Sunday, February 28, 2010


My 2 new websites have been officially launched! (you will especially appreciate this if you read my last blog post....)

The first one is my main page, my hub:

The second site is for my theatre project in progress, The Living Room Stage:

Please check them out and pass the links on to your friends and family...let's get this party started.

Cheers, all...and Happy Sunday.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Today’s morning Coffee – tech edition

I wasted a whole day yesterday.  Wait, no. More precisely, the day was stolen from me. By technology. And when that happens, it dampens my spirits…and I have a hard time getting over it.

It was a day where Murphy’s law ruled: if anything can go wrong,  will. If you think something will be easy, it won’t. If you think you know what you’re doing, you don’t. And so on and so on.

Let me set the stage: I have recently set some deadlines for myself, in order to keep myself motivated and on-target with some projects I’ve been trying to or wanting to undertake for quite some time. I needed to take the first 5 months of living up here slowly…so I deliberately did not give myself the pressure of personal deadlines. I knew it was important for me in that first season of being here to take time to learn how to just BE.  To reset my internal clocks, to deconstruct the idea I had that I had to DO, to check things off lists, in order to have purpose. It’s all linked to a previous blog I wrote (a few weeks back) about discovering a new way of seeing yourself and your purpose, which ultimately defines who you are – it’s that whole ‘you’re a gift’ thing…

So, I’ve been feeling lately that I’m in the second season. I’ve passed through the changing of the seasons already, which was a time of evaluation and  intentionality, and have come fully into the next. What this season means is taking the time to concentrate on the things I discovered in the first season, and being deliberate about developing the things that presented themselves – during my time of evaluation between seasons -  as being connected to my heart and soul in their present states.

So I’m now being deliberate about a few things, hence the deadlines. One of those things has been to get my website stuff ironed out. People always ask me for a website address if they want to recommend me as a photographer, or if they want to find out about my living room theatre project – and though I have had a website in the past, I didn’t really think about how it was connected to me personally, and somehow I never wanted to give the address out. It sat unused online for a year. I always meant to get around to fixing it. But I never did. Which was a good thing – because I gained the clarity I needed to attack the project with renewed clarity. So I have been working on building 2 websites for myself over the course of the last few weeks. During my time of evaluation and intentionality, I mapped things out to see how I could have a website (or two) that would give information about what I do (photography, theatre, videography, blah blah blah), without being disconnected from who I am. Without it just being a marketing tool to sell my services, which I’m really not all that interested in doing at this point.

So, that beings me back full circle to yesterday, the day technology stole. My deadline to put the sites up is this weekend. I designed them on a super simple design program on my Mac, which is theoretically awesome for working directly with a server to host it. I bought my domain names a few weeks ago.  I have a Mobile Me account, which is this awesome service package Mac offers that gives you a million different great little features. One of those features is web hosting. Long story short, it wasn’t happening – I couldn’t publish (export) my website designs to post on the internet with Mobile Me (a common error for lots of folks, it turns out), so I decided to not be a cheapskate and pay the hosting fees with another company (which is kind of better in the long run anyway, because sites hosted with them supposedly get better results in search engine keyword searches). So I not only paid for my domain names (the ACTUAL www names), but I also paid for someone to host them for me (that is, to store the information on their servers and put them up for me).


