Too Convoluted

everything too convoluted for stage

December 1, 2014
by Anna Gustafson

First one that smelt it

My first impression of Toronto was different from the one most Vancouverites hold dear, whether or not they’ve ever been to the city.  I was captivated.  There was just so much goddamn brick everywhere!  The absence of cedar and glass was jarring at first but the way this town sat itself with such historical depth into the shoreline  felt solid.  It was like England but with stores I understood.  England was my first brave thing geographically, Toronto was my second, they both had the same smell.  Subway backdraft.

I found myself in two meetings this week that jetted me back to my pilgrimage east.  Both with extraordinary people, both full of potential.  There were those that had great faith in me when I first arrived here.  Over time that changed.  Sometimes understandably, sometimes shockingly.  It’s a fact of life that people run hot and cold with each of us.  Mrs. Garrett said so.   But there were so many claims of hot that ran ice cold I became suspicious.  Suspicious of compliments.  Suspicious of offers to help me advance.  I think this is what jaded looks like when it’s first starting to crystallize in your psyche.

Haven’t written a post for a while.  Can you tell i’m giving it my all?  I’ve spell checked “tantamount”.  Get ready.

So.  These meetings.  Two meetings and a phone call to be precise.  Universe hat trick or intervention, not sure which.   Whatever that stuck place was that I was in, i’m out.  And do you know what it took?  A couple of good eggs making me believe that what I have to contribute matters.  I’m not dumb, I know I gots mad skillz but the brain is a very powerful thing when it tells you that it would be easier to just not.


After the last meeting, “da ‘terd star”,  in that glorious old carpet factory building in Liberty Village where every Flashdance loft fantasy comes visually to life, I bee lined to a deluxe home store.   You know the kind.  They sell shit that your Grandma has but without the rusty bits and for the price of her life savings. Every turning point for me needs a new expensive candle.   I dig smells.   I believe that if you add a layer of recognition to an experience through another sense, like smell, it’s locks in.

It’s why Olympians smell their pits after the medal ceremonies.

As proof that my universe was been shaken up a little bit, I had a very fancy lady in a very fancy car walk back four car lengths and give me her unexpired parking pass.  Not sure if i’m being told to stop judging fancy ladies but i’ll at least be more aware that things aren’t always as they seem.  And can I just say, she smelled AMAZING.

So here I am, back in my little writing nook going at it again.  My candle smells like a sauna so as well as solidifying this week in history, it’s bringing back the exciting times of getting to dump water on the hot rocks while the Gustafson family geezers sat in the rafters drinking scotch.

Most things in the news have been absolute crap lately.  Tantamount…there it is…to my efforts as a blogger.  Fight the crap with me!  Fire up a candle that smells like something you remember as lighting you up and burn it to the ground.  First one that smelt it, dealt it.


September 28, 2014
by Anna Gustafson


Had a great moment at a funeral a while back.  Yes I just said that.  I’ve gotten to a place where I can dial back the emotion, that place being Swedish genetics, and enjoy the life being remembered.  A common theme in every fully lived life, i’m finding, is a shared love by the remaining family members of something made by hand.  Something baked. Something presumedly gone now.

I bake.  Yeah, I just said that too and i’m not ashamed any more. I love baking. Came by it naturally by being raised by a mother and grandmothers that always had the oven on. Baked goods i’m finding are one of the more appreciated gifts and a hands-on way to show the love above all else.  Ok, not all else.   The appreciation comes from it being near impossible to find time to do it anymore and a cake at Whole Foods is like $400.Besides, a nice perishable pie leaves out the hastle of a friend digging around in their shit closet to put out the fugly vase you bought them last time they hosted a dinner.

For years I played my pans pretty close to my chest because baking was such an old lady thing to do.  It’s more hip to be bad in the kitchen and burning all things domestic.  Save for spinsterly girls that wear vintage horn-rimmed glasses, late Aunt cardigans and collect tea cups with owls on them.  But as you look to ways to be thoughtful you start to understand old lady wisdom.  The wisdom that says feed them and they will come.

