By all Means, Eff Off…

This week, I met cancer.

We ran into each other on a few different occasions.

I can’t say that we’re friends.

We don’t have much in common, except we know some of the same people.

Cancer is similar to a loud, unwanted party guest.

It won’t shut up and is always up in your business.

It’s the creeper you hide from in the bathroom, and wait until the coast is clear to come out.

You know the kind.

Everyone was having such a good time until cancer barged through the door.

Rude.

It ate all the food and drank all the alcohol.

It’s one of those party guests that consumes too much and pukes all over the house.

It’s the party guest that starts a fight in the living room and breaks your mom’s flower vase.

It’s the party guest that invites a bunch of strangers into your house, and causes the neighbors to complain.

It’s the party guest that only plays music it likes to listen to, and spills red wine all over your parents’ white carpet.

Can we say ‘manners’?

I was irritated every time it stumbled its way across the room.

We all wanted it to leave. But we were all too polite to say anything.

Of all the parties in town, why did it have to crash this one?

It told me it was seeing a friend, of a friend.

Liar.

Nobody’s friends with an intruder.

Growing up, I imagine cancer as one of those big bullies on the playground.

It comes along and pulverizes anyone that breathes in oxygen.

Well cancer, you certainly know how to knock the wind out of someone.

You’re a pathetic loser if you ask me.

This week, I saw what it did to those kids on the playground.

Some took a real beating.

Some had to be taken to hospital.

Some didn’t make it back to school the next day.

Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?

I hate bullies.

I hate unwanted party guests.

And I hate cancer.

I saw what it did to a mom who recently celebrated her 55th birthday.

I saw what it did to a friend who spent his weekend at the hospital.

I saw what it did to a 16-year-old boy, whose dad didn’t make it home for Thanksgiving dinner.

Next time you unexpectedly show up at someone’s house party, buy your own damn crackers and cheese.

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You Know you’re a Student when…

20. The sales guy at the beer store knows your first name.

19.  You replace your old friends with new friends called: “textbook, lap top, and Word document.

18. You think that coffee and a bagel is an acceptable way to spend breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

17. You fill your gas tank with the $3.45 you found under the seat of your car.

16. Serious conversations happen over FaceTime and Facebook chat.

15. You text someone that’s 5 feet in front of you about an assignment.

14. 95 per cent of your meals are microwavable.

13. You know all the places in the city that will charge you for extra condiments.

12. You can spend $6 on a coffee but paying for groceries is an injustice.

11. Finding clean underwear is the highlight of your week.

10. Anyone who says they buy wine that is more than $10 is both a snob and a liar.

9. The only time anything gets cleaned is when your mother is visiting or you have a paper due.

8. The bags under your eyes would be too heavy for carry-on at West Jet.

7. Free food will get you to support, attend, and sign almost anything.

6. Perfume and cologne are substitutes for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.

5. Writing a 3000 word essay in one night is considered a challenge.

4. Your parents’ dishwasher is a luxury.

3. Your idea of going out is: Studying in your bedroom to studying in the living room.

2.Going to your parents’ for dinner also includes grocery shopping in their pantry.

1. Three words: No Name Brand.

BONUS: You look like this…

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That’s so Gay

If you’re gay, then you probably own multiple pink shirts.

If you’re gay, then it’s safe to say you drink Cosmos and Strawberry Daiquiris-with the sword and cherry of course.

If you’re gay, then I bet you spend hours gelling your hair and plucking your eyebrows.

If you’re gay, you’re most likely looking for attention.

If you’re gay, it’s more then likely you decided to be that way on your own

… so I thought two years ago.

My best friend and I like to eat a lot. In university, we would sit in grocery store parking lots and veg on yogurt parfaits for dinner. At night, we would drive around town aimlessly and stuff our faces with McDonalds. And Wednesday mornings before class, we would go out for breakfast at our favourite restaurant.

My best friend and I couldn’t be more different.

He likes outdoor activities, whereas I prefer-anything else.

