New Glasses

That first day I sat in the big, fake leather chair at the eye doctor’s office, my little spirit shook.

At age 6, I couldn’t see the board at school. Typical. In my heart, though, I knew.

My eyes. Oh, my eyes.

Twice, sometimes three and even four times a year, I sat in that same chair as the world around me blurred in more dramatic ways.

“She could lose her sight,” I heard the doctor once say.

Somewhere around age 10, though, the doctor visits slowed. No one explained why. In my heart, though, I knew.

I wouldn’t lose my sight, but spend my life deeply obligated to my glasses and the health of my eyes.

In the years that followed, dozens of pairs of glasses came and went. I treated each eye doctor visit as self-care and fell in love with the routine of making sure my peepers got top-shelf treatment.

Graduating into progressives three years ago, I knew the annual glasses replacement would have to slow (they are damn expensive).  My last pair took a beating, literally on life support for the last few months.

So, when it came time to level up my prescription, I found that thrill of picking out the new pair and taking care of mes yeux rushing back.

Here are the results.

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The Writer’s Studio – Personal Sovereignty

My brother said something to me the other day, “Robin, you have to really look at your sovereignty and ask yourself why you are letting XX affect you this way.”

I’d been complaining to him a lot, irritated by people who we like to call petty tyrants—those who exert their control by forcing what they know is a habitual reaction from you in order to manipulate.

He, however, was having none of it and told me so. I found it impossible to debate the merits of his assessment. I’d given my personal responsibility away and blamed it on another person.

I’d been procrastinating and whining about not having enough time for the things I love for a month. It definitely had to be because of all of these tyrants.

Over the course of the next few days, as I grew increasingly short-tempered in a wide range of areas related to freeing myself of these damned tyrants, I heard his bellowing voice in my head, “Why are you giving away your authority over the way your life plays out?”

My aggression with others grew and grew. My mind offered no willingness to bend to things I’d, before that point, conceded to for any number of reasons.  I blamed others for my limited work on my novel writing, for frustrations at work, for situations that left me without things I needed, for communication that never quite communicated what I desired.

The funny thing was life didn’t get any better with all of this standing up for myself. It actually devolved. 

Intolerant and thoroughly pissed off at others, I’d reached my  boiling point. Everyone received my venom. I’d become a tyrant in defense against tyrants, lost myself and my productivity in the ugly circle of fury.

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That’s when my husband stepped in.

“Robin, you control how you work and create and move through the world. Set the parameters, walk away from that which does not serve who you really are, and go from there.”

At that moment, my husband’s sage words sparked a deeper realization of what my brother meant—how I’d been taking the hatchet to myself thinking I was standing up to others. How I could make my way back to my creative, productive, communicative, centered self.  He wasn’t telling me to go kick some butt. He spoke of sovereignty in terms of responsibility for how one reacts to others as they move into and out of your life.

It wouldn’t take days or even hours. It took about ten seconds to step into that responsibility and say, “I will choose to serve the health and well-being of me, my sweet family, and what we need to live our best, most purposeful lives. I will react in a way perpetuating such purpose.”

Understanding that my ability to navigate through life is first and most significantly impacted by the mindset going in shifted my perspective and sparked a renewed sense of purpose.

So, as August dips out of sight and the start of Fall descends upon us, I’m going to dig in and live with more purpose through the simple yet incredibly demanding act of personal sovereignty—taking responsibility for how I respond to the ebbs and flows of my life, and determining through my own actions how it all plays out.

Lunch With My Grandparents

When I was a kid, my grandfather would go out to the garden first thing in the morning and come back around noon with an armful of cucumbers and tomatoes.

My grandmother would cut and serve them for lunch. Fresh garden veg is one of my most profound memories of my grandparents.

Today, garden-fresh cukes and tomatoes for lunch.

Just like at my grandparent’s house.

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48

As I ring in my 48th year today, I find myself truly cherishing this place in my life.

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B-Day gift from my oldest daughter. I love her artwork. 

The Little Things

My husband is not particularly sentimental in an outward sort of way. He reserves that space for me, as sentimentality is a condition I dine on daily.

So, when he wandered home tonight with three bundles of the flowers we had at our wedding (my favourite) and a box of croquembouche from the local bakery for my birthday, my heart could not contain itself.

We’ve spent the last 20 years together and the relationship is one of comfort and mutual respect. To wash his socks that he needs for tomorrow means something. Lilies and French pastry from our wedding mean something.

