My journey to a healthier me

Tales of my life

Belonging

I’ve been thinking a lot about belonging lately.

When I was a kid, I struggled with belonging. I never felt like I really fit in anywhere. I was very shy and overweight, and I didn’t have many friends. I usually felt like the odd one out or a third wheel, no matter what size the group was that I was with.

In my teens, it was even worse.

Things started to get a little better in my early 20s. I began to open up more and it was a little easier to make friends, but I still didn’t have that many. And I still struggled with fitting in and belonging.

I got married in my late 20s and moved to Canada. Almost immediately, I noticed was I finally starting to feel like I belonged.  I was welcomed with open arms by husband’s family, friends, and co-workers.  That was HUGE, especially for someone who’d felt like an outsider most of her life.

As my life in Canada progressed, I found places where I fit in and people to connect with. It was wonderful. There were still occasions where I didn’t feel like I belonged, but they were fewer and fewer.

When I received my cancer diagnosis in 2009, I once again struggled. I struggled with defining myself as a cancer survivor. I was lucky and it was caught very early. I had surgery to remove it and did not require chemo or radiation. I didn’t feel like I belonged in that group of people who weren’t as lucky. It took me a long time to release I was wrong.

When I began running a few years ago, I struggled with defining myself as a runner. I didn’t feel like I was a “real” runner because I was so much slower than everyone else. But here’s the thing I quickly discovered: It didn’t matter if I was fast or slow. A runner is a runner.

And I also realized that running helped me feel like I belonged.  Just like when I first moved to Canada, I was welcomed into the running community with open arms. The running community is awesome! When I’m struggling with my running, I can always count on other runners for encouragement. And I think that’s the biggest reason I’ve kept at it.

A year ago today, my favourite coffee shop closed down. It was a very sad day. Not because they had great coffee, which they did, but because of the people. From the first day I walked into the place, I felt welcome. Someone was always there to offer a smile and a kind word. One of the things I noticed early on was everyone was welcome there.  It felt like home. I quickly became friends with the owner, Juliet. She is truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Once I overcame my initial shyness, I started sitting with the regulars. We’d push tables together to make one large table. And everyone was welcome. And oh the conversations we had at the big table! We talked about everything. We did crossword puzzles and sudoku puzzles, we’d discuss world events, we share the good and the bad about our lives. We became friends at that table.  Once again, I felt like I belonged. It’s been a year since the place closed, and I still miss it.

While I sometimes still struggle with feeling like I don’t belong in some places, I’ve learned that you don’t just belong in one place. You belong with those who support you, who love you, who make you feel welcome and appreciated. It could be the family you were born into or the family you chose for yourself. It could be your friends, those you socialize with, or those you work with.  And if you ever feel like you don’t belong, just stop and look around you. Find those you connect with and you’ll find where you belong.

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My friend Juliet

There are a few people in my life that inspire me and make me want to be a better person. They inspire me to be kinder, more open, gentler … just be a better person.

Juliet is one of those people.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she is that kind of person to many others.

Juliet is a beautiful person, inside and out. Her smile lights up the room, and her laughter is magical.

She’s kind and understanding. 

She’s full of life and love. 

She shows compassion and kindness to everyone. 

She’s smart and funny. 

She’s incredibly creative. 

She makes everyone feel important and worthy of love. 

She’s one of the hardest-working people I know. 

She has a huge heart.

She’s just an amazing person.

Talking to her, no matter the subject, always makes me feel better. I feel lighter somehow, even if we are just talking about events of the day. I just love being around her.

I admit that when I first met her, it took me awhile to open up and allow our friendship to grow. I don’t make friends easily, but she made it easy. 

I feel like I’ve grown since I met her. I’d like to think that being friends with her has helped me be a better person — kinder and gentler to myself and others, and more open to the world in general.

She’s the kind of person that just makes the world a better place just by being here.

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Why I love Urban Escape Cafe

I spent a wonderful few hours at the cafe today, which is what inspired this post.

