Humpday Happy Five // Volume V

August 24, 2016


So I’m in the routine of my weekly Wednesday Humpday Happy Five posts but I need to start doing more posts in between. This is starting to become the Humpday Happy Five blog. In case you’ve been under a rock, this is my attempt to share some happy things I find on the inter web to help us get over the mid-week hump. Here’s Volume 1, 2, 3 and 4.

1. Noisli // White Noise for Epic Working

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 12.12.09 AM

Sometimes trying to write blog posts, create worksheets or do anything “word related” is challenging with lyric music playing. I’ve tried classical but it either makes me sleepy or want to jump up and do ballet. Introducing Noisli: improving your focus and boosting productivity by creating your own mix of sounds. This site is clean, minimal, intuitive and well designed. I love that you can choose white noise for relaxing or for being productive, you can customize your own perfect concoction of nature sounds.

2. Gender neutral restroom signs at the CNE here in Toronto


The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), also known as the Ex, is Toronto’s annual 2.5 week long fair. Think carnival rides and all the deep fried food, although I’m going off what I hear as I’ve never braved the crowds. I imagine it to be like the Stampede (born and raised a Calgary gal…) with a few less cowboy hats and horses. Anyway, they are one of the first Canadian events to have these rad gender-neutral washrooms. Now, before you get your knickers in a knot about me posting this, take a deep breath. There are no reported cases of transgendered people using a washroom to rape women/men. Also, I’m pretty sure a rapist isn’t going to wait for gender neutral signs to decide that he can finally sneak into a women’s washroom. There is a lot of misinformation being spread out there and people need to relax. In my opinion, when I imagine what it would be like to live every single day feeling like I’m in the wrong body my heart hurts. If creating a safe space where people of all identities can safely pee (yes, we’re talking about peeing here people, this doesn’t need to be too serious), will make someone feel less alone/scared/isolated, then I’m happy to let anyone come and pee beside me. Afterall, as a cisgendered-white-heterosexual I’m lucky that I don’t feel stressed or sad every time I debate about which washroom will cause less anxiety. So, kudos to you guys at the CNE on these witty signs. You can read the full story here.


3. Tate and Kathryn dancing to Rise Up

I know, I know, I keep posting about my favourite 13 year old, Tate. But seriously, she’s an exquisite dancer and beautiful human. I’m sure my love and excitement for everything she does runs deep within me because I’ve known her her entire life, but you guys will love this number too! This piece in particular struck a chord with me because I absolutely love Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” and I love that it is a dance about sisterhood. With everything that’s been going on in my life I am so, so grateful for my sisters (both blood and non-blood) who continue to love and support me. And guys, she’s barely 13. Can you believe that!?


4. Suburban neighbourhood hangs rainbow flags to show solidarity to lesbian couple who were vandalized

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 1.00.28 AM

Photo courtesy of The Boston Globe














Cari and Lauri Ryding returned home from vacation to an egged house and their rainbow pride flag stolen. A few days later 40 houses in their suburban neighbourhood had decorated their homes with rainbow flags to show their support and solidarity. This obviously made me cry because it is just so sweet! You can read the rest of the story here.

5. One year after double hand transplant Zion Harvey says “I can do more than I imagined”














In July of 2015 Zion became the first child to undergo a double hand transplant, and last month he threw the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game. When he was just two years old he had a severe infection causing him to lose his legs below the knee, as well as both his hands. Unfortunately, when he was just four years old he had to get a kidney transplant and is surviving because of his Mom’s donation. Ironically, because he’s already on anti-rejection medication for the kidney doctors thought he’d be an ideal candidate for the double hand transplant. He is a super kid and seems so grateful for his Mom and life. “So when I got my hands, it’s like, here’s the piece of my life that was missing. Now it’s here. My life is complete” (NBC article). We always think our lives will feel complete when we have a spouse, more money, a home, children… but imagine just feeling like having hands (something we take for granted every single day) could change your life. Humbling.


Happy Humpday, friends!


Humpday Happy Five // Volume IV

August 17, 2016


It’s Wednesday, which can only mean one thing: my weekly Humpday Happy Five! I started this recurring feature to help myself (and you!) get over the mid-week hump by sharing 5 things on the internet making me happy this week. In case you need some extra happiness, check out Volume 1, 2 and 3.


