It’s Gonna Be a Good Life

2011 is coming to an end, so I thought I would blog about the year that has come to pass.

For the first time in a number of years I can look back at the past year of my life and smile and I can think about the future and be hopeful for what is ahead.

I cannot think of anything notable that happened in the first six months of 2011, but the second half of the year has proven to drastically alter the life I was leading.

On July 6th, I wrote two blog posts, one of which was 27. I was on the precipice of turning another year older. I was reflecting on the state of my life in comparison to the life I’d imagined I’d be leading in my mid to late 20s. I was nearly 27 and my life was not really my own and was nothing as I had imagined. I was determined to make a change, though fearful that I would make this pledge and still not be able to hold true to it and make changes in my life to find some form of happiness.

My first step towards getting what I wanted was to get out there and make an effort. For several years past, due to circumstances I’d resigned to a life of solitude. I rarely left my house (sad I know), never met new people, rarely talked to friends who were living their lives across the province, country and globe. In short I didn’t get out much and I’d made myself a bit of a social outcast and I did not like that version of myself a whole lot.

For at least a year I’d been saying I’d start going to #gdldn and I’d always managed to come up with excuses of why not to, mostly I didn’t have a car or money to get there, which while true, I probably could have found a way around. So on June 6th, the date of my 27 blog I attended my first geek dinner and stretch my comfort zone and attempted to re-engage with the world around me and (relatively) local community. I decided to put real people to the tweeps I’d been following for months and in some cases years.

I have to say I’m really glad that I ventured out to #gdldn that first time, so glad that I have gone back every month since. I have met great people and started to (I would argue) form decent acquaintances and maybe even friendships. A lot of the people I have met inspire me, intimidate me and challenge me to really strive to be the person I want to be. At the same time while these people inspire, intimidate and challenge me, they also make me realize that we all face our own challenges and that no one’s life is perfect and it is okay to not have everything figured out all of the time. So to all of the #gdldn crowd, thank you for making me feel like a part of something good.

That may not be the turning point of the year, but I think it definitely played a part. The other turning point of the year also happened in July. I had been furiously applying for jobs, determined to find something before or shortly after my 27th birthday. There were probably about 6 jobs that I thought might be a good fit. After two strong (in my mind) interviews, I was offered the position of Social Media Specialist at the London Convention Centre and before the end of July I was in signing my contract ready to start my new job.

Starting August 15th, I was (and am) the Social Media Specialist at the London Convention Centre. I always said I wanted to find a job that felt right that I could say I love. I’d walked away from a couple of job opportunities because it just hadn’t felt right to me. I wanted a job that I loved, surrounded by good people, because for me that is when I do my best work and am challenged to be my best. After 4 months, I think it is safe to say I have found a job that I love, surrounded by a great team. I remember in previous jobs I’d hit that afternoon wall at about 2pm and be stuck watching the minutes slowly tick by, and that rarely ever happens in this job. I enjoy what I am doing and always have work to be done. I feel like the people I work with value my thoughts and the work that I do and they actually look to me for ideas and answers, which is a great feeling. I look forward to getting up every morning and going to work and that is really all I ever wanted in those three miserable years of job hunting. I wanted a job that I looked forward to going to every day and a job that interested and challenged me. A number of people at work have commented on the fact that I am always smiling or that I always seem to be smiling and I have to say it is easy to smile when you are truly happy in your life and doing something that you love.

I love what am doing at work, but I also love the people who I work with and I say that sincerely. I have made great friendships with a number of people and I would trade my staff for anything. It is easy to do good work when you are having fun and I think we are often having a lot of fun with each other and when we’re not, I think we’re quite good at supporting each other through hard days, or difficult times, which is really nice. I cannot thank my two girls enough for keeping me from being a sobbing mess in the days after I found out someone I’d known years ago had passed away far too young.

I have met a lot of great people this year. My geek crowd, I cannot even begin to name all of you who make me smile each an every month and all the tweets in between. My coworkers, who I would argue in a number of cases are more than just coworkers.

None of these new people though replace the old friends who hold permanent places in my heart, like my best friend. As I write this I’m thinking, was it only this summer he got engaged? I think so! Man seems so long ago. This was great news and I was so happy for him and for his fiancée. Typically I dread weddings (sorry Matt), but the way life has been going, I’m actually kind of looking forward to a wedding (not my own … and oh ya I’m assuming I’m invited!).

The more I write this, the more I realize that it is not going to flow or necessarily make any sense. So I’m getting involved more, attending #gdldn, joined Emerging Leaders (finally only been cyberstalking for three years) and I have found an amazing job with fantastic people!

So what could be better?

Oh ya! Music! First off, I love the John Labatt Centre and Chris Campbell you rock!

Looking back at this year in music I have had the opportunity to attend 7 concerts.

First concert was Soundgarden. JLC gave away a bunch of tickets on Social Media Day and it was fantastic. Took my oldest friend along with me for the ride.

Shortly after that I won tickets for Owl City, but unfortunately could not make it to Toronto Mid-week to attend.

After that I wont tickets to see U2 Live at Rogers Centre on MY BIRTHDAY! Seeing U2 Live was a bucket list item for both me and my sister, so of course I now have the title of best sister ever because I took my big sister with me to see U2 live on my 27th birthday! Can I just say wow?! It was phenomenal. I took a bunch of videos, I believe I posted them on my (under utilized) Google+ account. It was a PHENOMENAL concert.

After that I was selected as a #JLCreviewer for Josh Groban. Unfortunately I came down with a horrible flu bug or something of a similar nature and was unable to attend. Hoping I get another opportunity to be a #JLCreviewer. I was campaigning to be a reviewer for Simple Plan on Feb 20th, but keep reading and you’ll see why I may not need to be rewarded that opportunity and those tickets.

