Where the Sidewalk Ends: Shel Silverstein Poetry Collection or Location of the Metal Box of Doom?

This blog entry has nothing to do with Shel Silverstein… but is about how I hurt myself just passed a sidewalk.

Fun Fact: Sometimes crazy things happen to me/I happen to them.

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Took this shot on my flip phone circa 2010. The staple actually broke through to the other side where my nail was.

Throughout the years, I have found myself in some quirky or even less than ideal situations. These scenarios range from the romantic to the painful and equate to a decent non-existent screenplay for a Rom-Com. I’ll save funny romance stories for another day, but here are two examples of my personal slapstick comedy:
1. I once got half of a toothpick stuck in the heel of my foot for 45 minutes.
2. I accidentally staple-gunned two of my fingers together in art college.

Getting hurt isn’t actually as funny as it looks on film, it only becomes funny to the victim after one month. This is my allotted time period of grieving, approximately one month (give or take) after the incident you will have told the story enough times that it’s almost like you’re recapping a bad sitcom. Time actually does heal the embarrassment and when you start looking at it as if it happened to someone else – it can be hilarious.

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The albino from The Princess Bride knows all about pits of despair.

So, what happened to me today, Monday January 2nd, 2017? I fell into a small pit of despair – a metal box of doom (this would be a decent band name by the way).

I took Summit for a walk along our usual route, this includes some playtime at a nearby park before we head home. We had stopped at the park and were wandering the soccer field when I suddenly had an idea.

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Summit at the park we stopped at pre-incident.

In my very cookie-cutter suburban neighbourhood there is a small farm that didn’t accept the buyout for the land when the houses were being built. Chris and I often take the street that the farm sits on and I like to admire the animals. They mainly have sheep, but they also have some cows, horses, and (most importantly [one of my favourite animals]) a donkey. I thought it might be fun for Summit to see the animals so we crossed the street toward the fence.

The sidewalk ends in an odd place. Instead of ending the sidewalk at the corner of the street, it continues for another 15ft or so alongside one of the houses. The farmland is very clearly fenced off starting behind the aforementioned house’s backyard, approximately 15ft passed the end of the sidewalk. Summit and I casually walked through the snow toward the farm fence, but we realized very quickly that none of the animals were out. We turned to head home, but before we got back to the sidewalk I fell.

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Remember when Jenifer Lawrence tripped up the stairs at the 2013 Oscars?
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Baymax, from Big Hero 6, struggles with stairs too.

You know that feeling you get when your body recognizes that it’s about to fall up/or down the stairs? Multiply that by at least 10 to understand the surreal moment that I experienced. The snow beneath my left foot disappeared and I started to fall straight down. My right leg stayed above ground and I quickly pulled myself up, but not before banging my left leg up a bit and twisting my right knee.

My first thought was, “the ice is breaking!”

My second thought was, “this cannot be a pond.”

I had taken a wrong step on a metal lid that was covered in snow. This underground box was level with the ground and had been covered by about 4 inches of white camouflage. I suppose my weight was on one side of the lid

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My metal box of doom.

and it tilted open to let me fall through. The box was probably only about 3ft or 4ft deep and seemed to contain some electrical wires. The box itself wasn’t all that scary, but slipping into it was.

In shock, I took some photos and planned on calling the city to shut it properly when I got home. I walked the 15-minute route home in more like 25 minutes. The city people said that they would look into closing it properly so that kids don’t get hurt. I am officially resting after a hot shower and am alternating ice pack positions. The pain isn’t so bad and I’ll likely only have minor bruising with some strained muscles, but what a crazy afternoon!

For now, I will add this to my list of weird adventures that if filmed would have been hilarious (if anyone caught it on tape, please contact me and we will try to win money on Americas Funniest Home videos). Everyone else, you should take this story as a life lesson to explore less – suburbia is downright dangerous.

where-the-sidewalk-endsPS. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein is my favourite book of poetry! I definitely recommend borrowing it from the library if you are unfamiliar with Silverstein’s fanciful writing style and humorous illustrations.

Rehoming a Rescue: Ready to Love Again

It has been approximately 40 days since Daq was put to sleep and I think about her daily, but it’s getting easier.