Where this all came from is, at this funeral, I spoke to a young woman who had just lost her Oma.  She was a little daunted by the task of learning how to make Weichselstrudel or Apfelstrudel or Mohnstrudel. How could you not be?  You want to have a little lay down after trying to spell them. As we chatted we were surrounded by pictures that could have been any Mom or Grandma kneading dough, cutting crust, rolling bread.

Just because there’s a cupcake shop on every freaking corner now doesn’t mean you have to drop the dough ball.  Get some flour under your nails.  Throw gluten into the wind.  Make some truly ugly cakes until you get the hang and haul your familys’ legacy into the next generation.

June 30, 2014
by Anna Gustafson

Rolling With A Crew

DSC_6426Justin Bieber has a crew.  His crew saunters. There is no saunter in RAAM.

Race Across America is exactly as it sounds.  Racing bikes from the pacific ocean straight shot to the atlantic.  When I said yes to “crewing”, I had anticipated more riding than racing but I was wrong.  Four guys taking turns riding all day, all night, Maryanne.  Like turns on a swing when there is only one swing.  I was part of the group that pushed the swing.

Two crews of six.  Four vehicles.  Countless bikes. Four riders. Two hundred and sixty seven stylish cycling outfits.

There is no “off”.  There is no “break”.  Unless one happens by the grace of God or epic kack-up in navigating.  You carry a heavy load of paying attention.  Awareness is the glue that keeps a team together.  There is no head up your ass culture nurtured here.  You’re there to look after the riders.  You think The Biebs has to worry about what he’s having for lunch?  Riders first, crew second.

Not to be dramatic,…….yes to be dramatic … have the lives of the riders and sometimes the other crew members in your hands.  Night and day. This is where aware and alert snuggle in together. Sure it sucks to sit in a silent car and listen to stinky snoring for a couple of hours with your radio off, lights out, hands still.  But like a live performance, you open your candies before the show starts.  If the guys don’t grab sleep they are at greater risk of crashing.  If you don’t get yours, you’re at greater risk of crashing into things living and inanimate.

Exciting skills that you never knew you needed or even held surface.  Having a wee out of a moving van door for example.  Not going to say who but leaders lead.

Frying bacon in a moving vehicle.  A skill not to be done in shorts.  Skills and lessons.

Trying to be quiet is louder than just being quiet.  American city planners screw with you by naming one street two times.  Like a kid who goes by their middle name JUST TO MESS WITH YOU!

You can get pulled over from driving too safely in America. Knowing that shame in advance of your 80’s is hard to bear.

Red Bull makes you feel like you’re plugged in.  To Tokyo.

Going from picking clothes by what might be nice for that day fades to cautiously smelling things to make sure they are passable.  Sometimes not and in extreme cases thrown in a roadside trash bin.  At this point in the blog I would like to submit an official apology on behalf of Team Make It Happen to any dumpster divers in our wake.

We had more wet naps in our convoy than John & Kate & The Duggers combined.  These perfect little squares of dewy freshness are an asset on the road.  Accent on ass.

IMG_5084Best part hands down for me was the gratitude oozing from exhausted riders.  There’s something really special about a tired, worn down, stressed athlete noticing how beautiful a sunrise is.  Coaching the other riders to look up from the handlebars and breathe in what they were experiencing.

I’d say yes to all of the above again.  Minus the “breathe in”.  Never again through the nose.

June 14, 2014
by Anna Gustafson


So there’s this thing that I do.  Agree to things.  Not sure when fear shifted position from being the lead in my life to being the after thought.  It rode on my handlebars most days through high school.  I may just be, as the lady elders say, getting “dotty”.   Sounds cute!  Like something swishy you wear to look nice at a picnic.

