Saskatoon Speed Dating Success Story: Anthony and Sophie

bi-racial couple looks up at bright fair grounds, smiling

“I love meeting new people. So, I wanted to meet people and make some friends and go from there. Obviously, having a girlfriend out of it was an absolute cherry on top of the cake. “

This week, I spoke with a pair who matched at Saskatoon Speed Dating. Anthony* and Sophie* have been in a supportive, long-term relationship since connecting at their Do Sask event in January 2019. I asked them if they would share their experience and they graciously agreed. I chatted with each of them individually and encouraged honest responses.

Read on if you’re curious to learn how this couple developed from an initial 4-minute speed dating conversation.

What did you think about speed dating before you came?

Anthony: “I didn’t really have any feelings about it at all. I’d seen speed dating in a few movies and things. I didn’t know that Saskatoon had such a thing.

When I heard about it, I thought, “What the heck!” I would give it a try. I was in the mountains on a snowboard trip scrolling on Facebook. Something popped up and it was Do Sask, so I read into it. I saw speed dating and read about it and went from there.”

What did you want out of speed dating?

Sophie: “To be honest, going into it I didn’t have any expectations. One of my friends worked at the Crazy Cactus. She and I were both part of a group of friends who were mostly coupled up since high school or a few years after. When she heard Do Sask Speed Dating was scheduled at the Crazy Cactus, she began a campaign to get me to join her. I wasn’t gung-ho in the very beginning. But I thought why not to see what would happen. I didn’t expect that it would be the way I met my future partner.”

Anthony: “I was going in to have a new experience and try something new. I didn’t necessarily want a relationship out of it, but I wanted to try something out of my comfort zone. I love meeting new people. So, I wanted to make some friends and go from there. Obviously, having a girlfriend out of it was an absolute cherry on top of the cake.”

Tell me about what happened the night of speed dating.

A: “The night of I was running late. I rolled up a minute or two to 7 pm. I figured I was going to be a couple minutes late. I just remember thinking to myself “here we go”. There were some butterflies. I remember seeing all the people there. Once I registered, I knew I had a drink ticket and went to grab one. I started chatting with some of the guys there and my butterflies went away.”

S: “I told my friend I really needed a drink. I had no idea what I was walking into. There were a lot more people there than I thought there would be.

I liked the icebreaker game which introduced me to everyone who was there that night. We played people bingo and got to know other people. It was kind of nice to have a little conversation with everyone before the dating started.“

A: “We had an introductory bingo game. There was a bingo card and we were asked to find people that matched the description and write their name on the squares. There were no nerves, it was just excitement at that point.

Once the game started, I remember thinking, “Okay, you’re supposed to mingle”. A few of the girls had huddled up together asking questions and some of the guys were asking questions to each other. My initial thought was, “I’m here to go on dates, so I’m going to talk to the girls”.

I remember seeing Sophie walk in at the beginning of the night. With the game on, I went right over to her. She was happy and had this beautiful smile. I remembered her immediately. Once the dates started, I was looking forward to having that 4-minute date with her.

S: “As soon as you said go for the ice breaker game, Anthony was the first person who came up and talked to me. I kind of liked being approached first. He was nice to talk to. He said it was nice meeting you and I’ll talk to you soon.”

A: “During our date, we were talking about football. She was very open and didn’t seem shy. She plays fantasy football and I like football. My go-to question for that night was, “here’s a plane ticket you can go anywhere you want, where are you going?” And I had a lot of good conversations from that. Sophie was very easy to talk to. The 4 minutes flew by. We chatted through the intermission.”

S: “When it came time for Anthony’s 4-minute date to end, he asked, “Do you want to keep talking?” Intermission had started, so we decided to chat right through the short break. We talked about fantasy football. And we’re both big travellers, so we discussed all the places we’ve been and wanted to go. That probably took up most of the conversation.”

Describe your first date after speed dating.

S: “On our first date, we met at D’Lish by Tish Cafe and got a drink. We took it to go and walked along the river. We walked to Rotary Park, by River Landing, and up the Broadway Bridge. It was the end of January, so the night turned cold. We went to the Yard and Flagon to warm up a bit. Anthony walked me back to my car at D’Lish before we said goodnight.”