People said different things to me after I lost my dog, but the two most common pieces of advice were “never get another dog again” and “how long do you think you’ll wait until you get another dog?”

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Our late dog Daq, Chris, and myself after my university graduation.

Mourning the death of a pet is a unique journey and everyone has different ways of dealing with it. I knew that I wanted another dog again someday, I just didn’t know when that would be. The pain of the loss is hard, but it doesn’t outweigh the amount of love that you get during their short time with you. The question of when I would be ready to love another dog was something that I struggled with answering – it’s a personal choice that is unique to each person.

As Daq was getting older, Chris and I occasionally discussed when we might get another dog in the future. We had thought that we should wait a few years at least to have some ‘freedom’ in terms of travelling and going away for weekends. As the months got closer to Daq’s passing, Chris admitted that he never knew just how much he could love a dog before having Daq and how much he knew he would now miss it – he thought that we should get a dog sooner than we planned. I was shocked, but loved that he had truly become a dog person (the all-time sexiest trait).

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After losing Daq, Chris and I had an important conversation. He told me that he had spoken with someone at work about losing their dog and about how they had gotten another dog within a few months of the passing so that the family felt protected and helped bring the joy back into the house. I cried. His intentions were so sweet and we both have so much love to give to a dog. I agreed that getting one within the year would be great, but that I likely wouldn’t be ready until after Christmas.

Since then, we have started putting adoption application profiles into some dog rescue services. We started doing so because we know that sometimes it can take months or even years for the right dog for a family to come around and when one does, you need to act fast.

We’ve been watching rescue websites on a consistent basis and I just recently felt a special connection when coming across a two-year-old girl. The difficult thing is that we may or may not even get to meet her, we just need to be hopeful and patient.

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Everyone knows that I was obsessed with my best friend Daq and anyone who has had multiple dogs in their life knows that giving love to another dog doesn’t take away the love that you had for your previous fur babies.

Daq was incredibly special to me and I plan on trying my best not to compare whichever new dog we get to her because she’d be a lot to live up to. Each dog is innocent and unique, they don’t replace each other, your love for each dog is found within separate relationships.

I’m happy to say that somehow, I am ready to welcome another dog into our life already. That first night that Chris and I talked about rehoming a dog in the next year, I cried for another happy reason: since we weren’t looking into getting a puppy, that meant that our future little babe was already alive somewhere… being a cute lil’ doggo.


Update already?!

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I wrote this blog this past Sunday November 6th, 2016 and by the end of the day it had officially been arranged that I would meet the two-year-old dog I had aforementioned. Since then, I met this beautiful girl and brought her home! Can you believe it?

 

Chris and I are so elated to have Summit in our family. We had originally thought that we would want to rename any dog that we got, but we ended up liking her name. She is a Saint Berdoodle, a Saint Bernard/Standard Poodle mix, who was rescued from one of the Carolinas in the United States (I can’t remember if her foster mom said it was North or South). Her foster parents shaved her coat due to the negligence/lack of proper maintenance and it is growing back slowly to be nice and curly. She also gave birth to a large litter of eleven puppies this past August 18th (just five days after Chris and I married) and is truly a sweet girl (See a video of her below).

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She is timid when meeting new people due to her past abusive home, but loves meeting new dogs and is learning to build trust with our less hairy species. She just needs a home with a lot of love and some patience too. Even though she is two, her past owners didn’t teach her simple commands like sit, lay down, come, stay, and she even doesn’t know how to use staircases.

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I was grateful that my mom had come to see the dog with me and be my navigation pilot (yikes, right? Haha). We brought her home and she was so good in the back of our car for the two-hour drive. Last night had to be hard for her, but she exceeded my expectations with how well she handled the transition. She ate a full dinner and sniffed almost constantly. I slept on the couch so that she wouldn’t be alone on her first night (she was too nervous to try climbing the stairs to the bedroom) and we really bonded!

I can feel her trusting me more already and I swear I’m in love – I fall fast.

