Throwback Thursday: Once I Loved a Duke

My love of dogs feels lifelong.

In my lifetime, my family had a Border Collie who I don’t personally remember, but have seen pictures of, named Hook (like the movie). He herded us a bit too much for our young ages (apparently we cried at the nipped heels) so they found another home for him. The next pup we had been a white German Sheppard named Coach (Craig T. Nelson‘s greatest character). I remember bits and pieces, but my main man growing up was my pal Duke.

Duke was a beautiful two-year-old Flat-Coated Retriever (we think) who we adopted from The Animal Guardian Society (TAGS). The organization really wants to make sure that the family and the dog are a good match and within the process there is a two-week

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Duke and I through the years. The bottom photo was taken a couple months before he was put down.

period where the dog can stay at the house. Duke had been living in a small apartment and was kept in a crate for long hours so he thought that our wide backyard was paradise. He ran and ran, I sat on top of out patio table to avoid his speedy laps. When he settled in and I began to fall in love with him our epic friendship began!

I loved him and he loved me. I hugged, kissed, and shared secrets with him. I was also a very sick kid with a lot of physical health problems, he was my cuddle buddy. My mom remembers me falling asleep on him and he’d notice and rest himself to not disturb me. He was far from perfect in his rescue-monkey ways (some bad habits that never really went away), he was some sort of stomach-of-steel-dog who ate crazy things!

Firstly, he loved drinking mom’s cold coffee left in mugs on livingroom tables. Then we get into the stuff that he ate that he was definitely not supposed to: batteries; candles; garbage. One time he got into my brother’s Halloween candy and ate only the red suckers, somehow leaving the sticks and wrappers for us to clean up later.

He was trouble, but he was mostly a happy boy who we all loved so entirely. He put him down when his body began to fail from a type of cancer when I was 13 and I remember missing him so much for so long. I didn’t think that I’d love another dog again, but we all know that didn’t come true.


Thanks for reading this week’s Behind the Throw Back Thursday! What was you first true-dog-love?

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Kickin’ Back in Kincardine: My Canada 150

I had an excellent CANADA150!

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Summit looking fab in a borrowed Canada bandana.
Last Saturday was Canada Day which meant that I got to enjoy an extra day off this past Monday too! Here’s a glimpse into my long weekend fun:

Chris dropped me off at a co-worker’s house last Friday morning; she wonderfully helped us out by driving me into work so that Chris and Summit could pick me up on the way out of town for the long weekend. The three of us (dog included) crammed into the car with all of our things (dog bed included [she’s very spoiled]) and set forth on our mini-vacay.

Traffic was surprisingly not as horrible as we thought it would be! It was more than usual, but we still got to our destination, Kincardine, Ontario, within approximately four hours. We stayed with my sister, brother-in-law, and their many animal companions: Dude the Bernese Mountain Dog, Sidney Prescott the German Shepard, Taco the lean grey cat, and Rafi the collage 1munchkin cat. Summit was very excited to see her fur-cousins and we decided to walk downtown Kincardine to see the end of the car show and get some ice cream. The car show had mostly ended, but we enjoyed a walk and some ice cream creations from Dairy Queen under a nice sunset. After a long day of working and sitting in the car, the guest room pillow was my new best friend.

Saturday morning, we got up and got ready to see the Kincardine Canada Day parade. We drove down and I almost immediately regretted not bringing Summit to the parade, but was also incredibly excited to point out and pet many patriotic doggos that were in attendance. The parade was really lovely! It wasn’t too long, many community organizationscollage 2 celebrated, my favourite town mascot was in the centre of it all (he’s a lighthouse), the famous hockey player Paul Henderson rode in a horse drawn buggy, and then everyone in attendance joined in behind the parade and headed toward the water. At a certain point, we got to the end and realized our best bet was to walk back the same direction we had come. collage 3.jpgThe problem was that many other people were still parading down the street toward the water so we were walking against the traffic. My brother-in-law insisted that this was terribly bad luck (in a superstitious way) and that people were giving us dirty looks – he did this for my benefit, to try to make me paranoid – he really is my brother). We made it out alive and un-scolded by paraders.

