Light, loss & living for others

At the time of first trying to express my grief and gratitude–the news about Christopher Seguin’s sudden passing was very recent. Three weeks have since passed since the staggering loss. His celebration of life service was held on Saturday, October 14.  While sitting in the church, hearing about his life, attempting to comprehend the moment, working steadily through a box of tissues–I marveled at how his absence was a deeply felt presence in the packed room. 

There has been rumors and revelations–and while there should be appropriate and respectful channels to discuss and dissect the circumstances surrounding his death, but I won’t do that here.  Existence is a complex experience. We navigate through frameworks of social constructs, we play roles, we love and are loved, we lose and recover, we try and fail until the clock stops ticking–and we then become constellations in the vast atmosphere that is the human condition. 

I tried to capture a singular moment that reflected my memory of Christopher. Words failed as I reeled at the magnitude of the loss.  The tragedy is layer upon layer of agony and anguish for all who were impacted by his life and his loss– his family, his wife, his children, the community, the university–and on and on and on. My heart goes out to those hurting most–and I extend my loving thoughts outwards. 

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The flags were flying at half-mast on and while I logically understood the reason, my mind revolted against the truth. I half-expect to see him somewhere on campus. However, that towering figure, that booming voice, that presence is gone—and that reality is simply too painful to bear.
To me, Christopher Seguin was like a classic movie star come to life in the modern age: strapping, stylish and smart—a gentleman and an adventurer—like Cary Grant from somewhere between The Philadelphia Story and Gunga Din.

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We met through the Kamloops Film Festival. He became a mentor, ally and friend.

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During a period of professional adjustment—when I was feeling rather lost in the world—Christopher offered direction.  He regaled me with a self deprecating tale about himself as a young, idealistic man writing a piece that he felt so proud of—only for it to never see the light of day.

This conversation took place during a quick walk around campus.  He stopped where we had started, about to set off in another direction.  “The writing is good”—he said, smiling, assuring. As he walked away, his coat collar popped against the crisp autumn weather, he tossed a final sentence over his shoulder “…but it could be better.”
Ah, that was a cool moment.
He wasn’t one to soften blows, he told you how it was. At the same time, he showed vulnerability while sharing stories of his own personal growth. He offered insights and advice, but tasked you with reaching higher levels of personal achievement. It’s good–but it could always be better.

In the first days of shock and sadness, while trying to occupy my unraveling thoughts–I thought a lot about Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief–and tried to remember the DABDA scale from long-ago Psychology classes.

Denial:  “In this stage, individuals believe the diagnosis or situation is somehow mistaken, and cling to a false, preferable reality.”

Yes, the false, preferable reality seems reasonable to me.

As Joan Didion noted in her memoir “The Year of Magical Thinking“, “I was myself in no way prepared to accept this news as final: there was a level on which I believed what had happened remained reversible.”

In grief, we are at war with ourselves, rallying against reason, and struggling to reconcile the loss. My mind wanders back and forth between fact and fantasy—I strive to create a world in which Christopher could overcome death. He had plans, goals and value

This. Cannot. Be. It.

And yet, it is. Waves of anguish crashing repeatedly, threatening to overwhelm you as you try to make sense of a senseless tragedy. Wrestling with memory and circumstance, burdened by the weight of  heartbreak, the clashing of absence and presence.

You were just here.

What is one to do when great lights are snuffed out? In that darkness you begin to realize how much these people were quiet architects to our growth and successes. There lies a portion of Christopher’s memory—his legacy resides in those he insisted do better.

As Margaret Atwood once said:

I hope that Christopher becomes more than that. I hope that he carries on in spirit through acts of service. As we move forward into the wilderness of grief and loss, I hope we carry along his memory. He was someone who urged us to excel beyond our wildest expectations–and to encourage others to do the same.  Instead of envisioning a great light dimming into darkness—imagine it fracturing into a million pieces—so that we could find it everywhere. As we move forward, may we absorb even a fraction of that energy, warmth and light.

 

 

Magic & the Big Reveal

Grocery shopping on a Sunday afternoon. What can be more uneventful?  After leisurely sauntering through the aisles, I guided the trolley to the shortest checkout lineup.

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The cashier is a young woman. She is wearing pastel Easter bunny ears in commemoration of the upcoming holiday season.

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After a pedestrian exchange of pleasantries, she casually, yet conspiratorially reveals her evening plans in a manner of two gals chatting over cocktails. She’s seeing a man that she’s been “talking to…a lot.” Her mouth wraps around the words.

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“Have you met him before?” I ask, leaning in slightly.

“Yes, but this is the first time we’re going to really hang out. We have so much in common; there’s so much to talk about,” she sighs.  

That seizes my heartstring a little bit. That twitterpated-kind-of-feeling is simply magical.  And really, it’s the only thing in life that matters. That friendship connection. That spiritual recognition. When that you meet someone, and you know that you know. Or you know that you want to know them…you know?   It’s like finding other people that seem to share a slim fraction of some ancient soul.

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It’s also exactly like when Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly discover their commonalities after a brief feud in “Stepbrothers”.

“Did we just become best friends?”

“Yup!”