A: “We met up at a coffee shop about a week later, grabbed a cup of joe, and went for a stroll by the river. Tried to get to know each other. There was a wind – it was winter – so we just kept moving. I walked her back to her car gave her a kiss goodnight.”

How has your life been better since attending?

S: “I’ve never really had a serious relationship and it’s really nice having someone to share a life with. Anthony adds to my life.”

A: “I’ve had a girlfriend since then, so it’s been a change for the better. It was a pretty good bonus. I’m happy and the months have flown by since meeting her. It’s a great relationship. We support each other. It’s very easy to get along.”

Do you feel like four minutes in person is enough to decide?

A: “Yeah, it is enough to make a decision about someone. Pretty quickly you get a vibe if you want to chat with that person any further. Whether it’s friendly or more. You’ll know if want to talk with them again.”

How do you know if speed dating was successful?

A: “It was a win for me because I gained a girlfriend out of it. For me it was going to be a success because I went. I didn’t back out! I booked it back from the mountains. And the next day I thought I was going to cancel. The act of trying something different that not everyone would do made it a success. It put me out of my comfort zone. Not everyone would do this. It’s different way to go about meeting people.”

S: “I’d never been to speed dating before. I’d even mark it as successful if I hadn’t found someone because I’d have made some new connections.”

How do you feel about online dating or apps?

S: “I was visiting a friend in Calgary. She took my phone and made a Tinder account. I didn’t want to activate it in Saskatoon because I found it very superficial. But I did go on some dates from the app. I saw one guy for a couple months and it didn’t work out with him long-term.”

A: “Nothing against the dating apps. They have their good and bad. I think they’re fine. I’ve had dates from those too. They’re just another page in the dating book.

Nowadays there’s Tinder, bumble, POF, and speed dating is just another way. For me, you meet people face-to-face and have a good chat. You get to know a lot about a person by chatting. ”

What is the most frustrating thing about dating before meeting your speed dating match?

S: “The most frustrating thing is meeting new people. I have a great group of friends, but there aren’t too many new people coming into the group.

Lots of my friends have been dating since around high school or shortly afterwards. They met through mutual friends in high school. A couple years after high school they would come around. That’s how most of the relationships happened.”

A: “For me, dating was just getting to meet new people and hopefully something goes well from there. Nothing seemed to work out for a bit there. But that’s just me and the other person weren’t meant to be. I probably wouldn’t have met Sophie if I didn’t go to speed dating.

I have a certain group of friends from high school. There was a bit of a disconnect. They were with someone since high school. I could never relate to that. I have other friends through hockey. I always seem to meet new people here and there.”

Would you recommend Do Sask speed dating to others?

A: Yeah, absolutely. I would recommend speed dating to others. If someone asked me, I would tell ’em it’s a lot of fun and it turned out better than I would have expected.

Do you have a speed dating match success story? Share yours now. 

*Names have been changed to protect the couple’s privacy. Testimonials have been lightly edited for clarity.

Speed dating match testimonials are honest and genuine. However, they don’t guarantee similar match results.

How to use 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to Plan Your Road Trip: Book Review

This week, 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan: The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places helped me plan a two week long camping trip. It’s the summer of RVing throughout southwest Saskatchewan for my husband Chris and I. This book came perfectly timed alongside the opening of the Saskatchewan Provincial Park campsite reservation service.

Jenn Smith Nelson, one of the book’s co-authors, asked me about writing a review of her new book in February. I don’t normally write book reviews, but the title intrigued me since I make a point of exploring Saskatchewan. I thought this would be the perfect book to motivate and inspire my summer RV camping plan.


Imagine asking a stranger for directions and getting a lot of local expertise and hidden gems about the wild along the way – that’s what you can expect from this guidebook.

I relate to Jenn’s ‘Welcome to Saskatchewan’ message. In her introduction, she explains that her love of nature and pride for the prairies is what motivated her to write this book. Jenn says that the prairies are often overlooked. Next to her message is a gorgeous photo of the northern lights dancing above Castle Butte.

Jenn and I make it our mission to compile gems within Saskatchewan. And it helps to continuously discover more reasons to love our home province.

Pick up 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and you’ll likely read it cover to cover in a short sitting. You’ll use it again as a reference guide when researching a destination before hitting the road.

