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Groundhog Day

24 Feb

cranky

Yesterday something so awful happened.  I woke up cranky.  I literally feel cranky, maybe, twice a year.  When I do it is atomic.  It is a devilish blend of hormones, winter, general life annoyances and not getting enough sleep.

To start it off I spilled my coffee grinds.  All over the place (inner thought – Shiitttt). The dog gets excited to get out the door in the morning, but yesterday her bark annoyed me so greatly that I got cross at her (inner thought – Shut up!).  She put her tail between her legs and did not want to come near me.  Shortly after walking she couldn’t keep going because the salt was bothering her paws (inner thought – Seriously?)  I had to pick her up and put booties on her and of course got yucky water from her belly all over my coat (inner thought – Dammit).   We were making our way to pick up my brothers dog and as luck would have it a big section of their street hasn’t been shovelled and the sidewalk is a huge mess (inner thought: Assholes).  So I stepped out into the street and went into what I didn’t realize was a pothole full of slush.  Right over the top of my boots.  (inner thought – Fuck).  We picked up Preston.  On the way Millie wasn’t able to walk as fast as usual because her paws were still hurting, so Preston was pulling her along  (inner thought – Commmeee onnn).  As we were making our way we had to cross a few crosswalks.  Drivers didn’t stop (inner though – Screw you) .  When we finally got to the office I realized I had dog hair all over my tights (inner thought – Urrrgghhh).  I then went to get my coffee at the shop around the corner from my office – I went to put milk in it and the pitcher was empty (inner thought – Of course).  Back at the office every email and phone call was a complete annoyance (inner thought – You are so annoying).  The internet, it was so slow (inner thought – This sucks).  3 pm came and I had an absolute cracking headache.  I didn’t have an Advil at the office so I had to make my way over to the drug store.  The friendly cashier asked me ‘how are you today’ to which I replied ‘I have an awful headache.’  He said ‘hopefully that Advil helps’ (inner though – Yeah thanks for that Captain Obvious).  On the way back to the office every person I walked by annoyed me (inner thought – Too slow, move over, get out of my way).  I took the Advil and waited for it to kick in.  On the way home from the office I wanted to avoid the salt for Millie, so I cut across Citadel Hill.  It was really mild and so when I went to walk on the snow, I sunk.  Like really deep.  Right up to my waist  No exaggeration.  Filled my boots with snow and I had to sort of crawl out of the bank (inner thought- You HAVE to being kidding me).  I made it home, took off my drenched tights and hid away from the world.  I didn’t even call my mother for fear of being short.  I went to bed at 9:30.

I woke up today feeling refreshed with some perspective.  What a COMPLETE waste of a day.  It was actually a beautiful day here and I didn’t even see it.  My body literally had a physical reaction to how yucky my thoughts were.  A headache!  I never get headaches (unless wine or beer induced).   Other than telling the guy at the drug store that I had a headache, I didn’t put my shitty mood onto anyone else.  I am emotionally intelligent enough to have kept it inside my head.  Unfortunately, I see people reacting outwardly the same way I was feeling inwardly all the time.  My inner thoughts are their words.

I recently watched the movie Groundhog Day.  It had been years since I saw it.  I did not remember the premise of the movie other than his day was on repeat.  Phil was cynical, negative and everyone annoyed him, making him short tempered all the time.  In having his day be on repeat over and over again (he stepped in the same puddle and saw the same guy who annoyed him) he learned that it was his reaction to the day directly affected the outcome.  When he was a dick the same cruddy things happened over and over again.  When he changed his outlook and his assumptions of others, his day changed.  Presto!  Imagine.  When he didn’t see things from a negative standpoint his day was exponentially better and so was the day for all of those around him.

Through my work I deal with people going through really awful things all the time.  Like, really awful things.  It gives me perspective that my ‘stuff’ is not that bad.  Now, I am not suggesting that you can’t be cranky.  We are human after all.  When you aren’t a crank you see that everyone you encounter is also – just human.  They are not assholes (well most everyone), lazy (well most everyone), inconsiderate (well most everyone) and that your dog just loves you wholeheartedly.  When you look at it from a positive standpoint small annoyances are much easier to deal with.  Get the broom to sweep the grinds, change your socks when they get wet, get the lint brush to take the hair off and just ask to have the milk pitcher filled up.  Shake it off.  Move on.

What I am saying is that life is a beautiful-beautiful gift and you sure as hell miss out on a lot of good stuff when you are a crank.

