Looking Back: 2014

In the early days of January 2013, I flew to Dublin, Ireland, alone, embarking on what was meant to be a six month journey. It ended early, but that is besides the point, which is that that trip changed my whole life. Literally.

It showed me that I am capable of making my dreams into reality.

It showed me that I am capable of dealing with crappy situations (see: hundreds of delayed flights in a foreign city, extreme homesickness, extreme sickness in a foreign country).

It showed me that I am only limited by the limits of my imagination.

It made it possible for me to have the 2014 that I did. Here are some of the highlights.


Art! #art #painting #acrylic #jessabellepaints

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I find this building so soothing to look at. #sunset #yyc #architecture #calgary

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I quit my unproductive and unright for me job! The near-crushing relief.

Challenged my idea of myself as a non-visually creative person (I don’t even know what that means now) by painting with acrylics.

Started my Canadian Military History course.

Barenaked Ladies concert – third time seeing them live, never a disappointment. Especially their mash-ups at the end, which are always incredible.

Got First Aid and CPR-C certified.


Sun on the mountains. #canmore #explorealberta #mountains #beauty #latergram #inthesun

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Time for a mountain adventure! #roadtrip #explorealberta #adventuretime

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Mountains through the bridge #explorealberta #canmore #contrast #nofilter #rawimage

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Started a new, amazing job. Learned that choosing the inconvenient option that your heart truly wants is always the best choice.

Day trip to Canmore. Our proximity to the mountains is one of the only things that I miss about our old life in Calgary.


There was a lot of baby time this week. <3 #cutest

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Playing in the waves #playalindabeach #Florida #sisters

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Waiting for #veronicamars with @bcoopphotog – been waiting a year for this moment!

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Went to the Veronica Mars movie that I helped Kickstart.

Went to Florida with my family!

Giselle the ballet.

Spent a few days in Cold Lake visiting my favorite little ones.

Started this blog.


#sunset in #yql #solarflare

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Snow run #cantstopwontstop #running

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Started volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club.

Lethbridge visit.

Finished my Canadian Military History class – ended up with a B- even though I got an A on the midterm and on my paper (whoops).

We went to the Calgary Expo again. We had a hometown adventure by staying in a hotel in downtown Calgary for the whole weekend. We won it as a prize, and it was such a fun time!

Started my superhero novel.


#everythingedmonton was so much fun! A great evening of local music, photography, and community at #yellowheadbrewery

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Wedding dress sneak peak #wedding #dress #weddingdress

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Failed horribly at the Wildrose Cleanse (good riddance).

Bought my wedding dress.

Two trips to Edmonton, including one for Cooper and O’Hara’s Everything Edmonton event. Which was kind of the impetus for our decision to move back to Edmonton.


I thought Mud Hero wasn't until August… #runordyereddeer #fromwhereistand

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See? I told you it was adorable. #tattoo #immaculateconcept #junegoals

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I've officially started! #yearbook2013 #scrapbooking #junegoals

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SO EXCITED. #thenightbeforeourstars @johngreenwritesbooks

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Made our 2013 yearbook. I used a smashbook from Michael’s and prints from Printstagram, which was a LOT more work than just getting a book printed from somewhere like Blurb or MyPublisher or Artifact Uprising, but it was also a fun experience to go through all of the photos myself and put them on the pages with my own hands. I love the end result, and am excited to get my new smashbook in the mail and get started on 2014’s yearbook.

Went to the special pre-screening presentation of The Fault in Our Stars movie. Cried buckets.

Donated blood, and then five days later got my second tattoo.

Turned 25. Whaaat? Bri came down to celebrate, but in typical us fashion, we have no photographic evidence of this happening.

Run or Dye, which was SO muddy and awful. It rained for days beforehand and the run site was basically a mud pit.

Brett & Kaelynn’s wedding, where I met my father-in-law’s side of the family for the first time. It was an absolute blast, definitely the best wedding that I have ever been to.


Bring on the adventure. #coupleselfie #jandbdoportland

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Canada Day road trip to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, spending the whole time bowled over by how incredibly beautiful it all is.

Learned how to waterski.

Did solo karaoke for the first time ever (so glad there is no longer video evidence of that!).

5  year anniversary. Road trip to Portland, Cannon Beach, and Vancouver.



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Officially a finisher (in lopsided clothing). 21.1 km in 2:57:29. #edmontonmarathon #workinonmyfitness #101in1001

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My life lately. Sigh.

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Boats. #vancouver #stanleypark

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Spent a night in Revelstoke on our way home from Vancouver.

My mom and several family members organized a sweet bridal shower for me in under 2 weeks. It was super fun.

