Just me

I don’t know if it is something that happens to every one, or even every woman, but at some point in this last bit of my 20’s, I’ve really grown to like me.

Just me, as I am. Right now.

I know it sounds silly, or like I am boasting, but I’m not. I have lots of demons and areas of myself that I know need a shit ton of work and things about my being that I would rather not have to face. But I do. And I am.

Constantly.

What I mean by really liking me, is that I really like who I am growing into. I really enjoy my own company and find myself craving more time alone. I am really comfortable with myself today, even more so than yesterday and even more so than the day before that.

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It’s an evolution I am enjoying the more and more I learn and understand about life from a spiritual perspective, a topic which is sometimes met with eye rolls and sighs. A few that are closest to me have started to referring to me as a hippie when I speak about being more conscious and awake or the adventures I get up to – a title I am fine with because I know what they mean and that they mean it with love. I have come to the realization that people can only meet you as far as they have grown themselves and that is okay. I have also noted on this journey that when some people cannot accept you for who you are or struggle with who you’ve grown into, it is okay to know their time in your story might be coming to an end.

I am okay with not being normal or what is expected. I am aware that I am a bit different and it feels good to me. I am enjoying being in a place where I can look back and say, I have come so far from who I was and I’m getting even closer to who I really am.

In fact, if you met me last year and then met me again today, I would bet you would say, “You’ve changed”, and I bet I would laugh and say “Thank you”. It would be even more apparent if we were close in a past life and you met me today…if you’ve not been here for the past few years, you definitely do not have a clue who I am anymore. And I am pretty cool with that.

This whole idea began spinning in my head this past holiday Monday. A last minute change in Michael’s schedule meant our plans for a few nights away were no longer an option, leaving me to find my own entertainment for what should have been a holiday Monday for him too. The let down of Michael not hanging out with me definitely bummed me out, but I was not against a day alone.

Now, early 20’s Toni, I will admit, would have panicked a bit about not having anything planned to fill my day with or people to hang out with and it would have been a scramble to try to fill the space with shenanigans with a girlfriend or sister. Late 20’s Toni though, she’s got this. Instantly I began to think of all of the places I have been wanting to explore but either hadn’t made the time or had a willing partner.

Michael started work at noon, so we spent a lazy morning together in bed, had breakfast and coffee and then off to work for him and upstairs to pack a bag for me.

I had no idea where I was going to head, so I threw in a sweater, a sports bra, shorts and extra tank, a bikini, book, towel, earphones, some water and snacks. I grabbed my hiking boots, a pair of sneakers and threw on my flip-flops.

Instead of worrying about directions or a GPS, I just got in the Runner and drove.

I drove myself straight to the coast of Lake Huron and parked there for hours. I read, wandered, laid out in the sun and grabbed a beer by myself in a small town along the way. I didn’t pay attention to my phone, I didn’t take a single picture to capture the beauty of my day and I barely spoke a word to another soul all day.

It was perfect and peaceful and my soul felt full by the end.

During the drive home I started to think of how many other people I know would do such a thing on a day of freedom. I also started to think about how much I had enjoyed my day. How much I needed my day, and my very own company.

Just me.

It made me very aware that while I do love the companionship of my man, my friends and especially my sisters, there are just some days when you need to sit alone with yourself for a bit and be comfortable with whatever you find, good or bad.

As I was finishing up with this post, the most suitable email from Elephant Journal floated across my screen and it read:

“No matter where you go or what you do you are always yourself.
There is nothing you can ever do, nothing you can wear,
no story you can tell that will change the basic fact of who you are.
Instead of running from it, accept it, trust it, embrace it,
love it because it’s all you’ve got.
” ~ Kino MacGregor

I am okay with me.

Just me, as I am. Right now.

