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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Animal Interactions

I’m super busy today and don’t really have time to write, but I may as well take a few minutes while I eat to mention a few things.

I booked Friday off as a vacation day and went to the zoo. It was a beautiful day, and – unfortunately – a PA Day. So there were tons of hairless apes and their offspring around to ruin my zen. And my zen was not that zen-y, as I have been rather beaten down emotionally as of late.

Anyway, I saw Hudson the polar bear I love for the first time in almost 4 years! I knew it was him pretty much immediately, and while he went about his own thing, he did turn that articulating nose of his my way a few times, which was more than enough to convince me to go with my plan of visiting him as often as possible while he’s here, in the hopes that he’ll get to know me a little again. We’ll see.

He is enormous now – like, bigger than his father at 1200-ish lbs! Kind of horrifying, really. And I admit to wondering if polar bears can actually weigh TOO much. Like, might he develop arthritis or heart problems after dragging around so much weight for a few years? Has anyone studied such things? It would have to be done with captive bears, because all of the bears in the wild are basically starving to death. Obesity is not an issue for them.

Anyway, aside from his insane size, Hudson is every bit the bear I know and love. His face, the way he walks and plays and his Mona Lisa smile – all exactly as I remember. And while I didn’t cry like I thought I would (I’m all over the emo map lately), I was very happy to see him. I hope to connect with him again over the winter. Maybe that will help me reconnect with everything else again.

‘Cause if the bear can’t do it, no one can!

But I suspect he can. 🙂

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Volunteering has gone pretty well the past few weeks, too. I’m still taking it week to week, and things haven’t quite settled down yet from all the previous upheaval, but they are getting there. Most of the animals who are left seem to be doing better than they were at first, so that’s a good thing. There’s still a lot I’m not sure about, and I’m taking it week to week – maybe indefinitely – but yesterday was mostly good, so I will probably go this weekend, too.

I bonded with the skunks more yesterday. I actually took a few minutes to get down to their level and talk to them and pet Pepe (I won’t touch the others until they are more comfortable with me in general), and by the time I left, they all seemed fairly okay with me being in their space. We’ll see if that carries through to next week, but for now, it felt like a big step for us.

I also got to chat a bit more with Rapunzel the red lorrie, which was amazing. We’d had our first “conversation” a couple of weeks ago, and that small bond seemed to carry over to yesterday, as well. She came down to my level and even brought a pea from her food dish over to eat next to me while I talked to her. We’re not friends yet, I wouldn’t say, but there’s a bit of familiarity there now, at least.

The biggest surprise of the day was Willow the capybara. I have no idea…apparently she’s a bit horny right now, but for some reason she decided I was the one to love yesterday. We’ve not really interacted much before. I’ve pet her once or twice, and I usually say hello to her when passing by the enclosure she shares with the kangaroos, but I’d never even been in there until yesterday. I went in with the other volunteer, who was going to check their water to see if it needed freshening up before we left for the day. Willow came running over excitedly as soon as I got inside, and jumped up so her front feet were on my back (she would have knocked me over if it had been the front, I think – totally was not expecting that!), and then ran back and forth in front of me a few times before finally just standing still so I could scratch under her jaw, which she loves. As I did that, though, she started licking my forearm, then rubbing her teeth and cheek against it while drooling all over the place.

I guess she was marking me? I have no idea. Just that she was loving me and ignoring everyone else for a bit there.

I’ve never had an experience even remotely like that with her before.

Will be interesting to see how she responds to seeing me next time!

Volunteer Shift Notes

Again, much to do, so I must be quick.  Also very distracted by Jack Bear.  Anyway, a few notes from my volunteer shift this morning:

– I wasn’t sure how long I’d last because I didn’t get much sleep last night, but I did okay.  Got there on time and managed to do my full usual shift, despite slowing down a lot as I got hungry

– did not change parrot papers for I think the first time ever, which was disappointing, but still talked to most of them as I worked at other things

– spot-cleaned the usual enclosures and managed to not get bit nor pecked at

– one of the skunks had a seizure while I was in with them, which sucked.  She was back on her feet not long after, but I hated the feeling of helplessness because all we can do when that happens is wait.  Bless her little epileptic self.  😕

– I met Edward the micro pig and got to take him out for a walk!!!  So awesome!  He’s super friendly and cute and such a good little guy.  Another volunteer came out with me because she’d been out with him once before and loves him, too, but he was my responsibility today, and I rocked it!  Or rather, Edward rocked it.  He even led us back to the door when he was done and ready to go back in.  So awesome!

