Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday Mantra: The Search for Answers

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: One of these days the sky's going to break, and everything will escape and I'll know. - Civil Twilight

I have always wanted to know. Everything. All of it. Every single detail. I've been seeking answers to the unanswerable since I was a child.

At first, my questions were about God. I wanted to know what heaven looked like, why we couldn't visit the dead, why God could apparently hear all of our prayers but we could never have a real conversation with him. I wanted to know if the streets were actually paved in gold, if everyone who was up there recognized each other, if we all died one age but arrived in heaven another. I wanted to know if every day was exactly the same, if people got bored, how it would feel to be happy for the rest of time, for the infinity I was told heaven was all about.

I wanted to know if, once we were dead, we were somehow able to still visit earth and see all the places. All of them. Every inch of this planet. If we could float in the sky, if we could swim in the oceans, if we could do all of this without fear, without worry, without the limitations of being human. I wanted to know if death was some kind of a magic wand that granted us the ability to be super human, super wise, super everything.

As I've grown older, I've added more questions to my list: The List of Unanswerable Questions.

My views on God and heaven and religion have changed. Now, I want to know if we only live one life or many, if there are parallel universes with parallel versions of us, if there is absolutely nothing after we shut our eyes for the last time.

I want to know why we don't use 100% of our brains and what it would really mean if we could.

I want to know what the future holds and I want to be able to see events from the past, to see how things really happened.

I want abilities that do not exist. I want answers to limitations.

When I was very, very little I would keep a mental list of all of my questions. Each night I would repeat them to myself in my head, over and over again, as a way to remember them for the future- the future I believed in where, one day, all of my questions would be answered.

I still believe that future exists. I don't know where or how or when, but I believe one day, somehow, all of the answers will escape and I'll finally get to know.

Things like why we have such a hard time being kind to one another.

Why we live in a world that tolerates hate.

Why things that are so clearly unacceptable haven't changed and why we've ever had to deal with them in the first place.

I am trying to love the questions, even the hardest of the hard, the most painful, the most urgent.

My list has grown longer and my patience shorter, but I wait. I wait for all of us to somehow, someway, live our way into the answers.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: Brother Wind

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
Brother Wind

Brother wind, I need you now- the pain is almost here,
Whisk away my haunted feelings, take away my tired tears.
Flitter through my stirring mind and rustle all my heavy doubts,
Lift them high and make them vanish deep within the mighty clouds.
Stir up all my darker moments; mix in sunshine, warm and bright,
Blow away my empty aching, whistle to me in the night.
Take my weary hidden smile- lift it up and keep it strong,
Guide my soul through seasons changing, never let me feel alone.
All the while I will sit here, watching all your gust and might-
Brother Wind, I need your courage- blow away the fears inside.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Mantra: When Enough is Enough

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Don't lose yourself in the pursuit of perfection

I'm tired, you guys. Mentally, physically, metaphorically. I am just so tired of The Perfection.

I'm tired of the fake, the always happy, the "nothing's ever wrong" when everything is clearly wrong. I'm tired of the masks, the acts, the carefully curated lives that don't reflect reality.

I'm tired of the striving, the chasing, the fruitlessness of nets being swung in the air over and over again as people try to catch Perfect. As they try to trap it, contain it, devour and absorb it in the hopes that Perfect will make them beautiful, handsome, interesting, successful, and famous when what they really want is to be worthy, enough, appreciated, loved. When all they've ever wanted is to belong.

Perfect is a poison that eats away at who you really are, leaving nothing but an illusion. It is a mirage, a trick of the eye. It's alluring, tempting, and appealing, but it is not real.

When you chase Perfection, you chase a ghost.

And sometimes, you chase away people who would have accepted you wholeheartedly exactly the way you are.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: Barren

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments

You, the taker,
The indulger,
The enthusiast of more-

Why do you remain?

You drank from my well of goodness and kindness-
Now it's run dry.

You ate the wheat of my fields, the fruit of my gardens
Leaving nothing for me but starvation.

No lush leaves shall adorn my rose bushes.
Only thorns remain,
Dried and dangerously sharp due to years of drought
And constant expectation.

No aroma of lilies shall tint the air for dust is all that settles here,
And stirs in the ever-changing winds of your choices.

The hot demanding sun continues to rise,
Yet I know the clouds of compassion and virtue hover in some far off sky
Somewhere else, with someone else, more deserving than I.

You, the destroyer of hope,
You have overseeded my soil, once healthy and rewarding
Now, with no life left to offer.

You, the betrayer of promise,
Have set fire to my plains,
Torching what little I had left to give.

You, who does not know the meaning of moderation,
Of gratitude,
Of hard work and effort-
You have made me barren.

