Objectification of Women in Fitness & Sports (or Your Hairy Back)

Objectification of Women in Fitness & Sports (or Your Hairy Back)

weights

Recently I was asked what I do for a living and when I responded the guy said “that’s hot”.  It’s not the first time I’ve had that response.  I’ve also been told that my job is “sexy”.  Other times men have invited me to come watch them workout or I have been asked if I want them to “show me a thing or two”.  Now, watching some of the media coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics I think I am starting to see the wider picture of where this comes from.

Before anyone gets their boxers in a wad I will put forward that I am not a ‘man-hater’.  It’s sad really that I even feel I have to make that concession just to comfortably express my opinion on the sexist treatment of women in sports and fitness, but you see some men are sensitive #mensofragile

My male counterparts are assumed to be knowledgeable and treated like professionals, whereas, often I feel I am treated as a novelty act.  Isn’t that cute…she lifts weights!  So I feel there is something I have to get across here:

I do not do this for you.  I do not get up at 5 am every morning and make my way down to the gym so that I can be “sexy” or “hot” or be any form of entertainment to you.

I do not do squats or pushups or chinups so that I look good to you.  I do not run, cycle or swim so that I fit into clothes for you.  I do not lift weights, progressively heavier and heavier, for your amusement.  I do nothing with you in mind at all.  This is not to say that I don’t want to be attractive.  It is to say that my standard for attractiveness is not a bar set by anyone but myself.  It is to say that my workouts are my workouts.  They are for my health.  They are so that I feel stronger, healthier and happier each and every day.  They are so that I can aspire to greater adventures.  They are so that I can fulfill my own desires to do more in life with less restrictions.  They are so that I can look myself in the eye at the end of each and every day and know that I did my best for me.

They are my power.

And I work in this industry so that I can be a champion for anyone else wanting to carve their own wellness journey.  Those female athletes we so readily body shame as they perform to super human standards do not train to look good in bikinis.  They do not train to be consumed by you.  They are not products.

Women are being constantly policed each and every time we step out the door.  We are persistently judged for what we wear, how we look, the shape and size of our bodies.  There is no winning.  I was told once that I look like a ‘prude’ because I always wear scarves and don’t show enough cleavage.  The advice given was that I should show more skin.  But what if I like wearing scarves?  What if my reason for dressing the way I do has nothing at all to do with what other people like?  And yet if I did show more skin…well, I think we all know how that goes too.  We want women to dress ‘respectfully’ but why?  It doesn’t add up to being given more respect.  We collectively police which bodies get to be on display and what the display should look like.  And we collectively abuse each other into submitting to ever changing norms that are unattainable and have nothing at all to do with what is in the best interest of women.  We show no care for the health and vitality and well being of women.  Worse yet, we don’t even ask women what they want.

I want to scream each and every time I see an article with a title like “10 things women wear that men hate”.  Dudes, I don’t care.  So apparently a random poll of men revealed they don’t like Ugg boots.  So what?  I don’t like your hairy back but that doesn’t stop you from showing it off on the streets every hot day of the year.  The way that guy has his plaid shirt buttoned up makes me think he’s a prude.  If he rolled his sleeves up a little bit more I wouldn’t be able to help myself.  If he has one more pint in that pair of jeans I’m going to have to follow him to his truck and make sure he gets home “ok”.

I train for me.  I work in this industry because I want to help others feel better.  I am educated and I am an experienced professional.  My knowledge is wider than the circumference of my waist.  My expertise is more valuable than how good I look ( or don’t look) in my yoga pants.

I do not exist for you.  I do not exist because of you.  I do not exist in spite of you.  You did not factor in to any of my choices for me.

I simply exist.

#sorrynotsorry  #mensofragile  #womenwholift #womeninsport #strongbodystrongmind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Steps to a More Fitful Life

3 Steps to a More Fitful Life

IMG_20160330_150400

There was a time when my idea of a workout involved walking while drinking a tallboy of beer.  That kind of thing tends to bite you in the ass eventually…right around the time that you find yourself no longer in your 20s.  Poop.

After an extended hiatus from my blog I decided to fire it back up with some advice from a trainer who (honest to goodness used to cry and throw tantrums while trying to jog) and knows full well you ain’t going to get there through ‘magic’ and ‘wishful thinking’.