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The cashier was enthusiastic but cautious. Clearly, she’s been burned before.  “There are guys on ‘POF,’ that just message: “sex?” When it clearly says, ‘no hook ups’ on my profile.”

I furrow my brow trying to figure out what “POF” means. Finally blurting out “Oh, PLENTY OF FISH?”

“Yeah,” she says with just a hint of “Duh.” Obvs, lady, catch up.

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He lives alone. She still lives with her parents. As the owner of a rather sizable dog and rodent collection, she’s finding moving out a challenge.

The date will take place at his home (naturally). The plan is to watch YouTube videos.

The containment of her excitement is like steam whistling under a pot lid.

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“I’m looking for something lasting, you know? I just want to be honest. I just want to be myself.”

This girl hungry-hearted girl is killing me.  Jamming cans and loaves of bread together in the same bag, while pouring her soul and exposing her loneliness. She speaks with absolute certainty; as if she wants to believe it, but can’t quite conceive it.  As if love is like wanting to live on the moon and wear nothing but flamingo feathers and Chanel.

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“Well, that’s a healthy attitude,” I say, reorganizing  the provisions in the bags. “Sooner or later, our true selves come out.”

What is “our true selves” anyway? Under the aesthetics and armour we simply skeletons and skin stuffed with sad stories. We’re red hot messes, emotional icebergs, tangled twisted piles of traumas and tragedies.  Still, we cling to the veneer for as long as humanly possible don’t we?

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Whenever a relationship was on the cusp of ending– when all those red flags were flapping in the wind as the storm started to pick up, I’d think about the beginning. I’d remember being coy and unfamiliar as you approached intimacy. When you didn’t know about each other’s failings. You weren’t disappointed yet; you were all hopped up on the possibility of finding everything you were looking for. Isn’t that a Feist song? Let it Die?

“The saddest part of a broken heart/Isn’t the ending so much as the start…..the tragedy starts from the very first spark?”

Yes, yes it is, and now I’m listening to the album in its entirety. Let’s go down that emotional rabbit hole, shall we?

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“The last guy I was talking to, he met me once, and then never texted again. I mean, what did I do wrong? I wish he would just tell me,” the cashier huffed.

Sheesh, what do you say to a single bunny with shaky romantic past?

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Sometimes, it’s not about doing wrong; it’s about not being a right fit. Ultimately, it’s about not having the emotional connection that equates to the matching of ancient necklaces. Or you have the matching necklace, but you get taken you in opposite directions. It doesn’t make less of the love; it’s just that you sometimes just have to go.

OMG, this is SO Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in “The Way We Were.” How those two couldn’t make things work out is beyond me. Still, the love is unending. In the final scene, she brushes the hair off his brow, and gives him a look that says, “Get out of here you gorgeous bastard before I kiss you on directly the mouth.”

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At the root of this fear, is that all magic is just an illusion? When we reveal our “true selves”, perhaps it’s more akin to wrenching the mask off a Scooby Doo villain as opposed to a magician pulling a rabbit out of a top hat.

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Where did I go wrong? Did I reveal too much? Too soon? Too late? Not enough? Too much? In the matters of love, a sleight of hand is essential part of the act.

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We all want to love and be loved, accept and be accepted. Meanwhile we build walls around ourselves to protect and defend from unknown enemies; we tear the wall down and then…build up new walls, brick by flipping brick. We trust, break trust, fail, fall, open up, clam up and clamor back up to seek that connection.

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I pay my bill, and wish ole bunny ears the best of luck with her evening plans. I leave the store, my mind buzzing from that conversation.  Love can be quite the magic trick. Some days it’s about illusions, distractions, angles and disappearing acts. Other times, it’s such an inexplicably magnificent experience that it’s best not to question the spectacle.

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Images Courtesy of Google, and the fine people behind the internet  

March Madness & the cinematic soul mate

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Film Festival recap time! No time like the present am I right my friends? Why, yes, thank you for noticing, it is April, and the film festival closed March…11th. Seriously though. What happened to the other half of March? Is this what everyone means by March Madness? Talk about a time warp. It’s like I came home that Saturday night, kicked off my shoes, took a jump to the left, step to the right, and then suddenly it’s April Fools Day. What is this, a joke?

Now that I look back, I really should have taken better notes in order to appropriately capture the immediate responses to the films and events. As per usual it’s a whirlwind of wine, films, cheese and conversation. And so, I present my disjointed, disordered recollection of events.

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Perhaps for you, the thrill of those ten days are long gone. Just dim memories of dark theatres. Or maybe you found a film or two or ten that was like a finding long-time friend or a cinematic soul mate.  Running the gamut of emotion. Feeling all the feels. Welcome to my happy place. Losing yourself in a story and finding your way back by  the film’s end. Witnessing stories unfold, watching characters develop. Love blossoming, bonds breaking. Reunions and departures. Sacrifices and losses. Successes and victories; all the things that lift us up and tear us down. Some films were based on true stories, and while others were works of fiction, the tales still tend to hold a mirror up to our faces. What a privilege to be a part of that shared experience;  to grateful and ashamed for the human condition in it’s entirety. All that empathy, community, catharsis and buttery popcorn…what else in life does anyone need? 