It took me from 9 am to 2pm to just get that basic stuff sorted out, after much frustrated trial and error.  But then I couldn’t upload my files to their server the way they had suggested. So it took me another couple of hours, and much forum perusing to figure out that I needed to download a different FTP client and try it that way. With that, I managed to get one of my sites up and running. Great. But I tried and tried and tried to get the second site up – to no avail. I called the host, waiting 20 to actually speak to a real person, and explained that I had paid for 2 sites to be hosted, but my account was only showing one. Turns out they forgot to add the second, so my FTP client wasn’t finding the second because it seemed to not exist. Right then, as  he was about to put me on hold to check things out, my phone card ran out. And I can’t make long distance calls from my phone without a phone card. So I waited and hoped that he would just fix it even though our call was disconnected. No such luck. I tried on my own for another hour. Nothing. So I called a phone card company to reload my minutes. Apparently, they take 30 minutes to activate your account. So I had to wait. At the end of the thirty minutes, I tried the number that they gave me, and it didn’t work. I called the  phone company back. It turns out I was given the wrong number to try from my area. They gave me a new one. Which also didn’t work. After the 3rd phone call to the phone card company, we got it sorted out. I called the host back, with 527 minutes to spare if I needed it. I waited on hold another 15 minutes. They fixed the problem (or so we thought) by activating the second domain name as a hosted-by-them site. Tried to get my FTP client to connect with them, still didn’t work. At this point, it was 6pm, I was angry, frustrated, hungry, and miserable… and some friends were about to come over for a movie. I decided to stop swearing at my computer and take a break. When all else fails, shut down and restart.

After a shower and a hot meal, I made one last call to the host, explained the situation, and he said  ‘Oh, I know exactly what the problem is…you haven’t set up a blah blah blah blah’ and I said ‘well, no – the two guys I spoke with the last two times I called didn’t say anything about a blah blah blah’ to which he replied ‘well, of course you have to set up a blah blah blah otherwise you wouldn’t be able to blah blah blah’ to which I replied ‘ok, whatever.’  So we fixed the obscure super-embedded problem, and I had to wait another hour or two for the changes to take effect. And thus ended my technological meltdown, at 10pm. 13 hours, down the tube.

I felt disgusting at the end of the day – having squandered precious time sitting in front of a screen, being angry and volatile and negative.  I don’t know what I would have done if I had gone to bed last night with no breakthrough. With no sense of accomplishment. At least I went to bed knowing that today would be a good day, because I would be able to meet my deadline, having worked out all the glitches ahead of time. But would I have believed that tomorrow would be a good day if I didn’t resolve my problems before bed? Would I have been able to reconcile to lost time, or the guilt that comes with having turned into a tunnel-visioned tech beast for an entire day? Hmmm…..

So now, I’m off to try to launch my sites. Wish me luck in exorcising the tech demons in this brand-spanking new day. It is a new day, after all.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Morning Coffee - Reader's Edition

A brief history of books, 1980-1995.
I have read, read, and re-read an infinitely countless number of books in my life.  I was a wormy, wormy kid. And it all started with: The Adolescent Series.

When I was in 1st grade and read Francine Pascal’s first book in the revolutionary new  ‘The Sweet Valley Twins’ series. I remember it well, as I had probably read it once a month for a three year period. It had a soft pink cover with a picture of  blond haired and blue eyed twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield: ‘Best Friends’ was its title. I read the second book ‘Teacher’s pet’ in rapid succession. I was hooked. This extended into a love for all pre-teen series new and old - the Sleepover friends,  the Babysitter’s club, anything Ramona Quimby, the Little House on the Prairie, The Bobbsy Twins. And of course, for that super sleuth Encyclopedia Brown.

 The content of the books matured with me. To my repertoire, I added RL Stine’s Fear Street books and Francine Pascal’s next-generation series, Sweet Valley High. Fear Street was a gateway series to creepy Christopher Pike and a bit later to Dean Koontz and John Saul (not to be confused with John Ralston Saul, the great Canadian author and philosopher).

At some point in my life, I have probably owned every volume in each of the above-mentioned series, and I’m certain I have read each book at least 5 times. I remember the way they looked, classed among their clans, all lined up along the long bookshelves that ran across my wall from one end of the room to the other. I remember how well I knew those collections, and what each individual name and number meant to me. Which characters I wanted to be. Which characters I identified with. Which characters I wished were incarnate, so I could befriend them. I remember, too, how I would go to the bookshelf every evening and pull off a book that fit with what I wanted to feel, because I somehow knew how to do that. Funny – I didn’t know that that’s what I was doing, but I was.

It’s also funny to think that though I have in my lifetime read many thought-provoking, challenging, clever, and intelligent books, I owe my love of reading and writing to cheap adolescent novellas. The kinds of books that I now steer clear of. But without them, I would not be the person I am today.

