Archive for the ‘hope’ Category

Girl Crush

July 12, 2012

Those of you thinking this blog post is going to be a Katy Perry song-like torrid tale of a girl on girl kiss can stop reading now.

I moved to Vancouver about 3 years ago from Winnipeg where I had lived all of my life (then 28 years). The total number of people I knew in Vancouver at that time: 3. My boyfriend (now fiancee) Bradford, his good friend, and a friendly acquaintance. I was leaving behind my family, my job, my house and all of my friends to be with a man. Before the move my feet were so cold they were numb. While in the future the cloyingly romantic tale we tell our children will be that of a couple who took the chance at love and lived happily ever after, when I first arrived in this strange new city I felt more trepidation than excitement. Nothing was familiar, I felt lost, anonymous and incredibly lonely. Moving had certainly improved my romantic relationship and I had never felt so sure about anyone as I did about the man I had dropped everything for. On the other hand I was distressed by how my relationships with everyone else I loved had changed. I didn’t want to talk to them on the phone, I hate Skype, I don’t remember my MSN messenger password and my Facebook page had changed so much I couldn’t seem to navigate it. Sadness turned to anger and resentment as I blamed poor Bradford for tearing me away from my life to move to this rotten city (voted world’s 5th most livable city) which quickly turned to guilt as he was continuously bending over backwards to make me feel at home. BS: “Look! I bought you a new bike!” Me: “Stupid new European bike. Only one speed. How am I going to ride that in the beautiful Rocky Mountains which are only 30 minutes from our home on the ocean?” BS: “We can go buy some fresh fish right off a fishing boat at Granville island!” Me: “I don’t feel comfortable consuming fish which hasn’t been frozen and vacuum sealed then stamped with a quality seal by Captain Highliner”. BS: “Let’s drive down the coast to California!” Me: “I get carsick on road trips without acres of flat prairie farmland to focus on.” It is said that misery loves company, but since I had no friends I quickly realized that unless I wanted to have a pity party of one I would have to snap out of it. So I decided to give life a real chance here.

Although Bradford had a very inviting, fun and broad group of friends who we socialized with together my feeling of solitude could only be filled by a close girlfriend. I missed girl talk. I also wanted a group of friends of my own. I had always been independent and I suddenly felt like more of an us than a me. I am of the opinion that a healthy couple shouldn’t be joined at the hip. This viewpoint is shared by many experts. Marriage expert/counselor Dr. Margaret Paul PhD says “Some couples spend a lot of time together because they really enjoy it, while others spend a lot of time together out of fear of being alone. It is important for a healthy relationship for each person to have friends and interests, so they are not dependent on each other. Dependency is not healthy in a relationship, particularly emotional dependency.” Psychotherapist Wendy Allen says “Each partner should strive to be a whole, healthy individual who can make positive contributions to the marriage and space encourages the solid, cohesive sense of self in each person.” “Having a variety of friends is a route toward developing—personally, socially, and spiritually. Participating in a variety of activities makes you well-rounded, and gives you more to talk about with your partner.” says Christopher Knippers, author of “Cultivating Confidence”. Understanding how I felt, Bradford would encourage me to call this person or that person from our mutual group of friends for some “girl time” but it felt strange to have to force a friendship. I was waiting to really click with someone. I took a photography course, a hula hooping class, a pole dancing class. I even went for a drink with one of the girls from class. I never called her again.

There was a time when I wasn’t so picky. When I liked to go out every night to lounges, bars or concerts. I wanted to see and be seen. I wanted to dance. My criteria for a girlfriend was essentially that she be fun, easygoing and able to do a lot of shooters. I couldn’t tell you what most of these ‘friends’ are doing these days. Now that I’m older, I want quality over quantity. I want someone to go to brunch with and talk (read:bitch) about my week. I want someone to go shopping with who will give me a real and honest opinion about the skirt I’m trying on (and not make me go into Lulu Lemon or Banana Republic EVER). I want someone I can call when I have PMS and I’m crying about something silly and no one else will understand. Someone who gets my sense of humor and who has one too. Someone intelligent with opinions and world views. Someone well read. Someone who still likes to have a good time but who won’t puke on my shoes if we go out for drinks. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. But as hard as I tried, I was having no luck. There is no friend finding equivalent of I checked. It felt like I was losing my sense of self, not really opening up and being myself in social settings because I didn’t feel comfortable with the people I was with. My partner would ask “why don’t you ask so and so to go get a pedicure?” I would cry.