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Over ten days, I caught 15 movies. I ugly cried four times, napped three times, abandoned one movie (ahem, Toni Erdmann) and–more times than I could count–laughed until nearly crying and vice versa. I lost sleep, danced, drank wine. I wore sequins, high heels and red lipstick. Each night I’d nestle in my standard seat with my Frida Kahlo bag filled with blankets, tissues, and other goodies and necessities. Each night I’d feel like all was well with the world.  

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My dear friend and Events co-chair Tanya and I spent a little  quality time at Hotel 540’s Blue. We enjoyed a lot of Privato Pinot Noir, (doing our part for the Flavors & Flicks initiative). We had a glorious brunch and a multitude of mimosas on a snowy Sunday.  Champagne buzzed and hollandaise high, we watched Window Horses, a trippy little cartoon about a young Canadian poet who travels to Iran to perform at a poetry festival.

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That same day, before I, Daniel Blake, we wandered over to PDK café for lattes and donuts with Kirsten Carthew, the filmmaker of The Sun at Midnight. 

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Quick note: congratulations to I, Daniel Blake—for being the first movie of the #KFF2017 lineup to make me ugly cry. It was a real face contorting, heart breaking kind of film.  Following that film, we strolled over to the Noble Pig for ciders and comfort food.

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Though KFF 2017 was drama heavy, there were moments of levity; The Space Between was incredibly heartfelt and good-humored, as was The Grand Unified Theory.

Nothing made me squirm in my seat more than Mean Dreams.  In fact, the Mean Dreams/Land of Mine double feature was a rather intense evening all in all. The Brewing Discussion at Red Collar was cozy, and I was laughing hysterically with my friend Sam on the way back to the Paramount. Suddenly it was young men dismantling landmines in a post-World War II landscape. Within the first few minutes the Commander head-butts someone in the face, which really takes the edge off the hilarity from the walk over.

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After that double feature, the most emotionally impactful evening was Angry Indian Goddesses and Maudie. That was a back-to-back sob-fest. Goddesses‘ preview really leads you to believe that it’s a buddy comedy, and while it is….it really isn’t. Regardless, it was the kind of unexpectedly devastating movies that requires you to just hang out in your seat until the theatre clears up a little. Maudie was equally as dehydrating, a sweet little love story about a most unlikely couple. A despite-the-odds tale about artistic expression. (And the #KFF2017 Audience Favorite!) 

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Weirdos was very nostalgic and sweet. Paterson, while so lovely, it was also like a shot morphine.  Admittedly, I took a little snooze during that one. All those scenes of sleeping and beds only served to augment my exhaustion. I j’adored Ville-Marie. The film within a film was an emotional intersection of humanity at it’s most raw and vulnerable. Monica Belluci’s emotional undoing is a revelation.

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Note, all these years I’ve been said “Monica Bella-lucci” and when filming videos for the festival, Sam, friend and videographer, said “Um no. It’s Bell-uci.” “Oh. Really?” “Yes, really.”  “Well…I prefer Bellalucci.”

After the film ended, I wandered out into the streets, feeling like a chic yet maudlin Montrealer in my green peacoat. Over a solo lunch, sighing deeply while staring out the window of a sushi restaurant watching the snow fall, feeling beautifully blue.

Once the last film credits had rolled, I got a little lump in my throat. It was partly related to 20th Century Women, but as always, it’s that end of an era feeling. The closing of another festival year. There’s so much time spent preparing for it, and suddenly it’s just like popcorn  and discarded ticket stubs on the floor.

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Then, of course, is the party, so you just shirk off your sentimentally for the moment. Chatting all things films, events, and special guests with other partygoers; gin and red carpet photos and shaking it like a polaroid picture on the dance floor. What a way to celebrate another season with all the fabulous film festival folk that helped make such a magical time happen.

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For more information about Kamloops Film Festival refer to the website or follow the link for a detailed account of the #KFF2017 

Photos courtesy of Alicia Ashcroft, Jen Randall Dustin, Robin Phelan & Chris Warner.

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Lou Grant Me Serenity

Sigh, Mary Tyler Moore. One of the greats gone. She was a huge inspiration to me. She will be missed.

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For those of you who camp out in front of the computer, waiting for me to drop my latest track, my apologies for posting at 1130 last night.  I felt bad, showing up late to my own party.  Then I thought.  Why do I worry? I worry about so. many. things–all the damn time.  The blog should not be one of them.  It’s not like my boss is going to burst in and give me grief about deadlines.  As far as the blog goes, I am my own boss.

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“Oh Lou, you lovable old curmudgeon, you can’t rush the creative process, now get the fuck out of my office before I scald you with hot coffee.”

Then I’d toss my hat up into the air, just to let him know that I mean business.

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Can I just say, according to the highlights of my youth, there was nothing better…

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New Year’s resolutions & the junk food junkie

New Year’s resolutions are fabulous to make—once you’ve had your third glass of champagne on December 31.

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It’s like when you’re all tucked into bed, thinking about getting up early to jog. I’m going to get up at 5am, I’m going to run 10k, have a smoothie for breakfast, and just be a better person.

