2016

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This is it, guys!  My final post!

Thank goodness!  haha

In recent previous years, I’ve made a list of things I’d accomplished over the year, the number of which would match whatever year it was. This year, though, the general populace seems intent on bringing me down, so I’ve altered the plan a tiny bit.

Oh, I know it’s not intentional, necessarily, but regardless – y’all are ruining my zen thing, man.

So this year, I’ve instead made a list of the 16 best things to happen for me in 2016.  The original list was quite a lot larger, but I’ve managed to whittle it down to the following, in no particular order:

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  1. Mark Hamill

Luke Skywalker is my earliest and longest-running heroes, from about the age of 5 years, or so.  I mean, it all kicked into high gear when I was about 12, but my love for Luke and Star Wars had already been brewing for several years before that.  So it was a near-lifelong dream come true to finally be able to meet the man who brought the character to life.  I’d rehearsed everything in my head leading up to those few precious moments I’d get to spend interacting with him – and ended up doing none of it when the time came.  But everything that did happen was so much better than I could have hoped, and even the group photo op I had done with my awesome niece and nephews was perfect and priceless.  I wouldn’t change a thing.

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2. Hudson

It’s impossible to explain to another person my absolute love for this polar bear.  When he was a little guy, I found myself getting up in the morning after an injection night (they were terrible – not much could get me out of bed the next day) and trekking out to the zoo just so I could spend some time with him; watching him, and getting to know him.  There’s just something that happens to my heart every time I see him.  When he was moved to Winnipeg, I was devastated, and knew that, even if I ever saw him again, it wouldn’t be the same.  I wouldn’t be able to see him all the time anymore.  Until now.  2016 saw the return of Hudson and his brother Humphrey to the Toronto Zoo, and I have been out there almost every week since their quarantine ended.  I spent some quality time at the window with him one day, and since then, he’s back to greeting me upon arrival, just like he used to!  He’s now the biggest bear I’ve ever seen, but that thing still happens in my heart when I see him.  When we make eye contact, I pretty much explode.  The giant fool is truly my spirit animal, and even though our time together is temporary, I am making the most of it.  No regrets this time.

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3. Dark Matter Set Visit

Mind Reels on a spaceship, guys!  Every bit as amazing as you’d think…and more!  Of course, that’s really all I can say right now.  Keep an eye out for the S3 premiere, when we should finally be able to talk about our day on set!

4. Bowling For Kids Sake

An all-star team put together by actor Ennis Esmer challenged fans to help raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters Toronto by donating and/or building teams to compete against one another in the Superhero-themed bowling night event!  Two “civilian” teams took on two all-star teams and basically had such a ridiculously good time that we have been thinking ever since of trying more things like that in the future!  So much fun, and all for a great cause!

5. Good Credit

When I learned that my bankruptcy would be cleared from my record with one of Canada’s two largest credit agencies after just 6 years instead of 7, I went online one day to find out how I was doing.  I’d gotten myself a secured Visa so that I would have SOME credit, instead of no credit, once the 7 years after my discharge had passed.  I got my credit report done, and was surprised and excited to find out that I was already squarely in the GOOD section of the scale!  Before I knew it, I was pre-approved for far more credit than I wanted, so I talked the guy down to a $500 Scotiabank Scene Visa, and have been happily earning more Scene points AND improving my credit rating ever since!  That’s so huge, guys!

6. Hands On Exotics

I had tried to volunteer at the Toronto Wildlife Centre, because I really wanted to feed baby squirrels in the nursery, but the schedule didn’t work out for when I was available, so I went a different direction, and began volunteering at an exotic animal shelter, instead.  I was taking it week to week for a long time, as I wasn’t sure how I’d do over the winter and such.  Plus, it’s a lot of cleaning poo.  Then there was a boatload of upheaval, and I wasn’t sure what was going on or how things would work moving forward.  The past couple of months, things have settled down a bit, and I am doing better with the routine.  I’m getting to know some of the animals, and they are getting to know me, and to be honest, it’s starting to feel a bit like therapy now.  My usual team and I work well together, and we get things done quickly so there’s a bit of extra time at the end to visit with our favourites a little longer (an in the example photo below, with young miss Cricket, the baby kangaroo).  And oh, the stories I can tell!  I’m hoping to continue to make new ones as we move into 2017!