During a visit home for a high school reunion, I was asked to fly up to almost Alaska to join a commercial fishing troller as a deckhand.  As far as skill sets go, I knew how to clean a fish and be on a boat just not thousands of fish and not for weeks at a time.  Was not skilled either at revisiting the place where all my insecurities took root in my soul. Plus i’m a shitty actor so pretending I didn’t recognize the graduation dress that doubled as bridesmaids dresses was too much to bear.  Wasn’t that hard of a decision to get on that plane but it did feel spontaneous and brave.  I wanted to feel that more.

Looking back on some of the “yes” moments in the past, the ones where a pile of fear and doubt crept in immediately following have turned out to be some my best choices.   Co-producing The SheDot Festival this year was a doozie.  Not only do you put all your time and energy out there but your reputation as well.  Deckhanding was slightly less public.  With calm clarity on the other side of it’s success I can let my breath out and say it was a great decision.

Most recently,  have said yes to crewing Race Across America.  A bike race…across America.  The longest annual endurance events in the world. It’ll be like deckhanding for the elite.  No idea what i’m in for but this yes got out before I could stop it.

Negligence becomes evident when you drop balls.  When you let what’s important to you ride in the back seat and what you think that which is expected of you in the front.  This blog, for example. It’s been sittin’.  It’s not that I have nothing to write about, it’s that i’ve got too much momentum from all the yessing that i’m daunted by drafts.  This is my attempt at getting that groove back on.  Like Stella but without the beach sex.  Writing is my selfish love that I wish I could just do for a living and nothing else.  But whatcha gonna write about if you don’t go to some scary places right?

Not making decisions, staying in one place and not putting yourself into a position to be scared is my personal negligence.  Neutral is a shit gear to drive in. Granted, you need to put it in neutral to get your car washed once in a while, and when there’s something in the way and you have to idle long enough to figure out how to get around it.  But for the love of all things brave, don’t run in that gear.  Coasting.  Going slowly.  Bored with the drive.

Peel out!  Yes first.  Fear second.  High School Reunions last.

“Yup Yup Yup” – Ducky, Land Before Time


January 10, 2014
by Anna Gustafson
1 Comment

Artsy Fartsy

Back in the day, which is an expression I use when I don’t want to specify dates, Artsy Fartsy was occasionally used as a disparaging remark.  Usually from those that believed somewhere along the line you had to pick whether you were going to be an academic (aka: successful) or Artsy Fartsy (aka: wears drawstring pants).

Lund School

Lund School

Shamefully, I can’t say I remember much happening academically in my elementary years.  Jimmied into a two room school house it did happen, it just wasn’t memorable for me.  There were workbooks for each of our grades. Hard parts on the chalk board.  For the most part though,  I recall the creative.  Not only did we have art,  we were free to move our desks to wherever we wanted so we could be comfortable in our creative space.  I dragged my desk into one of the cubbies regularly leaving  nowhere to go except the page in front of me.  Years later I do my best when painted into a corner creatively.  Weird.

Further to Fartsy development, each year every last kid would be cast in the Christmas Concert.  As a student and as a town, we were all in.  Would have been a great night to steal a fish smoker because all the houses sat empty.  You picked what you felt you could do and you did it, ability be damned.  My brother, the academic prodigy, stood in the choir and sang next to me.  He wasn’t put out to smarty pants pasture on that night.  It was unheard of to not be a part of this end of the road arts gala. It was the social kick off to the much anticipated prawn season.

I was asked recently to donate some of my particular art, comedy,  to help raise funds for a Parkdale school that has had theirs yanked by someone that I suspect didn’t have much fartsy in their upbringing.  Who decided art isn’t a thing?  That music isn’t team building as much as football would be?  That learning to think with the whole other half of your brain doesn’t makes good sense?  Why the F-ity-F would you only focus on half a kid head when the kid is still becoming who they’re going to be?  Grrr.

When you’re young and exploring what you want to do with your life, you’re presented with what’s out there.  Much like growing up in a small town, your choices are limited if you’re only shown a small picture.   What’s it going to do to a vulnerable bunch of kids to have critical thinking and strategic skills taken from them?  Choices will be made for them. Sometimes by awful people.  Good job politics.

