Lucky.

I’m fortunate – so fortunate, that I happened to have one of the worst university experiences of my life in the first term of my Education degree, so bad I was removed from it and moved elsewhere.

So fortunate to have pursued that career at all, and that I decided to pursue it in British Columbia.

I’m so lucky that my new practicum placement had meetups for student teachers. I’m so fortunate I voluntarily went to those meetings.

I’m so fortunate that I lamented my lack of confidence and the looming stress and misery and questioning about my educational career choice loud enough that he heard.

I’m so grateful that I suggested we keep in touch.

I’m so lucky that he asked me out.

Just so lucky.

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5 lessons I learned about love from my rescue dog.

Love is unconditional (no, really!)

All dogs (but rescue dogs in particular, it seems) love unconditionally — they don’t judge you, they don’t care about your failings, and they are always grateful for you; the way my little Watson greets me every morning, every time I come home from work, and even after I’ve been upstairs for five minutes, is a priceless reminder of how grateful we should be for those in our life we love. And reciprocate that love.

Those we love need us as much as we need them.

As mentioned, Watson came down with parvo only about 24 hours after we brought him home. This was a HUGE deal. As first time pet owners, we wondered a) how we were going to pay for his medical bills without insurance, b) if we would be able to keep him based on the sky-high cost of said-vet bills, and c) how we would physically and emotionally deal with the aftermath of parvo – looking after someone helpless and sick, the intense clean-up and disinfecting process involved in parvo, the risk of a relapse or further medical problems, etc. Watson needed us. He couldn’t communicate it, but he did. And yet, we found a way through all of it. We hugged and cuddled him and bought medical-grade garbage cans and rubber gloves and bought virus-killing cleaners and products, and special shoes to wear outside, and we sought solutions to our anxiety, because we refused to abandon someone who needed us. And in turn, we realized how much love we can give, and how much love we wanted to give, because giving that love made us feel more whole.

Touch is an indispensable part of love

Puppy cuddles are amazing. Nothing makes you feel more closely intertwined with someone than sitting with them just snuggling all evening long. What I learned from my puppy is how petting and cuddling is an important part of bonding indelibly with a loved one. We put the dog to bed in his crate, and then I cuddle and hug my fiance just as much.

Telling someone how proud you are of even their little victories, is important

After his illness, our dog was constipated. Straight up. After adding some natural laxatives into his food, he started pooping more regularly and furthermore, he was accident-free. He got lots of extra cuddles for that.

He also stopped whining after we put him to bed and went upstairs. He went from yips and cries and howls, to settling in and going to sleep on his own. We championed him so hard for this little burst of independence.

Big victories are always celebrated; we celebrate milestones and birthdays and big deals – but little things, no matter how small, don’t have to go un-noticed either.

You can appreciate something new about a loved one every day

When we first brought Watson home, my favourite thing about him was the little white spot on the back of his neck. Then, it was his sweet little puppy nose. Yesterday, I was remarking on how cute his white “socks” on his legs are. Every time I look at him, I notice something adorable/wonderful about him. I hope I never stop looking at him with the adoration I do now.

Sometimes you love someone so much, it hurts.

Recently, I read this article about the science behind finding something so cute, you just want to “eat it up”.

Every time I look at my sweet little puppy, or he nestles his head on my lap, I want to give him hugs that are so tight, it would be impossible for them to be tighter. I think about him all the time and wonder what he does while I’m gone, or wonder what he’s thinking, or what he’ll look like when he’s a great big grown-up dog. I gesture at biting his ears with my mouth this close to his floppy, soft little head. It never seems like enough until I just take a huge bite of him and swallow him whole. What can I say? I’m obsessed.

I don’t know if it’s physically possible for me to love him more.

Why I run.

I encountered a tweet the other day that jokingly asked, “What are marathoners running from?”

I want to be clear for a moment: I am not a marathoner. I don’t even really consider myself a ‘runner’ necessarily. I run about 45-55% of the year. I look at “real runners” as the people who run about 95% of the year. And they probably eat complex carbs too, and they’d never go out for wings and beer on a Friday. You know the people I’m talking about.

But the question made me think — what is the point of all this? I’ve spent a lot on runs. I’ve traveled to some beautiful locales to complete runs – some of them were easy, some of them were super challenging, one of them was so barely doable, I’m amazed I actually completed it. I’ve done 5ks, and 10ks, and half marathons, and one full marathon (and I’m still on the fence about whether to do another one). Why do I do this? Why am I always seeing runners traipsing across the city at all hours of the day, in various levels of difficulty, just running?