~ Toni

A Call for Change

Before I get too far into this post, I would like to preface it with this:

I have the utmost respect for the police, the people behind the badge, the sacrifices they make that I simply could not and for keeping us safe. Seriously. I mean no disrespect to the honour they stand for, the lives they give up to serve and the horrors that I can only imagine they have seen as first responders and the mental health weight they carry from their role serving our communities. I especially mean no slight to those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives in the line of duty.

I am not a cop, I have never been in a situation that required my response rate and ability to make life altering decisions within seconds and I have no idea what it is like to be faced with situations like this.

I would also like to preface this with not being or claiming to be God and therefore unable to truly know all of the events leading up to and during the horrific incident that occurred in LA on Skid Row this past Sunday. This is not a post about race. This is not a post against our brave men in blue. This is not a post taking a stand or a side with or against anyone.

That being said, it is a post about this:

What I have a problem with are the four, fair-sized men, armed with multiple weapons and professional training – some of the worlds best and finest as we are told – losing control of one man. One man that while/shortly after being tazed to the ground was apparently able to manage the energy and strength to wrestle an officer’s weapon from them – in some accounts he only reached for it and did not actually have hold of the weapon. What I have a problem with is the man who was fatally shot was known to officers as was his history and struggle with mental illness. What I have a problem with is the way it seems lives are ranked in order of importance in a situation such as this – determining that the homeless man deserved to die for resisting and struggling with FIVE shots being fired at him, into him. That the officers chose to shoot FIVE bullets into an unarmed man. I have a problem with this being the solution. FIVE shots. Over what one witness claims was the repeated request for the removal of his tent. Here’s where I had to ask myself; How do unarmed nurses, orderlies and doctors deal with mentally ill patients that are clearly out of control or physically threatening them or another patient? And how do they stay safe without killing them? They tactically take them down by each grabbing a limb – in ignorance of never being through it, is this not part of basic training for the police?

I do not understand where our society went wrong. When this type of response became acceptable. When this level of violence, of force was a reasonable reaction to this kind of situation. When did this story become more and more familiar as we become numb to it. And while I do understand that the media tailors the main stream news to whatever cause or conflict they would like us to be fearful over at the moment, I also understand that the role of an officer is to ‘serve and protect’ the people of a community – it seems the many kinds and characters it takes to make up said communities is sometimes forgotten, specifically the mentally ill. When a man pleads for his life stating he can’t breathe, or a child raises their hands in surrender, or a homeless man struggles with police in broad daylight, yet their lives are still swiftly taken, I cringe that this is a world where I live. That this is the reality of our society today. That we agree this is how a ‘crime’ should or even can be punished.  The extremeness of our society scares me, as it should you.

Our jobs, regardless of earthly occupation should we ever be so humbly reminded, are to take care of each other. To look after and watch over one another. For the lions to protect the lambs – may they be children, mentally ill, senior, challenged in any way, your sibling who is overwhelmed, a friend that struggles with addiction, the hungry that need to be fed. Our roles as souls, as human beings, are to love one another and help each other thrive, heal and LIVE.

Our roles are to find peace and harmony, not perpetuate and accept fear, life-ending violence and judgement.

What made this life worth less than any other?

What made this life worth less than any other?

My heart hurts because it seems there has been very little conversation about what happened on Sunday. It hurts because on the third anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s senseless death, this society seemed more interested in starting actual arguments over the colours of a dumb dress then having any real conversation about our obligation to fix what we have accepted and therefore, have broke. My heart hurts that I am even a little worried at how this post is going to be received, because I know the majority of people don’t want to hear the truth or talk about the hard shit, or deal with the reality of where we are headed as a society. We would all rather talk about the colours of a dress and pretend that what is happening is just what they show us on TV and not what is occurring in our own backyards and in the streets of our own communities as it hits closer and closer to home.

As I said earlier, I am not God, nor do I claim to be – all we have is a bit of unclear video. I was not a direct witness to the details of this past Sunday, nor do I think we will ever have all of the information, as we see in cases such as this. I do not claim to have the answers, but I do have the feeling in my soul that this level of violence and response is unacceptable and that if is not addressed, curbed and improved upon, it will only continue to evolve beyond any solution, if it hasn’t already.

