Thursday, 30 October 2014

Ask Me Anything: Grief

A couple weeks ago I wrote another Ask Me Anything, and @kristin.rn left me this message on instagram,

"I know you lost your father last year. My mom is very ill and will not make it through. I wanted to know how did you cope after such a huge loss"

Whew... This was a tall order, and one I have a given a lot of thought. So today, I am going to talk about Grief and Healing. (*grab a cup a coffee this is a long one*)

So first of all, grief is deeply personal. I would argue that there is almost no other process quite as personal, so I don't believe there is a one size fits all answer here. Watching my family grieve over this past year has shown me how different grief is for each individual - the way we feel it, what brings us peace, and where we are in the process - has been different for everyone. And that is okay.

Grief like this, is overwhelming in a way I am not sure I can adequately describe. The pain of losing someone so important to you is devastating. My grief has given me pause, made me question my direction, refocus on my core values, and reflect on the life that I have been given. 

Grief is about accepting a new unwanted reality. It is hard. And something I am still very much working on.

My best advice, is to be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel. Accept that grief is a process, so it is okay to be in that process.

In the first few months, I felt my grief everyday. It was at the forefront of my mind, and pervaded all of my thoughts. It would often hit me out of nowhere - while walking the dog, out on a run, driving to work. I would think of my Dad - something I wanted to tell him, something that reminded me of him - and then I would realize that he is gone. In that moment my heartaches and tears flow.

It is a pain you cannot hide from. So I let myself feel it. I cried almost everyday. Usually just a few tears, while I tried to carry on with whatever it was I was doing. But the pain was there.

I think it is important to feel that pain, but not to hold on to it. Feel that pain, so you can let it go. 

Feeling the pain, the sadness, the disappointment, and the loss are natural and necessary. But you cannot allow those feelings and that darkness to swallow you up. You need to feel them to let them go. Those dark emotions will not serve you going forward.

As you carve out your path for healing, you will discover what brings you a sense of comfort and peace. Those are the things you must hold on to. Hold on to that light. Hold on to that love. Those are things that will carry you through.

For me, that has meant slowing down and spending more time with the people who matter most. I have been concentrating on being present. And I have been focusing on cherishing the things I have have, rather than simply grieving the things I have lost. And each day I feel grateful to have had such an amazing father for as long as I did.

I want to tell you that it gets so much easier in time. And part of that statement is true. In the last year I have found a peaceful place for my grief. I have healed and begun to move forward. But that loss is still there.

There are still moments where I long to talk to my Dad. I want him to be there for one of my crazy stories, because I know it is only something he will get and fully appreciate. And there are life moments that I absolutely dread facing without him - like buying a house and having children. These are all moments I thought he would be here for. And those moments are going to be just as painful as the first day. I know this, I accept this, and when the time comes I will feel it. The pain is still there, but it is not as pervasive as it once was. Grief is always a work in process.

Grief is hard. But please know that you are not alone.
Time will help you heal and moving forward will require some work.
Just know that where ever you are, is exactly where you need to be.
Sending you healing, love, and light.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 27 October 2014

Race Recap: Toronto Women's 5km

On Saturday I lined up to run my last race of the season. I signed up for the Toronto Women's 5km.

Next week in pre-op and the following Friday is Surgery #7 so I don't think I will be able to squeeze in any more races between now and then.

I love the Toronto Women's Series for all sorts of reasons, but the biggest is its focus on women encouraging other women. I am girls-girl to my very core, and I am pretty sure we could rule the world if we just chose to support one another. What can I say, I grew up as part of the Spice Girl Generation. It is Girl Power all day everyday.

Running is a sport that speaks to people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and abilities. But for some reason racing doesn't always do the same thing. Racing can be intimidating. And for a lot of people it feels like it is something reserved for "real runners". Nothing could be further from the truth (*hello I am out there!*), but I understand that feeling of intimidation because I have definitely felt it myself.

The Toronto Women's series is all about support, motivation, and embracing all this sport has to offer. So it was the ideal way to end my season.

I lined up with no real expectations. I was aiming to stay as close to 25min as my body would allow. I knew I would fall of that pace, but a 5:00/km was my ideal situation. I am stealing Christina's (aka The Athletarian) kilometer by kilometer break down for this one!

Kilometer 1: I feel awesome. Yeah body! You are killing it. You are running a sub-5:00/km pace. Keep this up and you will get a PR. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Kilometer 2: Still feeling good! But getting kind of thirsty. I should have had more water this morning. Hey Girl in the pink tank top! I am running with you! Lets do this!

Kilometer 3: Just joking girl in the pink tank top. You are way faster than me. And I am falling off the pace. My back is cramping up. Should I walk and stretch it out?

Kilometer 4: No walking. You have 2 more kilometers to go. Catch that girl in the black tee shirt. Once you are under this bridge and out the other side, give it all you got.

Kilometer 5: And...I don't have that much to give. Keep it together, ignore your sore body. Thank goodness that is the finish line! Just run across that mat and you can stop. Weeeeeeee! Done!

