Last winter I joined an amazing organization called Elevate Aviation as a volunteer mentor. An amplifying voice, it provides information, mentorship and scholarships to women who are interested in joining the aviation industry. The aviation industry has vastly lower numbers of women than men, and our team at Elevate works hard to provide access to women from women who are actually in the industry. We are made up of representatives from both the civilian and military industries and from both the operations and support ends of the industry and we are proud to share our own experiences with the aim of inspiring other women who may believe the industry is closed off to them.

One of the projects that Elevate takes on every year is an annual fundraiser calendar featuring women in aviation, the proceeds of which go to the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. The calendars from 2016 and 2017 featured two of my friends, a helicopter pilot and an aerospace engineer, respectively. They were beautifully done – very professional and elegant – but I really wasn’t sure about the calendar as a messaging tool. What exactly was it trying to communicate? So I was somewhat hesitant when the program manager asked if I would be interested in being one of the models for the 2018 calendar. How exactly was modelling for this going to empower me further, and more so, how was it going to help others who might be interested in a career in aviation?

I was also concerned about the image this was portraying – no matter how you say it, ‘calendar girl’ doesn’t often come with the most positive stereotype. Was this really the best way to represent ourselves and our industry? After getting selected, my anxiety only worsened. Not only was I self-conscious that my body type wasn’t going to match the tall, lean size 4 model image I had in my head, the more I talked about it with peers the more I wondered if I had made the right choice. A senior leader in my workplace at the time, was I setting a good example for my subordinates? We are a very conformist organization that is extremely careful about how we represent ourselves. Was I professional to have agreed to do this in the first place? Moreover, I worried that I wasn’t staying true to my own feminist values and ideals by agreeing to participate in a project that would literally put women on the wall as decoration.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Upon arriving in Edmonton for the photo shoot what I found was a community of like-minded women with an immediate understanding of one another based on our passion for aviation and our similar experiences working in a male-dominated industry. I showed up on Friday night, a ball of nerves about the shoot and spending the weekend with a group of “models”, and left on Sunday afternoon with a group of genuine friends who truly understood me. Empowering.

In this network of aviation professionals, I also found a new group of peers and mentors. We shared our journeys, our struggles, our successes and failures with one another, with raw honesty. Never before have I felt such an immediate connection with people in such a short period of time. I knew right away that from that point forward, I had an incredible community that would support me as I move forward in my career. Empowering.

I saw quickly that I had joined a well-organized grassroots organization. Only a few years old, Elevate had really taken off in a short period of time. This is due to the boundless energy and determination of our founder, Kendra Kincade, and her team of volunteers who spend endless hours making this organization a success. Their love of aviation and desire to see the women around them succeed was limitless, and we all left that weekend feeling incredibly inspired to do our own part to help those that work alongside us or come after us. Empowering.

Kendra also interviewed each of us to hear our story. These interviews are connected to our photo in the calendar and will be shared on the Elevate website and social media pages. They link the beautiful photo in the calendar to the actual journey into aviation, and it is here that the real connection is made. She asked questions about why I was interested in aviation, what was my training journey like, if my family supported me, what struggles did I have; it is the most honest I have been in speaking about my career, probably ever. This interview becomes a story, a story that is watched by women and young girls all over the country, who identify with it and think, “wow, she’s just a normal person like me. Maybe I could be in aviation, too”. Empowering.

Finally, the photoshoot was one of the best experiences of my life. By the time it started, I was so nervous that I was nearly sick – this was so completely outside of my comfort zone. In the end, it was an extremely positive experience that really boosted my self-confidence, and doing something that made me nervous and relinquishing control to the professionals was really good for my personal development. The degree of professionalism that goes into this project is what truly makes it a success. Our photographer Donna, from Donna Lynn Photography, is an absolute pro. She has a knack for being able to pull the strongest personality traits and emotions out of you. During that photoshoot, which I was so reluctant about initially, I felt strong and beautiful and confident to put my trust in those around me. Empowering.

And that’s when I GOT it.

