And that’s that.

Two years ago today, I’d rented a bike somewhere 27km away from Loch Ness, Scotland and decided I’d just bike there on this tiny, 1.5-lane, two-way highway with no shoulder. I was not particularly a cyclist, and guess what. Scotland is super hilly. I got there and had coffee in a packed café with these two beautiful ancient old people who had coffee there every Sunday after church when they were dating because it was the mid-way point between their two tiny towns, and they’ve been doing it ever since. The cutest.

As I rode (aka walked A LOT of the way because of the aforementioned hills combined with a very, very uncomfortable bike seat) back to my hostel in the rain, avoiding eye contact with sheep and cows and other unpredictable livestock, I had not a hot clue what on earth would go on in my life over the next 24 months.

Obviously. No one’s a fortuneteller.

Actually, I can hardly even tell you what went on over the last 24 months. It was a fun, hectic, hilarious, daunting, panic-inducing, sleepless, rewarding, challenging, and awesome blur. But in terms of what was in it for me, there was a thing or two:

 

I got to work with some really fun, smart, hard-working, talented, and the best people.

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I got to make a bunch of vids.

I got lots of parking tickets.

I got to edit 126 Projector Arts & Culture stories.

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I got to learn from some of the wisest, most giving, and inspiring people in the biz.

I got to SWOT. A lot.

I got to write a marketing campaign that involved a giant, inflatable vagina.

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I got a degree in Rhetoric, Writing & Communication from U of W, while I was at it.

I got a whole bunch of t-shirts.

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I got a lot of autofails.

I got sad.

I got over it.

I got to write a book!

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I got to play with animals way more than you’d think would be required of you in a college program that is completely non-veterinary in nature.

I got to go to bed before 2 a.m. a few times.

I got nervous.

I got tired.

I got to strategize.

I got to meet so many wonderful people.

I got a handful of Creative Communications Media Awards.

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I got a job communicating for Hour-Zero.

I got some BFCCs out of the deal.photo-33

And I am very, very thankful. It was a blast.

Congrats and all the very best, CreComm 2014!

 

 

Road Rage

Pretty much whenever my brother updates his Facebook status, it’s like this lengthy, drawn out paragraph about how someone made a crappy traffic move and it made him feel angry and no one likes to read them because they’re boring. 

This is not that. This, I feel, is quite an exceptional thing. 

Today, as I was driving to school at 11:30, I was stopped at a red light. It turned green, as they tend to do. 

But the car ahead of me did not go, it stayed stopped. If I were counting Mississippies in my head, I probably would have counted at least eight. So I gave a polite toot on the horn. 

Before the tiny duration of the toot was over, the guy flipped me off. I think? Unconfirmed because there was a lot of crap including a small Pizza Hut box on the back dash, obscuring the majority of the bird-flip.

And I thought to myself, “Yes, thank you. How dare I try to prompt you to go, when the light is green, on the road we share.”

It’s like if I dropped a loonie on the floor at Tim Hortons and the guy behind me in line said, “Hey you dropped a loonie,” and I say, “Fuck you.”

Or if I was at Safeway and they asked me if I wanted help out with my groceries and I say, “Fuck you.” 

Or if someone says, “Hey, your shirt is on inside out,” and I say, “Fuck you.” 

As a person who recently accidentally sat through a green light cycle while being all nervous and daydreaming a presentation I had to do, I would have appreciated a little toot-toot to bring me back to reality and save me the embarrassment of doing that, get me where I was going a little quicker, etc. 

Also, hello? Can we just be a little nicer? 

Anyway. It gets better. 

So I get flipped off. I think those things. And we get rolling, but really, really, slowly. 

So I go ahead and change lanes to pass. And he immediately also changes lanes in a cutting-me-off kind of way and I nearly rear-end him. 

And I thought, “That was really not smart.” But he’s still going at a snail’s pace, and flashing his brakes sporadically, so I attempt to change lanes again.

But it was like he was following me from in front of me, and cut me off again. Fine.

When I was able to pass, I was prepared for moody glares and whatever, but not necessarily for all three passengers in the car – one of whom was an approximately nine-year-old child – to be yelling obscenities and flipping me off as I passed. It was both outrageous and heartbreaking at the same time. 

And so it went, all the way from Main St. & Marion to where I turned off at Bannatyne.

I was rather genuinely fearful that they were going to follow me to my parking spot and get their nine-year-old to participate in beating me up for doing a tender honk-reminder that it’s green light go.

