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Archive for the ‘looking back’ Category

One thing I have noticed with finally discovering a positive self-esteem is that my tolerance for BS is much lower than it used to be. I’ve had a few relationships that I have moved on from in the past year or so. There are four to be exact. One person suggested that this handful of “failed relationships” is because there is something inherently wrong with me. Although she meant it to be snarky she is correct in that there was something wrong with me…

You see, for years I settled for less than I deserve because, I suppose, at the time I felt it was all I did deserve. I’d overlook hurtful things for the sake of not rocking the boat. I’d pretend that digs and rude comments didn’t bother me. I’d hide my opinion for fear of being judged. If you told me the sky was yellow and I knew it was blue I would agree just so that I wouldn’t risk losing a friend. And… I hated myself for it. I would hide from being myself and it was stressful. On top of that I would give and give to the point where I’d wonder if I was being used and often times that was the case.

As I started to feel worthy of love and true friendship I embraced the fact that we’d be pretty boring if we all thought the same way. I started to share my feelings, opinions and ideas. Some friends were on board but there was that small handful who, for whatever reason, felt that I had changed and not for the better. The fact that I suddenly had my own voice was too much for some, I suppose. Sadly, those were also the people in my life who I would drop everything for when they needed me, yet when tables were turned they were suddenly distant.

This started to become evident when my Mom passed away at the very beginning of 2013. Oddly enough it was also after I’d been running for about a year. Running was one of the things that really brought me out of my shell and taught me about how I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Last March, when I was in the hospital dealing with my heart issues, I started to be aware that a few of the people I had considered close “friends” weren’t really people I should have in my life. There is a saying about not crossing oceans for people that wouldn’t jump a puddle for you. This was certainly the case and I was enlightened.

I also saw who really valued my friendship and lent support throughout the anxious months that followed. I had a very rough year that took its toll. It was quite the eye-opener and by the end of August I realized who had my back and who was apt to twist a knife in it. I decided that if being friends didn’t bring value to my life and constantly left me feeling negative then that wasn’t a relationship I wanted to continue. I faced the fact that if I had to think twice about answering the phone or visiting because the conversation would be draining or drama ridden then it was time to unsubscribe myself from that. After all, it isn’t fair to either party.

It’s amazing what has come from this change. I’ve strengthened relationships with people that treat me with mutual respect. I’ve learned that I want to surround myself with the type of friend where if we disagree with one another that we can at least understand the other point of view. After all, that is the way it should be. I should never have to walk on eggshells because I have different perspective.

I’ve always said that there are times where you have to treat your circle of support like a garden. If you pull the weeds then you make room for the flowers… and that is exactly what I did. .

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I want to share something with you this morning… the story of one of the truest and most meaningful friendships I have ever had.

If I had a time machine I would take you back to 1990. I was just coming out of a very abusive relationship. I was in university and I needed employment desperately. There was an advertisement in the local paper for a management position at a local brass bed and décor shop. This would be a short-term position while the manager was off for sick leave. I applied and was hired.

Enter Sandi. She was the manager who I would be filling in for. I was in my very early twenties and I was told she was in her thirties. She wasn’t. That always makes me smile because we are close to the same age, I was just really gullible back in the day. Sandi went off on leave and when she returned I was kept on as a salesperson. It was a crappy job but I had an apartment and tuition to pay for. Sandi and I started to do things outside of work.

Sandi was different than any of the friends I had ever had before. She was a little lot wilder and had this fun way of just embracing life. I was extremely shy and for the most part, a goody two shoes. I also embarrassed easily. One day I came into work late. I had been having an awful time dealing with the police charging my ex for assaulting me and whatnot. The mall where the store was had fines if you didn’t open shop on time. Great. Just add that to an already wonderful week. I came in and flipped on the power and at that moment I almost peed my pants. You see, Sandi had rigged the cassette player to come on full blast playing I Feel Good by James Brown. Once my heart rate returned to normal I had a really great laugh—you know the kind of laugh that brings you to uncontrollable tears. Best. Medicine. Ever. In some ways this epitomizes how her friendship makes me feel.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t always been rosy between us and there were times where we both felt the need to get some space for whatever reason. We always found our way back and our friendship has grown beyond that. Even though we had times where we drifted we always managed to be there for one another when chips were down. Sandi, and her husband Phil were there for us when our home burned to the ground in the spring of 2001… without hesitation. They took us in for pretty much the remainder of that year and it wasn’t easy for them. Imagine two couples, two big dogs and three cats in a two-bedroom town-house. It was nuts. In 2013 they were dealing with the biggest battle of their lives when their son Tyrel needed a kidney transplant. It was our turn to be there for them in whatever way we could be.

