Hello, Inspiration {2}: One Word

I had a revelation on December 29 about the one word I had chosen for 2014. It took me 363 days to get there, but once I did a whole bunch of things made sense.

Early last year, I intended to choose another word to focus on for the year. Having done it in 2011, 2012, and 2013 with what I considered satisfying results, I figured it would be a no-brainer. The problem was I put too much of my brain into it.

The first time I did this in 2011, someone suggested I let the word come to me. Sort of hokey, I thought, but was open to it. And came it did. Same with the next two years. And then last year my funk got in the way and I didn’t just sit with it as I had previously and instead I chose a word. It was a word that was connected to things I wanted to do – mostly self-centred things that had less to do with what I needed and more to do with what I thought would make me happy.

I never revealed the word here because it didn’t stick. And I was disappointed that it didn’t stick but I was also unmotivated and never actually considered why it didn’t feel right. And then, two days before the end of the year, I was talking to a colleague and friend at work who also, I discovered, happens to do this one-word thing and it all made sense. Suddenly I was back in the same headspace from the beginning of the year and I realized that my deliberately choosing the word rather than being open to whatever might come to me had thoroughly defeated the purpose.

Funny how something you didn’t realize you weren’t aware of can suddenly make a lot of the unarticulated frustrations from the past year dissipate.

So this year, I went back to letting my word identify itself to me.

Soar - one word 2105

I tried to force one with a particular meaning (act? choose?) but I realized that was me layering expectations onto a sentiment that I needed to just accept. I don’t need the pressure of being on the hook for certain things I think I should do. I need to do what I feel is right and let come what may.

Soar.

We’ll see where it takes me.

hello inspiration

Becoming a Fit Chick

When I was in 3rd-year university, I rowed crew (but only for the year because by the end of it I had managed to psych myself out). We did two workouts a day – we were on the water at 5:15 every morning and did dry-land training each evening. I don’t remember much about what that was like other than having to try desperately not to fall asleep in my 8:30 a.m. classes.

One day our dry-land training was scheduled to be a session with a trainer from the BC Lions football team. I went dutifully down to the gym expecting it to be a damn hard workout, but I figured I’d do my best. I got there to discover that for some reason I was the only one who showed up. Whether it was a coincidence or everyone else wimped out or I was just the only one dumb enough to go I never did find out, but once you find yourself in a situation like that the only thing to do is suck it up and do what the big Hungarian man tells you to do.

The workout was a plyometric one – basically using your own body weight to increase speed and power. It’s really freaking hard, especially when you have a Canadian Football League trainer treating you like a varsity athlete and expecting you to complete the specified moves—no skimping on reps—without much of a fuss.

In the end, I got through it, and it still felt better than an earlier workout the day after coming back from Christmas break (during which I kept up my training exactly not at all), after which I threw up outside the university’s main gymnasium.

I’ll always remember that year, both for those two workouts as well as for the intensity of the beginning and end of my university rowing career. At the beginning, I went through tryouts and made the team thanks to my sheer determination not to die during the runs we had to do (there’s a reason I didn’t formally take up running until 10 years later), and I finished the year with my brain and its fear of pain winning out over what I had trained my body to do. All in all, it was a great experience.

Despite seriously thinking I was going to end up alone and stranded on the road leading up to the university during one of those tryout runs, I took up running after I got married because I had discovered I wasn’t the type of person to go to the gym. I do occasionally, but it’s boring and I hate strength training on my own. I liked running, on the other hand, because it was a challenge and it got me outside and I met some new people while doing it. I also subsequently discovered that I like at-home workouts. (Jillian Michaels was a frequent companion during my 30 days straight of exercise two years ago (eep! Already?!). I’ve been trying another new at-home series that I really like – it’s the FIT CHICKS Fierce in 8 series, which I was given to try out and share with you.

fitchicks-logo2

There’s a lot of things I like about these workouts, so as I sit here with my inner thighs burning that post-workout burn, I’ll share my top 10 with you.

1. It’s Canadian! Hooreh!

2. The use the term”fierce” a lot. I love that.

3. They introduced me to UFC squats (Google it and weep), which should rightfully stand for Unbelievably Freaking Challenging squats. They are SO hard.

4.With the Fierce in 8 DVD set, I have 8 workouts I can do at home. Much less boring than one workout (even one with 3 levels).