***my dog is treated like a queen and all I did was tell her to SHUT UP.

Tell Me A Story

18 Feb

story-telling-jpg-1

Can you tell me a story? I can’t even begin to count how many times my nieces have asked me to do that.  They absorb every ounce, of every word I speak when I tell them foolish and wild tales of growing up or stories from my older family members.   When each story finishes I can be sure to hear – another one please.  They love every second of it and stare at me like I am a wonder of the world.  We all love a good story, told well.

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of entertainment.  Before we had the internet, before we had cable, before we had cellphones, before we had Ipads — people got together and told stories.  I’ve always had an insatiable interest in people and witnessing the world around me. Like some people love running or music, a great love of mine is hearing or recanting a great story.  I grew up in the country with no cable which meant one of our main forms of entertainment was going to visit relatives and neighbours in the evenings.  If my Mom was going so was I, as it meant I got to listen in on adult conversations and hear crazy stories.  I can clearly remember my Grand Uncle Emile telling the story of getting home to his fathers funeral in Cape Breton.  He was living away working as an RCMP officer and on the day he was to travel planes (from the only airline in Canada at that time) were grounded.  Instead of missing his fathers funeral RCMP officers did a convoy for him – they drove him to the edge of their districts where an officer from the next district would meet them.  Amazingly, he made it all the way from Ontario to Cape Breton in time for his fathers funeral. He told stories with such zest.  Hands going.  I was completely captivated by him.  Or what about the time when Grand Uncle Blais as a boy got a cows horn through his neck and nearly died.  Or when my Grandmere spent an entire year in a sanatorium when she had TB.  This left my Grandpere home with 9 children.   Or when myself and 5 girlfriends convinced 2 police officers to drive us to the bar and they asked for underwear as payment.  Or Grand Uncle Jerome who loved playing pranks.  He once gave my cousin Heather a hen in a box for her birthday.  When she opened the box the hen flew all around the living room.  Or when my Grand Aunt Phyllis gave away unwanted kittens for Halloween one year.  Or Grand Aunt Rita who swore her house was haunted and told creepy stories about seeing ghosts there.  Or the time when my brother Steve went through a barbed wire fence on a sled ripping his face to shreds and my likely somewhere around 300 pound grandfather nearly fainted when he brought him home to my Mom.  Or when our very drunk neighbour Freddy was lying out in the middle of the road in front of our house and my mother had to talk him through getting up and off the highway.  I watched from the hedge so that Mom wouldn’t see me – she told me to go back to the house.  Or about the time when Allan and Brent (who were in elementary school at this time) stole our school bus and did wheelies on the soccer field with it.  Or about Mrs North Grant.  An eccentric woman who lived in town, dressed like Sex and The City but wore knee high pantyhose.  Or the time when Sarah and I at 15 stole her parents car to go to a party   Or when Mom and I on our way to Australia on a stopover in L.A. took a bus tour of downtown and got stuck because that happened to be the day when Michael Jackson died.  Or when my brother Chris was able to get a dirt cheap place to live in university because the landlord asked if her mentally challenged brother could live with them.  Or the night when our dog and two cats all got hit by separate cars on the road in front of our house.  Or when we went away for March Break once leaving my brother Chris home to look after the house, a very pregnant cow and other animals – the cow got out and the police found her over the road.  They called my Grand Uncle (who is a farmer) assuming it was his cow.  Chris went to pick her up the next day.  On the way down the driveway she bawled and died, likely from exhaustion.  That was a great call to get at our hotel.  Mom and Dad only learned ‘the real story’ of what happened when my brother got married.  Coyotes were not involved, but my brother going to a party and not coming home was.  Or how we had so much snow in the winter that we used to jump off the roof of our house into the drifts.  One year Davids’ boots were not dug out until spring.  Or the times when people (sometimes complete strangers), crawled up our driveway when they went off the road in front of our house during a wild winter storm. They would stay for supper.  Or what about a cousin having her gallbladder stones in a jar in the cupboard.   I could quite literally go on and on and on.

This week one of our great storytellers Stuart MacLean died.  He had an enormous talent for connecting Canadians through his ability to tell a story. Every Sunday thousands of us across Canada tuned in to hear him recount a wildly funny or touching Dave and Morley tale, or to hear him read a listeners ‘must be true to be read’ story.  How many times have I heard a story and thought – that would be a great story for The Vinyl Café!  A few years ago I sent in a real ringer of mine and got a response saying they would like to use it on air.  Unfortunately, the right show to match my story with did not come around prior to Stuart bowing out.

