A Toronto Transformation

Life Lessons

What to Say at a Funeral

Pink carnations

Funerals are the worst.

They’re sad and they’re awkward and uncomfortable as hell.

They’re also inevitable.

The first one I attended was my great grandmother’s. I think I was 7 or 8. I remember my cousin and I getting a severe case of the giggles and I remember being reprimanded by my uncle at the reception afterwards for casually mentioning that nana had died.

“We don’t say ‘died,’ he explained. “We say she passed away.”

I remember being baffled by that. Still am, really.

We want so desperately to separate ourselves from death that we can’t even say the word. Not even at a funeral.

Death has always been mysterious, and while science has unravelled some of those mysteries, I think the practical fact of it has become even more mysterious to us in modern North American society.

We no longer wash the bodies of our loved ones ourselves, or dress them for the funeral on our kitchen tables. We certainly are not as likely to sit them up and pose for portraits with them the way our Victorian ancestors did.

If we’re lucky, we don’t regularly come in contact with death unless we attend a memorial service.

I think that’s why so many of us feel not only grief, but a lot of social anxiety when we attend a funeral.

For some, the anxiety starts with making the decision to attend. When the deceased is a close friend or family member, there’s no question of whether or not you’ll go, but it gets a little fuzzy when you’re a bit more removed. Should you go if an old friend or a coworker has lost a loved one? Should you go if you didn’t know the deceased?

Obviously it’s a case-by-case situation, but I tend to err on the side of attending if I am fond of my coworker and if the funeral information has been shared with me or made public. I don’t worry too much about not having known the deceased. I figure I’m there as a visible, physical show of support to those left behind.

Some people seem to think that they don’t need to go unless explicitly invited. The problem with this is no one sends out engraved funeral invitations. Your grieving friend or coworker is busy dealing with funeral arrangements and wills and just plain old grief. They don’t have time to think about making sure you know you are welcome to support them. They just need you to show up and do it.

I’ve known several people who avoid going because they’re “bad at funerals.” They don’t know what to say or do or how to act.

But here’s the thing: NO ONE really knows how to act or what to say at a funeral. Who is good at funerals? Funeral directors, perhaps? Still each gathering is so different, even they must not always be able to be prepared for what they might face or how people might react. I’m sure many a funeral director has said the “wrong” thing many a time.

Again, everyone is different, and you never know what someone will find comforting. It can be really nice to share a favourite anecdote about the deceased if you knew them. If you didn’t, avoid trying to cheer your grieving pal up or offering words that may ring hollow (like, “at least they’re in a better place” – definitely skip that one unless you’re really sure the person you’re speaking to believes in that “better place” you’re referring to).
Just keep it simple with a sincere “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “I’m here for you.” and throw in a hug or a hand clasp or shoulder squeeze. And if you do blurt out something weird, (like when all I could think to say to a friend whose dad had passed away was “So. This is the actual worst,” before going on to tackle her mother, whom I had never met, in a bear hug), don’t worry too much. Odds are, the  person won’t even remember what you said anyway. They’ll just remember that you showed up to offer support at a really hard time.

What advice would you give to nervous funeral attendees? Have you ever said anything weird/inappropriate at a funeral?

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Rites of Passage

teal, white, gold teacup

It’s funny, the things you remember about adolescence.

When I was in fifth or sixth grade we learned about the process of menstruation via educational video in health class. Other kids giggled and squirmed. I fell off my desk, passed out cold.

Nothing adds to the general embarrassment of co-ed health classes like your male volleyball coach/health teacher frequently pausing in the middle of relaying some new horror that awaited our young bodies to call out “Sarah?! You ok? Don’t forget to let me know if you’re going to faint!”  I mean, good on him I guess, but nothing made me blush faster.

I also remember being MORTIFIED by my well-intentioned mom waving a stick of deodorant at me from across the room while I waited to be called up to the beam at a gymnastics competition. I was, undoubtedly, already sweating through my unforgiving purple, wedgie-inducing gymsuit, just like I sweated through every other garment that came within an inch of my armpits.