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Then the alarm goes off, and it’s as if those intentions belonged to another person. Following the brouhaha of the holidays, those resolutions were made by a different person, all boozy and jacked up on butter tarts and boxes of chocolates. Sure, it’s a great idea…but I’m not actually going to do it. Come January 2, all you want to do is slip into a month-long turkey coma.  Better yet, send me away on a cruise ship so that I may return when it’s spring, all tanned from napping in the sun.

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Once all semblance of the holiday season has passed, what remains is the carb bloat that gives you a fat Elvis glow—or whatever the opposite of glow is. Kind of like when a cheese platter is left out too long and it gets kind of…sweaty.  That’s the one good news about the recent cold snap, layers, layers, aaaaall the layers. I’m like Oprah over here: YOU GET A LAYER, YOU GET A LAYER, EVERYBODY GETS A LAYER!

Of all the resolutions going, “Dry January” just feels like punishment. When the scale is higher and the bank account is lower than you’d prefer—a glass of wine is absolutely in order. Of course, to each their own with the resolutions and best of luck to those setting and maintaining intentions. I’ve always loved the notion that we can reset our internal clocks and try our hand at being healthier, happier human beings.

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Why try to tackle these changes during a dull and blah time?  On the other hand, what else is there to do? What better way to battle the misery of January by implementing small improvements that will set you up for success for the rest of the year. Although, are these goals like civilizations that crumble by the time we get back to December—and then does it become a vicious cycle? Are we stuck on the futile hamster wheel of gain and loss?

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For me, food and weight management is the albatross around my neck. I’m a steadfast foodie, and am quite passionate about all things yummy; and those yummy things are equally as passionate about lurking in my fat cells permanently. As much as I detest the expression, “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips” is painfully apt.  Linger over the flavour my friends, there’s about a 1000 burpees worth of calorie burning coming your way.

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Throughout the holiday season, I was an active participant in healthy choices. I was hydrated, eating balanced meals, walking briskly and taking yoga classes. Bolstered by the Herbal One’s Little Black Dress challenge, I was cruising through holiday parties unscathed. I did attend one function with a mammoth cream puff buffet, partnered with a vast ocean of delicious options. You could really give those cream puffs some personality. I did not partake, but admittedly, stared at a co-worker the same way my dog watches me eat. It was captivating.  Tantalizing even.

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I personally think it’s better to not even have a taste. It ignites a furious hunger that wants to devour an entire pizza, dipping slices mercilessly into ranch dressing. I simply can’t have just one French fry—I want aaaaaaall the French fries. If I go down that route, you’ll find me lurking around food courts and fast food restaurant parking lots hustling customers for deep fried goodies like a panhandler looking for change. Got a fry to spare? I just need a taste man.

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My sister-in-law’s visit from New Zealand was my culinary downfall.  Our Sun Peaks holiday was not a ski vacation, but more an arctic eating tour. Sure, there were salads, but they were swiftly trumped by other caloric delights.  It’s my responsibility as host, and as a Canadian, to find the best restaurants in the area. That’s just good manners.

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There was a day that included pulled pork poutine, movie theatre popcorn and a plethora of curry.  Every bite was a masterpiece. Until I stepped on the scale the next day and my eyes bugged out of my head like I was a cartoon character. Yowza, that got out of hand quickly.

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That’s the thing about indulging—it’s Christmas—it’s the time to do it, relaaaaax, enjoy yourself. Everyone is giving you permission to treat yourself. Everyone else is doing it. But you alone how to deal with the post-holiday damage control. Except, now you’ve got a taste for that melted cheese dripping in gravy and it makes a crisp salad on a frosty January evening look like a total chump.  But—there’s something about your underwear hugging you a little closer than normal to make you think: Wait. What? But I had salad that time…as a starter…for poutine. I may have gone off the rails a wee bit.

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It’s a balancing act. Lose track?  Reset the intention. Yoga classes and the 60-day Barre Kamloops challenge will keep me off the couch for January and February. The fabulous gals at Herbal One are so kind; they’re always willing to pick me up from the food court and deliver me to Poutine Rehab so I can get through my gravy detox, and learn to love salads once again.

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Thanks a million to the infinite internet for all those nifty images

Ripple effects & the future unknown

What a year. Anyone else feel like they’ve been living in the Twilight Zone episode that intersects with a Margaret Atwood novel, by way of George Orwell?

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Admittedly, my year began rather beautifully. Day drunk in New Zealand, sand between my toes and whatnot. Holiday me is my most fabulous self. She is fun, good humored, wears flowing dresses and big hats, eats passionately and enjoys long walks on the beach.

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It felt like the holiday was never going to end, and suddenly, the plane is landing in Vancouver. I’m listening to Adele’s Hello and grimacing mournfully towards the grey skies and slick tarmac. Back to work. Back to routine. Goodbye holiday me. Hello hellish chill of January.

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After 14-plus hours’ of flight and airport purgatory time, no matter how badly you want to cling to those bright and shiny holiday feelings, all you want to do is just get home to your own bed.

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Entering Baggage Claim with blurry eyes, I had to blink and refocus when I saw the news on the screens above the conveyer belt. Breaking news—DAVID BOWIE DEAD. What the whaaaa? That was such a heartbreaker, the end of an era at the end of our holiday. Sitting in the airport, using the free Wi-Fi to listen to classic Bowie tracks, feeling quietly despondent about life’s impermanence.