The four of us decided to take the dogs for a walk nearby in the woods, this was perfect for Summit who would have missed the wooded dog park walks that she so enjoys every day. By the time that we got back to the house, my dad, stepmom, and step-dog-sister Lucy were arriving to my sister’s as well for Canada Day festivities. We had a BBQ, relaxed in the backyard and walked back downtown to get drinks.

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My sister and brother-in-law at the Erie Belle.
We sat on the balcony facing the waterfront at Erie Belle Fish & Chips, had drinks, and shared stories for an hour or so.

The water looked so nice that we walked passed the docks and along the beach. Our party became a mini parade, marching one by one in the tide while families played in the sand and water around us. I smiled when I saw the big blue chairs that are a novelty to me every time that I see them – they never stop being fun! We took some photos as a family and a friendly fellow Canadian offered to take a full group shot as he watched us struggle to fit into a selfie. Our bodies collage 4began to ache and we got a taxi van back to my sister’s house halfway through the walk home.

We hot-tubbed and ate appetizers in the backyard until the late evening. Our cab driver hilariously dropped us off at/in the end of the parade and we jumped out quickly so that he could drive in reverse back down the road to get out of the way of the approaching tough-looking marching band in some serious kilts. We laughed and merged with the crowd to applaud and appreciate the band. The town then scattered to find and claim the best lookout spots to see the fireworks. As the sky started to darken, the air got colder and my blanket-like sweater became a sweater for two (my husband and I basically became Turk and JD from Scrubs). The fireworks were really incredible! I hadn’t seen fireworks like that in so long, I felt like a kid during the finale shots that totally blew me away. It was a

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Top: Chris and I wearing A sweater. Bottom: Turk and JD from Scrubs as “Multi-Ethnic-Siamese-Doctor.”
really fun experience to share with my family – especially my dad and sister who I remember watching fireworks with on a blanket in the grass as a kid.

Adult life can be hard sometimes, but I love those moments that remind you that you can still experience significantly happy moments similarly to the way you did as a kid – the ones that make you appreciate your life and you know that you’ll probably look back on this exact moment in another twenty years. What I loved about my Canada Day weekend was that it was spent with family and was very inexpensive (Haha)! Seriously though, Kincardine, like many other Canadian cities, provided a fantastic, accessible, public celebration that they should be proud of!

Happy 150th Anniversary Canada! And thanks Kincardine!

How did you celebrate? What part of Canada did you get to appreciate this year?

 

Thank You for Being a Friend: A Very Late Goodbye to the Golden Girl That Was My Grandmother

NOTE:

Firstly, I was lucky enough to be on The Marilyn Denis Show with one of my best friends a few weeks ago. The two of us are featured for being thrifty university graduates who get spoiled with makeovers! The episode airs tomorrow (Friday April 21st) and I cannot post any behind the scenes pictures until after it airs, but next week’s blog will explain how we got the makeover opportunity (a contest may have been involved), what the process was really like, and of course lots of pictures. Looking forward to sharing it all with you next Thursday on here!

 

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The front and back of the bookmark given out at my grandmother’s Celebration of life.

Until then I thought that I would write a virtual letter to my grandmother. My husband and I are attending a friend’s celebration of life this coming Saturday and I’ve been thinking about the celebration we had for my grandmother approximately a year and a half ago. I was much too emotional to sing or even speak at the event we had and I thought that I’d put those thoughts and feelings down in a blog post. As an atheist, I’m reminded of my grandmother in my thoughts. I don’t believe that she’s with me or watching me, but that her memory lives on in stories and photos which is why this blog post has a lot of meaning to me. If I had been able to bravely speak at my grandmother’s celebration of life (like my mom and my grandmother’s sisters had), this is what I would have said:

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A photo taken of my mother (the child) and my grandmother in the late 1960s.