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7. Grandma

This is a story I don’t wish to go into, so I’ll just say that I’ve started writing letters to my grandmother.  By hand.  At least once a week, but usually more.  That’s all I have to say about that.

8. Reconnecting with old friends

2016 was a good year for me in terms of reaching out and reconnecting with people who used to be in my life with much more regularity.  I started going to some WLU Toronto Alumni events, which – I graduated in 1995, and have been in Toronto since late 1997 – why have I not been going to these?!  So much fun!  Especially with my gal, Izzy, and her guy, Phil (who went to Western – boooo!  haha), and my hope for further reunions with my fellow Laurier alum may actually come to pass!  As well, I got reacquainted in a big way with one of my Rogers boys from back in the day.  We fell into our same old rhythm with each other – and then changed things up a bit, as well.  Right from our first conversation, it was obvious to me how much I’d missed him, though, so now I’m doing my best to make sure he and I don’t drift apart like that again.

As well, I started seeing my therapist on a regular basis again.  We also fell into our same old rhythm, but this time it seems like everything is more heightened.  We are connecting on a much deeper level than ever before, and as difficult as it is, I couldn’t have asked for more.  It’s exactly what I need.

What’s more is that I’ve spent more quality time in 2016 with more recent friends, and made at least one amazing new one, to boot!  Maybe my obsession with stronger connections is starting to pay off.  Also GO HAWKS GO!

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9. CSA’s Red Carpet

The Mind Reels has covered the Canadian Screen Awards (aka The Candys) to some degree each year since they began.  We’ve been extremely fortunate to have been invited to do so, and to have as much access as we’ve been given each year.  This year, however, was our first time on the broadcast gala’s red carpet, chatting with the talent as they arrived for the big night.  We were squished into a spot at the very end, and while many of the big names walked right by after having done their required time with the big media outlets, just as many amazing peeps actually stopped to talk to us – and many of them weren’t people we already knew!  This was our most incredible year at the CSA’s by far, and I am eagerly awaiting the chance to apply for accreditation again for 2017, because it’s quickly become one of my favourite events in the city all year!  Besides, we were told by one wonderful woman that we’re a relief to see at the end of the red carpet – that people feel like they can just relax and enjoy themselves while they’re with us, and that’s got to be one of the biggest, most humbling compliments I think I’ve ever received.  More chances to make that happen, please!

10. Crown

This may seem like a weird thing to include on a Best Of list, but I was finally able to have my first dental crown put in, and I couldn’t be happier.  After a root canal, gum surgery and getting my mold taken just under the lab’s holiday deadline, I am now – for the first time in years – pain free.  Well, as far as my mouth is concerned, at least.  And for me, that’s a huge good thing!

11. Creativity

Figured I’d lump a couple of things into one spot, just to help whittle down my list!  From my Etsy store (where I sold my first felted item), to my meeting with the Toronto Library’s Writer in Residence (who made me excited about my book again), to my first attempt at shooting footage solo throughout my day for the Canada In A Day film that gets broadcast next year.  I was pretty disappointed with how mine turned out, but I still got a few emails saying that some clips may or may not make it into the final film, so I signed all the required releases and sent them off into the ether.  We’ll see what happens, but either way, I learned a lot just in that one day, so with any luck I can carry that forward to bigger and better things soon, too!

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12. The final 10-15 lbs

The majority of the weight I gained following The Betrayal was lost slowly over the course of the following decade.  I’d resigned myself to just staying at one particular point because I couldn’t seem to get the scale to budge any lower – until late January 2016.  Suddenly, the weight started coming off and the final 10-15 lbs – also the most dramatic pounds – dropped away by the end of March, or so.  Not only am I now back to my pre-gain weight, but so far I’ve kept it that way without too much trouble.  Okay, fine, maybe not the past couple of weeks, but it’s the holidays.  If all goes well after this weekend, things will get back to normal soon.  It’s nice to have a glimpse of my former swagger back, too!

