Hug a terrorist

In high school, I clearly remember being taught that Canada is this beautiful land, full of different cultures and people, and that everyone added their heritage and history to our tapestry, making Canada a unique mosaic of people. And in the next breath, of course, we were taught that America, our southern neighbour, was a melting pot, where people’s histories and heritages were obliterated in a steamrolling of assimilation.

It might be true. And it might be false. The reality, though, is that these are polarizing ideas and they leave little room for exception. There is proof of racism and the demand for assimilation here in Canada, perpetuated even by our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who is demanding Muslim women not be allowed to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies. And there is proof of acceptance and ‘mosaic’ behaviour from our American neighbours, like the conversation-igniting campaign that Starbucks tried to tackle with their #RaceTogether scrawls on cups.

Regardless of where we live, what nationality we are currently claiming as ours, or how we choose to identify ourselves, we all have the same thing in common: we are all human. And this fact, again, regardless of anything else, is the most important and often the least remembered piece of any country’s puzzle.

A young Muslim woman, Assma Galuta, is trying to tackle the gap between reality and perception when it comes to race. She runs a YouTube channel where she posts filmed social experiments she has conducted. Her experiments challenge what people ‘know’ or ‘say’ about the Muslim faith and people, and what is real. Her focus is the universal commonality: we are all human.

In her first experiment, she asked people to finish her poster where she had written, “I am a Muslim, so that makes me…” She herself had put “kind” and “terrorist,” both terms that had been used to describe Assma in the past. Then, she stands on the street, asking people to write what they think a Muslim is.

The result is heartwarming – everyone who takes the time to write on her poster, leaves words of positivity and humanity. And most of them apologize for the word ‘terrorist’. It’s a nice story and a good news item for Canadians…at least, for a handful of Torontonians. The truth, is, though, she has been called a terrorist. She has experienced what she calls, Islamophobia, and hate directed at her because of her dress, her religion and her belief system. The reason for the experiment still exists – people mistreat people who are different, who act differently, who aren’t like them, instead of treating them as they really are: human.

In her second experiment, Assma blindfolds a Muslim man, Mustafa Malwa, complete with brown skin and beard, and puts two signs beside him. One reads: “I am a Muslim. I am labelled as a terrorist.” The other reads: “I trust you. Do you trust me? Give me a hug.”

Again, the response is hopeful – people walk up to him and hug him – men, women, other Muslims, white people, black people, HUMAN people. And it’s a shining ray of light in the dark days of young, black, unarmed men getting shot without provocation, of mosques getting vandalized, and of Jewish cemeteries getting defaced.

But, of course, this is not everyone. Not every person hugs him. Not every person will trust him. Not everyone can look at him and not see a terrorist.

And this is not a small thing.

It is in the way that the media handles violent attacks, labeling some terrorist and others not. Looking for mental illness and reason behind a murder of 149 people instead of looking for a religious political slant on a horrific plane crash because the pilot who downed the plane was white.

It is in the way we handle any difference, reacting in fear when we see a line of people waiting for a bus simply because they all have a different colour of face than we do. Being suspicious of someone because their skin is darker and their hair is longer and their outfit is something we’d never wear. Judging people simply because of their appearance, their religious affiliation, their beliefs, and their ancestry.

It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. So what can we do? How can we combat stereotyping, and culture-phobia, and hate speech? How can we stop perpetuating false ideas about other religions, other cultures, other ethnicities?

I would like to propose a social experiment. I won’t record it and I won’t post it. It won’t go viral online with millions of views and hits on YouTube. But I’d still like to give it a go, because I’m unsure what else I can do, as a privileged white woman living in Southern Ontario.

Assma Galuta's favourite quote.

Assma Galuta’s favourite quote.

I’d like to challenge you to see every person you come across as human. Not as black or brown or white or pink or purple or blue. Not as fat or gay or ugly or gorgeous or thin or fit or heterosexual. Not as a stranger or a friend or a neighbour or a fellow shopper. But as human. Notice their human-ness, what makes them the same as you, what makes them a person, what gives them the right to have all the necessities of life and the right to live it fully. Notice their breath, their heartbeat, their movement, their presence. Notice them. Notice other human beings. And focus on that piece of the melting pot or the mosaic or the country that you’re in. Stop noticing the difference and start embracing, and in some instances, literally hugging, the humans around you. Because they are just like you.

~ Julia

A day in the life: Toni edition

This theme was an idea proposed to us by our Julia and at first I thought it would be a cute/light/fluffy/standard kind of post and was pretty excited to have an assignment.

