Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Maybe It's My 'Resting Bitch Face'?

As much as we've tried to make all things equal between men and women over the last few decades, there is one (OK, more than one, but I'm going to address one, for today) difference that is still very visible to me. 
When a group of men are introduced to each other, there is hand shaking, back slapping, and very quickly a camaraderie seems to develop based on work, sports, politics, and personal interests, among other things.
When a group of women are introduced to each other, there is hand shaking, smiling, lots of politeness (uh ... yeah ... we're Canadian!) and surface friendliness.
But there is also something else, intentional or not.
No, obviously not all women are like this, but I definitely see it more often in women than I do men.
I've experienced it personally.
Women who don't know me, know nothing about me, can and have decided they don't like me on first glance.
They give me the up and down once-over, but not before I catch them doing it.
Maybe it's because I come off as confident?
Maybe it's because I'm skinny (don't laugh, people hate on skinny people, too!)?
Maybe it's my 'resting bitch face'?
I have no idea why, or what I'm giving off, because I'm actually a very nice person, but the judgement is there.
You can actually feel it. Like an electrical current in the air.
Last night, I was with a group of women I don't know very well, for somewhat of a 'girls night out'.  One of these women I didn't know at all and was only meeting her for the first time.
Over the course of the evening, one woman in particular seemed to be struggling with her emotions.
And then, totally unexpectedly, the floodgates burst and she was in tears.
It doesn't matter what caused the tears. That's not important to this story.
What matters is that this woman wasn't able to hold it in any longer. And let go.
In front of me.  Someone she didn't know.
Initially, it was one of those moments when you're not sure where to look, or what to say, or how to react.
But ... did we judge her for those tears, or for letting them flow in front of us?
Did we "there there', her, and tell her 'oh it can't be that bad'.
Did we tell her to stop crying, and be strong?
No.  We told her none of that.
We got up from where we were sitting, activities forgotten, and hugged her.  Each individually, and then as a group.
Never underestimate the power of a group hug!
We listened to her.  We let her cry.  We cried with her.  I cried with her.  No judgement. 
It simply reminded me, once again, that you really have NO IDEA what is going on in someone's life at first glance.
We, as women, can be such a powerful support to each other, but at times, we seem to forget that, and spend too much time being a judgmental bitch, to realize that we really don't know anything about the person we're judging.
Or how we're impacting them with that judgment. 
That's not right. Or fair.
None of us is better than the other.  None of our accomplishments are more important than someone else.
All of our feelings and thoughts and dreams are important.
We all matter.
So the next time you're with a group of women you don't know very well, maybe give that woman with 'resting bitch face' a smile.
You may just be amazed at how her face lights up.
If you see a co-worker struggling.  Don't think her weak.  Talk to her.  Offer your help.
You're not in a race to the finish line with your workmates, or any other women in your life.
None of you is getting out of here at the end of the day with a bigger raise, or better car, nicer house, sexier husband or perfect child.
We're all going to be in a box in the ground, or ashes on the wind.  No better or worse than anyone else.
Be kind to your fellow women, my sisters.
Draw from their strength and wisdom and personal power. Don't knock them down for it.
Don't be catty.  Don't be bitches.
Stand in solidarity and offer a safe place for your fellow females to be who they are.
We're all one. 
Offer guidance.  Offer hope.  Offer friendship.  Offer a simple smile. 
It all makes a difference. 
And YOU'LL make a difference in someone's life for doing so.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A New Brunswick Girl, Living In Nova Scotia, Singing A Newfoundland Song

I've never been the type of person to 'pine away' for my youth. 

For the most part, I'm happy where I am in my 40's. Yes, winning the lottery would make me happier, but until then, I'm good. 

But there are days like today, when I hear that someone has died, and when that someone has contributed in some way to my early years, I go back and remember for a bit. 

Such is the case today, with Ron Hynes. 

I didn't know Ron, and he certainly didn't know me, but he absolutely made an impact on my early adult life.

For all the ups and downs I've had over the years, I have to say, my 20's were pretty freakin' awesome! 

Those years were filled with good times, great friends and lots and LOTS of music.

In university, you could often hear the music blaring from my open dorm room window, spilling out onto the football field below.

Yeah, my door was banged on a few times.

And then, when the ex and I had our own place, came the house parties.

Oh yes my friends, over the years, we threw some rockin', go until dawn, 'holy crap there's a band!', 'I can't shut the door, there's a lineup to get in!', type of house parties.