My whole career has been a balancing act of strength and beauty. For the first few years when I was in the training system, I was told I was “too girly” and “not tough enough” to succeed. Because I didn’t fit the cookie cutter mould of a stereotypical military officer, I would never be a good leader. It didn’t matter that I had excellent marks, was bilingual or was involved in every social and volunteer organization in my school; because I liked pink and because I wasn’t as strong as the guys, I wasn’t going to be a good officer. Somehow, celebrating my femininity made me less.  Thankfully I am extremely stubborn and refused to conform – a common theme among the women in Elevate – figuring that if I was going to make a career of this, then I had to figure out how to do it my own way, in my own style.

Everything changed when I got out of the training system and into my actual job. Suddenly no one cared that I was a so-called “girly girl” because I was actually really good at my job. The ‘square peg round hole’ scenario of the early years was gone and it was then that I truly began to shine. Over the years, I have been able to maximize the skills I bring to the table. All those social events I organized that were dubbed as ‘party planning’ led to me being hyper organized and a good planner, vital skills in the logistics industry. All those times I had to fight down another stereotype turned me into a leader that is not afraid of standing up for my team or what I believe is right. Being “too nice, too emotional” actually meant that I had empathy and emotional intelligence; skills that are absolutely critical when you work with personnel every day as I do. I often see people in some of the very worst periods of their lives and being able to take a supportive but firm approach is essential. It’s not to say I’m a pushover. People who have worked for me over the years would probably say I’m the opposite and I wouldn’t blame them; I’m not the easiest person to work for. I’m Triple Type A: demanding, a hard worker with high standards for quality. And yes, still feminine. And that’s because strength and beauty aren’t mutually exclusive; I can kick ass just as easily in combat boots as I can in stilettos and feel equally good doing it.

As my Dad always says, “kid, you gotta do YOU”. I am finally at a point where I feel great with who I am as a person and a leader in our industry. I am so excited to have that showcased in this amazing project, that celebrates women who have embraced who they are and are doing things their way. I think my calendar photo portrays a story of a strong and beautiful woman going somewhere with purpose, and doing it with a fair amount of sass. Being able to celebrate my strengths and continue working on my weaknesses – and realizing that being girly isn’t one of them – with an organization of women behind me championing me as I take on new challenges is, in a word, empowering.





So I completely fell off the radar there for a few months; I figured this would happen at some point when I started this blog but didn’t expect it to happen so soon into it! As it does, life got busy – and happy and awesome – and June and July became a bit of a blur. I should be reading (new daily phrase for the next year) but instead I’m enjoying some coffee and watching the sun come up over this twinkling city.

I’m officially set up in my new place in Toronto and really enjoying it. I did some significant purging before leaving my old place to make sure everything would fit (important during a 1200 to 600 ft downsize) and my new condo is starting to feel like home. I’ve got a few more pieces of art to get up on the walls, which seems kind of pointless given that it’s going to have to come down again in 10 months, but such is the life I’ve chosen.

The building is pretty great – there’s a Loblaws and an LCBO downstairs (both convenient AND dangerous), a Zen Garden, a BBQ area and party room, a movie theatre, a pretty decent gym and soon, a pool. I am loving the location, close to school and an easy subway ride downtown, surrounded by shops and a lot of hustle and bustle. After living in a small town I am routinely amazed at being able to get any kind of food delivered at any time of day or night, the endless options of things to do and all the people.

Allllll the people. There are so many people here. On the streets, on the subway, on the road, in my building. I can see how this city feels overwhelming to some – truth be told, even this extrovert enjoys getting back home to my condo cocoon after I’ve been out for the day to take a breather from all the people.

That said, I think this year is going to provide me with something that’s been missing from my life for the last while: anonymity. As one of my best friends pointed out, in Toronto I can be whoever I want! No one knows me and there is no fear of running into half of my co-workers at a local event or being recognized in the grocery store; there is no more living in a small fish bowl. I am nameless and unknown, I can wear and say and do what I want! Given that I’m trying to take this year as a personal reset and establish a new balance for myself, being the tiny-fish-in-a-huge-pond is almost essential. It allows me the freedom to try new activities and hobbies, go to festivals, date, hang out with people who aren’t in my field, experience art and culture, and once again have a life that isn’t centered around work. Not to say I want to live here forever, but sometimes the pendulum has to swing all the way to the other side in order to come to rest in the middle.

Last Thursday I went out – at 9pm on a week night (scandalous!) – to an open mic night at a local bar. I met some new people and laughed and listened to live music and sang along with some songs I knew. There was a moment where I could feel something unlock inside me – this moment of “I didn’t realize this was missing” – and a new tiny bubble space for something other than work was created. I can’t wait to see what else I discover; my anonymous year in Toronto begins now!