When a friend and I got our periods, our moms took us out to a tea room for a little rite of passage acknowledging the start of our move towards womanhood. I was a little conflicted about going, as I felt a bit icky and scared about the whole shedding blood from the uterus thing (see above fainting spell). But on the other hand: scones with cream and jam! I’m so grateful our moms did that for us. That fancy afternoon tea helped make the metamorphosis seem a little less like something to fear and more like something to celebrate.

When I let a babysitter pluck my eyebrows, I remember being elated/terrified, thinking my parents would be furious with me, but that now kids at school would have to stop referring to me as “unibrow.”

I remember scribbling angrily in my heart-covered, generic-locked diary after fighting with my parents, and thinking: “I’ll never forget what this feels like when I’m an adult. I’ll make sure I remember so if I have kids, I’ll understand. I’ll acknowledge what they’re going through.”

And I vividly recall staring at my sweet little brother (5 years my junior) in the car on a family trip and wondering why I couldn’t go back to being like him: happy and goofy, with smooth skin and a cute little baby nose, while simultaneously being unreasonably aggravated by every damn thing he did.

I didn’t understand why I felt so mean so much of the time, why family trips made me want to kill all the things.

I felt like a freak and I worried I’d never feel normal again.

Looking back I realize that if I, a healthy, well-loved girl with strong role models felt so confused and alone with the constant thunderstorm of emotion that accompanied those years, it must have been a nightmare for kids who didn’t have all the advantages I enjoyed.

I think about that a lot when I’m working with my pals at Mother Nature Partnership, about how much worse the confusion/shame I felt could have been if I hadn’t had access to the (albeit faint-inducing) education I did around puberty and

And I think about how much better it could have been if I had realized that I wasn’t the only one feeling mean and confused, if I’d had a better understanding of exactly how much my hormones were affecting my emotions as well as my body.

And I think about how much better the beginning of the transition from child to adult could be if we had better support systems in place to celebrate, educate and demystify the whole process, and especially to let girls know that they don’t need to feel like freaks along the way, that they’re not going through it alone.
Which is why I love the concept behind this weekend’s G Day Toronto event.

G Day was created by the wonderful Madeleine Shaw (founder of Lunapads!) as a way to give girls the celebration she felt was missing from her own adolescence. The Toronto event will feature a diverse lineup of workshops for both Girls and the adults who support them (aka: Champions). Girls will connect with themselves and each other through movement, art, yoga, meditation, and inspiring presentations on sisterhood, women in technology, loving your body, and more. Champions will learn strategies for communicating with adolescents, balancing stress in family life, and promoting self-esteem in adolescent girls.

How beautiful is that?

For more information on this fantastic event, or to purchase tickets, click here. Metamorphocity readers will receive 20% off the ticket price by using the following codes at checkout:

TOBLOG20G – code for girl tickets

TOBLOG20C – code for champion tickets (parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts & uncles, etc.)

What do you remember about adolescence? Did you have some kind of celebration or rite of passage, or did you just figure it out as you went along? Let me know in the comments!

5-9: From the Desk to the Dance Floor

From the desk to the dancefloor - Bo Lam is not defined by her 9-5Photo by Taylor Aikins

Start calling yourself the thing you are in your heart, the thing your mind bends towards when you dream, the thing your fingers itch to do.

Start describing yourself in terms of the things you do from 5-9. Because we’re not defined by our 9-5s.

I first encountered Bo Lam long before I actually met her. She was performing in a wonderful piece choreographed by my friend Irene. It was a gorgeous piece with four terrifically skilled dancers. Bo stood out for her fluidity of movement, and her distinct graceful energy that made it impossible to take your eyes off her when she danced.

The first time I actually met her, she was one of the friendly faces behind the counter at Barreworks, the magical place that has kept me a fit, sane person who actually looks forward to her workouts for almost 3 years now.