Right after that I found out I’d won front row tickets for the Moody Blues at the JLC. Not necessarily my cup of tea, but as my Dad was/is a huge fan and it was right before his birthday, they made a fantastic present. The concert was in September and while my Mom wasn’t thrilled being front Row my Dad had an Amazing night! So thank you Live Nation Ontario who made that happen!

After winning those tickets and before that concert, the JLC made another dream come true and myself with two friends and my sister with two of her friends … two single gals and four Mom’s went to see NKOTBSB and O.M.G. that was a show to never forget, I mean, I know it is apples and oranges, but the entertainment value of that show rivalled the U2 show that  was just out of this world. I would hazard to say that Donny Wahlberg’s body help to elevate that show to that level. It was music of my childhood and youth and I shared it with my sister and one of my oldest friends and four others. I don’t think I’ve ever screamed so much, though I’m pretty sure that will change in the coming months.

And now here is the BIGGEST Music news for 2011.

That’s right, I entered a contest to see Marianas Trench live on a lark. Figured what did I have to lose and heck if I won that would be pretty freakin amazing. I didn’t think I stood the snowballest of chances. In fact, I’d forgotten that I’d entered the contest and that there was even a contest. Forgotten until my phone started vibrating the night of Dec 21st and it was a message from a rep at 604 records saying I’d won two tickets to see Marianas Trench stage side and hang out with the guys! O.M.G.! Ya right! I’ve watched the above video about 100 times just to make sure that I didn’t dream it. Now I haven’t talked to the rep yet, but I’m pretty sure I will be at the Simple Plan concert on Feb 20th, which is featuring Marianas Trench and I will be stage side for the show hanging out with the guys of Marianas Trench, which will be unreal and I sincerely hope I can keep my crush on Mike Ayley under control. As I was saying before I may not need the #JLCreviewer opportunity for this concert, but please keep my name in the running until I hear for sure that that is the show I will be attending. Oh and I will still be reviewing that concert if I am there, likely from stage side and hopefully they will let me take pictures!

So lets see, social life, heading in the right direction, job, is excellent, my 2011 concert going experiences have rocked and I have Hedley and Matt Nathanson (ok Kelly Clarkson, but he is opening for her) already set in 2012. And maybe (que long ramble of a run on blog sentence), possibly, there may be a guy in my future, maybe, who knows, there is a possibility of one, we will see, that is all I will say.

2011 has gone my way and 27 has certainly started to transform my life into everything I expected it to be by my late 20s. I still have 7 months left of 27 and I am determined to make the most of them. 27 is going to be my year, the started to everything I ever wanted!

So here’s to all that 2011 gave me and here is to everything 2012 has in store, I cannot wait to see it all unfold!

A Lost Wabbit – RIP Kale

Monday night, I got home from work, I was sitting on the couch, watching TV, with my computer on my lap. I was letting go of all of the stresses of my day while scanning through my Facebook news feed, like I do daily. That’s when something caught my eye, and not in a good way.

In 2004-2005, I was a Don at Brock University. I was responsible for overseeing a court of 75 students. I was the Don of the Wetherald Wabbits and I honestly believe I had the best court that year. While I had some wascaly wabbits, I had a lot of amazing people in my court. My students often made me feel like a proud momma, though being the same age or younger than a number of my students.

So on Monday October 17th, when I saw this, my heart sank:

Mark Foster: The world lost a great man. Kale Garner was a guy I will never forget. RIP in the big bunk bed in the sky.”

I read that and all I could say was “What? Oh my God”.

Mark and Kale were two of my students from when I was a Don. They were my 813D boys. My 813 house was probably my favourite house from top to bottom. There wasn’t one guy in that house that I didn’t like and think highly of. 813 A was Adam, B was Rob, C was Steve and D was Mark and Kale.

Mark told me that Kale had died running a Marathon in Toronto the previous day. I found this article, a vague, general article that would have been sad to read flipping through a paper, but was heartbreaking reading knowing that it was someone I knew. It didn’t make sense to me at all. It had been over six years since I met Kale and he was one of my students, but the way I remembered him didn’t computer with what had happened. Kale was an athletic guy. I remembered that he loved Hockey and Golf and that he’d played hockey for years. He was an extremely active and healthy guy. I think I remember catching him on the way to the gym a number of times that year he was in my court. I just didn’t get it. Another story running with this one was that an 100-year-old man had finished the race. It made no sense to me, how could a 100-year-old man complete this race and a healthy 27-year-old drop dead? It happened though.

I only knew Kale for a year and the news had me in tears, I can only imagine how much this hurt his family and his life long friends.

As I’ve said, I only knew Kale for year. We were for a while Facebook friends though and I always tried to wish him a Happy Birthday, because it was easy to remember, it was the same day as my sister’s.

Thinking of birthdays and Kale made me laugh because I remember the year that I was his Don. I was only 20 when I was a Don and I didn’t really share that with my students, because I knew that most of them were my age. I had fast tracked, they had taken a year off and I knew, that if I wanted them to listen to me, having a number of them know that I was younger than them wouldn’t help me.

One night though, I was outside and I was talking to my 813 boys, Kale included and our ages came up, they all assumed that I was in my mid-twenties and I looked at them and said you would be surprised. Kale looked at me skeptical and said how old are you? I knew when all of my students birthday’s were so I looked at him and I said, actually, I am 6 months younger than you are. He was shocked, he never would have guessed that.