I am a proud fur mommy right now and taking photos of everything that she does, Chris Facetimed with us last night and is so excited to come home to us! I will share many more memories with you in the future, but for now I’m going to go pet my babe.

To Summit Up For You: Fun Furry Facts:

-Summit already has her own Instagram account under the name @summit.the.sweetheart
-She is ¾ Poodle and ¼ Saint Bernard which has resulted in her being non-shedding
-She has the longest doggy eyelashes I’ve ever seen
-We’re not sure if Summit has seen a TV before! She looks at it funny and was kind of scared at first
-She loves her new backyard
-She loves carrying her poop-emoticon-doll around the house
-Summit is already trotting and wagging her tail in happy spirits!
-We are so glad that we found each other and can’t wait to dance in the kitchen with Chris

Baby-Shower-Talk: What Other Husbands Don’t Do

(Warning: I had a lot of fun with GIFs)

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Friends S8 E20 “The One with the Baby Shower.”

I recently went to a friend’s baby shower. The decorations were beautiful, the food was incredible, one of the games was television oriented so I actually won, the mom-to-be was delightfully spoiled, and the conversations were very informative. Baby and bridal showers are like office water coolers of female friendships; these are the events that women love talking about their spouses at most.

Some of the discussions were eye opening and actually reminded me why I married Chris – he is a great guy.

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Many of the women that I spoke with told me that their male counterparts did not help with the laundry. This shocked me. Not as surprising, the same men who avoided doing laundry, didn’t like to help with cooking or cleaning either.

How could these men not be helping with household chores in 2016?

The women that I spoke to are admirable as they all worked full-time jobs yet they had these added responsibilities at home that their significant others didn’t. Even if you enjoy cleaning, I’m left wondering whether or not you would later resent your partner for not helping.

I’m friends with a lot of men and I know that many of them would help with chores – not all men leave this to be ‘women’s work’ (a terrible term). Chris is living proof that some husbands believe in sharing the unassigned home-work-load.

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What is wrong with these other guys? Do they want wives or moms?

The thing is that I know that the women who I spoke with didn’t love doing all of the housework because they were talking about it at this baby shower. The weird thing is that it was almost less like complaining and more like bragging about whose partner contributed less – it wasn’t funny to me.

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I know that Chris’ overly clean tendencies aren’t exactly typical, but it’s not just keeping a clean house that makes him a quality spouse (accidental rhyme).

 

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We take on jobs equally at home: we take turns going up and down the stairs to switch the laundry loads and both do the folding; we cook and then wash the dishes together; we both work on exterior landscaping; we renovate the house together; and while I scrub, he vacuums – we are a well-balanced team.

Knowing how the other person behaves as a live-in-partner is so important to me which is why I’m a firm believer in living together before marriage. Not only do you learn whether or not you want to kill the other person, but you also learn their habits and beliefs.

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If Chris hadn’t been as great as he was, he wouldn’t have been chosen to be on my team.

Although we have barely been married for 3 months, we are going on living together now for 3 years and I’m very happy with our system.

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If you are happy with your system that’s wonderful, but I’m just trying to let other women know that players get traded from professional teams all the time – sometimes there are better fits, sometimes there are better team-players who want to play for you.

Until we have Rosie-Robots in our lives, finding an equal partner to love and share your home with is an important standard to keep. Wife does not have to mean maid or mother to your husband, it means that you have a best friend (male or female) to help make life a little easier.

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I Took Four Years off after High School – Graduated at the Top of my University Class

“I don’t regret my years off, nor do I regret any of my minimum wage jobs because they contributed greatly to my wanting to go back to school.” – Me (Cassy Goulding)

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Retrieved from Jennifer Pfeffer.

The topic of high school graduates taking a gap year came up earlier this past spring, as President Obama’s daughter Malia decided to wait before heading to college (See articles from Global News, Huffington Post, and NewsHour). This is an option that may scare parents, but it really shouldn’t.

When I was in high school I thought that I knew exactly what I wanted to do and which post secondary school I would attend. My life centred around the visual arts and I maintained good grades in order to achieve honours for all four years in high school. In both grade 8 and grade 12 I was chosen for the annual ‘Faces of the Future’ acknowledgement that gets published in the local paper. This tradition features bright and promising students and encourages readers to watch for their success in the coming years.

