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Real Life

We knew it was coming. We just hoped it never would.

Why the Loss of Gord Downie Still Hurts So Hard.

We knew it was coming yet I still wasn’t ready for it.

My heart feels heavy. I have had a good cry. I’ve listened all morning to the Hip. I ate some chocolate cake (because sadness) but I am also feeling very at peace over the passing of Gord Downie.

In his life and his presence, he was magic. An absolute gift.  The generosity of his spirit extends in his exit, because somehow he has left us with a gift of knowing that he was peaceful in his end.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

Many talk about The Hip as a big part of our formative years. They came into our world at the exact point in time that we were doing our best to figure it all out.

But really, they have been lifelong friends.

3 decades spanned our relationship and every time we needed a pal, they would show up at the door and with their own special kind of awesome that whatever situation you were in, would just make you feel better.

Songs mark the passages of time

Wheat Kings and At The Hundredth Meridian were my favourite songs to listen to as we road tripped along the Trans-Canada. Growing up in Manitoba, they held special places in my heart. Gord’s lyrics honoured the majesty of our prairies and made me proud to be a prairie girl. He painted pictures with his songs and when he talked of home, it was everything.

M dearest, dearest friends were together to experience the Winnipeg show.

Bobcaygeon, Grace, Too and Long Time Running could equally be the perfect companion to a Duncan Hines Deep and Delicious break up cry session or start a weekend morning off perfectly. They’d just come hang out and chill. They would give you whatever you required for the day to go on with a positive light.

Blow At High Dough and New Orleans is Sinking will be highlights forever in my heart. The anthem of our youth. Of all of us (at the A, or Monty’s, or whatever your university local was) on the dance floor, jumping, grooving, shouting, rocking out, screaming at the top of our lungs and feeling, really FEELING every bit of every ounce of the music. Life couldn’t have been better in those moments.

Running into old high school pals took me back INSTANTLY to the mischief we were up to as kids

Ahead By A Century was a big part of growing up but it came to mean so much more this past year. We are at an age and stage in our lives where loss (of family & friends) has become a very real on-going occurrence. There is no other song that kicks you in the ass to live life as big, as fully and as completely as we can.

There is no dress rehearsal, this is our life.

Gord was ON …Just as he was every concert I saw him in.

There are songs of the Hip that wrap you up like a warm, fuzzy blanket; there are ones that flow through your body like a prairie fire; there are ones that make sense of it all and there are ones that make no sense at all.

We knew it was coming. We just hoped it never would.

We all have our special memories of Gord Downie. He made us feel like we were friends. Last year, as a country united (in love & peace) we embraced him with all our might. We stood in gratitude, we cried, we lived.

We were blessed to have that one last moment together. A moment that I don’t think any of us will ever forget.

Gord and the music of the Tragically Hip made you FEEL good. What Gord did for so many of us was also inspire us to want to DO good. He was a genuinely GOOD person. That could be a big part of why this loss feels so deep.

His work in the latter part of his life, creating awareness & pushing for reconciliation with our indigenous communities is a legacy that we all can honour. If you are looking to support this initiative, watch the Secret Path or donate to the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund to help carry on this valuable work.

Fiddler’s Green was a song Gord wrote for his nephew who had passed away to ease his sister’s pain. I can’t help thinking that now he is with his nephew Charles, Chanie and so many others waiting to see him in the afterlife and somehow that eases mine a bit.

My heart goes out to all of Gord’s family, friends and fans who adored him so. I hope whatever Hip playlist you are playing provides you with a little solace and comfort in remembering such a beautiful soul.

For now, he will forever be to all of us the man who walks among the stars.

 

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Changing the WorldReal Life

People Knew.

She is Fierce

Managing Memories & Moving Forward with #MeToo.

I did not want to get out of bed this morning, yet I haven’t slept for days.

I wade through memories, waking up my past to consciously review the countless times I would say Me Too. 

The list (as it is for so many of us) is far too long. Years of unwanted and unwelcome touches, advances or commentary to scroll through. I start to laugh.

I laugh because it’s all so ridiculous.