In closing, I hope you have a good weekend, with calmness in your heart and in your car, and no encounters with that silver Pontiac G5 or whatever with the stale Pizza Hut lunch on the back dash. Cheers.  

 

So you want to write a book?

Ok cool.

But are you sure?

I recently wrote a book, and here are some thoughts I thought throughout the process:

Who do you want to read what you’re writing? Have you thought about your purpose? Why do you want to write what you want to write?

Have you thought about the trees?

Why do you think a book is the best medium for what you have to say?

Are you eligible for the loan you’ll inevitably have to take out to pay for self-publishing?

Have you fashioned yourself a standing desk or a treadmill desk or at the very least some form of gym membership and an undying motivation to actually get there? (Because writing a book in the classic sense requires a lot of sitting and your bum will get tired.)

And are the people you want to read it going to buy it?

Maybe they will buy it. But making people do things is not easy.

Who’s to say that because you put some words on some pages, (and maybe some pictures and stuff) people are going to put on their long johns, warm up their cars for 15 minutes while they scrape their windshields and shovel away the 4.5-foot windrows in their back lanes as snot and tears freeze to their tender faces, hop in their cars and slip-slide off to a bookstore to pay money for some words you wrote when they could stay in their warm homes and watch free TED Talks and pet their cats and read free stuff like this blog all night?

Books are romantic and lovely and nostalgic and have a long shelf life and wouldn’t we all like to call ourselves authors?

Yeah. Because that’s pretty fun and why shouldn’t we?

But take a sec to determine if a book is going to get as many eyes and attention spans on your content as you want.

Consider these things that are not books that get more eyeballs on them on the daily:

• Buzzfeed

• the newspaper

• the stars

• your Facebook newsfeed

• YouTube vids – even really bad ones

• this blog, except for yesterday

So yes. Books are nice. And no one is going to troll your book and leave nasty comments. But on the very same token, a book is a rather one-way form of communication.

And a book may be exactly what you need to create. And if that’s the case, go you, budding author.

It’s pretty exciting to see that little baby on the shelf (or the best-seller list!) at a real live bookstore, and that’s definitely worth something.

Decaffeinated book launch

On Wednesday I held a little book launch at McNally Robinson for Decaf Coffee Dates: Stories & Insights from Winnipeg Seniors. There was kind of a blizzard that night which was a bummer because it’s March, but that didn’t stop about almost 150 people from coming out, which was a really wonderful response!

Ten of the 11 seniors I featured in the book and their families and friends were able to attend, we heard some stories, my friend Luke Jacob Thiessen provided us with some really nice tunes and we had some great snacks also.

My great friend Meghan Franklin came out to take some photos that night, so I’ll let those tell the story.

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My Baba & Gida showed up: (I asked them to wear church outfits, so I see my Gid wore his church hat. I also pre-warned my Baba that she was not allowed to go near the microphone, or else we’d all still be there today.)

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Dennis Kenny

Dennis taught me how important it is to have a passion. He is 95 and he makes beautiful wood carvings. When I met him, the staff at his building had to go searching for him because he wasn’t in his suite. They found him down in the woodshop and he was covered in sawdust as he took me around, showing me all the carvings and furniture he’d created.

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Harvey Schmidt & Mary Benedictson

Harvey and Mary talked about the importance of focusing on moving forward in a positive direction. They are both in their 70s and just got married in September. Every day they focus simply on being positive together – something we can all focus on in any of our relationships.

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Yum.

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Merv Worden. And my mom, Nadine.

Merv – who is 82 – helped me to realize how needless envy and regret are in our lives, and also the power of keeping your family close. Merv was sick in the hospital for nine months before I met him, but his children and grandchildren visited him everyday. He’s doing much better now.

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Alice Strachan

Thank you to Alice for sharing how much she likes life. Alice has beaten cancer five times. It’s her goal to live to be 101 because she says she likes life.

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Luke Jacob Thiessen

Jacob played some really nice music for everyone.

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Murray Burt

Murray reminded me that the time for adventure is now. He was born in New Zealand, travelled to the UK, ended up in Spain where he swam out to some guy’s boat off the coast, and in a round about way, ended up sailing across the Atlantic before getting shipwrecked for 13 days on a coral reef somewhere in Central America. Eventually he wound up as the editor of the Globe and Mail and later, the Winnipeg Free Press.

