City’s magic fades, world seems darker – Written on September 5, 2005 and originally posted in USA Today and the Montreal Gazette

New Orleans was on my list of places to visit before I die. Well, in March 2003, I decided to make that dream a reality. My sister and I headed off to that wonderful, magical, mysterious city.

When people think of New Orleans, the image of Mardi Gras usually surfaces. But there is more to that amazing city:

• Cafe du Monde, with its dark, rich coffee and its powdered doughnuts. Sitting in the cafe watching people pass is one of my fondest memories. The cafe may not be there anymore.

• Getting out of the airport and feeling that scorching heat and a wonderful, laid-back atmosphere. It was hard to believe it was the United States.

• Warm and friendly people, with a Southern drawl and a hospitality that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. I wonder how many of those people are gone now.

• A streetcar that takes you back to another place and time.

• The majestic trees in the Garden District that have existed longer than most can remember. I wonder whether their strong trunks held.

• The cemeteries through which the wonderful and mysterious history of New Orleans could be discovered. Some things are irreplaceable.

• The French Quarter — an inexplicable mixture of culture and debauchery that cannot be found anywhere else.

• The jazz that could be heard on every corner at any time of the day. Where are those wonderful sounds now?

When I took a tour of the city, our guide told us to take a good look because one day, in our lifetime, New Orleans would probably sink and cease to be. I never would have thought that not two years later, it might actually come to pass.

A world without the richness and vibrancy of New Orleans … everything seems a little darker and quieter now, don’t you think?

I long for the day …

For years, we have been hearing this argument … being gay can be controlled, being gay is not normal, being gay goes against peoples’ beliefs and being gay goes against the traditional values instilled in society.

Homosexuality has existed in humans and other creatures since before any time any of us remembers … and can anyone tell me why? Because it is normal and it is part of how some of us were created. Telling someone they can choose not to be gay is like telling me I can choose not to be straight. I am straight. I love men and nothing can make me change my mind because it is who I am … it is my nature. I was born that way.

Religious nuts will argue that the bible says this and that … these are the same people who read the bible literally and don’t understand that the bible is full of allegories and parables … it is not meant to be taken on a literal note. But I suppose the same people who oppose gay people would not understand that concept.

Even for those traditionalists who are opposed to the “gay concept” on the grounds that our traditional family values are being altered, why can’t that be seen as a good thing? We are adapting and evolving and for humans, isn’t that the best way for us to better ourselves, our environment and our society?

We live in a world of hatred … humans appear to naturally always go in that direction … war is always happening in one corner of the world or another (and sometimes even in our back yards). Why is it so wrong for a group of people, who are not unlike you and me, to want the right to love who they want and to be able to share that love with their friends and family?
How I long for a day when it is not gay and straight, black and white, male and female … how I long for a day when we are all just people, living together in a peaceful world … when my neighbours can consist of families who love and respect each other, kids who are growing up in households full of love with parents who care for them and raise them right … what a glorious day that will be.

2014 – The year that was …

Well, as they say, another year has come and gone. I always like doing the year-end roundup and thinking back on the milestone moments that shaped me, whether good or bad. I think of everything in life as a learning experience … everything is a reason to become smarter, and kinder and wiser. This year was no different. This year was a special year for me on a personal level; the year I turned 40.

Funny when you think back to all the things that help shape a year, you remember your life in flashes. As if they took place in the flashback scenes of a movie.

  • We had a provincial election. It is always a stressful time for Anglophones in QC. We take stock of our life; decide what we are going to do when the next referendum happens … do we move before or after? So many questions. We get a reprieve for 4 years, but we are always aware that eventually, we’ll be back there again.
  • I went away for my birthday. I went to New York City and spent 3 glorious days with my bff. We went to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch and then met Neil Patrick Harris, who has always been one of my favourite people in the world, not to mention an amazing talent. He called me sweet … Lili got in on video … I will never forget it. We also went to experience Sleep No More, which was by far, one of the life altering moments of my life. I can’t describe it to you all. Something that must be experience to be understood. My 40s started off amazing.
  • I got to meet yet another member of the fellowship of the ring … that brings my total to 3. I hope to meet all 9 eventually. What a great day that will be.
  • Through a crazy, random happenstance, I became friends with a lovely, sweet girl this year. I don’t make friends easily and this was such a great surprise … she has quickly become one of my favourite people in the world and I can’t wait to dance (and possibly dress up in costume) for her wedding soon.
  • I went to my first adult Halloween costume party and it was amazing!
  • By far, the most unbelievable event of my life happened at Montreal Comiccon this year. First of all, I was asked to put on a charity screening of Serenity. Then I was asked to be staff at the event for the whole weekend. I met so many amazing people that I consider myself lucky to know. I hope that this will continue for many years to come. I now can’t imagine ever NOT being a part of such an awesome event, put together by a great group of people. Spending the entire weekend with a bunch of geeks was perfection.