We threw the type of parties where not only would people bring guitars, but also a bass, tambourine, microphones, drum sets, amps and of course, we'd install a disco ball, and everyone in the house would be singing along.

Good times my friends, good times.

But even before all that, some of my fondest memories of my 'party experiences' in Nova Scotia, are when I first started going to the bars here.

There were two bars in particular, at that time, where you could find me on the occasional Wednesday night the weekend.  

At night, it was JJ Rossey's (home of the $0.99 shots!), but even before that, on a Saturday afternoon, we'd hit Peddlers Pub, which was conveniently located right across the street from JJ's.

Now, if you were ever in a bar in Nova Scotia in the 90's, there are a few songs you were guaranteed to hear (over and over and ...over), ones that represented our East Coast lifestyle, and everybody knew the words to.

And there was one song in particular, that when I heard for the first time one Saturday afternoon sitting in the pub, it immediately got my attention, tugged at my east coast heart, and made me want to sing along, and I asked the person sitting next to me, 'WHAT'S that song?!?!?'.

That song was Sonny's Dream, and the singer was Ron Hynes.

After that, I was, as my dad used to say, like a dog with a bone. I couldn't get enough of that song.

If there was a live, local band playing at the bar, guaranteed I'd yell from a table nearby, 'Play Sonny's Dream!'.

I'd go up to the DJ booth and ask,
'Play Sonny's Dream!'

Or when the boys would bring their instruments to our kitchen parties, one of my first (and repeated over the evening) request ... 'Play Sonny's Dream!'

Yeah, I was absolutely the annoying 'Sonny's Dream girl'.  And proud of it!

To this day, I STILL love this song, still sing along, and it still gives me chills.

If you've never heard Sonny's Dream, I'm giving you three opportunities today.

Pick your favourite.

This first one, is from 1980 I believe.  The song was written (by Ron) in 1976, and was being performed by Ron and his band, The Wonderful Grand Band.


This next one, is the version I remember from my pub days. Just imagine everyone in the audience, young and old, singing along with the chorus (the only part I knew at the time).  

An entire bar singing this on a Saturday afternoon was a pretty awesome, feel-good, wanna give everyone a hug, kind of experience.

This is from the ECMA ShowCase at the Pub Flamingo.  I believe this was the early 90's. Same time I was first learning the words to it at Peddlers.

This last one, I decided to include because it was a tribute to the man, and the song.  

This one was a collaboration by a huge group of fantastic Newfoundland artists (Great Big Sea, anyone?), at the Night Of A Thousand Songs benefit, held in St. Johns in 2012. Look for Ron over on the right in the blue shirt and tie.

If you've never heard this song, give it a try (I'd suggest the 2nd video!). 

If you've loved this song as long as I have, and it brings back great memories of your youth, then you're probably feeling a bit sad today at the loss of the man who gave it to us.

I know I am.

I think back to those couple of years after I first moved here. I was a girl from New Brunswick, living in Nova Scotia, singing a Newfoundland song.

Those were some great days.

And Sonny's Dream, a great Canadian song.

RIP Mr. Ron Hynes.  

Thank you for giving this girl some wonderful memories, through your music.


" ...your Daddy's a sailor who never comes home, and the nights get so long, and the silence goes on, and I'm feelin' so tired, I'm not all that strong."


P.S.  If you want to hear the radio version, Google it. I'm all about the live music today!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Yeah? So? It's A Cucumber!

Last year at this time, the internet craze was Cat Circles.

Don't remember that?  I tried it on Linken, so you can find it HERE

This year, right now, there is a new cat craze.

Cats and cucumbers.

People are placing a cucumber on the floor, behind their unsuspecting cat, and when the cat turns around and sees it, the cat freaks out.

No.  Really.  They completely freak out.

Watch it.

Of course I had to try it on Linken.

Do you think he flew into the air, like the others?

Watch below.

Nope.  Nothing.  At most, a WTF reaction, and then he just walked away.

You're not playing right, Linken!

Before you go trying this on your unsuspecting cat, the 'experts' are now saying that we shouldn't be doing this.

Which I, of course, did before I realized I shouldn't.

But I did make sure he was in an open space, where he couldn't hurt himself if he did jump (she rationalizes to herself).

And not only are we being mean, by intentionally trying to scare our beloved fur babies, another reason the cat may jump at the sight of the cucumber is because it possibly associates it with a snake, or other predator, according to IFLScience

But ... not my Linken.