While her 9-5 is at least part of the same world as her passion, Bo says she still answers the question “What do you do?” with “I’m a dancer.”

“Depending on the context, this answer is usually followed by a series of justifications and explanations: no, not the exotic type; no, it certainly doesn’t pay all of my bills; yes, I have a ‘day job’; yes, it’s a crazy pursuit!”

Answering the question with her 5-9 passion, rather than her day job title means that people who ask that question do get a good sense of what kind of person she is. Or at least they do once she’s given them a rundown of what the title of Professional Dancer entails. “For me, this includes: working for an entertainment company (performing at private and corporate events), adjudicating dance competitions, working as a freelance choreographer and teacher (from weddings to full-day workshops), and working as a freelance dancer (from mainstream gigs like the MMVA’s to independent, creative projects),” she explains.

“In addition, I am incredibly lucky to be the Assistant Manager of a beautiful, boutique fitness studio called Barreworks. This provides me with the stability, and financial security, to choose the work I wish to devote time to. Not to mention gorgeous studio space!! Once all of this is explained, I do think that people have a greater understanding of the kind of person I am! I am goal-oriented and creative, I am capable of juggling multiple jobs and managing my time accordingly.”

While all that juggling keeps her busy, it’s Bo’s love of dance (obvious to any who have the good fortune to see her on stage) that sustains her. “I am passionate about dance – about teaching and sharing dance, about healing with and through dance, about the physicality, power, entertainment, and escape that dance provides. The feeling I get when I dance is my inspiration. The amount of freedom…it’s the closest thing to real magic. I can’t live without it.”

Bo says her day job at Barreworks is the perfect fit for her, as it gives her the flexibility to create, it can be difficult to find balance in her days, not to mention the energy to get it all done. Visualization is key. “It is so hard. It really helps to have people holding me accountable. I love deadlines and a wee bit of intimidation! I try to post little things on my social media, so that my progress is public,” she says.

“I find that encourages me to push forward. I always try to do a little bit every day. Sometimes, it’s as small as watching a rehearsal video of a choreographer I admire or journaling. I also need to have a very clear vision of exactly what I want. What is my end goal? I visualize down to the smallest detail exactly what I want to achieve, and that keeps me working hard to get there.”

And how will she know when she’s reached that end goal? Well for now, she says, success means making strides in her artistic development and pushing herself beyond her comfort zone.  “It’s about all the small successes – reaching deadlines, completing grant and festival applications, creating movement sequences and setting choreography – that will add up to big success and fulfillment by the end of the year.”

Bo’s advice for anyone who doesn’t find fulfillment in their 9-5, but isn’t sure how to go about discovering what inspires them outside of it is to start with some personal reflection.

“Start with a little journaling,” she says. “What kinds of activities did you enjoy growing up? What were your favourite classes at school? What kind of games did you play with your friends? There are so many opportunities in this city to volunteer, take a night course, craft your creativity and find your passion! Think about what you have to offer this world, what you want your legacy to be, and then dive in!”

Bo is currently using her passion for dance to run a series of free dance workshops for inner-city Toronto youth. If you’re in the city March 20th, stop by Ganzi Osteria and enjoy a night of “music for movement” in support of Bo’s program. Event details here.

Want to know more about Bo and her upcoming projects? Check out her dance collective’s website: miscellumdance.com, or follow her on Twitter and instagram.

Perfectionism Paralysis: How to do Things You’re Bad At

Start the thing hideously, start it wrong, start it ugly, but start. There’s time for perfection later.  Perfection is not a starting point.

One of the great things about living in a city like Toronto is access to all manner of continuing education courses at the local post-secondary institutions. Want to brush up on your culinary skills? Your carpentry? Great. Going for your Project Management certification? No problem.

While the idea of going back to school full-time gives me hives, I can’t seem to resist the urge to head back to the classroom at least once a year for a structured look at some topic or other, either to satisfy my curiosity or to add another skill to my resume.