The book’s main introduction mentions “the healing power of nature” along with a call for readers to respect wildlife areas. The authors clearly want readers to explore rather than disrupt the fragile environments. So don’t all go stampeding into these wild places at once!

What to expect from 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan

On the day 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan arrived in the mail, I opened it somewhere in the middle and began flipping through. Its modern format, eye-catching headings, and clean layout makes each nature hot spot pop. Captioned photos reinforce each profile’s wild flora (plants) and fauna (animals).

Sections start with a map and point to which page you’ll find each nature hot spot. This visual Table of Contents is helpful to reference during road trip planning. Every hot spot has a short summary with information on location highlights and icons that indicate activity type.

Page view of 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan
An example entry of one of the 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan: The Great Sandhills. Photo courtesy of Firefly Books.

It must’ve been challenging for co-authors, Jenn Smith Nelson and Doug O’Neill, to keep each destination brief, yet detailed. There is no room for personal opinion within the hot spot entries which results in short descriptions. Imagine asking a stranger for directions and getting a lot of local expertise and hidden gems about the wild – that’s what you can expect from this guidebook.

You’ll want to check out the ‘Special Interest’ category at the back of each province’s section for information on waterfalls (yes, we have those and I’m surprised too), birds, paddling, and sky viewing spots.

How to use 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to plan your road trips

It’s super easy to flip through and plan a road trip on the fly. The map at the beginning of the Southern Saskatchewan section was helpful in creating a circle route plan for our summer RV trip. For instance, we chose Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, Grasslands National Park – West Block, Lake Diefenbaker – Douglas Provincial Park, and the Beechy Sandcastles.

In the future, I’m looking forward to exploring northern parts of the province and eventually Manitoba. This year, I’m focusing on the south and central regions. I found myself flipping to different parts of the book to dream about where we’d visit next. After seeing a photo of the swinging bridge, I literally booked a campsite at Nipawin Regional Park .

Beginner travellers and seasoned adventurers navigating through the prairies will find this book useful. If you’ve done a fair bit of Saskatchewan travel, 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan will shed new light on old favourites while introducing you to places you likely never knew existed.

For example, I learned about the Northeast Swale right here in my home city of Saskatoon. It’s located in the Silverspring neighbourhood, east of the Chief Mistawasis Bridge. On a spontaneous visit this weekend, I was surprised to find a beaver lodge along with a patch of wild crocus in full bloom and checked it off my spring bucket list.

A wild crocus blooms on the eastern edge of the Northwest Swale in Silverspring. Photo by Amy Rederburg.

Saskatoon’s entry reminds me of the natural amenities I have, steps from home: Meewasin Trail, the South Saskatchewan River, Cranberry Flats, and white pelicans at the weir to name a few.

110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan provides a broad overview of natural gems with unique details that you can only learn from a local. The personal touch within Jenn’s introduction would’ve been interesting to weave into each destination entry, but would’ve resulted in a much longer book. If you’re looking for a personal story of prairie wildlife, choose a hot spot and create your own adventure.

Author Info:

Jenn Smith Nelson, co-author of 110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan: The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places, is a well-known travel writer and media contributor who calls Regina, Saskatchewan home. Co-author, Doug O’Neill, is an established travel writer, certified hike leader, and Trans-Canada Trail ambassador. He resides in Toronto, Ontario.

Book Details:

110 Nature Hot Spots in Manitoba and Saskatchewan
The Best Parks, Conservation Areas and Wild Places
Published on April 15, 2019
Paperback
$29.95
ISBN: 9780228101697

I Quit Coffee for Lent And I’m Still Alive

I quit coffee for Lent

I used to drink at least one cup of black coffee every day. Now it’s been over three weeks, two days, and 6 hours since I gave up my habit for Lent, but who’s counting?

Now, before you worry about an entertainment entrepreneur tackling a religious topic like Lent, I want to say this isn’t about preaching at you, or encouraging you to quit coffee ’cause this shit is hard. This post is strictly about how quitting coffee for Lent has affected my total well-being.

What’s Lent?

It’s the period of time between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday. Christians take 40 days to reflect on the life of Christ and spend time trying to be humble, ascetic, and reflective. It’s a season that sparked giant raging parties like Mardi Gras, where people try to fit in all the debauchery before limiting themselves from hedonistic pleasures.

