My Heroes

I have a list of historical figures I admire and when asked to name a hero or an inspirational person I’ll list any one of them.

Ernest Shackleton was an Antarctic explorer who lead all of his men to safety after their ship was crushed in ice in 1915, leaving the entire crew stranded on the ice about 1000 miles from the nearest civilization. His leadership abilities and powers of optimism and endurance are virtually unparalleled in the world today.

Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.

-Ernest Shackleton 

Nellie McClung fought for equal rights for women in Canada at a time when it was just starting to become acceptable for a woman to be a secretary, in the early 20th century. She organized a mock parliament where women debated whether or not men should get the vote (apparently it was a hilarious performance). Her wit and charisma as a public speaker are quite admirable as was her determination to create gender equality in politics.

Disturbers are never popular. No one every liked an alarm clock in action, no matter how thankful they may be afterwards for its kind services.

-Nellie McClung

Joseph Howe was a journalist and politician from Nova Scotia throughout the early-mid 19th century. He fought for and won freedom of the press after he was accused of libel when he exposed true, but damning evidence that local politicians and police had been embezzling money. He organized his own defense for his trial and his 6 hour speech was so well written he was acquitted, making this case a landmark event that changed the definition of libel; something was now only libel if it was false. His eloquence and conviction are certainly without rival in Canada.

When I sit down in solitude to the labours of my profession, the only questions I ask myself are, What is right? What is just? What is for the public good? 

-Joseph Howe

All these people have qualities I very much admire and would like to posses. I love a good story and a pithy quote, and would jump at the opportunity to have coffee with any of these people to hear their stories first-hand (granted they are all dead but I’m talking in hypotheticals here). But I cannot honestly say I model my life after any of them. It is my mother whose example I have learned the most from.

A few years ago, once my brothers and I were a bit older and didn’t take up as much of her time, she became obsessed with triathlons. She’s now done 3 Ironman triathlons (the mother of triathlon consisting of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike, and then a 42km run). She also volunteers as the president of the Triathlon Club of Burlington where she basically does a lot of work for no money; she writes the newsletter, helps organize workouts and events, and motivates others to achieve their goals.

I am not a particularly athletic person nor do I have a desire to follow my Mom’s example there. But I have learned from her dedication and hard work ethic, both qualities I like to think I possess as well.

My mother is also a very kind person. I remember when we were moving in to a new house, when I was 8, she went and got subway sandwiches for all the movers, and since it was a hot day, lemonade and freezes as well. For the next 8 years in that house she organized a neighborhood wide Christmas party, for upwards of 80 people. She made crafts and games for the kids and organized mixer games for the adults as well. And of course she’d do most of the cleaning before and after.

She’s a great hostess and a strong woman (both physically and emotionally) but I think I admire her most for her compassion towards others and her earnest desire to help in whatever ways she can.

Last year, after taking a history class on woman (which focused a lot on how women were essentially trapped in the home) I began to wonder if my Mom had actually been happy as a stay-at-home Mom  all those years. So I asked her if she would chose differently if she could go back in time. She said some people need to be successful in the workplace for them to feel their life is meaningful. But she got all the fulfillment she needed from her family. So unlike my other heros my mother won’t leave a legacy on the historical record. But she’s made her mark on our family and I love her for that.

Advertisements
Posted in Essay-A-Week | Leave a comment

Plagiarism- The Sweetness of Endings

The tide recedes, but leaves behind
bright seashells on the sand.
The sun goes down, but gentle warmth
still lingers on the land.
The music stops, yet echoes on
in sweet, soulful refrains.
For every joy that passes,
something beautiful remains.

-author unknown

Posted in Essay-A-Week | Leave a comment

Invent a Word

Romantical [roh-man-tik-ul]

Adjective

1. To have excessively high standards or unrealistic expectations for a romantic relationship. 

2. The idealizing of love to the point where it interferes with real relationships 

Romantical people require their partners to spend large amounts of time and/or money to impress them. They expect to be overawed frequently. For example their idea of a nice date is not simply a picnic in the park. That’s too simple and, to them, doesn’t sufficiently demonstrate their partners undying affection. There had better be a private violinist to serenade them on that picnic. Or an after lunch ride in a rowboat in a pond filled with swans. Finishing the date with Champagne is too common, but perhaps if it was accompanied by a ride in a hot-air-balloon under the stars it would be acceptable.