I’m currently enrolled in the seventh con ed course I’ve taken since moving to Toronto, and aside from my ill-advised foray into the wacky world of web design a few years back, it’s the one that has me the most out of my element.

I think it’s normal to gravitate towards the things we’re already good at, whether it’s something we have prior training in or just a natural affinity for, but while it has been great to polish and buff my existing skills, I really wanted to give some attention to related areas of knowledge I may have neglected.

For me that means stepping out of my usual arena of monkeying around with pretty words and ideas and delving further into the business/strategy side of communications.

The first few classes weren’t too intimidating and I felt I was following along with the lectures all right. Although I missed the camaraderie of the last class I was in. It was a smaller group with livelier, friendlier discussions.

My first attempt to participate in a group discussion this term was shut down rather frustratingly when I brought up the topic of the #nomorepagethree campaign (encouraging folks to boycott a newspaper until they end their tradition of featuring topless women on the third page of their publication) during the part of the class where we discuss current social media trends/events etc. I was explaining the online campaign and its rising popularity/possible success when a man in the class loudly interrupted me, not to comment on the tactics, or the interesting use of social media, but to deride the campaign itself, exclaiming “Well if you don’t like it, just don’t buy the paper!”

Sidenote: if you’re a man, and a woman is telling a brief story about sexism, maybe DON’T INTERRUPT HER!


Anyway, I haven’t felt much like piping up since.

So I was dismayed to find that our first assignment, worth a substantial part of our mark was to include a presentation.

And, despite my diligent note-taking in class, I felt ill-prepared to tackle this particular assignment. The words “analysis”, “strategy” and “measurable objectives” jumped off the page and made my poetic heart pucker in protest.

It wasn’t long before I’d decided I couldn’t do it. I didn’t understand all the nonsensical business lingo involved, I’d never done anything like this before or even seen an example of what we were being asked to produce, so how could I possibly do anything other than a totally horrible job and embarrass myself in front of everyone else in the class who would undoubtedly use their umpteen business degrees and superior brains, experience, knowledge and talent to put together their presentations in their sleep.

I tried to be proactive about it. Sort of. I asked the instructor if he could show us an example of approximately what he was looking for, which he kindly did provide. But it was too late. Having already decided I didn’t understand what was being asked of me, I just stared at the example, my mind a dark whirlpool of doubt. The thing might as well have been written in an alien language and then run through a shredder for all the good it was doing me in my worked up state of mind.

As time marched on, I agonized more and more over this assignment. It was a steadily growing knot in the bottom of my stomach. My focus quickly shifted from trying to figure it out, to trying to figure out how to get out of it. I tried to psychically deduce whether I could do well enough in the rest of the course to just skip it altogether and accept a zero, but with my confidence at a mega-low, that seemed unlikely.

So. I thought. I’ll just try to do the written component. Maybe if I at least do that, I can just squeak by with a passing grade at the end of the course, and only the instructor will know the secret shame of my idiocy. Hurrah!

I could just sit quietly and pretend not to hear when my name was called on presentation day. I could claim laryngitis, I could faint! Heaven knows I’ve fainted enough times by accident by now, surely I could summon my powers of squeamishness if needed!

So, with that extremely well-thought-out plan in place (look at that! I can strategize after all!), I finally got to work on the written component. When it was done, I still didn’t feel particularly confident about it, but it looked about the right size and shape, so, exhausted, I let my perfectionism go.

Then I thought, “Well, ok, you might as well at least just take what you’ve already bothered to come up with here and transfer it into a slideshow. It doesn’t have to be cool or creative and I’m still not saying you have to get up and present it, but why not just have the format handy…just in case.”

I was still telling myself this on my way to the classroom, talking to my brain like I was trying to make a toddler eat broccoli. “Just go into the room, just sit down and watch some presentations.”

And then, finally, when the instructor asked if anyone else would like to get their presentation over with on the first day “Just put your hand up. You can still lose consciousness if you need to.”

And that’s how I got through the worst bout of perfectionism paralysis I’ve had in a long time. And the payoff is, that while I might not have perfected the particular skills the assignment required, at least now I know where to start.