Coffee is a daily habit in my life.

Four years ago, I swapped my daily rooibos tea for coffee. My motivation for the day-to-day grind started to wane as my degree program came to an end. It started with the Keurig machine at work. Now, I usually make myself a personal-sized French press every day.

I’ve never thought myself a coffee addict, but I rely on it to get my through most days.

A Lenten resolution challenge.

This March, the priest at my grandma’s church handed me a paper with the words “Lenten Resolution” as I was exiting the chapel. I thought it might be a good time to control some of the things that have been controlling me.

Disclaimer: I’ve never given up anything for Lent in my life. I consider myself a Christ follower, but I’m not a regular churchgoer (sorry, Grandma). I feel at home in spiritual communities where members can openly question, discuss, and think critically about Christian doctrine. Drastically changing my behaviour due to observation of Lent is an anomaly.

So back to this “Lenten Resolution” paper. I made mental notes of which things would be challenging to give up:

  • I love POPCORN. So it was the first thing to go. I can eat an entire bowl to myself semi-regularly!
  • Then, I upped the ante: COFFEE. My daily addiction that would be much more difficult to control.

Coffee and popcorn are currently off limits. I haven’t been physically affected by a lack of popcorn.

Coffee withdrawals are as real as any other addiction withdrawal symptoms.

My first three days off coffee were brutal. I had a splitting headache that I couldn’t shake, my ears were ringing, and I was thirsty. I popped several ibuprofen. And I just wanted to sleep all day.

My body was going through major caffeine withdrawals.

I didn’t feel like I was dying Things started to even out around day three. My irritability and drowsiness were still hanging on. Weird nightmares interrupted my sleep. I likely snapped a few times.

Once finding out I had quit coffee for Lent, friends seemed genuinely concerned about how I could function without it.

One friend asked, “But what about coffee poops?”

I answered, “The first few days were a blur , so maybe there was… er… a kink or two. Other than that, I’m pretty regular.”

Since I quit coffee, I’ve felt a bit anxious and stressed. A pinching or squeezing sensation in my heart started, but subsided.

I still find it difficult to concentrate. For example, I sat down last Friday to write a blog post and was coming up dry for nearly two hours. I settled on a spring bucket list to get some words out. It’s really tough for someone who has to focus as part of their job to suddenly lose that ability.

Mornings are hard, so I’m taking better care of my nights. My routine consists of a cup of caffeine-free tea, washing my face, brushing and flossing, and then reading a physical book. This daily practice is beginning to have a positive and energizing effect on my mornings.

If I can quit coffee, I can do anything!

Quitting coffee has empowered me to look at other areas in my life that could value from a little self-control. If I can quit coffee, I can quit negative self-talk, go to the gym everyday, have that tough conversation, or give back to my community.

But I won’t lie: I smell coffee strongly on people. It’s haunting me everywhere! So I sneak in some Green Tea when I’m desperate.

Lent can be a season of going without, or it can be a chance to examine what’s worth holding on to. It’s a chance to question motivations and adjust daily routines to focus more on things that empower, enrich, and inspire.

I quit coffee for Lent. What are you giving up?

My Saskatoon Spring Bucket List

It’s feeling like spring in Saskatoon! After a brutally cold winter, I can’t wait to pack away my winter coat, toque, and scarf. In celebration of this amazing warm streak, I’ve put together a spring bucket list that I’ll be crossing off over the next few months. Join me!

Saskatoon Spring Bucket List

Start a vegetable garden from seeds and plant them

Make a mosaic concrete garden stone

Take a spontaneous day trip

Book sites at Saskatchewan campgrounds for summer RVing

Spring clean closet and donate the rest to YWCA Opportunity Shop

Make a Moss Bag at Wanuskewin

Call dibs on fresh produce at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market or Community Farms Market of Saskatoon

Learn how to cook new Mexican cuisine for Cinco de Mayo

Drop-in jam in the park with the acroyogis of Saskatoon

Tour a part of Saskatoon that’s unfamiliar

Work up the nerve to go for a horseback ride

Tune up bike and hit the Meewasin Trail

Sign up for the Saskatoon Canoe Club

Practice suspension circuit training at Shaw Centre

Get the official pickleball introduction at Saskatoon Field House

Have a board game night with friends at King Me Boardgamery

Create a signature spring cocktail using local spirits

Catch the first prairie crocus bloom on camera

Take an entire weekend off

Make office furniture more cat-friendly

Go for a hike and toast halfway with a champagne picnic

Take a chocolate truffle workshop at Purdy’s

Sign up for a 5K to get into running again

Christen the backyard patio with a crisp brew

What’s on your spring bucket list?