These are the most wonderful gifts —ones that find themselves infused with the knowing that the person receiving them gets the thought that went into them.

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Time Machine Travels – 1975

A few months back, I asked my step-father to begin transferring over to me all of the photography and historical documents from our family.

I’ve always held dear the responsibility of family historian, and he graciously agreed to begin the long process after spending the last few years digitizing most of it.

Amongst the family trees, gorgeous photography, and art from the late 19th and early 20th century, a collection of more recent pictures flung me back to 1975.

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Me and my brother

Life in 1975, at the tender age of 4, proved pretty basic. We’d moved from the Mid-West to the Rocky Mountains of the United States, and I adored my wee bain of a brother.

These pictures are pure magic and a little heartachy all at once.

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Getting ready for church on Easter Sunday, 1975

My mom looks so fresh and wonderful in these photos. Gone almost four years now, I miss her and wish often to be able to consult her on so many things despite our challenging relationship as mother and daughter.

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Summer fun

This series is from the first year at my childhood home where we lived for more than a decade. I was surprised at first to see how shabby the backyard was as my parents always took great care, but remembered that they’d bought the home to fix up. These are so cute.

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My mom and brother in the backyard of our childhood home.

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Sister and brother always together

My brother and I, who remain extremely close, had a good cry over these yesterday before recognizing that they also very much defined the nature of the two of us as siblings.

Our time machine trip proved a sweet reminder of our constant bond, and how time cannot strip away connection.

When A Student Paints Your Portrait

One of my Grade 8 creative writing students painted my portrait and delivered it to me before our session today.

It may be one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever received from one of my budding authors (and, apparently, illustrators).

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by Joanna Fu

Managing Corporate Clients & Creative Muse

I got up this morning planning to work on an article for a corporate client. This is pretty straightforward work, crafting a piece based on an interview I did last week about a technical topic I’ve done a fair bit of reading up on.

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Segmenting my days into mental spaces is something I attempt to practice with some level of religious commitment. It’s a serious business to go from corporate article to fantasy novel writing to lesson planning for creative writing classes. I need to keep a clear head to stay clear on my goals.

However, my devotion to schedule-related doctrine wanes with embarrassing regularity, especially when I get distracted by a digital rabbit hole.

Welcome to my morning, where I got up and went to YouTube to put on ten hours of cello music. Instead, a video on an ancient religious order called The Scarlet Council appeared in my feed (I feel like I’m stating the obvious, but I love a good historical conspiracy theory). How could I refuse such an offer to delve into ancient mysteries?

Well, it’s 2.5 hours later and I’m back into corporate mode – black turtle neck and hair up in a bun ready to bust out some business-focused material.

The reward is I wrote thirteen pages of The Woman On The Wall  (1500 words or so) while listening to the 70-minute video despite the fact I’m getting a later start than I wanted to on the other work.

This is my life, trying to balance curiosity and the need to create with my more intellect-based writing projects.

I’ll shift again in about two hours, prepping for an evening teaching creative writing classes.

Despite the chaos, it’s satisfying to know I’m quite capable of connecting my deep calling to write to everything I pursue in life.

Lately, people ask me why I write and I just tell them, “For me, writing is the mother blood. Everything else manifests as a result of it.”

 

My Hot Pot 火锅 Obsession

For the last several years, I’ve worked with colleagues and taught young authors who immigrated to Canada from China. As friendships grew, they introduced me to all sorts of Chinese culture, especially cuisine, as they know I am a super foodie.

Hot pot is, by far, my favourite of all of the many foods I have shared with this crew. I first learned of it from two work colleagues who gave me recipes and sent me on a mission for ingredients. It blew my family’s mind and we have loved it ever since.

While I make it at home, I will Skytrain it just about anywhere for a good hot pot. It has also opened me up to all kinds of new ingredients as a result of this deliciousness.

For those of you who are new to hot pot, it is is a Chinese cooking method prepared with a simmering pot of soup stock at the dining table, containing a variety of foodstuffs and ingredients. While the hotpot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. While I’m a vegetarian, hot pots usually have meat, leafy veg, mushrooms, noodles, dumplings, and seafood.

There is a bit of magic surrounding hot pot lore. Folklore suggests that hot pot has the power to enhance friendship and unite family members or colleagues. Several people sit around a pot, talking and eating. The warm air is also considered to make people comfortable.

I swear the stories are true!

Here are some of my recent loves:

 

 

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Working lunch.

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