Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A busy month

: To not buy coffees or teas for the month. (Fail) I had a coffee/croissant date with a friend . . .

: Visit an new art gallery (no)

: Finish a draft of my term paper (very nearly)

: Exercise 5 days a week. (check)

: Explore an unknown part of town. (check) I spent an evening in Gastown

: Make my mom's chocolate hazelnut biscotti (Check) Except that hazelnuts were nowhere to be found, so I used pecans.

: Renew immigration paperwork - I wish . . .

: Enjoy the warming weather and sunshine (check)

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A few other good things from this month.
: Long phone calls home
: Connecting with friends, new and old
: Getting my finances in order
: Having an article published
: Figuring out my options for the summer
: Discovering some peace of mind

Monday, March 29, 2010

a few of my favorite things

tulip trees
antique china


And, in the spirit of embracing the weather today, sporadic rainstorms.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ralph Waldo Emerson

After many days of pondering R.W.E's essay Self-Reliance, I began to think beyond what he says to look at ways I am self reliant. The challenge of this is pinning down exactly what Emerson defines as self-reliance. I've boiled it down to two points.
1. Avoiding conformity. "Insist on yourself; never imitate."
2. Following your own inclinations

I've rephrased these to say that Emerson is interested in a transcendent independence from the mainstream, which one can reach by trusting yourself and your abilities to lead to you a meaningful and progress existence.
These ideas have resonated with me for many days, especially as I consider what my life will be like without school. I feel that no matter what ambitions or passions I pursue, I will always be better off when I keep these things in mind. I guess that is because they purport a genuine life - and that is a life I believe is worth living.

Emerson recognizes that society loses interest in individuals who are not successful within its rigid definition. But of course, in opting for something that beings societal acceptance, one also choose conformity. What I found interesting about this idea is that Emerson supports the individual who chooses to do rather than to study, simply because that person is getting their hands dirty and achieving. "For he does not postpone his life, but lives already." After reading that, I located what irks me about this subject, I have 'to do.' It is very exciting. What I will do exactly is unknown, but I feel that so long as I move towards my true passions I will do something worthwhile.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Education - and Perspective - Abroad

Not so long ago, I was home in Wilton and someone asked me, “Why say you’re abroad? You’re practically still in the US?” Canada may be in close physical proximity, but it is a different country and I am an immigrant here. In moving to Canada, the point wasn’t really about immersing myself in a radically different culture – I came for an education. But as I reflect back on my four years here, I realize that there is a point to being abroad beyond my B.A. – gaining perspective on the familiar.

I’ll admit that there was a novelty about moving to Canada for university. Like most high school seniors, I was excited to embark on a new chapter of my life and it was amplified by the fact that it would be happening in a different country. I had only visited Vancouver once before I decided to attend the University of British Columbia. As you might have seen in the recent Olympic broadcasts, it is an enchanting landscape of buildings and nature. My decision was also swayed by the fact that the day I visited was one of the handful of sunny days in Vancouver. Regardless, I feel extremely lucky to live in such an incredible place and to be able to attend a university that is ranked among the top 35 in the world.

When I initially moved here, culture shock and transitioning to university life were indistinguishable and very exciting. Having spent most of my life in Wilton, the most overwhelming part was living in such a big city. There are endless bus routes and ferries, sidewalks and any kind of ethnic food you can imagine. The university itself is like a small city, with over 40,000 students buzzing around the streets, rushing in and out of buildings. But if I had to describe my initial impressions of “Canadian-ness” in Vancouver, I would say it’s like living in a place where a yoga studio has taken over. People wear black, stretchy pants and brightly colored hoodies all day and for any occasion. Instead of carrying backpacks and purses, women carry extremely oversized yoga bags. Even those who don’t actually practice yoga practice this lifestyle. The only alternative is to wear flannel shirts and listen to Indie music. The dichotomy of Vancouver sub-culture puzzles me. Where is the individuality, the quintessential West Coast independence? If this is it, I’m disappointed.

