The person behind the microphone

Leaving high school, I was a shy, shy person. The kind of person that had one small group of friends (which we called “the Hermit Club”) and really didn’t talk to anyone else.

So how did I end up in a career path that has me networking, talking in front of crowds, and all other sorts of communication I never would have thought of doing those years ago?

IMG_20150201_171940The answer lies in a small room up a weird yellow flight of stairs at the University of Winnipeg. A small radio station that let’s nearly anyone test out the Winnipeg airwaves. That little place is called CKUW.

I first heard about Creative Communications and the joint degree program after seeing some hosts from Kick FM, the former RRC radio station, during a school tour. I thought the idea of being on the radio was so cool. Being able to speak your mind and play cool music, but no one had to see what you looked like. While at the University of Winnipeg, I decided to try out their radio station.

My first show on CKUW was guest hosting on a show called Only Cowards Sing at Night. I was so nervous I couldn’t even say one word through the microphone for the full hour and a half.

The Power of Radio

Not long after that I found myself co-hosting Only Cowards every Sunday. It was great; we’d get to sit back, play some cool local and underground music, and talk about whatever we felt like – as long as it tied in somehow.

I discovered some of the best local music around and I could confidently say “I heard of them before they were big.” Of course I didn’t do that because I don’t like to consider myself some pretentious hipster.

CKUW opened me up as a person, made me better at articulating my thoughts, and helped me become a better speaker on and off the air.

It also opened my eyes to how amazing the local music scene is. Throughout high school, I was under the impression that Winnipeg was a total culture wasteland with nothing to offer, but really it was all behind the doors of tiny bars and pubs in downtown Winnipeg.

I would meet some of these bands face-to-face on our radio show and would get starstruck.

Soon I brought on my friend Ginaya as a co-host and our random banter between songs became so natural that it made that tiny, extremely hot area with so many posters you couldn’t find a white patch of wall, feel like a fantastic getaway.

“You’re tuned in to Only Cowards Sing at Night on CKUW 95.9 FM. We’re your hosts Shanell and Ginaya.”

My break from the airwavesSnapchat--8068461432774925600

Because CreComm is the way it is, the first half of this year I had to step away from the microphone to focus on my schoolwork. I missed CKUW almost immediately.

The past two weeks I’ve finally found my way back up that flight of yellow stairs up to the station to do something I love: playing music, talking on the air, and having fun with a good friend.

Insert my shameless plug here. CKUW is a community radio station run mostly by volunteers and has gone all of 2014 without advertising. This is because of the generous support of the community during the annual Fundrive telethon.

This station is not only my lovely little getaway place, it’s a wonderful place for many who take the time to put together shows every week, sort through thousands of albums, coordinate programs, and so much more.

Although this year’s Fundrive ends today, CKUW always accepts donations to help keep the station running for another year – hopefully without advertising.

Thank you to everyone who listens to CKUW regularly, and if you’re intrigued, check out Only Cowards! We go on air every Sunday from 5-6:30 p.m.

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The joy in children’s books

“So, while you walked up and down and wondered if it would rain, Winnie-the-Pooh sang this song:

How sweet to be a Cloud

Floating in the Blue!

Every little cloud

Always sings aloud.

“How sweet to be a Cloud

Floating in the Blue!”

It makes him very proud

To be a little cloud.”

This was one of my favourite stories as a child – Winnie the Pooh trying to trick bees into thinking he was a little rain cloud so he could take their honey. It was in this massive “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” book my mom bought my brother and I when we were small.

Three years ago, I was wandering through the Exchange District with my dad when we came across this toy store. We went in to look around, and I ended up walking out with this other Winnie the Pooh book, “Positively Pooh – Timeless Wisdom from Pooh”.

The book is split into three sections and has inspirational messages “for those bothersome days.” Two months after I got the book, my grandma was diagnosed with terminal cancer, so that book became one of my go-to’s to make me feel somewhat better.

It has messages like,

“Always have a plan Bee.” (In relation to the story in this post)20150206_141635

“Sometimes you are wonderful even when you don’t know it.”

“Look the part so you’ll feel ready for anything.”

Each message came with a story from the adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

When my grandma was in the hospital, I decided to bring this book with me to read to her, but by the time I got there, she had already been put on so many pain killers that all she did was sleep. I accidentally left the book at the hospital that night and didn’t get it back.