As a kid in the seventies, creativity was tantamount to being a free range chicken.  Running around, happy as can be but still capable of providing an egg when needed.  I knew there would be hard work but had the tools to enjoy it.  Having art in my life didn’t mean I was going to jump the chicken wire and run crazy for the rest of my life.  Not going to say this didn’t happen with the odd chicken in my school.  That’s why there are life coaches now.  I didn’t want to be in the place that I was in and it was, without a doubt, creative, strategic thinking above all that got me to a successful place where I have many pairs of pants now.  Drawstring and smarty.  Long live Artsy Fartsy!!


November 21, 2013
by Anna Gustafson

The Winter Of My Discontent


You can’t decide to plunk your home office in the least insulated part of the house and expect not to be inspired to get some feelings down when the hand of winter becomes cold enough to bitch-slap your retro thermometer off the side of the house.  I loved that thing. Staring at me through the window while I worked. Offering clues to the outside world.


nephew Digby trying out his new genes

I’ve been away for a while.  All my writing and more than all my energy has been dedicated to a cross country adventure for a childhood cancer charity.  A meaningful one that left me sitting here at my desk six weeks later looking for meaning.  I tend to overdramatize the change in seasons.  Likening them to New Years Day each time one happens.  It has always made good sense to me to revel in epic events in nature.  Growing up way in it may have something to do with that.

Standing tall facing a storm.  Setting an alarm two hours prior to dawn and then driving one hour and fifty minutes to a favorite place to watch a sunrise. Seems more eloquent than the just the counting down of days.

When you get your emotions sucked out of your chest you are at your best to fill back up on whatever you choose. This last trek had a lot of suction. I’ve had a great year with a lot of opportunities and now must winnow down to what will make me my most best.  Like a kid with all the toys, each with a different payoff.

My 81 year old Dad has a new e-reader so him finally having unfiltered access to this thing that I do brings me great joy and resolve.  We’ll see what it brings him. I’m collaborating with some superb women to build something very cool and with great spirit.  They had me at “winnow”, my new favorite word.  I’m mending my relationship with stand up and we’re getting along much better now.  Kudos for my writing is coming from those with cred as opposed to people whom I just trust and love but will never hear or understand a compliment from.  Nice how we do that to ourselves and to them.

And the book.  I wrote one.  Gave it to someone a little too close to me and there it sits.  As still as where I sit holding my breath until I hear back.  No i’m not calling.  Getting sick enjoyment out of the torturous hang time.

Nobody is home for a few days.  The New Years leaves are blowing all over the yard.  I have no idea what the temperature is but know that it’s cold by how much the cat is loving me up.  I’ve been eating noodles and apples for three days straight.  These moments of this are what I look forward to without ever knowing when they are coming.  These ones here.  That make you decide things.  It’s incredible how discontent can become full speed ahead with one good long look out the window.  Or off the deck.

Happy New Year.  Especially to you squirrel. Patiently waiting for the right time to fling yourself onto the biggest tree in the yard.  I shall name you Richmond.

September 23, 2013
by Anna Gustafson

Ride Up Gather Round

From …… so you know what i’m up to until November.   

It’s not often that I jump out of bed singing a Def Leppard song but it happens.  I could pretend that I have more sophisticated tastes in music but anyone who sees what I have now been inspired to wear today will be able to bust me.  It’s not music I have on my player, but one of those surprise songs you hear on the radio you forgot you knew or ever drove around summer Regattas in top down jeeps listening to.  Party songs.

Next week the party hopping starts and i’m ridiculously excited. (see above)  Again this year i’m joining the National Inside Ride Tour, travelling from St. John’s Newfoundland to Victoria British Columbia, with a group of people that I should be referring to by now as my homies.  It’s not the most conventional fundraising initiative but to put it in a nutshell, we haul bikes and ass across the country, screw the tires to indoor stationary trainers in communities as we make our way west.  We crank the tunes, jump around while the locals ride… dance…cheer…high-five…be alive….all for incredible places for children to be children when they are sick.