The first time I had a girl crush was in nursery school. Her name was Rachel. She was mesmerizing. She had long, blonde, curly hair and bright blue eyes and she looked like a princess. For our recital she was Snow White. I was a Rain Man. When I skipped from the first to the third grade I walked terrified into the classroom on the first day of school and didn’t know a single person in the class.The teacher introduced me and then told me to sit down. I stood at the front of the class awkwardly scanning the room, my face burning, looking for a place to sit. Suddenly, an adorable little girl named Tamara with long brown hair and olive skin put her hand up and announced loudly “You can sit here! You can be our friend!” referring to herself and another girl beside her. This girl, my second girl crush, will be a bridesmaid in my wedding. In junior high it was a freckled redhead named Kim who was a model and taught me how to smoke and introduced me to my first boyfriend. In high school it was Jen who wore vintage clothes and shiny lipstick and had the straight shiny hair down to her J-Lo butt. There are just some girls you just meet and immediately know you will bond with because you see a part of yourself in them, or a part of who you want to be. I don’t keep in touch with every girl who has caught my fancy, but I have shared secrets and memories with all of them. I had left many of my best friend behind in Winnipeg and while I knew I could never replace them, I needed to find that kind of magic with someone again.

One night a friend from high school who I learned had moved to the city years ago invited me out with him and his friends. One of his friends was a well-dressed woman my age, and we started to talk. We talked about our families, our friends, where we used to live (about 20 minutes from each other!) and our mutual love for perogies. She made me smile, she made me laugh! I talked to her all night, and then we exchanged phone numbers. I felt like a teenager debating whether to call her or whether our connection was all in my head. The first time we went out for dinner, she met me in tights and a t-shirt. I was in a dress. I slunk down in my chair a little. The minute she sat down she burst into tears. Any nervousness I felt immediately dissipated. This was my kinda girl, I thought, she’s so real. We ordered some strong drinks and chicken wings and talked about her bad day. She quickly became my Vancouver best friend. We were similar in ways that mattered and different in ways that were complementary. She liked yoga while I despised it. She would order pancakes at breakfast and I would order eggs and hashbrowns so we could share. We had different styles so we didn’t fight over clothes. She was retro and I’m fashion forward. We both like True Blood, meat buns, perogies, bikes, vintage, 90’s hip-hop and nerds. Between my boyfriend and her, I started to enjoy my new home.

Over the almost 3 years I’ve now been here I’ve made more girlfriends. We’ve had girl talk, laughed, danced, talked politics and religion, gossiped, and yes even gotten pedicures together. I still miss my oldest and best friends from Winnipeg and visit whenever I have a chance. But I’m also thankful I have had the chance to build these new friendships, to meet these engaging new people and get to know them. Every new relationship you forge helps to transform and enrich your life and friendships between women are among the strongest and most important in their lives. My Vancouver best friend just moved away and while I will miss having her so close by I will always consider her a close friend and the girl who reminded me how fun a girl crush can be.

Easter spells EAT!!

April 9, 2012


This year I thought a bit about what Easter means to me. I’m not a religious person. I wouldn’t quite say I’m an atheist, because I think I believe in ghosts and spirits and if there is an afterlife then maybe there is a big cheese there, some head honcho, a ‘divine ruler’ if you will. But I have had enough dalliances into the Christian faith in my lifetime to seriously doubt that the answer is there. The only grandparents I have ever met are of the Mennonite faith and went to church every Sunday. My Oma does not question the existence of god, only the likelihood of seeing her family members in his kingdom of heaven in the afterlife. So far I have no chance, as I have never been baptized. (In the Mennonite faith you are baptized as an adult). It looked promising for me when I was quite young. There were a few Sunday school lessons as a young girl until my parents finally had their fill of having to go to sermons themselves so I could attend. My sister and I owned a children’s book of bible stories which I enjoyed reading. One summer my parents even sent us to a camp with a religious component. We came back thoroughly brainwashed and convinced they were going to hell for all of their sins: getting divorced, drinking alcohol, using the lord’s name in vain, swearing. They were surely going to burn. It didn’t take long to reverse the damage, we quickly realized that being a devout Christian wasn’t a lot of fun. Anyway, I have a basic understanding of the Easter story, and what it means to those of the Christian faith.