I often laughed at the Faces of the Future mentions that I got as I graduated high school, was accepted into Sheridan College, and finally decided to take some time off from school. I felt that they had made a mistake and that I was not what they had thought I would be, but I think that I’ve still got a chance. My face, body, and mind just took advantage of a longer timeline to get to a future that can make a mother proud.

My parents were really great; I was lucky to have a mom and dad who supported me in everything that I tried in life including taking a break. Other adults frequently told me that my parents shouldn’t have let me take time off after high school because I would never go back to further my education, but they did and I think it was the best decision for me.

I was born in December which means that I started school when I was 3 years old and graduated high school when I was 17. I was not yet old enough to vote, win the lottery, or legally drink – I was barely old enough to have my G2 licence! I was a good kid (with an emphasis on kid) and I wasn’t ready to live on my own and go to school anymore than some of my 18-year-old fellow peers.

The Ontario Academic Credit (OAC), also known as grade 13, was eliminated from the Ontario school systems in 2003 and has left high school graduates one year younger (See Alan Slavan’s article on University Affairs). One year’s difference may not result in drastic maturation of a teen’s brain, however, it could allow for other benefits like saving money, time to plan their future, or even time to realize the importance of an education. This last benefit was the most important one to me personally and I discovered it after almost four years after I graduated high school.

During my four years off I dabbled in attempts at modelling, singing, and I even completed a one-year certificate art program at a local college to keep practised. Mainly, I worked retail and barista jobs which included cleaning public toilets. These were jobs that required a lot of hard work and smiling while serving grumpy customers for very little money.

I don’t regret my years off, nor do I regret any of my minimum wage jobs because they contributed greatly to my wanting to go back to school.

I eventually realized that you often need the credential of a college or university diploma to get decent salary paying jobs these days. I also appreciated the concept of a stable career that provided financial security and health benefits which meant that working as a freelance illustrator was no longer my main career goal.

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Retrieved from Where to Volunteer.

I chose to study communications because it would allow me to bring my creativity into professional settings and outlets. Waiting four years after high school didn’t only allow me to mature a bit more, but at age 21 (22 that December), I entered university with a lot more focus than I would have at 17. I had passed my early years of partying, didn’t waste money on a program that I might have dropped out of, and was able to receive the full benefits of OSAP because I was now considered a mature student.

I just want to tell parents of teenagers to not be afraid of letting them take a break. Remember how stressful it is to be that age and give them a choice in life. The time off post-high school graduation can teach your kids valuable life lessons that they don’t learn in classrooms and could possibly save you money (if you’re able to help pay their tuition of course).

By supporting your teen in their choice to take a gap year (or four), you are helping combat the myth that some parents believe: that youth won’t go back to school if they take a break. What do your kids want to do? Do they know? If not, maybe they need some time to figure things out before coming out on top!

Life Lesson: Everyone has their own unique timeline and shouldn’t be expected to fit into an outdated one. There isn’t one right way to get through life, there are many paths with many different endings.

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My friend Christina and I graduated with two of the top three highest grade averages in our graduating class.

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Grieving Goodbyes – Putting Down My Dog Daq

For those of you who follow me on social media, you know that I had to put my dog Daq to sleep last Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 – less than two months away from her 13th birthday.

I thought that I would write something here as a follow up to last month’s post titled “My Dying Dog and the Love that She Inspires.” In summary, that previous entry explains how Daq came to be a part of my family, my best friend, and the details of her failing health that the vets believed was likely bladder cancer.

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Daq and my mom’s dog Deeks were being kept out of the kitchen during painting, but Daq pushed through and got paint all over herself.

I was painting my mom’s kitchen two weeks ago when she and I started talking about Daq’s worsening condition. For the first time, I admitted that if my husband Chris was home from overseas I would put her down. I started to cry as I had the crushing realization that I needed to put Daq down now, before Chris got home.