Technology, rules, loss of community and paranoia from media has caused us to become kind of, well, boring.   We don’t talk to strangers.  We don’t take risks.  We don’t let our kids be independent because we fear the ‘what if’.  All the places good stories are made we don’t have anymore.  Earlier this week when I was walking home from work I came across a situation at a cross walk.  There was a man lying on the ground obviously in a lot of pain, a bus driver was talking him through the pain he was in – there was a big crowd of younger people looking but not helping (this was very close to a large university so students were coming from class).  I asked her if she had called 911 and she had already done so.  I decided I couldn’t help anymore and kept walking.  I had an awful feeling in my stomach wondering what happened to him and thought of him a few times this week. Did he get hit by a car?  Did he have a heart attack?  Fortunately, on Friday morning I saw the guy on the street near my house.  He is definitely a rougher looking guy and isn’t someone I would know.  I said ‘Excuse me, you don’t recognize me, but I saw you on the ground earlier this week and have been thinking of you ever since.’ He said ‘Oh, I fell on the ice and popped my shoulder out of place.’  I said ‘thank goodness that is all it was – glad to see you are okay.’  He stopped for a second and looked right at me and said ‘Hey, nobody seems to care about each other anymore.  Thanks so much for caring about me.’  My 10 year old niece was with me when this conversation happened.  I see a lot of myself in Cora in the way that she absorbs everything that is said around her.  She loves hearing stories and listening to adult conversations.  We got picked up in a taxi and chatted with our driver the whole way to her house.  Cora said- Aunt Emilie you will just talk to anyone.  True, and I am not going to stop.  It is in conversation and interaction with other people (not looking at our phones or watching our TVS ) where  stories and lifelong memories are created.

Flying on your own

24 Dec

single-xmas

I went to Christmas Eve mass tonight in the small church where I was baptized and got my first communion.  Well actually, it is not the same church as a few years back the original building went up in flames and needed to be replaced.   It seems there was a local fire starter as that year 3 or 4 big buildings burnt to the ground in this small rural community.  Although no one was ever arrested in the words of my mother ‘something queer was going on.’  Most of the people in the church are related to me or I grew up with them.  It has always been a social sniff out – see who is home for Christmas, who brought a new  man/woman home, who had a baby, who looks better and who looks worse

Last year I wanted to go to church even less than I usually want to go as I had very recently broken up with my boyfriend who I lived with.  It was an absolute guarantee someone was going to ask me where he was or the real gassy ones might say ‘are you getting a diamond for Christmas?’  Nope, I gave him a different finger.  When you see someone you haven’t seen in a bit it is very standard to ask ‘what is new with you?  There are social norms for someone my age to respond with:

  1. I got engaged
  2. I got married
  3. I had a baby

When you have none of those things to report it feels so goddamn awkward.  It is kind of like the autopilot question ‘how are you’ to which we respond ‘good’.  No one actually wants to hear you say ‘my boyfriend and I just broke up, I don’t know where I am going to be living and I hope Mom and Dad give me a Christmas present.’  But that was a year ago and although that question still feels awkward I am completely confidant in reporting the fact that I am single and ready to mingle (if anyone reading knows a fabulous guy let a girl know).  My ever-so-thoughtful best friend is also home for Christmas.  She just had a baby so she has something to report this year. She was on a brain storm last night of who the guy for me might be and where I could meet him.  She said – tomorrow night in church look around and see if there is anyone there.  You never know who might be home or who might be single now.’  As much as I appreciate the gesture finding someone in church in Maryvale would be like having a sighting of The Lochness Monster or winning the lottery.  Very unlikely.

Tonight, in the middle of mass there was a commotion at the back of the church.  At first I thought it was the man of my dreams coming to find me.  Shit, my imagination got the better of me.    In reality someone fainted.   My Dad loves Rita MacNeil, a singer from Cape Breton.  She had a cleft pallet and was as wide as she was tall.  There were many Rita MacNeil jokes – she threw her underwear into the crowd at her concert and suffocated the first two rows. For a woman who outwardly looked like someone I would never relate to, her lyrics resonate with me.  I too love her songs.  If my dear friend Sacha is reading this she will be dying laughing at this point as she also is an in-the-closet Rita MacNeil lover. We have both increased the YouTube views of Rita’s songs. One song in particular is Flying On Your Own.  If Rita can do it so can I.