1. New Zealand runner stops to help American runner in Olympics

Ian Walton:Getty Images

Ian Walton: Getty Images

So often we see the political side of the Olympics. We focus on the controversy, the drug tests, the medal counts and how sad it is that Brazil really was too poor of a country to host such a huge event. Thankfully, every Olympics has a few stories highlighting true sportsmanship and they restore our faith in humanity and have us reaching for the tissues. During the 5000m run (yes, that’s like 12.5 laps around…) it often gets crowded and accidents happen. New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin stumbled and accidentally tripped the U.S.’s Abbey D’Agostino. Hamblin waited to help her up, telling her they’ve got to finish! They started running before D’agostina was down again, but they both eventually made it to the finish line. It’s such a beautiful example of sportsmanship AND they both got the pass to run in the 5000m finals! Read the full story HERE.


2. The most heartbreaking-happy-sad comic you’ll ever read. If you’re a dog lover that is….


I really don’t have to say much about this. And if it doesn’t make you cry I’m silently judging you and assuming your heart is made of ice. Also, I can’t look at Saunders the same with this morning. Dog things, man. They get me! [original source]


3. Dad develops video game for 1o year old autistic son

Stéphane Cantin has created this game for players to experience life the through Max, his son who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “This retro-inspired RPG gives players not only a unique gaming experience, but an insight into a world many people have never seen,” The game description reads, “While the visualisation of the beasts may be fantasy, the emotions and frustrations they represent are very real for a lot of people” [source]. I just couldn’t believe how adorable it is that a father would go to such great lengths for a son, and these types of stories really are my favourite! Oh, and it kind of reminds me of this Reply All episode about a Dad who makes a video game to experience what it’s like to lose your young son to cancer. The stories are sad, but the love these men have for their children is beautiful and happy.


4. An abused and abandoned pig becomes a cuddly family pet

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 11.43.26 AM













Meet Koa, which means ‘Warrior’ in Hawaiian. He ran away after being beaten with a crow bar, and was found with severe injuries and maggots living inside his wounds. Absolutely heartbreaking. After being hospitalized (and losing one of his ears in surgery) and rehabilitated, he now cuddles and hangs out with his human siblings, and it couldn’t be more cute. You can read the full story here, and watch the video because it kept auto playing with music and it was annoying!


5. Final touchdown scored by player with Down’s Syndrome and both teams celebrate

Okay, people rallying together to support someone is my biggest weakness when it comes to happy cries. When flash mobs were everywhere I was permanently crying, so of course this video would give me all the happy feels. Especially because these are high school boys! You know, the ones who are often getting into trouble, picking fights and learning how to cope with all their hormones ;). So, seeing both of these teams celebrate and cheer for Seth McGee as he ran down the field was amazing! Read the full article here.

Happy Humpday, everyone!


Humpday Happy Five // Volume III

August 10, 2016


I’m back with the latest volume of Humpday Happy Five, where I share 5 things on the internet making me happy this week. If you’re looking for extra boosts of happiness, you can look at Volume I and II as well!


1. The Biggest Hearted Math Genius: Tai


Meet Tai. He’s a fair bit older now, but those are pictures I took of him and his Mum, Nicky, at a really cool yoga event. Even then I could tell he had the biggest heart, and his story on this week’s Sleepover podcast was a reminder of his tenderness. In the podcast “Sook-Yin Lee and three complete strangers share a hotel room for one night. Each comes with a problem and with Sook-Yin’s help, they spend the next 24 hours exploring what’s bothering them and how to make it better.” (from the CBC site)

Tai absolutely loves math and science and is undoubtedly a genius in the field. He can solve the toughest math problems, and loves that everything in math and science makes sense. Unfortunately, his grandfather in New Zealand is very ill with pancreatic cancer and that is one problem Tai can’t solve because it really doesn’t make sense. I wanted to share some quotes from the 27 minute podcast with you, but I don’t want to spoil the best parts because you really should take a listen. Tai opens up about love, loss, math, science, God, feeling helpless, cancer and more. Your heart will simultaneously break and grow three sizes while you listen. You can check out the podcast here.


2. Olympic medalist Sandy Mainville gets surprised by her parents

There is no explanation necessary with this tear-jerking video. Sandy and her team had just won Bronze in the swim relay, when her parents secretly flew to Brazil to surprise her. And of course CBC got it all on video. Olympics, man. Might as well just call them the two week cry fest!