What Easter means to most people I know: FOOD. For as long as I can remember, Easter has been another reason to gather, celebrate, and eat. Much like every other holiday, it is an excuse to overindulge. Food brings people together like nothing else, and many people have holiday food traditions that have existed since they were children. For our family, the Easter meal is ham. When I think of ham, I think of Easter. But family gatherings have not always been a positive experience for me. When I was suffering with an eating disorder, the idea of family dinners terrified me. I knew there would be expectations placed on me to eat all of the delicious food, the bread, the meat and potatoes and the fat-laden gravy. I could just visualize the fat depositing right onto my stomach and my ass. I would try all of the anorexic tricks. Eating slowly, filling up my plate with vegetables, cutting things up in small pieces. But when it comes to a Mennonite feast, you can’t get out of there without a full stomach. Which meant of course that I had to throw up afterwards, which always made me feel guilty and worn out. Even in recovery, family dinners can be difficult. I still feel at times that people are watching what I eat, making sure it’s enough, but not too much. Sometimes when I go to the bathroom after a meal, I feel like I have to prove I’m not purging. Sometimes I just try to pee at record speed, even skipping washing my hands. I think “No one will think I could have thrown up that quickly!!” Other times I will try to have a conversation with someone outside of the bathroom, or sing or talk to myself loudly. No one can vomit and talk at the same time!! I have gotten over most of this now, and can just enjoy a holiday meal for the good food, and the good company. But what I’ve discovered is that for a lot of women holiday feasts can bring about feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame. People tend to eat and drink too much, abandon their diets, regain lost weight. Not to mention the stress women can be under to prepare these elaborate meals. With family dynamics shifting away from the ‘nuclear family’ idea of 2 parents, 2 ½ kids and a dog, people may have multiple meals to attend in a day or over several days. I have a friend who went to 4 dinners this weekend. She claims to have gained 10 pounds. While I doubt this is true, this 4-day gorge-fest has certainly affected her self-esteem, if not her waistline.

It’s interesting to me that in the Christian faith, Easter is a celebration of God sacrificing his only Son to pay the penalty for our sins so that we can have eternal life. This sacrifice is celebrated with gluttony. (I will note that for some Christian faiths this gluttony follows a period of fasting, I just don’t know anyone who actually does this). In the Jewish faith, the Passover feast which celebrates the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt, consists of a much less appealing spread. Each component is representative of some part of the story about the Jewish people fleeing Egypt. Matzah, or unleavened bread to represent the haste with which the Jewish people fled, maror, bitter herbs to symbolize the bitterness of slavery, karpas, a vegetable like parsley or celery representing hope and redemption served in a bowl of salted water representing tears shed etc. For the entire 8 days of Passover, nothing with yeast is allowed, and there are several other food restrictions. It is a time of respectful sacrifice. Again, I’m not a religious person, but it sounds like by rearranging their philosophy a bit, Christians could seriously decrease their caloric intake.

For the rest of us agnostics, we just need to remember that it’s only a meal. Food is to be consumed, it shouldn’t consume us. If you eat more than you meant to, don’t beat yourself up over it. Here are some rules that might help you: If you ate an entire family-sized bag of Mini Eggs over the long weekend, don’t sweat it!! Nothing with the word mini in the name can affect your waistline significantly. Remember, red wine is good for your heart, and I read a study once that showed women who drink a glass of red wine daily are on average thinner than those that don’t. I’m sure the same is true for multiple glasses of red wine, white wine, tequila, gin, beer etc. One serving of vegetables cancels out one serving of carbohydrate. The same goes for a glass of diet soft drink. If you cook with olive oil you don’t count that as fat, because it’s “good fat”. Same goes for any fat in olives or avocados. Finally, anything you eat while cooking doesn’t count because you are doing manual labor and you are burning off all of those calories. If you feel better, it is probably a good time to mention that all Easter chocolate is now 50% off. Please, someone buy up all the Mini Eggs!!! They are my Achilles heel!


April 7, 2012


This morning saw me rushing to work, running late as usual. As I was leaving, my fiancee looked at me admiringly and said “I like your makeup today”. I wasn’t wearing any makeup. If there was any doubt in my mind as to whether this was the man for me, this would certainly have erased it. I humbly blushed, which I’m sure only served to increase my radiance. I am a goddess, I thought as I set forth proudly from the apartment to face the world. 

