Monday, December 1, 2014

A final update

Hello, hello!

I've been mainly silent on this blog for the past month or so, but there's been a reason for that. I've been working hard, alongside Lucky Crow Art and Design, to launch my new website, and it is officially here!

That said, this blog will no longer be updated, as all posts have been moved to my new website. This blog will remain online, and thisindiegameblog will remain its own entity.

I have new projects I'm gradually working on and announcing, so please keep an eye on my website for all updates.

My website is over at Please let me know what you think, and I hope to see you there!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

To every thing there is a season.

It seems that most of my posts of late are posts dedicated to someone or other. This isn't something I intended to do, but the series of events that have unfolded lately have led to this point. I've had a number of funerals, weddings, and life changes in the past year, and my life has been affected by a lot of important people.

This is another one of those posts.

My Nana, known better as Dr. Stella Muriel Cooper (or just "Muriel" to her friends and family), passed on just a little over three weeks ago, and though the funeral has come and gone, I have still found myself saying goodbye every day since--sometimes in ways that surprise me.

In the days leading up to her death, I went in to visit her several times. One night, my mother decided to start reading her some of her own poetry. She wrote a beautiful book of poems called the Music of Memory, and I found a poem in there entitled "Spring". I had remembered hearing it read years ago, but it struck me more than ever on this day. This poem was about me.

"Spring" by Muriel Cooper
At sunrise,
the mourning doves
cooed outside my bedroom window.
I could almost hear the daffodils
pushing their green higher
through the dark bark mulch.
One small patch of snow
outside on the balcony has refused
for days to melt more than a few drops.
* * *
Musing, I hear light footsteps
moving nearer
from down the hall.
A small blonde head
around the half-open door.
"Nana," she says,
"I just had
a bad dream!"
She holds me close
pulls back the covers and
climbs in beside me.
For just a few minutes all is quiet.
I doze, grateful that I have
a granddaughter eight years old.
Questions, questions
time passes too quickly
slow down.      Then
one ear buried in my pillow
I hear her whisper, "Can we go down now and
make the oatmeal porridge?"

How could I forget our morning oatmeal ritual? Nana hadn't been living at home for fourteen years, but before that, when I was young, we would make oatmeal together every morning that I stayed with her. It was plain oatmeal, but she would sprinkle brown sugar on top and pour cold milk over while the porridge was still hot. Years of eating pre-packaged garbage--flavoured instant oats full of unnecessary sugar and sodium--made me forget how perfect plain oatmeal could be. In the days after I read that poem, I would make myself oatmeal for breakfast. I've continued to do this most mornings, now, and I always try to reflect on memories I shared with Nana as I was growing up.

One of my favourite memories happened one time while Nana came to visit me. It was winter, and she and I were alone in the house. Snow was coming down steadily, and it was that coveted packy snow that made perfect snowballs and snowmen. I challenged Nana to a snowball fight, and she accepted. The two of us went outside together and started lobbing snow balls at each other. She successfully hit me more times than I hit her, and not only was her aim true, but she hit me in the face--twice!--with a snowball. I remembered laughing incredulously as she struggled to withhold her own laughter and stammered out an apology. She also went with me many years ago on my first day of kindergarten.

A picture of me and my Nana on the day she obtained her
doctorate from Dalhousie University.
Nana was an incredibly intelligent woman, and on top of that, she had an extensive career and impressive curriculum vitae. I didn't know that side of her well, but have gotten to know it better since her death. I hadn't realized, growing up, how accomplished she was, or how her accomplishments would come to inspire me later on. At the age of 70, for instance, she received her doctorate from Dalhousie University--the oldest student, at the time, to receive it. I was three.

Though I don't have the same level of dedication to my studies as she did, she emphasized the importance that I receive an excellent education nevertheless. She has been an inspiration to me all through my university life--she even put some money aside for me when I was very young to ensure my ability to pursue my education. Though I took a five-year break between my studies, I am finally finishing my degree this fall. I dedicate this degree, in part, to her, for giving me an opportunity that so many people cannot have and wish they could. I'll always be grateful to her for contributing so vitally to my ability.

This particular quote from the Bible was read at both my Nana's and my Uncle Gordon's funerals, and it's fitting, given the last two months. In fact, at Uncle Gordon's funeral, I read from his Bible. When I was looking at the verse, I noticed that he had actually ticked it off with a pen. We had chosen this verse without looking into Uncle Gordon's own personal Bible, and as I opened it up to read from it at his funeral, I had noticed that he had placed little check marks next to the verses. An interesting coincidence, at the very least.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I'd been re-listening to Nightwish's Imaginaerum album of late, particularly around the time of Nana's passing, and this song in particular stuck with me. The lyrics should reveal why.

This fall has certainly been the season of good-byes, between Nana and Uncle Gordon. I'm grateful to have had both of them in my life for so long.

*Footnote: if you're interested in purchasing a copy of my Nana's poetry book, please send me an e-mail and I will happily discuss the details with you.

**"Spring" has been shared with the publisher's permission.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Aunt Doris and Uncle Gordon

Many years ago, on a previous blog, I wrote a poem for my Great Aunt Doris, who had Alzheimer's. She and my Great Uncle Gordon were very special people in my life, and I learned a lot from both of
Aunt Doris. Photo from the Albert County
Funeral Home's website.
them. Aunt Doris passed away in April of 2008, and Uncle Gordon left us just two weeks ago. Rather than making this a sad post, I'm going to reflect on some fond memories I have of them. There are a lot.

I was lucky to have loving grandparents growing up, but I also had some very special great aunts and uncles. Aunt Doris, my Nana's younger sister, would visit with Uncle Gordon to stay in the cabin in our lower lot--a cabin Aunt Doris's parents used to rent out to tourists many years prior. Due to the frequency of their visits, and the time we would spend together, they became like a third set of grandparents to me. Their care and love was so strong.

They were also very generous with their time. They never had any children of their own, thus having no grandchildren, so they always treated me like the granddaughter they didn't have. They took me on drives in the park, and, with my parents, we would all go on hikes together to enjoy the natural beauty of Fundy National Park. They told me that when they were visiting, I could come over anytime. Once, I took this entirely too literally. I was invited to come and see them for breakfast one morning. I combined the two offers and decided to show up to visit for breakfast--at seven AM.

A much older picture of Uncle
I was still in my pyjamas and I was excited. I went down to the lower lot and knocked on the cabin door. Uncle Gordon greeted me in his own pyjamas, his hair dishevelled--obviously they hadn't been expecting me so early. But he didn't turn me away. He greeted me with his booming "hello!" and welcomed me indoors, and I had breakfast with him and Aunt Doris.

Aunt Doris made these beautiful little shortbread cookies, and she would feed them to me with milk every time I visited them. These shortbreads were always topped with colourful rainbow sprinkles, and I would dip them in the milk to let the colours run. We would eat them together while playing dominos. She was a fantastic cook, and I would join them for suppers and lunches on a regular basis, as well. Both of them were very patient with me. When I couldn't figure out how to tie my shoes, Uncle Gordon, knowing I learned things a little differently than other kids, showed me the "bunny ears" method. To this day, I still use that method.

I'll end this with a poem I wrote in the years that Aunt Doris's Alzheimer's got to the point she didn't recognise most of us. I've edited it recently.