3. Strong women lift each other up!

feminism gif

This is a super simple GIF, but like many looped videos I find it fascinating that it keeps going and going and going. I could watch it forever. I love that it’s a such a simple, yet powerful reminder that if we keep lifting each other we all go up! The artist’s name is Libby Vanderploeg and I love her work, and of course her instagram. If I lived in NY I would totally attend one of her Sip + Sketch meet ups where she helps you learn how to draw while sipping wine!

4. Kiara Nirghin, 16, creates a polymer to fight drought

Kiara Nirghin

South Africa is experiencing the worst drought in recorded history. In Johannesburg, 16 year old Kiara Nirghin created a super absorbent polymer (SAP) using orange peel and avocado skins “capable of storing reserves of water hundreds of times its own weight, forming reservoirs that would allow farmers to maintain their crops at minimal cost” (CNN). This is also amazing because it’s cost-efficient, so it won’t hurt the budget. How cool is that? This genius invention also won her Google’s Community Impact Award, which she absolutely deserves. You can read the full story here.


5. Ursula McCafferty, 95, wins $30k in the lottery and buys a….


new cell phone. With five children, twelve grandchildren and four great-grandchildren she knew she wanted to share her winnings with her family (everyone got at least $2000), and put the rest in a trust. But not until she bought a bigger cell phone. “I had a little one and it didn’t do anything. I don’t want to be one of these people that has my thumb stuck on my phone all the time but I want to be able to look up the weather and be able to send a photo” (Yahoo). And now she certainly can! Read the full story here.



Inspiration, Life & My Dog

An Essay on Friendship: To My Best Friend Sonja

August 8, 2016

Untitled 2

No one really teaches you how to be a good friend. There is no manual on friendship, and even if there was we are all different and our expectations and needs are unique. Of course there’s an entire section in bookstores on Relationships, but the focus is always on romance, rarely platonic friendships. Yet we value those relationships as much as (or more than) we value romantic relationships. Friends are the family we choose, and they are there for us through everything. This I can say is true as I’ve been the recipient of this loyalty, and it is no longer just a cliche to me anymore. Friends really are there through everything.

It’s so easy to make friends when we’re kids. Go up to kid on playground. Ask to play. Tell them you want to be friends. Repeat. Sometimes an occasional recess snack sharing is involved, but that’s pretty much it. We have so many friends when we are kids, in part because everyone we meet becomes a friend but also because our lives are simple and so being a good friend is a lot easier.

I was in elementary school when I met Sonja. She was really tall, kind of loud (but in a good way) and hilarious. She exceled at sports, the teachers loved her, and she had so many friends. But not just the cool kids, see, Sonja was everyone’s friend. I was pretty excited to become her friend and felt especially stoked that she invited me to register for hip hop dance classes at a new studio not far from our house (this would later become my second home for the next 12 years and had a great impact on the person I became, so, thank you Sonja). Although she quickly learned hockey, ringette and volleyball were more her thing, she stayed in dance a little longer to appease me, but also came to watch and support me. Oh, and how could I forget that I roped her into raising money for kid’s cancer research and shaving our heads together at the end of grade 6. If entering junior high with a buzz cut isn’t a sign of a loyal friend I don’t know what is!

Junior high was relatively painless (once our hair grew in 😉 hehe), and I am the first to admit it’s in part because I had Sonja. Of course putting hundreds of pubescent and hormonal girls (and guys) together is a recipe for drama, Sonja always had my back. It didn’t really matter how much another girl could my feelings, because I knew Sonja would make sure I was okay and felt important, and she would even stick up for me. Plus, Sonja was Sonja (those who know her know exactly what I mean). Somehow she went through junior relatively unscathed and I think it’s because she knew who she was and was who she was. She was never trying to be anyone else, she was just Sonja. Tall, loud, easy going, funny and friends with everyone. I really admired her ability to be herself and I would often try being more myself because of her example. Looking back I find it remarkable that she was able to be so confident and awesome at 14.

Not much changed through high school and university, except that we were both city hopping for school from LA, to Lethbridge, to Toronto, to Norway and more. Sonja has consistently remained Sonja: best friend to all, tall, funny, great at sports, smart and well-loved by all she knows. We’ve always stayed in touch (like she full on wrote me letters and sent gifts from Norway! Who does that?), but we really got close again in the last couple years. And I am so glad we did.

