12:09 PM | 3 comments

Current wedding fun: Halved
12:03 PM | 5 comments

As I child born anywhere in the western world in the last twentysomething years, I was always likely to become a member of the halfves-y club. Statistically, 51 per cent of you are as well. We are all kids of parents who divorced and who subsequently divorce our family time in two, hence a life of the halves-ies.

I watched Kramer Versus Kramer the other day when it became free on my TV and by the time the elevator door closed on Merryl Streep at the end, I was so sad. My eyes were a-tearing and my nose was starting to run.

“Why couldn’t my parents be like that,” I whined in the vast echoing room that is my inner monologue. “It’s not fair,” I continued, now stomping my inner monologue feet and holding my breath for attention.

Even though Dustin Hoffman and Ms Streep’s characters are divorced, they arrive at the film’s conclusion in the apartment lobby agreeing to do not what the court had ordered but what was best for their son and what was easiest on each other. They hugged each other and Dustin Hoffman told Meryl Streep she looked “terrific” even though she had the red-face cry going on.

Maybe I’m alone here, but I was like, “What the eff?” I’ve never seen my parents hug since the split. And if one of them were to actually compliment the other, I think I’d slap my own face and shake my cheeks to test if I’d woken up in some weird parallel universe.

I made it all the way to 17 before I became part of the 51 per cent halves-y club members, so for more than half my life, my parents were a cohesive unit who made Saturday breakfast together listening to the Beatles and kissing each other just to gross us kids out. I’m still testing the waters, a tourist in this land of divorce kids. I am overwhelmed by how mature and well-versed in all this I am supposed to be now that I am planning a wedding.

If I was the kid of Kramer and Kramer, I wouldn’t have to worry at all because my divorced parents would probably invite each other to hip New York cafés to discuss their daughter’s wedding and how it will all work out wonderfully. Their kid would probably say something about how lucky they were to have two parents who love them so much and two step-parents who only add to the love of their family and other blah blah crap like the movies are made of.

I, on the other hand, am learning to sink or swim between two parents whose feelings are on the line with every decision I make, wedding-wise, not to mention a big one of whether or not to invite The Other Woman. Self-help book answers don’t cut it when the only answer I want to hear is, “Whatever you decide, we support you and love you very much,” instead of sideways glances and raised eyebrows at what the repercussions to my decisions could be.

Eloping sounds awesome.

What’s a twentysomething to do when she just wants to have a fun wedding where everyone dances and smiles and tells me after what a wonderful time they’ve had? When I think I should be smiling till my face hurts at how awesome it is to find true love and marry the man of my dreams, why instead am I getting sinking feelings in my stomach about what to do with my divorced parents? It's so anti-wedding and backwards. The countdown list I am following to make sure the wedding is adequately prepared does not list when I am supposed to explode like a volcano and tell my parents to grow up. It appears that is beyond what I can ask for with the cards I’ve been dealt. Maybe I should watch a movie about drug-addicted parents so I can cry feeling bad for their kids.

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Waiting for the bus, I think...
10:10 AM | 2 comments

Last night I waited at the sketchy bus stop for the last bus home after a night at the pub. The pub where my two best friends work, the bartenders all know our names and the band comes to sit with our table after their sets. As a product of a nervous mother, I kept people talking to me on my cell as long as I could at the bus stop, trying to make myself look unapproachable to pervy rapists who, my mother has convinced me, lurk everywhere and are always ready to pounce. I heard drug deals going on behind the clear wall of the bus shelter that I was leaning on. I would not turn to look, because watching a drug deal is also sketchy and they could get the wrong idea and shoot me or something.

Then I wondered to myself, at about 10 to midnight in the bus shelter on a brisk, chilly night, what would happen if I did get shot? Not the basic wondering, because I know there’d be like police and ambulances and hospitals involved, but I mean what would happen to me? What if I was in a wheelchair forever and couldn’t feel my body from the waist down or something?

It’s horrible to think, but I totally wouldn’t want to live. I know, I can feel all the counter-arguments.

Point: But you still have your mind, you’re still the same person.
Counter-point: But I’d be dependent, and that’s awful.

Point: You could still change the world and be brilliant, just from a wheelchair.
Counter-point: That’s assuming I have a supply of people willing to press pause on their own lives to help me live mine.

