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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Know Thyself

Every so often, I dream of a plane crashing.  Not one I am on, but one I witness dropping from the sky.

Last night, it was three.  Two smaller air show-like stunt planes, followed by a commercial airliner.  They all landed in water and disappeared beneath the surface almost immediately.

I called 911 and let them know, but as I was talking, I had trouble remembering details, and then began to doubt whether I’d seen it, or not.

I started to wonder if I’d just been dreaming, and rather than waste more of their time, I hung up on 911. And then I woke up.

Sometimes I dream while I am in the midst of waking, and imagine things are happening.  Usually I have to turn on a light and think about what’s real before I can piece things together again.  Once I was convinced I saw smoke and was already planning how to best evacuate the house when I realized I couldn’t see it anymore.  It’s confusing, and the feeling never really leaves once I am fully awake.

In other news, it occurred to me earlier that I’m back to my late 20’s weight, but with my early 40’s body, which means more appropriate curves and a smidgen of maturity. I mean, it’s also an early 40’s body with MS, so it is tired all of the time, and in pain much of the time.  Today has been particularly brutal, because I over-exerted myself the past two days.  So it’s not perfect, but I am content with it, regardless.

For the first time in over a decade, whenever I look at a photograph or catch my reflection in a mirror, I can see myself in it again.  There’s so much more to it than mere appearance, and even more to go as I grow, but it’s a pretty amazing place to be, I’ve gotta say.

It’s a sensation I didn’t know I’d lost until it came back again.  In a body I no longer know, due to a disease that takes away control, I can still see myself; see me again, and know me anew.

I feel a vague sense of power in that.

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Beauty In Pain

Today’s thoughts are brought to you by a random series of non-events which ended up leading me down a bit of a memory lane trip this morning, and it wasn’t actually too bad.

First off, I was looking for some kind of long-sleeved shirt to wear over my t-shirt, because my body temperature is always all over the place at work, depending on where I am and what I’m doing, so I usually bring layers. I had already worn the two that were light enough for today earlier this week, so I went digging in my closet in search of something else that could work.

I glanced past my many plaid flanel shirts and landed on a rugby shirt I’d bought over a decade ago, but had rarely worn. It seemed to be the right amount of layer so I threw it on and left for work. On the way in, though, I realized something – the shirt kind of fits me again.

It’s definitely more comfortable than it used to be. I bought it before I gained 40-ish lbs over a school year, and it just never felt like a good fit again after that. Not until today, anyway. I mean, it’s not my new old favourite shirt, or anything, but I definitely noticed the difference in how it feels to wear it today. The collar is still all un-ironed and flippy, and it still wasn’t really created with breasts in mind, but it definitely feels more comfortable and less awkward than it has in a very long time.

I was reminded of a photo taken of me (and some zombies) from 2007, after a Midnight Madness screening at TIFF that year. I’ve always loved the picture and hated the picture, and I’m wearing the same shirt in it while trying to look less overweight than I was.

Horizontal stripes, guys. There’s no winning that battle.

Anyway, it took a while, but I finally found the photo in question, and put it alongside one I got taken today:

That Was Then

I realize it’s not that huge a difference, but to me it kind of is. And regardless, that’s not really what I wanted to talk about. In searching for the zombie photo, I came across my old, sad, secret blog, and tumbled down the rabbit hole a little bit as a result.

I’d created it to vent and to just kind of work out some of my overwhelming emotions in a way that would add to the work being done in my therapy sessions each week. In other words, I needed it to be real and true to whatever I felt like saying at the time – unedited – but not hurt or alarm anyone who might read it. An online dumping ground. I didn’t make it private because I felt like some other person in the world might relate to it on some level and I didn’t want to deprive them of that, but it wasn’t something I really advertised, or anything. Not even to my therapist, because sometimes I also talked about her. Haha

I’d stopped writing much on that blog for a few reasons, the main one being that I’d started posting other things on it, as well, and didn’t want anyone finding the sad just because they wanted to read what I thought of a particular film, or what was going on with my possible (at the time) MS diagnosis. I still wanted people to be able to read that stuff if they wanted to, but without having to deal with me depression and whining and the like. So I created an author blog, and an MS blog, joined up with the Mind Reels and eventually created this one as more of a catch-all for all of that. For most of it, anyway. I still don’t feel like bringing the secret one on board, and very rarely post anything there because I am always posting here, instead!

