Playing with the Universe by Deborah Clague

Ask and ye shall receive.

I've noticed that when I start to desire something in life, the universe somehow conspires to make it happen. This is rather fortunate, even though it may not always be exactly what I want (or initially expect it to be). Case in point, over the past few weeks I have been vocalizing my desire within the office to become more involved in international assignments. I met with the department manager to learn about specific qualifications required and where my current skillset needs further refinement. I even started researching degrees I could obtain to help become successful in the area, such as in the International Relations or Political Science fields.

Just a few days ago, I even posted a story from Humans of New York that described a longing to take on new challenges and become "a tourist in one's own life". It spoke to me deeply. It was incredibly reassuring to know that others feel this need for adventure and risk, that to most may seem foolhardy. My siren call to the universe was growing louder and louder. 

And then, just yesterday, I received a response. 

Yesterday, I was contacted by a senior recruiter at a foreign university informing me of an available position I might be interested in. The position is similar to my current role in design and would be a lateral move. The country, however, would provide plenty of the "challenges" I seek; located in the middle east, the country is one of the wealthiest in the world – and the remuneration received, including accommodation, would be reflective of that. However, it is also a place where my gender is not treated with equality. While the University compound and surrounding area itself appear a bit more "liberal", this would counter my own beliefs and expectations of freedom in society. 

Part of it feels right. But it doesn't feel right now. The experience, insight and understanding I could gain by living in a foreign country, even if only for a year or two, would be immeasurable to my personal growth. And, to be honest, the opportunity to make more money than I've ever dreamed is also very intriguing. But leaving people I love and need to care for right now is also not negotiable. I feel very conflicted. 

I am comfortable but I am complacent. I don't know which will influence my decisions in life moving forward, but part of me knows the universe is listening and will give me what I need. 

A Tourist in Your Own Life by Deborah Clague

Humans of New York started out as a blog dedicated to showing street portraits of the city's diverse inhabitants. It has since expanded globally and also shares stories as well. Some are humorous. Some are heart-warming. My favourite, though, are the poignant, revealing confessions that normally remain buried in our hearts and hold weight on our souls. The confessions that delve deep into what it actually means to be human. 

The following was posted on the blog this week. As I read it, I felt pause and then an overwhelming sense of empathy. I feel like I could have written it myself:

In loving memory by Deborah Clague

Some of my earliest memories in life happened at my maternal grandparent's house. The maroon-coloured bi-level home was located in Saint Boniface, Winnipeg's main French district. My mother's family had moved there years earlier after relocating from the Quebec interior. They were French to the core, with the language being the only tongue spoken. I remember entertaining myself as they conversed, wandering about the house while "playing" with my imaginary friends. My earliest memory, in fact, is of finding a toy dinosaur (brontosaurus) while exploring their unfinished basement. I don't know why this particular recollection has stayed with me all these years but it remains as vivid as yesterday. 

I also recall the decor of the home being quite lavish to my childhood eyes, with everything perfectly, painstakingly colour coordinated. Everything in the bathroom, including tub, sink and tile, was a light pink akin to Pepto Bismol. The living room was various shades of dark green with the carpet resembling moss growing beneath my feet. It was in this space that I recall my first taste of beer as two of my cousins dared each other to sneakily take a sip from my grandfather's stein. I joined in. It was repulsive to my childhood self, and, admittedly, still is today. Between taste and touch and sight, this home and the colourful people within it slowly set the path for me to become the woman I am today. 

As a result of family turmoil and the unravelling of their nuclear unit, I lost touch with my grandfather for many years. Decades. The last I saw him was at my father's funeral in 2014. He had seen the obituary in the local newspaper and used the day to extend an olive branch towards my mother. During a day of much sadness, the reunion was a positive highlight. A reminder that forgiveness and love are pivotal in human wellbeing. 

This past Sunday, I learned from my mother that my grandfather had passed away at the age of ninety-one. It was a long life filled with more hardship than he deserved to carry but he also left a long legacy of which I am proud to have a part in. 

May he rest in peace. 

Bon Appétit by Deborah Clague

Over the past while, I've been developing a skill that most who've known me from a past life might be shocked by. I am learning how to cook and bake and am thoroughly enjoying it.