As fiancé is nearing the end of his training and getting ready for the real job, I’m preparing to be the rock, the one that holds it all together when things get crazy, who rubs his shoulders when he gets home and tells him it’ll all be OK. That can’t happen if I need help washing and dressing myself everyday. I certainly couldn’t rub his shoulders when I can’t reach them.

In the bus shelter, I am standing beside the hipster and the wangster that have since joined my waiting space throughout the course of my imagined scenario playing out in my head. I realize that my imagination has been carried away and I’m relieved that I don’t have to deal with such a situation. As bad as getting shot and paralyzed would likely be, being so dependent on someone would be the counterpoint to the point I’ve been trying to make as a twentysomething: That I can do it, on my own, and if want to come for the ride you’re more than welcome, but I don’t need your help.

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"You can always go, downtown."
1:59 PM | 2 comments

School's done and now work's done and all the loose Ottawa ends around me are tying up. I have 2 months and change in this awesome crazy city and I'm nostalgic. Here are some thing I'll miss:

1. Spring time lunches al fresco on Sparks Street picking out the Todd's and the MPs. (The Todd's for those of you that aren't me and my father who invented the term, are the assistant deputy ministers. You can tell a Todd by their slicked back haircut, high-end suits, Bluetooth phone ear thing and former ballet-dancer light step. Many are named Todd, we have found.)

2. Canada Day in the Capital, which equates to beer bottles and cans everywhere, flags decorating everything, random outbursts of the national anthem, wearing red-and-white clothing that on any other day would look atrocious, crammed concerts on the Hill, never getting into the club, fireworks, and cops whose cheeks I like to drunkenly pinch.

3. Sunday mornings in the market, where everyone comes out for the fresh farmers market, gelato, walks across the St. Patrick street bridge, street music, finding a spot to read gossip mags with my best friends in Majors Hill park, and wearing the minimum SPF sunscreen so I feel like I'm being responsible, but I really want a tan.

4. Getting a story assignment/idea and walking through the doors under the Peace Tower into scrums with the politicians that make the call to get the answer. And having them know my name.

5. Special sister days with my little sister that start with sleeping in, walking to Sugar Mountain for treats, eating ice cream along the way, visiting pet shops to look at weird animals, making necklaces, eat picnics by the water, feeding our bread crusts to the ducks, picking a movie and staying in with our candy treats to watch it.

I'm sure as spring really starts to come out and the calendar counts down until the day when fiance and I move, I will find many more Ottawa ingredients about which to become nostalgic. Maybe the tour boat operators on Mackenzie King and Rideau will become cute and not harassing to me as I know they will become memories. Maybe red, the homeless guy I've so named because of his red hat, will greet me one day with good news that he is happy again.

Oh, Ottawa. They say you never forget your first love.

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12:21 PM | 4 comments

Friday night was going to be watching John Mayer strum on his many guitars with my mum and sister at the colossal arena and then off to the airport to pickup fiancé for his (one) weekend home from training. It was going to be closing my eyes at the favourite parts of " Stop this train" and "Gravity" and singing along with the other 20,000 attendees. It was going to be fighting past everyone to get to the bottom of the escalator when my man steps off and into my arms, ready to squeeze his shoulders tight.

8:20 p.m. Phone rings

"Hey you,"
"Hi! Wait, what is it? What' s wrong? Why aren't you on a plane?"

"It was cancelled."

He was to stay overnight in Toronto and get on the first flight here in the morning. No fiancé in our bed tonight? No airport hug? I couldn' t tell you if the John Mayer concert was good. It probably was. But while the crowd sang the chorus of "Your Body is a Wonderland," I curled in my top lip and tried not to cry.

8:00 a.m. Saturday morning. At the airport with his Dad. His flight lands, passengers come down the escalator. No fiancé. The flight crew comes out and still he's not there. We deduce he's on the next one, and then when he isn't on that flight, the one after that. We get a call from him that his early flight was overbooked, he was kept waiting for two hours, he was put on a plane to arrive at 11:10.

10:55. Phone rings.

"Well, we're here on the tarmac and there are mechanical problems."

This is so agonizing it's almost funny. Not quite that hopeless yet, though. What is funny is that the "arrivals" screen says his flight, which is grounded in Toronto on the runway, is scheduled to arrive on time in five minutes.

We ask the airline wankers if they can tell us when we can expect my fiancé, the one that was supposed to arrive 12 hours ago from a city that is a four-hour drive away.

