Thank You, Dessa

Her grave last year

Her grave last year

On October 19, 2012, I lost my grandmother, Dessa. It was the first time I ever experienced death first hand, and this week marks two years since that day.

When growing up, my brother and I stayed with my grandma quite often in Petersfield, which is close to Gimli and Selkirk. We would go with my grandpa to the local store and chat with the other residents, go fishing, and wander around Selkirk. We had pictures posing in front of the giant fish outside of the Smitty’s restaurant, and in front of the giant goose just outside of Petersfield. These weren’t my favourite times, though.

My grandma and I would spend hours flipping through the Sears Christmas catalogue. I would try my little best to help her make dinner. I would try to be sneaky and steal her mints, but she always knew. I would always set the dining room table, and my grandma made the best roast beef, perfectly cooked green beans, and of course mashed potatoes for my picky brother.

She was also a master at making cabbage rolls, and she had the best meatball soup. After we ate, we would always crowd around the table, pull out the dominoes, and play Chicken Foot. She was one of the only people I had ever met who still had a water bed, and I loved it. When I would go to bed, she would stay up late watching the CTV late night news, and I could always hear it from the bedroom. Back in the day, my grandpa was a truck driver, and my grandma had gotten used to staying up late waiting for him; she never broke that habit.

I was out with friends in July, 2012 when I got a phone call from my mom. She was insisting I come home immediately. I fought and fought with her, saying that I hadn’t seen my friends in awhile and that I would be home later that night. Then she dropped the news that my grandma was diagnosed with cancer. Not just any cancer, it was this rare cancer (I don’t remember the name, that wasn’t important), and it was terminal. They gave her six months.

In 2006 in her kitchen

In 2006 in her kitchen

Starting that day, we were driving out to see my grandparents almost every weekend, and sometimes more. It was easy to tell from day one that she was in pain, and there was nothing we could do about it.

By September, my grandma had stopped eating almost entirely. She would still insist on making dinner for others sometimes, but she would simply sit there and stare at her plate. She spent most of her time petting my dog, Sadie. Sadie would simply sit beside her for hours.

She would always ask us to come and sit and just talk with her. I was starting roller derby that October, so I would often show her pictures on my phone and tell her about how excited I was. She knew nothing about the sport, but she always listened and smiled.

One day when I wasn’t there, my mom told me about how my grandma was doing; she couldn’t remember my name for a moment. My grandma was asking my mom where I was, but kept blanking on my name until she eventually said, “your daughter!” My mom said she was frustrated by it, but just couldn’t remember at that time.

Then she was taken to the hospital in Selkirk.

She received high doses of pain killers and spent most of her time sleeping. When she did wake up, she would have small conversations with us, but this wasn’t the Dessa I knew my whole life, it was a woman in agony.

On October 17, I was visiting my friend working at Little Caesar’s and grabbing a pizza for dinner, when I got a frantic call from my mom telling me to head to the hospital right away. She said my grandma thought it might be her last day, and she wanted to see the family. My brother and I drove out there as fast as we could.

The second I walked in, my grandma grabbed onto my hand and squeezed it until I could barely feel the tips of my fingers. She started giving me her last bits of advice, telling me she loved me, and telling me to have fun with the world of roller derby. I don’t remember how long we stayed there, but my grandma held my hand the entire time, even when she fell asleep.

Dessa (middle) at her and my grandpa's 50th wedding anniversary

Dessa (middle) at her and my grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary

The next day, I skipped my university classes and went with my mom to the hospital, and my grandma was sort of right about it being her last day. She was still alive, but had basically been put to sleep with the amount of pain killers she was on. I think she woke up once that entire day, and it was only for one or two minutes.

My brother called me on October 19, saying my mom had called him frantic. He couldn’t understand what she was saying, he said, but we headed to the hospital.

As we walked up to my grandma’s room, I could just see my mom crying with my auntie trying to calm her down. We walked into the room and my mom managed to get out, “she’s dead” between her sobs.

I looked over at my grandma for one second, but had to look away. I didn’t want that to be my last memory of her.

I wanted to remember going to Grand Beach, going for dinner at Pete’s Place in Selkirk, helping her make the table, listening to her talk with my grandpa while they watched the late night news.

It’s been two years, and I still miss her all the time.

Rest in Peace Dessa. Thank you for helping to take care of me, for being a role model, for taking me out and teaching me things, for holding my hand and not letting it go even when you fell asleep.

My grandma with my grandpa back in the day. She was a babe.