No interest in Cat Circles.

Not freaked out by the cucumber.

Maybe he's a dog, and is just waiting for the right moment to tell me?

Yeah.  That's it.  He's a dog.

Or, he just is what he is ... one Badass (Chuck Norris, who?) Cat! 


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Someone Who Just Needed A Frostie, And A Kind Word.

I didn't see him when I came out of the bank.

Most of the parking lot at the little strip-mall was deserted.

But once I got into the car and looked over to my left, there he was stumbling along, then doubled over, gasping for breath and beating on his chest.

'Holy crap!', I thought to myself. 'Is he having a heart attack?'

I watched him for a second, but did not immediately get out of the car to assist him.

That probably makes me a bad person. But it is what it is.

He was unkempt, no shirt on, unclean pants, kind of a cross between Waylon Jennings, and Sam Elliott, late 50's, early 60's, and he looked like a homeless person.

But that's not the main reason I didn't get out of the car right away.

It was because he was a BIG guy, homeless or not. And I'm a small woman.

And despite the fact that I may carry the attitude of a giant at times, if someone really wanted to hurt me physically, they could snap me like a twig in a heartbeat, so I have to be realistic and keep that in the back of my mind when I'm approaching big, strange men alone in parking lots.

So I rolled down the window and asked, 'Are you OK?'

He didn't answer me, only gasped, mumbled, and beat on his chest again; then dropped to one knee.

I bolted from the car and got on my knees next to him, asking again, 'Are you OK? Do you need me to call an ambulance? Are you having a heart attack?'

He told me no. No heart attack. No ambulance.

He had asthma, and COPD and in this 30 degree heat, he was weak and couldn't catch his breath and the 'regular' puffer he used wasn't helping because he needed one with prednisone and couldn’t afford it.

I went back to the car to see if I had my puffer in my purse. It contains symbicort, and is what I use for my COPD.

No luck. Puffer was in the other purse at home.

Instead, I grabbed the only thing I had in my car that would hopefully offer him some relief. A piss warm, four day old, half bottle of water.

I ran back over to him and offered him the warm water apologetically, and explained it was the only thing I had, and was pretty gross, but it was wet and may sooth his parched throat a bit at least.

He drank it. Immediately.

Once I knew for sure he wasn't having a heart attack, I sat with him for a few minutes, talking quietly, trying to get his breathing regulated to the point he was no longer gasping.

He told me his story.

He was an addict.

Lost his wife and two kids. To what? Drugs? Liquor? Gambling?

I didn't ask. It didn't matter.

I told him we all make mistakes in life.

He also said he'd recently gotten his '14yr sober' chit, on which I congratulated him.

He then told me that before I got there, he had asked some 'young guys' for a bit of spare change, and they spit on him.

That made me angry, and I really hope none of those boys ever end up on hard times, because what they don't yet realize is that addiction can strip the best person in the world, of everything.

And then, once he was steady and breathing somewhat normally again, he asked me for money to get some food.

Having just come out of the bank, all I had on me were $20 bills, and as much as I wanted to help him, I'm also not naive enough to stick a $20 bill in a homeless person's hand, and hope it's really going to go towards food.

So, I told him I couldn't give him anything right now, but that after I'd run my errand, I would be driving by again on my way back, and I would stop in and if he was still there, I'd give him a bit of money.

He didn't think I was coming back.

I ran my errand, and while I was doing so, picked up a cold bottle of water from the cooler.

Then, I left and went to Wendy's, and bought a cheeseburger, and a Frosty.

It was 30 degrees out there, so I was hoping the Frosty would cool him down a bit.

Then I went back.

He was still sitting there. In the same spot I'd left him.

Not only was he in disbelief that I'd come back, but that I also had food for him.

I crouched down next to him and gave him his water, his Frosty, and told him there was a burger in the bag, and then I gave him $5. 

No, I know that's not very much, but, I told him it was to, 'Call someone who can come and help you.'

He may not have been having a heart attack, but he still needed to get out of the heat.

He was very thankful and appreciative, and for some strange reason, asked me if I was a single mom.

I must give off that vibe.

Then he said, 'Ms, I never touch women. Don't touch them at all, but do you think I could give you a hug?'


Dude was a big guy. It's HOT, and he had no shirt on and was sweaty … but I didn't want to be rude ... we settled on a handshake.