I’ve been going to the Cafe for about two and a half years now. I liked it as soon as I walked in.  And it’s only gotten better.

I go there as often as I can, but sometimes wish I could go more.  I love being there.  I always leave feeling better, no matter how I felt when I got there.

The first time I went there, it was to meet someone to discuss a job.  And as I said, I liked it as soon as I walked in.

I continued going whenever I got the chance.

Fabulous coffee, good food, great atmosphere. What’s not to love?

But it was more than that.

It was the people.

People having conversations with each other.

People sharing a part of their day with people they may have just met.

They have undergone a few changes since I started going there. New owner, new location. But those changes have only helped it become even better.

The new location is perfect. Exposed brick walls. Hardwood floors. It’s warm and inviting. It feels a bit like home.

The food is still delicious.

And most importantly, the coffee is still fabulous!

The people. Oh my goodness, the people.

Juliet, the owner, who is one of the nicest people I have ever met. Truly a beautiful person.

Sara, who works there too. Such a sweetheart.

The regulars: Steve and Cathy, Peter, Jim, Fred, Rick, Peter, Junior. And others I’ve seen there, but don’t remember their names.

We sit around, often sharing a large table, drinking our coffees (or tea or whatever), and talking.  Talking about anything and everything. Sharing stories, comparing notes, making each other laugh.  We pause occasionally to order a refill or get some food, but then continue.  We work on crossword and sudoku puzzles. Occasionally answering messages on our phones or tablets. But always talking.

A seemingly random group of people, who may not have met otherwise, sitting in a coffee shop sharing part of their lives with each other, creating friendships.

And I always, always leave there with a smile on my face and a warm glow in my heart.

This is just one of the reasons why I love Urban Escape Cafe.

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My friend Heather

If we are lucky, we have at least a few dear friends throughout our lifetime.

If we are very lucky, we find a friend like my friend Heather.

Heather and I have not known each other long, yet it feels like we’ve known each other forever.  We met a few months ago because we work for the same person, Nick Foley.  I have been working with Nick’s company Celebrate the Hero for almost 2 years; Heather has been working with him on his non-profit Move for Inclusion.  And for the last few months, I have been working with Nick and Heather on Move for Inclusion as well.  And that’s how Heather and I met.

I have to say that I liked her immediately.  She is one of those people that always seems to be smiling, and her smile just lights up the room.  And when she walks into a room, people just seem to gravitate to her.  At least that’s how it seemed to me.

Generally, I’m a shy person.  It takes awhile for me to open up to people, to get to know them, to let them get to know me.  But every once in awhile, I meet someone that is different; someone that I just connect with.  Heather is someone like that.

It’s kind of hard to explain.  We just seemed to click.  I found it easy to talk to her.  We can talk about anything and everything.  And she seemed to actually listen to what I was saying … I mean really listen.  To be honest, that doesn’t seem to happen often enough.  I’m sure we’ve all had instances where we are talking to someone but you can tell they just aren’t really listening.  I’ve been with Heather on several occasions when she’s been talking to others, and she always seems to really listen to them.  She makes people feel like they are the most important thing in the world at that moment.  It’s really quite amazing.

Heather and I seemed to have quite a bit in common, which is always nice to find.  And we work well together too.  We are serious when we need to be, but also love to joke around and have fun.

Heather has a such a beautiful heart.  You can tell how much she cares about everyone.  She’s kind, gentle, loving, and caring.  She’s funny, fun-loving, and silly.  She’s generous with her time and attention.  And she’s very smart, too.   She’s just an all-around amazing person.  She makes the world a better place just by being in it.  And she inspires me to be a better person.

I’m happy we met.

I’m happy we work together.

But most of all, I’m happy to call her my friend.

 

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Mission: Offer Support

Originally, when I started writing this post, I was going to talk about how I offer support to those around me.  Whether it be sending them a quick note on facebook, sending them a card, offering to buy us coffee, or just letting them know I’m around if they ever need anything.  I had planned on giving several examples of things I’ve done recently.