Anyway that’s all I feel like saying right now.

More tomorrow, I’m sure

 

My Sunday

I am sore and tired and desperately need to lie down, but wanted to mention how cool today’s volunteer shift was.  Instead of heading to the shelter as per usual, I was given the opportunity to help at the Canadian Fall Pet Expo for the day.

Well, it was intended to be just a few hours, but I ended up staying all day, and left after the show closed, even though I felt guilty about not helping to pack up.  I didn’t get a chance to eat or see the rest of the show, and was on my feet the whole time, so my body is super angry right now, and I think one knee might be swollen.

However.

I spent the first few hours in an enclosure with wee rabbits, Guinea pigs and a sweet silky chicken whom I now adore.  I was sure she was getting tired of me picking her up so people could pet her – and eventually I started to give her longer breaks – but she tolerated it all like a champ.  And now I’ve successfully picked up and held a chicken, which I’d never done before!

The second part of my day was spent manning the door for the kangaroo enclosure.  Once I got the hang of better judging when there were enough/too many people in there, I think it went pretty smoothly.  After the show closed I asked if I could go in and pet him (Tigger the red kangaroo) for a minute, too, and ended up hanging out and having an amazing talk with the volunteer about him, and learned a ton whilst petting his soft chill self (he was reclining in his bed by that point).

So now I’ve also pet a kangaroo, in addition to holding a chicken.

There were a billion dogs there, and at one point near the end of e day, a pig came around wearing a GoPro mounted on its harness.  You just don’t see that every day.

I even found my bus stop after without too much difficulty, and grabbed some McD’s for Brody and I on the way home.

Now I just have to do a few more (hopefully) quick things and go to bed.  Tomorrow is another crazy long day, and my cold is still on the down-slide.  😳

Still…I pet a kangaroo and made friends with a chicken.  That was my Sunday.

A Couple Of Things

So, I think today was my favourite volunteer shift so far.  I got there on time, it was beautiful outside, there were four things on my part of the board’s To Do list, and for the first time ever, I got them all done!  That never happens.  Not until today, at least. One task was even new to me, and another one I generally suck at.

Again, until today.

The first thing I did was spot clean the small animal room.  This is the one I usually don’t do very well at, so I was glad to get it out of the way first.  I talked to everyone while I worked, which I usually do, but today seemed different.  Today  I felt a little more bonded to the critters, and a little more confident.  I even managed to get both ferret pairs locked in the upstairs part of their cages so I could clean the downstairs part without getting bit.  Haha

I was super proud of myself, because I’ve never managed to doc very good job with one pair, let alone both.  First time for everything!

Up next was changing the small parrot papers, which has somehow become my favourite thing.  The first guy had just had a bath, and was still pretty soaked.  I laughed and laughed!  He looked nothing like himself, but when he dried off, he was back to super handsome.

I talked to all of the birds more than usual, too.  I was chatty today, apparently.  They were all actually pretty good today, too.  Even when I was vacuuming, the “murder birds” didn’t try to get at me at all.  Even Blue seemed more like he was just watching me rather than plotting something.  It was cool.

Somehow I like birds now.

The new thing I got to do was to spot clean the lemur shifts.  Well, their shift and two others for their enclosure mates, Lilly and Kinka.  Bigger poo than the birds or small animal room, but not too bad.  Plus, the lemurs were staring at me through the door the whole time.  As they do.

AND, to top off the whole day?  Willow the capybara was taking a bath outside the whole time!!!  The back doors were all open and she was happily rolling around in a tub in the sunshine and looking so cute and content I could hardly stand it!  She kept flipping her little ears like a hippo.  I melted.

Vaccuming the parrot floor was actually the last thing I did, and while I usually like it, this time the vaccum cleaner stopped sucking.  Which is its one and only job.

But *I* fixed it!  By myself.  Didn’t even discuss with Tiffany first, I just fiddled with it, figured out the problem, and carried on.  So I was there a bit longer than usual, but I rocked it so I didn’t even care.

And lemurs.  And capybara bath time.  And no one trying to tear my flesh.

It was good.  I was sore and hungry and exhausted and in desperate need of a shower when I got home, though!

