This podcast changed my life.

Dex Guff in New York premiering his new show with his #1 fan, me!

Once in blue moon, a show comes around that just totally gets me. My humour, my annoyances, my worries and my joys. Like the day I (and I assume everyone born in the late-70s to mid-80s) discovered that one perfect season of My So-Called Life.

Now once again I have a show I deeply love, that understands my world when it feels like no one else does, and it is a podcast called Dexter Guff is Smarter Than You (and You Can Be Too). And FULL DISCLOSURE, I am on the team that makes this show! But to be fair, I only work on the boring things (contracts and payments), so I think I’m allowed to gush about its brilliance. I mean Dexter Guff would.

Here are just a few reasons that this is my new favourite show:

– The tag line is “your ears on my mouth”. This is the best way to describe any podcast.
– Use of the catch phrase “chew on this thought dog”. I now say this daily.
– The ability to not only make me laugh, but actually feel good about being so bad at social media (Trust me, after listening to the first episode “You Don’t Exist Without a Personal Brand” you will be totally cool with a lackluster social media presence!)

See that’s the thing, it is a comedy podcast. Let me say that again, it is not real! But it somehow does the impossible of being funny, and makes me feel good about myself. While taking the total piss out of the self help world, it manages to oddly BE self help by providing laughs and reminding us to not take life hacks, gurus, or “influencers” so seriously.

So do yourself a favour and CHECK IT OUT! You can listen to it on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you find podcasts. And prepare yourself to have Dex Guff’s mouth on your ears!

 

Posting is Not Enough.

Holy shit. These are terrifying times. I have been spending days, weeks, and months trying to put words on paper about Trump, hate, racism, fear, the patriarchy, bigotry, antisemitism and the state of the world, but I always seem to be paralyzed by the enormity of the problems.

So instead of writing, I have spent most of my time listening. And reading. Seeking out voices from oppressed and marginalized groups. One major sentiment that resonated with me is that the racism we are seeing today is not new or because of Trump, it is just being REVEALED. And that is something I have had to keep reminding myself. My privilege as a white woman has allowed me to forget from time to time that this always existed in North America, as I am not threatened by it daily, but as a proud Jewish woman I am also acutely aware of what it means to have your peoples existence threatened by hate-filled groups.

But as I stay glued to the news and my computer these days trying desperately to fight and understand the evil going on, I have also felt conflicted and hesitant to write anything online. And here is why:

I completely understand that I come from a place of privilege for the fact that I can choose to be political or not, but I DO WANT TO BE POLITICAL. I agree fucking whole-heartedly that “if I am silent, I am part of the problem”. I agree that “we aren’t what we think and feel, but what we say and do”. I DO NOT WANT TO BE SILENT TO INJUSTICE.

BUT, I think where my hesitation about posting online has come from, and were some confusion may lie, is my worry that people may think that “do not be silent and speak up” means “speak up JUST on social media”. And I can easily sit behind my computer and state that “I AM AGAINST WHITE SUPREMACY, NEO-NAZIS, and RACISM”, but I am pretty confident that the people in my community aren’t nazis, and also want to fight systemic racism. I haven’t written a statement online because it feels so monstrously inadequate in this fight, and I don’t want to feed this false sense of superiority for being “more woke” simply because I made a statement online. Or that a public statement means I am a “good”, and the danger of that as Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in Between the World and Me:

The point of this language of “intention” and “personal responsibility” is broad exoneration. Mistakes were made. Bodies were broken. People were enslaved. We meant well. We tried our best. “Good intention” is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream.

But I also understand that words matter. So I will say it here, LOUD AND CLEAR: I AM AGAINST WHITE SUPREMACY IN ALL ITS HEINOUS FORMS. Because it’s true that when you feel helpless, sometimes posting online is the first step to action. Because there is absolutely no question about where I stand. Because I want to use my voice, and make it hard and uncomfortable to be racist. Because I want POC and other vulnerable minorities in my life to know that I am a safe place for them.

But I will also say this: I do not believe it is enough for me to just make a statement online against hatred. It does not exonerate me.

POSTING ONLINE CAN NOT BE WHERE IT ENDS. Speaking up against hatred and racism does not mean solely in my own tiny online bubble in front of (most likely) all people that believe in the same things I do, SPEAKING UP means taking action when someone says or does something evil IN REAL LIFE. AT THE GROCERY STORE, ON THE BUS, AT WORK, AT THE DINNER TABLE. Speak up in that instance when someone I don’t know, or someone I love, says an inappropriate joke, a back-handed comment, or does something fucked up to someone else based on their race, religion, sexual identity, disability, age, origin or anything else that makes them “different”.