This spring my life turned completely upside down. Everything I knew and loved was taken from me, and I experienced a betrayal like no other. I didn’t know who I was, I physically couldn’t function, and at times felt completely alone. No one prepared me for the heartbreak, confusion and profound loss I was feeling. So, certainly no one could have prepared Sonja on how-to-handle-a-best-friend-living-across-the-country-going-through-the-worst-thing-she-will-likely-ever-have-to-go-through (aside from sicknesses and deaths, but we don’t want to think about that yet). Yet, somehow Sonja knew exactly what to do. And for those of you looking to be a good friend to someone who’s suffering, take notes now.

Sonja called. She texted. She answered her phone while in New York for work, while in LA for work, and while in Nashville for a fun trip, as each time I sobbed with more and more bad news. She consistently made me feel like being there for me was more important than going to the pool or hanging with her boyfriend (thank you Nick for being so supportive). And when the daily texts from so many amazing people in my life started to fizzle a bit (which I totally understand and I don’t want to downplay all the wonderful people in my life who still check in on me, but really I can’t expect everyone to check on me every single day. That’s absurd and I still wonder how Sonja still does it) Sonja kept calling. She still texted. When I was home in Calgary for a month she had me over, she distracted me with her baking, she brought me on errands, and she talked to me. Most importantly she listened. She never judges me and always tries to see my side. And while she may not handle things similarly if she was experiencing them (and sometimes tells me I’m too kind and nice), she still understands I’m doing what’s best for me. She always has my best interests at heart.

It’s been almost 3 months since I felt like my life ended. Sonja has helped me see that it’s just the beginning. She has helped me remember that I’m still the same person I’ve always been, and people and circumstances don’t define me. In my darkest moments (which there have been many) she has helped me see the light. And she has somehow convinced me that I am smart, and sexy, and awesome when I was sure I wasn’t. She has never made me feel bad or resented me for talking about myself too much, or complaining or just full on crying on the phone. And when good things happen, she is the first to cheer me on. She knows every detail of my life for the last 3 months, and what is especially remarkable is that she cares about everything. She remembers the details, she asks about them and even reflects on my life on her own time.

Sonja has called me every single day since that awful day a few months ago. She used to call me for her 25 minute drive to work but it seems like that wasn’t enough time for us to cover everything and lately she’s started calling me while she gets ready in addition to the drive. I walk Saunders and she gets ready while we talk. Every. Single. Day. Sometimes after work too, and often even on weekends. Plus, we’re obviously still texting and snap chatting throughout the day too. And while these daily phone calls each on their own are rather small, they, as a whole have changed my life. I get out of bed because I look forward to that morning chat.

I’m not sure how I will ever properly be able to repay or even thank Sonja for the profound impact she has had on me in my life, and especially these last few months. But the thing about Sonja is that she’s completely selfless and expects nothing. In fact, she will probably be embarrassed I’m even talking about her in this way, because I don’t think she even thinks it’s a big deal :). And that’s because she is Sonja.

Today is her birthday. I know the world got a little brighter and better on August 8, 1988. My life sure did. I always knew Sonja was someone special, as I’ve never seen someone be part of so many bridal parties and be called a Best Friend so much in my life! But now I really know why Sonja is special: she really cares. Sure, she’s hilarious, witty, kind, fun and awesome but she does everything with her heart. She is the most thoughtful, loyal, caring person I’ve ever known and truthfully, when I think too hard about her I cry. I am so, so lucky.

Happy Birthday, Sonja. Thank you for being born, for introducing me to Absolute Dance (which would change my life), for shaving your head with me and for helping me through what will hopefully be the hardest thing I’ll have to go through. You have taught me so many things, but most importantly how to be the greatest friend ever. You deserve all of the best things in life, including nachos, beer, Netflix, and Nick. I am immensely grateful for you and wish you all the best today. I only wish I could be bringing you lunch and the most cry-induced birthday hug imaginable. I have a feeling this is going to be the start of your best year yet. I love you, forever.

Love, your B-B-A-B-F <3




…. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend like Sonja, call or text them and thank them. Also, try and be like Sonja. I know I sure am. The world would be a much better place if everyone had and was a Sonja. And if you want to wish my bestie a special birthday wish, send her a text: 403-990-9299 🙂

Social Media, Tips

How to Use Instagram Stories

August 8, 2016

Earlier this week “Instagram Stories” was released, and the internet had a (not so) small conniption fit about how much they copied Snapchat stories. And you know what? They kind of did, only in some ways it’s better. I’m not here to tell you all of the reasons you should dislike Instagram Stories (I saw a post that said “RIP Instagram, you were fun while you lasted”), because I never feel that’s helpful, and whenever we blow up about changes we always get used to them after a week or two anyway. My philosophy is to focus on the positives of the things you cannot change, and Instagram stories is no exception.