Round Two of Positively Pooh

Last week I went back to that toy store as a part of a school assignment, and they had another copy of the book there. I grabbed the book and bought it, and have been reading messages from it every day since.

“Find a type of exercise to suit you.”

“Think about all the exciting things that are going to happen today (particularly on Monday mornings).”

“Flowers brighten up even the most bothersome of days.”

The Joy of Children’s Books

Children’s books are supposed to be just that – children’s books. But they can be so much more than that. They can be nostalgic, they can be happy and simple, and with this one, they can make certain situations more positive.

I first remembered how awesome children’s books were when I had an assignment in university where we had to read a book in front of the class. I ended up reading the story of Pooh being a little rain cloud, and everyone in the class loved it and wanted a copy of my gigantic Winnie the Pooh adventures book.

If you’re ever feeling down one day, go pick up a children’s book, especially one you used to read as a child. It may just brighten your day a little bit!

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The shoulder faux pas

“Hey you! Put a sweater or something on!”

This was a common line my friends and I would hear at our high school in Winnipeg. Why were we being asked to put sweaters on? Because parts of our shoulders were exposed.

What were we to do? We were teenagers going to a high school that had no air conditioning with some days reaching nearly +30 Celsius with the humidity.

My high school, and many others, have somewhat strict dress codes for the students – and most of the dress code rules pertain to girls’ fashion. The more common ones at my school were:

- Your shorts/skirts must be long enough that you can reach down all the way with your arms and grab the bottoms of them, if not longer,

- No foul language or other offensive comments on clothing,

- No low cut shirts, and

- No shoulders. I believe the exact rule was something like there had to be at least a 2 inch piece of cloth covering them.

Okay, sure. The first three make some sense. Wearing shorts that are so short everyone can see… stuff hangin’ out is not nice to look at, same with the low cut shirts. Offensive comments of any kind can cause other problems, so yes, I agree.

But shoulders?

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The dress Gabi wore to the dance. Not very revealing, right? (from dailymail.co.uk)

Yesterday, I came across an article from Global News about a girl in Utah who was “ordered” to wear her coat at a school dance because her dress was too revealing, and all these memories came flooding back to my high school experiences with the same ridiculous rule.

My friends and I would joke about why the rule might exist, and most of us would joke about, “ohhh my shoulders are so seductive. My male classmates can’t stop looking at them, I bet.” This was the most legitimate reason we could come up with as to why women showing shoulders was such an “obscene” thing.

Is it because I might have bra straps showing? My shoulder blades? Is that what men might look at and get somehow distracted? The girl from the Global News article, Gabi Finlayson, said this in the article:

“Maybe instead of teaching girls they should cover themselves up, we should be teaching boys that we’re not sex objects that you can look at and derive pleasure.”

Yes, I do agree with her. Covering up women so men aren’t distracted isn’t the right answer. Although I do think there should still be some kind of rules in place because, frankly, I don’t like to look at some girl’s bum hanging out of her shorts either.

But, again, shoulders??

I’ve asked men in my life before if they had ever thought about shoulders as a sexual part of a woman, and none of them really thought about shoulders that way. Who knows, maybe they weren’t being entirely truthful, but a woman’s shoulders causing men to quiver seems so unrealistic.

At my school, my friend and I put up a stand against this rule (sort of). We would wear tank tops all we wanted, and would be harassed by two teachers in the school to cover ourselves. Eventually, by the time we were in grade 12, those teachers had finally given up, and let us strut around with our shoulders enjoying the lovely “fresh” air in the school.

Did you have a rule like this while in high school? What did you do about it? Do you have a better explanation of why shoulders might not be allowed in high schools? Let me know!

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Listen to your feet

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All of my skates.

I’ve never been so in tune with my feet, not since I joined roller derby. Before, my feet were my feet. I wore a size 9 shoe, I sometimes got pedicures, but otherwise, they were just sort of there.

Lately, my feet have been shouting “HEY! I’m here! Oh what’s that? You want to skate? I’m just going to start hurting like hell. Trying to ignore me? Ha, good luck.”

Roller skates sizes need to be quite specific. They need to be big enough that your feet aren’t super squished, and big enough that you can get your feet in there. But they also need to be small enough that you can hop around without your feet shifting, or small enough that I can pop up on my toe stops and my feet don’t slide into the front every time. It’s difficult to find that perfect pair.

My first pair of skates was too big; blisters were a daily occurrence. My second pair of $700 skates were too small, I ended up crushing my right toe. It hurt for months. I ended up being pushed to a podiatrist, who told me I needed to get my toe nail removed… That was a sad moment.