Did not get to participate in Mud Hero because I had a super intense throat infection.

Engagement photos.

The day that I had my hair and makeup trial for the wedding, we did the VIP experience at Cavalia with my family, which was such a cool experience. We even got to go in and meet the horses afterwards! It is definitely good to be married to a professional photographer.

The day after that, I ran the Edmonton Half-Marathon, my first half-marathon. It was a CHALLENGE, oh my God, but I think it is one of the accomplishments that I am the most proud of. It was an amazing feeing to cross that finish line and see Bryan waiting there for me.

X-fest music festival, where I got to see Death Cab for Cutie and Tegan and Sara, two of my favorite bands. I have been a Death Cab fan for nearly ten years, and seeing them live was a rush. And hearing them sing I Will Follow You Into the Dark in Calgary was even better.


Packing, beer, #Buffy. Could be worse. #teamspikeforever #etownbound

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The Golden Gate Bridge is poking out of @bcoopphotog's head! #goldengatebridge #jandbdosanfran #coupleselfie

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Ready and waiting… #jandbwedding2014 #backyardwedding

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Horseback riding!! #bacheloretteparty #horsebackriding #selfie #jandbwedding2014

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Jesse and the Dandelions. #jesseandthedandelions #highhopes #zatnp

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Zack and the Non-Profits High Hopes benefit concert. A friend of mine helped to organize this event to memorialize the five students killed last April, as well as raise money for the various charities and scholarships that have been set up in their names. It was a great evening of music.

Horseback riding bachelorette party. It was really special to have all of my closest friends and my sisters all in the same place at the same time.

Got married. Say WHAT?

Honeymoon in San Francisco. The coolest place ever. I could have stayed forever and ever.

Packing packing packing. The most fun was when the power went out the night before we were moving out, and so we spent three hours cleaning by the light of our cellphones and a battery pack Bryan keeps for photography purposes. Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe the process of moving?


#weareoilcountry Awesome seats at tonight's #oilers game.

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Moved to Edmonton! It was so the right decision and in three months we have never looked back.

Run for the Cure.

Started another new job. Very challenging. Very rewarding.

ANOTHER incredibly painful and dramatic throat infection (that’s what I get for working with children). It worked its way into my lymph node and I ended up with a golfball sized lump in my left node. Super unpleasant. I have a photo but I will spare you that experience!

Started playing rec volleyball.

Oilers game – and we actually won! (such a rarity.)

Rapid Fire Theatre Theatresports – LOVE improv. Edmonton Oktoberfest Beer Festival.


When you say best friends means friends forever. #bffs #selfielove #jandbdomontreal

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#parliamenthill #snow #jandbdoottawa #ottawa #vscocam #minimalist

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Completed NaNoWriMo for the third time. I am very excited to go back and edit what I have. Which is the first time that has ever happened, so it will be interesting to see the quality of the draft that I have, haha.

Ottawa and Montreal. Saw my best friend Bri! Started listening to Serial.

Volunteered with Homes for the Holidays, which is an interesting event in which five homes are decorated for Christmas and people pay to tour them. It is run by the Edmonton Junior League and proceeds go to a different charity each year; this year’s was WIN House. We were in the vintage Christmas house! It was fun to do something as a couple to give back to other people at Christmas.

Royal Bison local artisan show.


Christmas round 3. #splitfamiliesmeanmanychristmases #christmas #christmastree #merrychristmaseve #lights

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Coulee-adventure shot. #coulees #lethbridge #yql #landscape #freedom #adventure

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Table Top Cafe evening – played Carcassonne and Betrayal at House on the Hill. We went with a couple that we are close friends with; we usually play board games at their house. But Table Top is such a great concept! Each person pays $5 and they have a selection of HUNDREDS of board games that you can play! They also have food and drinks, including beer, and you can play for as long as you want (until they close anyway). I highly recommend this place – or a place like it where you live – if you and your people like playing board games. It is a great way to try games that you haven’t played before or games that you love but don’t want to spend $100 to own (seriously, games are so expensive!).

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald concert. I did not know if I was going to enjoy this concert or not, I had never even heard of MBF before, but Bryan wanted to go, so we got tickets, and lo and behold, it was SUCH A FUN NIGHT. Fantastic music, and amazing energy. I didn’t want it to end.

Busy busy busy. Three Christmases, hours of travel (Sylvan, Lethbridge, Okotoks). That is what split families will do for you – give you hours in the car, as well as multiple meals! Not so bad. 🙂

We went to The Nutcracker ballet. I have liked ballet for a while, but I think I have decided that I like plays and the like better.

Obsessed with Scandal. Thinking intently about the new year and what I want out of life (tis the season, right?).


