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Archive for January, 2014

Today Bell Canada is hosting Let’s Talk and it is described as “a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across Canada.

So let’s talk…

My foray into mental illness started after our home burned to the ground in June 2001. We had been sleeping when the fire started and I woke up, for a reason I will never know, before the flames touched the second storey apartment we were living in. No one was hurt and for seven months we lived with some incredible people as we put our lives back together. When the house was rebuilt we moved back in. That’s when it all hit the fan.

The nightmares were incredible and seemed so real. I would wake my husband Bryan up and make him check the entire house. This happened several times a week. My landlady, who lived downstairs, would burn something on the stove and I would go into full-fledged panic mode. I’d run down the stairs and my heart would be beating so fast that it felt like it was going to leap right out of my chest. If someone had a fire in their fireplace or a campfire in the backyard, I would check all over the house to make sure it wasn’t our home. No more candles. No more incense. I would see a photo of a fire, even if it wasn’t one of our home, and I would start to smell the burning. Suddenly it would be hard to breath. I would sweat and feel like I was going to vomit. I was in a constant state of red-alert and the anxiety levels were high. We would come home from shopping and I would almost hold my breath as we came up the highway towards the house because I kept expecting to see it on fire again. I lost interest in hobbies, in friends, and life in general. I stayed up almost all night and half the time slept on the couch. My marriage was teetering on the edge and I was hiding from the world.

About a year and a half after the fire there was a day I felt so low that I just wanted to walk away from my life, in Christopher McCandless fashion, and never look back. I almost did. It was in that moment that I knew I had reached rock bottom and that I needed support. I talked with the one person who has always been my best friend, my husband. I started with acknowledging that I was not okay. Bryan helped me pick up my life and move forward in a very gentle way and thankfully it worked.

We walked and talked. We backpacked and went on long multi-day canoe trips. He listened whenever I needed him to. I decided to do some volunteer work and fundraising. I forced myself to get back into photography and started shooting weddings again. I made an effort to climb into bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. I started eating healthier. It helped tremendously and I was reconnecting with my life but I was still struggling. I surrounded myself with positive people. I clung to each moment of happiness like it would slip through my fingers. Finally I reached a point where joy was in the forefront and I started to feel whole again.

For a while I thought that what I was suffering with was a normal response to our lives being turned upside down but as time progressed I realized it was much deeper than that. In hindsight, I now know that I was likely dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, something which I only thought happened to people who went to war.

I’m sharing my story today so that I can help break the stigmas surrounding mental illness… so that if you find yourself mired in the depths of something like depression or PTSD, that you know you are not alone.

There is a song that resonates with me although I am not sure the writer meant it in quite the way I interpret it.

Don’t lose who you are in the blur of the stars!
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay…

Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
Just be true to who you are!

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This is my guest post as it appeared today on the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (Canada Running Series) blog.

TORONTO. January 11th 2014. Digital Champion Laurie Ann March works hard to balance her hectic life with her love of running. She will tell you that she treats being active as a priority and with good reason. Laurie changed her lifestyle drastically in order to successfully lose 180 lbs. Laurie’s family has joined her on her running journey and she believes that being active is a great way to spend quality time together. Connect with Laurie on Twitter @innerpossible.

Running: A Family Affair
By Laurie Ann March

after the race

family & friends

When I made the decision that I was going to train and run my first 5K race I expected that I’d be doing this on my own. My husband Bryan and I bought a treadmill in late 2011 so I could work towards becoming a runner. What happened surprised me. Bryan, who for years insisted that runners never smile and running fun did not belong in the same conversation, announced that he would run the race as well. I almost fell off the treadmill in shock. What happened to “over my dead body” or “when hell freezes over”? Our eleven year old son, Tobias, voiced that he wanted to run the race too and the next thing I knew we were a family of runners. The whole family was outfitted with good quality footwear and training began. As the weather improved we purchased a running stroller for Kaia, our eighteen month old little girl, and started running outside.

You are probably wondering about the stroller—it has been a wonderful thing and Kaia loves to ride in it. The key, as we quickly learned, is to make sure she had a few toys, a snack, and something to drink. Making sure she is comfortably dressed for the conditions is important too. It is adorable to hear her cheering Bryan on. “Faster Daddy! Faster!” she often exclaims. After a run we take a detour to the park. This allows us some time to stretch while she has fun on the playground. One can’t put on running clothes in our house without her getting excited and she gets a little bit upset if one of us is merely going for a jaunt on the treadmill. Well, downright grumpy might be more accurate. If the weather is inclement we run at the indoor track and she loves that too. Bryan usually finishes a bit before I do so he releases Kaia from the stroller. She’s older now and runs just over one kilometre around the track. She loves it. She will be turning four in June so the stroller will be retired soon. When that time comes Bryan and I will have to take turns going on our runs or consider hiring a sitter. Of course, we’ll still take her out on her own little adventures.