The boss who told me that sleeping with clients wasn’t in my job description but if I opted to do so, I wouldn’t get fired. The numerous managers and directors (including HR) whose discussions over the size, shape, and look of my breasts in a T-shirt apparently required weekly remarks. The boss who daily made reference to what I must be like in bed (or what he was like) while his wife worked in the next office.

I would say something on occasion but it was so common that it simply became part of the hazards of working in male-dominated industries.

We saw it daily. Every woman. We all knew it was wrong but standing up to it got so complicated.

Insane isn’t it?

And social media right now is like the mother of all triggers.

If you are an empath, today the world is screaming with heartache, frustration, (bubbling) anger and sadness. We feel it. All of it. Our hearts hurt hard. The “Me Too” movement overwhelmingly present and completely unsurprising.

Timing is everything.

I don’t need to debate the merits or downfall of when, where or how people made claims of sexual harassment. This is a really good thing. It has opened up more opportunity to talk.

Would this movement have happened even a year ago?

When I lent my voice to #BeenRapedNeverReported during the outing of Jian Ghomeshi, the deluge of comments and responses that came along with it shocked me. The amount of victim blaming and shaming rampant in the tide of that trial.

Are you ready for this?

I received 80 (yes, 80) private messages thanking me for having the courage to put it out there when 80 (yes, 80) other women did not feel brave or safe enough to put it out there themselves.

There is strength in numbers.

There is strength in every person who has managed to write “Me Too”.

There is strength in every person who has ever dealt with this.

How do you manage in the middle of this shit show?

It’s a fine line. All of this brings back all of that.

I will start with this.

Through You, Not Of You.

Self-care is essential. Know when things are too much and walk away. Breathe and take time to process.  One of the greatest pieces of advice I was ever given was to let information flow through you, but don’t let it take part of you with it. Let it flow and let it go.

Be Grateful.

I know it seems odd to ask you to think of gratitude in the face of all of this, but there are millions upon millions of women who live in countries right now where rape is commonplace and assumed; where human trafficking is still actively occurring and where the parity and equity equations have hardly even begun to exist.

We live in countries where the dialogue has begun. Where freedom of speech allows us to speak our mind and more than ever we must.

It’s been said out loud what we have always known. 

We are all responsible to figure out what to do with the knowledge that the mass majority of women (on earth) have been subjected to some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in her life.

This is everyone’s problem.

Change is Coming.

You never walk through the same river twice. What happened in the past, happened. You can do nothing to change that.

BUT you can do everything to change the future.

You can use this movement to recognize moving forward that you will never, ever let those moments of harassment go unchallenged.

You can use this movement to educate your children to be bold, to stand up for what is right, to stand against what is wrong and to know that they are in control of their own bodies.

We can use this movement to help shape our own, our children and societies core values so that this vicious cycle doesn’t continue momentum.

People knew. People know.

We can’t. We won’t let this happen anymore.

We are fierce.

 

 

 

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Real LifeTravel

Oh the Trouble You Will Go Through To See Angkor Wat

Sunrise at Angor Wat

Hiring a private guide to tour Angkor Wat was one of the best ideas of our whole trip.

I had the salad.

I wasn’t even thinking when I ordered it.

We had just taken the boat from Nice Beach on Koh Rong Island after a few blessed days chilling out.

Nice Beach Bungalows on Koh Rong Island was pure paradise
Nice Beach Koh Song
The soft beauty of a Cambodian sunrise

The island had been perfect. We had needed a small reprieve after a busy 3 weeks in Vietnam and thought a quick jaunt to a Cambodian beach was the antidote to south east asian heat and long bus rides. The water was crystal clear, and delightfully cool.  A wonderful time for all of us as we connected with people from around the world along the way.

Nice Beach Bungalows
Nice Beach Bungalows on Koh Rong give you an option of Bungalow or Tent.

We were starving by the time we got back to the harbour but in relatively good spirits after a harrowing ride in the back of a Cambodian speed boat.  Our plan was to take a flight out that night from Shinoukville to Siem Reap to have a (very quick) stop to see Angkor Wat on our way over to Bangkok.

