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Charlotte Phillips, Guest Contributor

Sunday Satire – by Charlotte Phillips

Because You Watched……

Because we’ve been watching you watch us, we’ve come up with some “suggestions” to help you through this phase in your life. You’re not alone. Remember that. Even if you are technically alone on a Friday night with a half empty bottle of pinot noir leftover from lunch and nothing but a frozen veggie burger to gnaw on for dinner, we are here.

We at Netfriend are just a wireless connection away from your MacBook over there on the coffee table. We’re taking note of every movie you watch and other activities you’ve engaged in online, virtually 24/7. We’ve been analyzing your algorithms since you signed up 3 years ago for $7.95 a month. Back when what’s-his-name was still sleeping on the couch across from you snoring through that romantic comedy you fought over; the one you settled on because it was your turn to pick something and you were sick of Saving Private Ryan and The Hurt Locker and even though you thought Ben Affleck was kind of handsome in Argo, you really had had enough of the foreign wars thing. Continue Reading

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Ben Lu, Guest Contributor

In Defence of Downtown – by Ben Lu

Image: Ryan Adams / EyeEm

Image: Ryan Adams / EyeEm


My kid goes to a school in a suburban area so I often hear parents comment about how “downtown living is not good” — that they “could never” raise their family in a condo.

A little while back a good friend bought a place in the suburbs and she, too, declared “downtown is not good for kids or raising a family”.

I need to protest — or rather brag about downtown family life. I love it.

My home is steps away from the best park in the world – we smell the sea breeze. It is downtown that my kid gets to see the microcosm of the world (well sort of) more often than not. Walking in the streets we hear Korean, Japanese, Farsi, Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, Turkish and Spanish and Mandarin spoken –everywhere.  That’s on top of more prevalent English and French.

The library is a few short blocks away from us and we use it. Continue Reading

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Charlotte Phillips, Guest Contributor

Where We Are – by Charlotte Phillips


Charlotte and her Mom.

Charlotte and her Mom.

“I’d like to walk over to Safeway again. Do you think I could do that, Charlotte?”

“No, Mom. It has been more than two years since you did that. It’s not safe anymore.”

It is such a simple desire. Put on her coat, get her purse, push her walker across the parking lot and over to the automatic door that leads to the elevator. A few steps, a few buttons and the freedom to meander through the grocery store, choosing whatever her heart desired. It was a solitary outing that gave Mom much joy. It also used up a couple of hours in her increasingly long days.

She would chat up the store clerks and other shoppers, buy an O Henry bar, linger in the bakery area, marvel at the offerings, and sometimes sit and have a cup of tea in the little market café by the deli department. It meant she was out in the world on her own, of her own accord, on her own schedule.

Now, a few weeks shy of her 94th birthday, Mom’s world is shrinking in some ways while expanding fearfully in others. Continue Reading

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Ed Watson, Guest Contributor

Canadian Trump – by Ed Watson

Image: Martin Child

Image: Martin Child

Image: Getty Images

Image: Getty Images

There is a risk when you’re conducting research for an opinion piece that the facts might cause you to change your opinion. Very inconvenient.

That’s what happened to me when I started collecting some info to support my belief that a bombastic demagogue like Donald Trump could get elected in Canada. I still believe that Canada could produce such a political figure, but I discovered that some of my assumptions were wrong.

Similar to many other people who like to think of themselves as political analysts, I have have been known to give some information too much weight, and not pay enough attention to what I personally observe.

Initially in this piece I was constructing an argument based partially on the issue of trust in government. While overall trust in government has declined in the US and Canada since the 1960’s an EKOS survey earlier this year found trust in the Canadian government is higher than it’s been in years. That’s not too surprising given we have a new and upbeat government. But these gallup numbers suggest a large number of Americans trust the executive branch of their government (the president) and Barak Obama has an approval rating of over 50%.


So, if millions of Americans are generally happy with their government (at least right now) why would they be interested in engaging with a guy like Trump?

Perhaps my assumption about trust was wrong.

Perhaps it’s something more than dissatisfaction. Perhaps it’s cultural.

The economic and social reasons for Trump’s rise have been examined in detail and I find it unsettling that now all of the focus is on the presidential “horse race” and not on solutions to problems that gave rise to so much unhappiness to begin with. And I don’t believe enough attention has been given to two important factors: the role of US popular culture (particularly reality TV) in creating an atmosphere for a demagogue to thrive, and how notoriety and popularity are now commonly driven by celebrity. Celebrity itself seems to be enough to drive popularity, not who you are or what you’ve done.

In the past 20 years music, movies, social media and particularly TV have fed us a heavily dystopian diet. The topics for dramas include everything from terrorists, zombies and aliens to wall street fraud and unfaithful spouses. So called reality TV seems to reward unremarkable personalities grounded in narcissism and vulgarity.