But I do want to mention that aside from the different series I have mentioned, there are a number of individual books that have been etched in my memory as being significant landmarks along my childhood journey.  If you have read these books, you will probably let out a little ‘YES!’ as you identify with the significance of them in your life as well – as the books in this list have an extra ounce of lasting power. And if you haven’t read them – do at least read the ones I have marked with asterisks!!!

This list is not a complete list of all the awesome books that were available when I was a kid – or that were necessarily entirely popular – but of the ones that I remember reading over, and over, and over….

A Doll in the Garden
King of the Wind**
Little Women
The Secret of Nhymh
Island of the Blue Dolphins**
The Secret Garden
Charlotte’s web
Charlie and the Chocolate factory
The Little Prince**
Are you there God, it’s me Margaret (on the fringe of my pre-teen into my teen years – I’ll conclude this list with it, and kick off the next list from here next time.)

Consider how a good book can affect your attitude, your mood, your outlook on life. Consider how a book can inform your worldview.  Consider how a well-written or well-concocted story can make you appreciate the unique gift of another person to bring a story to life. Consider how remembering a book you loved as a child can make you burst out in a fit of joy as you reminisce with friends, as though you have rediscovered something you had lost. It happens to me all the time.

Stay tuned for a Brief History of Books, 1995-2010.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Originally uploaded by Joanne Abraham Photography

Bisous. Kisses in french.

I have a new fascination with light in the darkness (in this case, literally speaking, but I suppose I could easily argue for the proverbial application). 

It all started with my name, but now... I have bigger plans. Time for me to invest in a few different flashlights, I think...and some color gels....

Any suggestions for my next drawing? I want to work my way up to complex images, but I need to start small. If you suggest it, I promise I will try it out and post it on here for you to scrutinize.

My name in lights.

My name in lights.
Originally uploaded by Joanne Abraham Photography

I heart aurora.

I heart aurora.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Morning Coffee

 First, let me establish the saturday morning convention. I blog every saturday morning, always with coffee in hand. I have been calling the posts 'TMCNL' - (today's morning coffee and nordic lesson) - but I have decided to be a bit more generic in my title so that there's a bit more room to move. So the convention is NOT that I necessarily give you some wisdom about the north, but that I write on saturday mornings about something you can read while you too have your coffee time. I hope that they can be a bit more interactive, too - I want to hear your thoughts. The other convention is that I have to take a picture of myself that morning...just so we can connect in real time. So, this morning Rosie, sporting her nifty purple tights and pioneer camp hoodie, joined me in my bedheaded and pyjamaed photo shoot.

I digress.

Years ago I read something lastingly profound in what turned out to be one of the most influential books I have ever read. It’s an image that, while incredibly and specifically  pertinent to that season of my life at that particular time 10 years ago, still anchors me, still speaks volumes of simple wisdom to me.

Here it is:
 [God] wants to bring man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and KNOW it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. [God] wants him in the end to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents – or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall

The wisdom goes on and on from there. That whole chapter reeks (a sweet patchouli-nag champa-tea tree-mint-citrus-infused reeking) of freedom, celebration, and vision. That we might be able to REALLY enjoy who we are, and not have to stoop to a kind of false humility that causes us to pretend we’re no good, or on the flip side, to become so obsessed with or paranoid about who we are that we can’t escape our own narcissistic grip.

That we might truly care about seeing the world, this proverbial cathedral, being built to house its global congregation – and to not care so much about being recognized for having our hand in it as to truly truly truly desire to see it built, knowing it is GOOD! To have the vision and hope it takes to foresee what the cathedral could truly be. To be so moved by the vision that it becomes impossible not to act, and yet to truly be free to do so. To experience freedom from the overwhelming anxiety that comes with an expectation to contribute, by replacing obligation with desire, by means of a renewed perspective of what it really means to LIVE.

A million and one wonderful thoughts (not necessarily classifiable as conclusions) can be drawn from this man’s wise view of the world, even if just from these few pages. I’ll try not to beat a dead horse here…I have been known to exhaust a thought by being too verbose. If you have a thought to contribute to this, please share your thoughts below. Let’s get some audience interaction going here.

