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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St. Patrick’s Day

It’s St. Patrick’s Day!

There was a time – a long time – when I was all over this day like green on a leprechaun. But lately, I think I’m just not feeling it anymore. Kind of sad, really, though I am wearing a green shirt. It’s the t-shirt I made for my first novel, Carving The Light, so it’s a shameless bit of self-promotion, too.

I don’t think I really have much Irish in me, anyway, but still. St. Patrick’s Day was always a thing. My grandma used to send us cards every year, and sign them “Nanny O’Park”. There’d always be a cute verse or something on them, ’cause the Irish always have a way with prayers and toasts, among other things! My mom later took up the card-sending mantle, too, though given that I only have the one mom, there wasn’t much need for a last name to go with the O’. Regardless, though, it was always a day we marked, in my family.

Then, you know, alcohol came along. I think I’ve only ever actually had one green beer in my life, it was always the plan to go find a place to drink with peers on the evening of the 17th. Or the afternoon/evening. Or…whatever. You get the idea! Drinking happens on this day!

Or, for me, it used to. Recent years, not so much. Like today I am at work, then meeting a friend to go shopping for wool (more on that another time, perhaps), then home to walk the dog, feed the critters, watch TV and go to bed. I even have beer in my fridge that I could drink, but probably won’t because I am hella tired. There always used to be a plan, though. Always.

There was one year not long after I moved to Toronto, I was working, and wanted to go somewhere with my coworkers after, but none of us knew the city very well yet. One guy finally remembered an Irish pub nearby that we could check out, and since it was crazy cold out that year, we all agreed to make a go of it. Really, if there was green beer, nothing else mattered, by that point.

So we closed up, trekked through the frigid temperatures to this alleged Irish pub. When we finally arrived, my one friend and I just looked at the guy and shook our heads.

It was called the Artful Dodger.

About as un-Irish as you can get. Our friend who had suggested it was Trinidadian, though, so he was forgiven for not really spotting the difference on appearance alone. And, as it was so cold out, we decided we didn’t care as much about atmosphere as we did about alcohol, so we promptly went inside.

It was actually kind of dead, but cozy and warm. The bartender greeted us with a friendly shout in our direction, and assured us that she had green food colouring for the beer if we wanted it. So we stayed.

Truth be told, that was actually an iconic meeting in the course of my life. The moment I laid eyes on the bartender that night, I knew I not only wanted to stay, but that I’d want to keep going back to the Dodger (as we came to call it) on a regular basis.

Her name was Garvie, and there was something about her that just drew me in and think I needed her in my life.

As such, we all ended up going to the Dodger on a very regular basis. Sometimes we could call ahead and let them know who would be arriving just in time for last call, and they’d have our regular drink orders ready for when we walked in the door. One of the employees, Lizz, became my roomate and then best friend, which she remains to this day. We had staff parties there, birthday parties, when there’s a delay on the subway, sometimes I just go in to have a beer and wait for the mess to clear so I can go home. My ball team went to the Dodger some Sundays for brunch and beers after a morning game. It became my Cheers – where everybody knew my name.

And as for Garvie, after…probably a good decade of stalking her and following her around like a love-sick puppy, we finally had several drinks together one night, and I’d apparently reached an age/maturity where she could now talk to me as more of an equal. Instead of the aforementionned love-sick stalker puppy. Next thing I knew, we were actual friends, and even though she’s moved far away and we barely talk anymore, I know she’s out there, and still a loving part of my world. I even fired off a quick email to her a few minutes ago to tell her that this is the anniversary of the first time we met. I can’t remember which year, but at least I remember the day!

The Dodger and I…I keep taking breaks from it – sometimes for years at a time – but I always seem to end up back there eventually. I remember laughing with friends back in the beginning, saying that if we were in our 40’s and still drinking at the Dodger, that we’d want to be shot and put out of our misery. But here I am in my 40’s, still drinking at the Dodger, and I kind of love it. It’s my place. Even when much time goes by, it’s still the one spot where everybody knows my name. Or some people know my name. The main thing is that it’s familiar; it has that homey feeling to it that can’t be replaced with any other spot. Even though some things have changed over the years, there is a lot that stays the same, including many of the faces I see when I swing by there.