Kale was an amazing guy. He wasn’t one of my more visible students, but he was one that I really truly liked and could see be friends with. Kale was charismatic. I don’t think I remember a time when he wasn’t smiling or laughing. His smile was infectious and his sense of humour was amazing. He was also incredibly smart and studious. Kale was also a very good-looking guy, but he was humble, charming, kind and considerate. He is one of my students, who I will always remember. I will remember his name, his smile and his personality, he is not someone that could be forgotten

I had the hardest day of my life that year that I was a don. My grandpa lost his battle with Cancer on October 16th 2004. I was extremely close with him and this news brought my world crashing down around me. I remember that night, knowing I wouldn’t be able to sleep I was out in my court talking to my students and like a number of nights some of those students were my 813 boys. They told me they were sorry and that they were there if I needed help. It is something they probably wouldn’t remember, but I do.

It is hard to think that Oct 16th was the hardest day for me 7 years ago and Oct 16th from this year is probably going to be one of the hardest days for people who loved Kale.

My heart goes out to his family and his long time friends. I only knew Kale for one year and I know how sad this news made me, I can only imagine the sadness others must be feeling. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends. I hope that you remember all of the amazing memories that you have of him and that those memories help you through this difficult time.

27 is far too early to lose someone, especially someone with as much promise as Kale.

If you didn’t know Kale, but would like to know a bit more about him read one of the two following articles that I found tonight.

Garner’s smile brightened room

Kale Garner had everything going for him when he died running a half-marathon

Also his Obituary:

Garner, Kale David – Passed away unexpectedly on Sunday October 16, 2011 at the age of 27. Loving son of David and the late Celine Garner (nee Latulippe). Beloved brother of Jill and Jodi Garner. Kale will be remembered for his smile, loving nature and always finding the humour in life. Kale attended Brock University, achieving his BA in Political Science, later completing his education at George Brown College in Financial Planning. He was in the process of becoming a Certified Financial Planner. Kale leaves behind many friends and colleagues from Cardinal Golf Course and most recently Assante Financial Management. As an avid hockey fan, he played for several years as an East Gwillimbury Eagle and later continued playing pick-up games with his friends. Kale’s stories and memories will remain in the hearts of those that loved him as he will be remembered as a great friend, son and brother. Friends may call at the Roadhouse & Rose Funeral Home on Wednesday October 19th from 7-9 p.m. and Thursday October 20th from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Funeral service at the Cedarview Community Church, 1000 Gorham St., Newmarket on Friday October 21st at 11 a.m. followed by cremation. In lieu of flowers donations on his behalf may be made to the Heart & Stroke Foundation.

If you feel moved by anything that I wrote, or those articles please think about donating to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation.

A couple of pictures that I had from when Kale was one of my wabbits:

Back to School Nostalgia

It’s that time of year again, do you feel it kicking in?

Kids are heading back to school and I am feeling old and nostalgic.

Here is why I am feeling old.

22 years ago I started Kindergarten (we didn’t have J/K back then, at least not in my school)

13 years ago I started high school

9 years ago I started at Brock University

4 years ago I started at Fanshawe College

This year my niece, who was born in my fourth year at Brock, is starting grade 1!

Where did time go?

 

I always loved going back to school. I as a geek and/or a nerd, even back then. I loved learning, I still do, so school was a lot of fun for me. I was the kid that my Mom had to basically tie me down on days that I was sick so that I would stay home (yes I was a very weird child).

What I loved the most about school though looking back was all of the friends that I had. I think that is why this time of year makes me so nostalgic. A lot of those friends that I have now have lives of their own that aren’t intertwined with my own. I get it people grow up, move on and grow apart and that is part of life. At this time of year though I become nostalgic for those various moments in time and begin to miss the people who helped the memories that I treasure.

In elementary school there was a group of six of us. Four girls, my best friend Courtney, our friends Kathryn and Julie and myself who all started Kindergarten together and graduated from Grade 8 together. In grade one we added Kyle to the fold and in grade three Gerry joined our group when he moved to our school from a school in London. The six of us were incredibly close and throughout elementary school we did most things together. During the school year it was the six of us and during the summer it was me and the two boys, which sounds incredibly wrong, but it wasn’t I played on a boys baseball team most summers growing up. Looking back with rose-coloured glasses we were a group of friends like those you see on TV. We did everything together; we looked out for each other. Outside of that group of six though, was one of my absolutely favourite people. His name was Dave, my parents called him David Penpal, because of his last name. He was a year older than me, but because I always ended up in the higher split and he was always in the lower split, we were always in the same classes from my grade 1 to my grade 6. He was one of my best friends, he always made me smile.

These are the people who I think about when I look back on elementary school, along with some others, but these are the main six I remember fondly. Dave is now married, living in another city and we have largely lost touch, other than the occasional message on Facebook. Kyle is now a father and we haven’t really spoken since grade 8, I see his Mom though on occasion because I shop where she works. Gerry, I hear about on occasion, along with Kathryn and Julie, but we all lost touch either after elementary school or high school. Courtney and I though are still friends. We lost touch through part of high school and through University and College, but we have reconnected and are still good friends today. It’s great to have her to talk to when I’m nostalgic, like today when I said, “Can you believe we started Kindergarten 22 years ago?”

 

High school, since I went to a different school than almost everyone else, meant an entirely new group of friends, or several groups of friends rather. I was an odd kid in high school. Grade 9 was the only year I took all of my classes in the appropriate grade. In grade 10 I started taking grade 11 glasses, in grade 11 I took grade 12 and OAC class and in grade 12 I took OAC classes and in OAC, well I started University.