Towards the end of my first year, I realized that this experience was about more than getting an academic education or even adapting to a new place. Oddly enough, I suffered culture shock upon moving back to the US for the summer – this was truly the most unexpected experience of them all! It was the transition back that gave me insight to the cultural forces that shaped me, and having that awareness is the greatest tool I have ever been given. In understanding how you have arrived at the person you’ve become, you get to know yourself better. Being immersed in any environment for some length of time makes it very easy to mindlessly go about your day and not think twice about what you do or what you observe. By not questioning or being critical of life, we surrender a certain amount of independence. Although my observations about conformity on the streets in Vancouver are interesting, their real use value lies in thinking about the ways I conform to American culture. Moreover, considering why many of the attributes resonated with me even after I left. In four years, I still have not been able to locate precisely what ‘it’ is that gave rise to my new perspective and even now I still have difficultly articulating the idea. That is because it is an experience. It leaves you with a feeling of empowerment and a sense of self that cannot be described. Taking a risk and venturing outside of your comfort zone can be an unnerving thought, but it does not have to be a big movement. It can be a series of little things over many years, or taking a step back to gaze on the bigger picture. In either instance we first face something uncertain, but upon moving back we can truly know what home is like.

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And on a small aside, today is the last day of the BonBon Rose Spring Fling giveaway. Make sure you check it out!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

second thoughts

when we have 'second thoughts' about something, our first thoughts don't seem like thoughts at all - just feelings.
Sydney J. Harris

I have those moments all the time where I am overcome with periphery thoughts that seek to challenge the ones I just had. They are those evil little seeds that often times leave me a paralyzed. For instance, after a very good date on Friday night, I found myself standing in front of the mirror the next morning and listing off reasons why dating is a terrible idea. I'm too busy. I'm going on holiday soon. Maybe this isn't the opportunity to pursue. Really?! Vanessa, what are you doing?!

I spend the afternoon at work pondering this odd hesitation that overcame me. It certainly wasn't the first time something like this has happened. I realize that I spend the majority of my time playing out hypothetical situations. Most of which never occur. Generally worst case outcomes. There's a spark but what if that isn't enough? It becomes a physical things. Worst of all, he breaks my heart. I recognize that it is impossible to know how it will all work out in the end. Taking a risk is a necessity for most things in life. And so what if it didn't pan out in the past? This is a new person.

There is only so much planning that can be done in life. Both on a daily basis and on the bigger picture level. It takes retrospect to realize that much of what we categorize as good or wonderful is spontaneous. It seems like my task now is to be comfortable with being less calculated. So in the spirit of being somewhat of a planner, my next task is to let go of all those 'second thoughts' that shade my true inclinations.

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Make sure to head on over to BonBonRose and check out the fabulous giveaways this week!

Monday, March 22, 2010

everything works itself out

There have been many days in between this post and my last one. Lots of pleasant and testing times. I received wonderful news last week that an article of mine is being published in a local Sacramento newspaper. This was exactly the kind of perseverance I had to keep in mind all week. Friday was also a great day. I went on a wonderful date at the Salt Tasting Room in downtown. My faith in life working itself out has surfaced once again. Unfortunately, school is getting the best of me these days and my hobby writing is getting put on hold. It will make a come back, I promise.

As my undergrad education comes to a close, the prospect of sorting out my year off looms as a most daunting task. I take comfort in connecting with those who share my sentiments. Especially my struggle to find a balance in pursuing creative endeavors while earning a living. There is always that second voice that says," Be pragmatic." But lately I've sought salvage in this quote:

The soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right, and calms itself with knowing that all things go well.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The desperate tears of my mom heard through the phone receiver shorten the distance between here and there. The tears are a side effect of healing, but this seems like an absurd notion. This short term fix will not stop more from pouring out of our eyes. Sorrow seems to be the fate du jour served to us. It is slowly snipping apart the threads that tie us together - genetics might not be enough once they're undone. Here I am, 921 and a half miles north. I should be there. What it means to be a member of a family seems to disintegrate when you're not there for the tough things. Like you somehow fail the test if you're not there to cry with them and then lift them from the shapeless heap on the floor.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

on achieving.

A beautiful quote that my father sent me.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
- Walden

Monday, March 15, 2010

a wish for the week


A new week offering a fresh start.
I am optimistic that this week holds many feats,
All of them great.
This will be a week of prosperity, hope and goodness.
I wish that this week will carry me through the sorrow I felt last week.