It started out with someone in my life making the effort to cook meals from scratch for me and educate me about the harmful effects of processed foods. Admittedly, I wasn't entirely on board with this at the beginning. I chose to live in ignorance. I enjoyed returning home after a stressful day of work and doing the absolute bare minimum in terms of giving myself sustenance because I just didn't have the energy. I preferred to nurture myself with sin rather than something wholesome because I believed its enticement was unfeigned. 

I remember many a car ride while driving past the golden arches in which I defiantly proclaimed "just let me have a freakin' burger!"

But my friend was unbowed. He continued to demonstrate the creativity that could be utilized in the kitchen and this drew me in. Food wasn't just food anymore. There was a blend of artistry and science that compelled me to explore on my own. 

And now I've become a food snob. 

I am just in the initial stages but my eating habits have completed changed. I no longer crave fast food or anything that is convenient in the frozen aisle. I visit the grocery several times a week and buy everything fresh and - as was taught - make as much from scratch as possible. While work stress remains, I genuinely look forward to returning home and spending time in my kitchen, mixing and seasoning, chopping and kneading. In a sense, I now preserve my energy for it. It has become my time for zen. A moment with myself where I get to nourish both my belly and mind. 

Perhaps the best compliment I've received on this new path is from my best friend (and now tastetester). After sampling some sticky toffee pudding I made, her reaction was "if I were a dude, I'd marry you."

Bon appétit. 


Last weekend I baked pumpkin chai muffins. They were absolutely delicious! The recipe can by found in the amazing cookbook "All The Sweet Things".  

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Book Recommendations by Deborah Clague

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The Vanished: The Evaporated People of Japan in Stories and Photographs
Written by Léna Mauger and Stéphane Remael

Over the past couple years, I've fantasized about disappearing. I'm not sure if this is a part of life that everyone goes through at some point, a rejection of adult responsibilities and societal obligations that increasingly seem outdated and moot. Perhaps it's just daydream nation needing a distraction from the everyday monotony or, now, everyday chaos. I do think about it a lot though. To the point where I'm aware of how far my meagre savings will go towards the alternate existence I have mapped out in my head should I ever choose it.

There are, of course, people that willingly walk away from their lives. It is actually a big phenomena in Japan where nearly one hundred thousand people vanish without a trace each year. I recently read the book "The Vanished: The "Evaporated People of Japan in Stories in Photographs" which tells some of these stories (anonymously for the most part, of course). It was a fascinating read that described an insane corporate culture where business has an iron grip on employees. A culture where deviation from the norm can bring about the deepest shame. 

Some of the "romance" of vanishing into thin air was washed away after reading this. But it also gave me more insight into why I might be harbouring the desire in the first place. 

Favourite line: "Often, that's all they're waiting for, a word, a gesture."


All The Sweet Things: Baked Goods and Stories from the Kitchen of Sweetsugarbean
Written by Renée Kohlman

I have never been a cook. Surely never a baker. But when a friend noticed how much I was spending on dining out (and all the unhealthy processed foods I was eating when at home), he started teaching me how to cook. A few lessons later and I discovered that I could make meals as good, if not better, than what I was getting at my favourite restaurants. Cooking has become my new passion. With my art & design background, I not only want to make things taste good but look amazing too (as none of my taste-testers have fallen ill, I'd say that I am successful thus far). 

Canadian-based blogger Sweetsugarbean recently released a very beautiful, easy to follow cookbook that focuses on "All the Sweet Things". I have tried a few recipes so far – including a very easy, very tasty raspberry clafoutis – and am highly recommending it. My summer goal is to make a new dish each week. Follow me on Instagram to see the results. 

The Kitten That Liked Ice Cream by Deborah Clague

It's time for Spring cleaning and as I was decluttering my condo, I came across this:  

It is a compilation of stories that myself and the other twenty-five students in Mrs. Larson's grade two class wrote way back in the day. According to the preface:

"What a joy! Your children are sensitive to themselves, their world and the power of their language. At such a young age, they are willing and able to put into words their feelings, ideas, wonderings and fantasies."

Which is hilarious considering this was my submission: 

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Yikes. 

But equally interesting is my bio. I've always believed that someone's core self is a mirror of who they were as a child. In that regard, my current life could also be summed up as follows: 

"I like puppies. I like making things. I like to read. I went many places."