Introducing Instagram Stories from Instagram on Vimeo.


5 Reasons to Love Instagram Stories

1. It’s all in one place

I’m guilty of jumping on a platform, telling my followers from other platforms to follow me there…. and then fizzling out on said new platform. *Cough cough* Periscope. I haven’t been on there in months! This is the reason I’ve never promoted my Snapchat to my followers – it’s only for close friends and it’s not a name I use for any other handles. I don’t want to feel obligated to be creating compelling content because I’m encouraging my followers to be there. So, I’m happily testing out Instagram stories but if I decide it isn’t working for me I can stop. And my followers will still be there following my regular feed.

2. It’s intuitive.

Especially for first time users. Sure, it takes a few minutes and some swiping around to get the gist of it, but it’s a lot easier than Snapchat. I remember having to ask my friends how to get the face lenses, and how to put an emoji on a certain part of a clip in the snap.

3. Simple design.

I know, I know, everyone is upset that Instagram doesn’t have the cool face lens filters of Snapchat, but to be honest I kind like it. My snapchat feed is typically of my dog being cute, or me just trying out all the filters. With Instagram stories I’m having fun actually attempting to tell a story by talking to the camera, or photographing something worthwhile because I can’t rely on hilarious filters and face swaps to do the work for me. I also love that there’s only the ability to make a story for all your followers (unless hidden from some). I find that when someone sends me a Snap, I wonder if it was just for me, or for everyone or if it’s also in their story and do I need to respond if I was also sent it personally? Too many questions and options take away from simplicity.

4. You can watch stories of people you don’t follow

At the top of your home feed you’ll see stories from people you follow as well as suggested popular accounts, but if you go to someone’s page and they have the rainbow circle around their profile photo you can watch their story too (with a public account). This is kind of cool because sometimes it’s fun to check out different stories now and then without committing to “adding them as a friend” the way you have to in Snapchat.

5. It’s only going to get better.

Facebook and Instagram basically own everything (including our souls) so we might as well embrace what they throw at us. I noticed that Facebook has acquired some new companies in the last year, including two computer vision/augmented reality companies, a visual effects (face-swapping) company and a spatial audio company. This can only mean one thing: watch out Snapchat. I have a feeling Instagram Stories is only going to get bigger and better!

How to Use Instagram Stories


Learn how to create and watch stories:

Start on your home newsfeed and you’ll see all the stories of people you follow and are popular or suggested to you. You’ll also always see your current story (if you have one) on the far left. You can click it to watch yours.


Use photos/videos in your camera roll:

While you’re in the camera mode for your story just swipe down and you’ll see your camera roll! I had not figured this out until my super savvy friend Jill showed me how! You can still add text or filters to the existing photo the way you would if you snapped it live. But, it only shows your camera roll from the last 24 hours! (To try and be sneaky and cheat the 24 hour rule I tried editing some photos in VSCO cam and saving to camera roll one time it worked and the other two times it didn’t show up once I was in my Instagram Story….)


Play around with the text options:

Umm, hello neon! It’s a game changer! And the different thicknesses of brushes really won me over! Plus, look at how awesome Saunders looks with laser eyes, or me recreating my favourite snapchat filter! 😉


Experiment with filters:

Okay, so they don’t have the filters that magically make your skin flawless and your teeth whiter but Snapchat was starting to give me a false sense of reality! I’m sort of enjoying the more artistic film style filters that keep it simple in Instagram stories. Oh, and to change filters swipe right while you’re in camera/story mode.



Learn who’s watching and the basic analytics:

I think it’s really awesome that there is no way to “like” or “comment” (other than sending a message about a story) on someone’s story. There’s validation in someone watching, but we don’t have to worry so much about the psychology of why someone viewed and didn’t like, etc. This also means that people can see when you watch their stories. In my opinion if you’re going to be a frequent lurker of someone’s Instagram Story you should consider following and “liking” a few pictures now and then! To get to this menu go to your story -> click on the number at the bottom or swipe up.


Well, there you have it folks! What do you love or hate about Instagram Stories? I hope you’ll share with me! And if you want to follow me (and my stories!) on instagram, you can find me at @botcomm.