I finished 27:46 and crossed the line 67/412. It was a great way to end the season, and now I am ready for the OR.

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Surgery, Running, and Complications

Last week was a little hectic. I had a big work event, I was prepping for my 8th Half Marathon, and my 7th surgery.

I was chatting with cousin (Hi Amber!!!) after one of my appointments last week, and she asked me an interesting question. She asked...

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

#STWM Race Recap

Well that was a real whirlwind of a weekend!

I had a hectic week going into this year's STWM, hence why things were quiet around here. I had 3 really long days on my feet at the expo, which is not exactly ideal race prep. And when I woke at 5:30am on race day feeling a little wrung out I definitely had a moment, where I questioned "what the heck I was doing".

But this race wasn't about me. I was just running for kicks. I was heading down to the start line with 2 of my favourite guys to support them while they took their big distance plunge. Jamie was running his first Full and and my Father-in-Law was running his first half. It was a big day for the family. And I was there for moral support more than anything else.

I toed the line knowing it was kind of silly for me to be out there. I always want to run hard and run strong, but I am 2 weeks away from surgery #7 so having all kind of great expectations isn't exactly justified. And as I passed Queens Park, I found myself thinking about this journey I have been on.

I ran my first half marathon two and half years ago, and now here I was running my 8th. I knew that this was not going to be my strongest, fastest, or best race. And when my chest started to ache, and when my arm started to swell (despite my heavy duty compression gear), I felt that familiar twinge of frustration. It would be easy to consider this race a failure, to feel negatively about my body, and to be disappointed with the situation. But instead I chose to be grateful.

*You can see how swollen my left side is post-race, and I got a close up my my sausage fingers for you! Your Welcome!*

I am grateful to be running and racing just a few weeks before surgery. So I listened to my body and I walked when I needed to. I high-fived everyone who offered a hand. I thanked every volunteer I passed. And I spent those 13.1 miles thinking about how lucky I was to be out here. My body was strong enough to carry me through and I am healthy enough to be able to just casually run a half marathon (*this is not the girl I was a few year ago*).  And even though my body needs a little extra healing, I am grateful for all that it does for me each and every day. I crossed the line, smiling, swollen, and a little slower than on most days, but most of all GRATEFUL.

After I finished, I grabbed my bag and hustled back to the course to wait for Jamie. We started running together all because I convinced his Dad to do a 5km with me. And now here we all were - Bruce finished his first half marathon and Jamie was tackling his first full. Being able to share this with them has been so special. Being able to geek out and talk running together over the past year and half has been amazing. Sharing Sunday long runs and post-run coffee dates with my husband has become my favourite weekend activity. And watching him get a bazillion times faster than me (stung a little at first, I won't lie) has been a huge source of pride.

So as I saw him turn the corner and running strong to that line (at 3:29:57 no less), I cheered that an absolute crazy woman. And I teared up a little too.

It was a big day for everyone. And I am so proud of how far we have all come.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 10 October 2014

An Unexpected Lesson in Kindness

I read this article - 15 things Incredibly Happy People Do - last week. And I loved the principles! A lot of the things listed are things I try to do in my everyday. But I admit there are times, where the wear of the day-to-day grinds me down. So I have made it my mission to be more mindful of my attitude and actions each day. And one of my goals is to compliment someone every day - Kindness breeds Kindness. And I also think Kindness breeds Happiness. Happiness for others, but also happiness for yourself. I think it is almost impossible to do something kind for someone, and to not feel happier, lighter, more relaxed.

A lesson that was really brought home, but this stack of parking tickets. (yes they are all mine, kind of...)

At the moment they are doing construction on our building, so we are not able to use our parking garage. We have all been sent to park on the street for the next month while they complete the work.

And if you know anything about Toronto, than you know that the parking attendants can be aggressive. You can't even run in to grab a coffee without ending up with a parking ticket (I learned that the hard way a couple of times...)

So our building asked the city for a parking exception. And we all got special notices to post in our window. But despite having my number posted, the parking attendants in my neighbourhood keep giving me (and the rest of the people in my building) tickets anyways.

After ticket #4, I started to get frustrated. Will they revoke these tickets? Will I have to pay all of these fines? Am I parking in the wrong spot? What the heck?

So I called the city to ask what was going on. I ended up speaking to the woman who is responsible for ticketing/parking grievances in my area. She was defensive and not extremely helpful. I didn't really feel like she was listening to me, and I felt myself getting upset. I could hear my tone change. I was starting to get short and match her terse attitude.

But as we talked, I realized that she must spend all day being defensive. All she gets are calls from angry people who have been ticketed or towed. No one says thank-you. No one calls to say great job.  It must be hard to do this type if job day in and day out.

So I relaxed my tone. I thanked her for being patient and for talking with me. I also told her, that I realized this must be a pretty tough gig, so I appreciated what she did.

She laughed, and I could tell she was smiling.
I was smiling too.