A decorated tin filled with
White shortbread cookies topped by
Round rainbow sprinkles that make the
Milk turn colour 

Sits on the
Kitchen table.
A fold-out table made of tin with
Sturdy aluminum legs and the scene of a
Forest brook in autumn, surrounded by sepia foliage and
The glimpse of a deer is set up before the
Couch, with a
Small box of dominoes spilled over: a
Game to be played.
I can't quite tie my
Shoes yet, but he helps me.
Two bunny ears. Tuck under. Pull. Now it's a

An overstuffed yellow armchair sits by the
Dusty screen door, and beyond that, the
Porch, where the
June bugs used to collect at night and buzz in our ears.
Strawberries grow here too, hidden in the
Tufts of grass.
She has me gather them in a
Porcelain dish. I pick them and
She washes them for me.
We eat them together.

This is what I remember, and though
You cannot, I will keep remembering
For both of us.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I'm glad I took a break from university.

Throughout high school and university, I was always a bit of a laissez-faire student. Didn't pass that math test? Meh, there's always another--final mark be damned. Slept through my 8:30 AM class because I was up all night gaming? Wouldn't be the first time. I was that one cringe-worthy student that no one wanted to be paired up with for a project--unless, of course, it was one of the rare projects I was actually interested in doing.

I graduated high school and made a beeline for Université de Moncton in 2004, not really knowing what to expect. I stumbled through a few years of skipping classes, dropping out of classes and, occasionally, failing classes. It may not be a time I'm proud of, but it was an immensely important learning experience for me. I'm the type of person who, sometimes, has to learn the hard way.

In 2007, I finally finished my required English courses, minus one. Since I was an English major, this took all the fun out of university. Suddenly, I had to take a number of required courses that weren't at all related to English. This was my own fault. I didn't pace myself over the years, and I got all the fun courses out of the way early because of that. That fall, I failed a linguistics class, resulting in a panic attack--something I'd never really experienced before.

I went back to university in the winter, and I wasn't looking forward to it. I signed up for a full course load of five. Within the first few weeks, I had dropped two courses that gave me so much anxiety I couldn't stand to even attend class. One of them--oddly enough a drama class--had me breaking out in hives. Another class I took, a three-hour long ethics class with a lot of homework, forced us to read our answers out in front of the class. I left half-way through the class one day, tears rolling down my cheeks at the mere thought of it.

I also had enrolled in one English class, and it was one that I had failed in the past--the only English class I've ever failed, and my very last requirement for my major. When I got my midterm back and saw that, despite my best efforts, I had failed it, I lost myself. I handed the exam back and ran from the administration building to the arts building, right up to my mother's office. She saw the look on my face and I'm sure she must have known what was coming next. "I'm leaving university," I blurted between my sobs. "I can't do this anymore". She looked at me for a long moment, then nodded, and said "okay". I went to my doctor in the days that followed and asked him to write me a note so I could get out of university without suffering failures in all of my enrolled courses.

I didn't really know what I was going to do. Brad and I were living together at the time, and I hated our apartment. I would be going back home for the summer in a few short months, so I couldn't get a job. I visited my Nana in the hospital; I drew; I sewed; I wrote. When summer came, I went back home to work at the general store. I told people I was taking a break from university, and they advised me not to take too long a break. Some people told me I'd never go back. But my closest friends, my mom and dad, and Brad, all knew better. They were always supportive.

Brad and I moved to Moncton permanently in late summer, 2008. We got a new apartment--coincidentally on Alma Street--and got a cat. I spent the next five years working a few different jobs: waitressing at a Tex-Mex restaurant (I lasted four months), being a barista at a Second Cup kiosk in the mall (a year and nine months), and going from regular employee to assistant manager to store manager at DAVIDsTEA (three whole years).

While managing DAVIDsTEA, in winter of 2012, I found out that I could take the English course I had failed previously, and I decided to get it done. I went back and shocked myself by achieving an A overall in the course. I wasn't just pleased, I was ecstatic. I had overcome a hurdle that had been in my way for years. I wouldn't take another university course for a year and a half, but it was an event that put the option of going back to university back on my radar.

In the summer of 2013, I enrolled for an evening course for the coming fall. The course was with a prof I had in my second year and really liked. I started to realise that I was getting a little too close to the ten year mark. I was 27--inching ever closer to thirty--and wasn't really sure where my life was going. My job was taking up most of my time, and while I liked it, it wasn't what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. It was time to make a decision, and my choices were: 1. to spend the next few years taking one or two evening courses while continuing to work full time, 2. to let my credits expire and never finish my degree, or 3. to take a leave from my full-time job and go back to school. Option 3 ended up being the one I wanted the most, but after looking into it, I discovered that it wasn't an option for me at all: my workplace would only provide one month of study leave, but I really wanted to finish things off. If option 3 was really what I wanted, I would have to step down from my position, and drop to part-time. So, with that big risk in place, I did, and I went back to school full-time in January 2014.

Was it easy? Absolutely not. I worked so hard from January to April that there wasn't much in my life that wasn't school-related, except my part-time job. I re-took the ethics course that I had dropped five years before, and while it was still a stressful course, I found that I got far more out of it the second time around than I had the first time. When the winter semester was done, I felt so much relief. That was the last time I would ever have to take a full-time semester. I had two intersession courses lined up--one spring and one summer--but they would be nothing compared to the insanity the winter brought.

Near the end of the winter semester, I attended the Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference--something I probably wouldn't have even considered doing when I was in university before. I was more of a shut-in during my previous years, and I wouldn't even spend time with people on campus. This semester, I was hanging out in the English Department's Reading Room, making friends and studying with others.

In May, during my spring course, I discovered I was pregnant. At first, I was terrified! What if I didn't get my degree finished on time? Then, after calculating my due date, I discovered that the timing was actually perfect. My exams for my two fall courses would end in December, and the baby is due in January. This fall, I am taking my two final classes while pregnant, and so far it's not a whole lot different.

Do I recommend breaks for everyone? Absolutely not. Some people really don't go back--which is fine, too, as long as that's what you want. I'll always be glad for that five years away from university, though, and I will never regret it. I learned so much during that time, and it prepared me for going back. In a big way, I actually feel that those five years away from university were for me to figure out why I wanted to finish my degree, and to give me the skills I needed to complete it. When February 2015 arrives, I will have a baby in one hand, and a completed bachelor's degree in the other. I always have done things a little differently, so I guess with university I have just taken a bit of a detour on the way. My life story isn't linear, but I like it that way.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Crystal Palace closed yesterday.

Crystal Palace was a magical indoor amusement park that I was lucky enough to be able to enjoy while growing up. It was a place I went to with family and young friends: a place for March Breaks and birthday parties. I had my first actual date with a boy in grade 6 at Crystal Palace, too--we went on a bunch of rides, won a purple plush bulldog and saw a movie together, back in the days that the theatre and park were connected. The connection was only removed in the last few years, and I remember experiencing a wave of nostalgia every time I would leave the movie theatre, met by the sounds of excited children screaming on the roller coaster.  I'll always have fond memories of getting my face painted and riding on the giant swing set to be propelled through the air across the park. I felt like I was flying. And, of course, I'll always remember challenging friends to the Laser Runner laser tag game.

One last shot of the Crystal Palace sign.
Animaritime, a convention I've been staffing at off and on since 2008, took place in the convention centre in Crystal Palace for their 2007 event. That year, I played mini-golf while dressed like a comic book character, made some incredible friends, and got to experience the ridiculous fun of being at a convention in an indoor amusement park. It was a perfect location, but sadly the convention centre wasn't big enough to house the growing convention.

Recently, my husband Brad and I stopped in at Chapters to browse around.  We decided we'd take a walk through Crystal Palace. We have a little one on the way, after all, and we talked about how much we were looking forward to bringing the child there when he or she is old enough. A few weeks later, we heard the sad news that Crystal Palace would be closing at the end of the day on September 1st, so this was never going to happen. We decided we would bring the baby there anyway--so to speak--before the place closed, for one last night of fun and fond memories.