I had to take my own advice. I’m always telling friends who are stuck at a loss with what to do with their lives/careers etc. to just try something. Try anything. Step off in a direction and see where it takes you. Just take one step. If all you learn is that that wasn’t the direction for you, then that’s one more thing you know about where you want to go (not there).

Stop agonizing over the details and the reasons why you can’t do the thing and just bloody well start. Start the thing hideously, start it wrong, start it ugly, but start. There’s time for perfection later.

Perfection is not a starting point. –Tweet that!

Are you guys ever paralyzed by perfectionism? How do you get past that kind of mental roadblock?

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Five Life Hacks for Procrastinators

 long layered brunette hairI suppose the ultimate time-saving hack would be to hack all this hair off, but for now, dry shampoo to the rescue!

If, like me you are a terrible procrastinator, I mean…terribly busy and important person, you may find yourself running short on time to devote to hobbies like eating food or maintaining personal hygiene. Here are five time-saving life hacks for procrastinators (you know we love a good shortcut!) I’ve adopted recently to help!

  1. Sort your laundry as you undress. On a recent trip to IKEA, I couldn’t decide between a black or white laundry hamper, when it hit me: I could buy both and use one for my lights and the other for my darks and cut out the time spent sorting the two on laundry day. Genius!
  1. Take your clothes into the shower with you after a workout. I often walk home from my workouts for a little extra cardio (and because I can’t stand waiting for transit), so I don’t usually shower and change until I get home. While I’d never throw my gear back in my gym bag until next time, sometimes all it needs is a little rinse between loads of laundry, so I just toss my lulus in the tub , let them share my shampoo or body wash while I shower and then give them a quick rinse and hang them to dry. It saves me from having to buy a workout outfit for every day of the week, and from running a whole laundry cycle without a full hamper. Win-win!
  1. Make friends with dry shampoo. Speaking of shampoo, as a long-locked lady there are definitely times when I just don’t have the time to wash and dry my mane before being seen in public. The solution? Dry shampoo! I experimented with a few brands of the spray-on stuff, which were so full of chemicals and heavily-scented I couldn’t believe it, before realizing I could just store a mixture of cocoa powder and arrowroot starch in a salt shaker and run it through my roots with my fingers before brushing it out to get the same volumizing, grease-absorbing effect. PLUS IT MAKES MY HEAD SMELL LIKE BROWNIES! I’ve since also become a fan of Lulu organics talc-free hair powder. It’s very fine and smells delicious. It might be a better idea than the cocoa powder concoction I use for lighter-haired lads and lasses as it can be hard to brush all of the cocoa powder out.
  1. Steam clothes in the shower. (man, for all this time I apparently spend in the shower you’d think I’d have time to wash my hair an adequate amount. Alas, you would be incorrect!) Because I’d rather spend my time doing (Insert pretty much any activity at all here) than ironing, and since sometimes when I manage to get my laundry through the washer-dryer cycle, it chooses to languish in what more than one acquaintance has referred to as my “laundry chair” rather than folding itself and hopping into my drawers in a timely manner, hanging a few pieces up in the bathroom while I take a steamy shower is one of my very favourite life hacks.
  1. Put all your eggs in one basket. Boil five eggs on Sunday night and keep them on hand in your fridge for a week of ready-to-eat protein to add to your breakfast. I pop mine in my egg slicer (a sanity and second-saving little device) and eat them on toast with a side of fruit before I run out the door. I’ve also taken this to the next level for a month or two by cooking a giant pot of something on Sunday evening and portioning it out for a week’s worth of lunches to save even more time in the mornings!

Are you guys procrastinators? What are your favourite time-saving life hacks for procrastinators (or, you know, very organized, responsible and motivated individuals with a shortage of time)?

The Art of Talking Politics

The Art of Politics - Art Gallery of Ontario

Last weekend my mom and I popped by the AGO to check out the (awesome) Alex Colville exhibit. While we were there, we wandered into the art and politics wing of the gallery, a place where my mom could pretty much be an installation, as it was the intersection of two of her greatest passions.