Of course there were other highlights … other little moments that I won’t forget. I saw a bunch of movies, most of which were excellent. Guardians of the Galaxy was my favourite of the year … performance of the year goes to Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything, who blew me away.

I got to spend a lot of time with my bff, my mom, my sis and brother in law. At the end of last year, I decided I would get rid of the negative people in my life and I have managed to do that for the most part so 2014 was a much happier year for me.

I can’t end the year without saying something about the smaller “people” in my life. My little kitty Mimi is the highlight of my life and without her, I would be a lonely, sad person. She brings me so much joy, such peace and so much laughter that I couldn’t imagine my life without her. Our first family pet, however, is my sister’s beautiful cat Nooni. She is by far the loveliest, sweetest, most talkative little one I have ever met. She got sick this year and it looks like maybe, very shortly we won’t have her around any longer. And that makes me so sad. She is almost 17 years old, and although we know she is getting old, it doesn’t make accepting her fate any easier. Although I know for sure, if ever someone is going to go to heaven, it’s her. She will be missed more than she knows. And she is loved more than she knows. She changed our lives and the past 11 years would have been rotten without her. We are blessed to have known her and when her time comes, I am comforted in knowing that she will be with my dad and that one day, we will see both of them again.

So, thus my year comes to an end … I started this blog at the beginning of 2014 in the hopes that I can write a good story … we are all, after all, stories in the end. I wonder if the one I write in 2015 will be even better. Somehow I have a feeling it will be … a little birdie told me something amazing will happen.

Some thoughts as another phase of life looms near …

I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately. What was, what is and what has not yet come to pass (yes a LOTR quote). And on this, the last few days of my 30s, reevaluating life and some nostalgia are a part of the transition I suppose.

When I was little, 20 sounded amazing. That’s when you have fun … That’s when everying is new and exciting. Looking back, I know now, that it is also the time when you are the most confused about everything in life. Who you are, where you’re going … Social pressures and deadlines … By the time I reach 30, I have to accomplished a,b or c … It was a fun time, but I was thrilled when my 30s rolled around.

I turned 30 and threw a big party for myself. It was going to be an amazing decade. I was still finding myself and until I turned 35, I was still looking … For something to ground me, to make me grow up. I went back to school, thinking that would be the answer but alas, apart from meeting wonderful people, nothing came out of that. Then my dad got sick and the 7 months that followed made me the person I am today. Although all things shape us throughout our lives, nothing made me want to live more than seeing my father dying. Others saw that time as a negative moment in time, but I don’t see it that way. Although I miss him every day, my dad’s death woke me up to something very real and very imminent. Life is short … We are not here for long and we have to grab every single instant we can. And we have to enjoy it.

So 2 weeks after his death, I bought a condo and moved in a few months later. At the same time, I met my one true love … My little kitty Mimi, who has been the one constant companion I was always looking for. I love her more than i thought was even possible and during those times when all i want to do is cry, she will do something that makes me laugh. I learned to cook and clean for myself … I learned to pay bills and I learned what it’s like to be dumped and to be jobless, the latter of which occurred the day before I moved into my new home. So needless to say my late 30s have taught me everything I need to know about the possible trials and tribulations of life. And yet I keep learning.

So my 40s are days away now and I wonder what I can expect. If my mom lives a fairly long life, we will probably lose her at some point in the next decade. If we’re lucky, she’ll still be around for my 50th birthday, but realistically, I suspect this is the last decade i will spend with her. So I have chosen to spend a lot of time with her. Some people think I was pathetic for living with my parents well into my 30s, but truth be told, I wouldn’t have traded my time with them for anything in the world. Because everything has its time and that was ours, together.