So, popular culture reinforces the idea that society is broken, the little guy is getting screwed and often the storyline makes an uncompromising lone wolf the hero.

When awful stuff actually happens in real life (economically, socially) that subliminal message of doom feeds into the perception that the world is going down the tubes and our political systems just aren’t up to the job. If it wasn’t for the years of dystopian noise in the background, I don’t think Trump would be as successful. And Canadians have been hearing the same noise.

Last month I took a road trip from the BC Coast to Saskatchewan and back. I repeatedly asked people what they thought of Donald Trump. I’m talking to strangers at a gas bar in Princeton, customers in a Sport Chek in Calgary, motor heads at a car show in Rosetown a business owner from Sidney BC, among others. Probably 100 people all together. Almost everyone I believed Trump was loopy but they also felt that he raised important issues and that he was the only choice outside the status quo. These are Canadians remember. Some said they weren’t too worried about his many gaffes, because it was part of his schtick and he behaved that way on reality TV too.

I recognize there is no statistical value in these conversations but like the 2013 BC election, my observations don’t match what the polling is saying.

According to an August poll by my friend Mario Canseco at Insights West a majority of Canadians can’t stand the idea of Donald Trump as president. Perhaps I just talked to the ones who might consider voting for a Trump like leader.

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Guest Contributor, Rachel Sentes

Stretching to Live – by Rachel Sentes

Image: Dr. David Phillips

Image: Dr. David Phillips

I’m sitting in my comfy chair watching tv. Every now and then I stretch my legs and do a few ankle roles. Sounds simple but now I think about it. Every hour. Because last year at this time ( oddly around the time of World Thrombosis Day Oct 13) I was diagnosed with a DVT- deep vein thrombosis in my calf and now, stretching is not just something to do when I feel like it. It’s something I do every hour to save my life.

Well that’s a little dramatic, but you get the point. It’s strange that something that you never gave a second thought to suddenly is top of mind.  I’ve become oddly focused on how my leg feels, all of the time.

Walking my dogs each morning typically my focus is “true crime podcasts”, but with each step I take I am aware of every tiny twinge, or feeling in my leg.

Engrained in my mind are the words the emergency doctor uttered before realizing I had two clots, not one, “If you feel it behind your knee then get back here- that’s where it will lodge before breaking loose- and you don’t want it to go any higher or then you’ll be in trouble.”

Her words bounce around in my head often.

When I get out of bed in the morning and I step down onto the floor I’m focussed — you see that’s when I first felt the oddness in my calf. It had appeared out of the blue, no warning. Perhaps I’d pulled it in the night? No. Continue Reading

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Guest Contributor, Jim Van Horne

Living Life – by Jim Van Horne

Gord Downie

I’ve been thinking a  lot about Gord Downie lately.

I’ve never met the man, have never seen the Tragically Hip live in concert. I like their music, can’t say I love it but I enjoy a lot of their songs.

Downie’s been on my mind because of what he’s living with, something that could, and likely will, end his life.. brain cancer.

Watching his recent interview with Peter Mansbridge on CBC I found it inspiring. He is living life to its fullest – for as long as he can.

Simply put, he’s taking advantage of every minute he has left.

I’m lucky, I don’t have brain cancer, mine is in my bladder, and it likely won’t kill me in its present state. It should be noted that “my” type of cancer has taken a number of very well known people: actors Jack Lemmon and Telly Savalas, sports commentator Nick Charles, singer Andy Williams and author Dominick Dunne – to name a few.

It’s been eight years since I was first diagnosed. I’ve gone through countless treatments to try and stem the tide, but nothing has worked. It’s to the point where my oncologist has told me there is no more treatment available to stop it.

As I write this I’m waiting to find out if I qualify for the latest trial of a new protocol. I don’t know when or if it will happen. There are two other options. Monitor my situation closely and catch the tumours as they develop, or have major surgery. That would include removing the bladder, the prostate and a portion of my colon. The colon will be used to rebuild my bladder. I’ve been told there recovery period is about seven months.

The surgery is the only way I’ll be guaranteed of ridding my body of the cancer.

I don’t consider myself to be brave or courageous by any stretch of the imagination.

I have felt every emotion known to man over the years: fear, anger, self pity, defiance you name it. I’ve asked time and time again “why me?” but the bottom line in all of this is that cancer is part of my life and the challenge is to overcome it, not to allow it to control me or my future.

I don’t look at it as a fight, or battle, in anyway.

A positive attitude is critical is these situations, and I truly believe I will overcome and continue to live a life full of optimism, love and joy.

About Jim Van Horne:

Jim is the Dean of Sports Broadcast, he spent decades building TSN and Sportsnet.  He’s hilariously funny, kind, thoughtful, gentle and sincere.  He is, hands down, the best co-host I’ve been blessed to work with.  When starting the planning stages of — the VERY FIRST person I thought of as a contributor was JVH.  He immediately said “I’m in, anything with you.” (see? Love him.) When it was time to launch, he was not only doing work for the Olympics in Rio, he was dealing with the subject matter of the above post.  I love this man.  He’s worthy of all of our admiration — even with all of that ^^^ humility.