International Women’s Day 2019

International Women’s Day is dedicated to making the world a more balanced place. Part of celebrating is acknowledging that there’s a problem that needs to be corrected. The 2019 theme #BalanceforBetter challenges each one of us to improve the gender balance. It’s important that I share this post today because Saskatchewan is Canada’s hotspot for intimate partner violence. There are a lot of reasons why our province should be named #1, but this is one title I would be happy to lose.

‘I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”

Anaïs Nin

The quote above acknowledges that men play a critical role in the empowerment of women. The man Anais chose reinforced how she viewed herself and solidified her individual identity. I envision this person to be supportive and encouraging, while helping to challenge the often monumental beast of self-doubt.

Today, I’ve decided to share a short writing prompt on the state of feminism in the media. I wrote it nearly five years ago as part of my Communications Degree in early part of 2014. At the time, pop artists I admired such as Beyonce and Katy Perry were actively avoiding identifying with the word “feminist”.

Fast-forward only a few years later, and both women came out with clear statements that affirmed their feminism. This shift has taken place over a relatively short period of time. Beyonce and Katy admitted they had no idea what the word meant before the media began asking them whether or not they identified with it.

So, what does “feminism” mean anyway?

Coming from small-town Saskatchewan, I relate to having no prior understanding of feminism before my post-secondary education. How can you identify with something that has never been defined for you? In case you’re curious, I’ve included my favourite definition of feminism below.

‘Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. (…). Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open-ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.”   

―     bell hooks

Internalized oppression is a daily battle for women

During my undergrad capstone research, I discovered how a woman’s own internal voice is developed to oppress her from her date of birth. My life and identity were the subject of this study. I’ve been passionate about living as a feminist since leaving school.

You may or may not have thought about internalized oppression before. Let me explain: from a woman’s perspective, it whispers about what you’re wearing as you strategically hold your keys when you walk home alone at night. It nods at you while you’re hissing insults at yourself in the mirror. It tells you to keep quiet when you’re too afraid to speak out against harassment. And it’s the disguise your friends wear when the conversation goes back to feeding self-hatred (i.e. diet culture).

Moving society in a positive direction

The mainstream popularization of feminism is doing something to transform the way we, men and women, live out its ideals. Flipping negative messages, behaviours, and beliefs from the current realities to a new, positive movement.

Empowerment of an entire gender is a big effort. Start with something small and practical, such as paying a woman with the same qualifications and skills as her male colleague the same salary or hourly wage. Or have a willingness to pay self-employed women the rates they command. Or support a woman’s choice to be a stay-at-home mother without penalizing her when she wants to rejoin the workforce.

International Women’s Day: The state of feminism

As I said earlier, the following prompt is what I thought was going on with feminism in the media back in 2014. It’s slightly more difficult to read than a typical Do Sask post, but it gives a good snapshot of how far society has come over the past five years.

“The truth is that we have not reached the point where sexism, sexual oppression and exploitation have become history and yet most young women denounce the term feminist when describing their image. Strong, female role-models (especially Beyonce) have avoided answering the question when asked directly. This may be due to the media twisting the definition of feminism to mean the ‘men-hating, radical, bra-burners’ of the second-wave. The main foundations of feminism are either represented inaccurately or not at all by the media, leading many to believe contemplation of the term to be outdated.

Feminism allows women to share their experiences in hopes that they can individually and collectively revolt against the patriarchy. It is about becoming an inclusive body for women to work towards the goal together, not a system to alienate ‘real women’ from ‘real feminists’. The problem is that ‘fourth-wave of feminism’, the new generation of young, liberated, post-feminism, Generation Y women and men, are unsure of how to categorize their stance on the issue. There have been so many sub-categories added under the umbrella of feminism (race, class, sexuality, gender) that its aura has been diluted. Instead of these groups rallying to continue the struggle to end patriarchal oppression, the hierarchical culture of feminism has torn women apart to scrutinize which group makes better feminists.

