A Few Days Late…..but as promised

blonde2 This past autumn working on my body image issues has meant eating how I know I should eat, working out the way I know I should workout, as well as working on accepting and loving my body just the way it is.

Sometimes our internal dialogue is our own worst enemy so part of my work has been trying to turn off that dialogue when it gets negative. When someone gives me a compliment rather than have a negative response in my mind about all my flaws I am trying to graciously accept the compliment. Rather than waiting until I reach a size 2 to buy some nice clothes I treated myself to a few nice things to add to wardrobe now. We often spend so much time thinking about our flaws-but how much time do we spend thinking about our better physical traits? I figured it was time to start thinking about what I truly loved about my body and finding ways to accentuate those areas.

For the past several years I have been one of those people who hates the camera. I don’t want to be one of those people-but I have been. My husband is always trying to snap pictures of me with his phone but I rarely let him. Yet, if it makes him happy and he thinks I’m beautiful why should object so fiercely. So, I decided that for him as well as for me I was going to have some boudoir photos taken as his Christmas present.

The way his face lit up when he received his present said it all. Allowing myself to be so vulnerable was a true gift to him, but it was also truly a gift to myself. I have come away from the experience thinking that every woman could benefit from having a wonderful photographer capture images of her. From the hair to the make-up to the clothes to watching the photographer light up when she has captured a great shot-I wish all women struggling with body image issues could enjoy such an afternoon.

When I confided about my body image issues in a previous post I promised to post photos of myself by the end of the year-both so the readers could better identify with me and for my own growth and acceptance. Well, I got busy enjoying the holidays so they are a little late but here they are (my husband was kind enough to share a couple of the less revealing ones) . They are not perfect (I still pick out little things I wish were different)-but this is me and this is 40 🙂

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Sometimes the Littlest Things Matter the Most

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When I was sixteen I got pregnant. I decided that I would keep the baby and went about having a healthy pregnancy. Unfortunately, when I was 5 1/2 months pregnant I went into premature labour. There was nothing that doctors could do and my son, Travis was born and died on the same day.

People can be funny, strange, awkward, cruel. Often people don’t know what to say when a person loses a loved one and they end up saying some stupid things. While my family was supportive I found that when I lost my son many people would say things like, ‘It’s for the best’, ‘Now your life won’t be ruined’. I never quite understood how a dead baby was ever for the best.

Going through school there was one girl who was in many of my classes. I guess you could say we were friends-we hung out sometimes,  we usually got along, but could be a little competitive with each other. I was an only child of divorced parents, she on the other hand had a huge family that always seemed to be doing lots of fun things together.

I remember her parents as being kind, cheerful church-going folks. They were the kind of people to organize a pick-up game of baseball at the schoolyard and were always be welcoming at their home.

I saw them after I had lost Travis. They were so kind and compassionate to me.

Feeling a Little like Sweeney Todd’s Mrs. Lovett

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I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur in some way……I was just never really sure how, then recently a little opportunity fell in my lap.

We have a unique lifestyle. My husband is in a trade union and during the first part of his career work was steady…..then the recession of 08 hit. With our kids grown we decided that we would be like many Canadians of generations before and follow the work west. Now we are settled, sort of…..for now anyway. Until the work dries up here and a boom starts somewhere else.

A few years ago I went back to school and am working on completing my B.A from a Canadian university that offers many online classes . A little after that I started working on my writing and becoming a writer. So basically in one way or another my days are filled with reading and writing, and writing and reading. I work out, take fitness classes, I do volunteer work and have lunch with friends, but sometimes with the solitary life of student and writer I feel like a hermit and crave a little bit of other work as well.

I have always loved farmers’ markets and had been debating on opening my own little booth at the local farmers’ market for several years. Of course, my only experience with farmers’ markets had been shopping at them. Two years ago I discovered a help wanted ad for a booth at the farmers’ market and applied. I got the job and for the past two summers worked there part-time getting to know the ins and outs of having a booth there. I have also had the most amazing and inspiring bosses there. As this year’s season was winding down I confided in my boss about my ambitions to one day having my own booth with either sweet treats such as macaroons, madeleines  and croissants, or comfort foods such as meat pies, lasagna and macaroni and cheese. “Do both!” she enthused.

Around the same time I started requests from guys my husband works with. You see, when living in a boom town there lots of guys out here by themselves-some are bachelors, others have families somewhere back home. Few are out here with wives or girlfriends. They all work long hours. They all seem to like food. So when my husband kept arriving to work with home made lunches other guys started wanting some and I started getting requests for lasagna and meat pies.

I started out with a few orders here and there. Yesterday I finished my first big order-all meat pies and I couldn’t help feeling a little like Mrs. Lovett, although I was only wearing yoga pants and a Marilyn Manson t-shirt, not her outrageous but adorable outfits.