I love to shop. He keeps clothes from five years ago so he doesn’t have to.

I like movies with happily ever afters. He likes movies where people’s heads get blown up.

He likes politics. I like when he stops talking politics.

I’m a good talker. He’s a better listener.

But we do have one thing in common.

We both like boys.

He told me two years ago in the university cafeteria.

It was the first time he told anyone.

As a result, his face was a dark shade of- lobster and his breathing sounded like he had just done an Ironman Triathlon 16 times.

My reaction wasn’t the greatest. I didn’t know anyone who was gay. The first thing that came out of my mouth was: “Are you sure?”

…..

He didn’t own any pink shirts.

He hated Cosmos and Strawberry Daiquiris.

He didn’t spend any time on his hair or his eyebrows.

He was my friend.

I soon realized his sexual orientation was irrelevant and so were my stereotypes. His kind and selfless heart was the only thing that did, and should matter.

This guy would do anything for anyone.

In the middle of the night, he would pick me up at the airport with a handful of my favorite granola bars. He would bring me coffee when I was stressed during exam season. After a night out, he would always walk me home. He never told anyone that I ate the chocolate almonds while grocery shopping. He would try to make me dinner and then take me out for ice cream instead. When I was stuck on a school assignment, he’d edit it-or rewrite the whole thing so I’d get a good grade.

I will never understand how he felt when he realized he was gay.

I will never understand how he felt keeping this secret for so long.

I will never understand how he felt telling me in the university cafeteria.

I will never understand how he felt when I gave him such a terrible reaction.

But I do understand there isn’t anything I would change about him today.

Thank you for teaching me acceptance and the invalidity of stereotypes.But more importantly, thank you for your friendship.

Every once in awhile, special people are placed into our lives. This guy was dropped into mine to restore my way of thinking, and to have someone eat yogurt parfaits with me in a grocery store parking lot.

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Triple Threat

All good things come in threes.  Think about it:

The Three Musketeers.

The Three Stooges.

Snap, Crackle and Pop.

Three Blind Mice.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Third time’s a charm.

Rock, paper, scissors.

Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Three cheers for…

Being a family of three.

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Everyone always tells me how lucky I am to be an only child.

Yes, being an only child does have its perks. For instance, when all my friends were getting a $5 allowance a week, I was getting a $10 allowance.  When I wanted to talk to my friends on MSN, I never had to share the computer-or anything for that matter.  And my parents never confused my name with a sibling’s name-except the dog’s.

But society fails to see the other side of being-the lone child.

People with siblings don’t realize that-every night was my turn to do the dishes.

Yes, I realized I was at a disadvantage at a very young age.  I had no one to blame whenever I did something wrong. I couldn’t always point fingers at the dog.

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Whenever I ate a box of Oreos from the cupboard-the dog did it.

When I broke the lamp- the dog did it.

When I set the microwave on fire-the dog did it.

There’s also a stereotype that only children are socially awkward.

I can see why.  But as the only one, you have to improvise somehow.

Instead of friends, I used to talk to my dolls. Even today, I talk to myself any chance I get: at the gym, in the car, and in class.

I used to play board games like Checkers or the Game of Life by myself- I always won. And I once asked my dad to play Barbies with me-he wasn’t so into it.

The only person I could steal clothes from was my mother.  Some of the outfits I wore to school in grade five were- a bit dated.

Whenever I’d go out in public with my friends I always made them pretend we were siblings. It was a big deal whenever someone would say we looked and acted like sisters. Even at 23, I still pretend my friends are my siblings in public.

Growing up, I didn’t think it was fair that I was the only girl. Thus, I would go hunting with my dad in the fall and cut firewood with him in the winter.  I went a step further on Father’s Day, and got my hunter’s safety license.

As an only child, everything was always two against one.  Whenever we went out to eat, we never ate at McDonalds or Chuck E Cheese’s.  Instead we ate at places like Red Lobster or Smitty’s- where you couldn’t get a plastic toy. At the dinner table I was always surrounded by adults.  We never talked about princesses, horses, or Tamagotchis.  Instead we talked about RRSPs, retirement plans, and house insurance.