  1.  Stop comparing:

There is no such thing as a person who is “naturally fit”.  There are people who are naturally thin, which isn’t the same as being fit. Being thin is also not the same as being healthy.  Fit comes in all shapes and sizes, but has one thing in common…it takes work.   People who are fit work for it.  I’m not saying you have to spend 7 days a week 3 hours a day in the gym.  I am saying that you won’t get fit by comparing yourself to others or getting discouraged by others.  Getting in shape has to be about you.  It has to be driven by you.  It has to be done for you.  And you have to understand that it will not make you look like anyone else other than a healthier version of you.

2.  Do something:

You have to start somewhere.  The first time anyone laces up a pair of shoes and goes for a run it feels terrible.  Some people will lie about that.  Some people will look like they are bouncy as clouds when they are running.  Trust me.  Each and every runner out there has cursed while running or worse yet, been so out of breath they were unable to curse.  You don’t have to be a long distance runner or a cyclist or a crossfit champion to get in shape.  You just have to find something…anything…ACTIVE…that doesn’t make you completely miserable as shit.  Don’t force yourself to do things you really don’t like, but don’t quit every time something feels difficult.  It will not feel great.  You will think about all the other things you could be doing.  But every single one of us has the time, if we choose, to be active.  Here’s the good news: over time it will start to feel easier…and dare I say it…even just a wee bit fun.  Start with anything…but start.  Stop saying tomorrow or next week or after the holiday.  Start now.

3. Don’t Eat Crap:

Sounds simple, but we all know it’s not.  You have to take care of the whole body.  As much as we all want to have a great looking exterior, it’s what is happening on the inside that is going to determine the quality of your life.  And just like adding more activity into your life, changing the way you eat is a process that takes time…but it only happens when you decide to start.  Pick somewhere to start.  Drink more water.  Stop skipping meals.  Pack a lunch instead of going out to eat.  Take a look at one element and make that change.  Once it feels like that has become a habit…tackle another.  Don’t crash diet.  Don’t worry about fads and which is best.  There is no diet that is going to work for every single person.  The only diet that works is the one you will actually follow.  The one that isn’t temporary but focuses on making long term changes.  So switch out your breakfast for something more wholesome or make a plan to eat more veggies.  Start now.  Stick to it.  And go from there.

Now what?

So what are you supposed to do with this advice?  Well, you could comment below and tell me to go stuff it.  Or you could tell me “Yay, i’m getting on this right now” then go back to binge watching something on Netflix.  Or you could get started.  It’s really your choice.

My suggestion, start with #1.  It’s more of a lifelong project.  You are not going to dismantle a lifetime of comparing and societal body image bullshit in just one slingshot of positivity.  But the brain is malleable and this is your secret weapon.  The more you start to notice those thoughts.  The more you start to stop yourself in those thoughts and scream “bullshit”; the easier it will get over time.  Sometimes it’s simply a matter of noticing when we are judging, when we are comparing, when we are making assumptions.  Other times it helps to journal or find support in body positive articles.

And while you’re chiseling away at #1, walk yourself right over to #2.  Take that sexy-non-conforming-to-unrealistic-standards-body of yours on over to the pool and test out the waters.  Add in a walk to your lunch hour.  Get up from your desk and do some squats and push ups.  Take the dog for an extra walk in the evening.  Whatever it is you are starting with…write it down.  Make yourself accountable to this new habit.

Once you’ve got the ball rolling on #1 and #2, choose where to start with #3.  Remember, it doesn’t have to be a swooping flip of every eating habit.  It takes time.  So take your time.  Go out and buy yourself a brand new water bottle and set yourself a goal.  Find some new favourite healthy snacks and stock up.  As with #2, make yourself accountable to this new habit.  Write it down.  Look at it often.

and even when you slip…keep going…cause here’s a secret…even fit people are suckers for bbqs and wedding buffets.  Even fit people skip their workouts…but they don’t rush out and cancel their gym memberships because of a skipped workout or guilty cheesecake.  They just get right back to it.

Feeling inspired?  Comment on this post and share your goals.  I’ll keep you accountable (insert evil laughter).

 

 

 

 

Jitterbug Perfume

Jitterbug Perfume

 

IMG_4322

I can actually pin point the exact novel that made me go out and purchase a hoarders amount of perfume oils and incense.  Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins is fun…and also full of great snippets like this one:

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.”

I like to think of deadly serious vegetables.

But back to perfume.