13. Melissa O’Neil on stage

The weird thing about this is that I watched Mel on Canadian Idol back in the day, and may have had a little crush on her even back then.  Seeing her in Dark Matter has been an absolute joy, and getting to chat with her via The Mind Reels was a bit of a dream come true, as well.  The fact that I get to know her a little in real life is just…above and beyond.  So you’d THINK I would have taken the opportunity to see her perform on stage – to sing live – at any given point before now!  However, better late than never.  And so completely worth it that she gets her own spot on my personal Best Of list for the year.  Also, the wee crush lives.

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14. Ole Timey Radio Plays

These are pretty much the best thing ever!  For Mind Reels, Tim and I started bringing in random handfuls of actor friends and reading old radio play scripts from the 30’s and 40’s!  So much ridiculous and hilarious fun – to the point where we all but stopped doing regular interviews, even!  Don’t worry, though, I intend to get interviews going again, AND radio plays, AND maybe a few other ideas I have all put into play in the new year.  those radio plays, though.  We knew they’d be fun, but everyone continues to go above and beyond, every time, and that I am always in need of facial traction due to the amount of hard laughter each time is indication of exactly how special these things have become.  I can’t get enough!

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15.  Kate Tattoo

I’d seen an ad on Facebook for a new local tattoo parlour with a deal for small black and white tattoos available for $50 for a limited time.  A friend suggested we get one for “our girls”, meaning our doppelganger cats, both of whom have passed on and who are deeply missed.  I thought that was a great idea, and then, thanks to my very best friend in life, the whole experience ended up being more than I could have hoped for!  I love, love, love my homage to wee Kate the Kitten, and am naturally itching to get more ink done as soon as I have some kind of extra cash again!

16.  Lil Bub

Last but certainly not least, 2016 was the year I finally met Lil Bub in person.  I barely managed to hold back the tears, but I got to pet her wee head and we took terrible selfies on my phone and I love her so much I have a need to see her again someday!  What a remarkable little beast she is, that Lillian Bubbles.  She has no idea how much, really, which just makes her even more incredible.  I’m so grateful I got to spend those few wonderful moments in her presence!

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So there you have it!  My best moments of 2016!  Honourable mention goes to the ongoing shininess of my Firefly LootCrate subscription.  And the daily joy of living with my three wonderful cats – and this guy:

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I’m not going to say I’ll never post here again, but it definitely won’t be as often.  I’m sure I’ll get the urge to write once in awhile, though.  It’s who I am.

To that end, I am starting a new blog project, which I hope will work better for me moving forward.  It’s called My WildLife Awakened, and you’ll be able to follow along with it here.

I’ve been thinking, and will leave you with this one tidbit – almost advice-ish, really, though I hope I can take it, myself, as well.

As we cross into 2017, there may or may not be much to look forward to, so I’m going to try instead to make great memories to look back on this time next year.

Let’s see what happens!

Oh – and happy new year!

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I Was On A Spaceship, Guys!

Got blood tests done yesterday morning, then spent the majority of the day on the set of Dark Matter. That part was, of course, amazing – I got to go on the Raza (aka spaceship), and the Maurader (aka Raza shuttle), and handle big futuristic guns and catch up with some of the cast and see a whole bunch of things I’m not allowed to talk about yet, and take a whole bunch of photos I’m not allowed to post yet.

But it was all amazing, trust me!

I love watching everyone work to shoot a scene, and all the activity going on behind and in-between the scenes. The infamous hurry up and wait scenario isn’t entirely accurate, because while the actors may be waiting for the next shot to be set up, a whole whack of other people are, like, setting it up. And building another part of the set to be used later. And moving equipment around, or putting finishing touches on things. There’s pretty much constant activity hat can get a bit dizzying at times, and all of it leads up to the point when the actors get to step into frame and do their thing. I’m basically fascinated by all of it.