There are many benefits to being a running family. It keeps us fit. It gets the kids outside and reduces their screen time. It creates an environment of support which spills over into other aspects of our lives. Running as a family is a wonderful way to combine training with spending time together. Bryan, Tobias, and I run at different paces so we usually do our warm-up together and then go off on our separate runs, then meeting at the end. Tobias will run with me from time-to-time but if there is a race coming up and he needs to push his limits he goes with his Dad. Bryan travels extensively with his career so it is a perfect time for them to have those guy to guy chats.

my little runner

my little runner

Last spring I trained for my first half marathon, Tobias wasn’t able to run as far as I was going so I set out on my own one Saturday morning. About 15K into my run I heard a familiar voice shout “Hi Mom” and there he was on his bicycle. He told me that he was amazed at how far I ran and that it took him awhile to catch up. Next thing I knew Bryan, who was recovering from a nasty chest cold, was there on his bike with Kaia in tow. This gave me just that little spark I needed to keep going. One summer day Bryan watched Kaia while Tobias and I hit the trails near our home. We decided to go without a pre-set plan and be spontaneously adventurous. There are some beautiful side trails that weave in and out along the Grand River so we would just turn at a whim and see where we end up. At one point we were forced to turn around because the brambles were so thick that it was becoming extremely difficult not to mention a little hard on the legs. We do this from time to time and those runs really bring out my inner child.

A favourite memory is from my first 10K event—a very hilly trail run that took place one night in October. I am diabetic and I had a serious blood sugar crash around the 5K mark. I almost walked off the course because I had taken too much time to deal with that and wasn’t feeling well at all. Emotionally this run was taking its toll. The water stations had been taken down and the paramedic was sweeping the course behind me but I was determined to finish even if I was dead last. Just then, Tobias ran up to me and said that we were going to cross the finish line together. He had received permission to get back on the course to run with me and had a medal around his neck. I knew there were no finishing medals for this race and he told me he won first place for his age group. I was so proud of him for doing his best and I would have been even if he hadn’t been given an award. He told me that he was proud of me too. I fought back the tears because I was extremely moved that he came out to run with me. It made my night and turned what was a rough experience for me into one I will always cherish. It was in that moment I realized how running has brought us closer as a family.

What we have discovered is that introducing the kids to running was much easier than I could have imagined. By making it a part of our lifestyle and keeping it fun, our children seem to have embraced running and it has truly become a family affair. So, whether you are a seasoned runner about to enter into parenthood or you are a new runner trying to figure out how to balance training with a busy family life, perhaps you can find some inspiration from our little running family.

Do you run as a family? How do you get your kids and partner to share in your love of running?

Connect with the Toronto Yonge Street 10K Digital Champions team here!

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The new year is well under way and everyone in our family is back to the typical routines; school, work, and play. This morning the house was unusually quiet giving me the perfect opportunity to share my plans for 2014 with you.

It is always tempting with the promise and energy that comes with ringing in a new year to make the typical resolutions but I’ve learned over the years that being goal-oriented throughout the year works so much better for me. My plans are not entirely unlike what they have been in past years and I’ve already alluded to some of them over the last month.

"gotcha, Mom"

“gotcha, Mom”

Tobias will be 13 this year. Egads! I will be Mom to a teenager. It’s so hard for me to believe that the little guy in this photo has grown so quickly. It seems like yesterday that he was drenching me with that water gun. Kaia will turn 4 and she’ll be starting school in the Fall. That went fast too!  I enjoy motherhood immensely and I love passing on wisdom and life skills to my darlings. I am always learning new things from my children too. I believe that being able to learn from the those around me also makes me a good teacher. We’ll be participating in loads of outside stuff with the kids including the usual running, hiking, cycling, and camping.

