Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sickness and Attic Floorboards, Basically

Sickness has struck our household.

We made it this far though, so that's something. We skipped the communal sickness in October, missed the round in November, sailed through December (despite the fact that Sully licked everything in Vegas, barf), and made it halfway through January.


On Saturday, I said the unmagic words: "We've made it through this whole season without getting sick!"

Mom Jinx. It is lurking. It will not have mercy. Even as I was saying the words, I knew. And sure enough.

Yesterday, Sullivan coughed so hard he puked. And then he walked through the puke to get to me and puked again. And then he walked through that puke to get to me and puked again--literally the saddest thing I've ever seen.

The last two nights he's been in bed with us, and I've been having dreams about being repeatedly shot in the face (only to wake up and realize that it's a hacking cough, not gunshots).

So, of course we've been inside. Outside, it's a balmy, tropical, beach-worthy +1. Last week, when we were healthy, it was -54. What are you, mom jinx? And why do you loathe me so?

Enough complaining. A thing to be thankful for is that we're sick now and will hopefully be over it by the second half of the week. It's going to be a full one and I want to be all there for it.

In the meantime, I wanted to post a couple of pictures of the old farm house. We dropped by there this Christmas when we went home.

It's kind of in limbo at this point and the progress is hard to see because it's all so nitpicky; they're waiting on electrical and furnace stuff before they can "giv'r on the insulation" (- dad). It's hard to work in a house in Canadian winter with no heating, but they're pressing on. They've put in all new windows and are currently working in the attic, which is eventually going to be the master bedroom with an ensuite. They've ripped up all the floorboards so they can clean and plane them and put them back down, and at present it looks like this:

After the electrical, plumbing, and furnace stuff happens (which is all completely out of their control), I think we'll begin to see some really big, fun changes. Barclay and I are heading down in February to help out, so I'll have a bunch of updates then. Get excited, Internet.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Social Media Bites and a Crazy Thing

So here's a crazy thing:

You know how my name is actually Elena?

(Did you know that? Do I have to tell the story again? Well, skip these brackets if you already know. So, okay, I was born Elena Christensen ((I accidentally just typed "Elena Christmas")), but very early on my mom started calling me her little Suzy Q. Like the CCR song. My older brother joined her in it, and then my dad and then everyone else. So I've been Suzy as long as I can remember, and no one even told me I was really Elena until I was five, when my kindergarten teacher sent me home in tears because she'd labeled all of my stuff wrong and would not call me Suzy, no matter how much I insisted it was my name. She probably thought I was being a brat. I thought she was torturing me for no good reason. My dentist says the stress marks on my teeth are from a bad bout of pneumonia when I was five, but I think they're actually from that incident on my first day of school. Anyway, that's the long and short of it ((but mostly the long)): I've never not been Suzy. And any time I've moved to a new place and attempted to be Elena, for the sake of less confusion, someone from my past has always been there to say, "But we've always called her Suzy." And that's all it takes.)

Okay, the crazy thing now.

The other night, I was at a thing called Social Media Bites (more on that in a sec), and I met this guy, Aidan, and when I said my name was Suzy, he was like, "Hey, my mom's name is Suzy. Well, actually, it's a nickname. Her real name is Eleanor, but when she was born, the nurse said to my mom, Here's your black-eyed Susan, and she's been called Suzy ever since."

I mean. It's not the craziest thing. But pretty crazy right? My name thing has always been one of the more interesting pieces of me trivia I have to offer and people are always like, "How do you get Suzy from Elena? How did it catch on to that extent? How has it stuck this long?" But look at that: the exact same thing happened to someone else out there.

I feel like I can hear the far-off sound of eyes rolling around in their sockets.

Okay then, can I tell you about this Social Media Bites thing?

I was invited by the Regina Downtown Improvement people (not Tourism Regina, a separate entity) on Tuesday to a local pub. The invitation was a little cryptic; it was like, "Do you want to come eat food at 7 at The Fat Badger? We're buying." And I was like, "Yep." I never even ask questions when people send this kind of message. I just get excited and go. So, if you ever want to kidnap me, totally just send a Twitter message like, "Hey Suzy, meet me in the back alley behind O'Han's. There will be free food." Easy.