"We can't give out any passenger information, not even if you were the police," one says with a smile and wink.

12:55. Five hours after arriving at the airport. Two hours after the food court had been discovered, three hours after the paper had been read cover to cover, he came down the escalator and I ran at him with puffy eyes.

His visit lasted a day and half. I watched him go through the security line at 11:55 a.m. yesterday morning after I hugged him tight and kissed his coffee-breath mouth goodbye. But I got my hugs and back scratches and kisses.

I'll let you know how they sustain me for the next two months until I see him again.

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Mmm, steak
2:52 PM | 5 comments

What is the answer men offer up when confronted with a stick-thin waif girl?

"Get this girl a steak."

I'm no waif, but it has been awhile since my last good steak, as a consequence of my being a full-time student living on a part-time salary. Not that I'm in any different a position now, but last night, my lips were a-licking and my tongue was watering for an 8 ounce cut of sirloin glory.

When the three-fold menu opened up, center stage was a highlighted box telling me about the steak selection.

"And what comes with the steak?"

"Garlic mashed potatoes and assorted vegetables including steamed asparagus,ma'am."

Haha, he called me ma'am, like I'm a grown-up or something, and I'm wearing aRoxy hoodie, jeans and classic white Nike sneakers. And steamed asparagus sounds really good...(although I heard it makes your pee smell)

Logic is never far in my mind behind reason, although spontaneity (or impulse buying as my fiancé labels it) sometimes gets the best of me and my MasterCard.After all, K and I would be splitting A's meal as a 22nd birthday treat. So I'd need some money for that. And then my cable bill, and Hydro is supposed to come soon, and C's going-away party Thursday will require me to purchase cover and booze...But how long has it been since a good steak? And doesn't a girl need a good steak once in awhile? Yes, she does.

So I ate it. I cut it slow and chewed the juicy medium cooked cow neck seasoned with steak spice. I didn't inhale it, because I've learned from Kraft dinner that when you eat it too fast, it hurts in my esophagus right above my diaphragm. So I ate it slowly, but not before things got cold. I cleaned my plate, which I never do, and finished it off with a cup of tea, because that makes everything settle.

This perpetually broke girl got her steak, loved every minute of it, and is not going to worry about how much it cost until tomorrow.

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I love (learning about) drugs
11:21 AM | 2 comments

In grade two, in one of the portables at my east end Catholic elementary school, we were asked to choose topics for our Bristol board presentations that culminated our "Body" unit. I had the best idea, and smiled as the kids in the row beside me snatched up what they thought were the good ones: The digestive system, the eyes, the lungs. Me?

"Narcotic drugs and alcohol."

"What do you mean?" That teacher sighed, I remember, as she had grown accustomed to my "creativity."

"Like, how they affect the body."

Aws and ohs from the students around me told me I'd definitely thought up the coolest topic. I didn't know it, but I was a seven-year-old wunderkind to the American-led war on drugs. I embodied the wide-eyed fear and fascination prompted by the television commercial music chorus of, "Drugs, drugs, drugs;which are good, which are bad?" I seem to recall this was communicated via a conga line of diverse-background actors wearing requisite highlighter-coloured 90s clothes.

Fast forward to high school, grade 8, where my favourite book is the anonymous drug epic, "Go Ask Alice," followed in close second by "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." My fascination with drug culture and its depictions in pop culture may have been fuelled by a unique curiosity all my own, or a seed planted by the aforementioned propagandist drug messaging campaign. I'm yet undecided, but continually enthralled by the subject mater.

When choosing my fourth-year university optional law courses, I jumped on one called, "Drugs, the User and the State." How perfect! The first few weeks' worth of reading were kind of lame, but I wasn't there to learn about the 1911 Opium Act. I was there for the good stuff: The debates on how prescription drugs had westerners sucking at the teat of pharmaceutical corporations, how single,lower-class mothers addicted to weed get busted for possession while la-dee-da hoity-toity coke addicts do not.

Here's what I learned that surprised me most: Crack babies (remember how outrageous and enraging that concept once was?) are far better off than fetal alcohol syndrome babies in the long run. Weird, eh? A coke-addicted mother can snuff it throughout gestation and her undersized baby may go through withdrawal but is generally much better off than the offspring of a mum with a bun in the oven and a brew in her hand.