IMG_4316

Amber was the scent of my late teens and early 20s.  Our sense of smell is one of our most powerful connections to our surroundings.  It is like there is a direct line between your nostrils and your memories.  I’m sure most of us have at one point encountered a smell out of the blue which immediately threw you into a memory.  When I smell amber I think of working in a tea shop in downtown Ottawa, I think of travelling and of that feverish night I packed and repacked my backpack a dozen times…and broke down and cried several times…as I prepared for the flight to Europe with my work visa tucked into my awkward fanny pack.  I think of all those delicate insane emotions that happen at that time in your life.  I think also the almost literal burial of myself in books and music during that time.  First clicks of knitting needles.  First steps into an independent self, still so uncertain and fragile and entirely too airy.

Lavender for me is the scent of farming.  It brings me back instantly to a damp musky trailer on a raspberry farm in Scotland where my bunk mate and me deduced that drizzling the sleeping area with lavender oil might provide some anti bacterial benefit…however minimal.  It’s the scent of oil heated on a lamp to induce sleep after long days outside in the mountains.  A young woman in her mid 20s hunched over scraps of fabric, darning, sewing, timidly creating.  It’s the scent of that first connection to hands in soil, a literal work with earth, and a lifelong passion for tea, food, growing.

IMG_4332

I have yet to discover what the scent of my 30s will be, but I’m sure sometime a decade from now I’ll pass by a stinky set of gym shoes and be instantly hurdled backwards.

I have loved creating tea blends for numerous reasons…one of them definitely being the aromatherapy of it all.  Being able to smell what something will taste like and anticipate all of the energy of a particular blend.  I have a very strong sense of smell.  It is not always the best gift depending on your surroundings.  (ahem, neighbour who leaves garbage in the hot sun).

I am happy, however, to have used my nose to add to the Linen + Leaves shop with some exciting new perfume blends.  Perhaps one of these will be come your scent.

Lullaby:  Influenced by our popular tea blend “Lullaby” this light, airy scent is the perfect blend for before bed or anytime you want to channel a little more relaxation into your day. Lavender essential oil is one of the safest oils to use when properly diluted and among one of the most popular essential oils because of all the wonderful healing properties. This blend matches the fresh floral scent of lavender with the spicy and warming qualities of clove and vanilla.

Spiced Earl Grey:  Reminiscent of one of our most popular tea blends, the Spiced Earl Grey perfume blend pulls together a top note of bergamot with cinnamon and vanilla. Warm, earth, slightly sweet with a hint of citrus. A perfect blend for anyone needing a little aromatherapy to ease anxiety, stress, exhaustion or to bring a little softness into their day.

Candied Cedar:  A beautiful complex earthy calming scent. This grounding blend of essential oils pulls together the woody and sweet scent of Cedarwood with the enticing licorice quality of Star Anise and lighter notes of Bergamot. Cedarwood, is purported to be an aphrodisiac and is said to be one of the first oils ever extracted.

A Long Winter

A Long Winter

It’s been a long winter and even now in March my knitting needles are still clicking as the frost builds outside.  I am looking forward to switching to the lighter, quicker, more laid back knitting projects of summer.  For now, i’m finishing up what’s left in my basket.  After the holidays I did a big purge of the knitting basket and unraveled a massive number of half finished/never-going-to-finish/might-finish-a-decade-from-now-projects.  I left myself with a two project at a time maximum.  The result, as anticipated, is that I have felt more inclined to dig into the basket and finish what is there.   In general, these past few months have been all about ‘getting er done’, clearing out the clutter and checking things off a massive to-do-list.  It has been too busy at times, but staying organized and focused on my goals has made all the difference.  Knitting has been my reprieve these days.  At the end of the day when I feel too tired to do much else, but too guilty to sit idle.  I flip on a movie and pick up one of the two projects from the basket.  Here are some recent projects (mostly shawls.  loving the shawls.  I’ve got a ‘Color Affection’ shawl on my needles right now).

 

IMG_4239

The pattern for this cardigan was generated through Custom Fit by Amy Herzog.  If you haven’t checked this out I highly recommend it.  This has produced by far the best fitting cardigan I have ever knit or purchased.  The pattern that is generated is made specifically for your body measurements and also for your specific knitting gauge with your choice of yarn.  I also got to specify other details such as the trim, number of buttons, length of sleeves, length of the body, overall sizing (positive or negative ease), neckline, etc.  So happy with this sweater and already thinking about using the site again to get a pattern for a lightweight summer cardigan.