I run because I like to challenge myself. I started weight loss and exercise in the first place because it was all I could do to maintain control during a time when everything about my life felt completely out of control in the first place. Being able to set a schedule for myself, accomplish a small personal goal, and ultimately succeed in ways I never thought possible thinking back to my first run that was only like, 20 minutes long and nearly killed me back in about 2009.

I run because I love being outside. I grew up within one of the most beautiful and picturesque national parks in Canada, if not one of the most beautiful places in the world. When I was in junior high, I came to love the outdoors and I was rarely not biking around town or out to the Athabasca River shore or going hiking or down to the creek. Smelling that woodsy smell, or the smell of snow, or the refreshing scent of rain, seeing turning leaves and newly-blooming lilac or blood orange sunsets.

I run because I eventually get runners’ high on a run. The first few minutes (or the first 5 km on a long run) is horrible. But settling into a strong pace and striding along while a GREAT song plays gives me this surge of empowerment that’s unlike anything else.

I run because afterwards, I feel recharged. I have always enjoyed lone pursuits – going for walks, shopping on my own, reading books alone in a restaurant – just to kind of have quiet time for a solo moment. Running connects me with people, namely other runners, but at a nice safe distance where I otherwise have headphones on and thoughts in my head and I can just venture out on my own.

I run because I feel healthy and strong afterwards. For years of my life, I never felt neither strong, nor healthy. Different people do different things to gain those feelings. And for me, it’s running.

I run because it gives me something to strive for.

I run because I want to.

I run.

I adopted a dog from a shelter. He arrived sick. This is what I learned.

I never knew I was a mother until I adopted a 16-week old hound/lab cross and learned I was wrong.

My fiance and I have been talking about a dog for months and months. We decided when we got a house with a yard, that would be the time to get a new family member. So in September we moved to our lovely, bright brick house in the suburbs on a sunny, tree-lined street, and seven months later, we got our first dog at an adoption event: a dark brown and white hound with little freckles on his nose, floppy ears, and a scrawny little tail with a white tip that looks like it’s been dipped in a paint can. My fiance said that he looked up at us from the crate at the event and instantly, he knew that was our dog. The first day we brought him home was a weird, busy adjustment day. But we were in love and ready for the adventure.

We named him Watson.

We got him all the supplies.

He slept in his crate in our bedroom that night.

We got him toys and he gave us kisses.

We sprung for the good puppy chow.

The second day we had him was St. Patrick’s Day (a day that is historically hated in my life); my fiance and I went for dinner and left the dog alone for a couple of hours. We came home, and there was vomit in his crate. Too many treats, we figured… but he felt warm. And wouldn’t walk, or come when we called, or follow us around. Not like him, even within the day and a half we’d known him. I took him to the vet immediately — it’s better to be safe than sorry.

It turned out, he had Canine Parvovirus (CPV). A very serious, hardy, contagious and deadly disease that kills many puppies within 72 hours. It would cost thousands to help him… he would need to be in the hospital for at least a couple of days on fluids. I did what I could the first night, and then he would need a hospital transfer the next day.

Something important to the story is this: animal shelters aren’t perfect, but the people who run them and work with them care deeply about animals. And the shelter where we adopted our Watson was incredibly helpful and supportive when they found out he had CPV. They offered to cover the vast majority of his veterinary bills, and they met me halfway between Edmonton and their home base of Whitecourt, Gunn, AB, to help us get him to where he’d spend the next few days. It was a long road in my car with a very sick dog that day. He had severe diarrhea; his eyes were a warm red hue; he was lethargic and sad, lifeless – not the puppy we brought home, not the puppy we thought we’d have, not the time I thought I’d be spending with him when I brought him home only 2.5 days prior.

But, here we were. I was taking my violently ill dog to be treated. I was driving two hours north of the city to deliver him to his help. And although I’ve never been and never will be a mother, I felt fiercely protective and maternal that day. The sun was shining, I had my sunglasses on to shield my eyes from the glare and the brightness of a nice warm day. My car smelled like puke and mucous and shit. And I thought, I have the most precious cargo in my car at the moment. Nothing in the world is more important to me right now than making sure this dog, with his IV attached, and a cone around his neck, and his poop-covered bum, gets to his destination.

He came home about three days later. He was thrilled to see us. As soon as he saw me, he tried to lunge out of his crate. His tail was beating against the side. When I first let him out, he jumped up as if the damn thing was on fire and licked my face. Puppy kisses are amazing.

