The Art of Conversation

This is by far the most special art project I’ve ever done ❤. The Art of Conversation is a project that brings artists and seniors in our community together, made possible through a partnership between the Arts Council Wood Buffalo and St. Aidan’s Society. The idea is that the artist hosts a conversation with their partner and the resulting discussion becomes the muse for an art project.

Before I first called my partner Libby I was nervous- what if we didn’t click? What if I didn’t get any ideas for my piece? Happily, my fears were unfounded, as we had a great chat and I had the initial ideas for my project before we were even done talking. This project was a joy and Libby was my inspiration.

This video includes some audio clips from parts of our conversation, and video from my process creating the artwork.

Tokyo Memories Day 6: Asakusa Hagoita Festival and… Visiting A Host Club!?

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or, start with day 1 here)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 6, December 19th, 2019

This morning Dusty and I visited Asakusa for the first time. Senso-ji temple is way bigger than I had imagined!

It was the last day of the Hagoita festival, so there were stalls selling tasty street food alongside the temple: we enjoyed tasty choco-bananas and a sort of meat-stick with rice wrapped in bacon and covered in bits of cheese. SO GOOD, also messy!

I got a small Hagoita (a decorative wooden bat which is a good luck charm) and a mask of a red demon for Dad.

Check out that Frozen Hagoita! I love the Kabuki ones best.

We also saw this puppy in a pet-store (?) window T-T ❤

After Asakusa, we visited Akiba briefly- particularly Yodobashi camera, where we also went up to a top floor and had some conveyor-belt sushi.

This evening I had a tour booked with a woman named Sachiko: a “Girl’s Night-Life In Shinjuku”, mainly visiting a Host Club! Normally tourists aren’t allowed in, but with Sachiko as my guide I got a glimpse at this strange world of manufactured flirtation and overpriced drinks.

We met at Shinjuku station and headed out into Kabukicho. We stopped briefly at a konbini where Sachiko told me the rules of the clubs and expectations for first-time visitors. Most importantly, we couldn’t let slip that we were there on a one-time tour experience, because the staff depend on commissions from repeat customers, so it would not be a good vibe.

The club was in an outwardly drab and non-descript building, but as soon as we stepped off the elevator we were surrounded by luxe, cavernous spaces and perfumed air. We were seated and drank shochu mixed with orange juice as we chatted with the first hosts to our table.

The men were as stylishly groomed as the interior of the club. Sachiko did most of the talking at first while I sipped at my drink. Once we got into the swing of conversation I of course showed off pics of Tegan and Butters, and we also discussed various anime and manga series, as well as J-horror (I guess the Japanese horror movies I love so much are not as well known as I would have thought!)

It was interesting, if at times a bit awkward. We spoke almost entirely in Japanese the whole time, making me acutely aware of my limitations… at one point a guy asked “so, how do you find boys in Japan compared to Canada?” and I replied “hmm, I think that generally most Japanese men have better style”, but I didn’t realize at first that I used the word “kare” to mean boy, which, while technically correct, is colliqually used almost always to mean “boyfriend”. So, they laughed and said “are they going to fight eachother!?!?” at which point I realized I had basically said “I think (my) boyfriend in Japan has much better style than (my) boyfriend in Canada” LOL OOPS. IT ISN”T LIKE THAT, I SWEAR ^-^’

The hosts would visit our table two at a time, and each would give their business card. Ryu’s business card was by-far the most impressive (hard luxe-golden shining plastic with a stylish headshot of himself) but Kido’s is also cool, a sparkling city skyline with a big heart constellation. Kido was the one who talked to me the most, asked to see more pictures on my phone, and complimented me on my cosplay and stuff, so he was the Host that I chose to have revisit our table at the end of our stay. Sachiko chose Ryu. They walked us out to the elevator together when it was time to leave.

All in all, it was a bit less intense than I was expecting- it sort of felt similar to just chatting with strangers in a bar. Still, an interesting memory and an experience!

I stopped at some gachapon and crane games at Adores on the way back to the hotel- man, I wasted like 2000 yen on nothing! How did we win so many little toys and plushies last time we visited!? Dustin even got a decent sized Kirby plush when we came here on our last trip… maybe Taito station is easier to win at than Adores? Or maybe I just suck T-T

Check out day 7, The Wackiest Izakaya in Tokyo, here!

Ruff Starts and Becoming Family: Tegan

As of this month, it’s been 6 years since we adopted our dog Tegan. She is my first pet outside of living with my parents, and it turns out that having your own pet (and all of the responsibilities that go along with caring for another living creature) is a lot different than being in the house while your parents take care of the pets. Who would have thought?

It has been 6 crazy years so far, and I absolutely love Tegan with all my heart- she is family. In the beginning though I didn’t know what I was doing! So, here is our story.

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My family has always had lots of pets. Growing up, my friends joked about our house being a sort of zoo. You weren’t sure when you rounded the corner in my house if you’d come face to face with a grumpy, overweight cat, an energetic Labrador retriever, or even a couple of young Fancy Rats on somebody’s shoulder. My mother worked in vet clinics and shelters, so there were always lots of animals around, including occasional foster puppies and ill or injured creatures that needed round-the-clock care.

It wasn’t until I moved out of home and in with my then-boyfriend-now-husband that I began to consider getting a dog of my own. Life felt like it was missing something vital without a dog around. I love all animals, but I’ve always had a special affinity with dogs. I pored over our local SPCA website regularly, occasionally seeing a dog that seemed like a perfect fit but who was already adopted by the time we went, or was too large to be allowed in our small apartment.