"I like puppies. I like making things. I like to read. I went many places."

My essence has never changed, although my name has. Because there were two Deborahs in my grade, I was relegated (not by choice) to become "Debbie". I went along with it because I was a terribly shy child who just did what she was told and never really raised her voice. Perhaps this is the part of me that has evolved over the years; I don't really answer to anyone anymore. Anyway, I really can't put into words how much I hate the moniker and have erased any trace of it.

I am (and always have been) Deborah Michelle Clague, a girl who likes puppies, reading and traveling. 

Back Home by Deborah Clague

My last day on the Isle of Man, I explored Douglas a bit more and did some shopping. The same cab driver that gave me the inside scoop upon arrival was again my ride back to IOM. On this passage, he told me stories about the world's largest online gambling company, PokerStars.net, setting up shop on the island and the increased presence of secret service agents solely to monitor its financial activity. It was all quite fascinating. I was also fascinated by his innate ability to hold conversation looking at me in the backseat while navigating the winding, narrow roads. Decades of watching the island's famous TT races must have seeped into his subconscious intuitively letting him know every curve. 

We parted ways and he commented again on the "twang" in my accent and at how pleasant it was to drive a Canadian around for once. I had done my duty representing my home and native land in a friendly, polite manner. 

At IOM, I took some time to reflect upon my journey. I again felt like I accomplished a lot on this trip and could properly cross off another item from my bucket list (half of which are now complete in the two years since writing that post). What to do next? Where to go? I truly feel the world is my oyster. Being at this point in life is an accomplishment in and of itself. 


On a final note, I did discover more about the mysterious R.A.K. Clague, whose name I found on a World War II memorial inside St. Paul's Cathedral, London. The Librarian at the church has been very helpful in providing further information. I am not sure if they are a direct relative, but this other instance of fate is important for me to note. 

His name was Rupert Clague. I do not have an exact age but he was a member of the St. Paul's Cathedral Choristers from 1931 - 1935. He later joined the Royal Navy and was killed in action during World War II (date of death is September 27, 1941). The following poem is attributed to his hand: 

"The cloud I see is like a rose,
With morning sun behind it.
I gaze as it before me blows
And beautiful I find it."

Rupert Clague, circled. Date unknown.

Cair Vie* by Deborah Clague

Moghrey Mie
Good morning in the Manx language

The next morning upon waking up from slumber, I made myself a cup of Cadbury cocoa and watched as numerous people strolled along Douglas Bay. My cab driver from the previous afternoon was correct; there was a different pace of life here. A slower, more personable one. It was a Monday but the Manx Museum and shopping district of the capital would not be open until 10:00am. The sun had risen but the roads were still nearly deserted. There was no hustle-and-bustle. There was no rat race. Just dogs chasing sticks in the sand. I could live here. 

I paused and enjoyed the view, thinking of bloodlines that had come before and imagining what propelled them to leave and settle elsewhere. From this jade jewel in the Irish Sea, I somehow came to being in Canada. 

Fastyr Mie
Good afternoon in the Manx language

I eventually checked out of my hotel and made my way to the Manx Museum. The 10,000 year history of the island is explored through film, galleries and interactive displays and, like all museums in London, has free admission. I did thoroughly enjoy the Manx National Art Gallery display, as well as the Viking and Victorian-era artefacts, but the non-linear flow of the museum was confusing. One minute, I was learning about the famous TT races. The next I walked into an exhibit on primitive man. The next I was learning about the Depression-era economy. I did pick up a "Pocket Manx" guidebook on the basics of the language, which was a neat souvenir. 

I didn't learn a lot about my surname at the museum but further research has informed me that the family name dates to ancient times, perhaps exceeding the Norman Conquest (11th Century). The name is patronymic in origin and is an anglicanization of the Gaelic name Mac Liagh denoting "the son of Liaigh", from the Irish word "liaigh" meaning "physician".

As late as 1986, Clague was the ninth most common name on the Isle of Man, although there weren't as many as I expected in the Yellow Pages. Perhaps a hundred or so. Clague is the original Manx spelling; "Clegg" is the assimilated English version. 

Our family crest is an eagle rising argent. 

Oie Vie
Good night in the Manx language

*Safe journey in the Manx language