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AND I only use beef and pork 😉

Harassment, Abuse, Assaults and Responsibility

 

 

 

fmLately the news has been filled with stories of harassment, assault and abuse of women. In Canada Jian Ghomeshi has made the news with women claiming he has sexually assaulted and harassed them. We have had some Canadian Members of Parliaments accused of harassing their co-workers. In the United States women are coming forth with allegations against Bill Cosby. A video of a woman enduring 10 hours of street harassment has gone viral.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a woman who has experienced her share of harassment by men I tend to believe victims when they speak up, especially in a public way. I am also a feminist. So, I had a very interesting weekend when my own husband was accused by a female in his place of work of what would probably amount to harassment. What she said exactly was that my husband was bullying her and she felt threatened. There was a very real possibility he could have gotten fired over her claims.

Some things I know about my husband-he is muscly, he is a little gruff, he says what he thinks. Do I think people could be offended by him? Sure. Do I think it is possible people might find him intimidating or even threatening? Perhaps.

However, a few other things I know about my husband-he is a feminist, with a wife, and two daughters that are now young women he takes the treatment of women seriously, he wants his daughters to feel safe and comfortable in any environment, I also know that he has stuck up for women in the workplace before, he works on a job where the ratio is approximately 60 men for every 1 woman and the women he has worked with in the past have found him to be respectful and a safe person for them to talk to when they have been facing problems at work.

So, I found myself questioning my past belief that one should always believe the person claiming to be the victim.

In my husband’s case the issue resolved itself quite quickly. He claims that the woman accusing him actually started yelling at him and being verbally abusive towards him. When he finally told her she needed to stop, she didn’t like that and went to tell the bosses that he was being a bully. Fortunately for him he had numerous witnesses both male and female who could verify his version of events. The woman who accused him also has a history of making complaints against other men at work and yelling at various people in the workplace. Finally, although she wanted to get him fired and went to two bosses attempting to do so, she ultimately refused to put her complaint in writing.

If someone messes with my family, I get riled up. And I was definitely not happy with the thought that some person could make false accusations against my husband and possibly get him fired.

But what really got me mad about this situation is this woman’s behavior is a betrayal to other woman, to genuine victims. Because this woman can’t seem to keep herself in control, her actions are a stab in the back of other women. When a woman cries wolf over and over as this woman apparently does (she has made similar complaints against more than half a dozen men in the past couple months) people begin to doubt real victims. This is unacceptable. It bothers me to think that because of her behavior, if another woman working there (possibly my daughter) comes forward with a complaint against a co-worker they may not be believed. But if men repeatedly get falsely accused of inappropriate behavior, what else will the outcome be? I can only hope that people realize that just because one woman lies it doesn’t mean all women lie, just like because one man rapes doesn’t mean all men rape.

Feeling threatened in the workplace is a real thing people endure, harassment happens every day, abuse is real, assaults do happen, and this is unacceptable. These issues need to be dealt with in a serious way. These are issues we still need to discuss. We also need to take responsibility for actions-both men and women. We need to be careful with words, because words matter. We also need to speak up when we see something going on that isn’t right.

For me, this little incident became a bit of a learning experience. I will probably still tend to believe people claiming to be victims, but may use a little more caution. It will make me more conscious of what I say and how I say things. I am thankful to the witnesses who came to my husband’s defense, especially the women who have to work side by side with the woman who made the accusation. I will remember this and speak up when I see something not right going on. Finally, I am always proud of my husband, but now even more. I am proud that he behaves in a way and is a person that women want to speak up and defend when he is being unjustly accused.

 

 

Mean Girls

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It is nice to be important, but important to be nice.

 

This past week I have been inspired by female celebrities from Emma Watson age 24 to Helen Mirren age 69. And it’s a good thing, because in conversations I have had in recent weeks with women from ages 18-65 I have become discouraged by some females, hearing more and more of women facing petty, malicious and mean behavior from other women they encounter in their day to day lives.

I remember as a preteen and young teen I was part of the ‘popular’ group. I cared very much what others thought of me and worried constantly that if I didn’t wear the right clothes, act the right way, etc., my friends would abandon me. While for the most part I was a follower, I also knew the power I had and was aware that to some extent I could make decisions that others would follow. So for example, when I declared someone was cool or someone should be accepted into our group they almost always were.

By the end of my first year of high school I had started dating a ‘rebel’. He didn’t care what anyone thought of him-he wore what he wanted to wear, dyed his hair jet black, wore black eyeliner and made a jacket with an inverted cross (all in a pre-Marilyn Manson era). But more than that he encouraged me to just be me and stop caring so much what others thought of me, to create my own goals and dreams and believed that my true friends would love me no matter what. Inevitably I lost most of my ‘friends’. In fact, there is only one friend from my school days who has stuck by me and loved me and accepted me no matter what (yes Mary-Jane I mean you).