My grandmother, Heather Campbell, was a beautiful, funny, and fun-loving woman who was born October 16 1945 and died September 7th 2015. Although she passed away just one month shy of her 70th birthday, she had lived a full life. Growing up, I had thought that my grandma was different than those that I heard about and saw on television. She was single, young, and didn’t really cook us meals, she was more like my mom’s best friend who we would share laughs with. We would crack jokes at each others expense and sarcasm was a staple element of our conversations. I only truly appreciated the unique relationship that I had with her when I had gotten older, this is when we often treated each other as equals – she had become my friend as well as my mothers.

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Grandma and my mom just before she was diagnosed with cancer.

I became closer to my grandma after she was diagnosed with colon cancer. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure what to think or what to do until someone had told me that I didn’t want to regret not spending enough time with her. I started visiting her by myself, which I had almost never done before. We always saw my grandma with my mom, but I was going to university and my school was near her apartment so I started touching base with her throughout the week. I would stop by after my morning class and we would watch The Price is Right, play along with the program, and make fun of the contestants. She often made me a sandwich and we would gab like girlfriends until I took the bus home or my mom picked me up.

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Photo of my grandma with my mom and her younger brother in approximately 1970.

When she had gone into the hospital for a long period of time (approximately 120 days), I’d started reading Pride and Prejudice to her, a favourite of mine. She had never read the book and enjoyed being read to, it was a nice change of pace from the few entertainment options that were provided by the hospital. I’d read for a few hours at a time and start to lose my voice, occasionally I’d stop to ask her if she was sleeping, but she rarely was, she would tell me to continue on and I would. I had gotten half way through the book when she had recovered enough to go home. She had fought with her body over a period of four months, a body that had gone through chemo and radiation only to develop a hole in her stomach that required multiple surgeries and months of hospitalization. She had been in there for so long that I didn’t think that she’d be leaving alive, but she did – incredibly she did.

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Some photos from Push for Your Tush 2015.

From there she took day trips with her friends, sisters, and my mom, but mostly she rested and looked forward to my sister’s wedding. A handful of us raised money and walked in the Push for your Tush colon cancer charity event in honour of her and she had such a big smile that day. She then celebrated at my sister’s bridal shower and she smiled her beautiful smile once more. By the time that my sister was getting married, my grandma was quite weak, but excited. Heather, my sister and my grandmother’s namesake, and (my

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A collection of happy photos from my sister’s wedding.

now brother-in-law) David had an intimate wedding of just 45 guests in their backyard and then a reception at a local pub. I really love the photos of my grandmother that day, she was so proud and happy to be able to see one of her grandchildren get married – another check off her list of ‘big-life-moments.’

My Grandma lived only two weeks after my sister’s wedding, she passed with pneumonia in the hospital surrounded by family. She is the first person that I have ever witnessed pass away and it was a difficult process. After the grueling six or seven hours of watching her body finally give up, we all cried and some people talked about that place called heaven. I knew that for me, she was gone, and that this would be the last time I would ever see her. Through tears, I kissed her on the forehead and felt like I would see her tomorrow, because goodbyes rarely feel real at the times that they’re said.

At the end of her life, Heather Campbell was a sister, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, and more importantly a friend. Her best friends were her family members and there’s something really beautiful about that. I was lucky enough to grow closer to her in the two years that she hadIMG_6076.jpg colon cancer and even though she was in pain, I think that a lot of moments that took place in those two years could have been some of the best in her life. She was loved by many and she knew that. I loved her and she knew that too.