My husband works internationally for a month at a time, it would have been a two-week period before he got back and we were able to put her to sleep. I wanted so badly for him to be home, not only as emotional support for me, but because his connection with her had grown so strong and I knew he wanted to be there with her at the end. Something that other pilots/pilot’s families know all too well is that working in the industry means that you miss a lot of things at home – no matter how important they might be.

Many people had confessed to me about how hard it was for them to make ‘the decision,’ but it still hadn’t really prepared me for saying goodbye to Daq. What made it even harder was that I kept a very active social media presence that featured Daq more than regularly and that on those social feeds I posted Daq at her happiest, silliest, and most beautiful. This meant that her death may have seemed sudden to some online-onlookers, but our reality behind the social media veil allowed me to be sure that I was making the right decision.

This was our typical day:
-Wake up at 3:00am after going to bed at 1:00am to go pee (with blood)
-Fall back to sleep by 4:30am
-Wake up at 6:00am to go pee (with blood), she wants to sit and enjoy the backyard for a half hour
-Fall back to sleep by 7:45am
-Wake up at 9:00am to go pee (with blood), hang out in the backyard
-Daq sleeps throughout the day with pee breaks as well as many bloody leaks which I then would clean up off the floor and comfort Daq because she’s embarrassed.
-Gets dark outside and Daq can’t see well – she gets scared and barks so I need to go out with her with a flashlight.
-Daq wants her independence to lay outside on the deck, but also barks at nothing so I need to sit with her and the flashlight
-Goes in and out to the backyard many times from 6:00pm-1:00am together
-Repeat from beginning

This also included me watching her strain to pee drops of blood at least five times each time she went out and petting her as she cried a lot more often.

 

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Purple Woods with Harley and Daq.

Aside from her daily struggles, Daq was still eating (she loved food) and she almost always had a smile on her face. The thing is, that it’s hard to tell when your dog is in pain, because they often don’t show it. Her quality of life was worsening and I couldn’t personally put her through that any longer.

I gave myself and Daq time together before saying our final goodbye, I made the decision Thursday and her appointment was booked for the following Wednesday. During this period, I took many happy photos as my friend Harley and I took Daq to Purple Woods for a nice walk, my friend Ian and I took her for a tractor photo shoot, and she had plenty of other hangouts with visitors at home.

I was and still am completely overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to say their goodbyes to her – I thank you.

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Ian, Daq, and I taking tractor photos.

Eve of Destruction

On the eve of her final morning, I had a few hours to spare between my last visitor and my mom arriving. My mom was coming to spend the night with us and help me bring Daq to the vet in the morning.

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During those few hours that Daq and I were alone together we went for our last walk at a nearby soccer field and we cuddled. I started to break down on the walk, the reality had begun to set in that this was the last one. When we got back, we went outside and laid on the backyard deck. I hugged her again and again, holding her tight. I tried to remember the feeling of her soft wavy fur between my fingers and I continually took in her scent. I cried into her fur and spoke about my love for her.

It was sad, but I needed it and I think she was just happy to cuddle and be petted in the cool fall air of our backyard, oblivious as to why I was upset.

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Daq’s pasta, see the video at the bottom of this entry.

That night I made her pasta – Chris and I always discussed giving her a great human meal for her ‘last dinner,’ she loved it and was very happy. She was excited to greet my mom at the door and to hang out with us all night. We cuddled with her, took photos, cried, but I mostly wanted to try to get through the night and try to distract myself from what was to come so we watched comedies on Netflix.

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Her Final Mourning

Her appointment was for 10:00am so that Chris could Facebook video chat in live (Indonesia is a twelve-hour time difference so it was 10:00pm for him). Getting the technology to work during the appointment was an added stress, but I do not regret it as it provided some closure for my husband who I love very much. We were both able to see her go peacefully, and we cried, which was necessary.

Watching my grandmother die last year in a hospital bed for almost 6 hours was hard. Her death seemed painful, sad, and frustrating. That experience was so exhausting and difficult, but it helped me during this situation with Daq. Putting Daq to sleep was humane; it was peaceful, quick, and almost beautiful. I held her as she laid on a blanket and I watched her slowly fall asleep from the injection. The vet was incredibly empathetic and cried a little herself, she also allowed us to stay with Daq for as long as we needed. I hugged and kissed her soft greying forehead more times than I could count, letting my tears fall into the fur around her own eyes that would cry no more.