Small town and the city

I remember when I first came to Cold Lake to find somewhere to live. I was devastated about the transfer and had even considered turning down my promotion in order to stay in Ottawa. After some reassuring words from the work grown ups like “You’re going to Cold Lake either way, so you might as well take the promotion,” I resigned myself and dragged my Mum out to help me with my first real estate purchase. Cause you know, at 30, I needed an actual ADULT with me.

It proved to be an interesting week. We got the condo stuff done early thanks to my excellent realtor and ended up with a fair bit of time to kill “exploring” Cold Lake. After driving back and forth through town several times (which takes approximately 15 minutes), checking out the two decent restaurants, walking around at the Marina and commenting on all the obnoxiously loud trucks, it seemed we had seen everything. By this point, I was nearly inconsolable. I was coming from downtown Ottawa where I had been living for 4 years; the closest thing to ‘home’ since leaving Winnipeg when I was 18. It had everything – arts, sports, shopping, fine dining, culture, history, all packaged beautifully in a clean urban area – and I had to leave it. How could I live in this redneck town for 3 years? What would I even DO? I knew no one here. I constantly felt overdressed. “No need for those designer shoes in Cold Lake”, Mum said. Once the the documents had all been signed and boredom reached peak levels , we hightailed it out of town to head for Edmonton. Stopping at the local gas station to fuel up, I noticed that there was a fridge off to the side. In it? Live fishing bait. I almost burst into tears.

Fast forward 3 years. Another transfer – this time to Toronto. The MECCA of city living in Canada. Though it’s only for a year, I was ecstatic. I would finally get my chance to live downtown Toronto as a successful, single thirtysomething. On top of that, I have a bunch of friends in Toronto – the really genuine kind, that have known you your whole life and love you anyway – so I had a social group waiting for me. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to head there and find a rental for the year.

It didn’t go quite how I planned. The entire week was frustrating, from trying to find a hotel at the approved government rate on a long weekend (impossible) to remembering how to drive in the city (insane; thankfully my Middle East/Southwest Asia driving skills came back quickly, evidently they are also required for survival in TO). I knew the real estate market there was absolutely ridiculous, but I had no idea the supply for rentals was almost as bad. In a week, my agent was able to show me 3 places. THREE. Plus an additional 2 I found myself. When I walked into the first option, a roomy 524 sq ft apartment for $2050/month, the excitement quickly wore off and reality set in.

Sticker shock aside, I could not believe the SIZE of these places. Tiny, minimal closet space, in towering high rises. There goes my vision of dinner parties…  space in the city is at a premium. It was a discouraging few days, thankfully my friends not only occupied my evenings with fun activities (ball games, parties, dinners) but were also incredibly supportive. In the end, practicality won out and I found a small condo to rent with somewhere to sleep and study, on the subway line (and near endless construction sites) and close to school in the middle of my price range. We’ll call it a win. At one point, my friend Steve, who has lived in Toronto longer than anyone else, said “You won’t spend much time there anyway. In this city, you just run around until you are exhausted and then go to sleep.”

Exhausted was the word. I don’t think it helped that I arrived in the city completely fried, but by the end of the week, it felt like the urban jungle had chewed me up and spit me out. I went to an event one night wearing one of my favourite new dresses and looked like a soccer mom compared to the incredibly chic people I was surrounded by. It took me 30 minutes to drive 5 kms downtown to view a rental one evening. There was construction everywhere, people were rude, service was slow. I felt overwhelmed; it was such a drastic change.

Oh, irony.

I was pretty happy to get home last night, to my big blue Alberta sky and sleepy little town on the lake. I fell asleep on the couch with my patio open, listening to the crickets as a breeze of fresh, cool air rustled through. I love it here, I thought to myself.

0600 on the Sunday of a long weekend: I am jarred awake by the sound of a digger backing up and then scraping along the ground 20 metres from my building. This is over the noise of the idling super truck in the parking lot and only slightly louder than the ATVs that just went screaming by. Are you kidding me? Maybe Toronto won’t be as much of an adjustment as I thought.