Scrolling through those posts this morning, though, looking for the zombie pic for a comparison, was kind of an exercise and a half. There was so much I’d – not forgotten, but hadn’t thought about in a long time – that I revisited, and it was rather remarkable. So many sad photos I’d found online to represent how I was feeling, and so many memories I hadn’t realized I’d written down. I used to keep a journal occasionally, but this was my first attempt at essentially journaling in an online forum. One that was essentially public, no less, and which contained more pain than anything else.

Some of it was actually rather beautiful.

There’s a couple of devastating posts about when Kate the Kitten died – one which declared basically just that; that I’d lost my best friend and was truly alone – and one that I wrote to remember our last hours together. I didn’t want to forget a single detail, if I could help it. I also didn’t want to re-read it this morning as my work day began, though, so I kept scrolling.

Apparently, I’d written a poem for my therapist for her birthday. I had completely forgotten about it until I saw the post for it today. I wonder if I ever gave it to her?

There was at least one sad haiku, memories of things past that were resurrected in that present and linked within posts. Most just described what was going on in my outer world, and how they affected my inner life.

I found myself expanding several posts and reading them with the years of hindsight that developed in between. Seeing things that were said to me and interpreted one way at the time, but viewed in a slightly different light now. Not better, necessarily – this isn’t one of those “if I’d known then what I know now” kind of things. In some ways, it’s actually sadder now, but that’s not the point.

The point, or one of them, is that the pain is kind of beautiful – in its honesty, its rawness, its lonely desolation. It’s interesting to look at it now, and remember how it felt, and realize that I still feel the same, but not as low down in the pit. I mean, I’m also medicated, so there’s that. Sometimes self-medicated, too, of course. I’m the same person as I was, but I’m not. Have I grown wiser? No. Do I wish I could go back and choose to not do any of it? Not really, because I wouldn’t be who I am now, and Lord knows who I would be, so yeah. Glad it’s all hindsight and not foresight.

That line in the Garth Brooks song, “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance”…I always felt like that was me; that I’d love to not hurt so much sometimes, but I don’t want to give up the happy moments just to avoid the unhappy ones. Now, though, looking back at how starkly beautiful even the pain can be, it makes me think maybe I don’t want to miss any of it.

Maybe embracing both, and accepting both, is how we get strong. Maybe that’s how we get beautiful.

Ketchup – Another Irrelevant Post

This is just going to be short and directionless, because I am busy today, but I don’t trust myself to write later. I’d rather write quickly now than not at all later.

So let’s see…what is on my mind today?

Got a call from my neurologist’s office earlier. I have to go get the round of bloodwork I had done last weekend RE-done in about 2 weeks. I guess he didn’t like something he saw and wants a second look. It’s funny, because my doctor mentioned it yesterday, that something about the last tests were elevated, but in my sleepy brain I thought she was talking about the ones from a couple of months ago, as I didn’t think she’d have the results of the most recent ones yet. I said my neuro had mentioned it but that he’d said it hadn’t been high enough for concern. Turns out he just hadn’t mentioned it YET! Haha

I’m still not concerned, though. I suspect all the rampant drinking I did at the beginning of March, while primarily just trying to get through the difficult memories that are now forever associated with that time of year, perhaps took a bit of a temporary toll on my liver enzyme levels. I’ve cut back down to almost nothing again, though, so I’m sure by the time the tests are re-done, everything will be back to within normal ranges. It’s happened before, and I guarantee it will happen again. The good thing is having a medical system that allows my team of doctors to monitor everything as often or rarely as they need to, and double-check when they aren’t sure.

I remember even going in for…something…I think one of the heart-rate tests I had to do when I was going on a new medication? Anyway, they took my blood pressure when I got there, but it was so absurdly high that the woman decided to do it again after the main test was done, at which time it was back to normal. Sometimes these things are all about timing.

I imagine the results from all the other tests my doc did yesterday will be back soon, too. I’m not concerned about any of those, though. They’re just the standard things people get checked out occasionally. It’ll be good for her to have a baseline medical history that’s not related specifically to MS testing, though. The last time I had any of that other stuff done was 2008, which was long before I had to find a new family doctor!