So, the night of Friday, August 29th, we went. We spent the evening playing games and trying to win a prize for the little one, since I couldn't go on any rides. We had discovered the day before that we are to have a little girl, and we were going to try and win her a stuffed dragon. At one point in the night, as we took a break between games, a young girl came up to us and handed us several tickets, saying "you can have these". I looked at her parents, who were with her, and asked if she was sure she wouldn't rather have them for herself. She insisted, and her mother smiled at me and said "we know you're trying to win something for your baby". Brad and I accepted the tickets gratefully, and noticed that they included a slip for over 300 tickets. I tried keep myself together as I put the slip with our other winnings, and the two of us took a break to grab a snack at Pretzelmaker. As we sat with our snack, we watched a a young boy and his father riding the Jumpin' Star together. The look of joy on the little boy's face was unmistakable. A lot of people are going to miss this place, I thought.

We went to cash in our tickets at the end of the night, and the man behind the counter informed us that they would be honouring all tickets in double from Saturday until the park's closure on Monday evening. We decided to come back the following morning, get a few more tickets, and get our baby girl an even better prize--prolonging our goodbye just a little longer. Before we left, a janitor stopped to chat with us, asking us if either of us remembered the bumper boats from the nineties. Since I did, he brought out a little bag and gave me one of the admission tickets, which hadn't been used in years. It had the old logo on it and everything.

Our spoils of the day: a blue squishy kitty, a yellow Furby-like
creature, a plastic purple flute, a Red Wings hat keychain, and
a small glow-in-the-dark ring.
We spent Saturday morning throwing skee balls up ramps, hitting inanimate objects with hammers, and shooting a few basketball hoops until we had enough tickets for the dragon. As I waited in line, though, the last dragon was claimed by another prize-goer. The lines were so long that weekend that this wasn't a surprise, so instead we walked away with a plush cat dressed in blue, as well as a few other smaller prizes that we'll be able to give our little girl through the various stages of her life.

As one does, we took one last look at the park before we left. I watched the beautiful swing set, which had been my favourite ride growing up, and thought to myself that our little girl would grow up in a Moncton with no Crystal Palace. Maybe this seems like unnecessary sentimentality, but we were far from the only ones to come and say goodbye. On Monday afternoon, a group of our friends went to have one last hurrah with the rides and games. They then showed up at our doorstep with their own present for our baby: they had pooled all their tickets together to get her an adorable plush panda. This is another special final memory for the park--one I wasn't even present for.

I'm frustrated that yet more local businesses are being cleared out to make room for big box retailers. Perhaps the numbers of attendees have dwindled over the years for Crystal Palace, but the fact remains that over 150 people are losing their jobs, and a place full of fond memories is going to close down after almost 25 years of business. Crystal Palace was one of the Greater Moncton Area's biggest tourist attractions. Change is usually good, but the change from a family-friendly venue to an enormous hunting and fishing shop is going to take some getting used to. I remain hopeful, as Magic Mountain has stated that they will expand their park to make room for some of the rides, and may open a smaller-scale indoor facility. At the very least, it will be a fun place to go in the summer, but it won't be the same, and it may not be year-round. At least the memories will remain.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Further public embarrassment for the parties this is dedicated to.

I'm not the greatest friend. I'll be the first person to admit that, even if it pains me to do it.  From the early years of my life up until university, I've had a few poisonous friendships that benefited neither party. We would argue incessantly over petty things, fight over significant others, and, whether we were conscious of it or not, silently compete with each
Sally on the left, and me on the right, at her and
Danny's wedding reception on August 9th, 2014.
other's accomplishments. I would never try to blame these things on a specific one of us--we were equally to blame for the shortcomings of our friendships. Regardless, this trained me to become a pretty crappy friend.

It was in my fourth year of university that my view of friendship was about to change. I was going through a pretty difficult time--I hated my classes and was even failing a few of them. I was developing an anxiety problem that brought on sudden anxiety attacks and was experiencing depression as a result. I couldn't see an end in sight, despite being nearly finished my degree. Through all this, I met a girl named Sally in one of my classes.

To say we hit it off pretty much immediately is an understatement. The next thing I knew, she was telling me all about her boyfriend Danny and saying I should introduce Brad to him. Before long, the four of us were inseparable.

While I did have a few really good friendships early on--Brad being one of them--I never had to work through any glaring friendship problems because the friendships were rarely important enough for me to be worth it. It's a sad reality that I talk to few of those friends these days, often because our friendships, to me, just weren't worth working on. I'm not proud of that, but it's the truth. It's not always the case, of course: I do still talk to a few friends from early on, but they are the minority. Sally and I supported each other through good and bad throughout the years, and she was one of the people, along with Brad and my parents, who supported and agreed with my decision to temporarily leave university when the anxiety got to be too much. Of course, we had our differences as well, but we worked through everything in honest, open communication, and our friendship is that much stronger for it, even if I resisted it at first.

The long and short is this: over the years, I have been more than willing to work through and openly discuss any problems Brad and I may be having, and the same goes for my parents and any family members, but I haven't always been that willing to work through problems openly and honestly with friends. Sally has changed that in me, and she has inspired that change in my other friendships, as well. I haven't always cared whether friendships lasted or not. To be honest, when I was very young, I was often separated with anyone I considered a best friend, due to distance. I can confidently say that even if Sally and Danny were to move away, we'd still be in contact. I like to think that the same is the case with a number of my friendships now.

I can't write all this about Sally without saying anything about Danny, of course. Though I've had more opportunities to really bond with Sally, I feel just as comfortable with Danny, and have hung out with him readily if Sally's busy. This guy is one of the sweetest and most caring friends I've known. He'll give you the shirt off his back and do anything for a friend. I'm not exaggerating. If you're a friend in need, he will help you out. If he can't immediately help, he will find a way and look for a solution as creatively as he needs to, often enlisting other friends as well. The phrase "he has a big heart" is a little cliché and overused, but in Danny's instance, it makes perfect sense.

Why am I writing all of this about these people? Well, Sally and Danny got married on August 9th. Brad and I had gone up to Bathurst several days earlier to stay with Sally's parents for the week. I cooked meals for all six of us and helped out when I could to make preparations go more smoothly. When the wedding day finally arrived, we greeted it eagerly. What a privilege for both Brad and I to be in the wedding party, standing next to our closest friends as they pledged themselves formally to one another. Both of them were a part of our wedding party years before, as well, making our reciprocation feel that much more awesome.

This isn't a picture of just the wedding party, but of a big group of our
friends. That should tell you how much friendship means to
these guys. Sally and Danny are in the front. Photo by Kate

Part of the reason I'm writing this in the first place is because I ended up giving a speech that night. I hadn't planned on it. Sally and Danny had decided that their kissing game would revolve around friends and family telling stories about one or both of them. My speech had started off as the story of my first time meeting Sally, but the more I thought about it, the more I added. I started adding things about our friendship, things about Danny, and wishing them the best. I knew this would have to be a speech.