Does anyone else feel that the death of David Bowie was the precipice of which the year dove off? It was the nature’s siren signifying that 2016 would be straight up bumpy.

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Generally, I enjoy the many year-end best and worst lists. This year, though, it does feel like the worst outweighs the best? 2016 was especially devastating in regards to oh I don’t know…everything?

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As the year rolled along, the news churning out horrific stories about Syria, violence and unrest in the United States, the refugee crisis, Hurricane Matthew, Zika virus, Brexit, terrorism—Al Gore releasing an updated and more depressing follow up to An Inconvenient Truth—the list goes on and on and oooooon.

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As for the 2016 In Memoriam lists… how much time to do you have? From Willy Wonka to Mrs. Brady, to the Fifth Beatle George Martin; Alan Rickman, Maurice White, Harper Lee, Merle Haggard, Patty Duke, Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe, Arnold Palmer, Sharon Jones, one Eagle, two members of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Leonard Cohen and His Royal Badness, Prince.

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It’s a long list baby—and there are too many to name.  It’s like God wanted to make a pop culture greatest hits compilation tape and just got a little too invested and enthusiastic. It’s like “Dude, you’ve got a lot Jimi Hendrix, Mozart and Audrey Hepburn—don’t be greedy!”

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Then there’s ole President Elect Tweeter von Tweeterstein. I’m not here to spout political diatribes, we all have our opinions and I respect that. On the night of the election, I was prepped with a nice bottle of pinot to toast the first female president. By the time Clinton’s campaign manager quietly invited everyone to go home, I was drunk and ugly crying on the couch. Not because a woman didn’t win, but because such a vile, ignorant, bigoted, misogynistic beast did. What the future holds, no one knows.

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We bank on 2017 being a better year, and there’s nothing guaranteeing that. What can we bank on? If I may be so bold and to borrow a quote from Wait for it, from Hamilton: “I am the one thing in life I can control.” Yup. That’s it, that’s all. It’s so simple. You control you. You control how you react to and how you receive the best and the worst.

Bear in mind, Burr also famously shoots and kills Hamilton in a duel…and later admits that “the world was wide enough” for the both of them. Talk about shoot first, deal later. Act passionately, just don’t react irrationally.

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Easier said than done I know. There’s a million things to twist yourself up over. The past, the present, the future, the uncertainties, the inevitabilities can be quite crushing.  When you catch yourself sinking in the quicksand of hopelessness, ask yourself: what can I do better?

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Foster positive relationships; practice self-care.  Stretch, sleep, hydrate. BREATHE. Check in with loved ones. Say hello to strangers. Focus on family and community. Volunteer. Eat well. Sleep. Exercise. Smile. Laugh whenever possible.  Love freely. The world will still feel chaotic at times, but that connectedness within your small little corner of the globe will promise a sense of purposeful peace. Create a ripple effect of kindness and see how far it reaches.

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All is not lost, my friends, all is not lost.

Wishing you a happy holiday season and a joyous 2017.

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 Images courtesy of the fine folks behind the internet

 

 

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Pretty Woman & the Full Jackie O

I see ankle boots are a bit of a thing for fall. Frankly, I’m not thrilled. Aren’t they always in fashion?  I remember feeling vaguely unsatisfied with the boot styles last year as well. Every time the summer light starts to fade and the crispness of fall sets in, I venture out into the world to look for a classic knee high black boot to wear with oh, I don’t know, everything.  Either I can’t find what I’m looking for, can afford what I’m finding, or–it just doesn’t look as you imagine it. When I saw it on Jackie Kennedy, it looked a bit sleeker–a bit slimmer.

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When I go for the full Jackie O, I always feel more like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters.  The great gaping divide between how you want to look,  what you think you look like, and how you actually look can be quite alarming when that little Bermuda Triangle of expectation and reality collide.

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First of all. Why is the average changing room so drab? Audrey Hepburn wouldn’t look good in florescent lighting, so what hope is there for the average woman? Down to the socks and underwear–confronting our figures in a cramped, shadowy spaces bathed in unflattering light? The sounds of chatter, babies crying, toddlers sprinting through the racks, some upbeat non-descript pop song playing just a little too loudly in the background.  Cowering in the changing room at war with the fabric, the buttons, the zipper at it’s height of resistance.  Wedged into a dress/bathing suit/jeans–whatever it is that makes you feel like fat Elvis trying to fit into a little girl’s dress.

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Customer service is a dying art, and odds are, no one is coming to check on you. Put your own clothes back on and venture out into the store–avoiding the pictures of the models looking far better than you in the very clothes that you were wearing. Either buy nothing or something that you don’t really love. It can feel very, very grim.

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Shopping for a specific item can be such an annoyance. Like when you get a job at a place with a very specific dress code? Everyone must wear khaki pants! What better way to spend time and money: on clothes you hate as .for a job you need but possibly don’t want. Of course, khaki pants aren’t really a thing and now you have to roam from store to store searching for some vague equivalent. Worse yet, shopping for bigger clothes after a weight gain. Although, you didn’t really know that you gained weight, because you haven’t been paying attention. You head off to the change room with a size 8 and then require a 10, 12, 14. A most deliciously heinous feeling, trying to wedge one’s cheese filled sausage legs into fabric tubes, coming to quite the realization in a very public arena. Fuck it– I’ll have better luck with sizes at the food court, just going to wear ponchos and yoga pants for the rest of my life.