I had a number of friends but the one I think about most is my former best friend. Veronica, or Vee as most called her. We became best friends in grade 11, well she was a year older and in grade 12, but I was in grade 11. We were really good friends for four years, two in high school and two in University (despite going to different schools). We so much fun together, we just clicked, and got each other. She was someone I thought would be in my life for the long haul, but that hasn’t happened. We stopped talking around 3 year university. I’m not sure why or what happened, but I know exactly when I gave up. When my world came crashing down around me when my Grandpa died after a brief battle with Lung Cancer and my best friend was nowhere to be found, I was done. I was going through the worst time in my life and I did get a call, an email, a letter, a visit, anything from the person that was supposed to be my best friend. She had spent time with me and my grandparents, she knew how important my Grandpa was to me and how it would break me to lose him and still when he died, I heard nothing from her and I haven’t since either. Vee is now living not far from me, she is married, with a 2-year-old son and another child to be born on September 18th, according to Facebook. I still keep an eye on her life as much as I can through social media, but our friendship is part of our past at this point and I’m not ever sure it will get a second chance; I’m not sure I could give it a second chance, but I miss that girl who was my best friend.

 

University brought a lot of people into my life. Some have stayed, some have only passed through, some are harder and harder to stay connected with.

I am lucky in that I have a number of great friends who I know that no matter how long we go without speaking, we are always able to pick up where we left off.

I have so many stories about so many different people, I cannot begin to tell them all, as I would forget a lot of people and a lot of stories.

But when I think of University I think of these people.

I think of D’Arcy, this kind, sweet, geek who looked after me the first semester of first year. He was one of my closest friends and like family to me. We’ve grown and changed over the years and have grown apart, but I will always remember that sweet boy I met  those first four months of first year.

Then there is Chris, man I adored that guy. I absolutely loved spending time with him. We always had so much fun together, watching movies, going on ghost tours and playing volleyball. He is married now, and I am horrible, I missed his wedding and I feel so bad about that. Hopefully some day I can make that up to him.

And finally there was Matt. He moved into D’Arcy’s room in second semester when Darc went to Ottawa for a Co-op placement. Matt and I had been in almost all of the same classes together all year and we’d never really talked. We became great friends. We took most of the same classes throughout our degree and we graduated together. I wasn’t really close with anyone in my program, so having Matt was great, it was a friend in all of my classes. I loved hanging out with him, he made me laugh and smile. He was a really cool guy. I miss him a lot, but on occasion we will take the time to catch up, which is nice.

First year had a lot of other people, most who I’ve lost touch with, but have never forgotten. The ladies of  the 300’s mallard, made my first year incredibly memorable. From being flashed, to looking after them when they returned home from the bar, I loved those ladies.

Second year was my roommates Erin and Sayward. I love those girls and the best thing about them is that we can not talk for a period of time, but to this point have always been able to pick up where we left off. These girls were amazing. We supported each other through a lot of stuff. I loved scaring the crap out of them though, Sayward by far was the easiest mark I will ever come across. I wish these ladies were in the same city as me, we’d have so much fun. Through Erin, I gained a couple other friends, a mutual friend, also named Erin, who I’d lived in Rez with the previous year and their two friends Andrea and Lisa. Thanks to them, I had my first experience in a strip club. Oh memories of second year, some of which are scarring.

Third year, was probably the hardest year of my life. My grandpa died, and my best friend from high school dropped out of my life. Add to that I was a 3rd year student trying to get the marks I needed for fourth year and I was a Don, who was on call 24/7. I basically lost two people I was really close with in one shot. I got lucky though. Move in day of 3rd year, before my world came crashing down, I met a boy. From the moment I met him, I knew I’d met him for a reason; he was meant to be in my life in some way. His name is Matt and for the last seven years he has been my best friend, he is like family to me. We have been through a lot of good and a lot of bad together and we’ve always made it out the other side stronger than ever. He is the person in my life that I can tell pretty much anything and everything. He is the person I want to talk to when something bad happens and the first I want to talk to when anything good happens. No matter what I always know he has my back. He is my biggest supporter and biggest cheerleader. We live in separate cities, rarely gets to see each other and as life gets increasingly hectic, it’s hard to find time to talk to each other. I am so thankful for social media, because without tweets and pokes we wouldn’t be able to keep track of each other. We both have busy jobs now and he is busy planning his wedding, which is in T-22 months. I know as we get older and have more responsibilities we won’t get to talk as much as we once did, but he is my best friends and I miss him terribly when we don’t get to talk. I hate feeling like we don’t know what is going on in each others lives. I hate feeling disconnected. But I am so glad that I have him in my life because I know that no matter what he is there for me and we will always be able to pick up right where we left off.

Fourth year brought my girls. I always had a lot of guy friends, but fourth year brought a lot of good female friends. Friends who unfortunately are spread out not only across the province, but the globe. Again thank goodness for Twitter, or else I’d have no idea what was happening with Mel (@mellyboo) or Kate (@Kiwi_KateClarke). There are a number of others I’ve lost touch with like, Cat, Lauren and Michele (who loved my sexy man voice).

I could go on and on, but it is getting late. I have had so many great friends over the years and am lucky to have a number of them still in my life, even if it is only through technology. This time of year always makes me wish geography wasn’t so vast. I wish I could drive someone and see all of my friends, but that is not possible.

I have a number of great people still in my life, and number of great memories of people I have lost touch with. This time of year always brings back all of the memories and feelings tied to the people I have met over the years.

With memories like these, feeling old isn’t so bad.

 

 

Time Flies

Have you ever noticed that you feel incredibly young until you think about how long ago something happened?

I turned 27 this week and I like to think that I am still pretty young.

No thanks to my mother who on my 27th birthday said “When I was your age I had 2 kids, what are you doing with your life”. To which I responded, “You had 2, Alicia (my sister) had 1, I’m just following the progression with none!”