The truth is, every place is what you make it. It’s move number 6 and each place I’ve lived has brought its own positives and negatives. You can always find the good – everywhere has something to offer if you’re willing to find it. In Cold Lake, I go boating with friends and have caught my first fish. I went flying in a fighter jet. I’m 10 minutes from the ski hill and 6 hours from the mountains. I learned to curl. I have hosted epic parties with incredibly fun people. I have made friends, built a life here and experienced the meaning of the word community in a way I didn’t know was possible.

I thought that over the years the constant moving would get easier – it doesn’t. If anything, the investments – personally, socially, financially – only get deeper. They say in Cold Lake that you cry on the drive into town and cry on the drive out. It’s so true. My three years here have been the most professionally challenging and rewarding of my career. But more importantly, the social life I have here has surprised and amazed me. I have been lucky to find a community that truly takes care of its own. Sick? New baby? Heading abroad for work? People are lining up to bring a meal, watch your place, help, check in. That is the beauty of small town living.

Just like Cold Lake, Toronto will have its own beauty and experiences. I can’t wait to get settled and take in every possible moment of awesome the city has to offer. That’s the great part of this crazy adventure I signed up for 15 years ago – you get to live everywhere and experience all that Canada has to offer, you just have to be willing to seize the opportunities as they come and make them your own. From the east coast to the oil fields, from the small towns to the cities.

Plus, you know the shopping is going to be awesome.


Tornados all around

Many of you know that when it comes to travel, I tend not to have the best luck. Of course the fact that I travel as much as I do increases the likelihood of me running into the occasional problem. At least I’m 90% sure I learned that in stats class, but you know, math…

Anyway, my close friends and family love monitoring my travel misfortunes so they can contribute helpful running commentary like “you’re cursed” or “I am never EVER travelling with you” or my personal favourite, “Seriously? Again?!”

So it’s 11:25 am and I’m drinking a large glass of Sauvignon blanc and waiting on my ahi tuna tacos and truffle fries. The bar opened 25 minutes ago and I’m pretty sure my drink was the first order through; don’t judge me. Especially you, handsome international gay man across from me, leering at my complex carbohydrates while your phone continues to ding obnoxiously every time you get a text.

It all started yesterday. Well actually, it all started on Monday when I worked until 10 pm. On my way home I called my Mum to bitch, as you do. And I said something like “… but it’s all okay because I have Thursday to pack and relax before I drive to Edmonton before my red eye”. All knowing Mum responded “I thought you were flying out on the Wednesday night red eye.” And with 16-year-old-version-of-me attitude I replied “NO Mum. It’s THURSDAY. Obviously. Oh my god, like I KNOW my own schedule. I’m an ADULT.” (Did I mention how lucky she is to have me?)

So naturally as soon as I walked into the house I checked. And yup. Was leaving Wednesday, not Thursday. Lost a day, in my busiest time of year and with a move looming over my head. Cue panic. After apologizing for being a brat, I went into tornado mode. I made lists, I was efficient, I got it done.

So yesterday I hit the road, only 2.5 hours later than I planned. It was a gorgeous day to make the 4 hour drive to the airport and I was happily chatting to a girlfriend when I got a text from Delta: “Your flight from Toronto to Atlanta has been cancelled. We are actively trying to rebook you.”

Super. At this point I’m still booked for the Westjet red eye from Edmonton to Toronto, so I keep driving while calling Delta customer service via Bluetooth to tell them that I can fly into Pensacola OR Mobile, just get me there. Voicemail picks up: “Current wait time is 2 hours.”

Evidently, Atlanta experienced a few ACTUAL tornados yesterday. You just can’t make this shit up.

The next 4 hours is a comedy of errors of a variety of calls put on hold and “do you have your itinerary number handy?” and dropped calls (northern Alberta living and all). Around 9 I finally pull up to the airport. All previous plans of dinner with friends and leaving my car at their place are lost. I figure “eff it, I’m already here, maybe I can talk to a real person”.

By this point I have been automatically rebooked by Delta for 24 hours later, making me arrive in situ a full 36 hours after my original ETA. I’m pretty sure I used the term “unacceptable” 20 times yesterday but since you get more flies with honey than vinegar, I head to the Delta counter, which is (naturally) vacant. Eventually I locate a friendly looking woman named Anne S. Anne S. quickly becomes one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She’s not impressed with my situation and is going to look into it and get this – call me on my cell if she is able to change my itinerary so that I don’t have to wait at the airport. Anne S, despite not being able to do anything for me, you are a rockstar.