Think before you speak (and post)

16 Dec

hiding-computerI’ve always been a positive person.  I wake up feeling happy and look forward to seeing what the day is going to bring me (and what I will bring to it).  If someone ever gave me a set of pajamas that say ‘Don’t Talk To Me Until I Have My Coffee’ they wouldn’t know me well at all.  I like to think I am ‘realistically positive’.  Not the type of positive that you want to kick in the teeth.   There are things I find hard to be positive about –  winter for one. There is a whole lot of ugly commentary that goes on in my head surrounding winter. But then I am able to move on from it as my it is my choice to live in a part of the world where winter happens.   I remember going to my confirmation classes with our priest and one of the boys asked facetiously ‘Father, do I have to confess EVERY dirty thought I have?’ to which Father MacDonald replied ‘If you confessed you that you had 13 dirty thoughts today I would beat you and say I had 19’.  Kind of like dirty thoughts – everyone has negative thoughts.

I’ve noticed something lately though and it is eating at my positive self. Media and social media has caused our society to become this cesspool of negativity.   Trump consumed people for months and the media/people posted every awful thing he said or did. It was as if the world was ending. Post after post of hysteria.   Police officers, drivers, developers, healthcare – no one is safe from this online judgement.  Where I live there is the threat of a teachers strike right now.  There is work to rule action in place – meaning that teachers are only doing what their contract binds them to do.  It seems every other person is posting some awful accusation or critical viewpoint of teachers or the government.  It is as if social media has given all of those ugly inner thoughts we have a place to be displayed and confessed.  In the past it meant going over to someone’s house to talk or writing a letter to the paper or going to a public political meeting.  It takes balls to get up in front of a group to speak publically about a criticism you may have and it takes skill to write a well crafted letter which the paper will print.  It doesn’t take much courage or skill to post negative/critical comments online.  In fact, any donkey or educated person (who statistically are actually the most critical) with an internet connection can do it.  Just like the earlier mentioned dirty thoughts – not every thought you have needs to be confessed.

It is the holiday season.  A time when we are historically especially stressed. And we all know what stress does: it brings those ugly-inner-critical-of-others-thoughts closer to the surface.   We are rushing around searching for presents, getting groceries, travelling.  Here are a few facts: it is going to be busy.  The parking lot is going to be full.  There are going to be lines.   And if you’re travelling the airlines might lose your luggage.  But what we must remember is that we are choosing to do whatever it is that we are doing. Set yourself up for success.  Have a drink before you go.  Go for a run.  Get laid.  Whatever it takes to get you into a good frame of mind.  Don’t go to Costco at 2 pm on a Saturday.

Before you go take a minute (or rather 4:23) to watch this video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wl2_knlv_xw.

I hope reading this has encouraged you to think before you speak, post or share.  The fact is: teachers are people who also have children, politicians are people we voted into power, you’ve been the person who didn’t see the light turn green and should remember how jarring it is to have someone blare their horn at you, you’ve been helped by a police officer before and our healthcare system has saved the life of someone you love.  I know you’re better than that.  Come on team let’s look on the bright side of things.  You’re alive.  Use your input in a more powerful way.

Think:

T: is it true?

H: is it helpful?

I: is it inspiring

N: is it necessary?

K: it is kind?

 

For the love of travel…

9 Nov

packing

There are few things that excite me more than checking in for a flight.  I love getting out of dodge, hitting the skies and landing somewhere different than where I live.  I literally equate most costs I am considering down to the value of a plane ticket.  I currently do not have a car as every time I consider the cost I quickly do some math.  2 months worth of a payment/insurance and gas adds up to the price of a plane ticket to say Munich.  4 months adds up to the total cost of a trip to Munich where I could get to visit my sweet nieces.  For now I am willing to walk, take taxis, shuttles or rent cars in an effort to keep my cash conserved for taking off.  Being single and childless my vacation and time use is up to me.   I choose to spend my moola and time on travel.  Tomorrow evening I am heading to London for a little f-u-n (and hopefully get away from all of this atrocious Trump talk) with a girlfriend