My grandma with my grandpa back in the day. She was a babe.

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Too Much McD’s

I like food.

I mean, I really like food.

My biggest problem? I can’t cook if my life depended on it. I can make a mean salad… but, does that count? I’ve had people tell me that salad isn’t food. In fact, I was just watching American Dad and Stan made a comment about salad not being food.

Not only can I not cook, I can’t even bake. My specialty is these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but they sometimes turn out salty. I have no idea how when there’s less than half of a teaspoon in the entire batch. Even those cakes in a box, sure I can make them… but they look like they’ve been run over by a car by the time they come out of the oven. I’m the best at being a traditional woman, aren’t I?

Too much McDonald's

Too much McDonald’s

Back to the point. Since I really like food, and I can’t cook – at all, I eat out far too often. My regulars tend to be McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Shawarma Khan, more McDonald’s, Starbucks… and more McDonald’s. I even had so much food from Subway and Tim Horton’s during my post secondary “career” that it makes me shutter even thinking about those places.

So what’s the problem? It tastes good (for the most part), it’s easy, it’s cheap. The problem is I eat it far too often, which is incredibly unhealthy – especially with me not being to practice since school started – and it may be cheap, but it adds up far too quickly.

Let’s say I hit up McDonald’s twice a week for one month, and let’s say there’s four weeks in a month. An average Big Mac meal is about $10. That’s $80 a month and $960 a year. Owch. You know what I could buy with that? A new pair of skates, maybe a tablet or something, or even put money towards a new car that I so desperately need.

Since I’m only working one day a week right now, and I’m lucky if the shifts are over three hours, it’s not in my best interest to spend that kind of moolah on McD’s, no matter how tasty it is. Did I mention they have better (in my opinion) pumpkin spiced lattes than Starbucks? But this must stop.

So yes, this is my new challenge: only eat out once a week, at most. For now, this isn’t going to include drink purchases, because some days just require coffee But of course they don’t always need the fancy latte with whip cream on top.

To all my student friends out there who are sub-par cookers, how do you get by without buying McDonald’s more than once a week?

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Double Double Dance Dance

I’m sure if you asked many CreComms how this week was, they would just go “ughhhhhh” and walk away. I would be lying if I said I didn’t agree with them.

After two large assignments, multiple small assignments, and trying to keep up with work, friends, and, you know, exercise, things get a little hectic. Of course, I’ve been naughty and haven’t gone to roller derby practice because it’s just too big of a time commitment with so many other things to do, so I’ve been going back to one of my old forms of exercise.

2014-10-09 21.56.31Dance Dance Revolution.

This past summer, though, a friend and I found a new twist: DOUBLE mats for one person. It’s surprisingly a lot harder than you might think. We learned the hard way that the mats slide apart from each other, so we had to tape them together. And unless you have some magical sense of where your feet are below you without looking down, it’s difficult to hop from mat to mat and accurately hit the arrows.

It’s frustrating because DDR is something I’d like to think I’m actually good at, but I’ve never been the strongest at agility (especially jumping side to side with precision), so my friend would pass songs using the double mats with flying colours, and I would try my darndest and still end up with the “BOOO! AWWWW. GAME OVER.” Then the voice comes in attempting to be sympathetic saying, “There’s always a tomorrowww!”

Since agility is important in derby, and I’m sure important in the rest of life too, I’ve started trying to find even 10 minutes to get frustrated and get told to try again by the condescending man in the TV. It’s no roller derby when it comes to the amount of exercise, but I’d like to think it helps keep me somewhat agile, and helps with bursting speeds. Also, fun Japanese music. Who can get frustrated while listening to that, right?

Want to see how ridiculous this looks? Check out this video! I’m attempting to play a song called Kick the Can in the DDR Extreme game for PS2. Yes, I do realize I’m two consoles behind the times.

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Fryin’ Fritters

On my wonderful journey to try and stay healthy (ha), every time my mom and I would go to Canadian Tire or Walmart, I would come up with many reasons why she should not buy that deep fryer she’s always wanted. My main reason? If it’s there, I’ll eat it. If it’s not, I won’t. The saying “out of sight, out of mind” is probably the best way to describe my eating habits.

So far I have succeeded; my mother has not purchased that deep fryer. We’ve survived by doing everything with the oven and microwave, which has been just dandy.

Until my boyfriend thought it would be a good idea to buy one.

