The Mess Of Sochi

by zchamu on February 6, 2014

12171841244_5eef4f6833_bI’ve got a piece up on Medium, called The Mess Of Sochi.

Corruption bags millions. Athletes get the shaft. Just who are the Olympics for, anyway?

You can read it here:

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An Explanation.

by zchamu on January 15, 2014

I legitimately expected 5 people to watch that video.

Seriously. Nobody reads this blog. Mainly because I never update it.

Going viral was not part of the plan.

When I originally made the video, it was because I kept thinking about Amanda after she died. I never met her, but her story stayed with me. I kept going back and reading her tweet stream, wishing I had reached out when she was alive. But I missed the chance. She was gone.

And I thought about how all I knew her through was her twitter stream, and how at least with a twitter stream it’s all just…. you. What you choose to write and put down.  No interpretation, no editorializing, no seeing someone through the lens of someone else’s experience. And how someday someone will (maybe, ha) look at my twitter stream and see what I’ve left here and maybe get a glimpse of me. And that I would hope that what I wrote would stay with someone in a positive way, just like Amanda’s final tweet has stayed with me. So I made the video it and shared it with a group of people at BlissDom Canada, to remind everyone of their own legacies, and – the bigger point – to pass on her message. Embrace life even when it gives you a shit deal. Forgive. Carry on.

Maybe I overstepped. Maybe it wasn’t my place. I don’t know.

When I made the video, I kept in almost all of the tweets she made after she got sick. The only ones I left out were the ones that contextually didn’t make sense (certain replies). Other than that, I left it as she did, because it’s how she told her story.

I tried to find out more information about her in order to tell her family about the video. I do not want them to be blindsided by it. But then it got picked up by Jezebel without my knowledge and without credit – meaning that the note I wrote in the original blog post asking anyone who knew her personally to contact me would not be shared. I was quite upset because of that (and also because, come on Jezebel, you know better.)  It felt shitty to make it an issue of CONTENT STEALERS! given the subject matter – but to a big site like Jezebel, that’s what they understand.  And to their credit, they reached out and now provide proper attribution, so that anyone can now find my full blog post with context.

Then Buzzfeed called, and they allowed me to set the context. I explained the story of how I came to make the video, and my misgivings about it, and the reason I ultimately wanted to share it: Because it’s important. Because she can’t. And she deserved to have her story told, and I could do it, so I did it.

It’s almost like an unauthorized biography – except, it’s all her own words. No editorial. I did not have permission to make or post the video from Amanda or her family, but I hope I did it sensitively and in such a way that her memory is honourably preserved.

So here we are. And I hope you can keep Amanda’s words with you, and if you get a chance, reach out to someone and share kindness.

Pay attention.

Be good to each other.

ETA: I have had to close comments temporarily because I don’t have time to moderate right now. They’ll be back up shortly. :)

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Everything We Leave Behind

by zchamu on January 7, 2014

What do we leave behind us?

I’m not talking about leftover food or dirty laundry. I mean what happens when we’re gone?

20 years ago, if I died unexpectedly, the things I left behind would have been quite different than today. I would have left behind scribbles and scraps and other people’s memories. Old term papers. Half finished diaries filled with teenage angst. Tiny, poorly focused snapshots. Someone else’s stories about me. Signatures on office documents. Everything I left was either meant for a purpose outside of my own story or never meant for other eyes.  The picture of me would have been only through cobbled together images and words, eventually forgotten. Wisps of stories, memories left in time.

Now? Piles upon piles of digital trails. Tweet streams and Facebook feeds. Blog posts, Instagram photos, forum conversations and/or arguments. Tracks left behind me, tracing every step.  With every tweet or comment, we write what we are going to leave behind us. Because we most assuredly will leave it behind.

All this technology has created a wealth of stories, stories we never would have found 20 years ago. Stories that make us laugh or cry or catch our breath. Words that teach us and surprise us and make us better people.

We leave traces behind every moment. We get to write our own legacies, even though with every day and every tweet and every throwaway glib comment, that’s not what we think we’re doing.  But in the end, it is. In some ways, it’s all we’re doing.

What we’ve left is what we’ve chosen to put out there.  What have you chosen?

Think about it. Really think about it. If you are gone tomorrow, or even in 20 years, what are you writing or doing or publishing today? Someday, someone will read it. What will they learn about you?


I never met Amanda. I didn’t even follow her until it was too late.  Which teaches me: Pay more attention.

I debated whether to make this video and debated more whether to post it. It’s not my story to tell, and I don’t know if Amanda would have wanted it told this way. But ultimately, I’ve chosen to publish it as a tribute to her, and a reminder to all of us: sometime, we will leave it behind. 