The next couple of weeks were not amazing. Our house is contaminated with this insidious virus now. Our dog is contaminated for weeks. He is quarantined – he can’t have visitors, he can’t socialize with other dogs, he can’t go for walks. He lost about 10lb in the hospital and looks gaunt and sad. But he can’t eat much because he has a sensitive stomach and was recently infected with a secondary bacteria so he is on more medication which are making him constipated which has made house training recently stressful and complex. He looks sick; he smelled sick; he is scrawny and doesn’t smile. But he’s getting better every day.

What we thought would be an experience of puppy joy and kisses and training and treats have turned into a new dog owner (or a new parent’s?) nightmare. It is something I’m grappling with, questioning, going through my own five stages of grief. We almost lost him to parvo. We almost lost him to vet bills. We almost lost him to complexity. But, we didn’t lose him. It’s been three weeks and he’s still here, sleeping in his doggy bed while I write this, cuddling on the couch with my fiance while he watches Netflix and plays online chess, biting everything he can get his sharp little baby teeth on because he’s teething and that’s what babies do.

Yesterday, my fiance said to me in a quiet moment of reflection after we put our new baby to sleep, “We’re going to get through this, right?”

I said to him, “Yes, because Watson needs us. And we need him.”

On Weightloss.

I’ve written about this subject before, but in January, it seems pertinent to bring it up again.

I have mixed feelings about weightloss programs.

Is there anything worse than scrolling through Instagram and seeing people’s #cleaneats and #fitfam posts? It’s horrible for so many reasons, among which are: sometimes when you’re down on yourself, others’ successes make you feel inadequate, your body dysmorphia and self-perception is reflected in the fit bodies of others, you’re usually in bed, and/or eating something like greasy pizza while looking at someone’s white bean and tuna salad with no mayo/no dressing/no cheese which just makes you feel like you’re climbing the mountain… and that’s not to say those feelings are the fault of the people who are crushing their #fitnessgoals – it’s just that sometimes, you can’t help but feel when you look at your social media, that the world is a race, and you’re in last and being surpassed by others (this is a real thing, psychologically – it’s one of the reasons why so many people are encouraged by their counselors and loved ones and teachers to quit social media – it’s not great for many people’s mental health).

I also have a few very beautiful, wonderful friends and associates who are doing amazing things under the umbrella of fat acceptance and body positivity. Their argument: it is anti-woman, anti-‘self love’, and altogether pointless to diet, join a weightloss program, and wish you were someone else when you’re just not. They agree with what a health nurse who came to my junior high school told us many years ago that I still remember to this day: we are all built differently, the way you’re built is the way you’re built, and if you’re a larger person you can work out and go on a fitness regime that any supermodel is committed to, and you will still never look like a supermodel. You are you, you should be happy being you, and the fitness/diet industry is a lie. If you listen to it, you’re not crushing goals, you’re a victim.

I’ve also heard similar arguments from many articles and uplifting posts and memes which slam the beauty industry completely. and I struggle because… well, I am a woman, I want to feel beautiful, and a little eyeliner, eyeshadow, blush, and mascara boost my confidence and make me feel more alive, awake, and complete, and yes, beautiful every day. Days without those accouterments are sick days, not-leaving-the-house-on-a-Saturday days, and that’s pretty much it. Is it anti-feminist of me to feel this way about makeup? Am I less of a woman because I subscribe to the lies of the beauty industry? Is it more worthwhile for me to just be ‘me’ and accept myself as a loved, productive, happy member of society?

I joined Weight Watchers in 2009. It’s been almost 10 years since I walked through those doors for the very first time. On that day, the first time I had weighed myself since I was probably a very young child, I was just over 188lb. Almost 200. At 5’2″. That’s heavy. I looked like trash, then – at least, I thought so. And at that time, I was SO committed to changing myself and my life, I went almost two whole months without ever even eating a french fry. I worked so hard, I lost about 20lb in that first couple of months. Jackets that didn’t close were way too big for me by October. I was down about 4 sizes in jeans. I was dropping hundreds on new clothes because I could finally wear all the beautiful trends and clothes I had always wanted to wear, but was too fat. I owned jeans for the first time in years. By the end of my first stint at Weight Watchers, I had lost about 60lb. It was INSANE.