Nothing shall grow here again.

Monday, September 11, 2017

All Around the World: Vancouver (and a Little Bit of Whistler)

Vancouver, BC

Why go to Vancouver? Because Canaduh!

(Probably shouldn't be a comedian, right gang? OK. Moving along...)

Canada is probably the place Mother Nature herself would go for a vacation. The food, the forests, the people, the get the idea. We were there for a short time - sadly, during the terrible fires that have been going on - and got to experience just a tad of it's spectacularness. Here's a run down of some not-to-miss things in Vancity and Whistler.

Things To Do

Damn, guys. I don't even know where to start. While we were there multiple events were going on. There was an anime convention, the pride parade, the Celebration of Lights, and the mural festival. That, plus just the normal stuff to do, meant we had our hands full in the best way possible.

We stayed downtown right by the convention center, which was basically the perfect spot for walking to and from everywhere, plus getting shuttles to further away sights. Keep that in mind if you're feeling extra adventurous.

Stanley Park is a must. Rent a bike and ride all around the park. You will not be disappointed. We did a wee bit of hiking in the park to find something I'd read about called the godhead; a piece of art carved out of a tree. You know how you feel when you find something you've lost? That's how I felt when I found the godhead (or half a godhead, if we're being accurate). But how to get there?

It's easy:
  • Go to Second Beach. Look for the concession stand and from there head right up Bridle Path. It will take you deeper into the trees and not too far in you'll swing a left onto Rawlings Trail. 
  • Go 200 feet or so. On the right hand side you will see a very large and distinct clearing. Go in the clearing and before you know it, bam: the beautiful Two Spirits/godhead tree. (There are technically other clearings near by, but there's really no missing this one. If you can't find it, you've gone too far down Rawlings Trail.)

Every website I visited on "things to do in Vancouver" told me Gastown was not to be missed. Which I agree with, but with caveats. First, the steam clock is definitely worth checking out. There's only a handful of them left in the world, so seeing its little puffs of steam and hearing its little tunes is actually that cool. There are also plenty of stores to check out and endless options for dining. Not to mention how cool and funky this little part of town is in general. However, there is a down side (because I like to keep it real).

Gastown was a little...unnerving from a safety perspective. We were there during the day and at night and honestly, both times we saw some unsavory characters. It could've been that, due to all the events going on, there was just a lot of people coming out of the woodwork- I don't know. All I can tell you is there were syringes on the sidewalks, people openly doing drugs in large groups, and really, really scary looking individuals hanging out. I'm talking one guy who was flailing his body around as he walked down the sidewalk, another man hunched up in the corner of a restaurant eyeing everyone like he wanted to kill somebody while talking to himself, and then there was the lady who walked up to people and just stared them in the face looking as deranged as someone can possibly look. This is just some of what we saw.

Steam clock
After looking at more recent articles on the area, I discovered that other people had encountered much of what we had. I talked to a friend of mine who lives there and she said there is a specific drug (can't remember the name) that is out of control right now in Canada. That, plus a not-so-great part of town in general is right around the corner, so what you're seeing is overspill into Gastown.

I definitely don't want to put people down who need help or speak negatively of the good that Gastown has to offer, but I've been to a lot of places all over the world and I rarely feel unsafe. So - go check it out if you want, but be careful. Don't go alone and definitely don't go alone at night, that's what I was told. It's always better to be safe.

On to other things...

If you hop on the SkyTrain and head to the science world stop, you can check out main street,  which is lined with amazing murals. Some are on the main drag, some are just off to the side down some of the alleys. If you love graffiti at all, you need to do this.

Granville Island is a must. Had I realized how cool it was, I would've planned more time there- it's that awesome. Shopping, sight seeing, food, and more graffiti art. What's not to love? Make sure you check out Devil May Wear for some of the coolest jewelry ever made by a local artist. Definitely do not miss Granville Island Soap Gallery. They have some of the most exotic bath salts I've ever seen, and I'm kind of a bath salt snob, guys. You need this in your life, trust me.

Capilano Suspension Park is pretty neat too. If you don't have a lot of time, I would honestly say you can skip this, but if you have plenty of time, go. It's not a very large park and there are only so many things you can look at before you're done. I was there 90 minutes, and at least 30 of those was me just browsing their store. It's just not that big. The free shuttle to the park is very helpful, so make sure you look into using it before you go.
The Cliffwalk
Tree top bridges
Suspension bridge

Gluten Free Dining

It's pretty easy to dine GF in Vancouver. In fact, it's downright simple. Here are some of the spots you can (and should) check out.

Cartems Donutiere
 - Donuts that are basically cake in the shape of donuts. You can't go wrong with this plan.