In other news, when someone you love is hurting, and you can do a whole whopping zero to help…it sucks.  And kinda hurts in sympathy, too.

 

Volunteering

This morning, I went to my first volunteer shift at a place called Hands On Exotics.  They are a shelter/zoo of sorts, accredited by CAZA but not open to the public.  They take in mostly animals on the more exotic side of the spectrum, from rats, bunnies and ferrets, to parrots and other bird species, to a whack of reptiles and snakes, all the way to a lynx, various lemurs, a porcupine, kangaroos, a quokka, skunks, foxes…and the list goes on.  Many came from being either pets that were given up, or illegally owned, some from other zoos, but not matter where they come from, each individual critter has a story.  And the people who work at Hands On Exotics do their best to give each one of them the best quality of life possible.

They do a lot of outreach with many of the animals – birthday parties, presentations, fairs and other shows.  Some of the animals have appeared in film and television, and some are even capable therapy animals.  Any funds earned are funnelled back into the centre and the maintenance/improvement of the animals in their care.

A former co-worker and I once talked about possibly hiring them to do a birthday party for US, and we planned to only invite a handful of people so that we could mostly have the animals all to ourselves!

I actually haven’t ruled that out, if I could save enough for it and find a place we could do it outside.

Anyway, any doubts or concerns I’d had about volunteering there were laid to rest during the orientation session, but I really didn’t have a good sense of what it would be like until I worked my first shift.  That’s what I did today.

I did basically 3 tasks, and there were a couple on the board that I didn’t even get to, but already there’s a ton to remember, and to keep in mind.

I started off in the small rodents area, where I had to wash/change/refresh all the food and water dishes.  There were rats, ferrets, sugar gliders, a bunny, hedgehogs, and an opossum.  Or possum?  It was sleeping and I can’t remember what the sign said.  Anyway, most of them were pretty easy, even though I was slow at it.  I did each thing one at a time so that I wouldn’t forget anybody’s bowl.  The only real issue was the bitey ferrets.  Two of them were okay and mostly ignored me, but the other two (and I was warned) were not going to make it simple for me.  I locked them into one part of their cage so that they couldn’t get at me while I changed their bowls out.  But then I had to drop their ladder back down so they could get to their fresh food and water.  I put on some gloves to give me an extra layer of protection, and just as I managed to loosen the ladder, one of the little boogers nipped at me.  But…gloves, so no harm done.  They look at you so innocently and cute, too.  I considered it to be part of my initiation.

Up next was misting the reptiles.  Only 4 get misted on Sunday’s – a chameleon, an iguana (who loves it), and two different kinds of python.

Yeesh.

Luckily, it wasn’t as involved as I’d feared, and I was actually okay with it.  I kind of liked it, too, because it was refreshing after getting so sweaty earlier.  I didn’t finish that part, though, because I was up in the bird area changing papers in the small bird cages, and when I went to check on the misting situation, everything had already been put away.  I’ll try to be more on top of that next time.

The bird cages were interesting.  I was paranoid about any of them escaping, so that took me longer than it should have, too, but I’ll get better at all of it as I go.  I talked to the birds a bit as I worked, too, since I’m a stranger, and all.  There were two in the final two cages that weren’t impressed with me at all.  I think one just got tired of me taking so long.  The other was in a bad mood today to begin with, so her patience was only ever going to last so long, anyway.  I started going back and forth between the two until I got both done, so it took a while, but was a success overall, I think.

Plus, one of the bigger birds in a cage across from the ones I was working with started talking to me!  Naturally I talked back.  Well, responded – not talked back.

Anyway, there was a lot of “hello” back and forth, and then a few rounds of, “I’m a pretty bird!”

“You ARE a pretty bird!”

Made me laugh.

It was around the time that I was finishing up those last two bird cages when something completely random and never happens…happened.  I won’t go into details because they are not important.  What’s important is that I got to go into the lemur enclosure for a few minutes!!!

One my first day!!!

There were two occupants left in there because everyone else had gone out to a show our something, but the more outgoing of the two spent some time on my shoulder, and the timid one let me crouch next to him while he had a snack.

And I freaking love lemurs, so this was pretty ,Cush the greatest end to a shift I could have imagined.

I’ll go back next weekend, and see if I can get things done a little faster on my second go at it.

For now, my exhausted body hurts.  Time for beer.