I live in Vancouver, Canada. And it is far too common to hear people say racist things about the Asian or Indigenous community. Racism in Vancouver may not look like it did this past weekend in Charlottesville, but it is still here.

So post whatever you want to post online. PROUDLY and VISIBLY say you are anti-white supremacy. Share thought provoking articles about racism and 5 ways to be a good white ally, and 10 ways to fight hate. Spread that VICE episode fucking far and wide! Post your thoughts and feelings about these insane times because it is NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL. I will read and watch it all. BUT I IMPLORE MYSELF AND OTHERS, DO NOT STOP THERE.

Don’t call it a day because I said something online. Good intentions are not enough. This is ongoing. It’s everyday. A true paradigm shift is going to take a lot longer and a lot more work (and most likely not work done sitting at a computer). And most importantly, be ready for when the time comes, an opportunity to stand up against someone who is racist in real life, that I am not silent. Speak up when it really counts.

[And if you want to do even more, DONATE to those that are speaking up for others in real life in areas that you don’t live in. ]

Grown-Up Party presents…DANCE CLASS #3!

Back by popular demand (and the fact that every single week for the last year I have said to myself “I really want to do another dance class”): the Grown-Up Party hip hop dance class! For any grown-up out there who for just a couple hours wants to leave the adulting world behind and strut it out, pop those boobs and butt, and tear it up on a d-floor in a totally supportive/no-talent-required/judgement-free-zone.

At the first class, we rode it. Then, we got busy. Now, we pay homage to the late 90s/early 2000s queen of hip hop and HOT music videos: MISSY ELLIOTT.

So dust off your hoop earrings. And get ready to work it.

WHEN: Wednesday April 19 from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm

WHERE: The Dance Centre – The Jarislowsky studio

THE JAMS: Gossip Folk. Supa Dupa Fly. Sock it 2 Me. Get Your Freak On. So many MISSY jams to choose from, but you will have to come to the class to find out what song the routine is to.

There are only 20 spots available, so be sure to buy a ticket RIGHT NOW!

[PS. This class is NOT just for the ladies. All Hot Boyz welcome too!]

Motherhood + Loss (aka the things we never say about parenthood)

Photo credit: Corey J Isenor

I know this is stating the obvious, but the state-of-the-world feels insane at the moment. And in the real world I am engaged (taking direct actions, constant discussion, etc), but I have yet to really find my voice in all of it on this blog/internet space. I am still digging deep on how to do that in a place that feels somewhere in “ between the oft chanted chorus “silence is violence!” and the realization that when we advocate for other people we usually have no idea what we’re talking about“, as well as wanting to avoid just aimlessly preaching/yelling into my own echo chamber. SO, more on that to come.

BUT, there is one person that has helped me find my voice on one particular subject that I feel confident sharing in this space right now, and that amazing human is Rachel Ricketts, and the subject is loss&motherhood.

My pal Rachel runs a business called Loss&Found that is about all things grief and healing. And although people most commonly think of grief when it comes to death of a loved one, Rachel acknowledges (and helps give it a much needed voice!) that loss is felt in countless life happenings – including heartbreak, work, divorce, miscarriage and you guessed it … MOTHERHOOD.

And I am so thankful, and honoured, that Rachel had me on to her FIRST ever podcast to talk about this complex/complicated/perhaps even taboo subject of motherhood and loss. And I have to say – I think we really FIGURED SOME SHIT OUT!

Please have a listen (and review/share/email that link to friends!) and let me know what you think!

And here is just a brief teaser of topics we discuss to bait you to give it a listen:

  • *The KINDS of loss one experiences from motherhood (both PHYSICAL independence and the lesser known loss – MENTAL independence!)

  • *WHY we never talk about loss and motherhood (Hint: because unlike other more obvious forms of loss, there is also so much fucking joy! But doesn’t mean we – as a society or on an individual level – should ignore the loss that occurs)

  • *The NOT-A-SECRET-AT-ALL Secret to finding “balance” between work and motherhood

    *And MORE nuggets of gold!

And if you are jonesing for MORE REAL TALK about parenthood, check out this episode, What Moms Can’t Say, on CBC’s Out in the Open. It’s another podcast that after listening to I instantly sent around to every mom I know.

Thank you again to Rachel for having me! And an even bigger thank you to Rachel for bringing these very rarely acknowledged/talked about topics into the open so they can be discussed in the healthiest and most positive ways!

PS. Rachel is also hosting a RETREAT this spring that looks absolutely incredible. It is for those going through grief, but I would also argue that it may be that perfect reason for a mom to have her “first night away” from her little one, as a time to recharge and give space to mama’s needs!