So I showed up, and there was a table of people that I mostly knew but had never met before. Isn't that funny, in this day and age? That you can go somewhere and know an entire group of strangers? I quickly realized that the common denominator was social media; we're all all over it, blogging and Tweeting and 'gramming and such. Hence: Social Media Bites. In which a bunch of social media people eat a lot of food and, they were probably hoping, Tweet about it. Which we did. Sellouts! All of us! My blog ain't for sale, but, yeah, you can buy my Twitter feed with good food. I'm only human.

So I sat down and Chef Terry just started bringing the food. He brought whole chicken wings covered in this strange but delightful cream sauce, and then deli-style flatbread pizza, and then spinach dip.

And I was like, "That was a great supper. Thank you." And then he was like, "That was just appetizers." And I was like, "Thaaaaank youuuuuu."

Then he brought us meat that had been braised in chocolate milk. Chocolate beef, I think he called it. Doesn't that sound like it could be either amazing or awful but nowhere in between? It was amazing. It made me want to convert to food blogger. (I won't, though.)

And then he brought us so many more things. It got to the point where every time he brought out a new dish, I just laughed. There were smashed creamer potatoes and Korean BBQ pork steak and shrimp stir fry and fettuccine with smoky slab bacon and jalapeƱo cheddar waffles with Southern spiced chicken... He brought us every entree on the menu. It was a dream I never knew I had, come true. The chef came and sat with us afterward and told us about all the places he's traveled and eaten and studied. I liked that part as much as the eating part - I've become a really big bonus material person, both in DVDs and real life. I like knowing the backstory.

And! It was Tuesday! Which, it just so happens, is live music night at the Badger. The Alley Dogs were playing really old, good country songs. (If any of them are reading this, I have a musical request for next time: Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. Thanks, guys.)

The people I knew but had never met were really funny and neat. Three hours flew by and we laughed so much my cheeks hurt by the end. Schmutzie even offered to set me up with a new domain (see above? NICE).

So yeah. Good, good times.

And someone else out there is Suzy for no good reason. Life is cute.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The History & Future of the Unmonetized Personal Blog

I'm going to make a prediction.

2017: the year the unmonetized personal blog makes its comeback. 

I don't mean my unmonetized personal blog (where would it come back from? It never left, though it was quiet for a while). 

I mean the unmonetized personal blog. I mean the dorky little community of people who blog because they love writing and reading, both, and aren't looking to make an easy buck, and aren't desperate to 'go viral,' and aren't convinced the world needs them or their words or their wisdom. 

I don't think the monetized ones are going anywhere, and that's fine. But I'm sensing a little resurrection in the air for those of us who just loved what this whole thing was before it got to where it is.

See, here's a basic blogging history timeline as I understood it from my point of view (feel free to correct me at any point):

It was probably, what, 2005(ish?) when blogging became underground popular. People who liked to write set up a little Blogspot page and wrote very scattered, stream-of-consciousness-type posts. They were usually unedited or sloppily so, but it didn't matter. The photography ranged from professional quality to cell-phone pics (I'm talking about 2007 Samsung flip phones here).

Many (myself included) didn't tell anyone what they were doing, and even tried to keep it a secret. Share a post on Facebook? NEVER. NEVER NEVER NEVER. We learned a tiny bit of basic html so we could decorate our pages. We read the blogs of strangers from around the world and commented on them and became friends with them, but we felt weird about admitting that to anyone. Blogging was a hobby and a way to connect with other writers/creatives/photographers/whatever in a really safe, unpretentious way. You could send them some encouragement in the comments section or share their blog buttons on your sidebar (for free, of course), so that other people could find and read them. 

Some people monetized their blogs using Google AdSense, which stuck a small, unobtrusive ad somewhere on their page and paid per click. I had a friend who bought a new camera lens with the money she earned from hers - over the course of many months. I tried it for an hour, made 14 cents, and quit. That's the only money I've ever made from blogging here (though, admittedly, the jobs I've had over the years as a result of blogging here have been amazing).

Slowly, blogging became much more mainstream, and people found more and more ways to make money off them. They started selling advertising in their sidebars, for other blogs at first and then for brands. The advertising moved from the sidebars to the blog posts themselves. Brands could now pay a blogger to wear a dress or drive a car or go on a vacation. This isn't news to you now, but at the time it kind of blew my mind.

The blogs started looking really shiny and pretty, as people hired professional designers and 'branded' themselves. Obviously, you're not going to be approached by a brand if your blog looks like...well...mine. The blog posts became less This is what I did today! and This is what I think about such-and-such a thing! and much more Here are 10 shoes you need for that trip to Iceland you haaaave to take! Here's a $400 dress you must own if you want to be pretty!