It snowed the other day

Movement cannot be hidden when it snows. Daily patterns that otherwise evading being known are now plotted. So many tire tracks in my back alley, all leading out in the same direction. All made by workers. A single set of footprints opposing my current ones. But they were made by me earlier this morning. Nature reveals the patterns of lives lived out daily. Soon they will disappear, and I will revert back to knowing nothing. Just until new ones emerge.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

From several days ago

I spent the morning hours gazing longingly out my kitchen window while attempting to work on my drawing project. My efforts concluded with a cup of tea, my last piece of biscotti and writing. March has been a month where everything and nothing seems to be getting accomplished. How this works I'm not entirely sure. Readings are being completed, speeches written, drawing born. Despite the countless hours I've spent on all this, I have found moments to let it go and be free. These arbitrary changes are unnerving to me. What if I don't find my way back to productivity? How silly that sounds! But in truth, it is something I frequently fret about.

I disembark from the bus and briskly walk through campus. As I walk though the courtyard, I scan the area. Many people are scattered about. Some sitting with friends, other walking. Some gaze upon me while I press forward trying to think positive thoughts. A solemn part of my mind speaks. "He isn't coming back for you." I mindlessly count the number of steps I take to reach the studio. 173.

Now here I sit dwelling on that walk as I stare at my paperless drawing board. Filled with odd brush strokes where the paper ceased to exist. A dark black mark going to the left. Another downward and slightly curved. what did they form? Why are they now meaningless remnants of something grander? As I work on my own drawing, I try to extend my figure to these outliers. It's suddenly all integrated and unified. It's a settling feeling. But soon it is pulled up and the board is vacant again. Maybe someone else will give life them again soon.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Good things that filled my week

I finished a submission for my local newspaper
I spent time making my mom a card with water coloured butterflies and then mailed it off
I filled my taxes
Finished tailoring my skirt
Had a delicious dinner in
Enjoyed an afternoon shopping with a close friend
Got a good start on my next drawing project
Had many long conversations with my loved ones back home
Baked oatmeal raisin cookies, which brought close friends together
Booked a reservation for Le Jules Verne
I made time to reflect on all that is going on in an effort to make sense of it

This seemed like it was one of those weeks that would go on forever. Lots was going on at work, school work was (and is) infinite between now and April 15th and I had lots on my to do lists. Although there wasn't good news from home this week, I'm feeling better and hopeful once again. My mom is starting new treatments next week, which will help ward off the symptoms she has. Most of all, I'm especially thankful for my friends who have truly been my crutch. It never fails to amaze me that true friends, no matter where they are in the world, emerge to help. Someday I will be able to aptly express my gratitude for them.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

decay is life's worst enemy

Spring is supposed to be a time of renewal, but decay is being brought to someone I love. My mom has a degenerating disease called Multiple Sclerosis. She's been living with it for ten years. The severity of it comes and goes, but whenever it returns, what it will take with it is unknowable. It ruins the brain and spinal cord by depositing bits of plaque, essentially killing the tissue. It has claimed the sight in her right eye. It is truly an unforgivable disease. And now it is back avengeance.

Over the last few weeks my mom was suffering from what she thought was a pinched nerve in her neck. It's turned out to be her M.S. She has gained back most of her range of motion, but still has trouble swallowing food and is constantly tired. I have done my best not to worry too much because we didn't know what the problem was. An MRI on Monday revealed that the plaque has spread. I feel so angry and so helpless. My dad refuses to talk about it. There is nothing I can do for my mom. If I could, I would donate new brain tissue if that would make her better. I would give back the life she gave me. But even that would not help.

Large tears are streaming out of my eyes as I type right now. I've smeared the ink in my journal. Crying will not help either, but I know that. I cry because my hope, like my mom, is decaying. There is no cure. This hope is all I have. What am I going to do when it's gone?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Packing for my holiday

My European holiday is just over a month away and I already want to pack everything I own into my raspberry coloured luggage. I have never had a knack for packing, especially when I'm going to be away for three weeks. I hate to suddenly need what I didn't bring with me.