So the nutshell of this nutshell is acting like kids to help kids.  Plenty more on what that means down the road.

Kristin Victoria

I’ve been brought on to write about it, help with the yelling/cheering part as emcee, tag-team the photography, make you feel like you’re there through social media, and of course for my freakish upper body strength that’s needed to be part of this crew.  I’ve blown out a shoulder so like when I would get back from fishing season, expect my good arm to have a nice juicy bicep on it from hauling bikes that weigh a lot more than a salmon.  It will be a gun show but with only one in the holster.

This First Big Ride space was created for people that are intrigued by the thought of riding somewhere meaningful, doing a honking big charity bike ride themselves.  From now until November will be an example of what great things can spin off by engaging with people giving their all to wrastle some change into the world.  It is a cycling adventure, no doubt, but some of the biggest “aha” moments down this road for me will be from living in the back of a transport truck with a handful of cyclists for a month at the beginning of a Canadian winter.

The voice of this foundation is true and purposeful and compassionate.  I will join in that voice and help tell their story at  Many options there to follow along or join with us when we come to your town.

For the rest of the voices in my head, i’ll be here as usual.

Gunter glieben glauchen globen



September 13, 2013
by Anna Gustafson

Dressing for Success

As someone who primarily works from home, I don’t always dress for success.  If we’re being really truthful, I sometimes don’t even dress.  As a matter of fact, this blog is being drafted in the glory that is full late afternoon commando.  Deal with it.  My back yard neighbours with the new fence have learned to.

More often than not, I dress only to the critical point where I could  answer the door without my arms crossed.  It’s not giving up, it’s giving priority.  My brain is lit up in the morning, not wasting that energy on accessorizing.  Will never make it to a place where I could throw open the door braless although I wish I had that kind of hippy confidence. I’ve been known to wear one to bed when we have house guests in case I meet them in the hallway at night.

I’ve taken a bit of time away from doing stand up.  It got yucky and toxic and for the wrong reasons so I stepped out before I lost my love for it.  Needed to prove two things.  One, that I could write more than what fits on a bar napkin and two, that sober suited up people in the daytime would be interested in what I have to say.  Success!  Out of the determined stubbornness of proving something came a new and complimentary love.  The excruciating restraint and absolute freedom that comes from writing without having to be all things to all people.  A focussed piece that speaks to the conversation thats already going on in someones head. It’s strategic and it’s exciting. I’m in for a pound.

The twist in this story is that I have a stand up gig in a couple of days.  Historically, September is a nail biter of a month because club work dries up in the summer and you feel rusty.  You can still do it but it’s like writing with a dull pencil.  Not phoning it in but rather trying to remember how to make the call.  Septembers in the days where I had all my eggs in the stand up basket creatively used to fill me with dread.  Out of unmitigated insecurity I would obsess over picking a show outfit that would say confident yet relaxed, full of hilarity yet with a touch of upscale artist.  Seriously!

For example:

Dressing For Success

– A graphic t-shirt with a fender guitar is too Bon Jovi cougar bar but a graphic t-shirt with a bird on it casually says I love nature without being too tree hugger.

– Jeans riddled with holes & nice boots okay.  Brand new Jeans without holes & scuffed boots okay.  New jeans & nice boots;  Who do you think you are overkiller?

– Baggy low jeans with white button down shirt gives a cool boyfriend vibe.  Dark fitted pants with white button down shirt gives a waiter vibe.

– Authentic concert tees sometimes work but a band that is being reproduced ironically by Top Shop sends a confusing message about how you spend your time.

My closet is very schizophrenic right now.  Power suits next to destroyed jeans, lady blazers next to altered mens denim jackets, banged up motorcycle boots next to sensible pumps.  Who am I?

I’m finally a writer, confident in my abilities to deliver a show without an agenda or misguided pressure to be something i’m not.  I think it’s called a grown up.