Other surprising fact: Hard street drugs, like heroin and cocaine, when not cut with other sketchy agents like Clorox and baking soda on the street, have the same potency and properties as many popular-use prescription drugs. Essentially,the morphine user and the heroin junky go to the same elixir for relief. Those who are administered Ritalin for their attention deficits (real or perceived)are being dealt forms of cocaine. Huh?

Long-term cocaine use results in short-term memory loss, and physical degradation of the nasal cavity. But really, is that as scary as we all thought? I wasn't convinced, anyway.

All this left me wondering: Are the street drugs we have been conditioned to fear as seedy aspects of a loathed drug culture really that bad when they're being prescribed under different names at a Shopper's Drug Mart near you? Or are the prescription drugs we're taking with water at mealtime as potentially harmful as the stuff the toothless man on the park bench is injecting in his armacross the street?I sure am going to miss academia.

Nonetheless, I found this to be quite the interesting debate. Feel free to call me out on perceived inaccuracies; I'm feeling quite pretentious. And for the record, my findings will not see me to a seedy alleyway with a needle in my arm nor a cocktail party with a rolled up dollar bill connecting nose to powder on table. Thoughts?

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Not today
1:42 PM | 1 comments

It's disgusting outside today: two and a half inch high slush coating every surface while more slush rain falls as fast as hail, only it keeps going all day. It's grey. It's wet and I had to write an exam. I miss my man and couldn't shake the feeling that today I was supposed to stay in bed.

Nothing shakes me more than seeing school shootings on the 24-hour news network.I should have kept myself isolated from this, stayed in bed. I'm at work and I just want to put a duvet over my head and cry for those students, for all students, for me, for everyone who misses their love.

No carpe diem-ing today. Maybe when the sun's back.

Thirty less IQ points later...
4:47 PM | 5 comments

How happy was I last night to check out the free MTV I get from my cable company, and to see that The Hills, Season 1 was on there?

Too happy for my own good, that’s how happy. I called my roommate over and, like two eight-year-olds on Christmas Eve, we danced and cheered and laughed before sitting down to watch free reality television with maximum drama and beautiful people. Addiction set in, one episode quickly became another (because who can say no once the announcer says, “Next time on… The Hills”?) and before I knew it I wanted to eat every meal out, go out and buy a new wardrobe and start communicating with others chiefly via texting. What?

I called friends between episodes to share the good news. I started drinking water instead of eating chips, because come on, the girls of The Hills look hot! And don’t I want to too? Yes! I just need a backyard pool and free afternoons to lay outside on a lounge.

By midnight last night I’d watched the entire season. I felt as though I’d just stuffed myself with too much Easter chocolates. Like I’d just gone shopping and over maxxed my limit, and arrived home to decide I didn’t even really like the clothes I bought. I felt gluttonous and slothful. Two deadly sin feelings for one night were too much. Resultant guilt set in.

Call me Catholic, but I felt guilty. Guilty for indulging in so many hours, stagnant, motionless, on my couch. And what do I gain? I am now more educated on how to fit in should I find myself a socialite twentysomething in LA? No! I am relieved not to have such drama and confusion in my own life? Maybe. But I’ll tell you after, so many episodes, my mind was not feeling reflective or inspired to change the world. Maybe I should put the 24 news channel on while I get ready tonight, and promise myself to read something smartish tomorrow.

Ohmigod, did I just say smartish? Save me from myself!

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What journalism school is really like
12:13 PM | 4 comments

It struck me today that we have never been formally introduced. We know names and places, but what comes next in the standard procedure introduction.

“What do you do, are you in school?”
“Yes, actually I just finished my journalism degree last week and I graduate this spring.”
“Well, congratulations, was that at Carleton?”
“Yes it was.”
“Wow, that’s a tough program to get into, and they’re quite well known for their journalism aren’t they?”
“Yes, and it’s every bit as tough as it’s cracked up to be.”

But now that we’ve gone through what every relative, coworker and acquaintance and I have gone through, let me tell you what journalism school is really like.

First of all, many of the reporters you see on TV and whose byline you read in print do not have journalism degrees. I agree: you totally don’t need one. Today’s college programs and one’s independently acquired journalistic aptitude are fine tools to be equipped with when harassing a news agency for a job. My brain is best suited to learning in an academic environment, so I chose to go the university route to learn more about law, history and alcohol consumption en masse.

