Andrew W.K. sends Shaunanagins a shout out!

Just got a party-hardy shoutout from Andrew WK himself!

My friend Mark met Andrew WK (who I’ve chatted with on Twitter) today, and he wanted to send Shaunanagins a shoutout. According to my friend: “It was his idea.  He said you can post it on your blog if you want. Or not…”

Um, YES.

(Oh, and to endorse him right back, Andrew WK is playing Maverick’s tonight. Consider checking it out if you’re in Ottawa!)

 

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The Impact of a Single Act of Kindness: OC Transpo Edition

This is a story about an OC Transpo bus driver who made my week.  Like, actually made my week. I’m still significantly happier and better off because of this person, and I figured I should pass on his awesomeness.

As a broke student, losing my bus pass is the worst thing that can happen. Besides my need for daily transportation, I use my plastic pass holder as a stand-in wallet.

bus pass

This little red folder is everything to me–without its contents, I can’t even buy groceries. If I lose it, the best case scenario is that I’m stranded in Vanier, counting change and praying I have enough money/time to bus down to OC Transpo’s awkwardly located Lost & Found.

I assume you see where this is going.

It was Wednesday, March 12 when I lost my bus pass. It was my fault, of course; the pass had fallen out of my pocket while I was riding home, and I didn’t notice until it was too late. To make matters worse, this was particularly bad timing (an out-of-town friend was coming in that night, I had projects due at school, et cetra). I was stuck.

Then my phone rang. It was my bus driver. He had found my bus pass and, since my business card was stuffed alongside it, he was able to contact me to let me know. The heads up was incredibly kind, but what he offered next was truly above-and-beyond:

“I was just gonna bring it into work tomorrow, but I’m heading out for a bit after dinner. Did you want me to just drop it off with you?”

I was stunned. Seriously? Was this person actually willing to bring my lost bus pass right to my doorstep? Was this real life? He insisted that it wouldn’t be out of his way, and I thanked him repeatedly him over the phone.

Not even an hour later, he was on my doorstep with the little red plastic pass holder that held my life. Every card was still in place. My out-of-town friend gaped as I came back inside. We couldn’t believe it.

The driver who came to my rescue had such a cheery disposition, so willing to do something nice for someone else. There was no awkward speech about how I should watch my things, no passive aggression, no expectation that I grovel in exchange for my bus pass. Instead, this man just seemed genuinely happy to help.

This attitude and gesture left a profound mark. This past week, I have actively tried to be less naggy and more giving. If this complete stranger could forgive my absentmindedness and kindly help to minimize the damage, then surely I could be more understanding and helpful to my friends or my roommates. By going out of his way for someone, and by showing so much joy in doing so, this bus driver started a pretty great chain of kindness and positivity. He also made the City of Ottawa look really, really good to my out-of-town friend (who left with a great impression, and is now considering moving here).

I am so proud to live in a city with kind people in the driver’s seat (literally).

“Coming In Out of the Blue”: Resources for Those Who Find the Holidays Hard

The holidays aren’t fun for everyone.  For many, Christmas season brings heightened instances of depression, stress, or anxiety.  It can also be a particularly difficult time for those who are grieving.  Here are some (Ottawa-based) events, resources, and articles to help support people struggling with mental health or grief this holiday season.  Please let me know if you have anything to add to this list, and share it around–no one should feel alone.

December 18:  The Royal mental health care & research centre is offering a “Coping Through the Holidays” support group for families touched by mental health during the holidays. 6:00 to 7:30 pm at The Royal, 1145 Carling Avenue, Room 1420.

December 20: Coming in Out of the Blue” service at MacKay United, a quiet Christmas service for those who find the holidays difficult.

Anytime Resources:
– Free meditation groups are offered all over the city (and country, and world)
– Churches are usually full at this time of year, and worth visiting for a bit of peace and community
Similarly, the Chaplain’s Office at the Ottawa Mission is popular for those going through especially hard times
– If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the Mental health crisis line at 613-722-6914 (toll free from anywhere: 1-866-996-0991)

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[photo by Samantha Polzin]

Articles:
Surviving the Holidays  – Full website designed for those grieving during the holidays, via GriefShare

How to Help Ourselves Through the HolidaysFor those grieving a loss during the holidays, under “Articles,” via Bereaved Families

Fact Sheet on Holiday Stress
For those feeling overwhlemed, via Canadian Psychological Association

Stress, depression, and the holidays: Tips for coping
via Mayo Clinic

Holiday Grieving: How to Best Support the Mourning this Time of the YearFor family/friends of those grieving over the holidays. Rule #1: Listen. via Dr. Cara Baker

Partying Hard and Loving Harder: How hanging out can help the community

On Saturday morning, I woke up to snow on the ground. My feelings about this were mixed, as always, but two things were fully certain: 1) I needed to celebrate this; 2) My Facebook friends get WAY too worked up over precipitation.