If I could stop by her apartment this afternoon to watch The Price is Right, I would update her on what’s happened in my life. I would tell her that Chris proposed a month after she passed away, that I won the opportunity to pick a wedding dress, that I missed her sitting on the couch as I chose my bridal gown, and that I graduated top of my university class. I would explain to her that I missed her at my

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Grandma and mom in approximately 1967.

bridal showers and that I couldn’t help, but feel jealous that she could attend my sister’s wedding, but not mine. I would tell her that I married the most wonderful man who lets me make fun of Jeopardy contestants and shares our sense of humour. I would tell her that I got to meet Marilyn Denis (who she, my sister and I love) and accidentally made a dark joke that she would have thought was funny, but Marilyn didn’t really get. I would tell her not to feel bad about not being able to be my mom’s best friend anymore, because I’ve taken on that role now and that we talk about her often. I would tell her everything that she’s missed and thank her for everything that she was because she was pretty awesome.

PS. My Grandma was a total Blanche and I’m closer to a Sophia… or maybe it’s the other way around, some days I don’t know.

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What Easter Means to Me, an Atheist

Easter is this coming weekend and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s not necessarily in my top three for favourite holidays, but I definitely enjoy it all the same. I actually grew

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Communion photo of a child vampire. Just kidding, this is me around 1997, the pale future athiest!

up going to a catholic school, but started to question the religion introspectively in my early teen years. I was baptized, had a first communion, and I’m even confirmed, but that was all by age 13 and who really understands the things our parents have us do back then. What’s important is that what I knew then and what I know now are the same, you should be a good person whether you’re spiritual or not.

 

As a kid, I remember two things about the Easter holiday: one, I loved the times spent together with my family dying eggs, taking part in mom-and-dad-run scavenger hunts for chocolate eggs, or sitting down for a big meal; and two, my Catholic school teachers would always be ‘disappointed’ on Tuesday morning and mildly shame the kids that didn’t bring in palms that were supposed to prove that they went to church for Palm Sunday (we never went and I never brought in a palm). I understand and recognize the importance of Easter within Christianity, but now, as an adult atheist, I appreciate the holiday

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Left to right: Mom, my older sister, my niece, myself, and my deceased grandmother. Four generations of women in our family in 2015.

for the non-spiritual family traditions that I have always been lucky enough to enjoy. Tomorrow night, Chris and I are going to dye some eggs together to continue a family tradition and have fun doing some arts and crafts. We will see our families throughout the next week and a half because of busy schedules, but it’s less about the exact day and more about the act of seeing family.

 

What happens at a non-denominational Easter celebration? We will likely: go for a big dog walk; have afternoon drinks while we talk and laugh; eat a big meal together; cheers to things instead of praying; pig out on junk food in the shape of eggs, bunnies, or chicks; and continue to have drinks while we play games like Cards Against Humanity.

 

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Our now deceased dog Daq.

Does it sound pretty similar to a religious family’s celebration? Probably, because although I don’t believe in God, I do respect family traditions and believe that each holiday is a time to celebrate being happy. I use holidays as an excuse to dedicate extra time to family and each celebration secretly feels like Thanksgiving because of how appreciative I feel (maybe this is why Thanksgiving is a boring holiday for me, I feel like it’s like any other one).

 

So even though I sometimes group God in with the Easter Bunny, realize that we’re still pretty similar and that atheists can be good people too.

What are some of your Easter traditions? Do you celebrate Passover instead? How has your personal family celebration changed from when you were a child?

Let’s Talk about Bell and Cause-Related Marketing

If your Facebook newsfeed was anything like mine was yesterday, it showcased an ongoing list of conflicting opinions over Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign.

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The main argument:

Side A:
Believes that the capitalist nature of Bell as a conglomerate outweighs the benefits of their pseudo-do-good-campaign (that Bell itself is profiting more than the charities that receive the donations).

 

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Bell’s Tweet this morning, the morning after the #Bellletstalk 2017 campaign.

Side B:
Believes that the money donated and the encouraged discussion of mental health issues outweigh the branding benefits that Bell receives from the campaign.

 

This actually takes me back to many ethical discussions had in university over Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Cause-Related Marketing.