My journalism class started with something like 250 avid note-taking, newspaper reading keeners who scored some of the top grades in their high school. At our graduation ceremony this spring, something like 75 will receive journalism degrees. Many dropped out, many more were kicked out for not maintaining the requisite grade cutoffs. We went through news quizzes that ask questions like, “What is the name of the Colombian government rep in town this week?” and “Who is the Sens’ goalie?”

Reading newspapers and watching newscasts was a requirement, we were told at the beginning of every semester.
“Read six papers a day, listen to CBC radio every morning, memorize the CP style guide like it’s the Bible.”
This never happens. Yes, I read the news online and sometimes put on the 24 news channel. But it wasn’t until I developed and honed a curiosity, a need to have my questions answered, that I was motivated to meet my prescribed news absorbing quota. (The New York Times and BBC online are my favourites)

I did something different than many of my fellow J-Schoolers. I worked in media. I interned at the Hill newspaper and developed a love affair with federal politics, Hill gossip and poll results. I freelanced to city papers and earned a few dollars. More importantly, I learned how many more people were willing to answer questions when you prefaced them with, “I’m from the Sun,” as opposed to, “I’m calling from Carleton journalism school…” (Which inevitably leaves one ready to poke one’s eyes out when no one calls back and a deadline is looming.)

I got national coverage for stories, I informed people, I became a mini-expert in a few topics for short periods of time. When discussing current events with older family members, I gloriously became the authority who could say, “Well, I was there and…” or “Actually, I talked to the former prime minister, and he said…”
I went to journalism class with confidence to know not just how to make phone calls but how to make phone calls that reach the right people and warrant interview results.

Some of my classmates competitively clawed their way to the top. I was too happy to stay in the middle, make friends, cooperate, ask questions when I didn’t understand, because it meant I didn’t want to shoot myself with stress overloads. There was enough inherent stress in the program’s tight deadline structure and balancing requirements with other classes and real jobs to meet my personal quota, thankyouverymuch.

Now, I’m on the other side of the program, done the degree. I found passion in writing about seemingly mundane things. I have developed a trained eye for the engaging and the ultra boring stories. I genuinely am thrilled to tell people about what I find out via my exclusive pass as a reporter, and appreciate the responsibility inherent in said pass for explaining things fully and without my own two cents stuck in there.

This program has given me an appreciation for what can be done in a compressed amount of time, what I can possibly learn about an issue when I actively seek out the information for myself, a complex about proper grammar use bordering on insanity, and the pride at looking back at what I can achieve when I work really, really hard.

“So what are you going to do now?”

This question is attacking all of us journalism graduates from all fronts. For part II of this conversation, hold tight, I’m still working on my answer to that one.

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Pho date
1:41 PM | 3 comments

Seriously, how am I supposed to eat Phö noodle soup with chopsticks? Is it so designed to require my dependency on a spoon thus identifying me as anon-skilled and non-Vietnamese diner? Is there a secret to slurping broth with two sticks? I was no further to finding the answer to these questions last night, having left Phö-Bo-Ga in our little Chinatown last night with slurpy resonate splotches on the chest of my hoodie.And how am I to distinguish the hot sauce from the hoi sin sauce when they both come in the exact same bottle? Only by ingesting heaps of each on chow me in and then realizing that one makes my eyes water, nose run and tongue burn while theother does not. As my fellow diner S pointed out, this would be the worst place for a first date-unless, I pointed out, the goal of said first date was to illustrate how unskilled and messy one was at eating a meal, and how runny one's nose can become after ingesting a heaping dollop of hot sauce.

But we were not on a first date, we were on a friend date. We were free to slurp long noodles off of chopsticks, then drop noodles back into soup and splash broth across our fronts. There were no second glances at each other's attempts to fit a long slab of beef into one's mouth without utensils with which to cut it. We laughed with red faces, made jokes about the most awful and inappropriate things, answered cell phone calls without worrying about being rude, because we knew it was OK with the other.

We had an episode of "The Girls Next Door" for dessert, followed by the second half of the Pussy Cat Dolls reality TV show. Without the presence of my friends,I would otherwise not admit to watching such mindless TV in such a public forum.We talked about farts and waxing and laughed shrieking laughs with wide eyes and open mouths. We shared our anxieties about running the 10k at race weekend this spring for the first time, and elaborated on how great it is not to be a running man because we heard their nipples chafe and can bleed when their shirts rub against them.