I have attempted to find Amanda’s full name in order to contact her family to let them know about this project.  I have been unable to find any further information. If you have any information on Amanda,  please leave me a comment or contact me at zchamu at gmail.

I want to thank Amanda for sharing her story with us. I’m just the messenger.

Music: Let Her Go by Passenger. Tweets: Amanda @TrappedAtMyDesk.  Originally shown at @BlissDomCanada.

My challenge to you for 2014: Look at what you’ve left behind. What is your legacy? 


UPDATE January 17, 2014.


Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.

Thank you to everyone who viewed and shared the video. I hope that you have a chance to pause and reflect and send good wishes out there to Amanda and those she left behind.

I assembled this because I thought it was a lovely, touching story of a life lost too soon. I thought it was a good message, to be conscious of what you leave behind you and to live life to the fullest.  I shared it at BlissDom Canada and with some folks I knew and when I posted it here I thought maybe some Ottawa people who had interacted with her would share it. I was not expecting Jezebel or Buzzfeed or The Star or the Ottawa Citizen or Reddit or anywhere else that’s posted it.

Amanda’s story has obviously stuck with others as it did with me.

To answer a few questions:

I have not heard from her family. I would still like to do so. If I do hear from them, I will proceed according to their wishes.

Because I have not heard from them, I’d like to ask anyone looking for Amanda’s family or any information on her to please proceed sensitively. This is a story of a woman who died, after all, and those left behind her are grieving. Please, if you do find anyone connected to Amanda, please treat them with kindness and sensitivity and proceed according to their wishes.

I have had many people ask me if this is real or if I think it may be a hoax account. The answer is that I believe it is real, for many reasons, otherwise I never would have assembled the video. Sure, it’s possible it’s a fake, but I don’t think so.


Be good to each other.

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Better words.

by zchamu on October 15, 2013

Fires.I don’t write much anymore.

I’m not sure why.

Sometimes I feel like the process of writing itself is unhealthy for me. I always just want to be done. I’m impatient to get to the next idea, the next word, the next paragraph. I rush myself in an effort to just get it done.

I write and just blauurgh out on to the page and press publish. I don’t want to order my ideas. I don’t want structure. I don’t want to review. I just want to do total stream of consciousness and then forget it. I just want it done.

But that’s not really a good way to write.

When I’m walking or in the shower or doing something with my hands, the ideas flow and the words form in my head, but translating them to the page seems difficult.

And yet writing has always been therapeutic for me. Get it out of my head where it just bounces around. Writing it down makes me form the idea, makes me make it cohesive, makes it gone so I can move on.

So maybe all I need to do is slow down. Use fewer words. Just better ones.

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Going Blue, For The Sake Of A Child.

February 19, 2013

This weekend, I’ll be getting some blue hair to support the Make A Wish Foundation of Eastern Ontario. To support our team, click here. Or read on, to find out why we’re going blue and who it’s for. Do you remember what it was like to be a child? I used to think I remembered. […]

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Sand Dunes And Sad Posts

January 17, 2013

One night just before Christmas, I had a dream. In the dream I am back in my hometown, outside at my father’s house. I am standing on a sand dune that doesn’t actually exist, but this is a dream so work with me here. I’m standing on this sand dune with someone who used to […]

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A Big Deal About Wimpiness.

November 1, 2012

I’ve decided to start publishing some of my drafts. I have dozens if not hundreds of posts written in draft that I never quite finished, wanted to tweak, didn’t hit publish. I’m going to start digging some of these out and putting them under the harsh light of day. I originally wrote this in December […]

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On The Occasion Of Their 40th Birthday

October 29, 2012

I am older than CTV Canada AM. I’m not telling you how much older. But what I do remember is this. I remember Helen Hutchinson and brown bowl cut on my TV set every morning – the same haircut I had and probably my mother had too. I remember Norm Perry’s angular face and laughing […]

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Somewhere In Between

October 24, 2012

Once I got back in to my car and started it, I felt it melting away. I wasn’t sure if I was sinking back in to a dream or waking up from one. The previous 4 days had felt hyper-real, extra crystal clear reality. Like some kinds of drugs people have told me about. Sharp […]

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Oh No! I Got What I Wanted!

September 10, 2012

I’ve decided to start publishing some of my drafts. I have dozens if not hundreds of posts written in draft that I never quite finished, wanted to tweak, didn’t hit publish. I’m going to start digging some of these out and putting them under the harsh light of day. I originally wrote this sometime last […]

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