Going over this past year was eye-opening. I knew that a lot had happened, but I forgot just how much. How humbling to see it all laid out before me. I am overwhelmed with gratitude, and look to the next year with high hopes that it will be more of the same.

Happy New Year to all of you! I hope that you have a beautiful, safe, ecstatic night with people that you love. See you in 2015.

Looking Back: 2014

Book of the Month – Double Header

I have always been a big fan of young adult novels. I don’t believe that the genre gets enough credit for how many genuine, heartfelt, incredibly original stories it produces. In December, I read two of the best young adult novels I have ever read. Which is saying a lot. Even if young adult books aren’t really your thing, I strongly encourage you to give these two a chance.


I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

This novel centres around twins Noah and Jude, who lost their mother at the age of 14 and whose relationship has since shattered. At 16, they are barely speaking to one another. Until a mystery at the centre of their lives begins to unravel.

The prose and the format are what really set this book apart. It was some of the most original prose I have ever encountered, and I found myself re-reading sentences again and again because they were so beautiful, and structured in such a unique way. As well, it shifts between the two perspectives of Noah and Jude, which is a familiar enough narrative device. However, in Noah’s perspective, we are with the twins when they are 14, and in Jude’s perspective, we are with them at the age of 16. Having these two timelines was such an interesting and engaging way to weave the narrative together, and was one of the reasons that I so enjoyed the novel. Jandy Nelson does such a great job with the split perspective as well. I have found that a lot of novels that attempt to use this device get bogged down by an inability to distinguish between the two voices (ahem, Philippa Gregory), but that is never a problem in I’ll Give You the Sun. Noah and Jude each have a unique way of looking at the world and expressing themselves, and that makes the whole story even more powerful.

When I was done, I felt like I had been enfolded by the story, mushed up, and been reborn again. I had a book hangover for days. My first book hangover in a long while.


We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Cadence Sinclair Eastman has been going to her family’s island off of Martha’s Vineyard every summer for her whole life. The Sinclairs are wealthy, beautiful, and damaged, and now, they are all harboring a secret. Something happened two years ago, the summer that Cadence was 15, and Cadence has no idea what it was. All she knows is that she woke up half-naked on the beach, and sustained injuries that have haunted her for two years. No one else is talking. What happened? How will Cadence figure it out?

This book is a mystery delivered in sparse and lovely prose. It’s a great mystery, too. I had actually guessed what had really happened early on in the book, but as I continued reading, I began doubting my conclusion so much that I changed my mind more than three times. I was so off-balance and engaged, I sped through the book in about one day. It put me in mind of summers spent at our own family cabin with my own cousins, and the versions of ourselves that have disappeared. It was nostalgic and lovely and really really painful.


All in all, these were two of the best books that I read this year. What about you guys?

Book of the Month – Double Header

The Soundtrack of My Life

don’t be afraid, Cecilia, I’m the satellite

…and you’re the sky

I just love Andrew McMahon. I can’t really think of many songs of his that I don’t like, and plenty that I love straight down to my core: Konstantine, Hammers and Strings, Last Straw, Walking By, Amelia Jean. The list goes on and on, from Something Corporate through to Jack’s Mannequin and now on to this new venture, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Their first song, Cecilia and the Satellite, makes me tear up every time I hear it. And then I want to listen to it over and over and over.

It’s funny: Something Corporate was part of the first wave of my indie experience. My friend Brittany introduced me to them in seventh or eighth grade. I remember I listened to the entire North album on repeat when my best friend went to Switzerland for a semester abroad (in junior high, what?!). I was delightfully shocked when I heard If U C Jordan for the first time. I sang along to As You Sleep and Only Ashes with my theatre friend Andrew, on the black and deserted highway between towns, absurdly pleased when he said he enjoyed singing with me. The first time I heard Konstantine, it was through an angsty blog post of an ex-boyfriend (that guy had serious lady issues).

And then came the lighter, but somehow deeper, Jack’s Mannequin. The frisson of excitement over the JFK line in Last Straw. The desperate edge of Bruised as I drove home for the weekend during that first disastrous summer in Lethbridge. Listening to their last album in the car with Bryan and being underwhelmed, then falling in slow, tantalizing love with songs like Amy, I and Restless Dream.

Andrew McMahon has been there for the past 13 years of my life. I feel like we’ve been through a lot together. Seeing him live in concert two years ago was one of the highlights of my life. He’s insanely talented, and his lyrics really pierce to the heart of things. I was so excited for the new album to release, and while I am not overwhelmed, I am waiting for another slow and tantalizing fall.

And now I’m going to go listen to that song again.

The Soundtrack of My Life