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Photo from our last morning.

Daq is gone, but I still love her. I feel like putting her to sleep was the right thing to do and she lived a very long happy life. Thank you to everyone who has supported me during this process and to those who have shared kind words with me since.

At this point the surreality is wearing away and I’m starting to finally feel like she won’t be coming home, but things get better with time. I will get better with time.

Daq was an amazing friend who had so much love to give, was loved by many, and will be thought of often. I am currently grieving our goodbyes, but will revere our relationship.

Video of Daq loving her pasta:

Strangers I Admired in High School

(See Life lesson at the bottom)

Celebrities play an interesting part in our lives, often times without directly meeting us. They were especially influential to me personally when I was in high school.

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My dreaded grade 9 yearbook photo (Almost 14 years old [December birthday).
For me, I had a select group of actresses, singers, and models who I looked up to, groomed myself to look like, and secretly wanted to be. Some of these resulted in good practices and others resulted in questionable fashion choices. Interestingly enough, high school-me had mostly good taste because I still admire a lot of the same women today that I did then (in a much less obsessive way).

In no particular order, here are the women I admired most from ages 14-18:

-Ella Fitzgerald
-Natalie Portman
-Audrey Hepburn
-Leslie Feist
-Ingrid Michaelson
-Edie Sedgwick
-Twiggy
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Since high school, I have transitioned from idolizing to admiring. I also recognize a lot of unfortunate life choices as less than admirable for ‘idols’ like Edie Sedgwick and look back on the time when I loved her as very misguided on my own part. The main issue was that although I respected and adored the talents of a number of these women, I often focused purely on their beauty.

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The many colours of the rainbow that I sported on my head from ages 16-19 (also my best friend Hanna can be seen in many of these photos – met in hockey at age 11).

For someone who took haircut risks in her teen years, I was definitely a wall flower in school. I spent a lot of time in the art classrooms, all my friends were in band even though I wasn’t, and it took years before I sang in public – it also shocks a lot of people that I was shy and very quiet. A lot of my friends were male because of our shared pop culture interests and sense of humour, but I always considered myself to be one of the guys rather than a potential love interest to any of them. I was not popular by any means.

I knew that I wasn’t a typical teenage girl and due to catholic school uniforms I was limited to expressing my personality through avenues other than fashion (I’m an atheist now, but it wasn’t out of bitterness toward the uniforms I swear). This meant that my hair and eventually my makeup were a big deal to me.

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Top to bottom: Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick, and Agyness Deyn.

Lacking confidence and a self-declared tomboy (not a term that I’m a fan of these days), I didn’t do my hair or wear makeup until I was around 15-16 years old. For six years after that, I sported a variety of pixie cuts, had almost no eyebrows, grew my eyebrows back, wore dark 60’s inspired eyeliner, and dyed my hair a rainbow of colours.

 

THE MODELS:

The likes of Twiggy (60’s icon), Edie Sedgwick (60’s icon), and Agyness Deyn (modern model) inspired me to chop all my hair off around 2006 and confidently bleach my brown hair while keeping my dark brows. The realization that hair could grow back quickly when short, that I could do whatever I wanted to it and cut it off again if it looked bad, allowed me to try just about every style I wanted (basically I tried each short hairstyle that Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, and Winona Ryder ever had).

Twiggy, Edie Sedgwick, and Agyness Deyn didn’t only fuel my desire to make impulsive hair decisions, but also fed the destructive appetite of a low-self-esteem teenager who longed to feel beautiful. These women were skinny like I was and applauded for it, they weren’t ‘typically’ beautiful yet they were famous for their looks. Although their body shapes were unhealthy ideals for myself (I’m not naturally model-height-tall), their being different-looking eventually helped me see my own type of beauty – and for that I thank them.

THE ACTRESSES:

I watched a stupid amount of television and movies that I do not regret one bit. When I was 12 years old I had a crush on Hawkeye Pierce from MASH and Mr. Kotter from Welcome Back Kotter – I found older programs (and men apparently) fascinating.