How often do we overlook that person on the other end of the phone. How often do we curse that guy that cut us off. How often do we ignore someone else's experience and someone else's plight, but galvanize our own?

Kindness breeds Kindness. And it requires so little of us - maybe a little more patience, maybe a little more empathy - but it can have such a big impact.

I challenge you to do something kind today. 
Maybe we will all smile a little brighter this week.

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

#NoJunkFoodChallenge and my Mushroom Tart

Last week, I must confess, I let my stress get the best of me. I had a busy week with lots of work deadlines and events. I was also trying to balance scheduling other life things, while feeling a little frustrated about the prospect of my upcoming medical drama. And I found myself stress eating. Some of it was for convenience. And the rest was just me eating my feelings. I had Pizza twice. I had a bag of sour patch kids. And I ate a good portion of 2 bags of chips. I woke up Monday morning with an upset stomach (*shocking I know?!) and realized that perhaps this is not the best way to prep for surgery #7. 

So I posted on Instagram that I was going to try the "Stop Eating Junk Food All the Time" diet, and a whole bunch of you also piped up (guess I am not the only one!). So I decided to start a 1 month #NoJunkFoodChallenge. There is nothing crazy involved, the goals are just...
  1. No Junk Food/Fast Food 
  2. Focus on eating all whole/real foods (as opposed to processed)
  3. Try to eat an extra dose of fruit and veggies each day
It is up to you how you want to interpret the rules. Some people have said they are cutting out all processed sugar. Others have mentioned focusing more on a plant-based or vegan lifestyle. It is completely up to you! I am planning on limiting sugar and processed foods, but I am planning to eat everything in moderation. I am also planning to have a treat after my half marathon next weekend. But you can structure the challenge in a way that works best for you. I figured if we all used the hashtag #NoJunkFoodChallenge on social media we could connect and support each other.

So if you are game, and you want to join in, use the hashtag and feel free to tag me as well (@darwinianfail). And we can all plan to have a healthier month!

Plus since it is WIAW I have one of my new favourite recipes for you. I made this tart a couple weeks ago for friends, and it was a hit!
Mushroom Tart

1/2 cup of cream
1 egg
Salt and Pepper
2 tbsp of EVO
1 tbsp of butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tsp fresh thyme
500g Oyster Mushrooms
500g Brown Mushroom
150g of dried wild forest mushroom mix
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup of fresh Pecorino Romano Cheese (grated)
2 tbsp of Parsley
1 pie shell - you can make your own, or if you are lazy like me, just buy a pre-made one

1. Preheat over to 375F. And Pre-bake the pie shell
2. Place dried mushroom in a bowl of boiling water, and let sit while you prep other ingredients.
3. Combine cream, egg, and season with salt and pepper.
4. Heat oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots of saute for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic, fresh mushrooms, and thyme, saute for 5 minutes.
5. Drain rehydrated mushrooms and add to plan with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Cook until sauce has evaporated. Set mixture aside to cool in a bowl.
6. Blend in cream and egg mixture with mushroom mixture. Place into pre-baked pie shell, sprinkle with cheese and parsely. Bake for 25 minutes and serve.

Hope you guys enjoy!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 6 October 2014

I am right where I need to be

On Sunday my husband innocently asked me if I was going for run, and I burst into tears.

Admittedly my reaction was slightly melodramatic. It is not that I don't want to run and train hard, it is just that it is not the right thing for me right now. I have been trying really hard to be zen and accepting of the changes to my training and body - but this is by no means what I would have chosen. I have been struggling to accept the changes I have made to my race schedule this year. And I have been struggling to accept that I am heading back to the just a few weeks.

Despite the lofty health/wellness goals I set out for myself at the beginning of 2014, 3 of 5 have not come to fruition. And as the 2014 race season winds down, I find myself feeling frustrated and a little disappointed. Deep down I know that I made the right decision. I know choosing to slow down, step back, and say that this year is not the year is what was best for my body and for my mental health. But that doesn't mean that it hasn't been hard.

I feel like a have written this post a thousand times before, and it is the same old battle. With each medical setback, I struggle to make peace and feel positive about my body. I wish I was healthier, stronger, better, different. All negative. And all a waste of energy.

So instead of wallowing in my tears and lamenting my lost race season, I packed up my gear and went to my local yoga studio. I often seek the solace of my mat when I am looking for balance. It is a place to restore my spirit and to heal my broken heart (both physically and metaphorically).

As I lay in Savasana, I set my intention for the class - Self-Acceptance.

I moved mindfully and slowly through each pose. I was respectful of my body and focused on being present. As the class progressed I felt myself let go of the negative and detrimental self-talk that had been swirling in my head. 

Today I am embracing what my body needs in this moment.
Today I need to go a bit slower and move more mindfully.
Today I need to let go of expectations - both my own and others.
Today I need to accept that this is where I am, and that is right where I need to be.

All of this is hard. All of this is unnatural. But all of this is necessary.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,