In my own overzealous logic, I decided that this snowfall called for an urgent, impromptu pre-Christmas party. Where? My place. When? NOW. The decorations are coming out, ladies and gentlemen.

I searched high and low for the perfect cheese fondu and hors d’oeuvres to compliment this fluorescent…thing from the 80s. It was a serious, serious mission.
Also a serious, serious mission.

This got me thinking. As crazy as the work/school side of December is, we all know that it is ultimately a friends & family time of year. We’re going to hang out. We’re going to eat, drink, and be merry. So why not do the kind of partying that makes a positive impact in the community?

Turns out, there are several incredible ways to do just that–all it takes is a little creativity and pre-planning. Here are some of my favourites:

Hosting for Hope. If Chatelaine magazine and Homesense get together to advocate something, I take note. That’s how I learned of Hosting for Hope, a program which invites people to throw beautiful seasonal get-togethers (awesome) while supporting local shelters for battered women (double awesome). If you plan on hosting a holiday party, why not sign up? A $50 donation through Hosting for Hope will get you a $25 Homesense gift card, and after asking guests to donate in lieu of a hostess gift–tada! Your party just made a huge difference in someone’s life. Triple awesome.

The Mitten Tree. The church I attend, Mackay United, has been collecting mittens and scarves for un-mittened/un-scarved folks in the community with a mitten tree. When I mentioned it to a friend of mine who knits, she suggested we get together to make some warm clothing to donate. I’ll pass her idea on as a challenge to you: if you know how to knit, and your friends know how to knit, then just skip the lame coffee date and have a knitting date instead.When you’re done, you can donate your creations to organizations that keep people warm.

Blood Donation Party. I actually know someone who did this every year, and it worked out quite nicely. Before throwing a holiday party to see old friends, he invited people to come to the blood donor clinic. This was a tradition, the same time every year, so people could count on making the appointments together (with some new faces every year, of course!). Those who were able to give blood could catch up with each other while they joined together to give the gift of life.

Christmas Hampers Project. Centretown United makes hampers to provide necessities for less fortunate families in Ottawa, “Because some holiday wish lists are more basic than others.” Apply to adopt a hamper by November 30th, or get some friends together to donate your time. The project needs volunteers for packing hampers from December 17th-20th and delivering them on the 21st. Get more information here.

Food Bank Events. The holidays are a big time of year for the Food Banks around the country. There are several different events in support of the Ottawa Food Bank that you can check out for a night out this season, like the Hintonburg Public House Holiday Fundraiser or the Santa’s Souper Singers concert. Food bank events for the city are listed here.

Spread Some Joy. One of my best Christmas memories is of visiting a local senior’s home with my girl guide troupe, armed only with homemade cookies and badly sung Christmas carol renditions. Homes like St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa are often looking for people to come in and keep residents entertained and smiling. If you and a friend like playing board games or cards anyways, why not bring your hobby to a retirement home? Who better to include in good times than our senior citizens?

Running on Empties. December 15th marks the 25th annual Running on Empties fundraiser! The Christmas Exchange program will have volunteers posted outside of every beer store until 5:30. You can sign up to be one of these volunteers, or take a moment to bring in those empty bottles (say, the ones left over from your Hosting for Hope party!) to help them reach this year’s $20,000 goal!

Alright readers–now it’s your turn to let me know what you plan on doing to hang out/help out this year! Any of these ideas strike your interest? Anything I’ve missed? Keep the conversation going in the comments, on my page at www.facebook.com/Shaunanagins, or Follow my blog with Bloglovin. When it comes to partying hard and loving even harder, there are never too many great ideas.

Special thanks to Sam Polzin for providing the photography in this post. Look forward to seeing some more of her work in weeks to come!

20 Things to Do in Ottawa this November

I know the exact conversation we will ALL be having in exactly two days. It’s the same conversation we had last year. And the year before. And the year before that. You know, this one:

“Wait…wasn’t it just Halloween? Why is there Christmas music on? Why is there tinsel on that cash register? It’s NOVEMBER FIRST, you guys! What gives?! ”

I’m a big ol’ holiday season nut, I’ll admit it, but the commercial transition between seasons is always a bit over-the-top. Truth be told, I find November pretty boring. It’s a bit too far from Christmas for decking any halls, so I just see it as the mellow spot between Halloween season fun and Christmas season fun. Mellow is alright, I suppose, but…I kinda like my fun.

Luckily, Ottawa is full of fun no matter what.  I know this.  I know this firsthand. I know this in spite of people telling me it isn’t, because after living and breathing this city for a few years I can assure you that it’s anything but boring.

My proof: A calendar-esque list of 20 things happening in throughout November that are worth checking out.  I’ll also be tweeting these out each day as a reminder that cool stuff is happening.

Yep, that’s right, cool stuff in Ottawa. In November. Don’t even question it.

November 1: Thursday nights from 4 to 8, admission to Ottawa’s national museums is FREE.  It should be an interesting time to check out the Museum of Civilization, as it (controversially) prepares for rebranding into the Canadian Museum of History.