Fast forward a few minutes. I am in line at Starbucks. Finally it is my turn to give my order to the approximately 28-year old American Apparel skinny jean-clad, faux-hawked, over-caffeinated, hipster barista with the pedophile moustache my order. “What can I get you today ma’am?” MA’AM????? Heeeeelllllll no!!! You see, I have come to terms with being called ma’am in certain situations. When 15 year-old shop girls or teenage boys call me ma’am? Cute. I can see they are trying to be polite, and I have accepted that at twice their age, I may appear an old bag. When a cute little girl pointed at me and said to her mother “Look mom, that lady has red shoes” I dealt with it. I guess I’ve crossed into lady territory. I’m a woman, no longer a girl. Fine, I get it. But when some jackass dude at a coffee shop who is essentially my chronological age calls me ma’am. Not OK. To you, sir, I am a Miss. Pronounces with the ess sound, not Ms., pronounces with the zed sound, which makes me think of my old battleax of a grade one teacher. I’m 31, not 75. I still feel young and vital, and my hips don’t creak when I walk. So, dear readers, the next time you think of calling a woman ma’am, think again. It is never polite to insinuate she is a crusty old maid. But, the sun was shining, and I was determined not to let him ruin my good mood. I was still gorgeous, I was a natural knockout, I was Hebe, goddess of youth. But I did put on some lipgloss when I got to work. Hey, my lips were dry. 

It’s all on you, Baby!!

April 3, 2012

Happiness. It’s something that most people strive for, yet often cannot define for themselves when asked to. Happiness means different things to different people, and frequently our own notion of what yields happiness changes throughout our lives as we grow and change. Some seek happiness through their relationships, some through career or financial successes, others through physical fitness or outward beauty. Happiness is subjective. Your interpretation of happiness will determine if you will achieve it in your lifetime, and you may be happy at certain times of your life and unhappy at others.

The nature of happiness means that you need to identify what will make you happy. No one else can unearth your criteria for happiness. Following this, it is your responsibility to actively pursue happiness. One thing I have noticed about women, myself included, is that we very often look to others to make us happy. In a lot of ways, this is not our fault. We have been told since we were little girls playing with dolls that one day our prince would come and sweep us off our feet. The message from many Hollywood movies and TV shows is that we need to find a man to take care of us and ‘make us happy’. The media tells us that if we alter ourselves to be skinnier and more beautiful we will be happier, so we enlist the help of hairdressers and personal trainers and makeup artists and sometimes even cosmetic surgeons who are supposed to transform us and make us happily perfect. We want our careers to fulfill us, and often failing that we aim for nuclear families and children to make us feel complete and content. We buy and read books about happiness, hoping that the authors will be able to finally unlock the secret for us. I saw 3 people reading ‘The Happiness Project’ just last week. All of them were women.

Certainly our relationships with others, careers, health, even shallow things such as physical appearance and money can contribute to happiness and satisfaction. But arguably these things don’t make you happy. Being truly happy requires self-acceptance and a good self-image. A woman has to be sure of herself and confident in who she is in order to be truly happy. When a woman is reliant on others for her happiness, it shows that she lacks self-confidence. It is nice to have the man you love tell you that you are beautiful, but you shouldn’t need this validation to feel attractive. Getting praise from a boss for a job well done feels good, but you should be confident enough in your skills and abilities that you already know your value in your field. It is probably one of the hardest challenges for women, to accept themselves for who they are. It’s something I’ve been working on for a long time, and continue to struggle with. But trust me, it’s worth a try. You’ll be happier for it.

Thanks, Guilt and Pity (But no thanks for guilt or pity)

March 31, 2012

My Oma-Would you want to make this woman sad??

Working in a hospital I am surrounded by the ailing and afflicted. I can’t say I am desensitized to suffering. I feel for many of those who are battling painful, frightening, and possibly life-threatening  conditions, as well as those who love and care for them. However when everyone you come into contact with has some type of malady, you do begin to reserve your sympathy and emotional energy for those who are truly in agony in order to preserve your sanity. Every so often I meet a person who touches me and I can’t help being drawn into their pain. My father once told me never to feel sorry for other people. I understand what he was trying to tell me. He isn’t a heartless person without concern for his fellow man. But rationally speaking,  feeling sad for others can accomplish nothing but just that: making you sad. Feeling pity for another person is passive rather than active, and actually can harm someone more than it can help them by further validating and solidifying their role as a victim when in fact most people don’t want to be viewed in this light at all. However it tends to be human nature for our hearts to go out to the weak and the suffering.