I wish I could tell young women that it gets better, that as you grow up women are nicer to each, that women love and support each other and stop judging each other. And I do know many women who are supportive and kind to their female friends, yet I have also been seeing grown women be victims of ‘mean girls’.

In my own life I have recently seen or heard of women being judged and shunned by other women in their lives because they are too pretty, eat too healthy, workout too much (mean girl translation-they’re vain and just out to get men), because they are friends with the guys (mean girl translation-they’re sluts, whores, possible home-wreckers), because they get offered a promotion and accept it (oh the nerve of them), because they think they deserve a raise so ask for one and get it (how dare she), because they are comfortable with their sexuality. And this really bothers me. A woman should not go to work and be shunned by her female co-workers, she should not got to work and be made to cry, she should not be gossiped about in her neighbourhood or feel judged just going about her day to day life.

If reading this you realize that you are sometimes a ‘mean girl’-first of all I say ‘Stop It’. Next I would encourage you to meditate on why you need to be ‘mean’ to other women-are you insecure? unhappy with some aspect of your life? see other women as competition? Finally, I would suggest start saying hello or even just smiling at every woman you encounter-you don’t know how much it could mean to them. Being a follower there was one time in my early 20s I shunned a woman in the workplace because all the other girls were. One day we were alone so I said hello. She actually started to cry and said ‘You are the first person who has even acknowledged me in 3 three weeks’. I felt horrible, we became great friends and I would never again shun another woman.

If you are a victim of mean girls I would say stay strong, find your own Mary-Jane-one true friend like my Mary-Jane is worth a hundred conditional friends who will judge you and not accept you just the way you are. If you don’t have one true friend then I encourage you to post your story this blog-I will reply. Finally, realize that you are not the problem. Women who feel the need to victimize you, in some way feel threatened by you.

To all the women out there that love, support, and accept other women, who look at other women as sisters not competition, a big THANK YOU. You are awesome!

As for the ‘rebel’-after 27 years together (including 16 years of marriage), 2 grown children, a few bad times but many good, he is still encouraging me to be me and to follow the dreams I create for myself.

They Say Picture is Worth 1000 Words

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On Thursdays I work late. When I get home I might have a tea, check social media, and read a little from my latest book. Last night was a little different. On my dinner break I had been online and saw the video of Philando Castile’s death. Throughout the evening he stayed on my mind. I wanted answers. I wanted to know what was being done about yet another senseless tragedy, so when I got home I turned on the news. When I turned on the news they were just beginning to report on the shooting of police officers in Dallas.

I watched the news but after the initial reports there was little new information so I went on social media. It was there that I stumbled across the above picture.

As I have been trying to digest everything that has happened I find my attention keeps being drawn back to this photo. My reflections keep turning to this image of these three smiling men.

It seems to me that lately so often we resort an us vs. them mentality. Black vs white, left vs. right, Trump vs. Clinton, one religion vs. another, immigrants vs. citizen, Black lives  matters vs. Blue lives matters.

Yet this picture tells a different story.

Black and white, black and blue-these things don’t matter so much in this photograph. What I see is three human beings. Look at their smiles, the camaraderie. This picture tells a story of people respecting each other, willing to work together and even having a bit of fun. No doubt, last night will be remembered for terror, evil and tragedy, but perhaps we can also remember this photograph as a little bit of light and hope in a time of darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Priorities

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Last Friday I began discussing how it is not too late to make small changes in 2015 that will set the stage for you to be healthier and happier in 2016. Each day since, I have suggested small, inexpensive ideas that you can try each day. Today’s suggestion is free……but it may be the hardest thing I suggest. It will sound easy, but it does require a lot of thought and self reflection.

Begin today by thinking about what is really and truly important to you. Over the next few days begin writing a list. The list will be your ‘Top 25 Priorities in Life’.

I did this list earlier this year and have found it extremely helpful. It is interesting how we often waste so much time and energy on things that don’t even make our list.

I also found that the list starts out easy. Most of us can name the top 5-10 important things to us, but getting to 25 is difficult and requires you to dig a little deeper.

Remember this list is for your eyes only (unless you want to share it with someone), so be honest. Don’t put things at the top of the list because you think they ‘should’ be there. Someone might look at my list and think I am quite selfish because my top three things have to do completely with me, I put loved ones on my list after that. However, I am at the stage in life where I believe that I have to be healthy before I can give to others (like the oxygen mask in an airplane scenario). Also know that your list can change and evolve, it is not written in stone. My children are grown and pursuing their own lives and goals, but perhaps if they were little ones at home I would have felt the need to put them right at the top.

Finally, while this can be a difficult exercise have fun with it. I hope you will find like I did that this is an excellent tool to help guide you towards your true path in life.