November 2: I’m all about those Halloween leftovers, like Pheonix Players’ presentation of The Death of Dracula. It’s only $15 for students, and is on until November 3rd.

November 3: Last day of the Haunted Walk Halloween season! If you want one last taste of Halloween, take a special evening tour of Ottawa’s creepy past. The 3rd is also the last chance for the Zombie Adventure at the Diefenbunker. Yeah. Shooting Zombies in the Deifenbunker. Amazing.

November 4: If you have never seen the Ottawa burlesque scene, here comes a chance to check it out! Ottawa Burlesque Playground Presents Movember Mahem at the Elgin Street Yuk Yuks.  These shows are always such a creative, brilliant, sexy, entertaining time–and a portion of your $10 ticket goes to a Movember drive!

November 5: Hit the market for some local talent with The Rainbow Bistro‘s Monday night open mic.

November 6: Get your hockey fix!  The Ottawa 67s play Kingston at Scotiabank Place at 7 pm.

November 7: My favourite local improv troupe, GRIMprov, holds a show on the first and last Wednesday of each month at The Imperial on Bank Street.  $5 is a small price to pay for some side-splitting hump day hilarity.

November 8: Check out WWII play, Padre X,  at the Canadian War Museum. $7 for youth, $10 for adults. Runs from the 8th to the 11th.

November 9: Opera Lyra’s presentation of Cinderella promises to be a great introduction to Opera for performance fans young and old. I’ve heard great things about OLO lately! (Note: If your budget’s too tight, or you want to introduce a young’un to the scene, a 20 minute excerpt of the opera for kids will be performed at the Canadian Museum of Civilization on the 25th.)

November 10: Mayfair Theatre on Bank Street presents its monthly late-night showing of The Room, aka the worst movie of all time. This also makes it, of course, the best night out with your friends of all time.

November 11:  Remembrance Day in the capital is always a big deal. Be sure to go early to get an okay view of the national ceremony and pay your respects at the War Memorial.

November 13: Back to the Mayfair for an epic double feature tonight: Kill Bill Vol 1 and Kill Bill Vol 2 hit the big screen at 7 and 9:15, respectively.

November 14: I feel like Wednesday night karaoke at the Bytown Tavern is Ottawa’s best kept secret. There are always a handful of really fun, spirited, off-key singers from all walks of life every time I go. Not too full, not too empty.  Cheap drinks and a total judgement-free zone? It’s a party.

November 15: All Gershwin, All Pops is the latest installment of the NAC’s Pops series. I have gone to see Pops shows several times since moving here–$12 student Live Rush tickets for the best seats in the house are hard to resist. World-class talent backed by the full NAC Orchestra always makes for a brilliant show.

November 17: Photojournalist Louie Palu will be at the Canadian War Museum from 2:00 to 3:30 to talk about his experience in Afghanistan.  Admission to Kandahar: Photographing the Frontline is free.

November 18: The Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show is happening at the Convention Centre all day Sunday. If you’ve never been to a show at the Convention Centre…it’s awesome. So is vintage. So, this is double awesome.

November 20: Tuesday is open mic night at the Laff. I know the place had quite the rep back in the day, but as far as I can tell the 2012 Laff is one of  the chillest, cheapest places for a beer and some tunes…places really don’t get any more come-as-you-are than this.

November 24: Saturday Night Drag @ the Lookout. ’nuff said.

November 28: Wednesdays are Pro/Am night at Absolute Comedy. I’ve been to Absolute on a Wednesday more than once, and I have to say…a solid comedy show for $6 makes eternally grateful that I don’t have classes Thursday mornings.

November 29: Anyone else down for geeking out to old war stuff? The Canadian War Museum is hosting a special presentation of Hamilton and Scourge: Archaeological Exploration of Two War of 1812 Shipwrecks. The illustrated talk starts at 7 pm, and it’s free!

There you go, Ottawa–twenty things to keep your November exciting.  Hopefully, this will tide me over until Christmas spirit can be in (guilt-free) full swing. I promise you, come December, I will be outrageously jolly. Till then I will just be…well, out!

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November Events Added by Readers (aka YOU!):

November 2: Shannon Lecture Series presents Dr. Barbara Lorenzkowski’s “Sensing War: Children’s Memories of Wartime Atlantic Canada, 1939-194.” Dr. Lorenzkowski will be at Carleton University (303 Paterson Hall) at 3:00.

All month: Mo’vember is here.  Personally, I’m not usually a huge fan of the mustachioed look…but, hey, it’s for a good cause right? Register now!

November 15 to December 2: 27th European Union Film Festival presented by the Canadian Film Institute.

November 21-December 8: Pride and Prejudice, part of the NAC’s English Theatre series, hits the stage for 2 1/2 weeks starting November 21st. Live Rush tickets available.

November 29: The Rotaract Club of Ottawa presents the Roaring Twenties Cocktail Fundraiser with proceeds going to rebuilding an orphanage and daycare centre in South Africa. Awesome awesome awesome!