To Our Army of Hearts (or the jerks who made the tear-jerker)

Behind-the-scenes snap by the talented Ola Cholewa

Remember when I asked everyone I know to vote for a grant for a short film I wanted to make (AGAIN!)? And then I won (AGAIN!)?! Well I’m so excited to say – THE FILM IS DONE! With my co-sister/director/producer Alex Duncan we made her illustrated children’s book, An Army of Hearts, into a 4-minute short film that you can watch RIGHT NOW:

And although it is only 4 minutes long, here’s the thing: Making a short film (for passion, not commercially) is still really hard. It can be tough for a myriad of reasons, but personally I find the hardest reason is this: you ask SO MANY PEOPLE (loved ones and strangers!) for SO MANY FAVOURS. And we even had a budget of 10k for this film thanks to the generous team at Storyhive (although that money mostly went to gear rentals)! We asked people to work for far below what they normally get paid or for free, we asked an old drama teacher to film with his class of high school kids, we asked friends to help with locations, find random props, do make-up, take photos, do costumes, bake 2 cakes as props because we were going to smash one, film in New York for 2 two hours even though he was about to hop on a flight to Africa the next day (big shout to my forever partner-in-film-crime Brent Hodge), and the list just goes on and on and on!

I will never fully be able to thank everyone for the countless favours. But I can at least try. And continue to say thank you, and be grateful for the immense amount of kindness and generosity everyone showed being a part of this project (or voting for it!) and making it a truly beautiful film.

So let my love-fest continue, with the following heartfelt thank-you’s (that don’t come close to thanking everyone involved, but I gotta start somewhere):

Alex (co-director/writer/producer) – This project has so much heart, because Alex has so much heart. She radiates. She’s talented behind and in front of the camera, she’s quick witted, and she’s strong-willed. This project is her baby, and I feel so lucky she has shared it with me. Oh and last but not least, she uses the world “flirty” better than anyone I know.

Liam (DP) – Liam is one of those people that is insanely talented, and ridiculously humble and generous with his time and skills. He also has the two best traits I think a DP can have, which is being simultaneously a perfectionist with his shots, yet also easy-going and flexible. So much of the film’s beauty is because of him.

Caitlin (Production Designer) – When you want to take a film to the next level, CALL CAITLIN. She is an absolute pro, and can make a set come alive. She also makes a wicked spaceship out of cardboard boxes.

The Crew – Also our lighting team, cam assist, sound, PA’s – everyone worked long days with a smile on their face and so much class.

The Cast – Oh man our cast. We asked a lot of our cast (to basically bleed emotion, without the use of any dialogue), and they completely rose to the challenge. They were all a joy to work with, and I feel so indebted to their work.

Mere (Editor) – Mere is a creative powerhouse. She directs, acts, writes, produces…and in her spare time she edits short films as a favour for her friends. Her eye and instinct in making creative decisions are incredibly strong. I also pulled multiple shitty moves on her during the editing process (which was a crazy time during the holidays, on top of not having care for my crazy toddler), and she handled it all with such grace. I have huge respect for her, and the work that she does.

Cayne (Composer) – I don’t know any other way to describe him except to say he is a musical genius. The music in this film was so, SO important (as it is in any film), and when Cayne said he would do the song I knew without any doubt in my mind that it would be perfect (with the musical aid and stylings of the one and only Ashleigh Ball of course) . And I love what he made so much that I sometimes put our video on in the background on my computer just so I can hear the song.

Derek (Titling) – Derek was the animator wizard behind my short film Big Lew, and when I asked him to do a title for An Army of Hearts, he went above and beyond. He hand-drew our title, which means he made 52 hand-drawn frames! He is exceptional, as a human and an artist, and I love everything he touches.

Brendan and Ellen (Photographer/Designer) – Brendan took absolutely stunning portraits of our actors, and Ellen designed our poster in the exact heartfelt manner we envisioned. They are both clearly extremely talented at their crafts, and we were so lucky that they agreed to work on our project.

Also a giant thank you to my husband, Chris, who is always leading my army of hearts.

A Really Great Present

It’s officially holiday season now (holy shiiiiiiit when did it become December 9th!!!!???), and that means getting to daydream (or more likely stress) about the perfect present to give a loved one.

But the thing is, I am totally terrible at buying presents! I can spend days researching online and reading all the best gift guides (this one being my personal favourite), but when it comes to pulling the trigger, I always get cold feet. I hate shopping, and I’m pretty sure shopping hates me.