 

IMG_4248

The Mara Shawl.  One of the most satisfying knits of the winter.  I have worn this shawl over and over again.  It’s a simple knit quick easy pattern that’s also free!  Here I’ve made it in Knit Picks Swish DK.  The colour is ‘Cornmeal’.  The garter stitch on this shawl makes it so comfy and squishy.

 

IMG_4246

This is a little ‘shawlette’ that I finished a while ago.  The pattern is Spearmint Tea by Kateryna Golovanova and it’s free!  I used 1 skein of fingering weight from Posh Yarn in Ebb Tide.  This is a yarn I received as a gift and it reminds me of summer’s on Lake Kushog…sigh!

 

IMG_4244

Generally I find it is nice to have one bigger project (a garment or more complicated pattern) and another easy knit that you can just pick up and work on anywhere/anytime with little thought.  I started the Be Simple Shawl and finished it in two sittings.  I added some simple stripes to my shawl, did away with the picot-bind off and knit this with a few extra stitches to make it a little wider.  This winter it has been my go-to scarf to wear.  The yarn is some grey wool that I inherited from someone in the knitting group who was destashing.  I plan to make a hat and mitts to match at some point.

 

Stuff to Eat

Stuff to Eat

Healthy eating is all about preparation. I am dangerous if I let myself loose on the grocery store with no shopping list, no meal plan and a hungry stomach. 9 times out of 10 I’ll leave with a few staples, a large bag of licorice all sorts, jelly beans and a package of meat sticks. By the time I get home I will have eaten enough meat sticks to feed a family and the whole bag of licorice all sorts. Then, I won’t have room for a real meal. In some ways I’m still a child in my eating habits and style. If left unmonitored I will always spoil my dinner with dessert.

I try now as best as I can to always go to the store with a meal plan and shopping list. This weekend I am in a lifeguard course. 9 hours each day. Here’s where preparation steps in. I know that there will be a lot of sitting in the classroom followed by a lot of time in the pool. This is a recipe for major hunger and major snack cravings.

In preparation, I have prepared breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner for both days. Dinner was easy, I simply stored away leftovers from two of my meals this week. That way when I get home all crazed with hunger all I have to do is reheat. Here’s a quick snapshot of what I have prepared for the weekend.

Snack Time:  Hard boiled eggs, almonds, chopped apple and pear

Snack time. Almonds, apples, pears, hard boiled eggs

A photo posted by @ohsofitful on

Breakfast Smoothies:  Strawberry Banana Almond and Pina Colada.  For recipe ideas check out this post on Hello Natural for 10 Three Ingredient Smoothies

Smoothie freezer packs. Strawberry banana almond and pina colada

A photo posted by @ohsofitful on

Lunch:  Curried Brown Rice and Chickpea Salad (ingredients: brown rice, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup vinegar, 1 apple chopped, 1 onion finely chopped, 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp turmeric, sprinkle of cinnamon, sea salt to taste).  Carrot sticks, cucumber and grape tomatoes.

Curried brown rice salad

A photo posted by @ohsofitful on

Extra Snack!  Yogurt Parfait with berries and homemade chai spiced granola (Ingredients:  3 cups oats, 3 cups puffed millet, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup oil, chai spice mix, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 cup shredded unsweetenend coconut, 1/2 cup chopped almonds…mix all together, spread out on baking sheets and bake in oven for approx 20 minutes.  Make sure to stir every few minutes to prevent burning).

Yogurt parfait with homemade chai spiced granola

A photo posted by @ohsofitful on

 

 

Happy and Bouncy: Pre-Spring Treadmill Running

Happy and Bouncy: Pre-Spring Treadmill Running

pre spring running

My relationship with running started out pretty rocky. Last year someone described my running style as happy bouncy little rabbit. Well, I’m going to burst that bubble. I started running full of tears and snot and burning lungs and cursing and getting angry if anyone even thought about glancing at my red puffy struggling face.

I don’t honestly know why I kept at it. Perhaps that in the privacy of my solo runs there were these flecks of calm. These moments where it seemed my body would catch up to what I was trying to do and my mind would stop fighting it for a few seconds. I believe I still run for the same reason. The moments are more frequent, but still not every run is fluid and meditative. Many times I am simply pushing through. Simply getting it done. Simply chasing that one perfect feet-not-hurting-chronic-pinch-in-the-shoulder-not-flaring-and-ground-disappearing-easily-one-minute-after-another-kinda-run.