Our forms of boat transfers were quite unique at times

While we were waiting out our time to head to the airport, we opted to head to an American style pub close by to get wifi, have a bite and book a tour guide for the next day’s adventure.

There on the menu, as I sweltered in 42 degree humidity was an answer to everything I craved in that moment. A crispy, fresh ceasar salad. I desperately something crunchy and delicious in the heaviness of the Cambodian heat. All of my travel street smarts vanishing in an instant in the quest to satisfy that craving.

So I ate the salad.

This was an eclectic mix of part tuk tuk part pimp mobile and park pick up. You just never know…

We got on the flight to Siem Reap without problems, and headed to our room for that evening to find relief from the heat.  We had coordinated via Trip Advisor & Facebook with a local recommended guide who was going to take us on a private tour to all of the key temples in Siem Reap. This had been one of MY destinations on our dream itinerary and I was counting the hours before we would go see such beautiful and spiritual architecture.

Angkor Thom (the wider city around Angkor Wat) has been on my bucket list for many years

Then midnight hit and something, (everything) suddenly didn’t feel right. I will save you the sordid details barring that I had never been so violently ill in all my life. I silently thanked god more than once that the plastic bags in Cambodia weren’t as crappy as Canadian ones that tend to have a hole in the bottom. These grocery bags were important containment units throughout the night as I wished upon death to stop every part of me responding with such malice.

We were getting picked up at 7am and I was determined that I was going to go see Angkor Wat. It was our only chance as we were heading to the airport the next afternoon. On this trip we all got to pick 3 gotta see things, and this was one of mine.

In that moment, it was everything to me.

So after popping a few Imodium, Gravol, Ibuprofen and a super antibiotic we met up with our driver to take us on this journey. He was unbelievably kind. He had packed ice cold towels and water which I gladly accepted as I hung my head out the side of the tuk tuk.

My forever protector
The intricacy and detail on the temple carvings were stunning

The heat was the most challenging. I was running a cold sweat fever as we walked in 40+ weather. I got very weak. Sometimes it became so much that I would sit in on the steps of the temple and ask Lauren to take photos for me (Spencer was half disinterested and half too worried about me to go) So we hung out at the base while the other two ventured up to the tops of the tomb raider temples.

When we stopped for lunch I felt hungry enough to have a Sprite, knowing that I needed some sort of sugar and hydration in order to keep going. Our last stop was Angkor Wat. I had to be well enough to get there.  I was near delirium as I got to a pillar in the main temple, sliding down to the floor and opting to watch monks giving blessings over climbing steps to the top.

Peaceful blessings in Angkor Wat

On the way out, we had a miscommunication on where we were meeting up with the kids so Chris went to find Spencer, while I was on the hunt for Lauren.  Yes, at the entrance to Angkor Wat (which is similar to the entrance of Disney World) we lost our children.

As I was walking to the end of the entrance steps, a wave hit me again and I ran to the nearest tree to throw up the Sprite from lunch. And as I retched, I peed my pants. Yep. Right there. At the front of Angkor Wat.

In that moment, 2 security guards came up to see if I was OK and if they were going to have to deal with some international incident. Chris came up beside me and told them I was fine as I said, “Oh my god Chris. I peed my pants. And I can’t stop because it happens every time a wave hits me”.

You know what he says?

“Listen, how many OTHER people can say they peed their pants at a Unesco World Heritage Site? That’s gotta be something special”.

And in the middle of foreign country, on a crazy adventure around the world, I started to laugh so hard that I peed my pants.

God, I love my husband.

And our guide.

Yes, we of course ended up finding Lauren. She was being taken care of by the sweetest Cambodian woman who had given her ice water and shade to sit close to where we were. I stand by that in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, I had never seen such an extraordinary example of “it takes a village” and couldn’t be more grateful in this moment that it was extended so kindly to us. 

NOT SPONSORED

TOP TRAVEL TIP: It important to note that I am a firm believer in taking Dukoral (the traveller’s diarrhea oral vaccine) before heading to a developing country. We were fine for the most part for the first 6 months of our trip until we should have taken a booster. That was when all hell broke loose. This isn’t sponsored. I just believe in the product.

