Super Rad

On Saturday, for the first time in my life, I ran for an entire five kilometres without stopping. It was a triumph, a physical ability I had never dreamed I’d ever be able to accomplish. But I did, and at the finish line I jumped for joy and was ready to go for another couple k. We did the Color Me Rad 5k, which I am lovingly calling the Colo(u)r Me Rad 5k, being Canadian and all. It was an awesome day, we had a ton of fun. We especially enjoyed the dinosaurs along the route that were dressed up for Halloween. A brontosaurus dressed as a bunny? Come on! Hilarious.

Afterwards we were on our way out for victory mimosas, when I got a migraine. Josh had to rush me home and tuck me into bed in a dark room for a few hours. OIt was a sad end to a very great day, but such is the life of the occasional migraine sufferer. They never have good timing.


The Smell of a Good Library

I have a thing about my feet and books. I guess it's my view when I'm reading, so why not.

I have a thing about my feet and books. I guess it’s my view when I’m reading, so why not.

My library card and I have become friends. Great friends. I’ve discovered the calming effect a library can have on you when your life becomes hectic — there’s nothing quite like the forced quiet of a library. You can comb the stacks, with an idea of what you want or not. But you know you’ll find friends there. You’ll find stories, you’ll find a book to take home with you and curl up with at night.

I love the library. Especially the Jefferson-Madison Library in Charlottesville: it’s beautiful with the pillars and marble, all shaded by giant trees. It seems quiet even on the outside, even though cars and people walk outside it constantly. Inside it’s huge, with a lofty ceiling and of course stacks and stacks of books rimming the staircase in the center. It’s incredibly peaceful.

I think what I love about the library, is that I often read on my short half-hour lunch breaks at work. It’s always busy with people coming in and out, sometimes my female co-workers catch up on their Bollywood soap operas on the staff computers. It’s noisy. Not conducive to diving fully into a book.

People seem to have this idea that it’s appropriate to walk up to a person who is reading and ask them what they’re reading. You know what’s funny about reading? Unless I’m conducting story time, it’s really an individual activity.

So for these reasons, I enjoy the library. Everyone has to be quiet. I could stay there for ever and be left alone the whole time. Also the ladies who work at the front call me sweetie and are very polite. I like that. Maybe if we all spent more time in a library we would get along?

This library thing is a new love. I’ve written about my slow reading before, and I’m happy to report I am zipping through books like the pages are burning up on me. I finished The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women in Islam about three weeks ago, and last week turned the last page of Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil.

The Caged Virgin was serious, poignant and informative. I had some critiques: Ayaan Hirsi Ali has an agenda, and she makes it known. I felt the impact of the book could have been stronger if she had left a lot of her political aspirations and party policy out of it. I don’t think it needed it. She made her points, and they were strong. She provided her opinion, which was necessary, and she even provided possible solutions for the future. I recommend the book, but I do so with the suggestion that you read it and take it with a grain of salt. Some of the things she wrote about were horrifying, especially as she detailed her experiences as an interpreter.

Kabul Beauty School was a much easier read. It detailed a lot of what Hirsi Ali built for me, but did so through the fresh eyes of a vibrant, middle-aged American hairdresser named Deborah Rodriquez. I learned afterward that the somewhat happy ending that the book had, if you can call it that, was shattered years later and the school is no longer in Deborah’s hands. Not to mention the girls are upset with her because their stories became public and they were not adequately protected. Sigh.

So today I went to the library again, returned my old books and brought a stack of three home with me. Ambitious, I know! I couldn’t help myself though. I had myself convinced that if I didn’t take them with me this time, someone else might take them, and I’d never get a chance to read them. Or I might forget about them, and I simply had to have them inside of my brain. Makes all kinds of sense, right?

Today I took home The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World One Correction at a Time, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness and War, Women and the News: How Female Journalists Won the Battle to Cover World War II. I think I see a chair outside in the wonderful Virginia humidity, a cocktail and the crack of a book spine in my very near future.

While at the cabin a few weeks ago, I joked to Josh’s Dad that I just discovered libraries. He assumed I meant they didn’t have them in Canada, and obviously, laughter followed. Nah, Canadians have libraries too, however I never spent time in them unless I was forced to by a teacher or trying to help Ally find reference books while she was at the University of Calgary.