I start training for those good runs before the snow clears the ground on a treadmill. I am not a run outside in all kinds of weather kinda girl. Most of what I do now in my run training is actually borrowed from cycling. I teach spin regularly and the basic drills used in most spin classes are designed to challenge multiple areas including speed, power and endurance. It’s this same design that I use as the basis for my pre-spring treadmill running program. These are some fun drills to keep the treadmill runs interesting, but also to help improve your ability for distance and speed.

Hill Drill #1

Focus: increase strength and anaerobic hill capacity. Helps to improve form and muscle fibre recruitment. I try to do one run like this every other week.

1 minute sprint up a reasonably uncomfortable hill (on the treadmill I set the incline somewhere between 6-9)

2-3 minutes moderate pace jog on lower or no incline for recovery

Repeat 8-10 times

Hill Drill #2

Focus: increase ability to run faster for longer. Train for long hills. Here we want an incline that feels challenging, but doesn’t chop up our stride or cause that burn in the lungs. You shouldn’t feel like you are climbing a mountain. In the first drill the focus was on sprint speed and using anaerobic energy. In this drill the focus is on aerobic fast twitch endurance. We are looking at combining stamina and speed. Here I usually set the incline on the treadmill somewhere between 4-8. Keep in mind that not all treadmills are the same. Focus on how it feels and not so much on the settings.

Start with:

1 minute hill run/2 minute recovery on lower or no incline moderate pace

8 times

Work up to:

2 minute hill run/1 minute recovery

3 minute hill run/1 minute recovery

8-10 times

Endurance

Endurance training days are about putting in time. It has nothing to do with distance. Don’t think about mileage here. Your pace for these runs is moderate. You are going to alternate between short, medium and long runs; while gradually increasing the duration of each. Short runs are good for recovery or days when you don’t have much time, but still want to add to your overall running volume. Endurance training is all about consistently putting in time at a lower intensity. Your medium run is about 1 to 2 times longer than your short run and your long run is about twice the time of your medium run. These runs help to build up your endurance for distance runs, but are also great for burning fat and improving stride efficiency.

Sprint Surge Drill

When we run at a pace faster than our goal pace or our normal pace it enables us to be more efficient for those times in a run when we need to ‘surge’. The bonus of this type of speed training is that it makes our actual pace feel much easier and slowly increases our regular pace.

Fartlek Training: This is a sprint drill that is appropriate to add in once a week, but doesn’t need to be done any more than that. If in your running plan you are looking to add in one intense workout each week this would be appropriate. It counts as intense and that’s how it should feel. Set the incline low as the focus here is just on speed. Match your sprint with an equal amount of recovery time. Start with a 30 second sprint and 30 second recovery x 8. Work your way up to 10 rounds of 90 second sprint/90 second recovery.

Tempo Drill

This run is about finding a pace that is comfortably hard. So here you are pushing it, but still running at a pace that you can maintain for at minimum 10 minutes at a time. Start with running 2 rounds of 10 minutes with a 2 minute recovery between. Work your way up to 2 rounds of 15 minutes with a 3 minute recovery between.

Race Pace Drill

From time to time I do a speed drill where I train specifically for my goal pace. I set the treadmill for a hill run to mimic as close as possible a road setting. Here the focus is on mixing up your use of aerobic and anaerobic energy systems; while getting a taste of your goal pace. What you will do is alternate between your goal pace and your regular pace. I start with 7 rounds of 1 minute at race effort and 2 minutes recovery. Then I work my way towards:

-5 x 2 minutes race effort (3 minute recovery)

-5 x 3 minutes race effort (3 minute recovery)

-4 x 4 minutes race effort (3 minute recovery)

-5 x 4 minutes race effort (3 minute recovery)

-5 x 5 minutes race effort (3 minute recovery)

Spin Class Done In A Run

When I’m really feeling short on attention span and struggling to keep myself on the treadmill I put myself through a spin class on the treadmill. Essentially I just mix up some of my favourite spin drills and do them in a run. It might look something like this (each drill is a song and I pre select these in advance to match the drill):