Since that very productive time, I’ve been a bit more balanced and realistic with my quote-un-quote “weight loss journey”, but I have accomplished many things in my “new” body I never thought possible:

-I’ve run 6 half marathons
-I’ve run 1 full marathon
-I’ve run several 5ks and 10ks
-I’ve completed an intensive personal training program
-I’ve done Tough Mudder and two Foam Fests
-I have walked well over 20,000 steps in a day
-I have done all kinds of workouts I was previously too intimidated to try such as : zumba, spin classes, kickboxing, boot camp, yoga, and even drumfit
-Most importantly, I have felt beautiful. I never did before I accomplished all this.

I struggle with weight loss, because I firmly believe in self-love and body acceptance. The only reason we strive for a certain type of body is because that’s the body we seen in the media. In reality, everyone is welcome and everyone can be loved. Love has nothing to do with weight or appearance. There is so much more to love or even finding love, than that. No matter who you are, someone will see you on the inside and outside as the beautiful person you are.

The sad reality is though, not everyone will be able to feel the way that people see and perceive them. Some of the most gorgeous women I know tear strips off themselves about their thighs, stomachs, height, dress size, etc. etc. etc. I know other people who are vibrant and wonderful and selfie-every-day confident and they’ve never even been inside a gym. The most important thing in the world, weight loss program or not, is whether your self-perception matches your outer reality. And if it doesn’t, then you can try and change something to make it happen. If weight loss doesn’t work after you’ve tried it, okay, it doesn’t work. But trial and error, undergoing achievements and revolutions to find yourself, is a part of being alive. Not everyone is going to prescribe to the same remedy for self-consciousness.

Speaking from experience, does weight loss change your self-perception? In some ways, yes. You really are the same person but for me (and this may not be the same for you), seeing myself in photos as a more fit and healthy version of myself made me feel a lot better about myself. Having achieved something like running 42.2km when in high school when I was at my heaviest and couldn’t even run for 30 seconds without wheezing and stopping to walk, makes you feel like yes, I am a new person. I am different than I was before. Lastly, I’ve always had a deep love of fashion and beauty. That’s why I struggle so much between loving makeup and pretty dresses versus firmly believing in the power and agency of women. But the beauty industry, especially in the early-mid 2000s, often left out women with different body types. The industry has changed ever-so-slightly but not enough so that this is predominently their problem and not mine. So I met them halfway, I guess. That might sound or seem terrible and unjust and it is. But sometimes you can’t change the world, but you can change yourself even temporarily, and that kind of has to be good enough.

What’s my point? I don’t know. That I am confused about dieting, exercise, and beauty. That as someone who works with youth, I constantly want to not project anything about beauty standards on young women even though I prescribe to them often myself and that could make me vulnerable to criticism. At the end of the day though, feminism is about agency and to what extent we have it, and can have it. When we don’t, that’s the problem. Is it unethical and un-woman for me to participate in the diet industry? Maybe. But it’s an individual choice I’m making, and something that has helped me.

When you are participating in your resolutions, especially ones that are weight-focused, you will hear and read advice and criticism, you’ll hear from saboteurs, and competitors, you’ll be slammed and encouraged. Do what’s best for you. Ignore everything that doesn’t fit your end game, regardless of what it is.

Today, I am thinking about my wedding; what it will look like, who will be there, what I’ll be wearing. It’s a big moment. One of the biggest moments.

And I think about those people that I once envisioned sharing that day with, who are no longer in my life. I remember one of them saying once (about someone else), “If you’re not there for the little things, you don’t get to be there for the big things.”

I never realized until reflecting back on my past, how absolutely true, that is.

New Years Resolutions.

Man.

I have been writing here for ten years now. TEN. YEARS. And it flew by. Time is a scary thing. Not too long ago, my resolution included getting over one of the people who hurt me the most. To borrow one from my good friend 2018, he was “toxic” in my life. Now, I’m about to plan a wedding.

I’m someone who makes New Years resolutions. Are they corny and cliche? Is the January 1 start date of a new year a construct? Of course. But because of those constructs, it feels like a new start. Pressing the ‘play’ button again. And so, I make them.  make them too, to give myself goals and empower myself to be a better version of myself, whatever that looks like (it’s been different every given year). Being a “better version of myself” has in the past been: to be more social, apply to grad school, cut out “toxic people”, lose weight, run marathons, read more, and so on. I’m someone who sets goals for myself and often achieves them. Here are my goals for 2019:

  1. Read 35 books
  2. Lose 20lb
  3. Run at least 2 half marathons
  4. Gain more control of my finances
  5. Do one sober month
  6. Be a more diligent professional
  7. Make time for myself every evening
  8. Get a dog
  9. Stop picking the skin on my fingers (and maybe be more open about the fact that dermatillomania is a real thing and I have it)