We came across this quote about democracy in the write-up next to one of the paintings, and both really loved it: “”For all its faults, democratic politics is the brave, hugely important attempt of people who don’t know each other well to try to live in peace together.”

Hugely important indeed.

A lot of people, especially young whippersnappers, can’t seem to see the connections between themselves and politics, which, to me, is really bizarre. Politics is the way we determine the rules we all have to abide by and the values we want to be held sacred in our communities. Do we care about how (and how much) our families pay for healthcare? Do we care about access to education? Do we care about basic human rights? Then we have to care about the systems that govern them. Ta-daa! Connected.

Yes, in this country politics can come with a heaping side of old, caucasian gentlemen posturing or sometimes just spouting absolute unrelated nonsense in response to direct questions. But that’s no excuse to ignore the actions going on behind those (admittedly sometimes baffling) words. It can be easy to become disillusioned, but it’s what we do with that disillusionment that matters, and disengaging entirely is not the answer.

If the system is broken, talk about it, brainstorm ways to make it better and work together to make some noise until it’s fixed.

Of course, we can’t work together for change if we don’t actually talk about it.

A lot of people I know are of the mind that it’s somehow impolite to discuss political issues anywhere outside of Parliament Hill, yet have no problem discussing, say, Kim Kardashian’s various body parts. I don’t get it. It seems like some holdover from an etiquette guide that should have been thrown out somewhere around the time women in North America won the right to vote.

Is the fear that they might be exposed to a different viewpoint than their own? That some sort of friendly (gasp!) debate might take place and cause them to re-examine what they previously believed and broaden their own views? That they might start to understand the person they’re talking with better?

I suspect a lot of people are afraid of offending, or being offended on a personal level, and I will admit, discussing political issues is a good time to be extra-sensitive to the feelings of those around you and keep your sense of humour and your ability to recognize when it’s time to say “I can see where you’re coming from, but I just don’t think we’re going to agree on this” and move on, close at hand.

Perhaps people who refuse to take part in any political discourse, even among friends, simply have not made that aforementioned connection, and realized the importance of politics, of discussion and healthy debate, of engagement among citizens in creating a better world for all of us?

I don’t know.

But I do know that ignorance never bred progress. Evolution doesn’t happen when we keep our heads in the sand.

What do you guys think? Do you follow politics? Are political issues taboo in your circles?

A Moment’s Peace

Cemetary Angel in Snow (A moment's peace)Cemetary Angel in Snow

I can’t pinpoint exactly when time began to feel blurry.

Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?

Whether it was two or three winters ago when my grasp on it started to slip.

I didn’t think about it too much then. Not when the pieces of the life I envisioned for myself seemed to be so effortlessly falling into place.

I thought we had an agreement, time and I. I thought I had it licked.

But of course, time cannot be beaten, and It damn sure doesn’t care if your plans fall through.

Now, as it whips by ever faster, a quick, clear stream I cup my hands to catch even as it rushes relentlessly through my fingers, I’m terrified of wasting even a drop.

But I don’t know what that means, exactly.

I don’t know how much of it is mine to control, how much I’ll have in the end.

I know there are things that I would like to do, given the choice.

I know I’m hardly ancient, but I also know now, how fast time can move.

My life is blessed, no doubt.

Is it greedy to worry about wanting things like a partner and a little family to raise, when I’m so lucky already?

Would it be foolish to keep letting time tiptoe past without actively trying to cultivate those things?

Which is more wasteful, to spend my time trying to capture a life that might not even be in the cards for me, or to wait passively for the things I want until it’s too late for me to enjoy them?

These are the questions that chase each other around my mind, even as I celebrate friends’ new loves, their weddings, and pregnancies. Even as I celebrate my own accomplishments in other areas.

So it was nice, Sunday night, in the middle of running errands, doing chores and trying to get myself ready for another busy week to dash out the front door into a world transformed.