And although generally I’m a firm believer that the holidays aren’t about presents and are about the time we spend with each other, I still find the joy in giving a meaningful gift. Which is what reminded of my favourite present I got this year for my birthday.

My dear pal Nick Fabin made me THIS piece of art! He surprised me with a self portrait, and when he handed it to me I got chills it made me feel so ridiculously special. The piece never fails to make me smile, and I still love looking at all the details that make me “me”.

img_5917

So if you are stumped this holiday season of what to get someone that you love dearly, be sure to check out Nick’s work at his shop Folded. In addition to custom pieces like mine, he has done festive holiday cards, and also has a beautiful series of cards called Make You Grow which always pull at my heart strings.

Traveling with ANOTHER FAMILY!

I know there are countless blog posts in the world about traveling with kiddos, but this post is about something way different: adventuring with ANOTHER FAMILY!

See our dear pals had a baby roughly 6 months before us, and we all agreed that once we make it to a year of parenthood, we should celebrate and go BIG. It took a bit longer than expected to plan, but we freakin’ did it. We traveled to Hawaii with a 1.5 and 2 year old for a 10 day adventure to the North Shore of the Hawaiian Island of Oahu.

We’ve been back for about a week, and now that we finally have stopped finding sand in all our clothes, cracks, and beds, I am so excited to share our biggest take-aways (and a few pics) of the trip:

  1. Your Homebase is the most important factor of the trip. And I say this for 2 reasons: First off, the kids nap for 2 hours during the day (hopefully!), AND go to bed crazy early, and it is so nice to NOT be stuck inside. We rented the most amazing mid-century modern home that had not changed since the 60s, and it had a huge yard, and beach access. Which meant while the kids were sleeping, we were swimming in the ocean naked and/or enjoying dinner outside. Second of all, you need a bit more SPACE when traveling with another family. Sometimes kids need a break from sharing toys and need to watch their iPads in peace. Sometimes one kid wakes up at 1 am crying and the other wakes up at 4 am crying. A bit of space makes it feel like you aren’t on top of each other, and that is so appreciated when spending so much time with another crew.

  2. Go with people you love. This is also twofold. Go with other parents you love because when the kids go to bed, you get to hang out with them! This is obvious, but it is even nicer than we imagined. After almost two years of always having to leave our friends’ place to go put our kid to bed, we got an entire week of social dinners with our best friends and there were so endless cocktails, belly laughs and good times. And secondly, if it is people you love (and they love you), they won’t judge when your kid is freaking. I thought we were way past this point of caring what other people thought, but there were moments when I felt insecure about what our child was doing and would look at the angel child of our pals and wonder why there kid was so perfect! But luckily, I knew they weren’t judging us. I know they really do understand, and love our babe and us no matter what.

  3. Think of it as an adventure, not a holiday. This trip had relaxing moments, but all in all, it was far more of an adventure than anything else. And that could be because we chose a place that had so many fun things to offer and we wanted to explore every morning and afternoon, but it is also due to the nature of traveling with 2 toddlers. They need time to adjust to each other, and even with that, they are going to probably have a relationship of extremes. They will cry and fight over sharing toys, but they will also have moments of SUCH INCREDIBLE JOY together! And although that had it’s trying moments (especially with our kiddo being the wussier and winier one), we wouldn’t have changed it for anything. Living life down the middle is so mediocre. Those highs were so worth the lows.

The following photos will show just a sliver of how magical the trip was. It was a true family vacation – and not just for our family (or as they say in Hawaii, OHANA!) but with the family we created with our pals – that we will hold dear to our hearts forever.

[But let me take a moment for some online honesty and realness before these photos make everything look too perfect! There were VERY TRYING TIMES as well. Our toddler got sick (we even took her to the hospital! But that is a whole other story mainly about my craziness), I got sick, refereeing 2 toddlers sharing toys could be exhausting, our kid had major separation anxiety and didn’t want our family to ever be apart, time change insanity, red-eye flights, ETC. Basically ALL the emotions and challenges of parenthood were still there on this trip, we just happened to be with friends in paradise!]

img_5250 img_5490 img_5457 img_5507 img_5499 img_5472 img_5448 img_5447 img_5389 img_5348 img_5326 img_5291 img_5265 img_5251

 

The Biggest Surprise From Leaving My Baby

Last weekend was my first weekend away from my baby (and by baby I mean CRAZY TODDLER). Before having kids I would never have guessed it would take me 17 months to make that happen, but due to a few unforeseen circumstances (mainly LIFE) that is how long it took. And although I was SO, so ready for it to happen, a small part of me was still nervous about abandoning my child for the weekend (totally crazy I know).