I’m working towards running the Mississauga Marathon. I am running the half distance in that race as well and my intention is to knock a great deal off last year’s pace (21 minutes to be exact). Then, three weeks later, I will run the 25K at the arduous Sulphur Springs event. 25K will be a new personal distance record for me and my goal is simply to finish with a smile. Of course, there is also the race ambassador role that I have taken on—Digital Champion with CRS for the Toronto Yonge Street 10K. I’m having lots of fun with that and can’t wait until race day on April 13th, 2014. It is wonderful to be involved with such a great group of runners and the support from the other Digital Champions has been incredible.

I’ve started boxing and kick-boxing inspired workouts for cross-training and Bryan suggested that I could use a heavy bag as part of my workouts. I don’t want to be in the basement as the space is uninspiring, to say the least, so he suggested setting up a little training area in our backyard once things dry up in the late Spring. This way Kaia could play in the fresh air while I pound it out. I did a bit of yoga out there last summer and it was wonderful. We’ve also been talking about ropes and tires and other things that could be used outside to add some intensity to our training.

Living a healthy lifestyle which includes being active and eating a whole foods based diet will continue to be a big part of our lives. Being as healthy as we can is important to Bryan and I. We also strive to continue being positive role models for our children. This isn’t just about physical health but about the mind and the spirit too.  We make an effort to unplug the whole family from electronics and spend time together without that sort of distraction. 2014 will be no different in that regard. Speaking of which, we will be camping again this year. Last year we invested in bike-packing equipment and camped along Le P’tit Train du Nord in Quebec. The trip was a bit of an adventure but we learned so much from it and will return that region to explore some more. It will be interesting this year because Kaia will be on a Trail-A-Bike rather than in a child trailer. With that in mind, we will plan shorter days. We are also going to be camping and cycling with our dear friends Sandi and Phil as well as their son Tyrel. Funny I’ve known Sandi for decades and we have lived together but never camped together. We even have a spooky Halloween camping adventure planned.

I will be taking that climbing lesson and belay certification that I had planned for my last birthday. Sadly I had to cancel it because I broke my toes a few weeks before the date. I was much more disappointed than I expected to be. I’m considering a few other activities that I swore I’d never do, including zip lining. Did I mention that I am utterly terrified of gravity? Time to get over that!

From a business perspective, I finally closed GJ Studios and started a new company called Outdoor Adventure Press. The new identity suits the direction I am headed in career wise. I’m currently finishing up the manuscript for my third camping related cookbook after having to extend the project when my Mom passed away. It should hit shelves in early 2015 and I will be happy to share it with the world. The other two books continue to be fairly popular titles in their genre. I’m also launching a new outdoorsy related project that has an emphasis on children and families. This has been in the works for some time but writing the book took more time than anticipated. I will continue my freelance writing for outdoor publications and there will also be a few running related articles as the year progresses.

I’m curious to see what else this year has in store for my family and me. I love the fact that a new year is like a blank book just waiting for the pages to fill and the story to unfold.

Hello 2014!

So, tell me, what are your plans for this year?

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2013 began with a jolt. On January 2nd, a year ago today, my Mom passed away. She was my closest confident, my best friend, and my strongest supporter. Over the course of the year I would pick up the phone to call her about her grandchildren or to share some of the exciting things that were going on with me. As the phone would start to ring on the other end I would burst into tears and quickly hang-up. It wasn’t surprising as her and I talked practically every day. I was devastated without her in my life but I knew she’d want me to pull up my big girl panties and move forward. After all, that’s what she always did and I learned at a very young age that sometimes we just have to suck it up and get on with life. As time went on the tears made way for smiles about some of the amazing times we shared together.

The previous fall I had taken Mom’s advice and distanced myself from two emotionally draining people who took great pleasure in putting me down. The biggest lesson in this is to not change the loving and giving person that I am to suit someone else’s idea of who they think I should be. I have a saying about how our life is like a garden and friendships are like plants. We have to pull the weeds to make room for the flowers because if we don’t then the garden just doesn’t flourish. I did quite the weeding and with that I became open to new relationships and some great adventures. Creating a chasm of distance when it came to certain relationships meant starting the year free of outside negativity. In hindsight, I am so thankful for my mother’s insight and guidance.  Despite missing my mother more than words can express, the rest of my life was quite positive in 2013 and my year included many wonderful moments.