But then it turned into a sub-conscience review of how I’ve been spending my time and where I dedicate myself.

Usually, I am a well balanced citizen – I work 8-10 hours a day in a Monday-Friday, office job. I exercise regularly, squeezing in a run and a workout as often as possible. I cook a healthy, hearty meal for whoever happens to be in the house that evening, or join a few girlfriends for a bite if Michael is working.

However lately it has been a bit of a gross imbalance and I’ve been a bit more of a workaholic then I normally am. There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, so I’m digging in, taking a page from my hero of overtime and putting in the work required.

That being said and without further ado, a day in the life of current Toni:

I usually set my alarm and successfully wake around 6:00am without issue, earlier if I am ambitious enough to squeeze in a morning run. But lately…

I can't believe I actually operated my camera properly... Already 10 min of snooze activated

I can’t believe I actually operated my camera properly… Already 10 min of snooze activated

Yes, I have to set two alarms, one iPod, one phone. I'm the worst.

Yes, I have to set two alarms, one iPod, one phone. I’m the worst.

When I ACTUALLY got into the shower :/

When I ACTUALLY got into the shower :/

In my defence, it is hard to leave this face, which without fail is sprawled out beside me (all person-like) every morning.

My gorgeous girl

My gorgeous girl

I’ve become a master of the braid for simplicity sake, but on this particular morning I was lucky enough to have showered post-run the night before which gave me a bit of time to properly get ready.

After a quick body shower for a wake up, I grab my makeup bag and wait for the first interruption of my day…

She's baaaack

She’s baaaack

Without fail, Adrian wakes up and wanders into our washroom wondering where I’ve gone, peering at me with her big hazel eyes, bucking my hands with her nose when I begin my morning routine and attempt to make myself look a little less tired…

Seriously though. Relentless.

Seriously though. Relentless.

After a few more attempts to lure me back for more morning cuddles with her and the handsome gent I’ve left behind, Adrian goes to find Rocky and allows me to put on my makeup, put a wave in my hair and get dressed.

Miraculously though, when I head back to the washroom for one final look over….

She is the sweetest pest, ever.

She is the sweetest pest, ever.

After a few more attempts to wake my fiancé, and a few more attempts on his behalf to get me to stay, I manage to make it to my truck – Billie – who on this particular morning, due to my lovely triple snooze and lack of K-cups, is on a life saving mission straight to the life juice…

Life juice - no-fancy-smancy- Frapa-waste-of-calorie-nothing, just a blonde blend with milk.

Life juice – no-fancy-smancy- Frapa-waste-of-calorie-nothing, just a blonde blend with milk.

You will notice that the life-juice for me was more important than the life juice for Billie…

Luckily it seems Billie warns me a great deal in advance of when she will actually be out of fuel, so I chance it and safely roll into the parking lot at work just after 8:15.

Although I secretly prefer to be quiet in the morning and ease into the day, I happily and cheerfully greet my co-workers milling though the kitchen, fill up my water bottle and head up to my desk, which in the morning looks like this…

This is about as clean as it gets, which for my OCD does not do well.

This is about as clean as it gets, which for my OCD does not do well.

My meetings began almost immediately – mostly reviewing details of upcoming events and planning for future projects that I will need to know about. After about the third meeting, shortly after 11:30, I excuse myself for an early lunch and manage to fit in a personal appointment.

Kuljeet – the most amazing aesthetician, ever – thankfully squeezed me in after trying to make my schedule work with hers for quite a few days. She is also conveniently located 4 blocks from my office – a win in my books.

Say hi to Kuljeet everyone!  She's the master of all things body care and aesthetics.

Say hi to Kuljeet everyone! She’s the master of all things body care and aesthetics.

After allowing Kuljeet to torture me for 20 min and then paying her for it, I jetted back to the office (yes, Billie jets) and lost myself in an afternoon of packing for a sales dinner, attending 3 more meetings, tending to our brochure and printing needs with my rep James, and answering the insane amount of email and requests coming my way without pause.

By roughly 3:00pm, my desk looks as though a bomb has gone off…

A little anxiety just looking at it like this...

A little anxiety just looking at it like this… And I tidied it for the picture…

After leaving the last meeting of the day I realized that Michael has messaged me multiple times, wondering if I will be home on time, stating that I obviously will not be and then contemplating a night out with friends if I wouldn’t be anytime soon.