Of course, my “I’ll just bake everything in the oven” attitude kind of plummeted. Fries made in a deep fryer can’t even compare to the soggy crap that comes out of the oven. Deep fried pizza pops though… I think I could live without those. I could probably live without any kind of pizza pop, actually.

So, being healthy and all, one day we decided to deep fry apples into little fritter type things. Because apples are healthy regardless, right? Sure, I’ll just keep telling myself that.

What we ended up with were these little apple pieces that tasted kind of like mini donuts, but of course with apples in the middle.

What you’ll need (recipe found on

1 egg

2/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

Dash salt

5 large apples

First, beat the egg, milk, and oil into a bowl. Combine your dry ingredients and then add them into the egg mixture. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Cut up the apples (the recipe calls for rings, but we just did small chunks), dip them in the batter, and fry away! The oil you’re using to fry them should be at 375 degrees Fahrenheit in your pan or deep fryer.

After they’re cooked, mix the apple fritter things in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.

It says you can do this with a normal frying pan, but what’s the fun in that? We did unfortunately run into a few difficulties with the deep fryer. Mainly that the batter stuck to the basket, and we ruined the first batch since we had to slowly pick them off from the bottom of the basket.

My boyfriend tried adding flour to the batter covered apples to prevent them from sticking, which worked, but we realized that the apples actually float in the oil as long as they weren’t stuck to the basket. Instead of continuing with the basket, we put each apple chunk directly in the oil in the fryer and then scooped them out when they were finished.

What we got were the guys in the picture below! They may not be the most beautiful little apple things, but I’m pretty sure that deep fryers can turn almost any food delicious, which may be an awful, awful thing, but it’s fun to do something different once and awhile – but that’s the trick – keeping it to only once and awhile.


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Be Big, Be Confident

When our Writer’s Craft instructor first told us this to help calm our nerves, I didn’t understand why it was useful. The idea is to make your body as physically big as possible – stretch out your arms, stand on your tippy-toes, spread your legs apart, etc.

It wasn’t until she showed us this TED Talks hosted by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, about how your posture and poses not only show how confident you are, but can also change your confidence.

I’m often a mousey person; I cross my legs all the time, tuck my arms in, hunch over sometimes… I don’t like to take up a lot of space. I’m sure this isn’t the only thing that affects my less than stellar confidence, but there are some signs that this is a factor – especially considering where I feel most confident.

You guessed it, in roller derby. Before I had to drop off my travel team the Bombshell Brawlers for school (boo), we were working on taking up a lot of space, establishing ourselves in a power stance and almost intimidating others. These poses carry many of the same characteristics of the confidence poses that Cuddy, and my Writer’s Craft instructor, talked about.


This picture is a great example of one that we talked about as a team. Sundown and Mackenzie are spread out. They’re low to the ground. They’re stable. They’re fierce. They’re taking the line and owning it. They’re confident that those bums are going to get in the way of the pink jammer. When I grab the line with my teammates as a blocker and take up as much space as possible, not letting the blockers ahead of us come close, it helps me feel like I’m in control. Confident.

Feeling confident as a jammer is slightly different. A jammer making herself big like that might work if she’s a powerhouse and is able to plow through everyone, but I tend to bounce off of people when I try to do that, so I have a different technique.

My way through is to try to make myself smaller and squish through the small holes I find. Taking up as little space as possible. I can’t say for sure, but I’m sure my confidence from this doesn’t come from my body posture and poses. My confidence probably comes from being able to get past those people that are in those power stances and are trying to be in control. I take away their sense of control.

After only being to one practice since school has started, I’ve already started noticing the side effects. I feel more sluggish and am questioning myself about almost everything I do and say. Time to get back? Absolutely!

What do you do to improve your confidence?

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If It Hurts, Fix It

It happens. You slip and fall, or sleep on something wrong, or move your back the wrong way. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, until that part of your body keeps coming back and bothering you. It’s not agonizing pain, more so annoying, but it’s frustrating and sometimes prevents you from doing certain things.

I was playing in the roller derby league’s Round Robin near the end of June – three games, three roller derby home teams. During the Betties game against the Valkyries’ Wrath, I was jamming, because that’s what I do apparently.

At one point I was trying to call off a jam when I got hit by an opposing skater. I was so focused on frantically calling off the jam that I didn’t realize how quickly my bum was headed towards the floor.

I made contact with the floor right in front of the Valks bench. Unfortunately it wasn’t my bum that made the loud smacking sound that caused the audience to cringe and yell, “Ohhhhhh.” It was my back.