Now, my library love is individual, voluntary and very much cathartic.


Reportin’ Live

Reportin’ live, from the Look3 Festival of the Photograph. This week I offered up my time to volunteer for Look3. I’m on my second shift, this time in The Garage for Susan Meiselas’ photojournalism project that looked at what really is “buying American.” It’s not what you think.

Yesterday it was lions. Lions according to Michael Nichols, National Geographic photographer. I listened to them roar for four hours. The lions, not Nichols. He came in for awhile with his mother. I sat in his presence just listening to him recount his two year adventure shooting lions in the Serengeti. The lions were his friends. He knew their personalities, their habits. He watched their intimate moments, when they sleeped. He saw young lionesses shlepping their cubs around. Just being near a photographer of that calibre was enouh to get me thinking about what I want my future to look like. It kay not include lions, but it will surely include photojournalism.


Susan Meiselas exhibit at Look3.

I’m sitting in a tiny garage off a street taking in a cold breeze. It’s going to start raining soon, and that could possibly turn into a huge thunderstorm. I only have a half an hour left. I was hoping to get around to the other exhibits today while I wait for Josh but they all close at 6:30. On Saturday we’ll check them all out before my final shift. Friday I have an assignment to cover for C-Ville. How exciting is that? After that it’s back to volunteering, then date night with Josh to grab a bite and take in Shots & Works in te Downtown Mall.



I’m learning! I’m in the middle of another Creative Live course today, this time on photo retouching. I’ve already learned a ton, and feel like I’ve been making my life more difficult simply by not knowing any better.

I’ve figured out how to take this image:


And make us look super dangerous without the guardrail, like this:

living dangerously

Yea, things are a little rough. I’m working on it. But I think it’s pretty good for learning!

Then I had this image of my sister on her graduation day with our mom and dad. I decided Dad could afford to lose a few wrinkles….sorry dad! So I took this image:


And did this to it, although it’s a little more subtle in this small size. Actually these are different images, but you get the point.


Anyway, I’m having a good day filled with nerdy activities.


Crabtree Falls

Last weekend I finally got to participate in a hike with the SNL crew. I am always busy doing photography things on Saturdays, and with kickball on Sundays, I get left out. But I was off Memorial Day weekend, and the crew headed up to the stunning Blue Ridge Parkway for the 1.7 mile hike up Crabtree Falls.

Let’s start with the drive itself: we rolled down our windows partially out of necessity, since my air conditioning doesn’t work, but also out of pure enjoyment. Josh drove, and I relaxed. It was quite a trek out there, but it was a beautiful drive with lush green trees and a shady, winding road.

We met the rest of the crowd at the hike and loaded up on bug spray. I got attacked by mosquitos last week — to the tune of 27 bites on my legs. It was brutal. It turns out they don’t sell my cure-all bug bite cream, After Bite, in the U.S., so I spent about two days in misery before we finally found something that worked to make the itching stop.

We headed up the trail after packing our backpacks, setting up cameras and filling water bottles. The base of the falls was incredible, but it kept going up and up. Each stop was more stunning than the last. We ended up following a family with three fluffy dogs, all trekking through mud. By the time we were at the top, they were no longer white. It was hilarious.

On the way, we stopped and climbed on some rocks. I took a ton of pictures (obviously) and we rested a while on the flat rocks at the top before deciding we were all too hungry to hang around. On the way down, we saw the cutest chihuahua lugging a backpack up (we were pretty sure it had two cans of beer on either side).

Back at the parking lot, we had a picnic before heading off our separate ways; us trying unsuccessfully to camp with a few others.

It was an awesome day, I can’t wait to finish Humpback Rocks after Josh and me’s failed attempt a few months ago when it was still frozen.


Self Instructed

For a journalist without a newspaper, I sure am busy today. I’m taking in another awesome Creative Live workshop, this time with Doug Gordon, another amazing wedding photographer based out of Long Island. He’s doing a three-day workshop on his wedding workflow from camera settings to lighting, to posing and the business side of things.

The only reason I have time to type this at all is that my workshop took an unexpected break because it started raining in Seattle.