As a Mom, I proudly watched my children grow and flourish. Tobias switched school boards and felt right at home in his new school community. I started volunteering with his school as well and I will likely become even more involved when Kaia starts school. Tobias is taller than his Dad now and has learned the art of sarcasm. He excelled on the cross country running team and at volleyball. Kaia finally learned to use the potty which was pretty high up on my accomplishment list too. I learned humility and patience during that experience plus Kaia learned that her Mom is much more stubborn than she is. Of course, I could just hear my Mom laughing at the power struggles over the potty. My children reminded me about the simple pleasures in life and through them I understood how Mom was able to always move forward. Children have a way of making you see the world from a different perspective.

I trained for and ran my first half-marathon without injury. Carla, who has become a wonderful friend, ran alongside me and I crossed the finish line smiling. It wasn’t a stunning finishing time but I was so proud of accomplishing 21.1K and I was rather amazed that I actually did it. It meant the world to me that I had such a super support system during training and on race day. Training was full of milestones as well. Running, as you know, continues to be a big part of my life.

One of the things I like to do is give back. In 2013 I organized a virtual 5K race for Team Tyrel. Tyrel is my friend Sandi’s 13 year old son. Her I go way back… decades actually. Tobias is nearly the same age as Tyrel so this hit me hard both as a friend and as a Mom. We have always been there for each other and this time their family needed our support. You see, this brave young man had been on dialysis and was waiting to be put on a transplant list because his kidneys were failing. It was a rough go and it was very stressful as you can imagine. The financial burden was difficult for the family too. So, with some help from the running community, I set up an event and the fundraising began. It was amazing to see runners from all over the world come forward to help. What was really inspiring was people sending in their run photos for Tyrel. People who didn’t run chose to walk or cycle. One lady even did a pilgrimage in Spain. Then there was Kate. She is a runner and nurse from Ottawa. She sent Tyrel the medal from her first marathon with a lovely letter. Amazing! He went on to get his transplant and is on the mend. He’s one of my heroes.

During the organization of the virtual race I went on a small vacation to Quebec where I bike-packed a portion of Le P’tit Train du Nord with Bryan, the kids, and my dear friend Mandi. The ride was scenic and uphill for much of the ride. The area near the Laurentiens was stunning and we even got to see part of the Ironman Mont Tremblant. Talk about inspiring. After returning from the trip I received great news about my health and I was over the moon about it.

My friend Kristin rekindled my love of canning and preserving foods. She invited us over to pick up some peaches and have coffee. I was expecting a small basket of the delectable fruit but I think my friend and I have a different idea about what a small amount is. I spent most of the next few days making jam, canning, and freezing peaches. I discovered that I need a bigger canning pot and was rescued with the last minute loan of one from my sweet neighbour. Did I mention that I love peaches? It’s totally wonderful to have the peaches at this time of year and they are so much yummier than anything from the grocery store. I think I will invest in a mid-sized freezer soon in anticipation for the 2014 crops.

I took up yoga again and was striving to do 20 minutes a day every day. What started as something to loosen up my tight muscles became very cleansing mentally too. Some mornings Kaia would grab her little mat and do the asanas with me. Totally cute. It was great that she wanted to be just like Mommy because it made it easier for me to fit in the sessions.

During the late summer and early fall I participated in a few more races. The Toronto ZooRun 10K was amazing despite the pouring rain and I set a personal record. At Run for the Toad I had some severe calf issues due to low sodium levels. I had to walk that last few kilometres and was disappointed that I could barely walk across the finish line … but the important thing was that I finished. My friend Mandi stayed right by my side and I will never forget that. I did have to walk off the course at another event a few weeks later and that hit me hard. I had the wrong footwear and was worried that I would slip and break my ankle or worse. It was a wise decision given the conditions of the trail. Ironically, about two weeks later, I kicked a five pound hand weight and broke two of the toes on my left foot. Yes, I was being a bit of a dumbbell. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one. Sadly, it came with a few setbacks and I missed out on the climbing lessons I had planned for my birthday. It also gave me time to knit scarves for the kids and work on some writing projects.

In November I was contacted by the Canada Running Series, as you can read about in my previous post, to be a race ambassador, also known as a Digital Champion for the 2014 Toronto Yonge Street 10K. I feel quite honoured but I am also excited because it allows me to inspire others. The group of Digital Champions has already shown me so much support and they are an awesome bunch. Just before Christmas my toes finally had healed enough to start running and I was back to 5K a few days before New Year’s Eve. I was a little emotional and shed a few tears of happiness.

2013 was a year for change and growth. I made some wonderful new friends and strengthened many existing relationships. I did things that I never thought I could do. I learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be.

What’s in store for 2014? You’ll just have to wait a few days to read what I have in mind for this year.

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