When you’re the only one, your parents get a tad overprotective.

I was never allowed to play soccer in middle school because I could get hurt.  Whenever I went on overnight school trips, my mom insisted I had a chaperone in my room at all times.

A few days ago my mom told me I couldn’t run a half marathon because I was at risk of getting Plantar Fasciitis, a painful foot condition.

My friends always told me I shared too much information with my parents, but I didn’t have anyone else to tell these things to.

Apparently, you don’t tell your parents when you skip class or go to a party where there’s going to be minors drinking. When I went away to university-on the other side of the country, I called my parents to ask if I could go out to a movie on a school night…

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Don’t get me wrong, I love and adore both my parents. We’re a triple threat.  But as an only child, I do have my concerns.

I will never be an auntie.

If I marry another only child, my children will never have cousins.

I will never be able to go halves with someone on a Christmas present for both my parents.

And finally, my parents told me they always wanted to have seven grandchildren…

I think I’ll take the $5 allowance next time…

Thanks for all that you do mom and dad.

Love,

The Lone Child

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This Summer I went to Battle…

I want to talk about my summer, which did not consist of a trip overseas or a hot July fling. Instead, it involved an excursion onto the battlegrounds of journalism. I carried a notepad as my gun, 85 extra pens as my bullets, and a Caps and Spelling as my helmet. I clung to what I learned in my journalism classes, which would hopefully keep me alive. Apparently it did because I’m surprisingly still here to tell the tale.

There are certain things The Canadian Press Stylebook can’t teach you about journalism. Thus, I have taken it upon myself to draft the 18th Edition for the Canadian Press.

1. Fill it or kill it.

I was working the weekend shift at the Winnipeg Free Press. I was given an assignment in Nowhere, Manitoba on Highway 8, forty minutes outside the city.

I used my own car that day. My gas tank was close to empty, but I figured there would be gas stations along the way.
There wasn’t.
Once I arrived to my destination, a rally on the side of the highway, the orange gaslight appeared like an unwanted pimple in the middle of my forehead. After I finished interviewing people on the side of the road about animal cruelty, I would conclude with: “And do you happen to know where the nearest gas station is located? It’s for the story I promise…”

The closest one was two left turns, five right turns, six 43 acre farm fields and a 3 mile dirt road away. But I made it…without a debit card.

2. Dress for the parting of the Red Sea

People always tell you to dress to impress, which is true-except on days when the city is experiencing a typhoon and Winnipeggers are canoeing down Portage Avenue, then jeans are acceptable. One day, the weather forecast called for a 40 per cent chance of showers. I was optimistic about the weather. I wanted to please and make an impression. Thus, I wore a white dress to work.

I made an impression all right.

Also, always wear shorts underneath your dresses. Sometimes your boss will ask you to go to the Ex and tryout all the rides for a story.

3. Don’t communicate

Don’t respond to emails that consist of the words: ‘stupid’, ‘idiot’ or ‘dumbass’. Readers are looking for someone to blame, so ‘hey, why not shoot the messenger?’ These readers are on the prowl, and looking to ruin someone’s day. They aren’t worth your time. You have better things to do.

I once responded to an email that consisted of more than just the word ‘stupid’. I tried to explain the story I had written in ‘plain, simple language.’ He responded again with more than just the word ‘stupid.’

Don’t be a target. You have more important battles to fight on the battlefield.

4. Always have change, or get ready to change careers.

Whenever you have change in your purse DO NOT buy Tim Hortons coffee. Instead save it for a rainy day, or a day you’re heading downtown to do a story.

Before each story I would go to the bank, and then go to a 711 to get change. I arrived 30 seconds before each press conference that was held downtown. I called it fashionably on time, they called it ‘we thought you weren’t coming.’

Note: Robin’s Donuts does not do cash back.

