The uses and abuses of punctuation

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July 31, 2014

Last week Weird Al Yankovic’s new song gave grammar nerds like me the go ahead to talk about our pet peeves.

One thing that Joe and I bonded about when we were working together, and now as married professionals, is our debates about punctuation. He thinks I use too many commas, I don’t think he uses them enough. We disagree on the necessity of the Oxford comma – Joe wants people to use semi-colons.

These are these that you either know or you don’t know. And if you don’t know, you should at least know what you don’t know. Some people can’t write well, but still have to write as part of their everyday work. So where do you go for help? Here are some sites that can provide support and quick tips:

1) Grammar Girl: I learned about Grammar Girl years ago when I got an iPod and found her Podcast. She posts quick and dirty tips about writing well. You can see her most popular tips and find her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

2) Grammarly: An automated proofreader that can find your worst mistakes quickly. They also have a very entertaining Twitter feed.

3) Pinterest: I have a Pin Board called Writer on which I post links, inspiration and resources, it’s my most followed board. There are others like it where people like me post their resources for writing well.

 And let’s not forget The Oatmeal.

And remember, when looking for a proofreader – a person you should most definitely have in your toolbox if you’re writing anything professionally – you need to find someone who understands your style, your voice and your audience.

Furthering your cause: Getting politically active through social media

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July 27, 2014

This year at Ottawa’s Social Capital Conference I got the chance to host a roundtable discussion. It was a topic I pitched and something I’m very interested in, and will be more interested in as we approach the 2015 election – how advocates for a cause can get their voices heard by our political representatives and the media.

I made a quick bullet list of things that I consider the basics of a social media campaign for a cause:

  • Be specific, make it simple – Have an ask
  • Build a community and use it – You need more than just ‘likes’ you need activists
  • Target your message and hammer away – Know who to talk to and why they should be interested
  • Follow media and talk to them regularly – Be a resource when you’re not selling anything
  • Have a good hashtag – Great examples are #IdleNoMore, #UnfairElectionsAct and #TellVicEverything

The most important thing social media has done for any political movement is the wider access it has granted to both journalists and politicians. With social media we can level the playing field between large lobbying efforts and grassroots campaigns.

At the conference I also got the change to hear Kristen Scheel talk about the Royal Canadian Mint’s social media campaign around the phasing out of the penny and here are a few take-aways from that session:

  • Take some risks, try different things and then go with what works
  • Share related content created by others
  • Simple is better

All great rules.

Some great related content:

Andrew MacDougall: How the internet hurts political reporting and breeds spin Only social media can fix the crisis of modern politics

: Likes, Retweets and Follows: Politics in the Age of Social Media  

The Insiders: Twitter’s Influence on Canadian Politics Y

You can also visit my blog at Absolute Equality, where I talk about political issues that are important to me.

5 YouTube Channels We Love

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July 27, 2014

When I started watching videos on YouTube with the kid I never expected what it would lead to. We started off just finding clips of the shows she loves but over the past couple of years as she spent more time with the iPad she’s found more and more things that really interest her. First it was toy commercials, then toy demonstrations, and now surprise eggs.

Did you know there are people with YouTube channels dedicated to opening surprise eggs or blind packs of toys?

I’ve also learned in this same period that other kids love watching these videos too. My kid has even started pretending to do her own videos, narrating as she plays. And looking at some of these channels it won’t be long before she creates her own.

Here are five channels she loves, and I think they’re pretty great too:

1) HobbyKidsTV

These are toy demonstrations, unboxing, a lot of Play Doh, which my kid loves. Her favourite is the surprise eggs.

2) Charli’s Crafty Kitchen

I have memorized the theme song for these videos and the girls are quite charming. The kid has watched their Frozen popsicle episode many, many, many times.

3) Disney Cars Toy Club

The people who host Disney Cars Toy Club are very playful – they do character voices and interact with the toys they demonstrate, and the kid keeps going back. The stories they play out with some of the toys are a favourite of the kid’s and something I’m seeing reflecting in her own play.