I’ve also been refreshing myself on Associated Press Style by taking a bunch of quizzes (which are actually going pretty well), working on my Dad’s website ( by buying his domain, doing dishes and getting my hair done for the Look3 Photography Festival Volunteer Sneak Peek tonight.

In my time off, I’ve really been learning a lot, which is more than I could have expected. The Creative Live workshops have been great, I wish I would have discovered them earlier. I plan to soak up as many of them as I can while I have the time. I have run into a traffic jam though; do I continue with Doug Gordon, or jump to Compositing tomorrow? Decisions decisions!

Can’t wait for the Volunteer Sneak Peak tonight! I have to cut out early on my workshop, but really I’m leaving a photography workshop to go meet other photographers, so I think it’s a pretty fair trade off.



My little corner of heaven in Jasper, Alberta, summer 2011.

My little corner of heaven in Jasper, Alberta, summer 2011.

This is a new type of post for me. What I have never told you, is that when I read fiction, I do so very slowly. It can take me months, even a few years to finish a book. The number of months in general relates to how much I love the book. I mean Harry Potter, those babies were finished in weeks. The Dragon Tattoo series I slayed in a summer, in my papasan chair in Jasper with a glass of white wine and the bees buzzing in my tomato plants on the deck.

Back in March, Josh and I checked out the Green Valley Book Fair and picked up about $30 worth of books between the two of us. You are probably thinking wow! You might have gotten a book each, but that isn’t the case, because the Green Valley Book Fair is absolutely wonderful, it’s where strange editions go to retire, and we picked up about six books each.

It took me a really long time to settle on anything beyond the cookbooks, but I ended up picking up two novels, both of them blue in colour. Yes, I am one of those people who judges a book by its cover, and that day, I was into blue.

To cap off an awesome Memorial Day Weekend on Monday, Josh and I sat out in our backyard with the birds, voles and squirrels and both read. I finished up Incendiary by Chris Cleave, and he got into A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I was envious in that Josh motored through his. Everytime we’d check in with each other he’d have finished off another 50 pages, and I was still drilling away at the final 30 of mine.

But anyway, I was reading, and I was loving it. I mean, I really, really loved Incendiary. For the past few months I’ve been towing it everywhere. Since I haven’t been working, I have been designated the Wild Wing Cafe Seat Filler, and I often go there an hour early, snag a seat and a beverage and tuck into my book as I await a table for 10.

The book is about a young mother whose family are killed in a terrorist attack. She tries to heal herself by writing a letter to Osama bin Laden, hoping to make him feel the agony and despair her life has become. It was such a good book. The final pages were so vivid and real to me, that I could picture modern day London in the complete chaos that Cleave described. At one point, the woman is floating down the Thames clinging to an overturned boat. She falls asleep and waked up beneath the Tower of London — which was very close to where my sister and I stayed in 2008 when we went to Europe. She describes picking through the brown river, the mud, and herself vomitting as she tries to get out of the water. It was so clear in my mind — I imagined as if I was doing it.

Cleave brought London to its knees in the final scenes of Incendiary, but he also made me realize how quickly a civilized nation can crumble into caveman antics, not caring about its fellow man. It spoke a lot about recent events. When tragedy happens, why is civilization forgetting about it, moving on without changing anything? Should we not wonder why it happened, and wonder what we can do to prevent it from happening again?

Incendiary was a really, really good book, and for someone who can take months to read a fiction novel, I can definitely recommend this as a three-month adventure. That’s like, my second highest rating. The Dragon Tattoo series was a great crime story, but Incendiary made me pause long after I’d finished it.

Can’t wait to get started on my second blue book. Blue is a good colour for books, evidently.


Tossing and turning

When I work as a journalist, I have nights where I’ll wake up at an ungodly hour with a lead or catchy paragraph stuck in my head, and I convince myself that I can’t go back to sleep until I write it down. Usually I would have a big unfinished story back at the office waiting for me in the morning, and often it was something I was very proud of.

Well tonight that is happening to me — only I have no big story on my desk, and no newspaper to report to in the morning. But I have this blog. I can report to this blog, and so here I am at 12:54 a.m. and I am writing because my brain was stuck in writing mode. I am also in the living room, because I was tossing and turning and typing away with the light on, all the while poor Josh (who has been up since 6 a.m.) was trying to sleep. So I moved my restless party out to the living room.