Women were able to support their families through blogging. Husbands were quitting jobs. Blogging became a job. Blogging became a good job, if you played your cards right. 

And blog posts started going viral. 

And everyone wanted to go viral. 

To go viral, you have to either make people blush or laugh or cry or learn something or confirm an unpopular, potentially offensive opinion they already have. So then all the bloggers were trying to do that, and the blogosphere became very noisy and competitive. 

And bloggers started getting TV shows and book deals. People who hadn't wanted to be bloggers suddenly wanted to be bloggers as it became recognized as a vehicle to other kinds of success. You could pay bloggers to take classes on how to blog. 

Alongside all of this, there was Twitter and YouTube and Instagram and even Facebook. Just so many voices. Everyone was (is) 'blogging,' to some extent - microblogging, at the very least. Keeping an online log of their experiences, thoughts, feelings. If you're decent at it, or are at least willing to sell out a bit, you get paid.

It is what it is. I'm not against it. I participate in it - though my payoff has been experiential more than financial. 


A few years ago, the original bunch of bloggers burned out, all at once. Just like that. It was like the blog world was a city that had started out as a dinky little hamlet. And some big corporation had moved in, and the city grew, and the original inhabitants of the city either got out of there because it was suddenly too bustling and chaotic, or they joined the big corporation and moved into the high-rises. 

Because it was dang hard not to get all caught up in the blog as a business thing. It was hard not to feel like you 'weren't doing it right' if you weren't famous or making a lot of money at it. The community aspect wasn't really there anymore, in that everyone stopped commenting on posts and the audiences kind of gravitated toward the professional blogs or to Instagram. 

But here's a thing: I still keep in touch with blog friends from 2008. We follow each other on Instagram and send emails and talk on the phone and meet in real life when the opportunity arises. Weird? Get over it. It was a really cool experience for a lot of us, and it had nothing to do with money or free clothes or Internet Popularity (which I have found, is a super fickle thing anyway - like an untied balloon that just deflates the second you're not blowing into it anymore). 

The point is: I've noticed a bunch of them rebooting their old blogs. I've been writing on mine a bit more often lately too. There seems to be a collective sense of Remember that? That was great. Let's do that again. 

And I think it can coexist just fine alongside the monetized blog world, so long as there's some kind of divide, so long as people pick the world they want to be a part of and stay in it. A lot of people said they felt like the monetization and popularization of blogging was the death of it. Meh. It was just a momentarily stunning and painful offshoot of what started all those years ago. Now it's there, it's self-sufficient, and we can go back to being goofs, posting playlists and writing opinion pieces that will never end up on the Huffington Post or land us a book deal. 

A happy ending for everyone. Cheers to the unmonetized personal blog! Who's still here?

PS: I read this quote the other day (re: the short story and literary magazines) that I loved and it feels like it's somewhat related to this, but in a kind of abstract way: "...I do mourn the passing of the old general reader, who had no artistic aspirations and simply loved to read." - David Galef, The State of Flash Fiction

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year from Me at Home

Welp, it's New Year's Eve and I'm coming to you live from not a New Year's Eve party. Again.

Womp, womp, womp... (My computer tried to autocorrect that to "Womb, womb, womb." Because that makes more sense.)

Want to hear tales of New Year's Eve Pasts where I also wasn't at a New Year's Eve party?

I remember this one NYE where I wasn't invited to The Party (I lived in a small town, so there was usually only One Party to go to). I sat on my futon and wrote in my diary about what a loser I was while The Party raged on just a few miles from my house (I lived on a farm, actually, beside the small town).

Another year, The Party was at my house, and, much to my surprise, the cool kids came!

But then.

They informed me upon arrival that they were only there because their moms made them come and that they were going to stay for half an hour and then go to their own The Party. My party got demoted to lower case p in front of everyone. So I sat on my futon and wrote a letter to my best friend about what a loser I was.

Another year, I went to The Party and nothing really happened; it was a very boring party.

Which basically brings us to the present. I'm not sure right now if I'm sad that I don't have New Year's plans tonight (for maybe the third year in a row?) or relieved that I'm in my pyjamas already... Maybe I'm mostly worried that this has some kind of negative effect on my cool rating. But probably lots of other people aren't at parties tonight (please tell me this is true) for whatever reason and, when you're almost 30, your cool really isn't determined by whether you're at a party or not. Your cool is determined by how many different kinds of Pinterest Popcorn you can make and consume in one evening and how many episodes of Freaks and Geeks you watched while eating said popcorn. Right?