Image result for girl in a poncho vintageThough I love fashion, glamour, style, and elegance–shopping is not my favorite task. For that reason, I made an excellent personal shopper and was successful in retail.  I really tried to help a sister out–finding an outfit for a wedding, funeral, job interview, date, holiday, party, event with a lot of love, good humor and the occasional hug. Tears were a regular occurrence, as were self-deprecating remarks that usually start with “I hate my…” and end with “thighs, arms, belly, etc, etc, etc”. The key is to keep customers in the change room–bring them outfits that suit their body type and explain all the ways to mix and match. Make it fun, keep it light, and when necessary, a  generous dose of tough love.  Pull yourself together, god damn it–Leave your emotions at the door–and just find some fucking pants. 

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When I encouraged body confidence to others,  I avoided taking in my own reflection in the many mirrors around the store. The agony of a conflicted figure, feeling physically inconsistent with not only your sense of style, but your mental self image. Who is the real me? What do I really look like? How am I perceived by the outside world?  If the reflection is to your dissatisfaction, what is the option? Continue on with the self loathing or shift e gears? Along the way to weight loss, the thought of giving up will enter your mind a million times. If discouraged, frustrated, or exhausted-when you can’t do another stupid squat or count another calorie you need to reconnect with your “why”. Health and mental wellbeing is a noble motivation–but sometimes it’s not an accessible visual like: “Audrey Hepburn in a summer dress. Audrey Hepburn in a summer dress. Audrey. Hepburn. in. a. summer. dress”.

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A year since I began the Herbal One program, I’ve lost 42 pounds and 52 inches. It’s been a time of enormous change, growth and grief. My three weekly visits with Beth and Elisha have whittled down to one, but the beat goes on. I know now that it’s an on-going, never ending process.  Like Sisyphus, the rock and that hill.  Keep pushing–forever and ever.

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Poking around Winners on Labour Day morning, picking up a few pieces to update the professional wardrobe. After three years of working with children in a preschool and gymnastics club, it’s been a lot of stretchy pants and loose layers.  With a new job ahead of me, it’s time for a few fresh touches to the ole closet. I haven’t really had any kind of post-weight loss Pretty Woman shopping montage moments. Mostly I’m shopping in my own closet, wearing items that have been collecting dust on the lowest shelf. Now, that they all fit, I’m really getting a sense of just how long it’s been since I wore them–one pair of jeans that had a whiskering effect  made it very clear that it was not to be matched with this year’s ankle boots.

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Interestingly enough, despite all the life-changing results- I still head straight to the plus sizes in the store. It’s like driving to your old house after you move across town. Taking clothes that are way too big to the change room or dismissing something as too small and it fitting perfectly.  Or the irrational fear of gaining aaaaall the weight back after eating too much bread or skipping exercise for one day.  Ultimately, it’s my brain catching up with my body amid breaking long standing habits, exorcising past pains, and discovering whiskered jeans buried deep in the closet.  I wonder if I would suit ankle boots after all? An option worth exploring I suppose–important to question everything.  It’s the eternal adjustment to the reflection’s metamorphic alteration. Forever seeking the perfect fit, when expectation and reality reconcile with one another once more.

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Wait-Loss Wonderland.

The weight loss journey is one seriously rocky road, like wandering though a twisted fairy tale, a calorie-conscious Wonderland with all kinds of detours, obstacles, distractions, forks in the roads and the occasional rabbit hole.

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It’s easy to lose track of your starting point, how far you’ve come, or how much you’ve changed from that day you took that first step in that direction.

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Ten months spent in this weight-loss Wonderland has been a deeply transformative time. Not just of my appearance, or my dress size, but as layers of myself have diminished-now forty pounds and 42.5 inches, I have suffered, struggled—and travelled through my memory—and ran the entire gamut of emotions.  Memories of food; of overindulgences.  I am a certifiable comfort eater. I am my own Italian grandmother serving up heaping portions of creamy, saucy, gooey, salty goodness. Eat! Eat!  It’s the cure for all things: anxiety, boredom, depression, loneliness. It’s not as though gaining weight was a deliberate, conscious act. It just becomes a reality that feels unchangeable.  In my office, there’s a giant glass picture frame with a wedding photo of Buster Keaton, (random I know but the image amuses me). It sits on my desk, and I could see my reflection in it—so I covered it up with papers.

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In retrospect, that action strikes me as sad.  In order to not see myself–and face some hard facts, I refused to see something that brings me joy. Then again, denial, like loose fabric and stretchy pants are necessary accessories of avoidance.  Of course, the cruel irony of this vicious cycle is: feeling unhappy with yourself + self medicating and overindulging + feeling unhappy with yourself + self medicating and overindulging =not living your life out loud like you’d really like to. Knowing that you are on the verge of a great depression; or deep in that chasm with no way to get out—knowing, in an abstract sense, that a healthier lifestyle would be a benefit—but not knowing how to break that cycle—because frankly, you won’t see results on day one, two or three. It becomes quite the waiting game. You simply have to trust that each day, you are a little bit more different than the day before.