Celebrating our permanent residency status application being granted.

Celebrating our permanent residency status application being granted.

I have many new things to report, and an absolutely overwhelming number of individual blog posts that could be done on these various things. I’ll start with the most important. That is the fact that on Wednesday, May 22, my application for permanent residency was granted by USCIS. Five days before that, I got my work permit, so I don’t even have to wait for my green card in the mail, I am employable.

The last week has been really crazy, obviously. The immigration appointment was in Fairfax, VA. and while I feel that USCIS would frown on me revealing any of the details, I can surely tell you all about my fractured mind leading into our interview.

I wasn’t nervous, rather anxious to get it done. We sat in this big room. I had dressed up in a nice shirt and my favourite skirt, and Josh was wearing something nice too. I looked around this big room, and realized I was among some of the most stunning women I’d ever seen. They were incredibly fashionable: One beautiful African woman was wearing a bright green dress with a creamsicle coloured pullover, and high heels. The woman across from us, a Brazilian, was wearing a tight fitting black dress with short sleeves, and black pumps. Another woman was wearing a similar little black dress with a belt and leopard print high heels.

I celebrated further on Memorial Day weekend with an America-sized cupcake.

I celebrated further on Memorial Day weekend with an America-sized cupcake.

I started to feel rather inadequate. I looked down at myself, and realized I had a big coffee stain on my shirt from the drive up. I looked at my shoes: simple flats. I mean they are one of my favourite pairs, but they were flat when all the girls in the room were wearing heels. I pointed this out to Josh, and he shook his head and continued on reading, but my weirdness was well underway. Our conversation went something like this in a hushed whisper:

Me: “Look at their shoes, Josh!”
J: “What?”
Me: “The shoes, look at them!”
J: “What about them?”
Me: “All the women are wearing high heels. I’ve always wondered where women actually wore high heels to, I mean where it was practical to wear high heels, and it turns out, it’s here! It’s the immigration office! That’s where I’m supposed to wear heels!”
J: “Ummmhmmm.”
Me: “That means I could have worn my blue leopard heels. I could have worn them and fit right in.”
J: “You can wear them whenever you want, you know.”
Me: “No I can’t. Only here.”
J: Ignores me.

So there you go ladies with flat feet, I have solved the mystery of when we are expected to wear high heels. Or was this only ever a mystery to me?


Lean on

I’m learning to ask for help. To reach out. It’s something I’ve never done before. I have been fiercely independent all my life, and I think it has something to do with going through high school without having a boyfriend, and perhaps because of the bullying I experienced.

I learned to lean on my family, but I’m not a person who asks for help, especially from strangers. Josh has been teaching me that it’s okay to ask for advice and expertise from others, and, it’s such a good way to launch yourself into something you’re passionate about. As I’m trying to launch a career into photography, I’ve quickly realized (especially in the last few days) that I have to reach out to people who already have the knowledge. It’s the best way to learn. But I also have to reach out to people who may be willing to take a chance on me, because how else will those people find me? How else will I build up my portfolio?

This all started with enrolling in a Creative Live workshop with Scott Robert Lim, an absolutely incredible photographer whose style is so simple I can’t believe I never thought about it. He travels around the world shooting weddings, and that means his gear has to travel with him. So he developed his style using off camera flash with standard speedlights. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for, and two days into the workshop I’ve learned so much, I fear my brain might explode by the end of the three days. But in a good way!

But it’s so simple, and Lim is a great teacher. I’ve taken eight pages of notes so far. The only downfall is that I lack some of the gear at the moment, but with so many notes, I’m sure once I can get my hands on a flash transmitter I’ll be ready to go.

Anyway, it’s been an exciting few days. I’ve met some really great people here in town and things are rolling.



My iPod had a meltdown this afternoon before I went out on my attempted run. I say attempted because I haven’t been feeling well the past few days, and I went running without checking the weather before hand. Turns out it’s 29 C and a few intervals in I started feeling a bit dizzy, so I ended up walking. But hey, I got out, and it was beautiful.

Because the iPod was on the fritz I brought my phone with me to time myself, and once I started walking I started taking pictures of all the wonderful things that made me smile along the way. There were a lot of them — especially the squirrel that was camera shy.

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