But then things changed.

I found myself in need of support.

And my friends rallied.

It was amazing.

I had planned to go away this weekend to visit friends in Arizona.  I was scheduled to fly out Thursday afternoon, May 1st.   My husband is an accountant, and they always have May 1st off, so that’s why I scheduled my flight that day.  It had been raining on and off for a couple of days, but the weather looked pretty good for that afternoon.

We headed to Toronto (the closest airport) in the morning, stopping for coffee and gas along the way.  It had been sprinkling a little when we stopped.  After we got back on the road, it started raining harder.  A few minutes after getting back on the road, my husband lost control of the car.  We began fishtailing.  He tried to regain control, but couldn’t.  We headed into the ditch and rolled.  I took the brunt of the impact because we landed on my side first.  I remember my window shattering.  I had been looking towards my husband, so I did not get hit in the face with the glass.  I had been bracing myself with my hands, so that’s where I got cut.  When we came to a stop, the car was resting on the driver’s side.  Thankfully we were both wearing our seat belts.  I remember my husband screaming through the entire crash.  Once we stopped, I did my best to calm him down.  It happened so quick, yet it felt almost like slow motion.  My cell phone was in my left pocket.  I had my husband grab it so we could call for help.  He was in a shock, I think, and couldn’t figure out how to call out on it. (We have different types of phones — I have an iPhone, he has a Blackberry).  He handed it to me and I called 911.   The lady who answered was really nice.  Her name was Rachel.  I explained what happened and where we were.  She asked a couple of questions as she sent for help for us.  She stayed on the phone with me until they arrived.  We were in between towns, so help came from both.  The police arrived first, followed very quickly by the paramedics and the fire department.

They talked to us through my broken window.  They were trying to figure out how to get us out safely.  Eventually, one of the paramedics opened the back of the car (it’s a Hyundai Tuscon), and crawled in.  They had removed all the stuff from the back, cut the seat belts to get them out of the way, and laid the backseat down.  They were going to try to get my husband out first, but no one could reach the lever to lay his seat back.  So we decided to try to get me out first.  They laid my seat back, cut my seat belt so I could move.  I very carefully moved my legs out and stepped down near my husband.  I carefully stepped over him towards the back.  At that point, he was able to get out of his seat.  After a couple of minutes, I was able to walk out the back of the car, followed shortly by my husband.  Once I stepped out, 2 paramedics grabbed a hold of me to walk me to the ambulance.  I had remained pretty calm the whole time, but once I was out of the car, I lost it.  I’m pretty sure if I had not had those paramedics holding on to me, I would have fallen into the mud.  I walked to the ambulance and climbed in under my own power.  I never looked back at the car.  They started asking me questions, like my name and birth date, and taking my vital signs.  After what seemed like forever, we headed to the hospital.  My husband was in a different ambulance.  I found out later that he too, walked out of the car and to the ambulance under his own power.

Once at the hospital, we were seen quickly by the people in triage and registration.  One of my first thoughts was to call my friend who I was going to see.  I was shaking terribly from the accident.  I called Jeff and after saying that it was me calling, the next thing I said to him was “Don’t Panic!”  I explained we had been in car accident on the way to the airport.  We were at the hospital, but okay.  I said I would call him later when I had more information.

We were at the hospital for a couple of hours.  I had to get a tetanus shot.  My right shoulder and hand were really hurting, so they did x-rays to be safe.   I was covered in mud.  My husband was covered in mud and coffee.  But we were okay.  We walked away from it.  Relatively speaking, it was a minor accident.  We have minor cuts and bruises, me moreso than him.  But we walked away.

We also spoke with the police while we were there.  No other cars were involved, which was good.  We found out that back tires were nearly bald, which is probably why we lost control.  Or at least partly why.  They gave us a copy of the police report.