I am hoping for more quality time with everyone I love. Besides my sis and brother in law, my friends are my family. I love them all and I hope the next decade means more good times and shared special moments. I am hoping that work continues to be a small part of my life … A place that I go to in order to pay my bills … My job has never, and will never define me. We are so much more than that.

I hope I get to spend more time doing the things I love … The things that keep me feeling young and excited about life. Right now, it’s all about conventions and hanging out with my fellow geeks … A community that accepts my craziness and quirkiness for what it is. I hope my fundraising continues because giving back to the world is the way to keep good karma on your side … What goes around, comes around. I hope I never lose the ability to get excited about little things in life … The new awesome movie coming out or treating myself to a manicure.

Finally, in a reveal for most of you (or maybe you already knew), this will most likely be my final decade in north America. By 50, I will be living in my beloved UK, which I have dreamt about since I was a child. It is the place where I left my soul … Probably in another life. It calls to me daily …. Reaches out to me in so many ways. It will probably be the most courageous thing I will ever do in my life, but I can’t live here, when my soul is somewhere else. It’s time body and soul met. It’s time they lived as one.

So with that, dear friends, my 30s are on their way out and my 40s make their way in. I will be travelling on the day of my bday, which is my favourite thing in the world to do. A girls’ weekend with one of my favourite people in the world. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate. And when I get back, life will go on as normal. Except everything will have changed. Everything …

The Vulcan way to vote … logic over emotion should always rule the day

On this, the eve of yet another QC provincial election, the issue is the same. As with other elections, this is in fact a referendum on another referendum. It is never just an election here. It is always and forever a choice between voting for a party that will try its damndest to rip Canada apart, and all other parties. It should be a vote that comes from the head, but alas, it is always a vote from the heart.

If it had been a vote that comes from the logical side of the brain, the PQ would never stand a chance. Or the party would have already morphed into a party that represents the good of the province. A party that wants to create jobs, that is inclusive and welcoming … a party who sees the bonus in having a society, one of the few in North America, that speaks at least 2 languages fluently. It would be a party that would not be trying to split Canada apart, but rather, it would be trying to influence the rest of the country to look at it as an example and a model. A party that would show the world that the English and the French can work side by side to create a province that stands high above others in terms of quality of life and economy. They don’t see this. Emotion overtakes logic.

Instead, they live in a dream world. A world that they believe will include a prosperous QC outside of the country that it gets the most money from. Canada transfers 9 billion$ to QC a year … more than any other province gets. QC’s argument for not needing Canada is that they wouldn’t have to pay the 2 billion$ they send to the federal government every year. Did anyone do the math here? Apparently not. They think that if they win the referendum, the next day there would be a country called Québec, which according to the PQ leader, would have the same currency as Canada, no border and no passports. Uhm, hello? How is that a separate country? Rules would have to be undone and rewritten, the constitution would need to be remade and ALL provinces would need to agree to let QC split Canada apart. Yet again, emotion overtakes logic.

And this time, they have added the charter of “values” to the election platform and again, they are imposing values on us, just like they imposed language. They want to make QC inclusive by excluding people according to their language and their religion and their culture. They believe that by making everyone the “same”, they are respecting or adhering to some never-before-seen values. The cross at the national assembly is a cultural symbol, but the hijab, worn voluntarily by Muslim women, is repressive. They ask them to remove the hijab, when all that will do is force them to stay at home and not go out to find work at hospitals and daycare centers, where they will be forbidden from wearing this beautiful headscarf. If they really want to erase sexism from the workplace, they should ask all women to stop showing cleavage, wearing high heels and short skirts and anything else that they wear in order to attract men. If it works one way, it should work the other way, too. I don’t agree with either one of these cases, because I am a strong believer that people should be able to wear, or not wear, what they want. The government can’t start getting involved. This is a very slippery slope.

The next government could decide that speaking your mother tongue on the street is offensive, or that selling books in other languages goes against its “values” and then we’re working our way towards a place I don’t want to go; somewhere circa 1940 in Europe where book burning became commonplace and so many worse things happened. I’m pretty sure no one wants to go there again.

So when you go to the polls on April 7, keep in mind for whom you are voting.  Remember, the choice you make that day will show the world the person you are. I am hoping that I am wrong about most Quebecers. I fear, sadly, that I am not. I hope they prove me wrong.