Anyways,  I like to think that I am still fairly young and I think most people would agree.

Remember when you were a kid though and someone said 10 years, or 20 years, or a decade or two decades and you though, WHOA that’s a long time! That thinking is permanently engrained in my head and as such when I start thinking about how long ago things happened, it starts to make me feel old, though I’m really not.

Here are some things that I’ve thought about that make me feel old.

I started Kindergarten in 1989, 22 years ago

I finished Elementary school in 1998 – 13 years ago

I finished high school in 2002 – 9 years ago

I finished University in 2006 – 5 years ago

I finished College in 2008 – 3 years ago

 

Other things:

Courtney, one of my oldest friends, has known me for 22 years, since Kindergarten.

I used to play foot war with my pal Dave when I was in grade 2, 20 years ago.

I met my current hair dresser when I was 8, 19 years ago.

I went to my first concert when I was 19, 8 years ago.

I broke my first bone when I was (I believe) 13, 14 years ago

I’ve had my cat since I was 10, 17 years

My niece was born in 2005 – 6 years ago this October

My nephew was born in 2008 – 3 years ago

My Grandpa Corcoran Passed away in 2004 – 7 years ago

My Grandpa Carruthers passed away in 2003 – 8 years ago

It’s been the better part of a decade since I met most of my current friends in University.

 

Some of these things seem so fresh in my memory, but they are years ago now. I know the number of years aren’t huge, but they are enough that when I apply that childhood thinking I can’t help but go WHOA that was a long time ago! Or go Really? It’s been that long already? 

It is amazing how time flies, and so I’m told, it only gets faster.

Regardless of how fast it goes though, I am looking forward to every minute

Memories from Brock University – RLS

As I have mentioned Monday June 6th marked the 5th anniversary of my graduation from Brock University.

I was a rez kid. I lived in residence all four years of university. In part because I hated public transit and feared I would get lost or never make it to class and part because I loved the environment and the people.

I have always been a bit of a keener and overachiever; a natural-born leader. When I started at Brock I read everything I could about the school. I was the person others went to when they had a question about anything related to life at Brock. I blame that partially on the fact that I like to learn and partially on the fact that I was underage my first year, while the rest of my floor wasn’t and I really didn’t have anything better to do. I was also the person that looked after everyone else. I was known as “Mommy Sarah” to many people my first year because despite being the youngest person on my floor, I was the person that looked after everyone.

In third year I put my extensive knowledge, excitement for residence and care taking skills to use when I was hired as part of the Residence Life Staff. I was the Don (that’s what we called RA’s) of the Wetherald Wabbits Court in Village (also known as court 8, I believe the Wetherald Wolverines now).

I was part of the Village South Staff, a team of 7, usually. Our staff was what we occasionally called the land of the misfit toys. I was myself was a late hire. Village was originally split into South, North and West, but some staff movements shrunk it to North and West. Village South started with a team of six, then grew to a team of seven, with only four of the original six. Our staff ended up being Carly (Head Resident), Charlotte (4), Mike (7), Myself (8), Rachel/Meghan (9), Breanne (10) and Carlo (11) and the ghost of Brian (Don Designate) who was moved to another building.

Life in Village is a unique experience. The buildings, as I was told, were originally built as temporary housing, that wasn’t supposed to last more than a decade. Village was built in 3 stages, Courts 1-6, then 7-9 and then 10-12. South was built from Court 4 (the original village) Courts 7, 8 and 9 (the middle) and Courts 10 and 11 (the newest).

I remember the day I moved in, my Mom looked around my apartment, house 807, and turned to me and said “Are you sure about this?” She said this because the handle on my oven was nearly falling off (I think it was attached with duct tape), a couple of cupboard doors were loose and knobs were missing from my kitchen drawers. I had lived in the newest residence the previous year, a beautiful residence that had just been built and never lived in.

The accommodations in village might have been a bit more worn down, but the house wasn’t what mattered to me. I was going to be a Don. I was going to have a court of 75 students, well 74 (other than myself), ended up being 73 actually as one of my houses never did get a 5th person.

I loved my court, I loved my job. I didn’t necessarily always feel in sync with the staff aspect of my job (the meetings, team building etc) because I was a late addition to staff. I did though love my students and doing things for them.

I was so excited to be a Don, I spent so much time preparing. I made headbands for each of my students. They were cut, sewn (so that they didn’t fray) and decorated  by hand. I also created a quilted flag/banner for my court. It was hand drawn and glitter glued. (I must note all the sewing was done by my grandma, I am useless with a needle/sewing machine). I made personalized door boards for each of my students. I even built  a website for the court ( I wish Facebook groups/pages had been more popular/in existence then) so that my students could stay up to date and have access to quick links they would need throughout the year. I also put some time into perfectly decorating and laying out my courts community bulletin board. And most importantly I created a House Information sheet for each house to fill out so I could learn about my court and create a court contact list.

I was so prepared for my students, when they arrived I was a bouncing bundle of energy (typical of any Don). I knew all of my students names and ages (so I was prepared for under aged drinking) and I was quick to put the names with the faces and the houses they lived in.

Village was typically a difficult residence. It often had the most problems and discipline issues and I had heard a lot of horror stories from Dons and even students about Village. Dons who though their courts were evil and students who wished their Dons would do more. I was determined to make sure neither of those things happened to me.