4) Disney Collector

This lady does a lot of Play Doh videos, which are my kid’s favourite. She often watched these videos while she’s playing and mimics some of what she sees.

5) Lucky Penny Shop

I’m a big fan of the guy from Lucky Penny Shop. He’s got a relaxing tone to his voice, he does retro toys sometimes, and the kid just keeps going back to watch him.

Other great channels for kids, outside of the toy demonstration niche, are HooplaKids, MotherGooseClub and Kids CBC videos (link to Joel Plaskett’s awesome one). We also like watching Sesame Street videos, but you can watch those on their website where there is less risk of the kids coming across something less than appropriate.

If you have a favourite YouTube channel I’ve missed I would love to hear about it.

Pushing ahead

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July 26, 2014

I’m usually pretty good at living with discomfort. And I don’t just mean the process of getting permanent crowns for my teeth, because holy crap is this uncomfortable. I put myself outside my comfort zone a lot, and I’ve survived so far. Going back to school is testing me a lot. I have no idea what to expect when December hits, but I’m asking for help and I’m pushing my limits. It’s two years. I can do that.

Since Blissdom last year I’ve been asking for things, because, as Erica Ehm taught me, sometimes people say yes, and when they say no, well, that’s okay too.

But fear can always hold you back and at this year’s Social Capital Conference it was pointed out to me that some work I am currently struggling with is probably a struggle because I’m afraid. I’m writing what might become the book that I have always wanted to write and I’m afraid to fail and I’m afraid to succeed.

Now that I’ve figured that out, I have to figure out how to get past that fear. Because fail or succeed I want to finish. When I finish I’ll have to figure out what to do next, but I want to have that to figure out.

Do I take on too much? Yes, yes I do. But I like it that way.

En route

by , on
July 25, 2014

It’s just a few weeks now until we head out on the road to Nova Scotia – me, my kid and Grandma – and I’m getting very excited about this trip. For starters Nova Scotia is one of my favourite places in the world and I haven’t really had the chance to visit since I was a kid. I was there in 2009, but I was working the whole time and I didn’t even see the water until the day that I left. Still, that visit proved to me once again that Halifax feels like home to me.

Me and my Gramps in Peggy's Cove, 1990

Me and my Gramps in Peggy’s Cove, 1990

We will be traveling in a Chevy Traverse loaned to us by GM Canada (thank you very much). Driving is my preferred way of travel. Sure, it takes longer, but you can pack whatever you might need for different circumstances and I’m pretty neurotic about such thing – will we need sweaters? Will it rain? What if I only pack sandals and then want sneakers one day?

(I also stress out about going through airport security, not because I’ve done anything but because you have to unpack your carry on and then repack it at the end of the line and doing this while taking care of and keeping track of your child is a wee bit overwhelming).

I’m even more excited about driving because on day one we’re going to head from Ottawa to Edmunston, NB, and then visit the Hopewell Rocks the next morning. I’ve never been, but the idea of walking with my baby girl on the ocean floor thrills me.

While we’re in Nova Scotia we will visit Halifax, Lunenberg and, of course, Peggy’s Cove, one of my favourite places in the world. I have a crazy idea of driving the kid up to Cape Breton to visit. I’ve never seen Cape Breton and I have always wanted to visit. Maybe we’ll get there.

We are definitely going to spend some time at this Haida Ship Playground. The awesome. Seriously.

On the subjection of women

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July 23, 2014

When I was younger I thought a lot of the things about feminism that the women of #WomenAgainstFeminism feel too. That it’s something we didn’t need any more, that I don’t hate men, that I enjoy the feeling of my legs when they’ve been shaved.