My husband’s office is only a couple of blocks from the hospital we were at, so after they said we could go, we walked down to his office.  He called the insurance company; I called my travel agent and travel insurance company.  I also messaged my friend to let him know what was going on.  I had thought still trying to make my trip, but in the end, we agreed it was probably best to cancel and rebook for a later date.

After being there for a couple of hours, we called my husband’s best friend.  He explained about the accident, and his best friend left work early to come pick us up.  He was very concerned, but happy to hear we were both okay.

After we got home, I posted on my Facebook that we were okay, but that we had been in an accident.  I gave only a few details.  Almost immediately, I got messages back, expressing concern, asking if were okay, asking if we needed anything.  Some people asked what had happened.  All day messages came in.  Some who had not seen the initial posting, but heard about it later, posted messages on my wall.  One friend offered to stop by the next day with some coffee and to see if I was okay.  The outpouring of love and support from our friends and family was awesome.  Messages and phone calls are still coming in.

That day started with such promise.

Then the unexpected happened.

And then the most wonderful things happened.  Our friends and family may not realize the effect their simple words had, but I’ll never forget.  They took the time to offer their support in our time of need, and I will always be grateful for that.  When we needed them, they were there.  Even from far away, they were there.

I have always tried to be there for my friends whenever they have needed me.  Letting them know I will always be there, no matter what.

And when my husband and I needed them, they were there.  Without question.  With great concern for us.  They were there.

When we needed the support of the police, paramedics, and fire department, they were there within minutes.

When we needed the support of the staff at the hospital, they were there.

My point is this:   We all need support at one time or another.  Always do your best to offer support to others because you never know when you’ll need that support back.

It doesn’t have to be big.  Just a kind word.  Ask how they are.  Offer to stop by for a short visit.  Invite them out for coffee or even just a walk around the neighbourhood.  Let them know you are there for them.

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It’s been 2 years

2012 was a big year for me.  As it would turn out, a pivotal one in my journey.

I started going to the gym in January.  It was the first time in more than 20 years.  And the only thing I could really do was walk on the treadmill.

It was the first year of Quinte’s Biggest Loser.

I made some new friends that year.  Liz, Matt, Amy, Aidan, Andreas, Karen, and others.  All of whom have become important to me.

I started taking classes at the gym in March.  The first time ever.

2012 introduced me to a new genre of books, and I feel in love.  I don’t know why I never read fantasy books before, but at least I’m reading them now.  I’ve read books by Guy Gavriel Kay, Patrick Rothfuss, Daniel Abraham, and others.  Guy Gavriel Kay is now one of my favourite authors of all time, and some of his books are on my list of favourites of all time.

2012 brought me to the world of races in July.  I may have only walked my very first one, and I may have only done 1 that year, but I’m kind of hooked on them now.  And I hope I will just keep getting better at them.

2012 found me having the greatest success in my journey up to that point.  I had lost more weight than I ever had before.  I found strength I never knew I had.  I was feeling better than I ever had in my entire life.

2012 found me facing new challenges.

The gym I had joined at the beginning of the year was forced to close.  I had only been there 6 months.  I was devastated.  I wasn’t sure I would be comfortable anywhere else.  But I quickly found a new gym that I liked and was comfortable at.

For many years, I used food for comfort and for dealing with stress.  I had to find a new way to deal with that.  I did, although some days it’s still a struggle.

2012 is also the year I met Tyler, who would become an intricate part of my journey.

He was teaching the stretch class I started taking at the gym.  A couple weeks later, I added a second class he was teaching.  He was funny and a little goofy.  I was very nervous when I started the classes.  I couldn’t do a lot of the exercises, but I always tried.  Tyler made me feel very at ease, very comfortable.  I liked that.

I found out he was a personal trainer.  A few weeks after taking his classes, I asked him if he was taking new clients.  I was scared to ask.  Lucky for me, he said yes. We arranged a time to get together.

2 years ago today, we had our first workout together.