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Corinne Newell, Guest Contributor

Just Start. – By Corinne Newell

img_1362-1 img_8833-jpg-1

We’ve all experienced it – the dread of starting something new.

“What if I fail?” you say to yourself. “How will I be judged on this? What if people laugh at me?” It can be paralyzing.

In my 50 years on this earth, I have gone through many changes.

Many times when I’ve had to “start over”. Many times when I’ve had to weigh the pros and cons of staying where I am vs. venturing into the great unknown. Scary as hell.

In my younger years, it meant leaving an abusive relationship (yes, it’s scary to do that). Then, making the choice to leave my family in Edmonton and move to Vancouver, be completely on my own…for the first time.


In the past 15 years it has meant having faith in my gut instincts and starting a family at 38. In the past 5 years, it has meant developing a completely new career path, adding to my repertoire of working in the TV news industry, and expanding into the fitness industry.
Making change in our lives, as much as it scares the crap out of us, can also be exhilarating. One of the best things I’ve done recently is to become a Zumba fitness instructor. Yes, that’s right. At the age of 45 and with 3 kids under the age of 7, I added a second job to my life teaching the crazy fun Latin dance fitness program, Zumba. So. Much. Fun. (STILL terrifying!)

What the heck was a 45 year old mother of 3, with a full-time job doing teaching fitness? Good question, one I asked myself many times!

I had ZERO background as a fitness instructor. I did, however, have a passion for dance, I absolutely LOVED Zumba, and I thought to myself, “what the heck…how hard could it be?” So I studied the group fitness program, got licensed to teach Zumba, closed my eyes, and jumped.

My first job was as a sub for an established instructor at a small dance studio.

My first class was a disaster. Continue Reading

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Ed Watson, Guest Contributor

Loneliness Epidemic. – by Ed Watson

Image: PM Images

Image: PM Images

One night recently, I found myself alone in a hotel room casting around for something to do. No, I didn’t watch porn, which I gather is a popular pastime among men alone in hotel rooms. But I did watch TV, and a movie called “Love Actually”.

I’ve given up on the machismo image and no longer try to hide the fact that I enjoy some romantic comedies.

“Love Actually” is one of the movies I like. I’ve seen it 2 or 3 times. The film details the love stories of several couples. It’s quite good, except for the premise that anyone resembling Hugh Grant could ever become the British Prime Minister.

What resonated with me most during this viewing of the show was how the movie portrayed the angst and indecision that comes with dating, finding a mate, and even maintaining an existing relationship.

I come at this subject from a different perspective now. My wife recently died of cancer. At this point I won’t go into the emotional wreckage that experience leaves behind, but I’ve now tentatively tested the waters of the dating pool.

I think I almost drowned.

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Guest Contributor, Lynn Colliar

My IVF Journey – by Lynn Colliar

Image: Jillian Kirby

Image: Jillian Kirby

Most people know my daughter Teagan is an IVF baby. That’s because we (my husband Glenn and I) made a decision to talk about it. Because when we were on the infertility “journey” no one was talking. We were heartbroken. Frustrated. For the first time in each of our lives there was something unattainable no matter how hard we worked to get it.

We couldn’t achieve one of the most basic human life stages – we couldn’t conceive a child.

Quick flash back. I had never really “really” thought “what if I can’t get pregnant?”. I had (full disclosure) a couple of panicky days in my twenties when my period was late and I thought “what if what if what if” and spent a day or two alternating between freaking out about the possibility of being pregnant and wondering what this wonder child would look like. Of course I was never pregnant, but it never occurred to me there was a problem, just that “it wasn’t meant to be” or “I got lucky”. Little did I know that twenty years later, when I really, REALLY, wanted to get pregnant… I wouldn’t be able to. Continue Reading

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Barbara Billinger, Guest Contributor

“You’re Lucky” – by Barbara Billinger

fullsizerenderMy kitchen floor is sticky…again.

To be honest, I’m not sure with what this time. Milk? Apple juice? Do I want to know? It doesn’t matter. “You know,” I say to my husband with a heaving, dramatic sigh, “as soon as I mop this up it’s just going back to a mess in a matter of minutes.” He nods, knowingly, and shrugs with a resigned half-smile.

And as always, whenever I grouse about the little grievances and annoyances that come along with an 8 year-old and a 5-year-old, there’s a little voice in my head that follows. Even when I’m at my yelling beast-mode worst, and I’m at my wits’ end…when the storm passes, and I’m left with the quiet of my thoughts, there’s that voice.

“You’re lucky,” it softly whispers.

Over 10 years ago that voice didn’t exist. It didn’t need to.

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