I have a story, but it kind of evolved into a speech, so here I am now.
Sally and I met in a third year philo course at Université de Moncton. We already kind of knew of each other, but as I sat next to her that day, I took note of a tiny Pokémon keychain on her bag. I immediately knew: I can talk to this girl. What started as in-class acquaintance bloomed into a fast friendship. The next thing I knew, I was bringing my now-husband Brad over to her house and introducing him to Danny.
Never before have Brad and I clicked so well with a couple. In the months that followed, the four of us ran the Pokémon League together for little kids. And now here we are, seven years later.
If there's one thing I can say about this couple, it is this: these two are the best friends anyone can have. They will do anything for their friends and they have so much love to give. If you count these two among your circle of friends, you have something rare and special.
Sally and Danny, you are both wonderful people, and I wish you all the happiness--though I know you'll have many happy years to come. Brad and I are so thankful to be a part of your lives.

To be honest, there was a lot more I wanted to say, but I don't think I could have gotten it out without crying--my voice cracked during this version! I didn't want to get too long, or too sappy. So, that's what's happening here. My blog has plenty of room for lengthy sappitude. Sappitude is a word I just invented.

So, this was a bit of a public embarrassment for Sally and Danny. Isn't that what friends are for? I owe a lot to these two, though, and like a couple of other recent blog posts I've made, this is just my own way of expressing my gratitude. I've grown and changed a lot as a person over the years, and the people around me have always been an influence on how that growth has manifested. I know this: my life would be a lot different if I hadn't taken note of that little Pachirisu keychain on Sally's bag that day in class. I like to think that the way my life has evolved to this point is better for that event.

I love the crap outta you guys, Sally and Danny. Congratulations on your new beginning, for the 38452th time.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A life in flux

Why do I seem to go through periods of my life that are incredibly busy, only to come out the other side to an almost complete stillness? Why am I okay with having the answer to the "how have you been?" question be "BUSY!"? What makes me enjoy this intense process of having no free time, and then suddenly being met with an abundance of it?

I know the answer to all of these, but sometimes I will ask myself these questions anyway. I'll start to feel my sanity slowly slip away as my busy-ness consumes my life and reduces it to a schedule of "go to work, do the thing, sleep, repeat". Why do I love to torture myself?

It's actually a pretty simple response. Those intense, busy periods make for better writing. And when they're finally over, there's nothing like the week after, when free time exists again. The first day off is absolute bliss. The next thing I know, I'm out for hours-long walks and contemplating what project I'm going to work on next.

Sometimes I think I'd like to live a life that's wholly quiet, but I'd probably get bored. Instead, I'd rather enjoy the quiet moments that come while being otherwise occupied, and the ebb and flow of 3 months busy, 1 month not busy. Maybe I'll, eventually, get to take and appreciate more quiet time, but it certainly won't be anytime soon. Having a number of interests, hobbies and extracurricular activities makes for a hectic life, but it's a fulfilling one, at least.

Things are calming down a bit for me right now. I've been taking courses all through the past year and I have a full month away from them until I go back in September. Since May, I've been working on the annual Shakespeare in the Park with a group of wonderful people. We put on our final performance of the tragedy of Julius Caesar on Saturday night. That's now over, too, and while I feel satisfied, I'm also sad to be parting with these people. Every summer there seems to be this sense of camaraderie--we all become friends and go on outings together while the play is going. Then, at the end of the play, there's a dissolution. It's always bittersweet, because we rarely see each other all at once after closing night. But then, in plays to come, we'll have the inside jokes and the other little reminders. It's a brief flame, but it burns brightly.

My first day of vacation from work is today, too, and I've been spending it by finishing my final project for my class and getting ready for a small trip. What this means is that the three things really eating my time are, temporarily, done, and while they have all been utterly worth my while, I'll get to enjoy the fleeting quiet that comes from having no urgent projects or deadlines. Two of my best friends are getting married this weekend, and while I'll be busy--being in the wedding party--I plan on enjoying every minute of it, and finding any available quiet within. I've never been to Bathurst before, and my husband Brad and I plan on enjoying the trip over.

My life is about to get more hectic-- in a few ways, too, even though I'm entering a brief period of quiet. Brad and I found out back in May that we're expecting our first child, to arrive in January. I have a bit of a looming deadline: finish my degree before the baby comes. That means I'm hitting the books as hard as ever once again in September, but I'll only have two courses to complete because I worked so hard during the spring and summer. Between classes and work, I'll still be plenty busy, but there should be enough downtime in there to keep me happy. Though, auditions for the Mousetrap are in September...

What's keeping me calm lately? A few small, specific things. Slow, quiet mornings, car rides, sitting in the grass, this songMountain, and... cleaning. A messy house stresses me out, but when my life is filled with so many things, cleaning gets put on the backburner. There's nothing like taking the extra time to tidy and get rid of clutter. Though I'll only really be working in the next month, I have a lot planned for my free time. Writing is definitely one of those many things...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Happy birthday, Mom.

I missed doing a Mother's Day post, as was my intention, because I was too busy giving my mother the news that she's going to be a grandmother in January. Since I did a Father's Day post, though, it doesn't seem right for me to skip one dedicated to Mom. Today is her birthday, so I'd say this is as good a time as any to say a few words about her.

Where to begin with my mom? Laurie Armstrong Cooper is an incredibly special woman. No amount of words I could speak could begin to thank her for the things she's done for me. I'll try, in some small part, nonetheless.

My mom is an English professor at l'Université de Moncton, and I have not met a student of hers that doesn't love her. I've had more than one of her former students tell me how much her guidance meant to them during a difficult time in their lives, some of them going so far as to say she was like a mother to them. This isn't out of the ordinary for Laurie Cooper--this is an everyday occurrence. Any time I'm in public with her, she will stop to wave to someone, then turn to me to explain, "student". Most times I can guess that on my own. She remembers all of her students and they all have a special place with her. It's inspiring to see. I even took classes with her in some of my early years of university. A lot of people asked me if this was awkward or weird, and it never was. Even if she did sometimes tease me for some of my obviously BS-ed exam answers...

She wasn't always a professor, though. When I was growing up, she'd often take odd jobs in order to
A picture Mom took of a peony in front of my house.
help support me and Dad. She started off as a journalist, and that was what she initially went to school for.  She had a very short maternity leave--this was well before New Brunswick's maternity leave was improved upon--and she left me with Dad during the day while she was busy with work. She took photographs for her journalistic pursuits, and in the last few years has gotten into it again as a hobby. She took some wedding photos for my cousins a few years back, and the pictures always turn out beautiful.

Both of my parents, in a lot of ways, made up for a childhood that would have otherwise been very difficult. While I was teased and bullied for the way I looked, my parents were building me up and encouraging me to pursue my dreams. Everyone has some kind of struggle growing up, and I'm glad that through it all, I had a great relationship with both of them that kept me going. School was hard, but at least I got to go home at the end of the day. Likely I wouldn't be writing in this blog today without their early encouragement.

My mom is also one of my best friends. I really feel like I can--and I often do--tell her anything, and she always listens without judging. We meet at least once a week for coffee or breakfast and if we had more time, I'm sure we could talk for hours on end. She is incredibly supportive of everything I do, and doesn't discourage me, even when my dreams are bigger than reality, and even if my expectations are sometimes selfish or unrealistic.

One of the things that always stuck with me about Mom was how she would get interested in my interests. I gamed a lot growing up, and not only would she come to watch me playing these games, she would join in, too. To this day, her favourite is still Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and when I go to visit on holidays, sometimes I'll hear the music playing in the other room and I'll know she's started up a new game. On road trips, we used to take turns playing Pokémon Pinball on my GameBoy Colour.

My mom is proof that you don't have to choose between being a parent and a friend--that you can be both simultaneously, and when your child gets old enough to leave the house, you will have a lifelong friend with no further discipline necessary. I only hope that I can be even a fraction of the mother my mom is.

I love you, mom. Happy birthday.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

My Dad, Allan Cooper, reading poetry at the Université de
Moncton library.
"Everyone knows Allan Cooper."