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Real LifeTravel

Why We All Need to Watch This Movie About Cambodia

Netflix

First They Killed My Father deepens understanding and helps bring compassion to the connected world in which we live.

**Trigger warning: This talks honestly about what we came to learn and witnessed in Cambodia. There are some heartbreaking and ugly facts but ones you should know more about. 

Mom Says

Do me a favour.

Open your hand up and run your fingers over your palm.

What do you feel?

Are they soft and smooth? Are your nail beds clean and well groomed? Manicured even?

Or are they rough? Do they feel worn and full of callouses? Have they been working  all day & showing signs of it?

If they are smooth, and if you were living a regular life in Cambodia in the seventies, there was a high probability you would have been killed.

It’s hard to believe that Pol Pot and the Killing Fields happened in our lifetime. The Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh in April of 1975 after an on-going civil war between them and the Nol government. The U.S. (on the support side of Nol & involved in the Vietnam War) were carpet bombing villages throughout Cambodia trying to eliminate Vietnamese bases and the Khmer Rouge. Civilians (confused by the reasoning behind the bombings) joined & accepted the Khmer Rouge radical beliefs because they were so angry with the Americans. When the Nol government and the US evacuated, the capital was immediately overtaken with Khmer Rouge guerillas & Pol Pot’s regime. They forced you to leave your house, your money and all your possessions without question.

How quickly life changed in an instant for those in Phnom Penh. Photo credit: Netflix

Pol Pot wanted to create a communist society in Cambodia in which money was gone, personal possessions were a sin and the hierarchy of society was destroyed.

If you were educated and a professional, you were either killed instantly, tortured or sent out into the fields to work under threats of violence, machine guns and rebel forces everywhere.

Did you know that a population the same size as Toronto (2 Million people) were killed during his regime? 2 Million people.

Blunt force was promoted over bullets in order to save money. Children were beaten against trees, their skulls smashed. People were thrown (still alive) into pits to suffocate from the weight of dead bodies that followed.

It was a horror of horrors.

The dark shadow that remains

As we travelled around the world this past year, we gave a word to every country we visited. A word that described (to us) the pulse, or the feeling we got when we immersed ourselves in that country’s culture and energy.

Cambodia’s word was hard to define as we could only describe it as a Shadow.

I couldn’t pick out initially what felt odd about Phnom Penh but I could feel it.

And then you started realizing what was wrong. As you look around, there is nobody old. Hardly anyone over the age of fifty. A generation almost entirely lost.

Many buddhist monks were killed in the genocide.

A heaviness comes with such a violent act of genocide that brings with it an unhealthy aftermath. Orphans or child soldiers who were taught to fight, and kill at young ages now had to move on to living out life in Cambodia or as refugees, from a place where the value of human life had been reduced to nothing. There wasn’t any PTSD counselling in the years following. There is a scar there that remains, raw and red. Human trafficking is still a huge issue and we saw more than we wanted to of incidents of dirty old men taking advantage of sex tourism with young Cambodian girls & boys. It felt disgusting and still a reality there.

Why it is important to watch First They Killed My Father

In the world of over-saturated information, we have become de-sensitized to the atrocities that play out elsewhere.

This film (originally a book by Loung Ung & now available on Netflix) is worth watching because it gives you greater insight into how something so horrific could happen so quickly. It helps you see the way in which the Khmer used confusion, starvation, and fear to gain authority in the country. It shows how people living normal everyday lives suddenly lost everything for no reason except geography.

It also sheds light on the trauma that the Cambodian people must deal with as they move on with their lives. The people we met were so kind but carry with them heartbreak that we can’t even comprehend.

Compassion needs to lead the way

You never know anyone else’s story, especially in the case of refugees coming from war torn countries. We truly have NO idea what they witnessed or experienced in their home country.

Too often commentary is on refugees and what they are taking. What about what they have lost?

The next time you hear someone referring to refugees in a negative light, say something. Let compassion lead the way over judgement. Nobody wants to leave their home. Take a moment to imagine what life was like before they lost everything.