Within minutes my back started to ache, yet I was determined to skate the rest of the game. I think I shed a couple of tears trying to stretch after, and I took a week off to let my back rest. Rather than getting it looked at, I kept skating the rest of the summer with a pinching back. There were certain drills that were almost agonizing, like our 5-minute skates.

It has now been about three months, and until yesterday I still hadn’t done anything with my back, assuming it would go away. Aaaand it didn’t. Then add uncomfortable chairs at school + a heavy backpack = a back that yelled at me and kept me up all night.

Why am I saying this? I don’t want any of you to make the same mistake. Take care of your bodies. If you smack it up at all, even if it seems minor, take that ice, take some time off of it, go see a doctor/physiotherapist/chiropractor/whatever floats your boat.

I finally went down to a massage therapist yesterday, and me leaving the back problems simmering lead to other weird side effects. My hips were being pulled slightly forward and were slightly off centered – all from the tense muscles surrounding them. According to the massage therapist I saw, my brain also tricked itself into making the pain in my lower back kind of numb since I wasn’t doing anything to get rid of the pain. When it was touched, my brain didn’t know what to think and caused the area being touched to be ticklish and slightly painful at the same time. Weird, right? Bodies can do strange things sometimes.

Of course, that is only from a minor injury. Major injuries, like concussions, can have serious side effects if they go untreated. According to Apex Brain Centers, an untreated concussion can affect your academics, relationships, job performance, physical abilities, and mental health.

Take care of yourself. Life can get in the way, but if an injury (minor or big) goes untreated, it could get in the way of your life.

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My Challenge: Break the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

A few years ago in University, I was sitting in a psychology class when we started talking about this theory called the self-fulfilling prophecy, and I realized that a lot of my beliefs and actions were influenced by it. For those unfamiliar with it, the prophecy is (from Psychology Today)

Ideas that become reality simply because someone believes them.

Basically, if you think something is going to (or not going to) happen, that will influence your behaviour, which influences how others see you and their behaviour towards you, which can then reinforce your beliefs and behaviour. This can be a good thing if you start with the belief that you can do something, but it can be harmful if you start off believing you can’t.

In roller derby (because that’s basically all I do at this point it seems – besides school), I’ve been working towards becoming a strong jammer. The jammer is sort of the star of the show. They score points by getting past the opposing blockers – one point per blocker. If the jammer screws up, her team gets no points during that jam, or worse, the other jammer scores points against her. Sometimes I tend to crack under the pressure.

This summer I was playing on two teams, the BackSeat Betties and the Bombshell Brawlers, and the bench coaches often put me in as a jammer. The problem was, when it mattered most, I fell for the self-fulfilling prophecy cycle and found it difficult to break.

This is what happens when I believe I can't do it... Photo taken by Shawn Coates.

This is what happens when I believe I can’t do it… Photo taken by Shawn Coates.

On August 23, the BackSeat Betties played against the Valkyries’ Wrath, which has always been a daunting team for me to play; there are some players on that team that I love to play with but dread playing against. So every time I would line up on that jammer line, I would look at my opponents in the eyes and see their death stares. I almost gave up before the whistle even blew.

The reason? I would convince myself by saying, “I can’t get past her,” and then I wouldn’t get past her. I didn’t take any chances and got my butt kicked, possibly changing (or maybe reinforcing) my teammates’ beliefs about my skills as a jammer.

So how do I get past the endless circle of “I CAN’T do it,” and then fail because of it? I’ve been struggling with this, but there are a few things I’ve started doing on the jammer line to try and help get over this that can still have some real world application if you ever find yourself in the same loop.

  • Look to my teammates, NOT the opposing team glaring at me.
    • In the Real World: Looking to something or someone that’s supportive can help remind you that you CAN do something. Others believe in you and are there to help you.
  • Practice with the players I find the most daunting more often.
    • In the Real World: Facing your fears or trying whatever it is you’re saying you can’t do is the only way to get better at it and to change the “I can’t do it” to “I CAN do it.”
  • Joke around with my teammates by doing things like dancing around on the jammer line before the next jam starts.
    • In the Real World: Do something to get out of your head and back into reality. The longer you dwell on your thoughts, the worse they can get.
  • Set realistic game goals like not falling as often or not getting any penalties. I realize I will not be the next Bonnie Thunders.
    • In the Real World: Having goals is great, but saying you’re going to be the next Superstar may be a tad unrealistic. Use realistic words for your goals as well, and get rid of exaggerations in your vocabulary like always or never.
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