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Connie Newman

Connie Newman works with the Manitoba Association of Senior Centres. She was a huge supporter of my project and I’m so thankful to have met her. She introduced me to a few of the people featured in the book, and continually expressed her interest and support for what I was doing.

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Reading.

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Fagie Fainman

Unfortunately Fagie couldn’t be there for the book launch, but she taught me how important it is to have a solid network of like-minded people if you want to make big things happen. She did, and now she’s on the no-fly list for the Philippines because she took on international human rights activism in a big way after she retired from her career as a defence attorney.

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George Dyker

George taught me to wake up every morning and say “This is the best day I’ve got!” and then go out and give it hell. Consequently I didn’t pass the quiz at the end of our interview – I thought it was weird that he was asking me what I do in the mornings…but I’ve got it now George. Don’t worry.

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Duncan McMonagle

A big huge thanks to Duncan McMonagle, my instructor advisor on this project. I feel especially lucky to have his guidance on this endeavour because he’s retiring this year, so a big congratulations on a very inspirational career is in order!

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Helene Dobel

Helene is featured in the book, but I also asked her to tell the story of her honeymoon, which I heard (though not in its entirety, apparently) when I bumped into her in the cultural display at the German Folklorama pavilion.  It was a defining moment for me in my Decaf Coffee Dates journey, because she offered to share some fascinating information with me, and I almost opted out. In fact I would have if she hadn’t started talking immediately, after which point she had me totally captivated and laughing for a good 20 minutes, and my best memory of that night is absolutely Helene’s stories. It was then that I realized that we’re all better off paying attention and embracing one another.

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Margaret’s friend Mary, and her granddaughter Molly.

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Margaret Morran

Margaret is 100 years old and she is the perfect example of how age does not have to come with limitations. When I interviewed her at her apartment, she was zooming around without a cane or anything, and she definitely has all of her marbles. Her greatest piece of advice is to accept changes for what they are.

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I signed some books.

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Peggy Prendergrast

Peggy taught me to do things that give me energy. Peggy is 80, and she does all kinds of things: teaches meditative watercolour paint classes, teaches urban poling (walking with ski poles), teaches a goal-setting class for seniors and she plays trombone in a band called the Sassy Cats.

She says when she’s feeling tired or out of sorts, sometimes it’s her knees – she has a bit of osteoarthritis. But more likely its something else that’s sucking away her energy.

Her advice is not just “do what makes you happy” but “do what gives you the energy to do more of it.”

After my conversation with Peggy, I realized that this project gave me energy.

Often I’d go interview these folks after a long day of school, when I wished I was going home for a nap. But after talking to them for a few hours, I would leave feeling excited and inspired and energized.

It’s my hope that if you read this book, you find excitement, inspiration and energy too.

Decaf Coffee Dates: Stories & Insights from Winnipeg Seniors is available at McNally Robinson Booksellers or by emailing decafdates@gmail.com

Celebrate.

Hey kids. 

Today is a big day. Today 70 of my super talented and amazing classmates and I handed in our Independent Professional Projects and we’re all one step closer to graduating from this crazy and awesome program. 

This is a project we all thought of, pitched, worked on and completed on our own, outside of regular class time. Some people recorded and marketed albums, some people wrote novellas, some people did radio shows, some filmed and produced documentaries or TV shows or promotional videos, some held fundraising events or created awareness campaigns. 

And we should all be celebrating. Because we’ve all accomplished something huge. 

A few weeks ago I saw my massage therapist and I was telling her about my book. She was so excited and I was kind of downplaying my excitement and the amount of work and everything that went into it. 

I think that’s something we tend to do for wanting to come off as modest.

I also noticed even congratulating others on their IPPs at their events they would respond with “Thanks – how’s your book?” or “Oh thanks – hey your book launch is coming up, that must be exciting!”

No way! This is all about you right now! This is your accomplishment, your hard work and dedication and your celebration!

And my massage therapist said something that really stuck with me. She talked about how if we don’t pause to celebrate or accept some praise for our achievements, we’ll feel like we’re always running a never-ending race – like we’re never really finished anything. Acknowledging our achievements and basking in a little bit of post-completion glory is a good and healthy thing.  

So friends, I hope you’re all celebrating this weekend – a glass (or bottle) of wine, dinner with the family or friends you haven’t seen in the last weeks because you’ve been in solitary confinement finishing these things, or just a nice, loooooooooong sleep.

You’ve earned it. 