I then asked him one last time if he was going to be OK. 

He said yes, so I got back in the car, wished him a good weekend, and went on my way.

I didn't do anything special. I saw someone who looked to be in trouble, and stopped to see if I could help. Something I'm sure most of you would do.

It's been a few hours now, and I'm still thinking about him.

I hope he got out of the heat. And I hope he has somewhere to sleep. And I hope nobody else spit on him today.

Cause really, under that unkempt, partially clothed, sweaty, gasping man, was just that, a man.

A fellow human being.

Someone who just needed a Frostie, and a kind word.

And a better puffer.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Ghosts Among Us

For the past couple of years, I've joked about the ghost in my house.

Some of my friends believe I moved into a 'haunted house' two years ago, but I sometimes wonder if 'something' didn't simply follow us from the old house, as we had a few unexplained experiences there also.

I've always believed in ghosts, spirits, or whatever you want to call them. Both good and bad.

I also believe animals can sense these spirits, and saw this first hand one night a few years ago, when my dog started staring at, then growling at the old antique rocking chair across the room. She slowly got up off the couch, and made her way over to the chair, all the while never losing sight of it, and growling intensely.

At an empty chair. For no reason.

She didn't stop when I called her name. She didn't stop when I said, 'Stop! It's OK, Girl!'. She didn't stop until I physically coaxed her upstairs, away from the chair.

Something she didn't like was in that chair.

The ghosts among us.

Since being in this new house, I've caught the animals staring intently at things that weren't there. Or at least not that I couldn't see, anyway.

I've had things disappear. Some to reappear in different places, others to simply vanish, never to be seen again. And no, I don't believe it was my kids.

I've heard noises coming from under my bed, and told myself it was simply the cat, only to realize a minute later that the cat was outside.

I've had my bed creek and groan, with the weight of someone (or something) getting on or off, thinking it was the dog, only to look over and find I'm the only one in the room.

I left the house one day to run a quick errand. The house was quiet when I left, but as soon as I got home and got out of the car, I could hear it. The music blaring inside the house. The only one home was the dog.

None of this has really 'scared' me, because I don't think the ghost means us harm; despite the fact the song that was blaring was 'Bloody Well Right' (Supertramp). At least it has good taste in music.

And most recently, I was poked.

I was alone in the house one night, folding laundry in my room, when all of a sudden I felt a poke to my back. It was hard enough to make me jump, and turn around, once again to find out I was completely alone.

Except for the dog, who was staring at something behind me, that wasn't there.

I'll admit, that one kind of freaked me out. Just a little.

I also believe we have guardian angels, and I've had too many close calls that should have ended badly, but didn't, for anyone to convince me otherwise.

I think for the past 13yrs, one of these guardian angels has been my father.

July 6th, was the 13th anniversary of my father's death. And after all these years, although the pain isn't as searing as it was that day, it still hurts, and I still miss him.

And I still think about him. Especially on THAT day.

For the most part, it was a quiet day this year. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Until that evening.

I couldn't sleep and was on the computer around 2am when all of a sudden, the music started blaring from my ipod in the kitchen. FULL blast.

I jumped up, ran to the kitchen, quickly killed the music by hitting 'pause' on the little monster, and then just stood there for a second.

Staring at it.

How … why … ?

And then I turned the volume all the way down. Just in case.

And then stared at it some more.

Then went back to my room and tried not to think about what had just happened.

It remained silent for the rest of the night.

I listen to my music on a daily basis. The ipod has never turned itself on at 2am before.


And there's no random 'sleep' or alarm feature on the docking station which would have done so, either.

I thought it was strange, but didn't make a connection to my father, until the next day, while talking about the 'freaky 2am happenings' with a friend, who pointed out to me that given the day, it might have been Dad, just saying 'hi'.

And the more I think about it, the more I tend to agree.

Dad knew I loved my music, and loved it loud. In the house, car, on foot with my walkman (you young'uns can google that one) … I always had my music. Loud.

It was a great way to get my attention after a day spent missing him.

Just saying 'hi'.

I like that.

And if nothing else, now on his anniversary, I'll think of that 2am music blast and smile. Just in case it was him.

Because it's comforting to think he may still be around, looking out for his little girl.

But next year, Dad, feel free to say 'hi', without scaring the crap out of me in the middle of the night.

If it wasn't Dad … stop messin' with my music, Ghost!

And bring back that phone book that mysteriously disappeared!