Today as I was sitting and eating lunch in the foyer of the hospital, a lovely elderly lady started to chat me up about nothing in particular. As we continued to talk she told me that her husband had just had a stroke and was getting out of the hospital that day at 4pm. He would require a home care nurse since he couldn’t walk properly yet, he had difficulty swallowing, his speech was garbled and it was unclear how much function he would regain. She teared up a little as she spoke, and I must admit my eyes got a little watery too. She wasn’t asking for sympathy, it was evident she felt alone and was reaching for someone, anyone to talk to. It was right about then that a young man about my age in a wheelchair approached a ramp leading up to the café. He was attempting to maneuver himself at the correct angle to enable him to go up the ramp and was having quite a bit of difficulty. He finally realized this feat, only to have to get up the actual ramp, which seemed to give him some trouble. I saw that there were many people watching him, and it seemed as if quite a few looked poised to jump in and push him. No one did though, and I believe it was because he looked so determined wheeling himself up that nobody seemed to know if this was the right thing to do. I assume they were afraid of embarrassing him or insulting him by insinuating he was unable to make it himself. The old woman and I watched him fight his way up the ramp silently, and then I felt her touch my hand with hers. “We are very fortunate” she said. I looked at her, this woman who felt blessed though her husband would very likely never say her name again, and I felt humbled. No, this woman didn’t need my pity. In many ways, she may be better off than I. I’ll explain.

On my way home, I started thinking about all of the little things I take for granted on a daily basis. The fact I have friends and family that love me, I live in a great city, I have a secure job and a roof over my head. I take for granted my health, and that I have enough food to eat. It may sound repetitive to talk about how deplorable it is that in North America portion sizes have increased 2-5 times since 1970 while obesity rates are epidemic, and at the same time there are people in the world still dying of starvation. But regardless of how often you hear it, it is still wrong. I am a second generation Canadian. My grandparents lived in Europe during WWII when people often didn’t have enough food to fill their stomachs. When they moved to Canada, they were extremely poor and had to work harder than I or my children will ever understand to make a life for themselves. To people like them and countless others who came to this country for a better life, being able to feed your family well was no small blessing, a validation for all of their tribulations. There was a time in history when being plump was a sign of high social standing. The poor could not afford good food and so were thin and wasted looking. It is alarming how things have changed such that now “thin is in”. In fact, with fast food and pre-packaged food usually costing less than fresh fruit and vegetables and lean meats, those in lower socioeconomic classes are more likely to be overweight than the middle and upper class in today’s day and age.

When you ask people what’s really important in life, one of the most popular answers is being healthy. Another is having enough food to eat. However, at any given time it is estimated that 45% of women are dieting.  At some point in their lives, most women will actively deprive themselves of food. While not all diets are harmful, and in some cases losing weight will improve health, many women engage in practices that are potentially dangerous under the guise of health, such as fad diets, detoxes, fasts or juice and soup diets. In the poorest nations such as India and northern Africa, the average caloric intake is between 1400-1900 calories daily for women. The daily requirement for most women is about 2000, with about 900 being the amount needed for human functioning. Many diets today recommend caloric intakes of 1500 calories daily or less making their devotees at least if not more malnourished than many “starving” women in 3rd world countries. When you think of the focus we put on our bodies in this light, it seems so shallow, doesn’t it?

I may sound judgemental but that is not my intention. I do not mean to be the pot that calls the kettle black. As a woman who has battled an eating disorder since a teenager I am no stranger to body image issues or depriving myself of food. I have likely binged and purged enough food to feed a small starving village. When I think about how important I once thought that being thin was or how happy I thought that losing 5 more pounds would make me it seems so irrational now. I know that an eating disorder is a disease and I have the insight now to understand that it isn’t really about food or how you look, but I still carry around a lot of guilt about the damage I did to my body and what I took for granted during the time I was abusing myself. One image that stays in my mind is the look of concern and pain on my Oma’s face whenever I would go over to her place for dinner and I would avoid eating the things she would prepare for me and try to shovel onto my plate in true mennonite fashion. For her, cooking for her family is showing love. I’m not sure how much she knows about my eating disorder, or even if she could fathom such a thing, but I know she realized I was sick by how frightened and sad she looked. Even now, every time I go there she is so concerned about what I can and can’t eat, and if I’m OK. I was relieved when finally the last time I saw her she deemed me “good and healthy”. Someone like her could never understand why a person would deprive themselves of food on purpose. She has seen what real hunger looks like. Her idea of a light meal is Rollkuchen (fried bread made of flour and whipping cream). Food nourishes your body and keeps you alive. It is vital to survival. It also can be an excuse to bring family together. My Oma grew up in a different time, but as I was reminded today, it seems we could all learn a thing or two from our elders.