That was how my father was introduced on Thursday, April 24th, when going up to read his poetry at a Frye Festival event here in Moncton.

Something about that moment filled me with such immense pride that, I couldn't help but beam and clap loudly as he went to the front to read.

Those few words summed up my childhood with Allan Cooper pretty well. If I went anywhere with Dad, you could be sure that we were going to run into at least one person he knew, and he'd have a chat with them. It was, and still is, an inevitability. He'd even spend a few minutes catching up with the woman working the counter at the post office if he was just popping in to get the mail. Anywhere I went with Dad would end in a slightly longer trip than expected.  Sometimes, though, it wouldn't be because we ran into people, but because we went on an impromptu adventure. He'd tell me stories about when he was a kid and his father--my grandfather John Cooper, who I sadly never met--would take him on adventures. They'd get to the bottom of a street, and Grampie John would ask Dad "left or right, boy?". Dad continued this tradition on with me, and we still do this sometimes on my days off. My Dad loves to golf, too, and often spends a sunny day in the summer time on the greens of Fundy.

My Dad is a social animal, but he is also well known for his talents. He's is a poet--that's his full-time job. He's written 14 books and won literary awards. As previously mentioned, he's read at the Frye Festival, on numerous occasions. In addition to being a poet, he's also a musician. He started out with a blues trio and went on to do his own solo projects. He's been nominated for Music NB awards and has played showcases for both Music NB and the East Coast Music Awards. Dad wanted to be a poet since he was a young man, and the fact that he's been able to follow his dreams his whole life has been an immense inspiration to me.

Me and Dad a few years ago, heading out to see the band
Mother Mother in concert together.
Dad also was the one in charge of cooking, most of the time. Being a poet, he would stay at home while Mom went to work. Most of the time, she was working as an English professor, but early on she did some freelancing. Dad would stay home to do the cooking and the cleaning while I was at school, and I would often come home and plop myself in front of my Nintendo 64 while he worked on one of his delicious suppers. I attribute my cooking ability today to Dad's influence.

Being an artist himself, Dad always has encouraged me to pursue my own dreams of becoming a writer. He has helped me edit and proofread my own poetry and helped me find my voice, in addition to all the guidance he gave me growing up. Now, spending time with my dad isn't just like hanging out with a family member--he's a good friend. We still spend a lot of time going for hikes together, which we did when I was in high school--this, and his influence, helped me have an appreciation for the woods and nature. We used to go on the back of the hill and pick blueberries to make pies together. We've played many, many hours of Mario Golf and Mario Kart together. Besides the serious side he displays while reading poetry and playing music, many friends and family members can account for his silliness and fun-loving attitude.

One of my favourite early memories of Dad was when I was very young--probably only 2 or 3. Dad had a big garden in our lower lot in Riverview. He grew big, beautiful tomatoes, and one day had picked one to show me. It was gorgeous--but sadly, I thought it was an apple. He encouraged me to take a bite, and I did. And I didn't like tomatoes again until I was about 23. Now, I'm growing my own tomatoes.

I could go on forever about my dad. I feel incredibly lucky to have had a close relationship with him all these years and I always enjoy spending time with him. He's promised me we're going to spend some time this summer doing a writing workshop together and going on hikes. Last year, we spent a day out on the beautiful Matthew's Head trail in Fundy park, and I can only imagine we're going to do something similar this summer.

Thanks for everything you've done for me, Dad. Here's to the future continuing to be filled with a healthy mixture of silliness and seriousness. I love you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I was born in the Moncton Hospital in 1986. I lived in Riverview until I was 5, when we moved to Alma. I started attending Université de Moncton in 2004, and lived in Moncton in fall and winter until 2008, when I moved here year-round. I joke to people "I was born in Moncton, and I'm still here! I haven't gone far in life!", but I love this city. I can't go for a walk without seeing somebody I know, and that's just from working customer service here in the last five years.

Last week, tragedy unfolded. Our beautiful city, a vibrant and close-knit community, was under threat from a gunman. More than a third of Moncton was in lockdown. I had friends who heard the gunshots while out walking, thinking people were setting off fireworks because it was such a beautiful day. I knew at least six families, off the top of my head, who were in the red zone. We weren't, but we were close enough that we didn't want to risk it--the closest police barricade was only five minutes away. #prayformoncton was trending globally on Twitter--a recognition we sadly hoped would be in better circumstances.

Everyone in Moncton was somehow affected by the hours of terror that followed. Five officers were shot, three of whom died from their wounds--their families and friends, to say the least, were among the most affected.
These are the three officers whose names we must remember: Constable Dave Ross, Constable Fabrice Gevaudan, and Constable Douglas Larche. These three men died protecting our city.

Despite the terror and fear, though, there was one thing I noticed about the situation that made our beautiful community seem even more so.

Love. Support. Unity.

People were sharing information--not the locations of the RCMP and their movements, mind you, as was requested of us--and putting friends up in their homes. Porch lights were on across the city to aid the police in their manhunt, leaving a city that felt very dark covered in lights of hope. People stayed in their homes in an attempt to make the suspect the only person moving. The whole city was at a virtual standstill as businesses closed and buses were pulled off the roads. When the announcement came that the suspect was in custody, there was a flood of relief. People were on the roads at 1:30 AM, cheering and smiling. I'm sure I'm not the only one who immediately felt safe again.

The days that followed the shooter's arrest were filled with such an outpouring of support for the RCMP and other first responders that I couldn't help but be proud. I went to get lunch with my mom the day after, and an officer was behind me in line. With tears in my eyes, I shook his hand and thanked him. I watched as he approached the front of the line and a man tried to pay for his lunch. The woman behind the cash smiled and shook her head, saying "it's on us". Business signs on Mountain Road were changed to say "thank you RCMP". My own workplace started selling muffins, 100% of the proceeds going toward the Moncton Fallen RCMP Members Memorial Fund, and today I am trading in my work uniform of green and black for red and white to show my support.

Friday night, a candlelight vigil was held in front of the RCMP's office on Main Street. I've heard mixed reports that anywhere from 2,000-10,000 people were there, but I would believe any number on that spectrum. My husband and I went to witness it, and it was incredible. Flowers covered the steps leading to the building to the point that they had to be left on the street. There was so much love and respect.

This is a public thank you to the RCMP, who were professional and dealt with a difficult situation in a way I can't imagine being any better. Thank you for protecting our beautiful city while mourning your friends, who must have been like family members to you. My heart is with the family and friends of everyone affected by this tragedy.

Violence causes so much pain in everyone's lives, both physically and mentally. To see Moncton come together in love for each other has been so important during this time. It is my sincere wish that through these horrific events, something beautiful can come, and from what I've seen, it's already begun. Nothing can change what happened, but we can prevent events like this from terrorizing our lives again. Violence can only beget violence; let's try to love each other a bit more.

Moncton's motto, by the way, is "Resurgo", which means "I rise up again". Never before has it been more appropriate.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Brunswick takes an enormous step backwards

Things are already pretty bad in NB.

New Brunswick is, currently, the only province in Canada refusing to give funding for private abortion clinics. In order for a woman to terminate her pregnancy safely, she has to spend $700-$850 of her own money, which she may not be able to afford. The Morgantaler clinic in Fredericton will not turn any woman away, however, and will pay what the woman cannot not to ensure she remains safe and healthy.