So I'll just be over here working on that cool and not writing anywhere about what a loser I am. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Suzy's ABCs of 2016

I miss Myspace sometimes. I feel like I might be the only person in the world who misses Myspace. It's nostalgia more than anything.

Nostalgia is probably my number one emotion. One of my number one emotions. Maybe all of the emotions are my number one emotion? I tried to think of a number two and a number three but I just kept promoting everything up alongside nostalgia. What a discovery! I have no secondary emotions. No wonder I'm so exhausted in my brain all the time.

The point is that I'm just constantly walking around in a nostalgia smog; it's, like, visceral. And, anyway, I was on Instagram today and saw that my friend Courtney had done this post called Courtney's ABCs of 2016. I felt a familiar twinge as my little heart filing cabinet opened and my brain remembered Myspace surveys and how much I loved them. There was a rush of nostalgia and I immediately felt the burning desire to do my own ABC post. I guess there's a fine line between public self-reflection and blatant narcissism, but...I've been blogging for almost a decade so that line's probably way back in 2008.

That said, here's my 2016 alphabet:

A - Austin, Texas, with Barclay and Sully for a weekend.

B - Bought my first ever new couch? It's green. I bought it with money that I made teaching a writing workshop, so I guess it's maybe a little more special to me than it would've been otherwise.

C - Ceese, my little sister, got engaged to Daniel(!).

D - Drank so much coffee: at the Bean, Fix, Drip, Country Corner, Brewedney, Starbucks, Artful Dodger, 33 1/3, French Press, Stone's Throw, both Atlantises, Cafe Francais...good grief. Other ones too. McDonald's, sometimes.

E - Evanescence didn't make it onto any of my playlists, which shouldn't really surprise anyone, but I made lots of them (playlists) and discovered a whole bunch of new favourite bands and songs. You can follow me on Spotify to hear them, and you should tell me if you're on Spotify so I can follow you back.

F - Funeral for my sweet little cousin, Jordan, who passed away at 23. I don't know what more to say about it so that I don't sound like I'm being flippant, but it was an important and terrible part of the year so I didn't want to leave him out.

G - Got out into the city a little more, learned about and met some of the amazing and selfless people who are doing so much to help others in Regina.

H - Hung out with some exceptional friends - made some great new ones too.

I - Interviewed a couple of interesting folks for Fellow Magazine articles. I'm pretty rusty at interviewing, but will hopefully get better at it.

J - Joined a writer's club.

Or! Could be

J - Job - as in, Barclay got a new job at the Rusty Shovel.

K - Kissed Barclay. Don't tell anyone. (K was a really hard letter to think of something for)

L - Live music: Death Cab, Metric, Leisure Cruise, Honeymoon Suite, BreakOut West, City and Colour, Summer Invasion, Folk Fest, Trifecta Festival, Jon Bryant, The Lay Awakes, and others.

M - Made wedding invitations for one of my oldest friends (yay, Leah!).

N - Never did get around to making a detailed cleaning schedule and sticking to it. Whatevs.

O - Owe Kate Evenson two or three bucks. Anyone else? I hate thinking that I have unpaid debt. I think I owe Julia a coffee as well. Seriously tell me if you're reading this and you're fuming over something I owe you. I just sold a picture frame on Varage Sale and have a tiny bit of loose change now, so...

P - Prepared a sandwich at some point, I'm sure.

Q - Quit writing for Coffee + Crumbs.

R - Renovations! (My grandma accidentally bought an old farmhouse at an auction sale and my parents are completely renovating it and moving in this year.)

S - Sullivan turned two, and we had a really, really fun year together.

T - Tourism Regina made me one of their Tourism Ambassadors and sent me to BreakOut West, Agribition, the Hotel Sask, Culture Days, Pulse Week, and a Rider game.

U - Upset over an abnormally high number of news stories this year.

V - Vegas with Barclay and Sully for a work trip. Explored the crap out of that place and met a blog friend.

W - Wrote a book with the C+C girls - due out this spring. (Wrote other things too, published and not.)

X - XXIX (Turned 29 what is happening.)

Y - Yes, I sort of grew a garden. In pots. Sort of.

Z - Zzzz....got more sleep this year than the past two combined, I am fairly dang sure. Thank you, Sullivan. Finally.

Thanks, Courtney. That was fun.