In a post-feminist media context, popular discourse actually reinforces the powers that have been holding women back for eons (Foucauldian internalized oppression, self-monitoring). The most repressive aspect of feminism is to deny that young people care about the term, which can lead many to believe that the time has come to silence the topic entirely. Extraordinarily, Miley Cyrus may be the most famous young woman to publically declare herself to be the “biggest feminist in the world”, while Katy Perry says she is “not a feminist, but believes in strong women”. In most cases, the media is acting as a repressive force by choosing the victim as their scapegoat while perpetually representing women as damaged, manipulative and promiscuous.

This leaves every day women perplexed as to how to identify with feminism at all. On one hand, young women should be able to wear whatever they choose without fear of harassment. On the other, revealing costumes, hyper-sexualized lyrics, and pastiche-porn performances reinforce the idea that women are sex objects.  Strident feminists who criticize Miley Cyrus for her behaviour should realize that she has outwardly supported feminism, albeit in her own way, while other female stars have shied away from it. Cyrus understands that in order to make money for herself and her record label, she needs to capitalize on the systems created within patriarchy. After all, the type of sex Miley is selling is atypical; aggressive, confrontational, masculine characteristics. The trouble is the audience lacks the ability to observe the thin line between parody and acquiescence.

Popular media figures such as Joseph Gordon Levitt, Lena Dunham, and Pink are other examples of celebrities who have taken a public stance in affirming feminism. Their individual representations have been showcased by creating art from their own experiences. Joseph Gordon Levitt challenged damaging labels of masculinity and femininity in Don Jon, a mainstream movie about porn addiction and objectification. Lena Dunham writes about her realistic and relatable experiences as a 20-something in New York with Girls. Pink has constructed her image by speaking out about the patriarchal demands of the record industry and being a strong woman. These artists have gleaned inspiration from the movement as modern individuals.  

When celebrities choose to bring feminism to the forefront of their work, they also bring it back into the spotlight of the public sphere. Strides are being made by social media to unite women around the world by having real-time discussions about ongoing cultural issues like slut-shaming, violence and the gender gap. Women are still dealing with issues that were being tackled by second-wave feminists (sexual harassment, rape, reproductive rights, etc.). When celebrities dismiss feminism as something to be ashamed of, it makes the continued mistreatment of women (and all of the other categories of feminism) right. As more prominence is given to feminism in the media, the term will become less about isolating it to academics and more about making it accessible to women and men from all walks of life.”

Happy International Women’s Day!

Why Valentine’s Day is the Worst Date Night of the Year

There are 365 nights in a year, so why is Valentine’s Day the absolute worst date night of them all? Before I get into my reasons, I’ll start with a story.

One of my favourite Valentine’s Day memories was when this guy I met asked me to be his Valentine. Ignoring the fact that this was a totally cheesy move – I was legitimately excited. We had met a few weeks earlier and hit it off quickly which had taken me by surprise. Up until that day, I had never been asked to be someone’s Valentine before, so I didn’t know how to react or what to expect.

As it turned out, the guy cooked me jambalaya and pralines. He realized as I arrived that he needed to go on a mad rush to buy a corkscrew for a bottle of wine. When he got back, he served our dinner on a pop-up Rubbermaid table that he bought especially for that date. Later on, we went for a blisteringly cold walk under the stars.

If I had imagined what modern society promotes as the perfect Valentine’s Date Night, I probably would’ve been disappointed. But because I had no expectations and was open to trying something new, I was pleasantly surprised.

  • Was it messy? Yes.
  • Was it romantic? Yes.
  • Was it everything Hallmark tells you it should be? Absolutely not.
  • What did I do for him? Carved his Valentine into a banana (he won that round).

That guy is now my husband.

Excuse the fingers, but this is the actual banana Valentine of 2014.

Before this happy memory, I’d been alone on many a Valentine’s Day. While I made an effort to bake cookies and give cute cards to my friends and colleagues, I often felt lonely and sad on February 14th.

Maybe it’s because I’m an easy target for advertisers.