One fateful day I came across a photo on the SPCA site of a mixed breed dog named Amelia. She was referred to as a “puggle”, a beagle and pug mix. She was around a year old, and looked like she had some real personality.

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Anyone who knows me will tell you, when I get an idea in my head I can’t rest until I see it through and make a decision. She was all I could think about. I wanted to see Amelia. Dustin wasn’t sure if he wanted a small dog, but I just had to see her. So we went to the SPCA and there she was in the dog room, standing alert behind the cage door. The dogs all around were barking very loudly, but she just stood there looking up at us, expectant. The kennel attendant took her out so we could take her on a walk.

As we exited the SPCA with Amelia on a leash, it wasn’t like the movie scene I might have envisioned in my head- she didn’t shower us with love or run joyfully in circles around us. She wasn’t starved for affection or cuddles- in fact, she seemed like she didn’t really care that we were there, only that she was outside and could go for a walk. So, we walked. We took her down some of the industrial streets in the area, amused when she would hop up onto the brick and concrete ledges and trot along them.

After our walk we sat down on a bench for a few moments, and I patted her and stroked her short fur, but again she was very independent and stood alert, looking around at seemingly everything but us.

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That under-bite… ❤

Despite her aloofness, I was smitten with her. Dustin was on the fence about adopting her. However, we returned the next day to walk her again, by which point I think he realized I was serious about this dog and now that she was in my head, she wasn’t going anywhere. So, we decided that I would sign the application for adoption and see what happened. I hoped desperately that we would be able to adopt her.

When I asked for the application, the staff were very excited. That must be a good sign, I thought? I filled everything out and handed it in. The staff gave it a good look over and told me the cost of adoption for an adult dog. Then they asked if we wanted the kennel staff to go get her now, and if I would pay by cash, credit, or debit.

I looked at Dustin in surprise. Wow, this was fast. I’m going to be a dog mom!?

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“Right- right now!?” I asked, unable to hide my surprise.

The staff explained: my application was good, the kennels were overfull, and the SPCA was stretched to its limits that summer. Normally it would take more time to adopt a dog because they would be sifting through multiple applications, but right now they were desperate for space and were ready to let me take Amelia home.

“Of course! But we don’t have a leash or anything yet…” I stammered. They told us not to worry, and provided us with a few basic items to get us started. And so, that’s how I found myself pulling out my debit card and becoming a sudden dog Mom.

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We headed out to the truck with Amelia, a little stunned but full of excitement. We headed right to the grocery store- I went in and loaded up on dog blankets, treats, food, dishes, spill mats, anything and everything I could think of.

And so, we brought Amelia home, but her devil-may-care attitude had disappeared, replaced with a demeanor of perpetual confusion and concern. We tried to be really relaxed at home and let her get used to her new surroundings, but by the third day I was worried that Amelia would never feel comfortable in our small apartment- I didn’t realize how long it can take for dogs to adjust to a new home.

She was driving me crazy with her anxious habits- staring at me with bulging eyes when I was trying to read and study, army-crawling underneath the couch, vaulting herself from the couch to the bed like a hovercraft malfunctioning, whining incessantly for no apparent or discernible reason.

I thought, she’s miserable! She hates our little bachelor pad. 

But, again, all we needed was some time. It took a couple of weeks, but Amelia began to show her true colours- dorky, full of energy, and happy to nap on the couch or bed. We didn’t think “Amelia” suited her very well, so we renamed her- Tegan. (We were listening to a lot of Tegan and Sara at the time…)

As she became more comfortable with us, Tegan began to get more assertive, nipping at our fingers and eventually trying to hump us. I had no idea how to train a dog, so I did what I always do when facing a problem: explore the library!

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The books helped, as did internet forums. It wasn’t long before we had our routines and habits, and Tegan fit right into our family, wrapping her little swirly tail around my heart. I got curious one day and called the SPCA to ask if they had her background on file- I wondered, did she come from previous owners, or was she abandoned somewhere? The woman on the phone looked her up and told me that she was found wandering downtown with a couple of other dogs. Wow, I thought. I couldn’t imagine our derpy dog being a part of some doggie street gang!

Over these six years we have made lots of memories

and Tegan has made lots of derpy faces

I hope we still have lots of memories and derps to come.

Lastly, here is a little video compilation I made of Tegan, featuring clips from our earlier years together!

Beasts of Burden- A New Comic Fave!

A lovely woman at the Comic Hunter shop in Charlottetown PEI highly recommended this book, and it was an easy sell for her because I love dogs, I love comics, I love dark and creepy stories, and I love it when someone shares their favorite reads with me!

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If you aren’t into animal stories, I’d suggest you still give this one a chance, because this series is more than meets the eye. While it’s full of sniffing-sleuth shenanigans and humour, the series focuses on arcane paranormal activities, strange creatures, and carnage!

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I felt there was a very good balance between each story, flowing from disturbing tales into more (relatively) lighthearted stuff and with bits of charm and laughs throughout. Jill Thompson’s gorgeous watercolour illustrations are perfect for this comic- together with Dorkin’s writing the characters really come to life, each with their own distinct personalities. I have a fondness for Pugsly!

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Highly recommended!

 

 

*note: this review also appears on my Goodreads 🙂