And being that I’m quite a tactile person in general, I also can’t seem to stop touching things. Luckily that habit hasn’t gotten me into too much trouble…so far, anyway!

Some of the coolest and most interesting things we got to do was to speak with people in the costuming department, and art department. We got to hold a mini Raza that had been 3D printed in the studio, and watched a basic run-through of how it was all set up prior to printing. I could have watched THAT stuff all day, really! It made me want to learn more!

The costume area was so fantastic, too. We got to see Six’s giant kick-ass jacket, and one of Two’s sweet battle-ready jackets, and all manner of Four’s incredible wardrobe items. And the sketches! Gah! So much talent in that room, and everyone not only working together as a team, but all so friendly and happy to answer any and all questions that we had.

Also got some tiny tidbits to watch for in terms of clothing and accessories, AND saw some insane items that didn’t even make it to camera!

It was nice to be back in the Lost Girl stomping grounds, too, and from what I can tell, many of the crew worked on that show, as well, and have come back to work on Dark Matter as a team again.

I love stuff like that.

Almost as much as I love the shiny new Dark Matter Crew t-shirt I’m wearing today! 😉

A Question Of Memory

I’m still thinking back on parts of the conversation Tim and I had with the lovely ladies of Dark Matter the other day. This morning I found myself wondering more about the extent to which we are defined by our pasts, and what it would be like to suddenly forget it all; to have to define ourselves anew. Much of the show’s first season was spent with each character trying to get at the truth of who they were, of their own backstories. They woke up not even remembering their own names, let alone anything that had happened in their pasts and what led them to being where they were. Now, as the second season premiere grows ever closer (and they wrap shooting for the season on set today), I’m looking forward to watching them move forward to define who they are now.

I was wondering what that would be like, to not remember anything of my life before now. What kind of person would I be? What would I like, or dislike? How would I relate to the world around me, and how much would I understand? How would I define myself, what would be important to me, and how much of who I am is innate, as compared to the amount which has been shaped by my past experiences?

Would I still love bears?!

If I couldn’t remember meeting Hudson, would I still have some sense of familiarity when I saw him? Or would I just wonder why the f*ck I have a polar bear tattooed on my arm?

Memories are of course a huge part of who we are, even – in some cases – when past memories have been repressed. They fuel our passions, they propel our fears, they add colour new experiences even as new memories are being made. Our cells have memory, our bodies have memory, and of course our minds hold the most overt memories of all. I know why I don’t like being tickled – and am pretty sure I still wouldn’t like it even if I had no past memories of the experience. I remember eating chocolate ice cream pretty much every day when I was young, but would I realize I like it if I couldn’t remember eating it before? Would eating it without those memories be kind of like trying it for the first time all over again?

If I encountered people, places or things I loved but couldn’t remember loving them, would they still feel the same to me? Would they feel safe and warm and comfortable to me? Or would I pass them by without giving them a second glance? Would I have the same fears, or abilities? Would my dreams remember and give me clues to things I’d forgotten? Would my heart still know who I was at my core, even if my mind could not remember?

Are any of us actually anything in particular at our cores? I mean, I guess it’s the Nature vs Nurture debate, really. Just with part of a life lived with one set of experiences shaping it, and then another part of the same life with no real recollection of the first part. It’s interesting, though. There is already such a huge disconnect between how the world sees us and how we see ourselves. What if we couldn’t see the same selves we saw before, anymore? How much of our former selves would be retained, and how much would change?

How hard would we try to get back to our former selves? How much would we rely on others who knew us to tell us who we were? Would we eventually let that person go, and choose to define our new selves, at some point?

How much of our memory is real, reliable and accurate to begin with?

Interviews Yesterday

Sometimes I put off eating my lunch so I can think of something to write about. When I am at work, anyway, because I use my lunch break to write, usually.

I am hungry, though, and can’t think of anything specific I want to say except that I am hella tired, so I’ll talk about my evening yesterday and that’ll help explain why I’m even more tired today.

