trying to explain myself but because it's a stress-dream she isn't listening and is teasing me and everyone around is turning to stare and ohgod now they're all judging me and ohgod they're sneering at me and ohgodohgod

BUT WAIT

instead of panicking and getting upset and embarrassed and stressed out, I stand up and say:

"I smell because I was helping Ty wipe puke off himself, and I don't even go here so fuck you and fuck this."

... and I walked right out of the school and into a busy street where I caught a streetcar and rode it to a park where I ate macaroons in a park in the sunshine and thought about how much I love running my own business and not being in school anymore.

I know this all sounds stupid (because dreams) but I have never ever EVER resolved a stress-dream that way. I woke up feeling happy and confident and secure and GOOD about myself, which isn't how those dreams have ever gone at all.

I'm not really sure what to make of it. Maybe I'm moving on past some sort of baggage or maybe it was just a fluke, who knows.

Either way it felt good, and I'll take it.

Tags: Random Memes

 

Goodbye 2020, hello 2021


Last night we rang in the new year from the comfort of our living room which is where we do 100% of our social interactions these days. I curled my hair and did my makeup and put on a cute outfit because even though I wasn't going anywhere I like to look cute for myself. We made a charcuterie board with meat and cheese from DeLuca's and cheersed with fancy champagne at midnight, but also chugged a couple of PBRs

(shitty beers for a shitty year)

and at 3 AM before we went to bed, we sang Auld Lang Syne.

I don't know all the words and probably won't ever learn it by heart beyond the chorus but it makes me want to cry every time I hear it. It's heavy and sad, and singing a heavy, sad song felt like the best way to say goodbye to a year that's been overwhelmingly heavy and sad.

2020 didn't turn out to be the year I wanted or expected, but looking back it could have been a hell of a lot worse. Our businesses didn't go under (and are both actually doing better than ever), we saved a ton of money because we didn't take any big trips or go to music festivals or go out like at all since March, and and I learned that (thankfully) I married the right person because there's nothing like being cooped up in the house together 24/7 to learn if someone's gonna get on yr nerves or not.

Oh, and we managed to squeeze in our wedding in Belize and a trip to Toronto and Windsor on the way home right before things started to go off a cliff.

But outside of our little bubble of "doing ok" everything else has been a hellscape and it's been stressful and upsetting to watch our provincial government totally fumble the pandemic response, see the cases spike in Manitoba and elsewhere, and be worrying constantly about friends and family members who are high-risk or who don't have the luxury of working from home throughout all of this.

Sometimes I feel guilty for getting by and for all the time the pandemic has given me to work on Starling Social and HeyAlfa. I beat myself up about stuff a lot so I've tried to channel these feelings into working like crazy and making the most of the opportunity I've been given. All this work and focusing on a post-pandemic future has given me something to focus on and look forward to in a year where distractions from the news have been welcome and much-needed.

Maybe I'm a dumb optimist but I'm hopeful for 2021. I don't want to put a label or some weird expectation on the year itself

(years are just how we mark time, not the thing that dictates what happens during that time, after all)

but hunkering down over the past year year taught me a lot about myself and I feel more, I dunno

mature?
prepared?
focused?
driven?

all of the above?

What I'm trying to say is I feel like I'm in a good place and I'm excited about what the next year will bring.

On my desk next to where I work (and spend like 90% of my time these days) I have a little letterboard and I change up the sayings from time to time. Right now it's got one from the poet Robert Frost.

I've likes his work since I was a student at Garden City Collegiate and would read the words to The Road Less Travelled every day as I went up and down the stairs in the West Building. His quote on my letterboard is one of my favourites, and it's also something I've found myself saying and thinking often this past year.

Here is what it says:

"The best way out is always through."

Whatever 2020 was like for you, I hope 2021 is even better. For all of us.

Cheers to the year ahead, friends.