Steamworks Brewery
 - Very hip location with quite the selection of GF items. (The kale salad was ah-maze-ing!)

The Fish Counter
 - About a 10-15 min walk past where the murals end you'll find The Fish Counter. I almost never find GF fish and chips so I was hella excited to discover this place. Super delish.

 - While they don't specifically call out GF items on their menu, many items already are GF or can be adjusted with some slight changes.

 - Finding a place like SMAK that has all GF everything when you're starving is like finding gold at the end of a rainbow.

Before: Eyes bigger than stomach
After...reality set in
The Fish Counter

Lost Lake

Whistler, BC


Whistler really is as beautiful as everyone says. Even with the smoke, it was gorgeous. Every turn had something new. Light turquoise water, various shades of green, sunlight and shadows and so much vibrancy and variation!

How To Get There

Since we had a few days in Vancouver and didn't want to rent a car, we booked round trip tickets through Epic Rides. The drive to Whistler is just as pretty as Whistler itself. There are at least five different spots I wish the bus had stopped at so I could take pictures. For real, guys. The photographer inside of me slowly died a little every single time we passed yet another beautiful, picture worthy stop. *sigh*

Things To Do

Nature. DO NATURE. Hike, bike, walk, swim- you have endless options. We spent the morning hiking around Lost Lake. It was stunning. The plants, the lake, the everything! Serenity at it's finest and most beautiful. We almost rented bikes to get around, but I'm honestly glad we didn't. I would have hated to zoom past all the pretty without really taking it in. And again, Whistler just isn't that big. If you're planning a day anything like ours, save your money. Bikes are unnecessary.

After the awesomeness that was our hike, we explored all three villages, taking in the sights, getting some delicious and refreshing tea at David's Tea, and shopping at some of the stores. The Wanderlust Festival also happened to be going on this day, which was also pretty cool to check out.

Gluten Free Dining

Mogul's Coffee House
- Mogul's, hands down, has the best GF banana pecan muffins and chai tea I've ever had. Ever. And I've had chai tea in India, gang. I've thought about the muffin at least once every day since going there. Why, oh why, didn't I buy more of them?! I'm seriously debating calling them and trying to get some shipped to me. We're not that far away, are we?

Bar Oso
- We went here for lunch and it was legit one of the best things I did with my life that day. I had the shrimp sandwich with their special Cool Change drink and my taste buds were in heaven. One of the best sandwiches I've ever had for sure. I don't know what they're putting in the food up there in Whistler (Pixie dust? Love? Crack?) but it is excellent.

Pictures from the trip will be loaded to my Society6 page soon!

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: We'll All Go Down Together

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
We'll All Go Down Together

Kill the plants and kill the trees,
Smell the toxins in the breeze,
Believe the life you live is clean -
We'll all go down together.

Buy the plastic, skip the glass,
Blame it on a life that's fast,
Realize that the world won't last-
We'll all go down together.

One day we will live upon
A plastic island in the sun,
It's all because of what we've done-
We'll all go down together.

I'm no better; you're no worse,
This modern life may be a curse,
Too bad we didn't think that first-
We'll all go down together.

I posted this on the blog a while ago, but given the new death spiral we're headed towards thanks to "fake news" and "sad" people, I thought it was appropriate to bring it back.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Desires, Concepts, and Casualties

Veronika Weroni Vajdova
When there are too many thoughts in my head, I like to write like this. It's a little bit therapeutic, a little bit soul soothing.

It's chaos in order.