M'kay? M'kay!


Friday, July 3, 2015

Along With The Golden Ticket, Comes The Fork In The Road

My latest column in The Laker.

When you're a single parent, you don't take risks with your income.

I realize most parents and people in general would rather not take financial risks, but when you're the only breadwinner, you have to make sure you know that rent/mortgage, utilities, food, childcare, clothing, shoes, haircuts, medications, sports fees, school fees, a summer trip to a water park if you're lucky, and … and … you get the picture, will be paid, because you're the only one paying it.

Once you reach a certain salary level, it's hard to go back, so you'd better enjoy your chosen profession.

If you change employers, and explore your industry's opportunities and continue to educate yourself within your niche, you're constantly ensuring your salary is increasing or at least maintaining.

I'm one of these single parents.

For 22 years I worked in the IT industry as a software instructor, software tester, business analyst, knowledge management/documentation specialist, and finally finished as a courseware developer for military aircraft systems.

I've run meetings, led teams, produced results and quality products.

Ms. 9-5 corporate professional. And don't forget … Mom.

All of that came to an abrupt halt last fall, when I was laid off after over nine years with the same organization.

I think most people were surprised by my reaction to the news that I would no longer have a job.

I wasn't angry.

I wasn't sad.

I wasn't worried about the future of my family.

Maybe I should have been. I probably should have been. I know my mother definitely was … is, but I wasn't.

In all honesty, I looked at the situation as my golden ticket.

When you have a job that pays your bills and supports your family, you can't simply quit that job if you no longer enjoy it.

You can't leave a good paying job to pursue something that may be in a totally different field and down a different path, and doesn't offer benefits!

Even if you've always wanted to try something 'new', that you believed you could be successful at and really enjoy, you can't let go of that income.

That security.

However, when you've worked for a company for a few years, and they suddenly let you go, you're also entitled to a severance package. Not that it lasts forever, but it does give a bit of breathing room.

And time to explore some options.

Because you see, to be honest, I really don't want to be Ms. 9-5 corporate professional anymore.

I'm good at what I do, but it's never been my true passion.

This. Writing, in some form, is what I've always wanted to do. That's why I started my blog all those years ago. People liked what I shared. And it felt great to connect with them and earn a few perks along the way.

But I always wanted more. Still do.

I want to do something like this, freelance writing, as my 'job'. But how do I get that, when I don't have experience, because I've spent the last 20yrs maintaining?

And so, along with the golden ticket, comes the fork in the road.

I'm pushing 45 and don't want to be living the corporate lifestyle for the next 15 or so years that I have left to work 'full time'.

I want to try something for me. Incorporate my interests into real work. Turn my passions into a paycheck.

But … I do still need a paycheck.

I'm still a mom and I still have two children to provide for.

So in the past few months, I've started writing this column to get myself 'out there', I joined the board of directors of the Rehtaeh Parsons Society, because I strongly believe in what they're trying to do for our youth and I want to be involved with their efforts, and most recently, I was an extra on The Trailer Park Boys, which is currently shooting Season 10.

I didn't know until the last minute, it would be the scene with Snoop Dogg and Tom Arnold. And I'll admit, that was pretty cool!

No, I've never done anything like that before. First time as a background actor, first time on a set. But as I was applying with the casting company, I figured, why not?

Life is about taking a few chances, welcoming new adventures, and traveling new paths.

The big question is … can I make a living at this freelance work?

I hear it's possible. I've read it's possible.

But when you look at sites like Elance, which is designed to cater to freelancers, and you see ads that want 500 word articles and will pay $2 for them, I'm thinking … NOT A CHANCE!

Not a chance that my time and talent is worth that little and not a chance that I'll make a living at this, if that's the going rate for freelance work.

I do think I'm talented, and I do think making an enjoyable living is achievable, outside the 9-5 corporate box.

I'm at the fork in the road, and I really want to follow the path that my heart is pulling me down.

But as the golden ticket severance runs out, as they tend to do, will the need for a 'stable' salary' and 'job security' (if there even is such a thing) pull me down the opposite path, back to the 9-5 reliable corporate niche, out of necessity?

I really hope not.

I guess only time will tell.

So,if you happen to be in the market for a fantastic freelance writer, I know just the girl!

Oh, and don't bother looking for me in the scene in Trailer Park Boys. I was in the crowd at the back, but it was a rockin' good time for a days pay and new life experience!