And I am so happy to report the following:

YES sleeping in (till 9 am! WOO!) felt so good on the body. YES having long un-interrupted conversations felt so good on the brain. YES getting straight up silly with my favourite old friends and new friends was so good on the heart. And YES, at moments we missed our little one terribly and snuck into corners to watch videos of her which was good on the soul to be reminded of how lucky we are.

All those things I expected were completely and utterly true, but the most surprising thing by far was how much she’d grown when we got home. I mean we were only gone for 2 nights and of course we expected her to SURVIVE, but I never thought she’d THRIVE.

And it really serves as a constant reminder for me that it is ALWAYS beneficial to step out of our comfort zones, no matter what our age is, because that is how we grow as people. Yes it may be scary at first to be in unfamiliar waters, but when we are tested, that is when we see what we are capable of.

So remember, no matter if you are 1 years old or 100 years old, keep pushing those boundaries and growing!

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-8-54-20-pm
screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-8-54-37-pm
screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-8-54-47-pm
screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-8-54-53-pm
PS. Thank you to my mum – the world’s best Nana – who took such good care of our little bean. You take such good care of ALL of us.

PPS. Thank you to Shalin and Bibi for the most kick-ass magical wedding of all time.

#mamaread: My favourite article on parenthood

img_5035

I read a LOT of articles on motherhood. I don’t really know why, there is just something about wanting to read ANYTHING about ANYONES experience that I find so addicting. Maybe it’s because I’m yearning for the solidarity that someone else out there feels like I do. Or maybe I’m always on the hunt for someone to be more articulate about the experience than I have ever been. But recently my pal and inspirational-mama Grace sent me an article that did both those things, and totally floored me. I felt like it summed up a change that I had gone through that I had never been able to find the words for.

In her article The Single Biggest Difference Between Parents and People Who Don’t Have Kids, Laura June describes a Sunday pre-baby, and then post-baby, and it is so bang on, and how the loss of time is difficult to grasp. But she also goes on to say this about the endless balancing act of time and life, which really hit home in a visceral and beautiful way:

This is very stressful for parents as partners, I have found: My husband and I worked together for years and I was still surprised by the amount of collaboration that was necessary to keep our daughter alive. Remember: She must be accounted for 100 percent of the time. That’s a given — “No shit, Laura,” you might say. But mentally, it’s a real accomplishment! And it is weirdly deflating to your sense of self sometimes. Even when I’m alone, my time isn’t wholly mine. I am mentally, often, just partly, somewhere else.

There’s an upside! I don’t want to make it sound like there isn’t. I am the very center of someone’s world and as such am truly never alone — how wonderful and how stifling. How awesome and how weird, after 35 years alone on this big planet, to feel always naked when I walk out of the house with just a purse. What a ride.

Oh the dichotomy of parenthood! So real, and what a wild ride it is. I highly suggest the full article as a must-read for all parents and parents-to-be out there!

 And if you have a great #mamaread out there, please send it my way! I guarantee I will love it.

Join An Army (of hearts!)

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-2-11-34-pm

Making my short film Big Lew with a Storyhive grant last year has been one of the greatest highlights of my life. I got to work on a project with my husband (who I happen to love working with), involve my entire crazy family, tell a fascinating story and give my dad the greatest gift (he always says, “who else do you know that has a documentary on them? How cool is that?”).

And on top of all that, one of the most surprising benefits was that it allowed me to have my own “stella’s got her groove back” moment with motherhood and creativity. For the first 8 months my babe was born I had no desire to work or sit at a computer. But once I had the idea for Big Lew, I literally couldn’t sleep all night, and not because a baby was crying, but because I had a billion ideas running around my head. It’s like I flipped a switch that had been temporarily turned off. It became a defining moment for me as a mother, and as a creative woman.

Partaking in last year’s Storyhive was such a meaningful filmmaking experience, on so many levels, that I have decided to apply for a Storyhive grant again! And this time, I have teamed up with the creative powerhouse Alex Duncan to turn her illustrated children’s book, An Army of Hearts, into a live-action short film. Alex inspires me, her story inspires me, and I know if given the opportunity, we will create something beautiful. So please, watch our pitch video and vote for us! You don’t need to sign-up or do anything, just click on this link and press vote! (and you can do it every day for the next 5 days!)

And thank you to all those who have supported my filmmaking efforts and Alex’s Army from the get-go!

PS. This Storyhive also has a special place in my heart as it is Female Directors version, and I couldn’t be more impressed that the Storyhive team is supporting female directors. Big ups to all the women out there behind and in front of the camera.