A Day to Celebrate Women…As If We Needed an Excuse!

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone! I said this last year and I’ll say it again: please remember to celebrate the women in your life today. Whether it’s your mother, sister, grandmother, daughter, friend, wife, or girlfriend, I’m sure she’ll enjoy a reminder that she’s special to you. Tip: flowers are always appreciated!

Every woman deserves to feel like she’s beautiful, unique, smart, and irreplaceable – you’re a superstar if you already make the women in your life feel like this every day. And ladies, let’s remember that the men in our lives should be made to feel brave and intelligent and appreciated. It goes both ways, right? :)

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Happy New Year!

Ah, 2013. The year we met Prince George, were shocked by the bombings at the Boston Marathon, saw devastation in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, celebrated Obamacare, and said goodbye to Nelson Mandela. It’s been a crazy year, hasn’t it? And it’s gone by SO quickly. What are you guys thankful for this year? Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? I think my one resolution is to laugh more. :) Though I did stumble upon a blog post the other day that said our end-of-year resolutions are simply a to-do list for the first week of January…I know it sounds a bit pessimistic, but for a lot of us, it’s kind of true! Maybe 2014 will be the year we change that.

I’m off to ring in the new year with my family, but before I go: JibJab, a website notorious for making music videos that poke fun at politicians and celebrities, has posted its 2013 “Year in Review” video (http://www.jibjab.com/originals/2013_what_a_year). It’s worth a view (or two)!

Hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season. Cheers, 2013!

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The Art of A Genuine Smile

A smile is a powerful tool. It can light up your face, trick your mind into believing that you’re in a good mood, and give you a chance to show off your pearly whites. According to numerous surveys and studies, a genuine, lit-from-within grin on your face can make someone’s day and can even make someone fall in love with you. Smiles are insanely contagious; sometimes we don’t even realize that someone else’s happy or excited expression has put a similar expression on our own faces. I saw this short clip today and wanted to share it with all of you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-FNZyVzoJA. If you don’t automatically smile at this heartwarming exchange between a professional hockey player and an overjoyed young fan, you must be made of stone!

If you’re nerdy like me and want to learn more about smiling, here’s an article from http://www.wired.com that delves into some interesting aspects of it: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/08/science-behind-smiles/. It explains how to tell if someone’s smile is real or fake, if animals possess the ability to smile, and why it benefits our mental health when we turn our frowns upside down. It also mentions that our tendency to display genuine smiles, as opposed to “social” smiles (which some of us force ourselves to wear in public because we think we’re being scrutinized by those around us), can reveal a lot about our personalities. The article also tells us that women and men have very different perceptions of what a big, genuine smile can signify. Most men are attracted to smiling women because they think it’s a sign of flirtatiousness, whereas many women who see men smile are able to assess not just the authenticity of that smile but also its object of affection, whether it’s a woman, a buddy, a child, or a plate of food. Pretty cool, huh?

So, wherever you are in the world, I hope you’re smiling (genuinely!) as you enjoy the winter weather. As for me, I’m off to the Bahamas for a few days – stay tuned for a post about that! (Still working on posts about my May trip to Cuba and September trip to New York City. Have I mentioned that I procrastinate?) Before I sign off, here’s your feel-good quote of the day: “The world is like a mirror; frown at it, and it frowns at you. Smile and it smiles, too.” – Herbert Samuels.

That’s all for me, folks. Until next time! :)

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Remembrance Day: What Does It Really Mean?

In anticipation of Remembrance Day (Veterans’ Day in the US), I thought I would write a short blurb about the significance of this day. The sad truth, however, is that I’m not entirely sure of the meaning we should derive from November 11th. I know Canadian soldiers fought for our freedom and that a great number of them were killed amid their efforts to make this country a better place, but what does that mean for us? What’s the lesson to be learned here? It hit me this morning that maybe Remembrance Day is a reminder that life is short and that we should appreciate everything – and everyone – that we have.