10 years of Facebook

Does anyone remember life before Facebook? I certainly do, but it was different; very, very different.  On this very auspicious birthday (10 years ago today, Facebook came to life), I thought it might be nice to share with everyone my views on Facebook and why I think it changed our world.

In 2007, I logged on to Facebook for the first time. I can’t say I remember the exact moment it happened. I used to be an active member of MySpace and this seemed like the next exciting thing, so I thought, why not?

It’s strange to look back at all the posts I’ve made and all the status updates. It’s like having a written version of my life online. We don’t always think of what can happen to us in the span of 7 years, but on Facebook, you see your life flash in front of you, literally.

There have been a lot of positive and a lot of negative aspects to this popular social networking tool. Cyberbullying is the first negative one I can think of. Before Facebook, bullying occurred on school grounds, at recess. It was easier to see, and in a way, bullies these days are more cowardly than before (although all bullies are cowards in the end). Bullying someone you don’t have to look at face to face must be a lot easier, which is why I have a strong belief, it has caused this terrible phenomenon to increase in frequency and severity. Unfortunately, the results have been disastrous.

Many blame Facebook … but is that really fair? Bullying was always around. I remember being bullied as a kid. They now have a new outlet for their attacks, but they probably would have found one anyway. A bully will always be a bully and this will always be around. Until the punishment for these acts equals the effect they have on the kids that take the brunt of them, nothing will ever change.

I have had many positive, wonderful experiences on Facebook. I have reconnected with people I lost contact with, friends I had missed. I made friends with new people through shared experiences and common interests. When I think about all that’s happened in my life in the past 7 years, I find it absolutely amazing that I can go back and relive it all online. From the very silly (having a glass of wine with supper tonight) to the very sad (announcing to friends and family the passing of my amazing dad), Facebook has been through it all with me, and in turn, so have all my friends. We have become closer because of it and although many of these friends have come and gone from my list, the ones that remain are the ones I truly am thankful for.

When Facebook inevitably ceases to exist, I would like to think that I will keep in touch with all these people.  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. One never knows what the future holds. And maybe Facebook will lead to another site that will be even more significant and poignant to 1 billion active users in the world. Until that time, I am taking every silly, annoying and wonderful status update and appreciating it all. For life, and all that it contains, are a series of fleeting moments. And for the past 10 years, Facebook has been there to record them all. 

TV has not made me an idiot …

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My parents come from Greece and I am proud to be a first-generation Canadian (although I think my mom is more Canadian than I am sometimes). One of my first memories in life is my dad reading me “paramithia” or fairy tales.  I also remember the influence the experience of watching TV had on me as a child. These days, TV is looked upon as bad and that it should never be used as a “babysitter”.  Personally, I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about.

My parents didn’t have any problem leaving us in front of the TV for a few hours while we were growing up. I remember watching Sesame Street (in fact, this is how my sister learned to speak English), Mr. Dress Up and Captain Kangaroo. I remember those shows kick-starting my imagination.  Saturday mornings were cartoon time: The Flintstones and The Jetsons were my favourites. I remember running home from Greek School on Saturday afternoons to watch American Bandstand. I remember quality time with my mom watching Dynasty and Dallas … quality time with my dad watching hockey and soccer. These were family bonding moments for us. We sat around, we translated most of the shows for my parents, and we talked about what was happening … it is one of the things I remember most about my childhood.

TV remains a huge part of my life. My favourite way to relax after a rough day at work is to put on my favourite TV show and escape reality for a while. There is a lot of quality TV on these days (along with some not-so-quality TV and some guilty pleasures). I don’t judge people’s choices in what they want to watch. If they enjoy it, and it speaks to them, in one way or another, then it’s their choice.

I always remember feeling like I was part of something culturally important when those big events happened: Who Shot JR?; Series finale of M.A.S.H.; Luke and Laura’s wedding on GH; Rachel and Ross finally getting together on Friends; Tina Fey’s perfect impersonation of Sarah Paley; the brilliant Joss Whedon’s Firefly being cancelled after just half a season (the anger remains) … those are just a few among countless others that I have experienced.