Of course, since then I’ve grown up a lot, learned a lot, met a lot of great women and I know now that, as best put by The Bloggess:

I’m not saying you can’t choose to not be a feminist but know what you’re choosing.  Don’t make a decision about a group based on the most radical beliefs of a group.  Don’t get defensive if you get deeper and are exposed to difficult ideas about intersectionality and race and gender and colonialism and patriarchy and male liberation.  Just listen.  Some of it will make sense.  Some of it won’t.  Some of it will later when you’re a different person.  Some of it you’ll change your mind about throughout your life and the world will change too.  Some of it is bullshit.  Some of it is truth.  All of it is worth listening to.

That woman makes so much sense when she’s making sense.

Here at 33 I consider myself a full on feminist. Even though I shave my legs, took my husband’s name and stay at home with my daughter. Hell, I even like baking. And I don’t subscribe to the idea of affirmative action. None of that makes me a bad feminist.

What makes me a good feminist? Well, I’m a woman for starters, and I believe that that doesn’t lessen my standing in society. My belief that women need to engage and inform, that women have a right to be heard, that women are not a cohesive group and shouldn’t be treated as such. That women are equal citizens, period, end of sentence. That right there makes me a feminist.

You cannot argue the fact that when women get support communities prosper. You cannot ignore the fact that the next generations are overwhelmingly being raised by women. That is a huge sphere of influence and a huge opportunity to make a difference.

One of my favourite readings for university (the first time around) was John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women. Mill argued that the nation was being dragged down by men who were married to stupid women. Women who were stupid because they were not allowed education. He argued that women should be granted the same rights as men to benefit the men.

I mean, what a great way to make an argument to other men, right?

Mill, an man from the 19th century showed me something. I believe that the more women engage, participate, the more interesting the conversation will be.

And that’s what makes me a feminist.


Obligatory mother of a daughter picture

Obligatory mother of a daughter picture

People in your neighbourhood

by , on
July 20, 2014

I grew up in a neighbourhood. Almost every house held people I was acquainted with, and most of them had kids around my age. I can walk through the neighbourhood now and tell my daughter which of my friends, my sister’s friend or our teachers lived in which houses.

My sister started walking me to school when I was in Grade 1. Mostly because my single mother had to work. I didn’t mind at all. We would walk up a couple of blocks, meet some friends and walk the rest of the way in a group. I was allowed to walk to our corner store or my best friend’s house, down to the park to play. With my sister I rode my bike all over the neighbourhood once I could ride. We were never more than two or three minutes away from someone that we knew.

I asked my mom the other day how often she thought she would have been arrested during the course of my childhood.

Now we live in a neighbourhood. There’s a small park a couple of doors down and I absolutely love taking the dog for a walk and seeing kids playing in the street on bikes and scooters. There’s even a place where a group of kids has built a fort among the trees. It makes me feel like this is a real, safe neighbourhood. There are kids just out and about having fun, doing stupid things, just like I did when I was a kid. Those are the things I want my kid to remember.


Birds suddenly appear

by , on
July 10, 2014

The kid has a habit of asking deep questions out of nowhere. The other day we were in the car together, she had been talking about other things, and then suddenly she asked me how Daddy and I fell in love.

She asks these questions and catches you totally off guard and leaves you stumbling to answer.

Today I was at Carleton to see the registrar. I had to take in some documents to get them to do a name change, since I got married after I graduated last time. As I was walking back to my parking spot I took the tunnels from the Quad and ended up on the fourth floor of the university centre. I walked towards the stairs and ended up in front of the door to the stairs that I used to always take up to the fifth floor. Fifth floor UniCentre, Room 531. That’s where I met Joe. When I stopped looking at that door and took the stairs down instead I got a little emotional.

I went in for an interview at the student paper and met the editor and two board members. Out of the three men in that interview one became my husband, the other is a very good friend to us both. (The third guy was a journalism professor who has played no further role in my life).

I started that job in November and Joe and I became friends over the course of the year.Good friends. As editor-in-chief and production manager we were often the last people in the office and we had a lot of good talks. I really don’t know when things changed.