Tags: Life

 

The COVID Carols [Lyrics]


It's been a hell of a year and we miss the people we love, so yesterday John and I booked a Peg City Co-Op car and took our band "Big Trouble in Little Wolseley" on a whirlwind tour of Winnipeg to sing some (masked, socially-distanced) carols to our friends and family.

We didn't just sing any ol' carols, however.

Since COVID-19 has made 2020 an "extra special" year, we re-wrote two of the three songs we performed to include lyrics that reflect all the weird stuff we've been through, with a few dashes of Manitoba-specific lore thrown in for good measure.

The Winnipeg Free Press recently published an article about how Manitobans are going carolling (though they clearly missed out on the carolling story of the year if you ask me) and we figured — hey, if you're doing some socially-distanced carolling, maybe you'd like  these extra-special lyrics, too.

Below are the lyrics to our two "original bangerz", and at the bottom of this post is an extra-special cover of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" dedicated to Manitoba's Premier (and resident Christmas-stealer) Brian Pallister. 

Enjoy, and stay safe out there!

---

The Twelve Days of COVID

On the first day of COVID my true love gave to me
A Costco shopping spree

On the second day of COVID my true love gave to me
Two rubber gloves and a Costco shopping spree

On the third day of COVID my true love gave to me
Three face masks, two rubber gloves and a Costco shopping spree

On the fourth day of COVID my true love gave to me
Four marathons, three face masks,
Two rubber gloves and a Costco shopping spree

On the fifth day of COVID my true love gave to me
Five Zoom calls,
Four marathons, three face masks,
Two rubber gloves and a Costco shopping spree

On the sixth day of COVID my true love gave to me
Six feet of distance, five Zoom calls,
Four marathons, three face masks,
Two rubber gloves and a Costco shopping spree

On the seventh day of COVID my true love gave to me
Seven fundamentals, six feet of distance, five Zoom calls,
Four marathons, three face masks,
Two rubber gloves and a Costco shopping spree

On the eighth day of COVID my true love gave to me
Eight hands a-washing, seven fundamentals,
Six feet of distance, five Zoom calls,
Four marathons, three face masks,
Two rubber gloves and a Costco shopping spree

On the ninth day of COVID my true love gave to me
Nine rolls of T.P., eight hands a-washing, seven fundamentals,
Six feet of distance, five Zoom calls,
Four marathons, three face masks,
Two rubber gloves and a Costco shopping spree

On the tenth day of COVID my true love gave to me
Ten extra pounds, nine rolls of T.P.,
Eight hands a-washing, seven fundamentals,
Six feet of distance, five Zoom calls,
Four marathons, three face masks,
Two rubber gloves and a Costco shopping spree

On the eleventh day of COVID my true love gave to me
Eleven online orders, ten extra pounds, nine rolls of T.P.,
Eight hands a-washing, seven fundamentals,
Six feet of distance, five Zoom calls,
Four marathons, three face masks,
Two rubber gloves and a Costco shopping spree

On the twelfth day of COVID my true love gave to me
Twelve Bartley’s tweeting, eleven online orders,
Ten extra pounds, nine rolls of T.P.,
Eight hands a-washing, seven fundamentals,
Six feet of distance, five Zoom calls,
Four marathons, three face masks,
Two rubber gloves and a Costco shopping spree

---

God Rest Ye, Merry Winnipeg

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Don’t see your friends and families
This year on Christmas Day
You’ll save us all from getting sick
So we can hang in May
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

In Winnipeg, in Canada
You may be feeling torn
We’ve all been locking down so hard
Can’t we just have this morn?!
We’ve mailed all our letters
To give our leaders scorn
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

Fear not then, says Brent Roussin
Let nothing you affright
This day comes new restrictions
But they’ll be gone by night
Follow the fundamentals
And you will be alright
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

---

And, finally, here's our rendition of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" dedicated to Manitoba's least favourite grinch/person, Brian Pallister:


 

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