I think I can safely say that both Sandi and I are looking forward to some more quiet moments in our friendship. Now that it has been six months since Tyrel got his new kidney we are doing some other things. Sandi started running recently because she wants to participate in the Waterloo Transplant Trot as a way of giving back. I will be there right by her side every step of the way because I know this cause means the world to her. She’s training hard and to say she inspires me would be an understatement. Our sons, Tyrel and Tobias, are going to hangout and walk the course together too. It will be such a fun day with so many of our friends coming out to lend support. It will be great reuniting with people that I haven’t seen in quite a few years.

Sandi possesses everything I cherish in a friend. She has a huge heart and she knows how to be honest while kind at the same time. She’s loyal but will stand her ground if she needs to. She has this way of making me crack a smile even in the worst of situations and she always has my back. Sandi is the friend that will tell me I look absolutely horrendous if I try on something that does not suit me. We’ve laughed together and cried together . We’ve also shared some pretty deep, dark secrets and have enough dirt on each other to grow quite the garden… lol.

24 years. It seems like just yesterday I was standing next to the electrical panel in the back room of the décor store laughing hysterically at her little prank. That was the start of something really special.

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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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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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On her blog, Miss Zippy asked runners to take a look back at their year of running. Of course, the year isn’t over yet even thoug I’m done my events for 2013. I am still healing my broken toes  and I have a mere 21 km to go before I break the 1000 K mark for the year—a big milestone for me. I also have great running related news to share in the next few days. Enough about what is to come… here are my answers to what Miss Zippy asked of runners…

waterworks trail

waterworks trail

What was your best race experience?

Hands down that had to be the Mississauga Marathon. It was a personal distance record for me as it was my first half marathon. I ran with my friend Carla. The weather was gorgeous, the course was beautiful, and the company was excellent. Everything about it was nearly perfect.

What was your best run?

My son and I set out to run 8K together but with no specific route in mind. The goal was to just wander randomly through the woods, running, until we hit 4K and then head back. I had to dodge a couple falling walnuts and then had an epic wipe-out over a branch early on in the run. Oops. We found a hidden campsite in the woods and continued running along the trails which wound their way along the river. At times we were so close to the edge that it wasn’t exactly safe especially given the erosion beneath. Parts were pretty slow going because we both had to watch our footing and duck under fallen trees. It was quite the technical bit of trail. We finally had to turn around because the brambles/stinging nettles were getting so thick. I stopped and took a few photos when we started to head out. It was the best run, not due to time or distance, but because it rekindled a sense of play and it was so much fun.

What was your best new piece of gear?

My Garmin Forerunner 410. I love my Garmin. Because I train on trails in the Spring, Summer and Fall the bit of kit is great for telling me how far I’ve gone. I don’t use the heart rate monitor though.

What was the best piece of running advice you received?

The best running advice I received was from my friend Kim. When I was asking about clothing for cooler weather she suggested that I dress as if it is 10°C warmer out than it really is.

Who was your most inspirational runner?

It’s very difficult for me to choose just one person as I find I am inspired by so many people. There is one runner that really stands out because of  an act of kindness that I will never forget. An amazing lady from Ottawa named Kate. When my friends’ son Tyrel was awaiting kidney transplant and the Team Tyrel Virtual 5K Run/Walk was being held. Kate sent a package for me to pass on to 13-year old Tyrel. It was the medal from her first marathon with a letter that makes me tear up just thinking about it. Her gift to Tyrel and her big heart remind me of what a powerful community runners are.

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?

Running has become an integral part of my life. Running is my time to play, my passion, my Mommy Time-out, and my way to give back for all that it has given me.

Don’t forget to take a look at the blog that inspired me to write this post and answer Miss Zippy’s question “How was your year of running?