5. The workouts are only about 20 minutes, but they’re HIIT-style (high intensity interval training) so I really work for those 20 minutes.

6. They offer 2 levels to follow in each workout – one chick does the advanced moves while another shows modifications for beginners or lower-intensity options.

7. It’s hard enough that the first time I saw a lot of the moves I actually said, “Oh shit” out loud.

8. The UFC-bootcamp-style Fierce Fighter Chick workout made me feel totally badass.

9. They use a 10-second countdown clock (for when I feel like I can’t do anymore and then see that lovely 10-second countdown start and realize I can probably do a few more.

10. They have been SUPER friendly in all my communication with them.

FIT CHICKS Tex mex power bowl

In addition to the 8 workouts on DVD, this series includes an ebook with some tips, nutritional info, amazing recipes focusing on whole foods and clean eating, and a sample meal plan. Plus, there’s also a workout calendar, which I love. I’m all about calendars. It’s even colour-coded.

FIT CHICKS green smoothie

The FIT CHICKS workouts, along with a variety of motivational tools I’ve found (some of which I’ll share with you in upcoming Hello, Inspiration posts), actually have me feeling better about my fitness goals again after a tough fall that included getting really sick and totally losing my health mojo. The boost to my mental health is a nice side effect too.

dvd

How are your health goals going, whatever they are? Need a motivational kick-start? I’ve got a chance to win a Fierce in 8 set from FIT CHICKS below. To enter, leave a comment about your own health and fitness goals and complete the Rafflecopter entry form. (If you don’t want to rely on luck and want to get straight to it, you can buy the set on the FIT CHICKS website.)

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015!

 

About FIT CHICKS
Co-founded in 2008 by best friends Amanda Quinn and Laura Jackson, FIT CHICKS is the largest women’s-only fitness company in Canada. With a focus on fierce fitness for ALL women, FIT CHICKS offers 8-week, award-winning, boot-camp-style programs at over 20 locations, as well as weekend health retreats, DVD programs, personal training and host 2 TV Series called “Shape Up with FIT CHICKS” on Rogers TV. Their commitment to women’s health earned the company 2014 Top 10 Fitness Professionals in Canada by Can FIT Pro & 2013 Stevie Award for Women in Business – Health & Wellness Company of the Year. FIT CHICKS will continue its mission of getting Canadian women pumped about health in Season 9 of CBC’s Dragon’s Den and bringing their DVD programs to The Shopping Channel in Jan 2015. Visit www.fitchicks.ca for more information.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hello, Inspiration {1}: Beauty Shots

I looked at my WordPress year in review and it told me I had 30 new posts in 2014. Thirty. 30.  That seemed a ridiculously low number to me until I realized it was less than one a week and then, frankly, it seemed high. I really didn’t write a lot last year.

I’ve sort of lost my writing mojo. I started feeling vulnerable for reasons I haven’t fully determined (or perhaps have chosen not to fully explore). I would start to write a post in my head and not get past the first sentence. First paragraph, sometimes, but mostly the words just never came together. I wrote a lot of posts in my head that way—far more than 30—but it’s not a terribly productive approach.

I closed out 2014 with a little bit more inspiration than last year, though not my usual, perhaps over-exuberant, dose. As of this fourth day of the new year I have all kinds of goals and plans and no shortage of sources of motivation, because, dammit, I’m ready to get back to feeling inspired. And one thing I’m going to do is create some of that inspiration for myself.

In my very early blogging days, I used to do regular posts under the Hello, Inspiration heading. They featured things that inspired me, like the ones that seemed to appear when I needed them or those that came up in several different places as if to say pay attention. After a while I just randomly tagged things with that category when it seemed to fit, but I’d like to go back to deliberately sharing things that inspire me. So here’s the first in the official series of my sources of inspiration, which I’m hoping to update weekly.