She didn’t check my weight, though, which is too bad, because I’ve totally lost some, and if I continue to lose, it would have looked even better next time! Ah well.

What else? I felted and attached a head to my blue snowman last night. I didn’t have much time but that’s still a good step to get completed. Now I can either work on details (like a face) or try making different shapes all together. Will see what kind of mood I’m in later.

I am much more about welfare instead of rights, especially where non-human animals are concerned. It just makes sense.

I’m bummed at the prospect of yet another winter storm, and will just hope we don’t end up with much more snow. I hate having to get Brody and I all bundled up just so we can go outside for a few minutes, and then have to get boots off and puppy feet dry as soon as we get back in the door again. It’s annoying and time consuming.

I also hate when I feel like I have to pee, but can’t seem to make it happen.

And I hate that I had raw veggies and hummus earlier but am still craving potato chips right now. Jason Isaacs mentioned that he loved that Canada has ketchup-flavoured chips. Which – I don’t really get how it’s that novel an idea. How many people have ketchup with their french fries? Potatoes and ketchup are good together, non-Canadian people! It’s at least not a wacky idea!

That being said, though, I hope he snagged a bag of Ketchup Doritos while he was here, because holy hell – SO GOOD!!!

Now I really want chips.

Damn.

Food Matters

I need to evaluate, re-evaluate and keep re-evaluating my relationship with food.  I can’t break up with food, so I need to find a way to make our relationship much healthier than it’s ever been, and keep it that way.  Much easier said than done, of course, and perhaps not even entirely possible.  But it’s definitely time to try.

I love food, in general.  I always have.  Well, snacks, at least.  From needing that one bowl of chocolate ice cream after school every day, to a bowl of whatever flavour of chips was in the house, snacks were always welcome in my belly.  Peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch was a staple, breakfast for dinner was a treat, cereal was a never-ending parade of taste sensations.

I was a scrawny kid with a high metabolism, so I was the hateful sort who could eat whatever I wanted and never gain weight.  My problem was, for awhile there, I couldn’t gain weight.  I was constantly getting weighed at the doctor – weekly, if I recall – and everyone did what they could to put weight on me, but none of it worked for awhile.  I often wasn’t allowed to leave the table until I’d finished what was on my plate – which, of course would grow cold before I could finish it.  Mealtime became this highly stressful thing for me, and that did nothing to increase my appetite, so for awhile there, things did not go well.

As I got older, my body started to balance itself out, and though I was still scrawny, I was at least within the target weight range for my age and height.  The low end, but still there.  I went to University and introduced regular alcohol consumption to my routine, and still bounced between the same 5lb range for a decade or so.

In my early 30’s, a lot of change happened – mentally, emotionally, and physically.  I got into teacher’s college, so I quit smoking before school started, which helped launch me into a deep depression.  I started drinking way more, and continued to eat whatever I wanted to, not realizing that my metabolism would no longer bounce back as it had before.  It’s almost like it slowed to a stop for a bit there.  I packed on something like 60lbs in the 8 months of my school year.  None of what I’d purchased at the start of the year to wear in class would fit, and I couldn’t stop the spiral.

Over ten years later I managed to lose some of the weight, but it’s always in stages.  I try different things, and it works a bit, but I plateau, in a way, and no matter what I do, nothing changes for awhile again.  It’s like a tightrope where the drop is only on one side.  It’s ridiculous, really.  But the crazy guilt or sadness or despair I feel every time I eat something -no matter what it is – feels like it’s doing more harm than anything else.

And a healthy relationship that doth not make.

I think I’ve gone from one end of the spectrum as a kid, to the opposite as an adult, and none of it has allowed me to enjoy the simple act of eating.  I think everyone has this problem to some degree or other, and it seems to me that we’d all be a lot healthier if we could allow ourselves to enjoy providing our bodies with fuel.  Our bodies need it, our minds need it, and I think our hearts and spirits need it, too.

I’m not saying we should be able to eat all the crap we want and feel great about it.  I’m saying we need – or at least I need – to find a way to take the stress and guilt and fear and despair out of every single mealtime.  I could eat all the healthy, nutritious foods in the world and it won’t make a lick of difference until I can be glad I’m doing it.  Until I can enjoy it.

It’s all about balance, and when it comes to food, I’ve never had any.  Time to start looking for some.