I wouldn’t even be able to count the amount of flights I’ve taken over the years.  Definitely 100’s of flight segments.  You know how they say the more you do something the easier it gets.  The more practice you have the more skillful you become.  I am not sure where my brain is when it comes to packing for travel, but it always seems like it is somewhere else.   It is kind of like getting your period.  I got mine when I was 12.  I am now 36.  That is 24 years.  Since I’ve never had a baby  that is 12 times a year for 24 years.  That is 288 periods.  I’ve had 288 practices and I still don’t have suave skills. Only in recent years have I kind of finally gotten it together around my period.  As one of my girlfriends said – one of the greatest challenges of my month is getting to my underwear before my period does.   Why do I feel so abnormally tired I will be thinking?  Why is my lower back sore I will be thinking?   I mean my phone can manage my period if I wanted it to, but that isn’t my style.  Success with your period is having all of the right stuff in the right place at the right time.  Just like what is in your suitcase when you are traveling.  All the right things need to be there for success.  Even though I’ve packed 100’s of times I just never seem to get it right.

My parents live in a rural community.  I’ve been known to show up at home for the weekend with a leather dress, high heels, a pair of jeans, no tops, no flats… you get the picture.  Not only is the mix not at all practical, but it is hard to even make an outfit from it (pants but no shirts).  Let’s focus on that word practical.   In its dictionary meaning it is: inclined toward or fitted for actual use.  Here is the thing, when I pack I think my mind wanders to — what COULD happen and that gets me distracted.  Like, what if something fun comes up while I am at Mom and Dad’s?  Therefore I should have a leather dress and heels with me.  So could you say that I am practical in that I think to pack things which are of use for non-practical things which might happen?   I can stack wood in my pj’s but if a date or event in a town of 20,000 came up unexpectedly I couldn’t wear lulu’s – I am prepared for the unexpected (although the unexpected is extremely unlikely – as in it never happens).  As I mentioned above I am willing to walk (usually in heels of some sort) instead of having a car… so I do have a somewhat practical nature just not when it comes to clothing.

Earlier this year I spent 5 weeks in Australia.  Packing for 30 degree weather made it easier, but this little over dresser successfully left home with a backpack and that is it.  I shocked myself.  I’ve managed to cut down what I pack in an effort to avoid those atrocious airline baggage fees.  I can pack at least the weight of my 6 year old niece into an airline approved carry on.  But then folks there is the way back.  If I buy even a pair of socks I don’t have room to put them in my carry on as every square inch of it is already occupied.  I usually end up with some awkward shopping bag strapped over the handle of my roller.  The bag usually flips off or rips.  Which usually results in me cursing.

On this trip things are going to be different folks.  I am going to change my ‘non practical bad packer’ habits.  I promise you (and myself) that I am going to be light and lean.  My footwear is going to be sturdy, my outerwear meant for the elements, my lipstick stock limited to 2 and my sequin count zero – but my pants will be leather and my jewelry not so subtle.   It is London after all, if I need to buy something juicy it is a great place to do that and I will have room in my suitcase to take it home.

All dogs go to heaven

24 Oct

all-dogs-1024

I’ve always been a dog lover.  As a kid I had a Dogs Annual Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds and  I literally memorized most of them.  My soft spot for dogs is similar to chocolate for some or football for others.

We had some great dogs growing up and after  years of wanting my own dog the time was finally right and so six years ago I got Millie a West Highland Terrier.   She is very cute, athletic, loves to watch TV (and bark at every dog and horse who dare come into our living room), follows me everywhere I go (she only sleeps if I am sitting still), extremely smart, territorial with certain dogs and is 100% obsessed with me (and squirrels).  Other than me going away or doing social things she can’t come to – we literally spend 24 hours a day together as she comes to work with me, sleeps with me and goes to parties, visiting, etc.  My cousin nicknamed her ‘The Diana Ross of Dogs’ as she is a bit of a diva.   When I got Millie I started to take her to a school yard around the corner from where I lived as I heard there was a group a people who congregate there at 7 am with their K9 sidekicks.  Every morning, Monday to Friday for the 3 years I lived in that neighbourhood in the sun/wind/snow or rain I would stand on the field with my dog friends.   There was a real mish mash of young, middle aged, older, men, women, weirdo’s and normal (somewhat) folks.  Not as extreme as Best in Show.  We had a lot of solid laughs over the years as we stood there freezing our butts off, picking up dog poop and chatting about what was happening in each others lives.  John would make fun of Ray and Judy who were neurotic about their dog.  I would tell them ferocious tales of dating and travelling the world.  One friend I made was Simon and his dog Roo- the two of them had a very evident bond.  Roo was never on a leash as the only thing he was interested in was following Simon around.    Roo was kind of a complicated dog and so we nicknamed him Jimmy Melvin (Jimmy Melvin is a local notorious criminal).  For any of you reading this who grew up watching Canadian television Roo reminded me a lot of  The Littlest Hobo.  He would mostly only let Simon touch him (but after about a year he started to trust me and would let me give him a pat).   Simon is also quite a character and so the two of them were a match made in heaven.  I’ve heard Simon speak to Roo just like he was a human buddy trotting along beside him.  It seems they were both just what the other one needed.  My brother and family got a puppy this summer and so my sister-in-law brings him to the same school yard I used to go to.  She has gotten to know some of my old pals  She told me Roo wasn’t feeling well last week and so Simon has been on my mind.  As I mentioned I take Millie to work with me and now that Preston is part of the family I walk to my brothers house and take him to work with us – Simon and Roo live a few blocks from them.  I have a route I take, but this morning I decided to change it up and along the way ran into Simon (this kind of stuff happens to me all the time).  I haven’t run into Simon on the street in months and months and if I had taken my normal way I wouldn’t have run into him.  Of course I asked him straight away how Roo was and he sadly told me Roo had to be put down on Saturday.  We had a moment on Vernon Street. Completely heartbreaking.  I’ve been thinking about them all day.