I was already pretty exhausted and rundown yesterday, but was able to leave work early and go chat in the studio for the first time in ages. Our guests were two lovely ladies from Dark Matter – one I sort of already knew, and one I’d only met briefly before during Comicon in March. I was ridiculously excited to see them and knew that their friendship alone would mean that there would be a ton of energy and laughter during our conversation.

Then I found out – basically right before they arrived – that we were also going live for the first time in…I don’t even know how long. That added an extra level of fun because some people were watching and interacting with us on Twitter as we were recording. Sometimes it not only added to the conversation, but also sort of directed its flow, too. It was very cool, and I always love when things happen more organically like that.

As well, we were of course silly and joked around a lot, as we do, but we also had some pretty amazing conversations about things that just sort of came up. Our “interviews” pretty much always turn into more of a conversation than anything else, but this one was even more so. The girls asked us questions, too, which led to opinions and thoughts being shared on some really interesting topics. Things like race and gender as portrayed on television and in film – and asked for specifically during the casting process, or character development, how series and films are marketed to the public, and how they are received by said public around the world. There were comparisons between Canada, the US and the UK, and the kind of content each produce, as well as my general dislike of the phrase “strong female character”. I can’t even remember everything right now, just that my mind was still working some things out last night, and apparently overnight, because I had some kind of weird and involved dreams.

It was all very engaging, and entertaining (at least for us), and had me feeling all energized and wired by the time we left to go do Hot Docs interviews. Which we almost had to rush for, because we’d also all completely lost track of time! Usually we try to go about a half hour to 40 minutes as the “long version”, which gets posted on iTunes as an audio file later. Then we follow with a 10-15 minute sort of recap, but slightly more focused, and that gets posted on YouTube as a video file. This time, though, we realized at just over an hour that we should probably wrap it up and get our butts in gear so we wouldn’t be late for the Hot Docs side of things!

As if that wasn’t amazing enough, we ended up having two incredible (though much shorter) conversations with the people we spoke to about their respective films after! Up first was the one I’ve been looking forward to from the start, with the subject and one of the directors of the film, Wizard Mode. I was only about two minutes into the screener when I texted Tim to tell him I already loved the young subject, pinball champion Robert Gagno. Robert has the sweetest smile ever, is very introspective and eloquent with the thoughts he chooses to share, and obviously a badass pinball master. He’s also on the Autism spectrum, which makes his accomplishments all the more remarkable. But the pinball aspect wasn’t what sold me on the film overall. It was Robert himself. It was his eyes, and his smile, and his curly hair – and most of all it was how much he had to say. Not to mention how much of it was relateable for me. It was how young he is, and how hard he tries to express himself, and how incredibly good he is at it. So many of the things he talked about in the film, I felt I could really relate to and understand – and I was kind of shocked at how much better he is at expressing some of that stuff than I am. He kid’s, like, what – 20-something? And so introspective and self-aware that it puts most of us to shame, really. I guess that comes from existing so much inside your own head, but still.

Getting to shake his hand and look him in the eye and talk to him was pretty awesome on its own, but even better was watching him light up every time he talked about pinball. I love watching people express their passion for something, even if I don’t share it. I mean, I could have challenged Robert to a game of pinball, but it would be like him playing against, say, a tree. No contest. But man, I’d love to watch him play in person. Even on film it’s amazing. I can’t even imagine being there to see it live.

I feel like, for me – and this comes from someone who knows next to nothing about living on the spectrum – the very coolest part of the whole block of time we got to spend with Robert was right near the end when he opted to tell us that he thought he might go out to eat after, because he was hungry. It’s just a little thing, but I felt like it was something personal he’d chosen to share with us. Every other time he spoke, he’d been prompted to, either by one of us or the director, Nathan Drillot. That statement, though, that was all Robert just deciding on his own that he wanted to tell us something, and since I get the feeling he doesn’t just randomly share with strangers all the time, it meant the most to me. It made me think he was at least a little more comfortable with us by that point than he was at the start, and I love that possibility.