I caught him with a call and apologized for another later than desirable night and we made plans for the evening. When we hung up I realized it was only 5:45 so I decided to answer just “one more email” and before I knew it, it was 7:00 and I was LATE.

7:15 when I walked in the door... Please notice the ever present Doberman requesting my attention.

7:15 when I walked in the door… Please notice the ever present Doberman requesting my attention.

Deciding I was too tired to whip up a from scratch meal as I usually would, we debated the quick and easy dinner at home, take out, or an evening out date night style. We settled on quick and easy and I whipped up a round of delicious chicken-bacon, grilled-cheese sandwiches for myself and my stud.

3 things:  1) thank goodness for this panini press - best gift ever.  2) too tired to remember to take pictures of my delicious creation in process 3) Michael was STARVING and demanded his food before I could take a picture of his too

3 things:
1) thank goodness for this panini press – best gift ever.
2) too tired to remember to take pictures of my delicious creation in process
3) Michael was STARVING and demanded his food before I could take a picture of his too

After we devoured our lazy and unhealthy meal, I eased Mike into the idea that I was not done for the evening and still owed my weekly post by promising to watch a movie with him. So we curled up to Wolf of Wall Street and I wrote the night away (read: was constantly distracted by Leo, and all of the boobs, sex, drugs and profanity going on).

Trusty iPad, sweats, a flick and my man

Trusty iPad, sweats, a flick and my man

Now, with the clock rolling over the 24th hour and creeping slowly into today, my day in the life post is complete and I desperately need sleep.

~ Toni

Countdown is ON!

This coming Friday is June 6th. Why am I telling you this? Well, other than it being a Friday of the summer months (think of the activities you can do – unless you are like me and work), it will mark the one year countdown to I DO!

When Cody proposed, the most asked question would be, “When is the big day?” At the time it hit me in the stomach as we hadn’t talked about it, we had just gotten engaged! Were we doing it wrong? Am I a horrible bride already? Should I have a date? Do they think that because I don’t have a date I am not excited to get married? Because I am! Would it be a year? Two years? Three years? What would the wedding look like? Can we save enough money? Can we afford to get married? Will our family be able to attend? What food will we serve? What if we can’t find a venue? What about our wedding party and their budgets, as I have three bridesmaids who are also getting married, one with a baby on the way and one who is a single-income family. How will I make this event fun for everyone? So. Many. Questions. With no answers… I had no answers. I didn’t know. I hate not knowing.

Then there came the warnings and disclaimers from those seasoned vets – Do it for you! Don’t make cuts for any one! It’s your day – they would say. The day will be a blur. It doesn’t matter what other people want! Was this supposed to make me feel better? Yes, it is our day, Cody’s and mine, but whatever we plan will be what we want – and we want our family and friends to look back and remember that the day was filled with love… and that they had a really good time.

This past Saturday, my Saturday morning running group (which for this Saturday was myself, my two sisters (Toni and Julia) and our guest blogger Kim) and I climbed a local trail, Webster Falls. On our way back, we were all complaining of hunger, so we stopped by Starbucks. It was pretty early and other than the employees who seemed less than impressed that four women who were high on endorphins were giggling away in their lounge area, it was empty.

As we observed those coming and going, one group stood out among them – a group of young girls. As they ordered and dressed their lattes, they proceeded to line up their white cups with the adorning of green and took pictures, more than likely for Instagram, more memories of their day. Rather than the bistro writing their names they had requested their titles for the day: Bride, Maid Of Honor, Bridesmaid.

Bride, bridesmaids, matron of honor Starbucks style

It all became real, suddenly my mind raced to the date. Soon it would be June. Crunch time. I am so excited! This year is going to fly by, just like the last year did.

~ Jacqui



According to my mother’s lore about my childhood, my first steps were not timid or slow. Allegedly, I ran across the basement at my grandparent’s house a few times. And then realized I was running. And then I sat down. But the first steps were running strides. I kind of love that. Because I kind of love running.

My affair with running has been an on-again-off-again relationship spanning my entire life. In grade 1, I joined the cross country team at school and loved it. I was never as good as the girl who came from an Olympic legacy (no, seriously), but I loved it. When I switched schools in grade 4, I joined that cross country team. Again, not the fastest or the best, but still in love. In high school, other things took my attention – grades, clubs, meetings, student associations and choosing church over everything (if there was a meet or practice on a Wednesday night when we had church services, then it was an automatic no-go). Also, high school started to care how fast I was. And joining that cross country team meant talking to a bunch of new people since my best friend at the time didn’t love running and I was easily swayed (damn peer pressure). So I quit. And got bigger and more sedentary.