I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure how much he would be able to help me, but I knew I needed some help.

He changed my life in more ways that I ever thought possible.

He showed me I was capable of much more than I realized.

He helped me build confidence I didn’t know I had.

He helped open my eyes to a world I didn’t think I could be a part of.

And beyond being my trainer, he has become a very dear friend.

For all that and so much more, I thank him every day.

Thank you, Tyler, for everything … for all that I thanked you for last year, for all that you’ve done since, and for all you continue to do.  I’m lucky to have you in my life, both as my trainer and as my friend.

Happy Anniversary.

 

 

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Run for Reece

This morning I walked/jogged my 3rd race of the year. It was the annual Run for Reece, which is put on by my friend Karen Walsh in memory of her son who died of SMA. This race has special meaning for me. First because it’s run by my friend; and Second because it was my first EVER race when I walked it in 2012.

When I did this race last year, I was incredibly nervous. I didn’t know if I was ready to do races. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be ready until this year. But my friends convinced me to try any way. I’m glad I did. It was the hottest/humidist day of July when we did it last year. And I walked the whole thing. It took me 1:28:58, but I crossed the finish line. I was so proud of myself!

I had been looking forward to today for a while. I was excited to see my friends and maybe make some new ones. And while I was hoping to beat my time from last year, I told myself that what’s important is to finish regardless of the time. But last week I started having issues with my right foot. I was freaking out because I didn’t want to miss the race. As it turned out, my foot is okay, just putting too much pressure on my arch. I got arch supports for my shoes, which are helping. And I’ve slowed down my speed on the treadmill. So I was all set for this morning.

I had a hard time sleeping last night. Nerves I guess. And the alarm seemed to go off way too early this morning. But I got up, showered, dressed in a new racing outfit I purchased, had a good breakfast, and killed some time online. Karen picked me up early so I could help with registration. The closer it got to race time, the more nervous I seemed to get. That’s a normal reaction apparently LOL. At least according to some of my friends who do lots of these races.

I chatted with my friends as they showed up. I was bouncing around trying to warm up my muscles so I could start the race jogging. There felt like a herd of butterflies in my stomach. Ya, I know that’s not right. A group of butterflies is not a herd, but they felt like a herd this morning.

Karen leads us in a little warm up, then gives a little speech. And then we are off running/walking/slogging! I’m the last of the crowd, but I don’t care. I have some tunes blasting in my ears and I’m trying to keep myself going. I jog for a few minutes but have to switch to walking. Thankfully the weather gods decided it does not need to be incredibly hot or humid today. It was a beautiful morning and a little breezy. Perfect weather for a race if you ask me. Anyway, I try to walk a few minutes and jog a few minutes, but it becomes too much so I just walk as fast as I can. Eventually I came upon a woman who is doing the race for the first time and she’s unsure of the route. We walk along together and I explain the route. We chat about everything along the way. We encourage each other to keep going. We make the loop around the park and head back the way we came. People that did the 10k are passing us know. As we near the end, I point out where the home stretch starts. We decide to jog to the finish line. We round the corner and start jogging. She’s a little ahead of me but that’s ok. My friends see me coming and start cheering. I love it! Who doesn’t like having their own cheering section!

Then I see the time clock. OMG! I’m going to finish in under an hour! Holy crap! I seriously didn’t think I was going to. I mean it was my goal, but because I wasn’t able to do at much jogging, I didn’t think I was going to do it. And I did it!! I crossed the finish line in 58:18. My best outdoor walk/run yet!! And my treadmill time is only slightly better. I was nearly in tears as I crossed. I kept moving so my muscles would have a chance to cool down. Friends are still cheering for me. I feel incredible. My foot was hurting but I didn’t care at that moment. I crossed the finish line and had a great time. What a day. What an amazingly fabulous day.