Definitions:

Corporate Social Responsibility: “A company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates. Companies express this citizenship (1) through their waste and pollution reduction processes, (2) by contributing educational and social programs, and (3) by earning adequate returns on the employed resources” – Business Dictionary

Cause-Related Marketing: “Joint funding and promotional strategy in which a firm’s sales are linked (and a percentage of the sales revenue is donated) to a charity or other public cause. However, unlike philanthropy, money spent in cause-related marketing is considered an expense and is expected to show a return.” – Business Dictionary

Essentially, corporations are facing more criticism on their bad-guy-reputations, public relation teams then work to combat that negative image by associating themselves with a good cause. The bad guys aren’t going anywhere, they’re just wearing the mask of their non-profit partners. Does this really hurt anyone though? Some argue that Cause-Related Marketing is good thing, yes, the rich continue to get richer, but a charity benefits at the same time.

 

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A screenshot of the Let’s Talk home page today.

Since it’s creation in 2006, Bell Let’s Talk has donated 79 million dollars to Canadian mental health initiatives, this year alone they raised over 6.5 million dollars. On Bell’s Results/Impact page, they list which programs they are donating to each year and how much is allotted to each organization. The benefiting partners of 2017 are: CISSS de Lanaudière ($300,000); Embrace Life Council ($250,000); McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital ($250,000); Queen’s University ($1,000,000); St. John Ambulance ($150,000); and Strongest Families Institute ($2,000,000). I’m not a math whiz, but those numbers don’t add up to 6.5 million dollars. Apparently, the rest is divided into smaller grants that you can apply for (if eligible) through their Community Fund.

 

typingThose are the monetary benefits of this Cause-Related Marketing campaign, but there are also social benefits like the efforts taken to minimize the existing stigma around mental health. #BellLetsTalk encouraged many people on my social media feeds to share personal anecdotes about their own struggles that I would never have known otherwise. However, I am sure that many people continue to hold back personal truths online so that future employers cannot discover that they have a mental illness. For those who are brave enough to disclose their mental health histories online, I applaud you. You are taking a risk at exposing your true self and letting others no that they are not alone.

While perusing Twitter, I came across another trending hashtag: #BellLetsActuallyTalk. The following examples highlight a common issue that many tweeters had with Bell’s campaign.

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My argument is similar to that of last week’s Blue Monday blog post; just because we are focusing on a good cause for a day, doesn’t mean that people cannot continue the practise for the rest of the year. Isn’t bringing attention to a worthy topic a good thing?

Let’s look at #BellLetsTalk as a conversation starter for the rest of the year and recognize that help from a conglomerate is better than no help at all.

Carrie Fisher: On & Off-Screen Rebel

mv5bmje0odewnjm2nf5bml5banbnxkftztcwmju2mzg3na-_v1_sx640_sy720_On Tuesday’s ‘blog break update’ I mentioned that I would be posting a New Year’s Eve Movie list today. Coincidentally, the movie that I watch every New Year’s Eve features the actress whom I will be writing about instead.When Harry Met Sally is one of my all-time favourite films and Carrie Fisher played the supporting character Marie, best friend of Meg Ryan’s Sally.

My blog-writing plans changed after I left the movie theatre Tuesday afternoon, I had just seen Rogue One with my dad. I turned my phone on and checked the text messages that I had missed. About half way through the movie, one of my best friends had sent a message telling me that Carrie Fisher had died. The excitement that I felt over just seeing a great film passed all too quickly as the surreal news set in.

I had never really felt affected by another celebrity’s death before and it’s a weird experience to describe. I didn’t cry, nor was I as sad or heartbroken as I had been when carrie-new-hi-resfriends and family have passed away, but somehow, I felt disconnected.

Carrie Fisher was linked to so many projects, films, and followers. Her telling memoirs as well as her real-life advocacy for mental health awareness and feminism contributed to the deeper connection that her fans, like myself, may have felt toward her. As a child, I saw Carrie Fisher only one way – as Princess Leia – but as an adult, she was Carrie Fisher first, fictional characters second.


f09ce66474a8d7c2823647268b900f31.jpgLeia
I grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy with my family’s boxset VHSes. Leia Organa was the coolest female character that I had ever seen: she was a brunette; she was a princess who didn’t always wear dresses; she used the blaster like a boss; she was hilarious and sarcastic; she was strongminded and stood up for what she believed in; and rather than being a damsel in distress each film, she did a ton of the rescuing herself. Almost every Disney movie I had watched told me to admire princesses, but they had never been so complex.