Even my mind quieted as I stopped on the porch to stare at the snow, coming down in magic slow motion, the way it does sometimes, lit up by the streetlights.

I stuck my tongue out to catch a lazy flake and it really did feel like time stopped.

At least for a moment

Could You go a Year Without New Clothes?

vintage prom dresses at 69 vintage TorontoWhat do you mean I don’t need another frothy vintage prom dress?

According to a recent eye-opening and kick in the ass-ing review of my last three months’ spending, I could not.

Which, of course, immediately made me want to try.

To be fair, those three months included my birthday, when I was generously gifted some funds specifically to put towards an “investment piece” I’d been hemming and hawing over for about a year. Still, it was shocking to see just how much I actually spent on clothing in just three short months.

It made me re-examine my view of myself as a fairly financially responsible person. Because the truth is, while I’ve been patting myself on the back for being debt-free, I really haven’t been putting nearly as much money as I could, and arguably should, have been away for a rainy day.

Apparently, no sooner are my essentials paid off for the month, than I head out to spend whatever’s left over on food, clothes and a retrospectively inexplicable number of trips to Shopper’s Drug Mart. I’m like a moth to an optimum points flame. Half the time I just wander in there to see what’s on sale when I need to kill time.

Looking over my spending, not only was I disappointed in how little I had squirrelled away, and what a ridiculous amount of my paycheques was going to retail therapy and lazy food shopping, but I was dismayed to realize that I’d become such a rampant consumer.

When I think about the things I value most in life, of course, most of them aren’t things at all. They’re people, experiences, nature and feelings. And while there’s certainly room there for enjoyment of stuff, fashion stuff included, I was a little crestfallen to realize just how much stuff I was enjoying, and how that might be pushing aside the experiences I’d like to think I value more.

So, while I might not be ready for the challenge of going a year without buying a single new item of clothing that I’ve seen some bloggers sign up for, I am going to make a concerted effort to cut way back on my spending, particularly in that area and go from there. Even cutting my clothing budget in half for a year would be a significant boost to my overall savings.

Luckily I hosted a clothing swap this weekend, and snagged some great new-to-me stuff from my friends, so that should keep the spending wolves at bay for a little while at least.

Baby steps, you know?

Taken in shoes I already own, of course.

Are you guys big shoppers? Good savers? Could you go a year without new clothes? I’d love to hear any saving money/avoiding buying clothes tips you have in the comments!

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The Trouble With Trolls

women in animal masks Sometimes it feels like the internet is a masquerade…for jerks.

I’ve been thinking about trolls lately.

No, sadly, not the fluffy, neon-haired bejewelled belly button type (what a weird fad that was).

I’ve been thinking more about the type who prowl the internet looking for unmoderated forums to spew bilious, hateful trash. You know, the ones you encounter when, against your better judgement you think, “I’ll just quickly scroll down to the comment section of this thoughtful piece of writing or this heartfelt video.”

I believe in dialogue, I believe in letting people have their say and I believe in participating in important conversations. After all, respectful debate is essential for human evolution and democracy.

But man, few things are as optimism-crushing as a comment section on a viral post.

My personal policy is to try never to say anything online I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to someone’s face and/or be comfortable having everyone I know hear.

For some folks though, the possibilities that come along with perceived anonymity are too tempting not to test out.

Online, you can be whomever you want.

And for some reason, I guess a lot of people really want to be assholes.

Maybe they feel powerless or invisible in their own lives. Maybe they hate themselves or are bored with their lives and don’t have the resources to deal with that productively. Maybe they’re genuinely mentally ill.

Whatever the reasons, they bring their racism, misogyny, intolerance and bullying to the internet and let fly. Some seem to believe the nonsense they’re spewing, while others pathetically claim to be writing loathsome things just to get a reaction (the original definition of an internet troll).