~ Toni

February check-in

Ah, February. My sweetheart month.

It’s my favourite for the obvious reasons, as it is my birthday month, but also because it’s a good check-in month for any goals or resolutions that you may have set for your 2015.

From a health and fitness perspective, it’s far enough into the year to see a pattern or a trend beginning, and  still fresh enough to know where you’ve strayed or started to fall back into old habits. If you let it go much longer, you may not get back on track and then find yourself staring down another New Year, starting over, again.

I find it a good time to take look at your habits – an honest, hard look of course – and see where you need improvement or change that just isn’t happening in order to reach your goals.

No matter what you find – whether you’re more off-track than you thought, or you’re kicking 2015’s ass – I’ve got a few tried, tested and true pointers for keeping yourself on track and helping you to make permanent lifestyle choices that will benefit you long-term.

1. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, right away: Think of this like a marriage, but instead of a partner, the lifelong commitment is to yourself. Think of it as a choice you make every day, until it’s just second nature to life more healthfully, making a small change until it is habit and then making another small change until it’s habit, and so on. Building towards a goal or just improving your standard of living overall is more sustainable this way, and you’re more likely to be a success story than if you tackle everything (diet, exercise, quitting smoking, etc), all at once. The trick is to improve without overwhelming yourself.

2. Do what works for you, but MOVE: It really doesn’t matter what you choose for your method of physical activity, whether that be lifting weights at the gym, sweating it out in Moksha Yoga, running a half-marathon, going for a walk, or grabbing some girlfriends and heading out for a hike – just MOVE. As a society we lack movement from sitting all day in a chair at a desk, craning your neck while hunched over your smartphone, or laying on the couch watching television. We sit and slouch and lay far beyond what our bodies were ever meant to. Do you live in town, but drive to the store? Figure out a way to walk more, cutting out on drive time.  Hiding inside because it’s cold? Bundle up and get outside! Winter is so enjoyable when properly dressed! Move.

Mike and I went on a challenging 6 hour hike for this sight... Totally worth it.

Mike and I went on a challenging 6-hour hike for this sight. Totally worth it.

3. Patience: Big changes will take time. It really is true what they say, “The bigger the struggle, the better the blessing.” You’ll be really surprised by what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it, give yourself grace and credit for your effort, dig in and do the work. Remind yourself that the bad habits you’re trying to improve upon didn’t only take a day to become bad habits and that it will take time to get it right. You will wake up one day and wonder why you didn’t start sooner, or why you were so scared being so unhappy with your situation. It’s incredibly rewarding to look back and see how far you’ve come in such little time, with so much more ahead of you now.

4. Educate yourself: Not only about which form of movement is right for you, but also what you’re fueling and recharging your body with. For this, you’re going to have to get a little uncomfortable and learn how food is made, processed and what you’re injesting. Some of your favourite foods are poisoning you, slowly but surely. Refined white sugar is in the majority of processed foods and is directly linked with obesity and a multitude of other health issues and diseases – my reading more about this has Mike holding his breath knowing our eating habits are going to start changing…again. The more you know, the more you will subconsciously start making better decisions when it comes down to your plate.

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5. Find your people: I cannot stress this one enough – get a buddy, or if you’re lucky like me, a whole group of like-minded people that ‘get it’, are determined for themselves and provide good team support and encouragement. If you have strength in numbers, it will be easier to feel accountable and inspired to reach your goals. Personally this helps to trigger my commitment to myself too, knowing I’ve got some kickass people cheering me on in my corner.

Some of my people on a sunrise hike

Some of my people on a sunrise hike

What about you? What are your favourite tips for staying on track in these pesky winter months? Wherever you are in your health and fitness journey, I wish you continued determination, drive and success for all of your 2015 goals.

~ Toni

Thankful changes

This year has been insane.

It has been full of changes and new beginnings, scary and exciting.