I feel there is a need to differentiate between those people who are romantic and realistic from those who are unrealistically romantic. In large part because I want to classify myself in the former category. While action movies instantly bore me (I hate car chases, sword fights, and shoot outs), I love watching romance movies. I also love romance books, Jane Austen chief among them. But I like to think this had not completely skewed my expectations of a relationship. Hence why I would classify myself as romantic and not romantical. 

I have some expectations for a relationship but surprise romantic(al) excursions are not actually among them. I expect the guy to help me when I’m having a rough day, to offer advice when I need it or when I don’t just to listen, and I would expect him to acknowledge my birthday in some way. But I also expect myself to do all that for him. 

 I do not expect the guy to always spend money on me. For starters I will not allow anyone to pay for me on a first date. I am hoping to enjoy the date just as much as him and expecting the guy to pay is a relic of a by-gone era when women were expected to rely on men. Thank you very much for offering but I will pay my own way. End of discussion thank you very much.  

I also don’t expect to meet anyone fortuitously; such as by jumping into the same cab in a rainstorm, or dropping my handkerchief and having him pick it up, or by bumping heads in a skating rink. When I am ready for a relationship and a guy comes along who I like I will let him know how I feel and he can chose to reciprocate or not. I don’t need to play any of these silly cat-and-mouse games romance movies portray as charming. I love watching them on screen but in real life I would very quickly get annoyed. 

I do love writing love letters though. In “Persuasion” the main guy writes a letter to the main girl that starts with “You pierce my soul.” As cheesy as that may sound I absolutely love that line. During the short time I was dating my first boyfriend, who lived in Toronto while I lived in Hamilton, I insisted we write letters to each other. I still have the 2 he wrote me in a box in my closet. Not because I’m holding on to any feelings for him but because I want to be able to re-read them in a self-reflective sort of way. In fact when I had to write about a secret for this challenge last year I knew I wanted to write about my first relationship but didn’t know how to go about it until I re-read those letters. Then I realized I had never actually given him the support he so clearly needed. While before that I had blamed most problems in the relationship on him after perusing those letters again I realized I was also a large part of the problem.

I love my idea of love. It isn’t the romantic(al) kind of love you get in movies. There are no swans, candles, or champagne. No fancy houses, extravagant get-aways to sunny islands, or expensive dinners. Instead there are disagreements over who picks up the kids from swimming and misses the tv show we watch together every week, there are exasperated shouts of “wash the dishes, it’s your turn to empty the dishwasher” and angry comments over his complaints that “we’re having casserole again.” But there are also quick pecks on the cheek as we run off to work, there are back rubs after long days, and there is laughter as we read out loud to each other the funny bits of our respective books. It’s not romantical perhaps. But it’s plenty romantic enough for me. 

Posted in Essay-A-Week | Leave a comment

Mistakes I keep on Making

I am a very unobservant person. I can never tell you what clothing someone is wearing, how they styled their hair, or if they happen to be wearing a wedding ring. I can literally have a conversation with someone and forget almost entirely what they looked like 5 minutes later.

I blame it on my short term memory being rather subpar. To compensate for it my long term memory is excellent. Hence why I study for tests at least a couple weeks in advance. Cause then I have no trouble recalling the information. But I do not trust myself to cram the night before.

I frequently ask the same question in a conversation either because I forgot I already asked it or because I completely forgot the answer. It also makes for some awkward moments when I introduce myself to someone I just met or when I say the exact same thing to a customer because I think they’re new when they were just talking to me a couple minutes previously. Thankfully my one coworker this summer is a pretty observant person and so will poke me to shut me up when I’m about to offer bannock to someone who cooked bannock with us 10 minutes ago.

And forget about names. Literally within one minute of someone telling me their name chances are I will have no clue what to call them when we meet again. Remembering details about people doesn’t come naturally to me but I can be much better if I put some effort in. This past year, when I worked in residence, I knew the name of every student on my floor within 2 weeks because I repeated them over and over to myself.

So it’s not like I am completely incapable of remembering things. When I know something is important I can almost always remember it. I also have an excellent head for dates (which is very handy studying history) and I’m pretty good with places. It’s just people that I can’t seem to remember without a lot of effort. I know I should try harder. If I just took one second to actually look at the person I’m talking to and make a mental note of what they looked like I’d at least be able to recognize them if I ran into them 15 minutes later. I keep telling myself I’ll start working on it. And yet I never do.