  1. warm-up: light/moderate endurance
  2. Road Run: Moderate to fast pace (but not a sprint)
  3. Hills: Gradually increase incline to top of the hill while maintaining steady pace. Once at top hold until the end of the song even if you can only walk.
  4. Climb Back Down: slowly decrease the incline while increasing your pace finishing at bottom of hill at moderate pace run.
  5. Tabata Drill: 20 second sprint with 10 second recovery 8-10 times
  6. Road Run: moderate pace
  7. Hill/Sprint Split: 30 second sprint/30 seconds moderate pace run on incline. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
  8. Accelerations (a good one for two songs or more): 1 minute regular pace/1 minute moderate to hard pace/15 second full sprint, repeat with 45 seconds/45 seconds/30 seconds, 30 seconds/30 seconds/30 seconds, 15 seconds/15 seconds/15 seconds. Start again at 1 minute.
  9. Road Run: moderate pace endurance
  10. Hill Sprints: Set to moderate to hard incline. Sprint for 30 seconds and recover for 1 minute. Repeat. (recovery should be no incline or low incline and moderate pace run)
  11. Road Run: moderate pace endurance
  12. Cool Down

Disclaimer: Challenge is good, but as with any exercise program it has to be suited to your ability and circumstances. Some things to remember: yep, talk to your doctor before you start any new exercise program and in particular if you have any pre existing health conditions.

Other things to remember: 1. stop if it doesn’t feel good 2. always remember to warm-up and cool-down including flexibility training 3. more is not better. You need breaks between your runs. Mix up your training program and include rest days. 4. cross train. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Running can be very hard on your joints. Cross training (switching running for another form of cardiovascular exercise such as swimming, cycling, etc.) will help train other muscles and eliminate wear and tear. 5. good shoes.

My Funny Valentine

My Funny Valentine

 

One of the things I hate about days like Valentine’s Day (ignoring the sheer commercialism of it all) is hearing single people talk about it like it’s some kind of cursed event that requires them to spend the day pitying themselves and gulping back alcohol.

I’ve been through every stage now of singleness and have found myself here…firmly entrenched in this sweet little space where I truly don’t care one way or the other if I meet someone.  My father once told me that he wanted his daughter to learn how to be truly completely selfish; if only for a little while.  I’m not sure he intended it to last this long, but that’s beside the point.

that word: selfish.  it isn’t exactly the right word, but it does point to what I have discovered may be one of the most valuable (and frequently skipped) steps of love.  The old adage ‘you can’t truly love someone until you learn to love yourself’ is quite poignant.  There is so much bliss to be found in being complete and comfortable all on your own.

I have been alone at many different times in my life and for most of that I was also lonely.  I have cried by myself at the top of the Eiffel Tower and cried out of loneliness in the mountains and in a cabin in the woods and in a canoe and after too much tequila in Mexico and shortly after an extended beer tasting in Germany.  It wasn’t always romantic love I was yearning for.  At times it seemed I simply didn’t feel like I was a part of anything or that I belonged.  I spent almost all of my 20s feeling like I was watching life happen from outside a bubble; even when my mailing address appeared to be right in the bubble.

over the past couple of years a lot of amazing things have happened.  it hasn’t been easy and I have continued to cry, but for different reasons.  I’ve cried cause the bills never stop and there isn’t enough money and sometimes I’d just like a little teeny tiny vacation.  I’ve cried cause the people I love are often far away and I miss them.  I’ve cried because I have met such an amazing array of people who have shared their stories and filled me with so much hope.  But mostly I have smiled and laughed and read books and flipped myself upside down on occasion and have set goals and surpassed goals and set new ones and raised the bar.

and cried.  not because I sit on the outside of all the greatness, but because I recognize for the first time in my entire life that I am the greatness.  i am, right now, all i ever need to be.  i am without rules or borders.  i can’t afford much, but i can afford the priceless joy of possibility.

This Valentine’s Day take the opportunity to celebrate love in all its forms.  that person who helped you when really they could have chosen otherwise.  your family, who remember all the times you’ve been an ass and still invite you over.  the friends who have seen you compromised at dozens of parties and somehow still look you in the eye.  a co worker who remembers your birthday or gives you a hug right at the moment when you needed it the most.  the neighbour who shovels your driveway without being asked because they know you’ve been struck down by the plague.  that phone call just to say hi.  the dog or cat who can’t wait to snuggle up with you and your book.

and follow that by taking the time to do something so simple but so powerful:  recognize someone.  make conversation with a stranger. warm someone with a coffee.  say ‘how are you?’ while being present and really wanting the answer.

Happy Valentine’s Day my Loves!

(and yes, if he doesn’t have any books…please ladies…please…save yourselves).