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I discovered Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally as a teenager, I was obsessed with This is Spinal Tap and was fanatically consuming all other media that he’d created. I was so excited to see Carrie Fisher in our galaxy! carrie-fisherShe was still hilarious and sarcastic, but this time she was wearing a bra (George Lucas believed they’d be dangerous in space). Although Fisher’s character Marie was fictional, it felt like I was getting to know the woman behind the buns. It was from here that I searched for more answers as to who Carrie Fisher really was.


wishful_drinking_bookThe Faults within our Star
In the memoir based off of her one woman show, Wishful Drinking, Fisher let fans into her personal life – or what she remembers of it. She had openly discussed her battle with addiction to both drugs and alcohol, and being under the influence can make some memories foggier than others. As it is with many autobiographies, you need to take Fisher’s words with a grain of salt; however, her ‘take-no-crap’ attitude on and offline has always led me to believe that she wasn’t someone who often held back. I really respect a sense of transparency.


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Carrie with her therapy dog Gary – he calms her anxiety and is almost always with her.

Real-Life Rebel Alliance
Fisher’s candid nature as well as her movie-royalty status allowed her to challenge societal norms – this is what she should be most celebrated for. Fisher was Bipolar, which made her advocacy against mental health stigmas all the more powerful. She emphasized that mental health issues are simply that – health issues. Fisher stressed the significance of treating mental health conditions medically, something that society frequently struggles with acknowledging even when many issues are the result of imbalanced chemicals. Talking about the stigma that surrounds mental health can inspire courage in those who also experience the fear and shame of hiding their diagnoses. Celebrities like Fisher have an enormous reach that amplifies their opinions, one tweet can become topical content for thousands of articles, which is why it is amazing that she used her virtual megaphone to say something actually worth listening to.


It is through Fisher’s real-life story and opinions that I found an adult role model. We may look to television and film characters for style and grace, but I believe that it’s healthy to know what our idols represent when they are 32204cf0ba60c94c972533014b3e47dc.jpgoff-screen. I will never really know who Carrie Fisher was just by reading her books, watching her interviews, and mouthing every line to her movies, but the deeper research into her real-life actions will help remind me of what she once did and always will represent.

Fisher was like a Facebook friend; I only knew what she and the media wanted me to know. This managed representation made me feel like she was a virtual acquaintance, it’s similar to how you ‘know’ 600 people on your social media account – her close friends and family will be the only ones who really knew her. I realize now that I didn’t cry when I heard that she had passed because I don’t need to mourn that way. Her loved ones are mourning Carrie Fisher the person – I am celebrating Carrie Fisher the role model.

Official Blog Schedule: Tuesdays & Thursdays

Hi everyone,

Now that my honeymoon series of entries has concluded, I’m going to be posting twice a week. I’m really excited to write and share my ideas, experiences, and opinions with you.

As I’ve been ‘discovering’ new bloggers on WordPress, I have continually been inspired by pieces of writing. I was always told that reading makes you a better writer, but after finishing a 400 page fictional novel it’s overwhelming to think “I’d love to write a book” and knowing I would never have time for that.

Reading blogs is the perfect amount of fuel for motivating me to write and I hope that they inspire others to do the same. Writing blog posts is a doable feat so try it out if you feel the urge!

My ideal posting days will officially be Tuesdays and Thursdays. I will be trying my best to stick to this schedule and look forward to posting next week!

Until then, don’t forget to read (books, blogs, magazines, newspapers, etc.)!

Three of my favourite blogs so far:

Travels with Choppy

The Imperfect Lady

DINKs Go Coastal

 

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Me reading on a Muskoka beach a few weeks ago.