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WRDL Championship. Photo by Shawn Coates

So me being stubborn, I didn’t make an appointment for the surgery. Instead, I bought a third pair of skates, my gorgeous Riedell 495’s, and they were nearly perfect. This past summer, I played the whole season without getting the toe surgery, and sure, if I landed on my toe it would kill, but I could play, I could pop up on my toe stops, and I felt I could do everything my last two pairs of skates didn’t let me do.

The three months off

I ended up taking three months off of derby because life was just insane. I finally went back last week, beyond excited to lace up my skates again. Of course, the toes decided to come back in all their painful glory.

Not only did they hurt, they’re now bruised and more than a week after, still hurting.

I’ve had to make the difficult decision to call that podiatrist again and stay off of my skates (after I just started again…) until I can get this surgery.

Pay attention to your feet

Take care of your feet, guys. I ignored mine for far too long, and now it’s preventing me from playing the sport that I love.

Cover up those blisters, cut your toe nails properly, get pedicures the odd time to help clean them up. And please, please, wear shoes that are the right size. If it wasn’t for that second pair of skates where I crushed my toe, this wouldn’t be an issue.

If you do happen to do something that hurts your feet, go see a professional, and take their advice.

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Sweet, Sweet Cravings

Sweets. I love them, and I hate them.

Around Christmas I stuffed my face with chocolates, candy canes, cookies, cake, brownies, and whatever else there was lying around on the dessert tables.

Now, I’ve developed some form of addiction to the sweet stuff.

Every time I eat a meal, the cravings for sweets takes over. Every time I’m bored at work, same situation. Every time I’m doing homework I get the craving to just nibble on something sweet just to distract myself from what I’ve actually been doing. This week, I’ve been trying to cut out as much of it as I possibly can, and it’s been incredibly difficult. I’ve always had a bit of sweet tooth, but never to this extent.

So, in an effort to increase my will power and not give in to every craving, I searched Doctor Google to diagnose my problem and offer some solutions.

I figure my “addiction” comes from the fact that I’ve been stressed out this school year, and according to this article from Women’s Health Magazine, there’s chemicals in the brain (which I don’t fully understand) that lead to increased sugar cravings. Apparently 77% of stressed-out women in their study craved sweets, compared to only 31% of those in the relaxed group.

The problem also comes from associating sweets with a reward of some kind or getting into the routine of always having dessert after dinner, which happened a lot over the Christmas season.

Thanks for the diagnosis, Google. Now what?

So far this week I’ve only had sweets once (woo!) and it was chocolate chip pancakes this morning. It’s been a rough week, but here are some things that have helped me.

1. Have someone who can help you say no. This has been the biggest thing that has helped me.

2. Exercising, even if it’s something simple like a walk or some jumping jacks. Exercising releases hormones that make you happy, which can be one of the reasons sweet cravings happen in the first place.

3. Distracting yourself from the craving. Going for a walk, playing a game, reading a book, or anything you can do to take your mind off of a smaller craving like sweets has helped me get by without searching the cupboards for any last bit of sweets in the house.

4. Eating something sweet that’s also healthier. Fruit (especially oranges) and yogurts with sugar (not that aspartame stuff) have helped me the most for getting rid of the cravings while still satisfying some of the sweet tooth.

5. Another help for me has been being unable to get to the sweets. Last year I posted about my troublesome little car, and that little thing has decided to break down on me again. Because of that, I’ve been without a car for a week. This means I can’t physically take myself somewhere to buy sweets if it isn’t within walking distance.

Of course, this only helps because I can’t actually get anywhere, but if you can keep sweets out of your house it makes it much more difficult to cave in to the cravings, since going outside during the winter can be a huge task.

Here are some other good links with suggestions on how to get over the cravings from WebMD and the Globe and Mail.

Do you have any other ways to help cut down on sugary snacks? If so, let me know! I’m always open to suggestions.

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Chicks on Roller Skates

IMG_20140526_171730My roller skates have become a catalyst for conversation with strangers. Almost every time I’m out in public with my skates in hand or on my feet, someone asks about them. It’s great because I get to talk about one of my favourite things with people, and some people are really into it, while others stare at me like I’m insane – I assume they think roller derby is this crazy thing from the 70s where I just beat the crap out of others on the track.