5. Don’t spread it

Don’t ever give your parents your work phone number. Your dad will end up calling someone in advertising to ask if they know who you are, and if they’ve read your stories-after your first day.

6. Stay juiced

Charge your phone EVERY NIGHT. I went out to do a story about a man who passed away in a fire. His sister agreed to speak with me over the phone. It was great-until I realized I only had one per cent battery power left on my iPhone.

I found myself at yet another rural gas station-only this time to charge my phone.

7. No cavities

Tell more than 10 people if you’re going to be out of the office. If not-no one will know where you are. This summer, I had a dentist appointment and couldn’t make it to work in the morning. I told three people I wouldn’t be there. On the day of my dentist appointment, those three people were also away from the office. I was out of cell service, and the Free Press couldn’t get a hold of me. Once I finally made it back to the city, I received a phone call from one of the reporters asking where I was. The newsroom thought I had either been kidnapped or incarcerated.

8. Ask for forgiveness later-even though people might not give it

I went to an inner city school where Governor General, David Johnston spoke about the importance of Canada’s youth. After the presentation, I saw him in the school’s hallway. I gave him a hug, told him I watched the Queen’s message every Christmas, and started to ask him dozens of questions. Security didn’t like that too much and asked me to leave. His communications officer liked it a little less and told me I couldn’t use any of his quotes in my story.

9. “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” Yes, there is.

My instructors were right. It’s important to do your research before an interview. Peter Mansbridge might not do it, but it’s okay to plan a few questions ahead of time.

Premier Greg Selinger was holding a press conference by Polo Park this summer. He was discussing the new road construction on St. James, one of the worst roads in the city of Winnipeg. During a scrum, I was so nervous that my mind went blank. I asked him what his favorite store was in the mall and why…

It’s the Bay.

10. Can I check your driver’s license Ms.?

Get your license renewed beforehand. Otherwise, you’ll remember to do it on a Saturday night and you start work on Monday- the day it expires. An expired license means no Free Press car. No Free Press car, means no story. No story means-back to the service industry I go…or drive my own car and run out of gas.

11. There can only be one Vin Diesel

We can’t all be in the Fast and the Furious. In real life, it might not be best to speed. One of the reporters at the Freep was trying to be the first on the scene for a story. He too, took his own vehicle. The police officer didn’t believe him that he was a reporter on assignment. Thus, he got a speeding ticket and didn’t get to his story.

12. Don’t hold your breath

Every time I got on the phone or drove somewhere to do an interview, I would hold my breath hoping to pass out. Everyday I walked in to work and would seriously consider going back to the service industry. But I decided asking meaningful questions that got the story out to the public was more important than asking if customers would like a side of fries with their meals.

Journalism is a blast, you just have to be prepared for battle, and don’t hold your breath.

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Breathe Easy Heather

In 2010 my best friend Laura and I went to Cuba on a school trip.

We hated it.

That week, Laura and I got sick from the water.

We missed our moms.

We missed our beds.

We missed flushing toilets.

We missed our health.

It was the worst illness I’ve ever experienced.

But looking back, I should’ve been grateful. 

This past week, I’ve come to realize that Cuba was an experience I’ll never forget.

It had nothing to do with the sundresses and tank tops we wore in the middle of February.

It had nothing to do with the five days we missed from school.

It had nothing to do with the captivating men who taught us to Salsa.

It had nothing to do with the mojitos we drank every afternoon.

It had nothing to do with the indigestion-well, maybe a bit.

It had everything to do with a girl from Harvey, New Brunswick.

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It had everything to do with Heather MacInnis.

Heather was the type of girl you could never forget.

She left a mark on everyone she met, just like the colorful tattoos decorated on her arms.

Her tattoos matched her vibrant, and colorful personality. They suited her.

She was sweet, sincere, and a go-getter.

When you spoke, she listened. 

She always listened. 

She made you feel special, even after knowing her for such a short period of time. 

Heather was sick too.

No, it wasn’t some petty travel indigestion.

Heather had Cystic Fibrosis.