The gift-driven holiday is designed to make people believe that most people in the world are in love, so that you can look forward to expressing your love with the “perfect” gift for your future soulmate. But these gifts are just superficial tokens with inflated price tags.

The town of Singleton always feels like a population of 1.

The reality is that it’s closer in size to a metropolis. A large portion of the world is now living independently. According to 2016 Canadian census data published in the Globe and Mail, “the number of one-person households… surpassed all other types of living situations“. If you’re single and living in your own place, you definitely aren’t alone.

Valentine’s Day seems more like an item on a to-do list than an act of love.

Love can be dirty and downright confusing. The Hallmark kind is just fine sometimes, but it doesn’t capture the actual feelings you have for someone. Love – true love – isn’t about the amount you spend on a date. It’s so much more than a box of candies, or a swanky dinner over candlelight. It can’t be contained in a heart-shaped box, or within the limits of a bank account.

The more intimate love, the kind that wakes up at night to check on you when you’re sick, the kind that encourages you to speak when every part of you wants to remain quiet, the kind that makes you laugh until you cry… is the kind of love that can only creep into your day when you least expect it. And odds are good (about 364 : 1) that day won’t be Valentine’s Day.

The need to continue Valentine’s Day for “tradition’s” sake.

Here’s the thing: traditions start as brand new ideas. You and I get to decide whether or not they’re worth doing again.

I mean, we go on regular date nights the rest of the year. We purchase gifts for each other just because. Should we wait around for one day to pay a premium for things we do all. the. time? (Here’s a hint: date nights make great everyday acts of love with lower price tags and expectations!)

If singles feel isolation like I did on Valentine’s Day, and couples just want to check off a box to satisfy their relational duties – then what is the actual point of keeping Valentine’s Day around for another year?

What if more of us let go of the idea of a perfect Valentine’s Day and welcomed messy memories? That’s what I want this tradition to symbolize for you this February 14th.

6 of the Latest Do Sask Book Club Reads in Photos

A.K.A. Six Potential Titles to Add to Your 2019 Stack

Most people interested in joining the Do Sask Book Club ask what titles we’ve read recently. To be honest, we read a wide variety of genres depending on who submits their #1 book to the draw. This keeps the club on its toes and exposes us to a number of different viewpoints.

Curious to know about the latest titles read by the Do Sask Book Club? Today, you’re in luck! And you don’t even have to leave the house.

See also

At the end of every book club meeting, we have a tradition of rating each title out of five. Those who haven’t finished the book keep their fists closed. This post will give you a photo of the ratings each book was given at the time of the meeting. Most book club members like to remain anonymous, so no faces are shown.

6 of the Latest Reads from The Do Sask Book Club Shelves

Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Some didn’t finish reading, but the majority who did gave it a 3. It takes a long time to get into the story, but the ending makes it worthwhile.

Grunt by Mary Roach (Got Distracted by Cake – No Rating)

“Roach … can take any scientific topic and make it clear, human, and even funny. In this case, she tackles the science of war, but not in the way you might think. On the weird and winding path she takes, she never loses sight of the sad reality and humanity of soldiers and war. ” – Member Ashleigh

The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale

This one made us laugh and cry. It was almost bittersweet how real and relatable it was to all of us. Highly recommend 4/5.

Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer

“There are lots of great pop culture references, and I applaud her for trying to change the way society frames women’s friendships, but … I found her making sweeping generalizations based on her personal experiences. Even as she’s fighting against stereotypes…, she’s using them to back her own arguments.” – Member Ashleigh

Factfulness by Hans Rosling

We liked the clear, simple language used to explain complex topics like climate change, poverty/class, migration, and world population.
It gives science-oriented hope for the future.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

The 1st Anniversary of Do Sask Book Club also had the most readers out to date. 
Michelle’s story is oddly relatable, considering the extraordinary life of America’s first black first lady. We highly recommend it for your stack this year.

At the February Do Sask Book Club meeting, we’ll discuss Educated by Tara Westover (seats currently sold out – join the waitlist). Check out the event listing for details on subsequent meetings. 

2019 is ripe for reading! Fill it with friends, a few drinks, and some literature at the Do Sask Book Club. Please contact me if you’d like more information about upcoming meetings. 