As much as I miss the man who makes me the luckiest girl in the world, I smile big with squinty eyes at how lucky I am to have the best girlfriends ever-better than any sitcom writer could create.

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Weekend in the West
12:25 PM | 3 comments

We drove around looking for a Tim's to get fiancé a much-needed coffee. Even though he'd been there for three months, he never was much good at directions and bearings. I was so glad to see him after so long, I hardly looked from his face to notice street signs and building names in the cold prairie city.

I was lucky enough to spend Easter weekend in the west with him. At the mid point of his absence, it was a wonderful way to divide his time away from the time left until he returns to me. It lasted four nights, went by much too quickly,and left me feeling so empty I didn't think I'd ever stop crying or get out of bed. I was doing quite well before this trip, coasting along on phone calls and emails, I suppose because I knew I'd be seeing him soon. It helped me forget how much I missed rubbing his back and nuzzling my head into his shoulder, tickling his face with my hair.

My nervous system was quite pleased to return to the comfort and familiarity of his skin's touch, and stubbly cheeks. My own cheeks appreciated the workout of constantly smiling and my arms were glad to finally have someone to wrap around whenever they so pleased. My brain got its fix of him; my addiction to his love fed after a painful withdrawal and anticipated return.

We became gluttons, soaking in as many kisses and squeezes and we could devour. Literally as well, we ate so much food I felt ready to burst more than twice. We smiled and held hands and let our shoulders touch when we stood side-by side. I had missed continuous touch. We giggled and joked and he told me how glad he was to feel like a goofy kid again. We snuggled and nuzzled and I told him I was glad to have someone I could sit beside for hours without talking to and feel happier than if I had solved world conflict. Nothing else mattered but how nice it felt to have his fingers rub my back, while I reciprocated down his shoulders.

We did nothing to write home about; we watched movies, ate comfort food and sat in the hot tub until we were lobster-red prunes. Looking at him looking at me and sealing it with a kiss felt so much better than any adventure that I otherwise chalk up as seizing the day in a new adventure. This was perfection, silence, peace, calm and warmth.

Like gravity, we came back down to earth in separate cabs, mine to the airport, his back to the training academy. He left first, and I sat in my hotel room bawling, snotting even and feeling so heavy I only got up to get more Kleenex. I wrote him a note on hotel stationary (yes, it seems people do use it, though hopefully not all in situations like my own). I tried so hard to ignore my feelings, so I could at least get some sleep and return to sadness the next day, behind the camouflage of my sunglasses and the anonymity of being an airplane passenger.

I return to living by my cell phone awaiting his sporadic calls, and embracing the hollowed out feeling inside me. I embrace it because as low and heavy as I feel now, it was worth it and I'd do it a thousand times over to have another weekend like Easter with him. Knowing that at the end awaits our cross-country adventure together makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world!

I'll keep you all posted on where we're going, when, and what that all means as soon as I know too!

Piano Lessons
11:21 AM | 2 comments

The first time I was to walk three houses down the street for piano lessons, I was excited. The Saturday before, my Dad had brought me to the music store to pick up my books: theory, performance, technique, all level one. I sat in the back row of the car on the way home, flipping pages until I found song names I recognized, and then built up more anticipation that I would soon be playing those pieces with grace and skill.

Grace I had, at least as much as any nine-year-old girl whose hobbies were gymnastic and dance could be. I was still gangly and carried a little-girl belly. I remember tripping over my own shoes on the way to my first piano lesson three houses down, dropping my purple theory book, and being ready to cry at the thought of tainting my near-perfect walk to piano class. Excitement still built,at the prospect that I was now only one house away from piano lessons.

My piano teacher showed me how to place my hands on the keys, how to find middle C, and how to distinguish bass from treble clef notes. I could do that, no problem. The first few weeks, I acknowledged the inherent difficulties of learning a new instrument. But only a few weeks could I take.

Before piano, I had been an ace at dance and gymnastics the first time I tried each. I could draw quite well and was the first in my kindergarten class to learn how to read. I had a vocabulary well past my age and had yet to meet a teacher I could not impress. Piano took work, and I was not used to that.I made my way through the level one books by trying to convince my teacher I understood everything she said, though I barley scraped by. The next fall, my Dad and I returned to the music store to buy the level two editions of each book I had grown to loathe. Excitement had waned, though I became excited again as I recognized more titles in my books. My teacher scolded me upon my return for having obviously not practiced over the summer.