PS- I’m stealing Kerianne and Cory’s idea  from their blogged journey through south America: first person to tell me what book I’m quoting from (and who the author is) gets a special NWT postcard from yours truly. No cheating! Your guess must from your own mental archives… not google  J  

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Wine List

I realize that I have not mentioned my Thursday night wine list in a while. If anyone is looking for recommendations for new wines to try, I’m going to suggest shopping in the French isle.

French is maybe cliché as far as wine goes, and I’ve never been interested in them until now. I’ve gone through looooooong phases of Australian Shiraz (bin 555, for a hearty choice) – because, I always thought, how can you go wrong with Yellowtail? Then I shifted to a full year of Argentinean Malbecs. Tasty, reliable, full-bodied, smooth malbecs. A winner amongst former Shiraz drinkers. Well….my tastes have changed.

The dry and thin tastes of France and Italy have stolen my heart…and my tastebuds. I stumbled upon Chateauneuf du Pape a couple of months back (my first and most hearty recommendation), and now have made it around the Hay River liquor store represented-country circuit. This week I settled on a simple and homemade-looking bottle of Bouchard Ainé et Fils….merlot! No matter what Paul Giamatti may say, merlots have made it back into my good books.

Looking for a new wine to try? Try Bouchard Ainé et Fils, and watch the taste evolve over time. At first crack, it tingles the tip of the tongue. Interesting. Tangy. Let it sit a bit, and taste the way it rounds out and becomes fuller over time. I always taste it immediately after opening, have a half glass, to see what it’s like at first birth. Then another half glass after it has had a chance to mellow at least an hour or two. Then a glass the next day, to see what a day can do. Write down what you observe. It will change the way you taste.

Practice being observant. It will change the way you live. Er, and drink.


(Today's morning coffee and nordic lesson 3)

I left for two weeks, and in that short amount of time, light has returned to Hay River. I suppose the science of it is that after December 21st, the days get longer more quickly here because of our angle to the sun compared to the angle of you more southerly folk. So while your days get longer by maybe 2 minutes a day, ours are getting longer by 4. So it adds up quickly. My daily ritual of getting up a couple of hours before going to work is getting sweeter and sweeter. It’s no longer pitch black when I leave the house at 8:45am! I can’t wait until the sun greets me when I rise. My guess is that will happen sometime in April. I’ll keep you posted.

There is a fundraiser for Haiti today at École Boréale, the francophone school in town. Garage sale, BBQ, face painting, Quebecois hippie threaded hair, music. A small town shindig. Haitians could probably not fathom our living conditions, just as we cannot fathom theirs – but we’re connecting. The world is really just not all that big.

Speaking of a small world, have I ever talked about how small it really is up north? I don’t think I have. Excuse me, then, if I am repeating myself. But the longer I live up here, the more I understand that though this land is vast, the community is small.

Let me paint a picture for you:

 I live in the Northwest territories, a gigantesque hunk of land. I am an hour and half north of the northern Alberta border (or, as I’ve said before, about 1100 km north of Edmonton). But there is STILL way over 1000km to the north of where I am.

There are a good number of little communities scattered and distanced about this limitless NWT, Hay River being I think the 3rd largest at 3500. (Only Yellowknife (20 000) and Inuvik (4000) have got us beat). Most other communities’ populations are in the hundreds, definitely not the thousands.

Let me do some territorial town name-dropping, see if you’re brushed up on your northern Canadian geography:

The southerlies (south-ish of Yellowknife):
Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Fort Providence, Fort Simpson, Fort Liard, Hay River

The northerlies: (north-ish of Yellowknife)
Rae-Edzo, Wha-ti, Deline, Dettah, Norman Wells, Tulita, Lutzelk'e, Aklavik, Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk

Now these names may be foreign to you for the most part, but I hear about them every single day. The names of these towns (and, more astoundingly, the people in them) are part of daily news, business, and conversation. So now, when I start my day off waking up to CBC news north, I always know what they are talking about. I have my bearings in the NWT. And to bring me to my point about the small worlded-ness of the seemingly endless territories – I usually know WHO they are talking about, even if it’s in a town I’ve never been to, 800kms away. Partly because of small town talk and gossip, partly because the north shares the same newspapers, partly because the north has defied the law of 6 degrees of separation by reducing it to 1 or 2.