And for some serious celebration for my book and the amazing people in it, we’re having a launch party at McNally Robinson on Wednesday, March 5 complete with live music, tasty refreshments and some wonderful stories from wonderful seniors. I hope you can make it!

Stinky fish

This blog post is not about stinky fish in the very literal sense, but I’m going to start on a side note here and tell you about the time I was in Portugal with my best friend Katie (who plays a large role in what this post is really about) and there was a lot of stinky fish there.

Actually when I think of Portugal I usually think, “Ahh yes…was nice, but smelled like stinky fish there…”

Like, dehydrated, salted fish, just sitting out in the open, outside every grocery shop, and also inside, really stinking up all the air we’re all meant to breathe. Maybe the Portuguese like breathing the stinky fish air, but I, for one, was very sensitive about it. Portugal was easy on the eyes, but less so on the gag reflex.

Anyway.

Back to the task at hand.

This reading week was filled with a lot of…writing. For which reading is a precursor, so it works out.

A few nights ago my friend Katie came over and we were doing some homework together. You know, sitting on the bed, typing away, not acknowledging one anthers’ presence whatsoever.

She was kind of laughing a bit but this is normal, so I paid no attention.

And then she was like, “I just signed you up for Plenty of Fish!”

And I was like, “WTF.”

She claimed it was for her own voyeuristic pleasure, so she could just look around and see who she knew on there etc. etc., in which case because she is dating an attractive ER doctor who is currently off saving children’s lives in Kenya (not even a joke), she should not make her own profile.

But if we’re talking fake profiles here, the fake profile used for creeping purposes doesn’t need to say “5’3″ Taurus, blond curly hair Creative Communications student who likes knitting, blogging and harmonica, and senior citizens, etc. etc.,” right?

Right.

So that was one thing, and since it already happened, and because Katie was now still sitting on my bed, FaceTiming the aforementioned hunky doctor from  a patch of Kenyan wifi, and it was getting all mushy gushy kissy lips on the phone screen/I want to co-habitate with you/I wish you were here/I wish I was there too/baby voicy/mumbly sweet, sweet nothing at all and listen to me chew these cashews/and then something about giant sea turtles banging, I decided to have a little look-see at this whole POF thing. Here’s what I came up with (sorry if any of this is actually you and you are offended that I outed you on the Internet, but I mean you’re already on the Internet, on POF, and you posted the stuff that someone really should out you for so.):

Three of the tag lines of the guys in my “Top 10 Ideal Matches or something” were these:

Looking to meet my future ex-wife

I will not pay you for sex! Get a job low lives!

and

Everybody has there share in pie .. just wait

Mega attractive. The remaining seven were:

Gone swimming

Just fishing

Gone fishing

Just fishing around

Where tha fish?

Waiting for my fish to bite

I can be your bait. 

So right off the hop I learned that according to POF I’m destined to be with someone very clever and creative or who is super not into prostitution.

In my brief perusal, I also learned that on Plenty of Fish there are plenty of dudes holding fish in their profile pics. Here, I think there is opportunity to have an ironic and funny fish pic on POF, but when everyone does it, it really loses the novelty. That’s how hipsters work. Plus no one was doing it ironically, I’m pretty sure.

I draw my last observation from the message portion of the site. I assume that somehow people receive notification of the newbs because I got a whole whack of messages right off the hop. I’m not sure, but I also suspect that having no profile pic (thankfully the last photo of me on Katie’s computer is of me in grade 8 in a black wig, so she did not post one of those) is code for like, “I’m pretending this is Tinder right now” or something. Because other peeps with no profile pic were sending me some pretty suggestive things, that one would not assume I’d be into based on my interests (knitting, blogging, harmonica). But I might just be making things up so don’t take my word for it.

Conversing (in-person too), especially online is tough times when the only thing the convo starter says is, “Hey.” Like, what do you want me to say back?

In any case. I’ve heard a lot of really positive stories from a lot of people about Plenty of Fish and other online dating websites. I see the appeal. You filter out all the stuff you don’t want (no fish-related headlines, no fish photos, no living in Portugal because it’s too stinky there for me), and streamline the process.

But I think online dating takes a certain kind of energy to work and be successful too. And it starts with not your friend making up a fake profile for herself that’s actually for you and you don’t know if it’s a joke or what’s really  going on other than the FaceTime smoochy business while all you’re trying to do to get by is write some nice things.

So I’ve fished the short-lived POF account down from the Internet, insert some other fish related puns and whatnot, and have a very nice week, everyone.