One night I went over to his apartment to watch a movie. That weekend I invited him to my place to watch some movies that were part of an assignment I was doing. And I was really nervous and I wasn’t sure why. It felt like something was happening. We sat together on the couch and after a bit he kissed me.


And we’ve never looked back.

I still don’t know when the switch flipped for me. That was the end of March and by the summer we were planning on moving in together and fully expected to get married. I hadn’t even planned on ever getting married but suddenly I really wanted to. Things just kind of fell into place.

So now how do I explain that to my kid?

Giveaway: Crazy for puppets

by , on
July 8, 2014

A couple of years ago Grandma and Grandpa brought the kid a new friend. His name is King and he is very funny. He is also unsure where exactly his kingdom is.


Since the king arrived in our house the kid has become a huge fan of puppets and two years ago we took her to the Puppets Up festival in Almonte. We timed our visit all wrong and didn’t get to see any of the shows, but she did get her face painted and we got to see the parade, which she loved. I’m thrilled that this year we’re going back to the festival and we will make sure to check the schedule and plan to see a few of the presentations. I believe the kid is already acquainted with the Puppet Tamer, so we’ll stop in to see him again, and since Abby Cadabby is one of her favourite Sesame Street Muppets (see below) we will have to check out Leslie Carrara-Rudolph’s “Leslie and Lolly Make Stuff Up.”


And how could we possibly skip a performance called Squirrel Stole My Underpants? I mean come on. And the Little Feet Theatre. You can’t see this picture and not want to see where that goes:

Veronica Gonzales_Little Feet

I would bet that the king will join us for the festival.

The artistic director of the Puppets Up festival is Noreen Young who created Under the Umbrella Tree, which ran on CBC for 10 years starting when I was six years old. I have fond memories of those characters  Holly, Iggy, Jacob and Gloria. I love seeing Noreen Young’s puppets decorating the windows around downtown during the festival. It’s especially cool because Noreen Young designed the puppets for an older CBC show called Hi Diddle Day, and it so happens my mother was one of the show’s scriptwriters.

You can buy tickets to the festival here, day passes and weekend passes are available and children under 3 are free. Puppets Up runs August 8, 9 and 10.

I am very excited to be able to give away two day passes for the festival to one lucky reader. Leave me a comment below letting me know that you’re interested and I will draw a winner July 31.

Disclosure: I was given two passes to the festival for my family as well as the giveaway passes for writing this post, but I am honestly excited to be taking my daughter to check it out. And if you do take in the festival make sure you spend some time checking out Almonte and the surrounding area as well. 

Sponsored: Date Night

by , on
July 4, 2014

I love going to the movies, it’s one of my favourite things to do. Settling in with some popcorn to escape into a story for a couple of hours. Action, comedy, horror, romance, I’ll take it all. I’ve been going to movies by myself since I was a teenager, but since the kid was born it’s been one of my favourite escapes when I just need to get out of the house for a while.

Before she was born, Joe and I used to go to movies together on occasion, but since it’s something I love and he could give or take I’ve seen a lot of movies without him in the past four years. Only when something comes up that he really wants to see do we go together. It doesn’t happen a lot. And really, our date nights are few and far between.

And that is why I am very excited to have a date night out to see the new movie Sex Tape on July 16.

Since movies are my favourite thing I jumped at the chance to be part of the Mom Central campaign to promote this movie, which stars Jason Segel (who is awesome and loves Muppets as much as I do) and Cameron Diaz. When I found out that I would get to see the movie I sent my husband a message telling him that we would be going on a date night that night, and then I sent him a calendar invite, because that’s how we roll.

Not until I got a message back from him thanking me for the clarification before the calendar invite did I realize that I had sent him an invitation that said: “Sex Tape, July 16, 7 pm.”

Yeah. This is going to be good.

Sex Tape is being released in theatres on July 18.

Disclosure: I am part of the Sony Pictures – Sex Tape Movie program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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