But unlike Laura and I, Heather never complained. 

She refused to let it hold her back.

In Cuba, she kept dancing when everyone else was too tired.

She would walk, even when someone offered to give her a ride.

She cared for everyone without asking for anything in return.

Heather was a treasure, and we all knew it.

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While Laura and I felt sorry for ourselves, she took in every precious moment she had.

I remember one night in particular. 

Heather and I were walking through the streets of Havana. 

I was complaining about being sick.

She wasn’t.

We started talking about goals, life, time, and eternity. 

The girl had a list of goals longer than the miles it took to get to Cuba.

But she admitted her life had a time limit shorter than most.

We talked about eternity and what it would be like.

We both didn’t know.

But Heather reminded me that it would be great.

On April 10th, Heather took her last breath in a Toronto hospital bed.  Her body had rejected the second pair of lungs she received later this year.

Heather, now it’s my turn to remind you of something. 

You my dear are a jewel in God’s crown, and I’m certain eternity is everything you hoped for.

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The last time I saw Heather was this past summer. She had been getting used to her first set of lungs.

There she was, that sweet little girl from Harvey, New Brunswick sipping coffee with her fiancé in downtown Fredericton.  Her spirits were more vibrant than ever.

That’s how I’ll always remember her: Vibrant.  Ready to take on the world.

And she did.

Cuba introduced me to sickness, Heather’s sickness. But more importantly, she taught me the courage and perseverance it took to overcome that sickness. 

She overcame it by living, loving, and refusing to give up.

Thanks Heather. 

You continue to inspire. 

Congratulations on getting your B.A. in Religious Studies at STU this year.  Laura and I will be rooting for you when they present you with your degree.

Now take a deep breath, and get ready to take on eternity girl.  It’s nothing you can’t handle.

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Blood, Sweat, and CreComm

In the words of Chumbawamba: “I get knocked down, but I get up again.”

In my last year of university, I felt like a Blue Whale in a puddle.

In my first year of CreComm I felt like a minnow in the Great Lakes combined.

I met people who had already filmed documentaries, worked for ad agencies, and travelled the world.

I talked myself up, and told them I won first place in a public speaking competition back in grade six.

They weren’t impressed.

I spoke with people who knew exactly what they wanted to do in the workforce. …The only thing I wanted to do in the workforce was wear pretty clothes.

Since September, I’ve grown into the program-with my pretty clothes in mind of course.

CreComm has taught me a thing or two (thousand) about myself as a student. For instance, Internet is ALWAYS spelt with a capital “I”.

I should have at least five alarm clocks set the night before, in case the first four don’t go off in the morning.

Don’t text under the table.

Don’t miss class-ever. I’m convinced instructors have cameras inside my teddy bears.

Teddy Bear

Don’t text under the table.

The auto-fail is worse than a death sentence.

Autofail

Don’t text under the table.

Deadlines are everything.

Don’t text under the table.

Nothing is an accident it’s a mistake.

Sometimes I compare CreComm to a new boyfriend.

Brittany and Mike

It’s all I think about.
It’s all I talk about.
I spend all my time with it.
Or I spend all my time with people who associate with it.
Sometimes I love it, and sometimes I hate it.
Most nights I dream about it.
When it’s not around I miss it.
It makes me laugh, and it makes me cry-a lot.
It can make me really happy, but it can also rip my heart to shreds.
CreComm gets me, and I’m trying my best to “get it”.
I always want to make it happy, and do what it wants.

CreComm has stretched me in places I thought I could never bend before.
It has introduced me to a world of high stress levels, and a deep passion for perfectionism.
It has made way for lifelong friendships.

Larissa

It has also forced me to question my sanity-everyday.

Most importantly, CreComm has pinpointed my craft.

Newspapers

It has identified my passion to write, listen, and share stories that are honest and meaningful to people around the world.

Without the blood, and sweat from CreComm Boot Camp, I never would have discovered this craft.

Boot

So thank you.

And remember never, EVER text under the table.

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