The friendship you have with your dog is so special.  Who else is excited to see you after you’ve only been gone for 4.5 minutes.  Who else can come put their head on your lap while you are on the toilet?  Who else goes to bed when you do and wakes up when you do?  Who else wants to go everywhere you go?  Who else wants to protect you from any threat (even if it is a 8lb Yorkie wearing a pink jacket)?   Who else wants to watch you fold laundry?  Who else wants likes whatever you like on TV?  Who else forgives you within minutes after scolding them?  Who else never criticizes you?  Who else likes your taste in music all the time?   Who else gets sad every-single-time you go away?  As they say, not every person knows how to love a dog, but every dog knows how to love a person.

The only problem with having a dog is that it is very likely that you will outlive them.  Millie promised me that she would live to at least 15 and we shook her paw on it.  A few weeks back I was at my Mom and Dads house and made the fatal error of watching Marley and Me (I’ve read the book but never saw the movie in its entirety).  I was a sobbing mess which caused Millie and my parents dog to come running to me wondering what was wrong – I had one laying on top of me and one staring at me as I sniffed away.  As Simon said this morning he can’t even think of getting another dog anytime soon as Roo was his solid companion and he was so unique that he will never find another dog like him.

Having a dog not only brings you the friendship you have with your dog, but it brings so many other people into your life.  Over the course of the 6 years I’ve had Millie I’ve made many friends through her.  Babies and dogs make it socially acceptable to chat with a complete stranger.  Simon, my friend,  I am glad Roo brought you to the dog park and I got to know the both of you.

All that we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we have deeply loved becomes part of us –  Helen Keller.

Authenticity: the courage to be yourself

21 Oct

self-pic

Earlier this week I attended a women’s empowerment/networking event and directly after that I scooted over to a fundraiser where a famous Canadian cook book author was speaking.  I didn’t think the two events would collide topic wise but they did.  The author didn’t speak about creating recipes or testing them – she focussed on talking about loving yourself, believing in yourself, following your instincts and having a sense of humor along the way.  She continued to talk about the psychology of getting skinny/being skinny – it is a whole lot harder to do when you have negative thoughts in your head about yourself and you’re hanging onto things that happened to you in the past.