Posted in Essay-A-Week | Leave a comment

First Love

I have a rather romantic view of love. I believe true love can never end so saying “I love you” is promising a forever. Thus, it is not something I say lightly. I say it occasionally to my parents and brothers but no one else. At least not seriously; occasionally I may say things like “if you do this and that favour for me I’ll love you forever,” but I try not to. I’ve only ever said “I love you” to another guy once, and the next day I took it back. (You can read that story under my post entitled “A Secret.”) So in the absence of real love I shall write about what I remember of my early crushes.

My first serious crush occurred in grade 9. I’d had “crushes” on boys before that but I would call them more passing fancies than serious crushes. I would like one boy a little bit more than the other boys in my grade for a week or so before I’d decide I liked someone else. Nothing ever came of these passing fancies because they never lined up with when I found out a boy liked me. Through the gossip vine I heard a couple times that a boy felt a passing fancy for me but I would always reject the idea. It was a nice boost to my vanity but I never seriously considered pursuing any of them.

This boy in grade 9 was different though. We had 3 of our 4 classes together in first semester and it pretty soon became obvious he liked me. I was keenly conscious of his presence when he was around and made sure to look my best every day of school. This is rather embarrassing to admit but word for word from my diary at the time I wrote: “he’s constantly pushing, punching and shoving me but that’s usually how guys show they like me.” Looking back I don’t know why I ever liked him, he didn’t have any particularly good qualities. He wasn’t that intelligent, wasn’t particularly funny, and couldn’t even be considered “nice.”

Later, in grade 11 a boy in our grade wanted to break his finger to get out of a swim team meet but the guy he had asked to snap his finger couldn’t bring himself to do it. So my former crush walked over, grabbed the finger and snapped it without a second thought. A bit of a tangent but I think it gives a taste of his somewhat troubled nature. I believe at the time I liked him solely because I thought he was cute and he showed an interest in me. And I found the bad boy thing attractive I suppose. Thankfully the semester ended and nothing actually happened. In second semester I heard through the gossip-vine that he had started to date another girl. I was bummed for a while, listened to some sad music and got over it.

For the rest of high school I had passing fancies on whatever boy showed a remote interest in me. I didn’t usually bother idolizing the popular guys, they were clearly out of my league and anyway I found them more intimidating than attractive. I only ever fantasized about guys who actually talked to me and were somewhat friendly towards me. I have a hard time remembering who I had passing fancies for because none of them came anywhere close to being a relationship.

My first (and to this date only) actual relationship started in the summer after my grade 12 year. I went to a friend’s birthday party and he was there, a friend of a friend. I was the driver so I didn’t drink anything that night but as my friends got increasingly drunk playing Kings I noticed this guy seemed to be looking at me rather more than necessary. I also found him attractive and intriguing (he smoked, lived on his own and wanted to try doing the whole starving artist thing).

So when I went to his house a few days later for a party I arrived with a passing fancy for him. But I’d had so many of those before and, besides that one time in grade 9, they had never come close to being realized. So I didn’t actually expect anything to happen. But I’d never been drunk at a party with one of my passing fancies before. After a few drinks I found myself sitting alone on a park bench with him making small talk. I soon found myself receiving my first kiss. On one hand it was romantic because it was under the stars in a pretty suburbian park but on the other hand he’d been drinking beer and so kissing him tasted disgusting.

It was all very exciting because it was all so new. I loved the idea of love but never actually loved him. We lasted 3 months before he broke up with me, I was sad but not heartbroken. I’ve never been heartbroken because I’ve never been in love. So, I’m afraid the title of this essay is a bit inappropriate. I haven’t actually written about my first love simply because I have yet to experience it.

Posted in Essay-A-Week | Leave a comment

Tim Hortons has Subpar Coffee

Don’t get me wrong I quite like the stuff. During roll up season I drink at least one a day. But after trying other coffees I am forced to admit Timmies falls short. It tastes cheap and anyone who argues otherwise is deluding themselves.

Canadians love Tim Hortons not because of the taste or the service, in fact in both those categories I would rank Timmies as merely passable (and even then perhaps I’m being too generous). Rather we like it because it is cheap and available all over Canada at most major intersections. You can get a fairly substantial breakfast for half the price of a breakfast from Starbucks and you can get that same cheap breakfast in Victoria and in St.John’s and everywhere in between.