Do I pack my trendy, fashion-forward wardrobe or do I opt for simple outfits for trekking around new urban territories?

Can I trust the weather forecasts? Coat or light jacket? Spring weather is horribly unpredictable.

Flats or heels?

Skirts and tights, or pants?

I'm so terrible at this . . .


How do you pack for your tourist adventures?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Reasons to love a monday

{Photo by V.}

it's a fresh start. a day to decide what you want out of the week. to be hopeful for achievement and revel in the success of the weekend. mondays are days for listing to dos, but today i'm mentally listing the check marks in my mind. i am dreaming of my want tos for this week and hoping for a moment to enjoy them.

i want to finish a project
i want to paint my toe nails light pink
i want to photograph spring
i want to spend time with those i love
i want to learn about drawing the body
i want to read about paris
i want to bake something delightful
i want to fill my days with the elements that make my life worthwhile.

what do you want from this week?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

mixed tape

Music brightens my day and these are the songs that make my heart sing.

Owl City: The Saltwater Room

The Bravery: Honest Mistake

Death Cab for Cutie: Marching Bands of Manhattan

Imogen Heap: Hallelujah

John Mayer: Why Georgia

Regina Spektor: Eet

Jackie Greene: Just as Well

Snow Patrol: Same

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Cheated Hearts

Train: Hey Soul Sister

{Photo by V.}

Friday, March 05, 2010

toasted almond-pecan biscotti

{Photo and pottery by V.}

2 cups of flour
1/2 teasp. baking powder
1/2 teasp. baking soda
1/4 teasp. salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup of blanched, toasted almonds
3/4 cup of pecans (or hazel nuts)
7 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
2 eggs
1 teasp. vanilla extract
1/4 teasp. almond extract
2 tablesp. almond liqueur
4 tablesp. water

1. Heat oven to 375. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Transfer 1/2 cup of this mixture to a food processor and blend with almonds. Add back to dry ingredients.

2. Whisk the eggs, extracts and liqueur together. Add to the dry ingredients. If the dough is a bit dry, then add the water. Add in the chocolate and pecans.

3. Turn the dough out on a flat surface and divide into 2 parts. Flour your hands and roll each piece into a flattened log, about 10" long by 3" wide and 1" high. Put logs on to a baking sheet approximately 3" apart. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (until golden brown).

4. Let them cool for 30 minutes.

5. Reduce oven temperature to 300. Move logs to a cutting board and use a serrated knife to cut into individual pieces. Place the piece back on the the baking sheet and toast for 25 minutes.

6. Turn the oven off and prop the door open. Let the biscotti cool in the oven.

signs of spring

It's been a busy week for me, but after running a few errands this morning I relished the day's beautiful weather and renewed life. Spring is upon us.

Neighbors reading on their front porch.

Trees are no longer barren and their pink and white blossoms coat streets and sidewalks.

Sunglasses are necessary.

Wintery soups will soon be replaced by salads.

Scarves can be stowed, though the mornings are still a bit cool

Afternoon tea will soon become iced tea.

All I want to do is wear dresses
and sandals.

Beautiful flowers are on every corner. They are feats of nature that always inspire.

{Photos by V.}

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A delightful realization

{photo by V.}

Today I discovered something very pleasant when I employed the technique of finding similarities between myself and those that I encountered. I was happy. I saw good taste in shoes. Sparkling green eyes. Shorter hair. Glasses. Reading on the bus. A smile. A trench coat. Longing.

Years of comparing for nothing. We are more similar than we think, but to competitive to realize that.

I challenge you to be this kind of observer of the world.

Monday, March 01, 2010

March goals

: To not buy coffees or teas for the month. I only bought 3 in February. Going to try and eliminate them all together!

: Visit an new art gallery

: Finish a draft of my term paper

: Exercise 5 days a week. I've kept this up for two months. I think I've got the momentum to keep going.

: Explore an unknown part of town. Perhaps Kerrisdale? Maybe Main Street. I should pull up a map . . .

: Make my mom's chocolate hazelnut biscotti

: Renew immigration paperwork

: Enjoy the warming weather and sunshine