What if this was you?

Humanity needs a shift & we are the ones to be part of that. Will you be one to help point it in the right direction?

Corruption still exists in Cambodia, it is something we all witnessed as we paid additional fees to cross the border

Dad Says

There is an extraordinary aftermath of a generation obliterated. As a traveller, you hear that everyone gets sick in Cambodia.  Why?  Because there are no elders  teaching the next generation to value of washing their hands.  There is a vacuum where traditional music would be played, but nobody knows the songs anymore.  Mass gaps in learning because by removing a generation, you lose everything they could pass along; knowledge, stories, love, pastimes.

There are great films that tell this story, first and foremost was The Killing Fields, released in 1984.  A powerful piece that stands the test of time and was well deserving of the awards it won shining a light on these atrocities.  The Missing Picture and S-21 are documentaries that are powerful in their own way. And now First They Killed My Father. What Angelina Jolie does is First They Killed My Father is brings to life a story that needs to be told, forcing people to stare ugly in the face and realize that these acts of warfare are happening in the same world which we live in.  ln our lifetime, the killing fields happened.  Rwanda, Bosnia, the Kurds, and now the Rohingya in Myanmar.

We are proving that, as a species, we are capable of such great highs but we can also stoop so very low, more barbaric and savage than any who have come before.  We can stop it by realizing it, facing it, and fighting it.  We cannot pretend it isn’t happening there, or it could very well happen here. Talk about it with your children, and stop with the ‘poor souls wouldn’t understand’ garbage.  Bambi’s mom died and we made it through.

 

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Real Life

Out of Time.

Paint

When All Your Reasons Have Run Out.

I have no more excuses. None.

The summer treated us with divine gifts. A series of golden moments with family, friends, as a couple, and on our own.

We embraced new interests and reconnected with old passions.

We sat silently on the dock, and took time to find a deeper gratitude and appreciation for the country we live in. 

We even found a place to live and a place to work. Well, Chris did.

Now it’s my turn.

Big Girl Underpants

When we decided to come home, we made a conscious choice to give ourselves peace, time, and space in the summer. We talked a lot about what we wanted to be when we grow up and the parts I loved (and hated) about working in social media, marketing, and events.

It was important to us to figure out ways to continue on our path of living big. To live life fully and make it a priority to follow hearts and follow dreams.

My dream, simply put, is to create and be creative. To get my hands dirty and have tactile, tangible pieces developing in my hands. I have never had such a deep urge to design beautiful things, fun videos, and write words. Many of them.

And if I am truly living big, this is where my next adventure begins. 
I have said repeatedly that I want to write a book and write consistently on the blog. I really do. Yet I always seem to find ways to be too busy or overwhelmed by other “stuff” that needs to be done first. 

At least that is where I put the blame. 

Getting out of your own way

I love taking on challenges. I can and have done uncomfortable time and again. I have climbed mountains, ridden motorcycles, scuba dived, sky dived, zip-lined, and so many more adventurous, physical, and out-of-my comfort zone type of activities.

This challenge feels much different. It is far more getting-out-of-my-own-head kind of game instead of a physical one.

My success is no longer a concrete goal that I can simply accomplish by crossing the finish line. My success is determined now on my skill in telling a story.

I need to create an exciting enough experience for you, the audience, to keep coming along for the ride. And frankly, I’m not quite sure I have that capability. 

Putting it out there always makes (some part of it) come true

I have a book (or two) in my head along with a couple of screenplays and dozens and dozens of blog posts of the trip.

And I want to write them all.

I am saying this now on the internet so that it might come true. (While gagging in the process). 

Now my husband, friends and family are all holding me accountable. They are asking me how my writing is going and all I want to say is “Sod off, I’m not ready and Thank you”. My discipline and focus not yet refined enough to keep me in my seat. Social media still grabs hold of me too often.

I love them all dearly and can’t tell them enough how much I appreciate the nudge to start this ambition. 

So now I must write. I no longer have a reason or excuse not to do this. 

It’s time to start pursuing another dream with reckless abandon.