This is a band-aid solution, however, for New Brunswick's bizarre "two doctor" policy. This policy states that a woman may only have a funded abortion in New Brunswick if it's "medically necessary"--a vague term that could be easily abused by doctors who are anti-abortion. The woman must be examined by two doctors and be given approval. It is invasive and has the possibility to be discriminatory and judgmental. This is a segment of General Regulation 84-20.

Now, with its private funding all but sapped dry, the Morgantaler clinic in Fredericton has announced that its doors will be closing in July. This is a heavy blow to women's rights in New Brunswick, but it's important to mention that New Brunswickers aren't the only ones suffering for this. Prince Edward Island has no current access to safe abortions, and many women would leave the province to have the procedure done in New Brunswick. Now, they will have to travel to Halifax, and travelling can quickly become expensive. In addition, it is a woman's right to be able to access services pertaining to her own well being, and this right is going to be wholly denied in New Brunswick and PEI starting in July.

Abortions outside of the "two doctor" policy will continue to happen--there is no question. Before abortions were legal, women died from not having safe access. If you do not support legal abortions, then you are, by default, supporting unsafe amateur abortions. By closing an abortion clinic, the province is obliterating the right of a woman to have her pregnancy ended safely in an area that is, importantly, free of judgment and malicious intent, and free of assumptions made based on popularised abortion myths--some of the most popular being "women use abortions as birth control" and that they make the decision for "frivolous" reasons.

Tax dollars are already being spent on those few approved "medically necessary" cases, so anti-abortionists in New Brunswick are already paying for a restricted amount of abortions with their tax dollars. How can we justify using such a vague term as "medically necessary" when there are so many other factors that come into play when a woman chooses to have an abortion? "Medically necessary", being undefined, is completely removing the potential necessity of abortions as a result of a whole rainbow of other problems. Adding to this, an appointment with a doctor can be extremely difficult to obtain, let alone appointments with two different doctors. The possibility of a woman waiting outside of the current legal timeframe--up to 20 weeks--to receive an abortion is very real.

I refrained from using the term "pro-life" in this article because, while I do believe anti-abortion activists think they're pro-life, they are only truly against the act of aborting the fetus and allowing it to remain unborn. Let me clarify: the anti-abortionist doesn't care if a child is being born into an abusive household. The anti-abortionist doesn't care if the child is kept by the mother or placed for adoption. The anti-abortionist doesn't care that the mother of the child may genuinely not want to be a mother, for whatever reason, and that she may be giving up her own life to raise a child she isn't prepared to raise. The anti-abortionist doesn't care that the child may be neglected and even resented for this reason. The anti-abortionist doesn't care that the baby may be brought into a house in poverty, with the mother or parents being unable to provide for the child. The anti-abortionist doesn't care that a woman, unable to be approved for a funded abortion, may take matters into her own hands, seriously injuring herself or the baby. The anti-abortionist doesn't care about what happens to that baby after being born, and the anti-abortionist certainly doesn't care about the mother at all.

People labelling themselves as "pro-life" need to think about what that means. A woman is not just an incubator for an unborn child--she deserves a choice in what she's going to do for the rest of her life, and when or if she is ready to be a mother. Abstinence isn't the answer and, in some instances, simply cannot be.

If you support this issue and feel strongly about it, here's what you can do:

On a personal note, I don't really like sharing political issues in my blog, but I am sick and tired of women being told what they can and cannot do with their own bodies by other people--especially when it's because of other people's personal beliefs. This is a human rights issue. I'm heartbroken and ashamed that our province is being pushed back to an age that we, as women, need other people's permission to make decisions for ourselves. Regardless of what you personally feel on the matter, whether to receive an abortion or not should be the woman's choice, not yours--end of story. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Reflections on "The Grove"

The Walking Dead isn't just an escapist drama about zombies and the apocalypse: it's a human representation of a world gone awry, and an introspective look at the self through situational horror. "The Grove", which is episode 14 of season 4, aired on March 16th, 2014. This particular episode touched on numerous difficult topics it has only briefly looked at in the past, fully developing a character whose illness has been hinted at since the beginning of season 4.

A brief forewarning that this post is full of spoilers. If you're a Walking Dead fan who hasn't seen this episode yet, I recommend waiting to read this post.

Lizzie's condition

Lizzie and Mika, after the fall of Woodbury, moved to the prison with the rest of the series' protagonists. Shortly after, they lost their father, and were taken in by Carol. During this time, a few things occurred. Lizzie's fascination with walkers and naming them started to surface, and, in secret, she started feeding them mice and dissecting dead rabbits. Lizzie was clearly deeply embedded in a world of psychosis that her family was aware of. In one of Carol's early interactions with Lizzie, she calls her weak, to which Mika replies that "she's not weak", she's "messed up". Mika's reaction to Lizzie's panic attack at the beginning of "The Grove" was to tell her to look at the flowers, which was clearly a system that they had figured out a long time ago.

Some have argued that the episode came out of nowhere and dealt with issues that should have been dealt with. I think it's important to keep a few things in mind:

  • Everyone's emotions were tampered with after the fall of the prison; everyone was affected differently by this event. Lizzie already was showing some distressing issues before the fall. It wouldn't have made sense for her situation to have come to a head before, as it was only beginning to develop.
  • Lizzie had to grow up very quickly in a short period of time. With her father recently dead, she was the new head of the family, forced to care for her gentle and sweet younger sister, Mika.
  • Lizzie shot two human beings, one in the head. While she clearly had issues long before that, that could easily have made matters worse.

Lizzie called the walkers by names and was feeding them live mice. At this point, a fascination was beginning to take hold. When she was in Woodbury, she likely had access to anti-psychotics that would have withheld her condition. At the fall of Woodbury, and the death of her father, there was likely no longer a means by which she could access this medication. She dissected rabbits and captured the mice as her medication began to wear off, and that was when she started to "hear" the walkers.

Picture taken from folieviolet on Tumblr.

Could this have been avoided? Perhaps, but most likely not. The one part of the episode that seems to be the tipping point, though, could have been. At the beginning of this episode, we see a fire in the distance. Not long after, walkers, charred and smoking, appear. Lizzie joins the others to shoot the walkers and realises, then states, "I know what I have to do now". A few scenes later, Lizzie murders Mika. This wouldn't have escalated to such a degree if Lizzie wasn't forced to shoot the walkers. Without those walkers, the turning point of the episode wouldn't have occurred.

Think back to a few episodes ago. Beth and Daryl decide to burn down the cabin they're resting in. This cabin is in the middle of the woods. I believe that the fire in "The Grove" was caused by Beth and Daryl burning the cabin a few episodes prior.  If that fire hadn't brought the walkers over to the pecan grove, something would still have escalated with Lizzie, but it would have happened differently.

Lizzie has a disconnect between life, death, and undeath, and seems to think that undeath is an evolution, of sorts, stating that she thinks she should "change", too. She has no trouble killing her own sister because she believes she is only helping her to change. She is still, however, a little girl seeking approval. She breaks down into tears when she thinks that Carol is mad at her, apologising for pulling a gun on her. She seems to realise that pain is bad, but doesn't think death is--as long as it can result in humans returning as walkers, made clear when she said that she didn't mean to shoot Alisha in the head. She meant to kill her, but didn't mean for her to stay dead.

Carol's development

This episode was heavy-hitting in terms of character development for Carol. She has started talking about Sofia again, speaking easily and fondly of her, and even compares Mika to her. She has tried for the whole season to distance herself from these girls--to protect and guide them, without becoming a mother figure to them. In this episode, her failure in this is evident. She compares Mika to her own daughter, saying "she doesn't have a mean bone in her body" and that she would have to learn to make difficult decisions sometimes. When Lizzie is revealed to have killed Mika, Carol maintains her composure and only breaks down when Lizzie leaves with Tyreese. This scene was one of the best examples of the stellar acting the Walking Dead showcases every week.