We’ve all lost loved ones, from grandparents to close friends to acquaintances we hardly knew yet missed once they were gone. Likewise, it’s nearly impossible these days to turn on the news and not hear of recent tragedies around the world. They’re unavoidable because they happen so often, and it always feels more personal when the tragedy occurs within our home country. So perhaps this Monday is not only a day to remember those brave soldiers who died for their country in the line of duty, but also to remember our deceased loved ones as well as those around the world who have passed away before their time and/or lost personal battles.

That’s not to say that we should spend the 11th being sad and depressed. Here in Canada, we’ll wear our red poppies (seen above) with pride and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and admiration when we think of the courage and commitment of our armed forces. As we do this, maybe we’ll remember to thank our lucky stars for the special people that we have in our lives. Parents, children, significant others, close friends…we’re all so blessed to have them with us, so why not use Remembrance Day as an excuse to remember that?

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Tales from a Grocery Store

Hello again, dear readers. Happy November!

I realize I haven’t blogged in a while, and I’d like to apologize yet again to anyone who visits this page on a regular basis. As of right now, three or four posts are in the works; I plan to get those out within the next month. In the meantime, here’s a short story I wrote last year for a journalism class at King’s. As always, your thoughts, critiques and praises are welcome. Enjoy!

“Tales from a Grocery Store”

A baby screams from his stroller, his mother frantically trying to shush him while balancing eggs, bananas and a carton of milk in her arms. The child inadvertently kicks an ill-placed stack of apples and they tumble off their display and onto the floor, a few of them smashing upon impact, others rolling away to places unknown. The mother looks around for help, but none is to be found; the butcher is not at his station behind the deli counter and there are few customers here today.

“Please stop crying, Jamie,” she says to the baby in a soothing voice, although the look on her face tells me she’s on the verge of tears. “Mommy is so sorry she had to bring you with her today, but Daddy’s on a business trip and our babysitter is on vacation. Can you be a good boy and stop crying for a little while?”

Jamie doesn’t listen to his mother. He continues to scream bloody murder and I realize that my headache from earlier is rapidly getting worse. The mother looks at me imploringly, noticing that I’m not carrying any groceries and that I don’t even have a shopping cart, but I’m busy struggling with the reality that this is how my Sunday has turned out.

I’ve always regarded Sunday as a universal day of rest during which I sleep in, finish my homework and catch up with various TV shows that I missed during the week. However, my roommate Rachel has convinced me that I’ll starve to death if I wait until Tuesday (my usual grocery day) to buy food. Flawed logic aside, I figure there’s some truth to her words which is why I’m with her right now. I’ve only known Rachel for two months, but in this short time it has become clear that the fourth-year Dalhousie student is smart, funny and great at giving advice. Her energy is infectious and I can now personally confirm that she has little trouble convincing people to do things with her, no matter how mundane the activity might be.

We’ve just walked from our house on South Street to the Atlantic Superstore by the waterfront. It’s a surprisingly warm day (for October) and our faces are red from exertion as we survey the empty-looking store before finding shopping carts. As the baby’s shrieks get louder, Rachel makes a beeline for the fruits and vegetables and I follow suit, half-heartedly tossing items into my cart and paying little attention to the price stickers. A minute later, I glance over at Rachel and am slightly alarmed to see that she is using her BlackBerry to take a picture of a large, deformed-looking fruit with dark green skin.

“Don’t mind me. I’m weird sometimes,” she says by way of explanation, then walks over to me and rests her forearms on the edge of my cart. “This store totally has a better selection of veggies than the one on Quinpool Road, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, it does,” I agree. “But here they have about twenty different types of mushrooms and I don’t know which is best for making a stir-fry.”

“I do!” she says enthusiastically, gesturing towards a section of small white mushrooms and handing me a brown paper bag. I take the bag and look at the mushrooms wearily, unsure if they’ll be worth the effort.

“Take ten, and make sure they’re not wimpy-looking,” she instructs me in a businesslike tone. “You can use my sunflower oil to fry them later.”

I thank her as I try to distinguish the wimpy mushrooms from the apparently stoic ones. The baby’s shrieks are getting louder and all I want to do is get home and collapse in front of the TV. I start to wonder if Criminal Minds is on, then suddenly remember that a Friends marathon was scheduled for today.