I made an effort to get to know my students. I spent the entire first months sitting outside at nights talking to my students. I kept my door and blinds open as much as possible and created an open door policy. My students responded well to both. I remember the first week when we had to do rounds, one of my co-workers came into my court and looked at me and asked me “How did you make your students so afraid of you?”. The question made me laugh, but I understood it. My co-worker’s court was really challenging, creative several discipline issues in the first several days and my court appeared nearly angelic in comparison. My court wasn’t afraid of me though. I had done two things that I really think helped me with my court. I’d spent every night outside talking to them, but I did something also that I think was more important. Residence had specific rules and guiding principles. At my very first court meeting I told my students to read the book and I told them that if they had any issue with the rules or questions about them, they had a week to find me and we’d talk about them. The first week that I spent out in my court talking to my students they took my up on my offer and a number of them asked me about rules, questioning their validity. Some of the rules were hard for students to agree with (i.e. no beer bottles allowed, but coolers are allowed), but after talking with my students they could understand and respect the rule, though not necessarily agreeing with it.

After that week of talking about the rules my students knew what the rules were and what my expectations were for students behaviour. My students knew that I wasn’t writing them up to be mean, or because I was on a ‘power trip’. Most of them  knew that I liked and respected them as individuals, but that certain behaviour had to be addressed. There was occasionally some negative response, but for the most part, when my students broke a rule, they were good about it. They didn’t yell or argue me, instead they tried to sweet talk me out of it and then calmly accepted what I had to do. For the most part though, my students tried to avoid break the rules, at least in plain sight.

My court was a great mix of people. I had 8 houses of guys and 7 houses of girls (I was happy to have more guys than girls, I can handle guys better for some reason). They were interesting people. They were kind, thoughtful, respectful (mostly) and overall a lot of fun. The back wall of my court was a set of three houses of guys. There were a couple of guys that on occasion gave me some grief, but for the most part that back wall was my favourite group of houses. The guys who lived in those houses had an overwhelming amount of personality. They were funny, charming and always respectful and accommodating. They are the guys who would default to charm, when they were caught outside with open alcohol, or underage with alcohol. While most Don’s got attitude when they were dumping beer, I got hugs from my boys.

It wasn’t just that back wall though that I loved, it was all of my houses. I had a second year student named Adam who I took an ethics class with. We had heated debates on a number of occasions. He was a hardcore George Bush loving right-winger, and I was pretty well the opposite. I had a girl named Kristy who was so outgoing and energetic, who played volleyball with my rec league team. I had a house of five girls, often six (a friend of one of the girls who didn’t actually live in my court) who often found themselves facing some kind of problem , typically an ambulance requiring problem. I had a house of five boys who were a constantly source of entertainment. One guy tried to convince security that his beer was orange juice (he was under age) and tried to convince me that  he had nothing to do with the pylon I watched him carry into my court. And his house was the lucky recipient of a set off fire extinguisher through an open window in their kitchen. Oddly enough this guy joined me on security the next year, I couldn’t have been more proud.

I had a student named Iiljas, who was probably the sweetest, softest spoken guy in my court. He had a brother who would visit my court too. They were the nicest guys.

There was also my loudest most outspoken Wabbit, Andrew, my Bermudian student. He was always a source of entertainment. He was also the most social person in my court. He was a lot of fun, but on occasion if I wanted to get anything done, I had to turn him away.

Lastly I will mention Matt, he was my “Wabbit of the Year” when all was said and done. He was my most involved student and by far my most entertaining, he was a drama student, inspiring comic and a proud Scotsman. He was not along my student, but he became a great friend. He was someone I talked to often and shared interests with. He is someone I still try to keep in touch with every now and then.

Third year was a challenge, I was a student and I was a Don and I was facing the most difficult year of my life personally. On October 16th 2004 I lost my Grandpa to Lung Cancer, after a brief three to four month battle. I had to go home for a week to be with my family to help them through this difficult time and to have my opportunity to say goodbye and heal in my own way. My students, my staff, the larger staff and the security staff were unbelievable. When I sent my students an email letting them know that I was going to be away and why, I received several messages of support from my students and offers of assistance and condolence when they saw me. A big fear for any Don is that when they aren’t there, their students will go nuts and break every rule in the book, the whole while the cat’s away the mice will play logic. I had someone look after my court while I was away and I was happy to heard when I came back that my students were as awesome for her as they always were for me.

My students were so kind and understanding and helped me a lot through this difficult time. They made an extra effort to make sure I didn’t have things to deal with. Beyond my students, the RLS staff was great to me as well. I received support from a number of unexpected sources and most importantly from my staff. My staff was there to listen, and there to sit in silence when I wasn’t ready to talk. They were always there to distract me or make me laugh, or just to console me when I needed it. I was also lucky because I was close with many of the members of our student security team. The teams who knew me the best would always stop by  to chat and give me hugs.

The people I met during my third year as a Don were the kindest, most inspiring individuals. All of the people I met that year made an impact on me as an individual and I am honoured to say a couple of them are still very good friends of mine, who will likely be in my life for the long haul.

That year by far was the hardest year of my life. I experience the worst loss that I have had to this point in my life. I could have gone to a very dark  place that year, but because of my job and the people I had around me, the worst year of my life, was also one of the best.

Being a Don is a lot of hard work. Long hours, lots of meetings, lots of paperwork, programming, counselling, etc., but I loved it. I felt like I made a difference for my students and the people I worked with.

While I may look back at that year with sadness for the loss of my Grandpa, I will also look back at that year with a lot of laughs and smiles. I had so much fun that year, through all the problems and the pain. That year taught me a lot about myself and my personal strength.

I am so thankful for that year that I had as a Don. That job and those people gave me an escape from my personal reality and gave me something positive to remember from that year.

I may have lost my grandpa, who I was extremely close with, but I gained my best friend Matt, who was part of the student security who always checked in on me, a number of other friends and an immense amount of stories and memories that will forever be with me.

Memories from Brock University – Friends

Today marks the 5th anniversary of my graduation from Brock.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I was going to blog some of my best memories from Brock.