Then university came. In the beginning, I didn’t join any athletic anything, nor did I take advantage of the free gym pass given to every student. I was stupid. But busy. Again. Busy being lonely and studying and trying to keep my head above water.

I was a Chapters-girl, going to the bookstore/coffee-shop for fattening drinks and quiet-yet-not-alone study time. And sometimes, shockingly, I would browse books.

Okay. So maybe it was all the times.

During one of those browsing sessions, I came across the The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik, and I would flirt with the idea of buying it. And then the flirting turned serious and not only did I buy it, I brought it home and I read it. Cover-to-cover read it.

This book gave me so many things and is the backbone of my adult running. It taught me how to pace myself using my breath, it explained sports bras (for someone who has boobs but had never really exercised, this was important and new information!), it taught me how to tie my shoes (no, seriously), it gave me motivation, and it gave me an easy-to-follow 10-week training plan that would get me from thinking about running to running continuously for 30 minutes. In short, it was (and still is) magic.

So I did it. I ran faithfully four times a week for those 10 weeks, and it worked: I ran for 30 minutes continuously with Ben (my then-boyfriend *swoon*). It was completely awesome.

And then I just stopped. Because that’s where my training program ended and I didn’t have anyone but me to stay motivated or anything to work towards. I let it go. For a really long time.

I got married to my dreamy boyfriend, worked, had a baby, worked some more, had another baby, stopped working out of the home, and had a miscarriage. My heart was broken, Oreos were my best friend, and I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. I was the saddest I’ve ever been.

This was right around the time that Jacqui, Toni and I started going to a bootcamp together. At the time when I needed something to do, something that wasn’t about babies or dead babies or marriage or dishes or laundry, when I needed something just about me, it was the perfect fit. And after the miscarriage, it gave me an outlet that wasn’t wrapped up in refined sugar and carbs to kick misery’s ass.

Part of my recovery after our miscarriage was that bootcamp and rekindling my love for running. It included Ben putting together a 5K run, complete with signs and certificates, for me and my family and friends, to celebrate and remember the baby, Charlie, that we lost.

The group that ran with me

The group that ran with me

And then I ran my very first 5K chip-timed race, The Santa Pur-Suit, with Ben and my dear friend Jill, finishing with a time of 43:01:2.

The three Santas post-race

The three Santas post-race

If you’re keeping track, I’m missing a baby. A few weeks after this race, I got pregnant. And because of some spotting and cramping, I had to (and wanted to) stop running. I had a healthy pregnancy, an early, yet safe delivery, and a healthy baby boy. And I was itching to get back to running. And exercising. And being active. And feeling awesome again.

It’s been 7 months since our last baby appeared and 5 months since I started moving again. Walking to and from school with Sophie has been a great warm-up to more intense exercise, but even those two hilly 20-minute walks every day aren’t enough for this busy mama.

Now, I am working out/running 3-4 times a week and it has been a huge part of my recovery from my third bout of postpartum depression. I find that if I don’t get some sort of exercise in, I am a beast, my worst self, my most anxious most angry most resentful most awful me. So as part of my healing regimen, I go to therapy once a week, I take medication every day, and I make sure that I don’t go more than two days at a time without something active. In this moment, running is saving my life.

This past weekend something absolutely magical happened: I went on my first outdoor run of the year AND I went with three of my sisters: Toni, Jacqui and Kim.

The sisters getting their run on

Getting our run on

I can not tell you how happy I was during and after this run. It was the highlight of the weekend, of my week, of the months since my brain broke again. It was by far one of the best days ever for me. And all because I got to share the beautiful, early-morning-early-spring air with three of my biggest supporters, cheerleaders, and best friends.

Duck pond on our route

Duck pond on our route

It was completely free (aside from the gas and the pants and the shoes). It was so simple: show up, talk, run, talk, have coffee, talk, go home, shower. It was so healthy: fresh air, exercise, camaraderie. It didn’t involve Oreos or feeling sorry for myself. And it was so freaking empowering to finish.



I love running. It’s hard. Some runs really, really suck. But in the end, I’ve never regretted going on a run. Never. I’ve regretted sleeping in, eating too much, and watching too much TV. Never ever a run.

I read this recently and it sums up completely how I feel about running in this moment in my life:

“Running can help you through a cycle of depression or self doubt by making you feel strong and in control of your life.” – John Stanton


I’m ever so grateful for this gift.

~ Julia