Recently, a woman accused of “trolling” a family whose toddler went missing was unmasked by a news team when they found out Scotland Yard was investigating her Twitter account, with which she obsessively tweeted abuse towards the family, who she believed were responsible for their child’s disappearance. According to news outlets, she was found dead of an apparent suicide a couple of days later. The situation has sparked some debate over whether exposing so-called “trolls” in this manner is the right thing to do.

I don’t know exactly what the solution is. I value my privacy online, and I value free speech, but I do think that we need to take online harassment, threats, and hate speech seriously, because the internet doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and the more encouragement these so-called “trolls” receive either directly from other mean-spirited commenters cheering them on or through lack of consequence, the more likely that behaviour will be picked up by others and the more it will bleed into their lives offline.  And even if it doesn’t, we all know by now that sadly online bullying can have devastating and fatal consequences.

Some say we should just ignore online bullies and trolls, but Stephanie Guthrie had an interesting take on misogynist trolls in particular in this awesome Ted Talk last September:

What do you guys think? Have you encountered online bullying or trolling on a personal level? How do you think we should deal with people who make it their mission to threaten or make others miserable online?


Blood Clots and Body Confidence

thigh-high compression stockingsMy relationship with my body took an interesting turn when, at 19 years old, I had the incredible good fortune to survive a pulmonary embolism.

I was diagnosed with chronic DVT, a blood clot in the deep veins of my left leg too massive to operate on and tested positive for a clotting mutation called factor V Leiden.

I remember at one point during my time in hospital telling the nurse helping me clean myself and wash my hair while I sat awkwardly naked in a wheelchair, hooked up to an IV, how I’d always been self-conscious about my calves, but in contemplating my grotesquely swollen mass of a leg, now they didn’t seem so bad.

I didn’t know at that point my leg would never be the same. The swelling did go down, but the damage to the veins was permanent and the clot running from my calf to my groin is, of course,  still there. To attempt to operate and remove it would mean a good possibility that some of the clot could break off and make its way back to my lungs and kill me, or become lodged in my heart or my brain and kill me.

So. There it stays.

Leaving me on good days, uncomfortable, and on bad, in pain.

There are little complications, and big ones.

I can’t run or crouch and I have to wear an uncomfortable tight thigh high compression stocking every day to keep the swelling to a minimum and to try to minimize the steadily growing damage to the surface veins of my leg.

Pregnancy would be high risk at best, unsuccessful or fatal at worst.

It’s an irritatingly constant reminder of my mortality and adapting to it has been a challenge.

I don’t know if every cloud has a silver lining, but if this one does, beyond the fact that my life did not end that day 19 years in, it would be that a potentially fatal condition does give a person a fair amount of perspective.

It made me think more about my body as a vehicle, as a temple, as a tool, and in doing so, it relieved some of the pressure I felt to make it look a certain way.

Taking my walker-assisted first steps out of the hospital made me more focused on what my body could do, and the exhaustion I felt taking just those few steps made me determined to do whatever I could to ensure that I get to feel healthy and strong for as long as possible.

It made me recognize in a concrete way, what a glorious privilege it is to be able to walk. To just get up, and effortlessly move yourself across a room suddenly seemed like the most miraculous thing. Suddenly I had no time to worry too much about what my body looked like and I was forced to focus more on what it could do, and how I could take good care of it to keep it running as smoothly as possible for however long I’m lucky enough to live in it.

Of course, it hasn’t stopped me from scrutinizing my body with a less than kind eye now and again, but that shift in focus has been a really powerful thing.

So my advice to women when they find themselves dissatisfied with their looks is to try  your damndest to shift your perspective. Think about the amazing things your body can do besides fit into your skinny jeans. Think about the way it feels, and what you can do to make it feel better.

And then? Stop thinking about it. Put your energy and your brain power into something outside yourself.
Because there are people who stand to gain from you being miserably preoccupied with your looks, but honey, you’re not one of them.

This post is part of the Love Your Body link-up hosted by the lovely Alicia of Jaybird and Rachel of Tossing the Script. Pop on by their blogs for links to more posts about loving your body.

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