I miss the Garvie doodles on my receipt. I miss knowing every staff member’s life as one knows a friend. But it’s like McDonald’s, in a way. When you’re craving a Big Mac, there’s only one place you’re going to go, and no other burger will do. Same with the Dodger. When I want that feeling of comfort and safety and familiarity, even if I am a regular in other places now, there’s still only one place I’m going to go.

My non-Irish pub. Just, you know, not tonight. Tonight I’ll be even less Irish than a British pub, but that’s okay. I know the Dodger is there whenever I need it to be.

The Rest Is Silence”

Out of the Minds of Babes

I don’t really remember ever wondering where babies came from.

I mean, obviously they came from the mama’s belly. She grew them in there like potatoes, or something.

What I pondered over for some time, instead, was why a baby would look anything like its father. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what the father had to do with any of it, yet people were constatly talking about how much some baby or other resembled their father. Once it had been alive for awhile, I could see how some would grow to take on certain traits or whatever, because people and pets start to look like each other all the time. But as a newborn baby? Why would the potato look like the father at all, let alone MORE like him than the mama who grew it? Made zero sense.

So I gave it some thought, and what I came up with (keep in mind my skull likely hadn’t fully formed yet) was that kissing must be how some of the dad could transfer over to the baby’s appearance. Clearly that was the only physical contact that moms and dads had with one another (actually, I briefly considered some sort of airborne transfer while they were sleeping next to one another every night, but disposed of that theory because it seemed too far-fetched, even to my young self). Pleased with my initial theory, I asked my mom about it. However, the way she said, “um…noooo” gave me the sense that she didn’t want to talk about it, so I dropped the subject and went back to my ponderings.

Eventually I did figure it out.

It’s funny how brains work, especially for children when they are learning everything about just existing in the world around them. I’m not sure, but I feel like I actually vocalized fewer questions than many kids seem to. I think I wanted to figure it all out on my own, if possible. I’m sure I pestered my parents for answers as much as the next kid, but on the inside it felt like I was working more inside my mind than I was speaking things out loud.

I remember thinking for the longest time that one of my great-grandmothers was actually named GRAPE-grandma, because that’s what it had sounded like when other people said it, and she often wore a purple dress. At least, my only memory of her is sitting in her chair wearing a purple dress when we arrived and went to hug her. Actually, she may have worn one to a family reunion, too. She may never have worn purple in real life, but that’s how she’s always existed in my memory. Grape-grandma. Whenever I got a glass of grape juice from the fridge I’d think of her.

One year I convinced myself that, while Santa Clause might not be real, the Easter Bunny most certainly was. See, I’d figured out the Santa thing, but while I was in – I want to say Georgia – over Easter one year, I was certain that I could hear everyone else asleep in their rooms while still hearing an extra “person” in the kitchen at one point during the night. Easter Eve, let’s call it. And naturally there was chocolate all over the place the next morning, so it must have been the Easter Bunny. Process of elimination, yo!

Even then, though, part of me wasn’t entirely sure I believed myself. I just wanted to believe. (cue X-Files theme).

What else? I had imaginary friends…I forget their names – Jody and…something? Both boys, a bit younger than me. And I think I pictured them as cartoons. I was also pretty confident in my invisible Smurf friends for awhile.

I wanted very badly to have some form of ESP, so I made myself some quiz cards with, like, the different shapes on them and such, but quickly learned that I could not, in fact, quiz myself very accurately. I’m too easy to fake out.

I think this card is…a triangle.”

(Turns over to see a circle)

I mean circle, I was actually thinking circle. What was I saying triangle for? Totally meant circle!”

I also was – and still am – quite skilled at mis-hearing song lyrics. Yet I dreamed of becoming a Mini Pop.

I was – and still am – a very big dork.

In other more current news, my #BowlForKidsSake team for BBBST has been registered! We are Esmer’s Lane-gels, and we’ll be rocking the lanes (with gutter balls, if you’re me) on Thursday March 3rd! Before then, however, we need to rasie as much as possible to help out the kiddos. If you have time, please consider a donation to the cause – no amount too small, trust me! – and even more importantly, please help spread the link around to everyone you know! There’s not a lot of time left, but I am confident in our communal super powers!

Here’s the link to my fundraising page: https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=3235990#.VrzBQHMc0ds.twitter&panel1-2

Please share!