Neil Zeller Photography: Aurora Borealis &emdash;
One thing I love is amazing photography. Not long ago I found the Facebook page for a photographer named Neil Zeller who is local to me, and his shots are amazing. Breathtaking in the most literal sense of the word. He photographs things I love, like mountains…

Neil Zeller Photography: Explore Alberta &emdash; Waterton, Alberta…and cityscapes…

Neil Zeller Photography: Downtown Calgary &emdash; Downtown Calgary

…and our tower, which I have such sentimental, childhood feelings about. I have to get a copy of this print:

Neil Zeller Photography: Downtown Calgary &emdash; Downtown Calgary
He also shoots trains (oh my heart):

Neil Zeller Photography: Train Travel &emdash;

…and scenes that are so stunning it’s hard to believe they are from this same planet where we do mundane things like buy groceries:

Neil Zeller Photography: Country and Mountain Scenes &emdash;

Neil’s images fill up my Facebook feed, and I like them all so he knows they’re appreciated (and so Facebook’s fancy algorithm will keep showing them to me). Seeing them creates the sort of pause in my day—the deep-breath, contented-sigh kind—that I so desperately need. The first shot above is one from his Aurora series, which might be my favourite. Seeing that is on my life list, and I’m inspired at how often he manages to catch this sight. Maybe one day soon I will as well.

hello inspiration

All images © Neil Zeller Photography

The Definition of Luxury is Survival

A couple of weeks ago Connor was sitting at the kitchen table with a pencil in his hand. “Mom,” he asked, “how do you spell ‘Dear’?” I spelled it for him. “How do you spell ‘Santa’? How do you spell ‘Christmas’? How do you spell ‘Ewok Village’?”

He was writing a letter to Santa, of course – actually writing it, on his own, and spelling some of the words himself, which made me incredibly proud. After I finished laughing, of course, because this child is nothing if not specific in terms of what he wants. A LEGO Ewok Village. For Connor, that’s the ultimate gift.

I’m aware of the luxury of this, of course. Not all kids, even those in my own city or country, are going to get something as fabulous as a LEGO Ewok Village. (Mind you, neither is Connor because that particular set costs $300 and there are limits to what I think a six-year-old who already owns at least half the LEGO in the world needs to get as a Christmas gift, but there will be LEGO under the tree for him.)

For many children, even the most basic items are a luxury. The simplest essentials, such as clean water and nutrition, are necessary to help children survive in unforgiving environments. As most of you know, my particular pet cause is mental health (followed closely by ovarian cancer, which my mom had – and beat!). And I’ll tell you a secret: I find it hard to relate to some of the developing-country stories. It’s not that I don’t care, or don’t know anything about the challenges many developing countries face. I guess it’s just that those challenges are so far from my own experience that I almost can’t imagine what it would be like. But today I want to share some of those challenges and offer some help, because if there’s one thing I do relate to is the desire to make this a better world. (I even have a whole category on my blog for it.)

Here’s the deal: Your kids might want LEGO or…whatever it is that girls want this year. But for many people in the world the ultimate gift is not the hottest toy or trendy tech item, it’s possibilities. UNICEF has a campaign they’ve dubbed “unBOXing Possibilities,” as in unboxing possibilities to give children the opportunity to go to school, protect newborns from illness and provide children with the basic nutrition they need to survive.

That’s quite a different sort of gift, wouldn’t you say? One that can literally change a child’s life.

UNICEF’s Survival Gifts are the actual products children will receive. Once purchased, UNICEF will pull the product from the warehouse in Copenhagen and send directly to people in the field.

I shared this idea with Connor (explaining why it was necessary) and asked him which gift he would choose to purchase. He chose therapeutic milk.

Therapeutic milk

 

Unicef-therapeutic-milk

I suspect a large part of why this one appealed to him is that he is a big milk drinker, and his little brother is definitely in a milk phase right now. “Milky, milky!” is something we hear from Ethan often, so we make sure we don’t run out.

That’s not a luxury all parents have, of course. Heartbreaking, and quite scary when you think about the nutritional implications for those children.

Therapeutic Milk is a powder-based product that when mixed gives moms the ability to feed their babies. For 25 packets, it’s only $20. So we bought some therapeutic milk from the UNICEF site and helped 12 children and hopefully taught Connor something in the process. (I had asked Connor why he chose that gift, in particular. “So the babies have enough milk and don’t die,” he said. “It’s better to live than to die.” Sometimes the lesson really is that simple, I guess.)

Here are some other Survival Gifts that are in need this year. If you want to purchase one, you can do so in honour of someone and have that person sent a card letting them know of your donation.