While Timmies may not be high quality it is still a symbol of Canada. And what does that symbol say about us as a people? For starters it says that Canadians are not, generally speaking, a people who pursue luxury. We value the status quo above all else. We like to make everything and everyone equal; everyone can afford a coffee from Timmie’s, but the compromise is that it tastes cheap.

There’s an old joke about Canadian vs American lobsters. There are two pots, one full of American lobsters the other full of Canadian ones. When the American pot is put over the stove the lobsters try to crawl out and one or two will make it, while the other lobsters cheer and maybe even help them in their climb to freedom. Meanwhile in the Canadian pot no lobsters escape because as soon as one gets close the others pull it back down.

I first read this joke in my grade 12 Canadian history class and indignantly declared to myself there was no truth in it. But after 3 more years of study, and observations of my country, I am forced to accept that there is indeed a good deal of truth there. American’s love a good underdog story, they believe that you should work hard and then be rewarded according to your talent and endurance (they tend to ignore the fact that this is rarely the way things work out, but hey it’s still a deeply entrenched value). Meanwhile in Canada we believe everyone should be treated the same regardless. If you earn a lot of money you pay a lot of taxes to ensure those who earn less money can access all the same services you can, through systems like universal health care and subsidized post-secondary education (again this works more in theory than in practice but it still says something about what we value).

Tim Hortons represents the status quo. Every Canadian, if they’re a “true Canadian” eats at Timmies. Working class families, well off businessmen, and politicians all drink the same coffee and eat the same doughnuts. To declare that you hate Timmies is akin to declaring that you want to scrap our health care system; by doing so you’re essentially declaring that people should not be treated equally regardless of their background. That would be extremely unCanadian.

In fact there probably isn’t a better way to test the truth of the lobster joke than for someone to publicly declare that they hate Timmies. Not only will the other lobsters immediately drag him down they’ll also make sure he boils first.

Posted in Essay-A-Week | Leave a comment

Funniest Joke- A secret of the universe revealed

Whenever I want to laugh I reread this excerpt from “Why I Hate Canadians” by one of my favourite authors Will Ferguson. He is describing an incident that occurred right after he returned to Canada after spending 5 years in Japan.

 ˜˜˜

I was in the airport lobby in Vancouver, still groggy with jetlag, when through my mental fog I noticed a young lady smiling at me. She was a clerk at a magazine stand. She was pretty, friendly and apparently interested in me. So I sauntered over in a confident yet casual manner, and using one of those epigrams that have made me famous on four continents, I said, “Hello, there.”

“You have a goatee,” she said.

“Pardon?” said I.

“A Goatee,” she said. “You have one.”

And so began one of the most surreal conversations of my life.

“A Goatee?” I preferred to call it an understated yet virile He-Man Beard, but if she insisted, sure I suppose it was a goatee.

“I like goatees. A lot of women don’t, but I do.”

“Ah, thanks.”

“Makes you look like a barenaked lady.”

“Huh?”

You must realize that although the Barenaked Ladies were then a trop concert band, I had never heard of them, nor did I know that several of the band members sported goatees at the time, or that I happened to look a lot like one of them. All I knew was that this otherwise seemingly sane woman- a complete stranger- was comparing my fuzzy triangular beard to a naked lady.

It got worse.

Her voice dropped to a stage whisper. “You aren’t, are you?”

I was baffled. “Aren’t what?”

“A barenaked lady?”

“No!” I sputtered. “Why would you say such a thing?”

“Because you kind of looked like a barenaked-”

“Because of the beard?” I said, still aghast, my brain not fully computing what my ears were hearing.

“Yes.”

“I am not a naked woman!”

“Lady,” she corrected. “You aren’t a barenaked lady. I didn’t think so. It’s just that with the beard you sort of look like one.”

I fled the shop in confusion and the conversation haunted me for days. It was only when I related it to my brothers that they cleared it up. The Barenaked Ladies, as it turned out, were performing in Vancouver that weekend.

  ˜˜˜

Of course the humour here is all in the misunderstanding. From the enlightened perspective of the reader both people are perfectly justified in their responses. The joke is simply that they do not understand each other. If all good humour is based on truth then perhaps part of the truth revealed here is that sanity is a matter of perspective.

Posted in Essay-A-Week | Leave a comment