From that piano lesson on, I only practiced the songs I liked and slouched at the piano stool defiantly pouting and faking illness whenever my mother forced me to go over the sheet music with hard-pressed pencil marks all over them: my piano teacher's stern instructions to practice until I got it.I had had it with piano. If I weren't good at it right away, I never would be.It's stupid anyway. Who needs piano? I'll have pianists to play music for me when I dance. If I want to hear a song so badly, I can just play the tape. I maturely sat my parents down and laid out my arguments for why I should not continue piano lessons. Piano was dumb, I didn't like it, and would rather do something else. I did not impress my parents as I had my grade four teacher with my negotiation skills. They forced me to stay, and the standoff was on.

I didn't practice anything. When I was forced onto the piano stool after dinner threatened with the abduction of my favourite Barbies, I played made-up songs that I liked much better because no one could tell me I'd hit the wrong note.And still, I was forced to go to piano lessons. My teacher was always patient with me, but forcefully implored me to practice. Nope.

The Kids Help telephone line from the TV commercials said if you had a problem,to call them. So I did. I called and told them my parents were making me take piano lessons and I didn't want to. Forget that the call line was set up for kids who were beat by their parents or who had been touched 'down there', I had a piano lessons crisis. That was the climax in the standoff that finally ended my piano lessons. My mum was appalled that I had called some government-sponsored child abuse line to complain about her. I was out of piano.

My brother gave it a shot and I was too glad to pass the buck off to him to deal with. I was free from piano lessons, thanks goodness.

My piano lessons didn't haunt me again until university. Until first-year university when I got my first non-A grade on a paper. What? But, how? The struggle to figure out what went wrong lasted a few months until I deeply regretted not sticking through with piano lessons. I was faced with a new situation for which I was not naturally adept to succeeding, that required me to work hard, beyond what I could just pass off with minimal effort or thought. If only I'd followed through with piano lessons, I thought, waking up to the world of working hard would not be so rude.

Oh, the things I would have learned and accomplished, had I stuck it out in piano lessons. I would have tried harder at track and field, pushed my limits until I impressed myself. I would have worked harder on my rugby team and maybe have been a top-scorer. I'll never know, because in grade four, I decided if at first I didn't succeed, I'd give up and never try again.Better late than never, as the saying goes. Hard work in the last four years has given me, among other things, a degree, a beautiful relationship that prospers,and a discovered passion for running- a primary example of the rewards reaped by hard work.

It really is better to live a life of highs and lows than continued monotony, a life without challenges. For how can one appreciate the joy of success without experiencing the despair of failure?
I think I'll make my kids take piano lessons.

1:44 PM | 3 comments

This year's changes are apt to bring with them a hearty helping of nostalgia, I have already come to expect it. This past weekend was my last 'school weekend', i.e. one spent lamenting the people 'going out' while I readjust the elastic waist of my sweat pants and position myself for the next hours of essay typing. The reward for dedication to a lame Saturday night is the relief of having completed one of my final essays of my undergraduate degree.

This morning was my last journalism class-ever. This particular course was an awful year-long class that brought my graduating class together with a shared disdain, proving misery loves company. Yet, at the final moment, I saw it as a pinnacle- one of the concluding events in an education I have been pursuing since discovering the alphabet in pre-school at age three. When I look at it that way, it's a bit overwhelming. To think that 19 school years in the making was finished.

I have my very last class in organized crime law tomorrow evening, and that's it. No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks. The end. Not just the end for summer where I can be carefree in my devotion to suntans, non-school reading and water sports. This time, I will not have the security of forced learning come next fall to ensure I am making proper use of my skills and abilities. The use of said skills will be reliant upon self-initiated endeavours. That is perhaps scariest of all the realizations I've made of late.

Lots of scary things happen, admittedly, to one in his or hers twenties. I have been frightened by the realization of how much groceries cost, the admittance that I in fact do not know it all, the inability to wear some of my teenager clothes, the stubborn pride of not moving back home even if it makes financial sense, acknowledging that sometimes decisions needs to be made based upon what makes the most financial sense, and the brown envelop I get in the mail every 90days which expresses that hell hath no fury like a Hydro bill.

One step forward, one foot in front of the other, as I escape mandatory essays and attendance in lecture halls, and onto a world where more of my life's direction is up to me.