“Oh my God, Gazalla, we’re missing the Friends marathon right now!” Rachel gasps, somehow reading my mind. “Shit. Think it’ll still be on by the time we get home?”

Avoiding her eyes, I mutter, “Not at the rate we’re going.”

Rachel smiles and gives me a knowing look before taking off in search of white cheddar cheese. Fifteen minutes later, she is laughing and tickling baby Jamie, who has stopped crying and actually looks cute with his dimples and flushed cheeks. Mother and baby are behind us at the checkout counter, so Rachel and Jamie’s mother make small talk while I load my items onto the conveyor belt. As I hand my debit card to the clerk, Rachel steps forward to unload the items from her cart and cheerfully calls out, “It was great meeting you, Lisa! And Jamie, you little cutie-pie…make sure you take care of your mommy, all right?”

When we finally leave the store, I’m carrying three heaving, overstuffed bags and a 12-pack of Nestlé water bottles. What we hadn’t realized earlier was that the South Street bus stops running at 5:30 on Sundays; it is now 5:45. I take a moment to let this sink in, closing my eyes as I do so. This is the cherry on top of a crappy day, and right now I’m struggling to keep my cool. My arms and back are already sore from effort and, thanks to my heavy sweater, I’m sweating like a cold glass of water on a hot day.

Rachel’s shoulder-length light brown hair glistens in the sun as she turns to look back at me while she talks. I smile and nod where appropriate, but she can see that it’s a struggle for me to concentrate on what she’s saying. This prompts her to offer to carry some of my grocery bags. She asks me twice, once as we pass a bus stop and again as we start our ascent up South and towards our house. I decline her offer, mostly because she’s not a donkey and I don’t want her to feel like one by making her carry my bags.

As if right on cue, I trip over a twig on the pavement and the heaviest of the three bags slips from my grasp, landing with a thud on someone’s grassy lawn.

“Okay, I can’t take it anymore,” Rachel says, exasperated. “I hate seeing people in pain. Hand ‘em over!”This time I don’t resist, although I can’t help but hesitate when she grabs the bag from the ground as well as one of the ones I’m carrying.“Rach…are you sure?”

She’s already smiling, as if she anticipated that I would give in and then immediately question her generosity.

“Of course I’m sure. It’s what good friends do. Plus,” she adds with a wink and a flex of her toned bicep, “it’s a great arm workout.”

As we continue up the hill, my headache grows smaller with each step I take and my smile grows larger. My whole body will be aching tomorrow, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve just discovered that Rachel is truly a wonderful friend. I know she’ll help me get through it.

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Sunday Movie Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Hermione who? Emma Watson is almost unrecognizable as she flaunts her recently shorn hair in coming-of-age film 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'

Hermione who? Emma Watson is almost unrecognizable as she flaunts her recently shorn hair in coming-of-age film ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. Source: onsecrethunt.com

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a Harry Potter nerd. I’ve read each book about ten times and seen each movie at least fifteen times. So when Emma Watson – one of the franchise’s biggest stars – gives a heartfelt performance in a much-anticipated indie flick, it’s practically my duty to report on it. Which brings me to today’s movie: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I won’t include any spoilers in case you haven’t seen it, but I’ll give you the gist of what the movie’s about. The flick came out in September 2012 and stars Watson alongside Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller. Lerman’s character, a shy and lonely ninth-grader named Charlie, befriends two confident oddballs named Sam (Watson) and Patrick (Miller). Being older and more learned in the confusing and judgemental world of high school, the two take Charlie on a wild and exciting ride that results in first loves, fistfights, and explosive family drama. The film largely revolves around Charlie’s understanding of himself and of the world around him as he learns what it means to be a good friend, brother, and boyfriend. When he becomes depressed after being forced to deal with traumatic issues from his past, he leans on Sam and Patrick for support and they remind him to take pleasure in the small things in life.