It has also been a year of finding the things to be thankful in times of darkness, and in times of turmoil.

I am thankful for so much, and sad about so much that it leaves me boggled, but this post going to be about the former.

Love and friendships
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I have found so many new people to love.

We found a new family at the shop, I have grown closer to Joe’s aunts and Grandpa, and made new friends. I have solidified old friendships, and all existing relationships are stronger than ever. I am so thankful for every one, and trust me the list is long. I have had so much support and love from so many different people that it’s hard to actually express how thankful I truly am for them and what have done for us.

Sisters

And I get to have my sisters there at my back! So lucky!

And I get to have my sisters there at my back! So lucky!

We haven’t always been close, but because of the distance, and missing them, I have been able to grow up a lot, and to learn who they are and what it really means to have sisters. I have, in the past, kept them at arms length, and I am so thankful and so blessed that they never once gave up on me, and now our relationships are so strong and so wonderful. They are always at my back, always are so supportive, and are always there for me…whether I need them or not. I love you all.

Parents
I have so many parents. SO many I can’t list them all. They all guide me and are there for me, and love me and Joe. We have so many parents spanning from back home, to the one we created 2 and 1/2 hours away that wherever we go, they got our back.

Change
I usually am not the biggest fan of changes, in fact it kinda freaks me out when there is a landslide of new changes in the mix. Moving back home is hard, but it’s a chance for a new adventure, new paths, and new growth. Although I am worried that things may not turn out well, I know that we will be able to make it work, whatever comes our way.

Joe

Joe lets me be weird, and he is just as weird as me!

Joe lets me be weird, and he is just as weird as me!

He is my rock, my love, my best friend, and my light. He makes happy when I am sad, always is there for me, and always loves me, even when I am being ridiculous. He is my partner, and my confidante. He is my smile. I never thought I would find someone, and for them to be just what I need in any given moment and situation? I can say that I am truly blessed.

Elena

Elena's role!

Elena’s role!

She is my kindred spirit and my other-other half. She is best friends with Joe, is always there for me, my road trip buddy, and my awesome more-than-friend friend. I can’t actually explain how much Elena means to me…and Joe. She is always a support, a shoulder to lean on, and a hand to hold – a true soul mate of mine. I couldn’t have done everything that happened in this past year without her.

I am eternally thankful for everything on this list, and more.

~ Andreah

“So, what’s new with you?”

This question has been posed to me a lot lately, and honestly things have been up in the air so I was usually too stumped to answer.

A lot has happened in the past few weeks that I didn’t want anyone to know until Joe and I had figured it out and decided what we were going to do. After the deadline we set for ourselves hit its mark this past weekend, we had our answer.

We are moving back home, for me at least.

We are leaving some family to move back to another, and this is one of the hardest decisions of our lives, but we are solid, together and we are going back with our eyes open.

But, here’s what I’m feeling.

I’m confused, hurt, scared, excited, happy, angry, and just stressing myself in the end, but what else is new?

I’m confused because I still don’t know if this is the right decision.

I’m hurt because I feel like I am hurting other people, which is not true, because seriously everyone has been supportive, awesome, and honest as to their opinions.

Excited because the sisters really are excited about me coming home.

Happy because Joe and I decided this, and decided this together.

Stressing myself out, because it’s me and I can get a lot melodramatic at things.

In the end, though, this decision is just going to lead us in another direction we just didn’t think of. Edison found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb, but he never once said he failed.
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I don’t think that this is a failure, this is not us running away, and this is not us being just scared.

This is just a decision we are making that is showing us a new route of possibilities.

Every big or small decision leads us to different roads and routes. Even Google maps has alternative routes to include things you may need or want to be a part of along the way.

We had to get to this decision as a couple, but Joe says that he came to this conclusion before me.

Joe says that, “The cards weren’t there, but we have a new hand and we will see how this hand plays out.”

I’m thankful for everyone who loves us. We know you will always love us no matter what.

~ Andreah