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Even after change has become to take shape, sometimes you need reminders. Those Facebook memories that pop up on the ole newsfeed are effective tools, and can be occasionally mortifying—or inspiring, depending on your mood. There was a photo of me in Mexico that really stands out in my mind—I’m rather stylish in the group shot—beachy hair, my smile dressed in red lipstick, a purple silk scarf draped over my shoulders, all tucked into a chunky belt—but oooh, that belt was not the only bit of chunky in that snap shot. It was staggering to see. I showed it to my mother, who was quick to insist that I not feel bad about it; I assured her that I didn’t look at the picture with sadness—I was celebrating New Year’s Eve with some marvellous people in Mexico, and have zero regrets about aaaaaall those guac and chips and margaritas. It was more about realizing how far I had come, when I had kind of lost sight of where I was on the long road to fitness. That was then. This is now. I can’t cripple myself with regret for not starting sooner—or for having a problem at all. Regret, sadly does not burn calories, and is therefore pretty damn useless.

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In the mix of dealing with health improvements, my issues with anxiety are the whack-a-moles that I must endlessly smash with my big mallet. Anxiety is the internal Debbie Downer that leeches joy and distracts from motivation.  That bitch needs to get up and go. But, if she won’t leave, and she sticks with you like a bad tattoo you got in your teen years, how does one redesign it in order to deal it on the daily?   In my case, how does one apply self-comfort without stuffing one’s face? Cups of tea, a cozy blanket, my husband Benjamin, our dog Bluebear, a good book, writing, curling up on the couch, a hot bath, a long walk, a visit with a friend. Chatting with Beth and Elisha at Herbal One, laughing through squats and plies at Barre Kamloops.

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Living life in bite sized increments,  mindful of the moment. By all means plan for the future, but focus on today. Especially in regards to health and weight-loss. So. Many. Times. I would eat as if I were being shipped off to the electric chair at dawn. Tomorrow I’ll be better; I’ll start fresh on Monday.  Excuses start to fly like baseballs at the batting cages. Monday is the worst day of the week, why make that the day to start anything? I’ll start on Tuesday…Wednesday… Thursday… ah, it’s the weekend, best treat myself…to bigger pants. You won’t see change in one day—so what’s one more day of not seeking change? There in lies the need for that mindfulness. You may not see rippling abs on the first day you decide to make a change, so you have to find the ant-sized successes in the daily choices that benefit your long term goal.

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My relationship with food is much friendlier.  I spend more time in the kitchen than ever before–prepping, planning and preparing. The other night Benjamin and I were lying in bed discussing all these delicious meal ideas like two children whispering secrets in the dark. Sunday’s are my food prep days, and there is nothing more satisfying than looking into a perfectly stocked fridge filled with washed and chopped produce and ready to go meals. Take that Monday! If the opportunity arises for a true indulgence, I don’t shy away from it; last night for example—live music, three glasses of pinot noir and two kinds of fondue at the Commodore (swiss cheese and dark chocolate). Do I have a wine/cheese/chocolate hangover today? Hell yes, I do. Do I have regrets? Not at all. I completed a 10-day cleanse, treated myself to a mani/pedi, and enjoyed a very special date night with my sweetheart; I savoured, celebrated and absorbed every bite and every sip.  (We also shared a salad, just for good measure).

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This time has been one of great reflection; recollections of all the injuries, accidents, disappointments, heartbreaks, disasters, losses, betrayals. How I’ve been hurt and hurt others. How I have failed myself and failed others.  Taking responsibility, accepting my actions, forgiving myself, letting go.  Letting go is not my strong suit. I’ve been carrying around past agonies in my heart for so long, punishing myself for my mistakes, torturing myself for every misstep I have ever taken.  I’m still carrying around some of those things in my emotional gunny sack—but I’m learning to leave things behind as I walk along that road. Seeing myself as different people. The fretful child I once was, that 14-year-old girl, that 22-year-old, that 30-year-old—on and on, I can only see them as separate from my present-day self.  Sure, our past selves are a part of the patchwork quilt that is your collective existence, but it’s not the definition of your entire life.  Still, I have to love her—apologize to her for the things that broke her, how I didn’t know how to help her, take care of her. I was weak and imperfect and riddled with flaws. I could have done better for so long, but I didn’t. I can’t punish myself any longer for something that is gone; I can’t change the tides that threatened to drown me. All I can do is today. Breathe. Release. Laugh. Love. Stretch. Forgive. Connect. Be Patient. Cry whenever necessary. Eat fondue occasionally. Be grateful for every mistake and heart break, just don’t let it weigh you down.

Image result for vintage alice in wonderland quotesImages Courtesy of the Fine People Behind the Internet…

The Downward Spiral

The blight of the unpublished writer–the never ending need for reader’s eyes to grace your pages. #anoldiebutagoodie

"Pin Up Picks Pen Up"

Due to some social media sharing, (cheers for that, friends) there was a bit of boom on the ole statistic pages.  We’re talking triple digits people.  My ratings were comparable, if not better, than the number of viewers watching the Psychic Network at four am.