I’ve had people ask about my Winnipeg Roller Derby League sweater in Niagara Falls, I get people asking me about my skates every time I go roller skating outside, I had people at my old gym asking about them when I’d bring them inside, and just the other day I had someone asking about them while I was holding them in an elevator.

“Roller skates? I haven’t seen those since I was a kid!”

Sometimes I forget how few people know about roller derby because I always watch the sport grow and grow. In December, players from all across the world played in the World Cup in Dallas, Texas. And when I say from all across the world, I mean from everywhere. Places I had never even realized.

In total, 30 teams were invited to play in the world cup, including teams from Japan, South Africa, West Indies, Puerto Rico, Norway, Mexico, Italy, Colombia, and Chile. It’s incredible how wide the sport has spread since its reinvention in Texas in the early 2000s.

The first Chicks in Bowls gathering in Winnipeg.

The first Chicks in Bowls gathering in Winnipeg.

Even in Winnipeg our league has continued to improve and grow so much since I joined. We graduated in December and became full WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) members, which means our travel team the All-Stars will get to play in WFTDA tournaments and we’ll be ranked alongside all other WFTDA teams.

Another one of our league members started the Winnipeg division of Chicks in Bowls, which is a group of “rad ladies, men and young folk shredding up skate parks” on roller skates.

2014 was a huge year for the sport, and I know it will continue to grow. Who knows, maybe one day I can walk around with my skates in hand and have a conversation about last week’s game with a stranger instead of trying to explain what roller derby is.

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From Sitting to Squatting

Since September, it’s been incredibly difficult for me, and other CreCommers, to stay in shape and to eat healthy. I’ve only participated in one roller derby practice since school started. I haven’t made myself a salad or a sandwich since sometime in September.

So what have I been doing? Well, eating protein bars, going out for McDonald’s because there’s no time to make anything, and sitting on my butt in front of a laptop, only moving to go to the bathroom or to walk to school the next morning.

As a result, I’ve gained weight. More than I ever have.

Sure, it may not be noticeable to you. My whole life I’ve had people telling me to not worry about my weight because I’m already too skinny, or that I’ll be skinny forever, blah, blah… but as much as my metabolism may be decent, I do need to put in some effort to stay happy with myself, usually with derby and eating at least somewhat healthy foods.

My (Possibly) Crazy Fears

I’ve always been afraid of becoming unhealthy. Not necessarily overweight (although they are related), but unhealthy to the point where I feel like crap, where I just want to sleep, where I don’t want to go out and do anything. I’ve seen this happen to people around me in my life, and it terrifies me to think that if I let myself continue the way I am, it may be more difficult for me to play roller derby or to spend a day doing something other than sitting around on my laptop doing homework.

A Team Australia player showing off the derby bum.

A Team Australia player showing off the derby bum.

 

This past summer I worked my butt off to get myself to a point I was truly happy with. I was mostly eating well, and I actually had muscle tone for once in my life! I wasn’t just that skinny girl anymore; I had toned legs and I finally started to have a bum! I was able to hit girls out of a derby track and stop them with my bum that never really existed before! The derby bum is a cherished thing because it’s one of the main things players use to block and hit out other players.

My derby legs and derby bum have since shrunk to their almost pre-derby state. It’s sad that I can barely hold a squat for 30 seconds now, and it almost feels like I wasted my time this summer. My pants have become baggier in the thigh area, while getting too tight in the hip area. Eek!

What do I do?

At this point, I need to start taking baby steps to get back to the way I was. Once this school semester is over I’ll be able to shift back into gear at least a little bit, thank goodness.

When I first started derby, a trainer told me about this great site, Roller Derby Athletics. A derby girl, Booty Quake, has created a bunch of derby specific workouts that can all be done from home mostly with a yoga mat and a chair. They’re also appropriate for those living in apartments, since Booty Quake films these in her apartment.

Though they may be more derby specific, they’re great workouts to do from home when you’re busy. She has a series of 8-minute workouts to do five days a week that, at the time, helped me with balance and strength. I need to sign up for this again. I need to start squatting again. I need to start doing planks, balancing on one foot, squatting, squatting, and more squatting.

Even if you aren’t in derby, if you’re looking for small workouts that are easier to do from home, check out some of Booty Quake’s stuff, especially the 8-minute workouts. It’s not as good as going to the gym or being involved in a sport a few times a week, but it’s definitely a start.

For all of you who have no time to go to the gym or get to sport practices, what do you do at home to stay in shape? Anything is helpful at this point!

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