I’m just a girl, standing in front of a set list, asking it to work.






August 28, 2013
by Anna Gustafson

Terrible 2.0’s

Oh Miley Cyrus……and every other kid about your age…….what are we going to do with you?  So many people watching……that poor unshakable Smith family…..what were you thinking?

With all the hell that is breaking loose with girls busting out of their teens and their seams, perhaps there’s a different way to understand your childs developmental stage.  Maybe like that first unspeakable round at two years old, these are The Terrible 2.0’s.

Terrible Two’s & Terrible 2.o’s – Compare & Contrast

Public Temper Tantrums – Not getting a juice box at 2 is the equivalent of not getting new iPhone at 2.o.  Inconceivable.

Inability To Comprehend – Failure to understand what drawers and hangers are for.

Mastery Of Unnecessary Skills – Eye rolls & extended tongue at the forefront.

Wants & Needs – They want and they want and they want and they want and they WANT, and they WANT.  Now.  Because of a bottomless need.

Critical Language –  “Sorrr-ryyyy” is the magic eraser of all accountability.

Violent Behavior –  The hit/bite response mutates to scream/insult response.

Brazen Performances – Embarrassing gestures that involve their privates.  In version 2.0, this can coincide with the onset of self-published images.

Belief Systems – Without question Fairies exist.  Initially for teeth, later for abandoned dishes, underpants and wet towels.

Good news is they grow out of it.   Someone eventually has the audacity to say  “No”  to them and it starts to resonate.  Light bulb comes on that try should follow need.  Want isn’t a direct path to have any more.

Every young girl has the potential to have the same sized audience as the “troubled child actor” set.  Realistically, no. Technically, yes.  Everyone has the ability to broadcast, some just have better reception on their channel because of their fame.  At an age where attention is tantamount to oxygen, this is where we’re at. They are all just jockeying for position.  You can tell by how much they simulate actual riding.

August 12, 2013
by Anna Gustafson

Dig In

My #4weeks4days project from past years has consequently led me to temporarily abandon this place that I love, too convoluted. Not without remorse.  I’m three days away from this years big ride and this is what i’m up to.  From   

Very easy to write about these rides and be all “Take that Lance Armstrong” but fact of the matter is, they are hard.  I completely understand the lure of banned substances.  I’d eat a panda if it was offered to me at the right time.

Cant speak for everyone but I find them equally mental as they are physical.  And I don’t mean “That hill was mental, man!”  but psychologically challenging.  Legs can only do so much, you need The Sisu.  This is a Finnish expression loosely translated as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. Essentially, diggin’ in.  

These rides attract some super elite and very fast cyclists who deserve to be there.  What some folks miss is that no matter what level you are at, you deserve to be there too.  You practice and train and put in the saddle time but if you don’t have your head in the game you make it infinitely harder than it needs to be.  This from the girl who’s been dropped and cried about it.  YES.  Literally shed tears on my bike and said out loud to my handlebars “What were you thinking?”  What was that about?  I know exactly what it was about.  It was me being crazy person mad at my failings that I never had to blow in the first place. That guy going my speed would be failure that day.  Me going my speed that day should have been celebrated.  What I was missing during this pity party was that I was doing it.  Mental, mental, mental.

I come from a very long line of fiercely determined Scandinavians.  My Grandma who climbed trees well into her eightees.  My Dad who is planning the next addition to his five bedroom house that only two people live in.  And the newest one, my nephew Digby……call sign Digger….for good reason.

He’s not focussed on his big brother Agustus and beating the shit out of himself emotionally for not being able to run. He’s clipped in, eyes front and digging in.  The knees aren’t in the game, he may not even know what they are for yet at four months but he’s digging in to the best of his ability, plank you very much.  “This is what i’m capable of so i’m going to do the hell out of it”.

plankMy point?  Forget That Guy

Once you dig in, you’re gonna have yourself a good time.  – Lenny Kravitz

Hot diggity – Perry Como 

4 days to go.


To donate – Tour For Kids