While Brock was four amazing years, they were also four incredibly hard years. Each of the four years, there was a death in my family, in addition to a lot of health issues and scares.

In first year my paternal Grandpa passed away on January 16th.  I did what I call a drive by funeral. I left school late one night, drove home for the funeral the next morning and drove back to school that afternoon.

Shortly after my maternal Grandpa had a triple bi-pass surgery and was lucky to make it off the table.

In second year, my Dad’s Uncle, who when I was little I mistakenly called Grandpa, died from heart failure.

The summer before third year my Grandpa was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. He died on October 16th.

In the winter of my third year my maternal Grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy.

The following summer my Grandma had hip replacement surgery.

That spring we found out my sister was pregnant.

Sometime around the beginning of fourth year, my Dad’s Aunt (my previously mentioned uncle’s wife) also passed away from a heart problems.

In the fall of my fourth year, my sister went into premature labour and my niece was born on October 7th, approximately a month early (I believe it was). She was immediately taken to NICU and spent the first part of her life there.

 

I’ve always been a fighter. I am typically a strong person, who holds it together for everyone else (which I did through all of this). But when I was back on campus, where no one needed me to hold it together, I needed the strength of my friends.

First year it was a group of guys who helped when things were hard. D’Arcy was my go to guy, he was probably my best friend first year. I injured my right (dominant) hand early in the year, skinning several layers off of the palm, but he helped me bandage and take care of it (because doing it with one hand was a bit difficult). He was also there to talk and listen when things were challenging, just like Colin, Saj and Matt, who were there to talk, listen and distract me when I needed it.

Second year until now I have had a group of strong female friends. I met Erin S. my first year, but I didn’t really get to know her that well until second year when I was roomed with a good friend of hers, Erin K. Erin K. and I had another roommate Sayward. This trio, while I may not talk to them all the time, are people who no matter how long we go without talking, we are able to pick up right where we left off. They helped me through a lot, and were there for a lot of really good times too.

Third year was my hardest year. That was the year that my grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer and ultimately succumb to it. That year I was a Don (Resident Advisor) and a third year student who was trying to get the grades to get into fourth year honours. So it was a challenging year to begin with, but when my Grandpa passed away, the bottom fell out. While I was able to hold it together a fair amount of times, there would be time where I just couldn’t anymore. I remember when I got the call, I held it together long enough to get through the phone call. Then I crumpled on to the floor into a puddle of tears. My roommate Erin S. heard me from her room and came to find me curled up into a sobbing ball. Erin just sat with me while I processed the news. She called my co-worker and friend Mike, along with my former roommates and friends Erin and Sayward. Sayward came over to my place with a stack of homework that she needed to do, but she spent the day in my room just talking and listening to me, as I packed a weeks worth of clothes for home. My roommates (past and present) got me through that day, probably the hardest of my life.

That day though, the day I lost my Grandpa, I gained the person I consider my best friend, Matt. I had met a guy who was working security on move in day. I found him sitting outside of my court at 7:30 a.m. There was something about him, I had this gut feeling when I met him that I’d met him for a reason. The day my grandpa died I ran into him at a residence dance that my roommate had dragged me to. We talked briefly, but when I went home I added him to MSN. When he accepted and logged on, I asked him to do me a favour. I told him I was going to be away for the next couple of days, maybe a week, and I asked him to make sure he and his security co-workers kept an extra eye on my court (not that my court ended up needing it, they were fantastic while I was gone, and a great support to me). Anyways, he asked me why I was going to be away and I explained the situation. From that point on, for the rest of the year we spoke nearly every day, for most of the day. We spent a lot of time together and almost every time he worked a security shift on my side of campus he would stop by and give me a hug. He barely knew me when I lost my Grandpa, but he became someone I could talk to about anything and everything. He was someone who could make me laugh, and who instinctively knew how to deal with me when I was stressed out or having a meltdown. In the 7 years since we met, Matt and I have been through a lot, but he is probably my biggest cheerleader. When something good happens to either one of us, we text or message each other. When something goes wrong, we text or message each other. We may not talk as much as we used to, but not matter what I know he is there for me if I need him.

Last but not least, is my favourite Scotian, Kate. I met Kate my fourth year, when we were both on RAC (residence action council). We immediately clicked. Kate is someone who could always make me laugh. We spent a lot of time together, including a lot of meals (which I cooked). We did homework together, despite having two different majors, being in two different years (2nd and 4th) and taking completely different classes, you could often find the two of us in my room working on school work or RAC work.

I now live in a different city than all of my friends and I rarely get to see them, but I love my friends. We may not talk all the time, but I know no matter what they are there for me and I will be there for them. They have been a great source of support and encouragement in my life. They have also been a great inspiration to me. They have all had a hand in shaping the person I am and I know that if it weren’t for each of these individuals, I wouldn’t have enjoyed (and maybe survived) university as much as I did.

I may not always remember the things that I learned in my classes (and sometimes I may not understand what I learned), but I know I will never forget the people who I met at Brock.

 

 

Memories From @BrockUniversity – Barry Joe

Monday June 6th, 2011 will mark the 5th Anniversary of my graduation from Brock University, yes that means I graduated on 06/06/06, we were the class of the devil.

In honour of the 5th anniversary I will spend the next week blogging about some of my best memories and experiences from Brock University.

I attended Brock from 2002 – 2006. I earned an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Popular Culture.

In the fall of 2001 when I applied to Brock University, I had never been to the campus. I did not step on to the campus until August 2nd 2002, nearly 5 months after I accepted my offer to attend Brock University and study Popular Culture.