In Perks, Watson leaves behind her Harry Potter character, Hermione Granger, and completely embodies the role of Sam, even adopting a cropped new hairstyle and an (albeit mediocre) American accent. We see little sign of the brainy, bushy-haired witch Watson portrayed for over a decade. Instead, we have a self-assured young woman who heals through music and always trusts her heart. Hardcore Potter fans will miss Hermione’s Hogwarts robes and trademark encyclopaedic knowledge, but I’m willing bet that even J.K. Rowling herself would be impressed with the 22-year-old, who managed to steal the spotlight amongst brilliant co-stars Paul Rudd, Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev, and Dylan McDermott.

Speaking of music, I almost forgot to mention the movie’s soundtrack. There have been numerous movies, including Almost Famous and Pump Up the Volume, that have had amazing soundtracks consisting of songs you won’t soon forget. Perks is one of these movies. Music was one of the film’s central themes, with Sam and Charlie often fervently discussing their favourite bands and exploring new ones. The song list features some great tunes by David Bowie, The Smiths, and Sonic Youth; you can check it out here. The tracks are the perfect mix of angsty, upbeat, and punk rock – in other words, each song made me want to simultaneously dance, cry, and scream into my pillow. (I resisted this urge, but only for the sake of my roommates.) Give them a listen – you won’t be disappointed.

If you haven’t seen this heartwarming flick, I highly recommend you go watch it. I haven’t decided which movie to review for next Sunday, so requests are welcome. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

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Food for Thought

There’s something to be said about the power of the human mind. At the risk of sounding like a pompous old geezer, I truly believe the brain is a wondrous tool that can be used to cultivate our curiosities and explore exciting avenues. For example, I like to take a few minutes out of each day to consider something new and thought-provoking. Lately I’ve been thinking about what my name will be attached to in future years. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider the following. We automatically associate the Dalai Lama with Buddhism, Sidney Crosby with hockey, and JK Rowling with Harry Potter. Each of these individuals has something so uniquely them that if I reversed the situation and asked which famous person you would associate with these three topics, you would probably come up with the same people. I don’t necessarily want to reach the same degree of celebrity, but you can’t blame me for wondering. I could brand myself as an up-and-coming fashion designer, follow through with the dream of becoming a renowned travel writer, or blossom into a powerful sports agent. I could dedicate my time to charity work, find wild success as a juggler, or put all my effort into becoming the best daughter my parents could ask for. The possibilities are endless!

Let’s put the spotlight on you now. I’d like to ask you to perform a mental exercise with me. Take thirty seconds to reflect on your life and your accomplishments. Consider your school life, your job, your hobbies, and your family. Think about one overarching topic people would associate you with. Got it? Good. Now ask yourself this question: “Am I happy with being thought of as this type of person?” If the answer is yes, congratulations – you’re way ahead of the curve. If the answer is no, this is where my point comes into play: if you’re not satisfied with the light in which you’re portrayed, change it. There’s no time like the present (or so I’ve heard).

Wasn’t that fun? Just thought I’d throw in a bit of motivational advice. Hope you learned something about yourself from it.

As I lie in bed at 12:30am typing this post and snacking on a brownie from Starbucks (hey, we all have to indulge sometimes), it occurs to me that I’m not the coolest 20-year-old. While most of my roommates and classmates are out drinking and engaging in general debauchery, I’m doing what I do best: sitting in my bedroom, writing, with Maroon 5 playing in the background and a tall glass of water on my nightstand. I have a lot on my mind tonight, dear reader, but mostly I’m thinking about you. I wonder where in the world you are. Are you curled up on your couch after a long day at work, reading this on your laptop or smartphone and wondering if perhaps my brownie is laced with somethin’ special? (FYI, Mom, it isn’t.) Did you sleepily stumble across this page while nursing your morning cup of joe, only to realize it’s too early to try and make sense of my nonsensical ramblings? Or maybe you’re a friend or family member who I’ve harassed time and time again to glance over my blog. Whatever the case may be, I’d like to sincerely thank you for stopping by. It means a lot. At the very least, I hope I’ve given you a few minutes of pleasurable reading. If not…well, that’s what the comments section is for. Please be honest – I can take it!

Until next time.

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