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Left to right: Characters Hawkeye Pierce and Mr. Kotter.

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As a brunette who grew up in a blonde Barbie world, I didn’t always appreciate my natural hair colour. Society/the media often subtly told us that to be blonde was to be better than other girls. This is why The Beauty and the Beast stood out to me amongst other Disney movies, and why I so easily fell in love with Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Roman Holiday (surprise, surprise, she chops off her hair in that film) – brunettes for the win!

Audrey was the most beautiful and classy woman that I had ever seen. I loved everything about her and she was the positive role model that I needed after Twiggy and the girls. She showed me that my natural beauty was special and that a good personality can make someone much more attractive than their dull counterpart. I still admire Audrey, but know that she had her share of issues and wasn’t as happy as she appeared.

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They look so similar!

I can’t remember which movie I first saw of Natalie Portman’s, but I know that I’ve seen just about everything that she’s been in. I really fell in love with her when I first saw one of my favourite movies Garden State, the scene where she cries in the airport (see scene here) is when I thought “wow, she is a brilliant actress.” She seems like she could be the modern day Audrey Hepburn in resemblance, but she expanded my ideals once more.

Natalie Portman went beyond looks and personality, she taught me that being smart was totally cool. She made time to complete a Harvard Degree in Psychology (see her speak on her time at Harvard during the 2015’s commencement) in the middle of an increasingly successful acting career. I have always been quite the keener and my competitive spirit drove me to want to be the best in all my classes (I’m a bit of a sore loser and hate getting a bad mark). Natalie Portman taught me that intelligence and ambition should not take away from a woman’s beauty – it should add to it.

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THE SINGERS:

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Top to bottom: Ella Fitzgerald, Feist, and Ingrid Michaelson.

Pre pixie-cuts and any belief that fashion was important, I found a female jazz singer. I was 14 years old when I first heard Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Aint Got that Swing in a history class. I loved singing, but hadn’t sang in public since I quit elementary school choir at a young age. I feel as if it was Ella’s collection of jazz songs that convinced me that I wanted to take the vocal class at my high school and really discover my own musical tastes. Chris and I danced to one of my favourites at our wedding, Ella’s version of Cole Porter’s Let’s Do it.

Come grade 11, I had sung with some other students at a make-shift school library event and a friend at the time told me that I sounded similar to a Canadian artist, Feist. It was love at first sight/listen when I watched the video for My Moon My Man; she was everything that I wished that I could be.

Soon after this, iTunes used her song 1234 in a commercial and she was getting wider recognition. Leslie Feist, was unique looking, a private person, she wrote songs that didn’t need to compete with mainstream pop hits, and she was able to live her life as a successful musician. She inspired me to want to be a professional singer (this goal is on a long hiatus).

I began paying closer attention to commercials as I realized that the music they used behind their promotions were frequently up my alley. I found a massive collection of songs from commercials, as well as in the background of television shows and movies that became the soundtrack of the last years of my high school career. This was also how I stumbled upon Ingrid Michaelson’s Girls and Boys album.

Ingrid Michaelson wrote in a new way that I related to, it was quirky, untraditional, and sweet. She is still one of my greatest influences in songwriting style. Ingrid is particularly special because she exceeded my expectations when I saw her in concert. She was talented, but she was funny – so funny. She wore glasses, wrote quirky songs, and told jokes throughout her set.

 

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Left to right: Me graduating from high school in 2008, college in 2010, and university in 2016 (had some years off between academic gigs) – now happier and healthier than ever.

LIFE LESSON:

No woman is perfect, it’s too much to expect of any human being. I think that it’s important to talk about who we admire with younger generations so that we can share insight into recognizing the good and the bad that they might influence.

The society that we live in makes it too easy to fall in line with what celebrities say and do, to act like them, and idolize them so we should incorporate healthy conversations about them into our lives. Looking back, I see a lot of beneficial ideologies that I took from women who were strangers to me, but I wish that I focused less on their beauty and more on what not to do from their mistakes.

All in all, I think that there are a number of female celebrities that are good role models for young women and I hope that teenage misfits like young-me find the right ones.