1. Desires
a. The husband and I have been talking about having kids. We vary in our opinions of when, and even how. I've always wanted to adopt at least one child and, before he met me, that idea never crossed his mind. 
b. I understand the desire of having your own children. Little mini-me's. Something that is of your own flesh and blood. Something that, in some ways, you have more control over as far as knowing what you're getting into from a family genetics perspective. 
None of that has ever mattered to me.  
c. My husband says I am a passionate person; that I become impassioned easily. That once I feel a certain way about something, it's full steam ahead. It's true.
The idea of adoption has been with me for as long as I can remember. Initially, I couldn't explain why. It was just a feeling. Now, while it still remains an urging and a desire, there is more. There is the understanding of how many children already exist in this world with nothing. No family, no safety or security. No idea of what belonging means.  
Children that do not know what it feels like to be loved.
d. I can't foretell how my life will play out. Adoption is not for everyone, which I understand. All I know is that in my bones I feel that someday, in some way, I will have a child that is not of my own creating.  
2. Concepts
a. As I grow to better understand the world, I also grow with more questions. I feel both certain and uncertain about aspects of how things are or how things should be, could be, might need to be. 
For instance, some say the world is overpopulated by the human race. If you look at the amount of humans that inhabit this precious planet, if you look at cities where people are crammed in together, if you consider the amount of resources needed (food, shelter, clean water) for the current population and predicted increases in population, it's hard to disagree. There are already masses of people who do not have their basic needs being met.
b. Thinking about that brings me back to procreation.  
Is it selfish to bring a child into a world knowing the capacity of our planet and knowing there are hundred of thousands (if not more) of familyless children already?  
c. Years ago, if someone could not conceive a child, they would either not have children at all or adopt. Now, with the advancements we've made, it's possible to have children even when your body isn't able to naturally. 
I know this is a sensitive subject, and I can greatly understand the desire to try at all costs. I have no negative feelings towards this, none whatsoever. But allow me a moment to play the devil's advocate.  
Nature has a way of controlling things. It's obvious when you look at animals, at insects, at flora and fauna. At how these things evolve, change, increase or decrease based on what needs to happen. When you really examine this, when you really consider the magnitude of what nature knows without the help of graphs or data, science or solutions, it's remarkable.  
The same applies to us. 
What if, for those who cannot have children, it's nature's way of helping us control the population? And not just control it, but help it. If you can't conceive on your own, you adopt. One less child without a family, one less family without a child. A simple mathematical equation. 
Nature is, according to research, stepping in in other ways as well.  
A friend of mine (who is gay) posted an article about an idea of why homosexuality might exist. The concept evolved entirely around population control. The idea was that when a species is overpopulated, our bodies make adjustments to help control the population in other ways. Homosexuality being one of them. Since a homosexual couple cannot conceive on their own, they don't add to the population and, in most cases, they help keep it in control by adopting. 
(Side Note: I don't need a reason for why homosexuality exists. I support LGBTQ people regardless. I just find this to be interesting.)
d. For over three decades, couples in China were only allowed one child. Now, they can have two. For obvious reasons, many people believe this is a violation of basic human rights. How dare a government tell people what to do with their own bodies!
But what if it comes down to that one day, in the future, because there are simply too many of us and not enough of everything else? Because we have bypassed nature with scientific advancements?  
And how does all of this tie into the never ending fight between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice? I won't even try to go into that here because it's just too big a topic.
I will broach the subject of genetic testing, though. Prior to this, parents had no way of knowing if their child would be born in perfect health or with some kind of illness or genetic disorder. Now, it's almost unheard of not to find out in advance. Often, when parents do, they are given the option of terminating the pregnancy. They are given the option of life or death with some degree of knowledge about what their life, and their child's, could look like given the test results.  
What does this say about our humaneness? 
Are we more kind by not wanting a small soul to suffer? Or are we less by not giving them a chance to prove us all wrong? 
This brings me to the next thought process.
3. Casualties
a. I dare you to name someone you know that doesn't have some sort of a disease or genetic disorder. Even the healthiest people have something wrong with them, no matter how small, which is why we're always looking for cures. We love our people and we want them with us for as long as possible. We want them healthy, well, able to enjoy the life they've been given.  
b. We also want them safe. We don't want to worry about car accidents or murderers. Natural disasters, like the terrible things that are happening in Texas. We want security in knowing the people we love are protected. This is why we have laws, governing agencies, seat belts, warnings.  
I understand all of this. I want all of this. 
c. I also understand, too much, that there is a balance and why it has to exist. Why we can never be free of disease, of accidents, of tragedy. What it would mean if we were; how many more of us would exist, how fewer resources we would have. How weird it is to realize why we have limits, but how accurate it is that we do. There is only so much of everything to go around. 
Imagine if everyone lived to a ripe old age- everyone. It's a beautiful idea, a lovely thought. It's what we strive for with research and science and testing, testing, testing.  
But would it ultimately ruin us in other ways? 
A lion must have prey to survive, the prey must have plants to survive, and each and every living thing must die in its own way. Is it fair to say that all these deaths are both tragic and necessary?
I don't know.  These are questions that may never be answered in my lifetime, or ever. 
Food for thought, all of this. Things to ponder.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Reflection of Shadows: Better There

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
Better There

I suffered,
We suffered,
We lived a different life.

You suffered,
I'm certain,
Until the day you died.

How selfish,
How thoughtless,
For me to wish your fate.

My vision
Was blurry,
But now I'm wide awake.

I suffered,
We suffered,
We lived a different life.

You suffered,
Until the day you died.

I'm sorry,
It won't help,
Time passed and so have you.

It's better,
Much better,
Life's better there for you.


Never before had I truly seen
Your misery and silent screams,
You lied so still and numb each day-
Each long and empty frozen day.

I wish I could have set you free.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.