What do you dream of doing? Sometimes just putting it out into the world is the best way to get it started. Drop us a line and we can hold EACH OTHER to living as big as we can. 

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Real Life

Hitting Reset & The Trust Factor.

Ziplining in Banos Ecuador

We Started Again. In The Middle of Our Lives.

You just gotta believe it will all work out. 

We talk a lot about the universe in our world. About it aligning; putting energy into the right place; thinking positive and about trusting the flow of life.

Sure, to some it might seem all a bit Hippity Dippity (as my family/friends have been known to call it).

To me, I can absolutely 100% feel when I am fighting what should be moving along naturally in our life.

I seriously love pushing past my comfort zone. I like taking on challenges.

But trusting and letting go of what should be?

To stop worrying and let things flow to what will?

Mancora Peru beach
Letting things flow led us unexpectedly to one of the most beautiful beaches in South America. Mancora, Peru

Mancora was where we randomly saw humpback whales breaching just off the coast

Well, that’s probably one of the biggest challenges of my life.

Being totally open.

Letting things flow.

Goddamn, F#&%ing trust.

Take all of my life’s baggage, issues and protective barriers, bottle it up into one word and throw me the middle finger.

There you have it. That word is trust.

I hate and love it all at the same time.

Our kids flying high on the swing at the end of the world caused me to work on some trust issues. Banos, Ecuador
Super tight spaces are not our favorite but this was a great lesson in the kids leading our trust & flow as we ventured to Pailon Del Diablo for the day

We have been home for 2 months and I have these panic moments that our trip feels like it’s floating away like a dream.

Before we came home, I cried that we were coming back to Canada.

I wasn’t ready to finish with our travels. Our family was so deeply connected and enjoying every ounce of travelling together. It felt like a special space and one I didn’t want to let go.

Yet we could sense that it was the right time. We had used up the majority of our budget, we were all starting to get tired of laundry and moving every few days and we could all feel an ache to see family & friends. (When the Acropolis came in at #27 of cool things we had done on the trip, we knew we had hit travel weary).

The kids got a chance to reconnect with friends and finish out the school year. It helped with getting ready for the adjustment to a new school, all the requisite kiss-my-ass (did I write that out loud?) IPRC, IEP, transition school meetings were had and we got things tidied up for school plans for the fall.

We came home to living a life of transition. It has felt liberating and like walking a cliff’s edge all at the same time.

We are starting our life again. Finding jobs, a place to live, and creating a plan.

In the past 2 months, I have felt like a rudderless sail, creative inspired, slightly depressed, tearfully grateful, intensely curious, over-stimulated and quiet. The quiet has been good. Taking a step back from the digital space to be fully present with people and nature has been a really healthy choice.

This is, and always will be the place that keeps me grounded – Galla Lake

But we still have had those burning questions that have been asked an infinite amount of times since we got back.

“What are you going to do now?”

This is where that damn trust & flow has played a big role in staying the course. We believed, we focused on the positive and we breathed through those moments that in the past would have sent me straight into an anxiety attack.

A lo and behold.

I am happy to share some big news for our family.

Today, Chris is starting a really exciting venture with Union Foods as the Director of Construction & Design. He will be responsible for overseeing the development of the majority of Union Station’s new food ventures with a forward-thinking, innovative company. (This is also the group that owns the ridiculously delicious Union Chicken at Sherway Gardens). If you haven’t gone for brunch and tried their Chicken & Waffles you are missing out. Trust me.

For me, I am reigniting Hart & Galla with some small upcoming events and select social strategy design for companies that fit well with our personal ethos. I am also putting it here for accountability (Gulp!) that I am working on a book proposal about our trip and plan on putting energy into MomDadCuppaKids daily. I am intent on writing more actively on this blog of personal stories, travel tips, world schooling, simplifying your life, event ideas, and special needs dialogue. My hope is to inspire people with a “hey, if we can do it, you can do it” energy and totally open to any ideas you might have.

We still have no permanent fixed address but for now that is fine.

For now, we will just Trust…& Flow.

 

 

 

 

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