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I promise …

Dear Tyler,

I’m not gonna lie, I’m worried. This new change is scary. While I’m excited for you, and proud of you, I’m also sad because I’ll miss you. While I’m excited to see how this new system works, I’m scared of failing and disappointing you. I know there will be a period of adjustment, for both of us, as we figure it all out. With that said, I want to make you a few promises.

I promise to always do my best.

I promise to push myself as hard as I can.

I promise to eat as clean as I can and keep my food journal going.

I promise to talk to you when I’m having difficulties.

I promise to try not to be so hard on myself.

I promise to keep you up to date on my progress.

I promise to do my best to make you proud.

I promise not to give up.

I still have a long way to go on my journey, and I hope you will be there to see me through it. I think we make a good team. I’m anxious to see just how far we can go.

I wish you much success. I hope you have a great time. Know that you will be greatly missed. And I look forward to when you come home.

Always,
Jenn

P.S. My friend Liz wants me to write this letter to myself. Read it to myself and see how it changes how I see me.

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GUEST POST – The benefits of friendship and support systems

I asked my friend Sarah to write a guest post for my blog. This is what she sent me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 🙂

Thank you, Sarah. You’re awesome, my friend.

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The Benefits of Friendship and Support Systems

I have always had the idea in my mind that having support when starting a fitness journey was not an essential part of the process. I never thought much of having a workout buddy or that there would be benefits to having someone there trucking along right beside you through the pain and gain. This all changed when I met Jenn. We very quickly established a strong friendship. I soon realized how wrong I had been with my thought process. Jenn is kind, caring and listens to all the struggles I go through. She understands how hard this journey can be because she is experiencing it herself. After Jenn, I started to meet other people who were like minded at the gym and were always willing to give me helpful advice and support. Without Jenn and these other great supporters in my life, I would not be able to get through as easily as I have. They make the journey fun, exciting and glorious.

Having strong friendships create your support system. These people listen to your concerns, help you create alternative plans if something isn’t working, comforts you through struggles and pain and they give you a sense of belonging and happiness. They help you change unhealthy lifestyle habits and encourage you to give better ones a try.

This being said, these kinds of friendships and relationships do not happen by themselves, it takes effort. Just as much as you need them, they need you. The enjoyment and comfort friendship can provide, however, makes the investment worthwhile.

So I want to thank Jenn for opening up my eyes to my new mantra. She made my belief possible and continues to be a wonderful friend in life and my fitness journey.

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My friend Liz

I truly believe that everyone in your life is there for a reason. Sometimes it’s because you need them; sometimes it’s because they need you; and sometimes it’s because you need each other. If you’re very lucky, the universe will send you someone like my friend Liz. I’ve mentioned her briefly in a couple of posts, but she deserves a whole post of her own.

I met Liz last year, the first day of the first season of Quinte’s Biggest Loser. We both attended a nutrition class they were offering at the hospital. We happen to sit near each other and we struck up a conversation. It was as easy as that. What I didn’t understand then was the universe decided to give me one of the most amazing, funny, smart, lovable, beautiful, down-to-earth, crazy friends a person could ever have! Liz is the type of person that lights up a room as soon as she enters it. Feeling down? Liz knows just the right thing to say to bring you up. Got a problem? Liz has a way of seeing things that you may not have thought of. Need to relax, let loose, and/or maybe do something a little crazy? Liz can help with that!

Liz is a blogger as well. You can read her blog here. She writes about, well, everything really. And she’s one of the best writers I know. I aspire to write like her. She writes with such passion, such emotion. It’s simply beautiful. No other way to describe it really.

I’ve been a bit stressed out lately. I’ve had a lot going on. And lucky for me, Liz has been there to listen to me complain and offer some friendly advice, along with plenty of laughs. Just being around her makes me feel better, makes me feel like things will get better. Everyone needs a friend like that. I don’t know if she realizes that impact she has on others. She truly is a special person. And I’m honoured to call her my friend. My life … heck, the whole world is a better place with her in it.

Thank you Liz for everything, for all that you are, and for being my friend. You rock socks. Rock. Socks. 😉

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