Carol knows she cannot let Lizzie live. She says twice that Lizzie "can't be around other people", betraying the significance of that statement the second time she says it. Carol has made an incredibly difficult decision. When she walks out into the clearing with Lizzie, the gravity of that knowledge is immense to her. She finally tells Lizzie she loves her, after resisting that love for the whole season,  and quotes Mika's words from earlier in the episode, saying "everything works out the way it's supposed to".

Carol has been keeping a secret from Tyreese since they met up: she killed Karen and David. In this episode, Carol has three chances to tell Tyreese what she did. The first opportunity certainly would have killed her, the second one was likely. The third time, Carol throws caution to the wind and tells the truth. Her development is immense here. She goes from being on her own and happy to keep the truth from everyone, to feeling a genuine need to tell the truth. She goes so far as to hand Tyreese the gun and say "do what you have to do". She accepts, openly, that Tyreese could kill her, and she wouldn't blame him for doing so. Tyreese, mercifully, shows a lot of development here, too. When he first found out about Karen's death, he would have happily taken care of the killer, no matter who it was. Here, he is able to see the situation from Carol's perspective, and accept that she really believed she was doing the right thing. The two leave together and continue to travel together at the end of the episode.

Carol had to kill Lizzie--there was no other way. Melissa McBride--Carol's actress--said, on Talking Dead after the show:

"I don't think there was really any other option. There's a lot of nature vs. nurture going on in this episode to look at. As much as it broke Carol's heart to have to do this and to realize this had to be done, when they were walking toward the flowers in that scene and Lizzie says, 'You're mad at me and I'm sorry.' You'd think she'd be sorry for stabbing her sister to death but instead she's sorry for pointing a gun at her and she just doesn't get it." - Melissa McBride (taken from Zap2It) 

Parallels with Of Mice and Men

After this episode, I read Of Mice and Men in full to get a better understanding on the comparisons being made by people online and on Talking Dead. With the episode fresh in my mind, the comparisons were clear, to the point that I'm certain Of Mice and Men was not only an inspiration, but that this episode, and Lizzie's entire character, was based on the story.

The pecan grove Mika and Carol found is an ideal place for them to hide while they get their bearings. Tyreese believes they could find solace and be happy there, and for awhile, they are. This is a direct comparison with the run in which main characters Lennie and George were to "live off the fatta the lan'" in Of Mice and Men. The episode begins with them rejoicing in this place, much in the way that Lennie did when he imagined the run. Rabbits and mice are central in Of Mice and Men, and Lizzie kills these creatures throughout her tenure with the show. Lizzie nearly suffocates Judith in the same way that Lennie suffocates Curley's wife. Despite both characters' dark histories with living creatures, both of them share a kind of innocence; Lizzie plays with walkers like a little girl, and Lennie loves creatures like mice and puppies so much he kills them with giving them too much attention.

Carol and George share a number of similarities: they are both the characters that hold power over the characters of Lennie and Lizzie, and act as guardians, of sorts. Carol is a mother figure to Lizzie, and a figure whom Lizzie wants nothing more than to please and impress. George is a sort of surrogate brother to Lennie--he keeps his behaviour in check and openly disparages him when he becomes out of control. Both Carol and George kill their surrogates in an act of love. They make the difficult decisions because they know their surrogates aren't meant to live in the world. Tyreese acts as a Slim-like character, offering Carol support after she kills Lizzie--and act that, though necessary, upsets her deeply.

Final thoughts

This was a moving, deeply upsetting episode. In my opinion, it was the best of the season so far, and is my favourite of the series to date. The writers did an admirable job in pushing the boundaries as far as possible while handling it tastefully. This episode ties some loose ends, such as the mice being fed to walkers and the dissected rabbits, and Carol finally was able to reveal the truth to Tyreese. With the textual parallels drawn between this episode and Of Mice and Men, as well as the walker-feeding harkening back to early on in the season, viewers are easily drawn to the conclusion that this ending for Lizzie was not only a long time coming, but that the character was designed to burn out brightly.

The Walking Dead has always played with the idea that humans are more dangerous than walkers, and this episode illustrates that Lizzie feels that way to an extreme. Killing people and "changing" them into walkers means that they aren't intentionally cruel anymore.

Finally, the way the actors portray their roles is spellbinding. Lizzie's crying during her final scene was one of the most heartbreaking things to witness in the series so far; most people I've spoken to have agreed that they didn't like Lizzie as a character, but that this scene made them feel genuinely sorry for her. The way Carol holds her composure until Lizzie leaves, then breaks down into sobs as she ensures Mika doesn't turn was a moment I won't forget. And, finally, the way Tyreese whispers "I forgive you" to Carol eased some of the episode's tension.

This was, all-around, a haunting and poetic episode. Season 4 has been going all-out so far. I'm excited to see where the series will go next, with just 2 more episodes to go in this season.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference

I mentioned in an earlier post that this was going to be a year of opportunities for me. This past weekend, I had an opportunity to represent Université de Moncton, along with three of my fellow English department students, in the Atlantic Annual Undergraduate English Conference that was held at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

On Friday night, we listened to Lynn Coady deliver a keynote address, approaching the topic of being unafraid to write despite having people against you. The next day opened the floor to the students from the Atlantic region, and I had the privilege to hear interesting papers about everything from mental illness through aerial dance, to comparisons of Monty Python's Life of Brian to the Second Shepherd's Play. Creative panels displayed the talents of students, who wrote about family war-time stories and read aloud their diverse and thought-provoking poetry.

On Saturday afternoon, I had the opportunity to read my own poetry in front of the crowd. Interestingly, that same day was my father's birthday. Allan Cooper is a poet, and because of him, I've been exposed to poetry my whole life. I have never read a selection of poems in front of others; I've always been reading just one or two. It seemed fitting that, on his birthday, I take the opportunity to read fully for the first time.

This weekend, it hit me just how much I miss being an English student. I'm still an English major, but I finished my required courses ages ago and am just ticking off all my necessary, required courses, now. I especially miss writing critical papers--analyzing works of literature, or articles, and trying to find the mysteries in each. I think I might do a few on here--for fun--over the next little while. Why not? I have a few ideas in mind already.

Attending and reading at this conference was a fantastic experience, and I highly recommend it to any Atlantic Canadian English student. Submit you paper or creative works next year, and take pride in your work!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Alive, kicking, and writing

This is just to let anyone curious know that I'm still alive and still writing, but busy with school at the moment.