I was born with a very large mole on the side of my face.  Not just a flat one, but a raised one with hair and a nice brown ring around it which made it even bigger.  Awesome, just what you want on your cheek.   I had a very special grandfather – he was a big gentle giant type and even though he passed away suddenly when I was 7,  I can still clearly remember him.  He would tell me that my mole was my beauty mark and it made me different from others.  I believed him.  I also have 3 older brothers who loved to, ummm, what words should I use, mentally torture me when we were kids.  After Grandpa passed away I only recall hearing them say I had shit on the side of my face and a rat was going to come gnaw it off when I was sleeping.  Kids would point in the grocery store and ask their parents ‘What is on her face?’  The parents would say ‘shhhh’ and awkwardly steer their finger pointing kid away.  I ended up having the mole taken off when I was 13 as it presented quite a risk for skin cancer  (and I hated it).  As much as I hated that mole it helped me develop a thick skin at a young age and also feel empathy towards others who looked a little different.   I hit puberty pretty early and when it hit I got big boobs and some blubber overnight.  That blubber has not been easy to lose.  I love food – I get great JOY from a delicious meal shared with others.  My metabolism isn’t the same as some of my girlfriends who can seemingly eat whatever they want, not exercise a whole lot and still be a size 4.  A few years ago when I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro I lost 5 pounds.  Yup.  Everyone else was like ‘oh my god I can barely keep my pants up with the training and then 6 days on the mountain’.  I’ve learned to stop comparing myself to others who are not like me.  I walk at least 8 km a day: if I wanted to be a size 4 and not an 8,  I would have to run 20 km a day, only eat air or maybe get a tape worm.  But then I wouldn’t have big boobs and would probably wish I had bigger ones as it seems girls who are flat want some.  So you know what, I still have a scar on my face from that mole,  I have big boobs and a bit of a muffin top, but I try to love what I got and work with it.  There are so many other more important things to think about.  And honestly, I always find girls who are overly concerned with what they eat and what they look like… boring and not all that much fun anyway.

I also have a very loud voice.  My parents, in fact, thought I was deaf when I was kid and took me to get my hearing tested.  Nope, I clearly heard all of the buzzes and beeps that the audiologist tested me with.  My hearing is fine.  My voice is just loud or as teachers would put it nicely ‘it projects well’.  In grade 3 we had an old Battle-axe substitute teacher for a few weeks as Mrs MacDoanld (our oh so lovely teacher) had a pneumonia.  This was just before our Christmas concert which was such an enormously exciting night for someone like me – getting up on a stage was my jam.  We had to rehearse our songs with the mentioned Battle-axe.  So we got into our spots and started to sing.  She stopped everyone and pulled me out.  She had my class continue to sing without me.  At the end she said something like ‘that is how the songs are supposed to sound.  You are too loud and you’re ruining it’.  Just as I can recall my Grandpa making me feel so special – I can also recall clearly how small and completely embarrassed she made me feel.  But ya’ want to know what… I shook it off because even at that young age I recognized that her opinion was not one I respected and my Mom/Dad would have told me to just go and be yourself – she doesn’t matter.   I went to that Christmas concert in a dress that I loved (I’ve always had a love for fashion) and I sang my bloody heart out.

I’ve always loved to talk. I have a fascination with other people and love learning new things.  As a kid I was told to be quiet.  A lot.  You know that old rule about children should be seen and not heard.  That rule stinks. I used to love going visiting with my Mom as I got to hear and participate in adult conversations.  In fact, I did a speech for 4-H when I was maybe 12 called Born to Talk and that speech won me a provincial championship.   It seems my loud voice (which projects well) is great for public speaking and my love of talking is too.  Yeah baby!   When I feel my most authentic self it is when I am connecting with others and having great conversation.  I am not quiet and being quiet doesn’t bring me contentment.

I really enjoy Elizabeth Gilbert.  Not the Eat, Prey, Love stuff (I didn’t even get through the eating end of things), but some of her guest articles and blog entries really get me jazzed.  One in particular had me nodding while I was reading it.  Life isn’t about what happens to you. Life is about how you perceive and react to what happens to you.  A lot of the things which I was criticized for as a kid are my greatest assets as an adult.  I generally care little about what others think about me – after all what you think of yourself is far more important than what others think about you.   I choose to spend time with people who like to build others up (that includes my brothers – they don’t mentally torture me anymore) and not the types who tell people what they ‘should be like’.  Unsolicited advice from people who are not inspiring is never beneficial.   Yesterday the CEO of the organization I work for (who is someone I greatly admire for always being true to who she is) posted a great quote and it reminded me of a quote I love by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul. She is beautiful.”

So ladies and gentlemen (that’s right this isn’t just for women).   The last page of O Magazine is always a column by Oprah called What I Know For Sure.  I will close this in Oprah Style.  What I know for sure is: that we all have insecurities, we all have body bits which we don’t love and we’ve all had cruddy things happen to us.  But we all have amazing and unique bits about us, we all have totally gorgeous parts of us and we’ve all had wonderful things happen to us.  The more you focus on your talents, what you like about yourself and the positive things in your life – the more confident you will feel, the sexier you will look and I can guarantee amazing things will continue to happen to you.  As I was told so many times before- just be yourself. If you have kids hammer that into their heads.  Your life is your story.  Make it one others want to read.