January 30 is #BellLetsTalk. This is my mental health story.

10 years ago, I started seeing a counselor after I was laid off from my job. Prior to that moment, I had only been taken to counselling for a short time as a child. I didn’t know how to open up as an eight year old girl, so it didn’t lead to any results.

My first regular adult counsellor took the time to understand what was going on. As it turned out, there was more to unpack than the feelings associated with job loss after the economic crash of 2008.

Since then, counselling has become a regular part of my life. Just like seeing the dentist, doctor, or RMT. It has given me the skills and ability to change my perspective of the world and to catch my thoughts before they start slipping into darker territory.

I tell people: without counselling, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. That job I lost was a gift because it’s the reason I started doing it at 21 years old instead of waiting until it was too late.

I may not have been diagnosed with chronic mental illness, but I understand that being proactive about my own thoughts can help reduce my chances of acquiring one in the future.

On a serious note, I’ve personally witnessed what depression can do to someone if left unchecked. It can contribute to much more serious diseases such as dimentia/altzheimers and psychosis.

When my thoughts spin and I ruminate, I know it’s a good time to reach out for a hand to help me out of it. It’s also a good idea to have an annual mental health checkup to catch things you may not have even been aware of before it’s too late.

Mental therapy is a form of self love. It’s meant to help you when you can’t help yourself.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s taken a lot of nerve to write this post, when it should be as banal as telling someone you went to the dentist to get your teeth cleaned. That’s why I need to share. For the people who are suffering silently.

End the stigma.

Edit: I want to add that counselling would not have been financially feasible for me at the time (2009) without support of the employer who laid me off and the counselor herself.

Even though I was working full-time, I barely made enough to cover my essentials. My severance package covered 8 sessions and I was able to add a few extra at no charge. Another centre I used in Calgary offered hourly sessions on a sliding scale based on annual wage.

Counselling is a service everyone with a provincial health card has equal access to in Saskatoon. I wasn’t aware of this at the time I began my counselling journey.

Free counselling resources in Saskatoon:

This post was originally published to the Do SASK Facebook page on January 30, 2019.

Not a football fan? Here are a few ways to make Super Bowl 2019 entertaining

Super Bowl 2019 Party Entertainment

It’s Super Bowl Sunday! Around our house, today is like the third best holiday next to Halloween and Christmas (hubby Chris is a huuuge sports nerd). And I’m not even a sports fan. The Super Bowl is still fun to watch because it’s the perfect excuse to hang out, have a drink or two, eat comfort food, and stay warm n’ cozy with friends.

As an advertising writer, I love watching the commercials. However Canada gets a weird assortment that isn’t exactly what the folks down south see. I still like to weigh in on the selection that we do get, ranking them from best to worst.

This year, the big game features the Los Angeles Rams versus the New England Patriots. If you feel like you’ve heard that before, it’s because the New England Patriots have played in the Super Bowl for the past three years back-to-back. Tom Brady is some kind of super-human athlete – consistently coming out on top very late in his career.

So how do you make Super Bowl 2019 entertaining when you aren’t a football fan, don’t like ads, avoid munchies, and could care less about Maroon 5? Two words: Prop bets. According to SBNation, a prop bet is defined as “a bet on a specific action happening”. For example, you can bet on how long it will take Gladys Knight to sing the national anthem.

Here are a few bets that make Super Bowl 2019 entertaining if you’re not a football fan:

  1. How long will it take for Gladys Knight to sing the US National Anthem? Over/Under 2 minutes.
  2. Gladys Knight’s Attire During the National Anthem Dress/Pants
  3. Will Gladys Knight Kneel During National Anthem? Yes/No
  4. What colour will Adam Levine’s shoes be when he begins his Halftime show performance? White/Black/Brown/Blue/Red/etc.
  5. How many Maroon 5 songs will they sing at Halftime? Over/Under 4 Songs
  6. How many times will Giselle Bundchen (Tom Brady’s wife) be shown on TV during broadcast? Over/Under 2
  7. Will someone streak during the game? Yes/No
  8. What colour of Gatorade will be poured on the game winning coach?
  9. Which commercial will win the Super Bowl of Ads? Doritos/Budweiser/Etc.

#HereForTheFood