In between school and working part-time, I have been working on a few exciting projects:

  • I've been in on a really fun project with a couple of dudes named Robert and Mike. They did an album called Timethief, which I lent some voice work to. You can listen here, and you can hear my voice on the track Lonely City.
  • I recorded my own song back on September and have been working on my own stuff ever since. I have a small concept EP in the works and I'll probably release it on Bandcamp when it's done. The EP will be 9 tracks, with an intro, intermission and finale, plus 6 full songs throughout. 
  • I had the opportunity to attend a writers' workshop by local author Jennifer McGrath Kent last weekend. It was inspiring and informative, and it was in a beautiful location. By the end of the day, I had figured out the ending of the novel I've been working on. 
  • I've been working on a novel for the last year, by the way! I started last year and have been keeping up with it, slowly but surely. I hit a wall when I couldn't think of where the story was going, but thankfully the workshop jarred something loose for me. As soon as my time frees up, I'll be working on the novel more often.
  • My friend Phil--also known as PhilInTheBlanks--makes Let's Play videos on Youtube, and I've been lending my voice to his new project, Let's Play Chrono Trigger. Here is episode one! Keep an eye on his Youtube channel for any further releases.
  • I've been working, sporadically, on a few Twine projects. I'll be re-purposing Population: 1 to be the Twine game it should have been from the beginning. I'm working on another new Twine game, as well. Updates will be posted here.
  • As always, I've been working on poems when inspiration strikes. As a part of my education, I have also been selected, along with 3 other students, to represent Université de Moncton's English Department at the Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference coming up in a little over a week, presenting my poetry. I am more than a little nervous.
  • I have about 6 posts sitting as partially-completed drafts right now. They're not ready for the public yet. Among them are posts about seeing movies in theatres and a deconstruction of Frozen's "Let it Go" (yes, really). I'm trying to work on them here and there between written projects and heaps of reading for school. 
  • A little add-on that this is going to be my "year of opportunities". Now that I'm not working as much, I'm taking every opportunity, creative or otherwise, that I have room for. After my school schedule moves aside, I'll be focusing primarily on my creative projects and working on the side. Wish me luck!

It's hard to believe it, but I'm already well past the halfway mark for school. Just another month or so worth of pushing, and this semester will be over. I can't wait to dedicate myself to my creative projects a bit more!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Gods of Social Anxiety

I linger outside the classroom for a few minutes before making my way inside. I haven't seen my professor yet, so I don't know if she's in there or not. I'm apprehensive that I'm going to walk in on someone else's class, and I'm going to get looked at. Better just to wait.

I see another student go in through the opposite door, and I feel instantly vindicated. In I go. Much to my desperate relief, no one looks at me. No one even so much as glances at me--not even the prof. Just the way I like it. I find a seat on the end, so I don't have to climb over anyone else in case I need to leave, and I sit down. I must be in a class full of keeners, because I'm one of the last to arrive, and there are more than five minutes before the class begins.

I take a moment to look over the professor. She's young--probably no more than five years older than I am--and it strikes me that I am almost certainly the oldest student in class. I likely have more in common with the professor than with my fellow students.

Her hair is black, and she has neat bangs in the front. The back of her head is home to a sleek ponytail. At first, she seems almost unfriendly--she doesn't look at the class and doesn't smile. Until, that is, she starts to talk about the course and its material. She welcomes us to the class, and suddenly she can't stop smiling. She almost certainly loves linguistics--the course she's there to teach.

After a few minutes, she introduces herself. She is French, like most of the professors here, and has a beautiful French name to accompany it. I remember thinking that of my Spanish teacher five years prior. Katie Cooper Butland seems clunky and large in comparison. It doesn't even roll off the tongue when you say it. It gets stuck, like when you try to swallow an almond you haven't chewed enough.

It suddenly hits me that we may have to introduce ourselves, and I'm full of apprehension. I move my hand across the desk, made of shiny plastic resembling plywood, and notice a streak of sweat left from my palm. My heart is racing. Please don't make us introduce ourselves. What will I say? "I'm Katie. I'm technically a fourth-year student but I've actually been in university since fall of 2004. I major in English. I am English first language. This is a French university. What the hell am I even doing? I'm twenty-eight, by the way. I'm married. I'm a home owner. I gave up a full time management position to finish the degree I was supposed to get 5 years ago." If we're going to introduce ourselves, can we just say our name and that's it? Pretty please?

The Gods of Social Anxiety have smiled upon me. The prof goes down our names, and then hands out the syllabus. She isn't going to make us introduce ourselves.  My heart stops racing and I get comfortable in my seat. No one will look at me. I mean, other than for the fact I have blue hair.

A cursory glance at the syllabus tells me that we have three exams total and no projects. Perfect. That means I won't need to work in a group.

About halfway through class, I feel that familiar nagging urge. I have to pee. Why now? Come on. I peed before I left the house. I've only had a cup of coffee and a glass of juice today. I haven't even touched the tea in my travel mug. What if I have to leave class? That would be so embarrassing. Leave on the first class? No way. I would look so rude--I bet you anything the professor would remember me as That Girl who Left Class on the First Day. She wouldn't remember me for my bright blue hair, my orange coat, or my plaid top. Not at all.

Hazarding a glance at my cell phone in my jacket pocket, I see that there are only twenty minutes of class left. I should be able to wait that long. No problem. Relief, again. I relax.

Class is now over, and I have an hour and forty-five minutes to myself. Lunch time. I brought my own, and there's a microwave in the student room as well. I hope there aren't too many people, though.

There aren't. I remember days of the past, when I'd come in here to sleep on the sofa between classes. Now I'm bringing my laptop so I can do reading for the class I just took. The times have certainly changed for me--I never have been so studious. I know I have to do well in this class, though, so studying has become second nature for me, compared to when I used to have to convince myself to study a half an hour for the midterm I did none of the reading for. I've grown tired of being a crummy student. I want to succeed. It took me a five year break to discover for myself how I could do that.

I eat my lunch, headphones in, and relax quietly for a little while. I don't have to worry about anything right now.

Until my next class, at 3 PM, when I'll repeat this whole sorry scene all over again.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year, New Leaf

(Alternate title: This is not another post about Animal Crossing, so don't worry.)

It's 2014. And things are changing for me.

Sounds cliché, doesn't it? A lot of people take the New Year as a time for renewal and changes. Lots of people make weight loss or fitness-related goals for themselves in 2014. That's not a judgment by any means; it's merely an observation. Whether it's cliché or not, it's still a great opportunity to stop and look at where you are in your life and think of what you'd like to change.

I did this a little earlier--August 2013, to be precise. I was thinking about where I'd like to be right now and school really stood out for me.

I've been on hiatus from university since spring of 2008. I'd had 11 courses remaining, but felt the need to take a break for personal reasons. I just wasn't ready to be where I was and didn't know what I'd do afterwards, anyway. So, I took a step away to figure things out. I don't regret this at all. I had people telling me not to take too long a break because I would never go back. This year, I realised that I was running out of time, and that I had two options: let my courses expire and not finish, or go back and get it all done.

It was a tough decision, because both sides meant a lot of sacrifices. I'll never regret the time I took away from university because I learned so much about myself during it. I worked really hard, made a ton of new friends and acquaintances and even wrote a novella. I took a couple of courses over the last two years and earned higher marks than I had while studying full time, leading me further into the idea that I had learned enough to finally give it full throttle. Doing that while working full time was very difficult and it took a lot out of me, but I succeeded. I now have nine courses remaining. Nine. I have 5 coming up in January, then I'm hoping to take some intercession courses in spring and summer, then whatever is left to take in the fall. I will, finally, finish in December 2014. One year from now, I will finally have my degree. Better late than never!

I struggled with the need to make a change a year ago. I wasn't sure what that change was supposed to be and ended up not making a change at all in the process. I'm glad I didn't, because I don't know if I would have made this decision otherwise.

So, welcome, 2014. I'm glad to see you. I know I have a lot of resolutions that I really want to make this year, but I think I'm just going to keep it to one: focus on school. What's even more exciting is that after this degree is finished, I'll be free, and I'll be able to move on to other things without feeling like I'm half-doing something else.

Who cares if New Year's resolutions are cliché? Who cares if you don't keep them? Thinking actively about your life and what you can do to change it for the better is still a worthwhile exercise. Better to resolve, try, and not keep your resolution, than to do nothing at all. Better to be self aware and fix anything broken than to be ignorant, whether you perceive that ignorance to be bliss or not. Try, and, in trying, may you succeed.

Happy New Year.