Our last interview was about a film whose subject is so devastating to me we almost couldn’t talk about it without getting choked up. Homeless people and their dogs. I chose to leave Kate the Kitten behind in Colorado because I’d planned to couch surf and couldn’t take her along, and also because I thought it would just be for a few weeks. It took about five months to find a crappy apartment and get moved into it before I could have her flown back to Toronto, and it sucked pretty hardcore, I must say. Never want to have to do that again, any of it.

Now with three cats and a doggie counting on me to provide them with a home and food and love? I honestly don’t know what I would do. I am not sure I could live without them…give them up to someone else to look after. But I don’t know how I could live with myself if I made them remain homeless with me. Even now, I make sure I have enough food and stuff for them each month, and if I’m cutting things close financially, I’ll eat less, or more cheaply or go without anything I don’t really need. They come first, because they are my responsibility. But what if I really couldn’t provide food and shelter for any of us anymore? Would it be selfish to keep them with me? Or would it be selfish to leave them to be someone else’s responisbility and just focus on taking care of myself? Would they even thrive elsewhere? Flynn alone requires much more patience than most people would be willing to give, and she and Piper at least would have to stay together. The boys would probably be okay without me specifically, but not necessarily. I’m really the only person Jack’s ever known, because he’s been my baby boy since he was 9 weeks old. I don’t know what the better choice would be for them, and I’m the only one who could make it for them.

I can’t imagine what that choice would be like; what it would do to a person. I hope to never find out.

Toronto Comicon 2016

So hard to write right now because a certain Mr. Brodykins wants to play.

However.

Today I went to Toronto Comicon.  Naturally, I stayed out far too late last night (but it was worth it), and then lots of little things went wrong this morning, so I was very nearly late for the 9am media photo call, but I managed to squeak in just in time.  Thank goodness!

Tim and I had an amazing time, chatting with guests, other media, and of course the most excellent folks at Touchwood PR, who set us up with so many incredible press opportunities.  This morning was no exception.  Watch the Mind Reels page for the video footage, and check out our goofy selfies with everyone!  So much fun – everyone was in a great mood and came to play.  It was the perfect start to the day!

Once the con officially opened, we headed to the show floor and wandered around to check things out.  I saw so many things I wanted to buy!  I had to keep reminding myself that I don’t actually have any money.

A couple of t-shirts caught my eye, as did several Star Wars toys – original trilogy and Force Awakens.  Probably the greatest things, though, were these Star Wars 3D holograms.  I’ve never seen anything like them!  You can walk around them and see pretty much the whole thing, as it appears to poke out of the picture.  The one being released in a few weeks features R2-D2 projecting a hologram of Princess Leia.  A hologram within a hologram!  Does it GET any better?!

The hits and highlights kept coming as we took in the Killjoys panel, then got the opportunity to speak with the cast ourselves after.  We’d been able to interview Aaron last year, but getting to talk with him, Hannah and Luke together was a real treat.  They all have such genuine and kind personalities, and a great sense of humour.  They play off one another really well, making them an incredibly fun trio to chat with!

Or with whom to chat.

Up next was the Dark Matter panel.  Given that we’d shared a bowling lane with half the crew a couple of weeks ago, I was eager to see them all together again!  It’s ridiculous how pretty that cast is, and the comrade tie between them is obvious, and a ton of fun to watch.  I’d gotten there early enough to snag an autograph ticket, so I jumped at the opportunity to say hello to the cast members I know, and to introduce myself to the ones I hadn’t met yet.

Plus, I’m just not sure I could possibly adore those people more.  They make me happy.

I headed home after that, because I was determined to walk Brody in daylight.  It’s been awhile since I’ve been home while the sun is still up.  I stopped at McDonald’s, though, because I was hungry and it’s been a long time since Brody and I shared the most delicious fries in the world.  Sometimes I just need to hang out with the fur kids and bond for awhile.  It soothes my soul.

As does the McD’s maple blueberry pie that’s available right now.  Good grief!  So good!

Now I’m watching some stuff off my PVR (Survivor and Elementary, so far) and planning to go to bed early.  Tomorrow at the con is a later start, but I am exhausted as heck these days.

Time to put my feet up and relax.  More tomorrow!w