So it doesn’t take much to be famous up here.

Funny story:
For the last 2 years, I have subscribed to the CBC’s ‘The North This Week’ podcast (a condensed and abridged radio program you can download after the broadcast), knowing I would be northern-bound someday. I didn’t have a sense of where things were, and the names of towns were a mystery to me, but I enjoyed hearing about what was going on up in that huge cold space, which I imagined to be a bit more populated and far more disconnected than it actually is.

So once I got up here, I somehow went 2 months without listening to that podcast. Maybe because I had the straight feed from CBC radio anyway. Anyway, I put it on one morning, seeing that I had a whole bunch of podcasts to catch up on. I chose one at random. Within 5 minutes, I realized that these places and names of people no longer belonged to some huge, unknowable place – but to a world I was beginning to naturally become a part of. Within 10 minutes, it went beyond just familiar context – because what I heard next was a familiar voice. My friend Kevin was being interviewed. Now, Kevin is kind of a northern Big-Deal as it is (ha!), so it’s not really a surprise. But had I been in Abbotsford, tuning in, his voice would have been part of the anonymous bigness of the north – but instead, his voice became a part of the very personal smallness of it.

I have more stories like this one. Almost every time I read a newpaper, I know the people in the pictures, or at the very least, know who they are. My theory is that there are about 4 famous people in every town, and you can guarantee they’ll make almost every issue. You can also guarantee that you’re only 1 degree away from them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Un Cadeau.

 I just got back from a trip. A life-giving, heart challenging, identity enriching, value-clarifying trip. And it took 10 planes to do the trick.

I attended an artist’s retreat in Woodland Park, Colorado, home of my ready-to-burst pregnant BFF. We were talking about our gifts and desires as artists…mmm, just as people actually… and the many complexities that are part and parcel to exercising (and occasionally, exorcising) them. We talked about the way our abilities and inabilities seem to bear on…no, stronger….threaten our identities. We either feel pigeonholed by what people perceive us to be good at, inadequate compared to what other do better than ourselves, foggy about our purpose and vision, and/or, as is often my case, unable to move forward for a million and one good reasons…blah, blah, and blah.

And so we are often crippled.

While we stumble about, we lose the connection to who we actually are/were to begin with – and that’s where the fun begins. We are afraid to lose our whole selves as we stumble in the we can’t let go of the ways we give ourselves value. To do that would threaten our existence. If I am a musician, to not be known as a musician (not to mention with a certain level of competence) might threaten my entire sense of purpose, of belonging, of importance. Think about it – how many times do we see people fall from great heights? Could it not be traced, almost every time, to a case of misplaced identity? Because if we really know who we are, we in theory should not be destroyed by failure, by incompetence, or by a case of have-not or have-not-anymore. And what, then, for those who do not yet have a recognized or recognizable ability? Are they just less lucky? Or do they not still have something incredible inside of them to offer to those around them, intangible and low-profile though it may be?

If we could know who we are, really - at the centre of the volcano, at the base of the iceberg, at the core of the hearts – would we not live differently? Would we not be able to better love, to better give, to better promote true life? Knowing that we are unshakable, because our identity is not dependent upon the peripherals, which shift and shake and change? The peripherals can be lovely, but how much more lovely can they be if they are the fruit of an unshakable seed?

So – something tangible. I say all this fluff, and now I give you something firm: you (you, you, YOU) are a gift. Aside from your abilities. Aside from your inabilities. Aside from your insecurity. Your doubt. Your guilt. Your jealousy. Your desires. And so whatever your problem is – whether you’re too good (ha!) or not good enough – who you are (and therefore the joy and hope, freedom from oppression that you can impart to others from that place) is not subject to what you do. So be free, little trifflewig, be free!