2013 was a particularly special year for that kind of momentous occasion. The Doctor Who 50th anniversary special was epic. The same TV show telecast internationally, simultaneously on TV and in cinemas brought about an excitement that I had years to experience. In fact, I don’t remember ever living through something like that. I am a Whovian … proudly so. I started watching it from the first airing of the reboot in 2005. It has become a show that I hold very close to my heart. I watch it with my whole family and many friends and while we don’t always agree on our favourite episode or our favourite doctor, we always agree that when you get into it, and you love it, you will always love it.

All these moments have shaped my world and have made me the person I am today. And for those who think that raising kids on TV brings them up to have no imagination, or makes them dumb, overweight or recluses, I would just like to add this. I write short stories and poems in my spare time, reading is one of my favourite things in the world to do, I graduated high school on the honour roll and went on to get a Master’s degree from a world renowned university. I am a geek who loves to mingle with other geeks, both online and in person, I love being surrounded by family and friends and I love to travel. I have several tattoos. I am very friendly and not shy.  Finally, I watch TV every single night when I get home from work and I workout at the same time. And once in a while, my bff and I will have a movie day where we just watch movies all day and eat junk food. That is ALSO ok.

On Saturday of this week, I will be getting 2 more tattoos, celebrating and honouring 2 of my favourite TV shows of all time (photos to be added). They represent who I am right now in my life. Some people think those are the wrong kind of tattoos to get. It depends what tattoos mean to you. To me, they are a representation of where I am at different moments of my life. This year I will be 40 and I wanted to commemorate that huge milestone with tattoos that represent my particular love for 2 TV shows that I feel have shaped me in one way or another.

And remember, leaving your kids in front of the TV for a few hours doesn’t make you bad parents. You can use the time to teach them about the world, about entertainment, about values and morals and so many other wonderful things.

“Thanks to television, for the first time the young are seeing history before it is censored by their elders.” Margaret Mead
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2013 .. the year that was …

Well, another year has come and gone and I love to look back and remember the highlights, before looking forward the next year.

In 2013, I understood a lot more about life and what it means to get older; we held the final memorial service for my dad, and although he will always remain the most important man in my life, I am glad to not have to go through that again; my family and friends remain the most important part of my life and making new friends from here and all over the world, will always be important to me; I cleaned out a lot of people in my life who brought negative energy and will continue to do so until my last breath; I am the happiest I have been in a long time in my life and turning 40 will only help clarify and ground me even more.

Now for the fun stuff:

 This was the year of conventions:

  • Ottawa Comic-Con
  • Fan Expo in Toronto
  • Montreal Comic-Con

I can’t believe I was blessed enough to meet Nathan Fillion twice in one year. And then I added Sean Astin to the mix and Stephen Amell to end it all.  Amazing. I met some awesome people at various events (you know who you are). It was definitely a memorable year.

 Movies were another big part of my year …

  • Gangster Squad
  • Lincoln (although we only got through half of it so not sure it counts)
  • Die Hard
  • Oblivion
  • Iron Man 3
  • Star Trek into Darkness (twice)
  • Man of Steel
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • We’re the Millers
  • Wolverine
  • World’s End (twice)
  • Serenity
  • Catching Fire (twice)
  • American Hustle
  • The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special

 Other entertainment events:

  • Billy Elliott
  • Rock of Ages
  • The Nutcracker
  • Britcom at Just for Laughs
  • MacBeth (National Theatre broadcast at the AMC)

All in all, I am thankful that I got to enjoy as much as I did this year. Entertainment, laughter and celebrating my passions with other, like-minded people, are always highlights for me. The older I get, the more I realize that we are only here for a short time period and we need to enjoy our time doing whatever it is that makes us happy.

 2014 is a huge year for me. I will be turning the big 4-0! I have been taking stock of my life lately, and have come to some minor and one major decision, all of which will be revealed as the time comes to fulfill them. I will start my year with my 2 wonderful tattoos coming in less than 2 weeks. They will be symbols of my passions and they will mark my 40th year on this earth.

 Some lessons I would like to impart: Don’t live for other people, don’t care about anyone’s opinion of you, don’t make unworthy people the center of your life, get rid of anyone that brings you down (no matter who they are), surround yourself with beauty and all things that make you happy and always remember …

 “We’re all stories in the end … make it a good one, eh?”