August 2nd, 2002 was SMART Start, a program held every year by Brock University students to help orient first year students and their families before school officially starts in September.

I was a keener and overachiever, like I always have been and likely always will be. Before attending SMART Start I thoroughly researched every aspect of Brock University. I was the kid who the minute first year registration opened I was online (via dial-up) registering for my carefully selected first year classes. SMART Start was organized into sessions for the students and session for the parents. Since I was a keener and had already completed all of what the students sessions were addressing, I got to spend the afternoon with my parents in the parents’ session.

Little did I know then, but my over-eager attitude was going to shape my entire university experience. The afternoon session for the parents was a keynote address from one of Brock top Professors, named Barry Joe. Barry Joe was a 3M award-winning professor who worked in the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Educational Technologies (CTLET) at Brock University, as well as taught in two faculties. His role in the CTLET, as I understood it,  was to help train other professors to better utilize classroom techniques and technologies to improve interaction with and education of students.

Barry Joe’s presentation to the parents, explored his teaching philosophy through the example of one of his classes. The class Barry Joe used as an example was COMM2P90, know to students as Computer Mediated Communications. Barry openly admitted that he was part of the scribal era, romanced by books and written words upon a page. Part of his background was in German Language and Literature. Barry had a keen interest in technology though. He was interested in how the digital generation interacted with technology and how technology changed the way people perceived text, narrative and how communication was ultimately effected.

I remember sitting listening to Barry talk about his class and his belief that he had just as much to learn from his students as he had to teach them. I was in awe, completely inspired and entranced by his words. I was so excited that I had chosen a school that had a professor like this. A professor who valued the minds of his students and who wasn’t afraid to approach ‘new’ concepts, even though they may be foreign to people, including himself. He talked about his RL (Real Life) classroom, and his virtual office hours.  He conveyed stories of heated debates that his class had had on topics of digital communications and the ethics in digital communications.

I remember as I sat there with my parents, my Dad and I turned and looked at each other and said simultaneous “I/You am/are so taking that class!”. Unfortunately for me it was a second year class. I had to make it through first year before I could enroll in Barry Joe’s class. When registration opened for 2nd year, I was online (again on dial-up) the minute it opened registering for COMM 2P90 before the class filled up (I registered for my mandatory classes second).

Over 4 years at Brock I took 4 of Barry’s classes.

COMM 2P90 – Computer Mediated Communications

COMM 3P90 – Advanced Topics in Computer Mediated Communications

COMM 2P91 – Introduction to Hypertext

COMM 3p90 redone – Cross Media Narratives  (My previously classes actually helped to develop the curriculum for this class)

Barry’s classes were the classes that I always looked forward to. The semester’s when I didn’t have one of his classes I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t feel like I was challenged or stimulated to the degree I’d come to expect from post-secondary education. Without his classes I didn’t feel like I was in control of my education, I felt like a spectator instead of a participant.

Barry is the kind of educator who makes students take ownership of their education. He is not one of those professors who stands at a podium dictating textbook material in the most monotonous of manners. Instead he was the professor who would sit in a desk facing the students, popping candy rockets while participating in the conversation. In the classes I had with him, the students were in control of their education. While he introduced a topic to us, it was up to us to determine where the discussion went and how it evolved. He always said that he loved his COMM classes because they provided him with epiphany moments; our knowledge and perspective gave him a great understanding of the world as he viewed it. Barry always told our classes that he came from the generation where both feet were firmly planted in the scribal world. It was clear though that he was an exception. While he had one foot firmly planted in the scribal world, he was constantly dipping his toes into the digital realm. He was our professor, but he operated from the perspective that he was on our territory. We, his students, had grown up part of the digital realm, and we knew far more than we gave ourselves credit for. Barry often managed to educate us by facilitating the realization and growth of the knowledge we already possessed.

While other professors were constantly breaking us down and making us unsure of ourselves and our knowledge, Barry was giving us the strength and the confidence to believe in ourselves and our knowledge. He was giving us the ability to fight for our ideas and win. While his classes were largely based on the present and the future of technology, we often found ourselves exploring historical concepts and their relation to our world. Our classes explored concepts of community by looking at Tonnies notions of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, and by reading excerpts from Marx’s Communist Manifesto We delved into notions of identity as presented by Freud, Jung, Moeller, Erikson and many more.

We looked at the traditional construct of narrative and how narrative has evolves in response to technology and how it continues to evolve as it is reproduced across several mediums simultaneously.

One of our classes looked at hypertext books, specifically Afternoon and Patchwork Girl. We started the class looking at hypertext books and by the end of the class we were teaching Barry how hypertext narrative could be seen in movies like Kill Bill and Memento. It was a fascinating discussion, and honestly quite hilarious. Imagine a class of 15, 20 somethings, trying to convince a long-standing professor, passionate about books, that what he is talking about in terms of hypertext narratives was from our perspective easily applied to examples found in modern cinema. We made him watch a number of movies, but his reaction to Memento was by far the most entertaining. After the first time he watched it, he simply did not get it, no matter how much explanation we gave. It was so entertaining that as a gift upon my graduation, I left him a copy of Memento hanging from his door a long with a note explaining how much his presence in my academic career had meant to me.

Barry is someone I will never in my life forget. He made such an impact on me as a student and as a person. The things I learned in his classroom have extended far beyond the walls of the classroom, as they always did; they colour the way that I see the world and view digital communication. His never-ending passion for learning and education is something I hope I will forever carry with me.

His friendship, knowledge, and unwavering dedication to students and the education process is something I will forever value and is something that I wish for every student to experience.

It has been five years since I graduated, and I still cannot say thank you enough to Barry Joe for all that he taught me.

Barry & Sarah Graduation 2006