Blankets for babies

 

Unicef-baby-blanketThis seems like a simple, cotton blanket that would be second nature to us, but it can mean safety and comfort for not only babies but moms too. Imagine if you didn’t have something like this to comfort your newborn.

Blankets for babies are only $22, and that gives 3 babies a cozy welcome.

Bed nets

 

Unicef-bed-netIn Africa, one in six child deaths is due to malaria. This insecticide-treated net is a simple, effective way to save so many lives. For only $9 you can send 2 bed nets to a family in need.

Plumpy’Nut

 

Unicef-plumpy-nutThis is another Survival Gift that seems so simple, but that provides much-needed nutrition to children. As we’re planning parties and holiday celebrations full of snacks and food, this is such a big reminder of how $10 can give malnourished children food just to survive. If a child has Plumpy’Nut 3 times a day, they can gain up to 2 pounds in one week!

Other options

On the UNICEF shop site there are tons of other options so you can personalize your choices, like soccer balls for a sport-loving child or Art-in-a-box to go along with the crafty gift you’re putting under the tree. While we’re buying the hottest new toys or stocking the fridge with extras this season, these are gifts that can feel like a luxury to moms and children who need them. 

To see what an effect UNICEF Survival Gifts are having for the recipients, check out www.youtube.com/unicefcanada for real-life experiences. You can shop from there too. Or join the conversation at #unBOXPossibilities.

If you do decide to add a Survival Gift to your Christmas to-do list this year, come back and tell me about it, would you? A better world gets even better when we share these good things we do with each other.

Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post, but I’ve chosen to put that money towards Survival Gifts for children in need. 

No to Bill 10: GSAs Make Schools Safer

The more I see bad things happening in the world—whether in my country or not—the more I find myself getting riled up about injustice. The things happening in the US lately make me question our very evolution. How do things end up this way? When prominent media figures in Canada get taken down, I take a small bit of smug satisfaction in something greatly overdue (but mostly I support those women he hurt before he got caught and applaud their bravery for speaking out, in whatever form they wish to do so).

This week in Alberta some things hit the metaphorical fan when the government introduced Bill 10, which would allow the province’s school boards to reject students’ requests to create a peer-support group known as a gay-straight alliance (or GSA). Supporters say it would reduce bullying and save lives.

Maybe it’s not backwards thinking and discrimination. Maybe, just maybe, they really do think this makes kids safer. I think they’re wrong, and so does the research.

Ask your MLA to say no to Bill 10

According to Safe Schools Alberta: “A recent UBC study showed that odds of homophobic discrimination and suicidal thoughts were reduced by more than half among lesbian, gay, bisexual boys and girls in schools where a GSA has existed for 3 years or more. On top of that, heterosexual boys were half as likely to attempt suicide as those in schools without GSAs.”

Frankly, I’m sick of people allowing their personal beliefs and prejudices to make our society less progressive, less inclusive, and less safe. In a move very unlike me, I wrote to my (Progressive Conservative) MLA, Sandra Jansen.

Ms. Jansen,

I have never before contacted my MLA for any reason, but I am compelled to do so today regarding Bill 10. I was appalled to find out it was sponsored by the MLA for my constituency.

I don’t know why it matters who sponsored it, as it has ended up before the legislature regardless. Maybe it’s because it seems like something someone else would do – someone who is not in touch with the values I and those in my community hold, or someone whose perspective is swayed by something I’m not subjected to every day. But this is Calgary. This is 2014. That anyone representing a community as diverse as ours in a city this size and this much on the world map would think this type of bill is okay appalls me.

I am a married (straight) mother of two boys – 6 and 2. My older son has just started grade 1 this year, and I have no idea whether he might ever be in the vulnerable position of needing support from a club like a GSA. But if he does, I would hope that type of support would be something offered without question or prejudice.

The fact that young people want to form these sorts of groups to welcome and support each other, regardless of orientation, gives me hope for our future. The fact that an educated, elected member of our legislative assembly, with a background in journalism no less, would present something that would prevent these groups from receiving the support they need makes me despair for all the progress I thought we had made towards accepting people’s differences and rejoicing in what makes us unique.

So many of your constituents don’t support this bill. Please reconsider your own support and do your part to ensure it goes no further.

– Robin Farr

 

If you’re an Alberta parent and would like to express your own displeasure about Bill 10, you can ask your own MLA to say no to it here.