Inspiration, Life & My Dog

An Essay on Friendship: To My Best Friend Sonja

August 8, 2016

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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

 

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…. 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.

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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….)

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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! 😉

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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.

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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.

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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. 

Inspiration

Humpday Happy Five // Volume II

August 5, 2016

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In case you missed Volume I, this is my attempt to make you smile every Wednesday (Thursday this week… because of the long weekend) sharing 5 things that are making me happy!

So here we go:

 

1. // The amazing summer Netflix series, Stranger Things, was rejected 15-20 times by networks

Who here hasn’t either heard of or watched Stranger Things yet? I’m quietly judging you… 🙂 But seriously, this Spielbergian, Stephen Kingian inspired 80’s drama has the kids of Stand By Me and the Goonies, with the sci fi of Alien, and the timelessness of a summer blockbuster like ET. The casting is amazing and if you’re not watching you definitely should be. But this post isn’t about the show, it’s about this Rolling Stone article, where show creators Matt and Ross Duffer talk about being rejected 15-20 times before Netflix picked up the series. Executives didn’t understand how a show could have 4 kids as a the leads without being a children’s show, and so the Duffer brothers weren’t taken seriously. This makes me happy because it shows you that it doesn’t matter how many times you get rejected you need to keep trying! Tiffany Han of many-things-but-especially-the-podcast Raise Your Hand Say Yes has a program where she encourages you to get 100 rejection letters (and celebrates them!), because if people aren’t saying ‘no’ then you aren’t trying enough!

2. // Sisters Separated 40 Years Ago in Korea are Reunited as Co-Workers in a Florida Hospital

Yes, you read that right. But are you kidding me with this story? All the feelings when I read this article, which incidentally is from last fall but somehow I missed it! These women were both orphans in Korea, both grew up to become nurses, and were hired to work the same shift, on the same floor of a Florida hospital together! Imagine discovering your coworker was a long lost sister? Read the full story here.

 

3. // Slate’s Summer Strut Podcast

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Every summer the folks from Slate’s Culture Gabfest (one of the podcasts in my “60 Podcasts You Should Be Listening To” post) create a summer playlist. They feature the obvious songs like Drake’s One Dance, and Justin Timberlake’s Cant Stop the Feeling, but there were tons of songs I had never heard yet. And for any for those of you who work at home and are constantly looking for new music to listen to this has 22 hours worth of music! You’re welcome 🙂 [Oh, and here’s the full playlist on Spotify and the story about it in Slate)

 

4. // How Snapchat’s Filters Work

Have you ever wondered how an app like Snapchat has the seemingly advanced technology of those amazing filters? I have! And thanks to my friend Becca of Worker Bee Supply Co. for talking about this Vox feature on her snapchat. Turns out, a Ukrainian startup called Looksery invented the technology and Snapchat bought it for $150 million! I thought it was funny that Looksery’s “envisioned the app as a solution for people who feel insecure during video communication and want to modify [their] eye color, nose size, facial shape, and skin” [from Vox].

 

5. // Uber passenger raises money for her driver to see his son in Rio Olympics

Photo courtesy of People

Photo courtesy of Liz Willcock and Ellis Hill GoFundMe

Liz was in an hour long Uber ride through Philly and had quite an extensive conversation with her driver, Ellis. She learned that his son was competing for team USA in shot-put but he was unable to afford to go watch. She created a GoFundMe page, and raised the $7500 to send him there! Read the full story, here.

Next week we’ll be back on Wednesday – long weekends always throw me for a loop!

Social Media

July According to Instagram

August 3, 2016

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Is it just me, or does summer feel like it’s disappearing before our eyes? July sort of came and went in the blink of an eye, and while I’m excited for some cooler temperatures, I’m by no means ready for fall… or worse, winter! Here are a few of my July highlights:

  • I gave a little sneak peak about my 30 day online program in Personal Development and Branding that I’m hoping to be launching soon.
  • I happened to glance out the window of an otherwise difficult day to see the most beautiful rainbow beaming out of downtown.
  • Finally braved the long lineups to hit up a local ice cream shop.
  • Reminded everyone of an awesome conference in Portland that I’ll be speaking at in October (you should still totally come, by the way).
  • Headed to Calgary to surprise my Mum for her birthday and attend my 10 year high school reunion. Wowzer.
  • I felt super excited that my awesome waitress at Una Pizza in Calgary recognized me from my instagram!
  • Started Hump Day Happy highlighting 5 things every Wednesday that are making me smile
  • Wrote a pretty fun blog post about 60 Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

Well, there you have it! Bring it on, August!

 

Inspiration

Humpday Happy Five // Volume I

July 27, 2016

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I thought I’d start a weekly Wednesday post featuring 5 things that are making me happy this week. You know, give us all a little hump day boost!

Here goes:

1. // MØ – Final Song 

If you’re my Facebook friend, you would have seen my recent status about listening to one song on repeat when I run. Well, this is my song this week, and not just for running. I’m listening to it while I work, to dance around the living room, to pump me up, and while I cook and clean! I hope you like it too.

 

2. // The ALS Update

The video above is one of my favourite photographers, Anthony, doing the ice bucket challenge with Ellen. I am just including it in case you need a reminder (yeah right)! Anyway….one of my first friends in university’s name was Andrew, and his Dad had a rare condition called ALS or more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I remember asking Andrew all sorts of questions about what caused it, how his father communicated, and when he was diagnosed. I had never heard of this disease before. And then, a few years later, the viral ALS ice bucket challenge happened. Remember the summer of 2014 when we all poured ice and water over our heads and donated to the debilitating disease many of us knew little about? Some of us even wondered how pouring ice on our heads would really convert to change. It turns out all of those donations funding a groundbreaking gene responsible for ALS. Finding this NEK1 gene will help scientists and doctors start researching how the gene contributes to the disease to begin developing treatments. This is huge, and SO awesome!

 

3. // Elizabeth Banks’ Fight Song for the DNC

Inspired by the Pitch Perfect films, Elizabeth Banks produced this awesome video to Rachel Platten’s Fight Song, in support of Hillary Clinton. Regardless of your political views it has been incredibly inspiring to see a woman win the nomination. We still have a long way to go with sexism in our culture, but this is a beautiful beginning for change. I hope little girls (and boys too) are able to see that women can do and be whatever they want! And who doesn’t like seeing so many celebrities singing? People rallying together to support someone is like #1 on the list of things that make me cry.

 

4. // Tate McRae: So You Think You Can Dance

If you’ve followed me at all on social media it isn’t news that I’m kind of obsessed with my younger friend, Tate, on So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation. I might be biased because I’ve known Tate since she was born, but she is an absolutely brilliant dancer and person. And she’s barely 13! Everything about this show makes me happy and I look forward to Monday night when I get to watch this amazing kids perform. The show is extremely positive, and everyone is so supportive and you’re guaranteed to be smiling (and sometimes crying, or maybe that’s just me) while you watch! This routine in particular really struck a chord with me because Tate and Kathryn’s connection mixed with their talent, and of course’s Tate’s maturity as a dancer was everything!

 

5. // Family Reunited with Dog After 7 Years

A family in North Texas was reunited with dog, who had gone missing 7 years ago! Corky was microchipped, so they were hoping one day they would get the call, but years passed (and 2 more kids were born) and no sign of him. Fast forward several years and a good samaritan found three stray dogs on the side of the highway. Unfortunately, one of them didn’t survive, but the other two were taken to the shelter, which, incidentally was the same shelter the family had adopted Corky from years ago. And since Corky had bonded so well with his one-eyed buddy, Captain, the family decided to adopt him too! You can read the whole story HERE.