Miss-Cleo

Suffice to say, the success has gone to my head.  I am strutting around the townhouse like the big deal that I am. Beat that Miss Cleo…if that’s your real name.  I’m also thinking of getting a fur coat.  I’ll lounge in it, wear it around the office while I write my spectacular blogs and think all my important thoughts.

1950s HOLLYWOOD VINTAGE GLAMOUR - Sumptious Luxurious  Soft Marabou Feather Shrug Wrap Stole -  Ivory:

I’ll take big important phone calls laughing merrily with my long legs crossed on the desk. (Success made my legs longer, it happens).

I’ll make outlandish remarks like, “The reason people compare my work with Steinbeck, is not just because we are both incredible writers, but…

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Junk, Trunk & the Salty Seductress.

The prospect of a post weight-loss shopping trip can be a real thrill. Less intimidated by the reflection in the changing room mirror, approaching fashion with a newfound freedom. A colorful and energetic montage of the new you twirling around in a multitude of stylish garments–celebrating your hard work with a whole new wardrobe.

For me,  the main shopping agenda was new bras. Having lost thirty pounds and as many inches, my strapless bras were starting to slide down my torso like a firefighter rushing down the fire hall pole.  At the best of times, bra shopping has always been an unfortunate enterprise. A real emotional hot zone.  The advertisement in lingerie stores always slays me. After seeing Miranda Kerr in underwear, it makes seeing yourself in underwear a bit of an underwhelming, or even traumatizing experience.

Beth from Herbal One nods sympathetically when I reference my dwindling breasts. “After all, it’s fatty tissue” she reasons. Uh…yea, so is my ass, why the discrimination? As far as the weight loss goes, if my upper half is like a sprightly speed walker, my lower half is like an elderly and arthritic Tai Chi enthusiast. After two weeks of work on a local film set, my pedometer tallied up some rather impressive numbers. 15 hour days on one’s feet really adds up, especially, if you are utterly shameless and casually march and lunge on the spot.  The shoot ended and I returned to Herbal One victorious…and five pounds lighter. After walking the equivalent of 15-25 kilometres per day, I was certain that the effort would be reflected in my measurements, which they did—with the ever-loving exception of my pear-shaped essence. That didn’t budge an inch.  Meanwhile, it’s RIP C-cup. Who needs a full bust anyway? I can just go back to wearing an undershirt like when I was 9.

My body is changing, my health is improving, and I have generally gained control over the task at hand. My thighs, on the other hand, are like that dude at the party who refuses to call it a night–strumming a guitar poorly, talking loudly; unintentionally intervening on a romantic liaison with that dreamy poet you’ve been flirting with all night. Still there in the morning, drinking your coffee, taking up space and frankly, just rubbing you the wrong way. Go make yourself useful thighs, find out where my boobs scuttled off to.  What does a girl have to do to ditch a little of that junk in the trunk?

I signed up for an Herbal One summer challenge and a month of Barre classes–which offers a mix of ballet, yoga and Pilates. It’s the perfect exercise for me, and a fabulous compliment to my Herbal One Program. It’s a full body workout, the music is upbeat, the staff are friendly, and the other attendees are lovely. Sure, the classes can be quite challenging, and it does bring up such questions as: “Has anyone ever barfed in a Barre class? Just right here on the carpet? And then died from lack of core strength or a vicious butt cramp?”  It’s like thinking you might die, but in the most elegant way possible. When that last plie while standing on one’s tip toes makes you feel the burn like nothing else; or when you aren’t quite grasping the movements and feel like a water buffalo with a charley horse trying to give birth in a swamp…

…you just have breathe, and focus on a visual, chant a little inspirational mantra.  Mine is “Audrey Hepburn in a summer dress…Audrey Hepburn in a summer dress. Audrey. Hepburn. in. a. summer. dress“.

You may want to give up, just a little, or a lot. Tempting isn’t it? Go home, sit on the couch and get your sloth on. Let motivation drift, routines fade, lose track of progress. After all. Isn’t this all so hard? Wasn’t it easier when you filled out the stretchy pants and a proper lady bra? Don’t you miss the sweet, savory and cheeky treats? Temptation is such a salty seductress.  Here’s one: don’t you ever get sick of wishing things were different from the sidelines? Wanting to change, and not knowing where to begin? Or falling back into bad habits, and giving up at the first sign of struggle, failure or defeat?  Or, what if you just kept quietly pushing onward.  It’s about applying that same rationale towards food control to exercise. Commitment and consistency is key, sacrifice and just a smidgen of suffering is required if you want to see results. Ultimately, you have to like what you do, or it won’t really stick for the long haul. Frankly, after living with my thighs rubbing up on each other like a couple of horny teenagers—since, like the day I learned to walk—I need to get in there with some loving, yet brute force.

Between the Herbal One challenge and the Barre Kamloops class, I dropped five inches in one month–and yes, even off the junk in the trunk. For me, finding happy places to focus on my health has been as essential as the little black dress; having friendships steeped in that healthy lifestyle. To be surrounded by support and humor as you lose weight means gaining something far greater in return.

Images & GIF’s Courtesy of the Wide World Web etc.