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This time off with my tender broken toes has given me a bit of time to think about how I’ve progressed in my journey as a runner and a healthier, fitter, me. While embarking on this lifestyle change was always about finding myself and being the healthiest and strongest person I can, I do love to inspire others. I try to do that as much as I can. After all, we have the ability to do anything we put our minds to. We just have to get over that fear of failure and there is NO failure in trying. It is my hope that people are inspired when I so openly share my own story and that perhaps they pay that forward.

The other day I was approached with a wonderful opportunity that would allow me to take that love of motivating others to a different level. Of course, I have said “yes” but I am sure there is a little more to it than that and I will find out more over the next few weeks. However, I am completely honored to have even been asked and this new possibility entices me. It is also an amazing way for me to give back for all the support and encouragement that has been bestowed upon me. Sorry to be somewhat vague but I promise I will fill you in on the details as this all unfolds. Exciting!

Running, as you know, has given me so much. Lately I’ve had some disappointments and I took those pretty hard but when I stumble I get right back up and move forward. I’m of the mind that the tough runs help me grow and the awesome ones remind me why I love to run. I’ve come so far from those first runs on the treadmill where I thought 3 minutes was going to result in collapse or even worse, my certain demise. I remember when 5K seemed like the longest distance in the world. I said that about 21.1K too. Now I am considering new goals and milestones.

I’ve already started booking events for 2014. My goal for all of these events is to cross the finish line stronger than I have in the past. I also want to try to improve my pace and increase my distances. It looks like my next year is shaping up to be quite the adventure.

This is what I have registered for so far…

Robbie Burns 8K
Burlington, Ontario
January 26, 2014

Chilly Half Marathon
Burlington, Ontario
March 2, 2014

Mississauga Marathon (Half)
Mississauga, Ontario
May 4, 2014

Sulphur Springs Trail Run 25K
Ancaster, Ontario
May 24, 2014

I’ll likely be adding the Toronto Yonge Street 10K and possibly the Mercedes 10K to the list as well as a few 5Ks, Run for the Toad and the Oasis ZooRun. I’m also seriously considering running the half or maybe even the full marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in Fall 2014.

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move

This morning my blog post is inspired by a video from Arc’Teryx. As I thought about what I wanted to say, something popped into my mind and that was how awesome the brand Arc’Teryx is. There is a reason I really like this company and it goes deeper for me than the quality of their gear. Let me tell you why.

If I could hop into a time machine and back life up by a decade or so, you’d find me standing in Mountain Equipment Co-op almost on the verge of tears. Being obese and deciding to enter a backpacker’s world was not an easy thing—it required a pretty thick skin. Being plus-sized and finding gear for such adventures was a humbling and disappointing experience for me. After I tried on four or five different packs I came to realize that my tummy was just too big for the hip belts on most packs on the market at the time. I was visibly upset and ready to give up on my dreams because it just seemed impossible. But nothing is really impossible, is it?

Enter Andrew; a wonderful MEC employee at the downtown Toronto store who I will never forget. We chatted about his hike on the Annapurna Circuit which happened to be the same region that made me want to become a backpacker in the first place. Serendipity perhaps? We talked about how I wanted to change my life and live actively but was having such a hard time finding suitable gear. He said he could help but I felt like it was futile and I was about to use this as an excuse to give up. However, Andrew wasn’t going to let that happen. He ducked around the corner and came back with a lovely expedition-worthy pack from Arc’Teryx. I tried it on and the hip belt was the same as all the others. Sensing my disappointment, Andrew said “Not to worry, Laurie… the beauty of Arc’Teryx is that the hip belt can be changed for a larger size.” Off he went into the back of the store with the backpack. He returned with a pack that fit me comfortably. I could have hugged Andrew.

Thanks to Arc’Teryx and MEC, I was going to start on a journey that I could never have imagined.

I got off the couch.

I hiked. I backpacked. I paddled and portaged. I snowshoed.

I walked my son to and from school every single day.

I rode a bicycle for the first time in decades.

I played at the park with my children.

I bought running shoes, a treadmill, and signed up for a 5K race.

I ran a half marathon.

Moving changed my life.

All it took was to take one step and keep going.

This morning Arc’Teryx shared a video. Now I will share it with you because it conveys an important message and it reminded me of an incredible turning point in my life. There are no excuses… all you have to do is…

MOVE.

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