On my way out I decide to stop at Westjet to see if they’ll reimburse the Plus upgrade I paid for when I checked in 12 hours earlier since that flight has not been cancelled by Delta, because hey, I’m already here and having a great time! I am put into Krista’s merciful hands. Krista hears my story and makes ONE call and suddenly I’m rebooked on my original red eye flight with new routing on American Airlines to Miami instead of Atlanta and then onwards to Pensacola, getting me in 10 hours later than planned but at least on the right day. I promise her my first born, drop the car at Park N Fly, board the flight and pass out.

So here we are. I’m in Toronto waiting for my flight to Miami. For 7 hours. So far I’ve had breakfast with a friend who happened to be waiting for a flight as I arrived, enjoyed a mani / pedi, had a coffee, had a nap, browsed Duty Free, changed and had lunch while enjoying hearing the other stories of stranded travellers. Next leg is on deck, and then I’ll kill another 5 hours in the Miami airport and hopefully FINALLY get to my final destination.

All this to say, that while I may be somewhat travel cursed, it’s always worth it in the end. To explore new places, see family, meet new people and have amazing experiences. Plus it gives you time to reflect. Today I realized I am 100% going to to have to step up my wardrobe when I move here, because these stylish TO ladies are killing it and my “I-took-a-red-eye-wearing-lulu-pants-and-messy-bun” look is definitely not cutting it.

It has been an epic journey already and I’m drunk with fatigue but I’m on my way… and aren’t the best things in life always the ones you have to work for?

This just in: maintenance issue on the plane taking us to Miami, new departure time to be confirmed. I’ll be at the bar.

The F Word

No, not THAT F word – get your minds out of the gutter, you animals! But I am going to share something shocking with you so brace yourselves. Are you sitting down? Are you ready? Because it’s quite scandalous…

I am a feminist.

I know, I know. How brazen of me. How absolutely bold to just come right out and say it. I know right now you are sitting there cringing, expecting me to take off my bra and burn it while ranting about how much I hate men and how the world has done me no favours.

I have three words for you: Get. A. Grip.

This post has been a long time coming. It almost poured out of me after the Women’s Marches in January, as I sat here not understanding how so many women in my life just didn’t understand why this was important social action. It almost got written when I experienced chauvinism first hand from a male peer, who, when I mentioned I was considering a second Masters degree said “Don’t get too well educated now or no one will want to date you!”. Yes, it is 2017, and yes that actually happened.

But here we are and it is International Women’s Day and I have spent the last few weeks considering my own journey to this point in my life and my successes (and failures), strengths (and weaknesses) and how damn proud I am to be a feminist. For the record, feminism is the belief that all humans, men and women, should have equal rights and opportunities. Yup, that’s it. Not so scary sounding, is it? To quote comedian Aziz Ansari, “You’re a feminist if you go to a Jay Z and Beyonce concert and you’re not like, hmm, I feel like Beyonce should get 23% less money than Jay Z.”

To be honest, I don’t know when it became such a dirty word. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the word that matters – it’s the meaning behind it. To make decisions about our own bodies. To have women involved in policies affecting women. To earn the same pay as our male counterparts. As Emma Watson so eloquently pointed out in her UN address, gender equality is not a women’s issue, it is a HUMAN issue.

I never really gave being a feminist much thought in my youth because I have been privileged enough to not to have to fight for the right to vote, or fight for the right to work or fight for access to maternity leave if I choose to have a family. How lucky am I to have grown up in a world surrounded by strong women in my immediate reach and with role models like Oprah, Hillary Clinton, Malala Yusafazi, Gloria Steinam, Margaret Thatcher, Amy Schumer, Maya Angelou, Ellen Degeneres, Michelle Obama, and Geena Davis. How fortunate to have been raised by parents and grandparents who taught me I could do/be/say whatever I wanted. How blessed to attend a school that identified my leadership skills and directed me towards the student council. To have siblings that suggested a perhaps less common university that has led to a career that highlights many of my best attributes. To be in a profession where, though a minority, I am inspired by the fearlessness and pure grit of the women who have gone before me, and receive steadfast support from mentors of both genders.

In my own recent reflections, I pondered all the different elements of myself that make me who I am and realize how awesome it is that I get to be ALL THESE THINGS: leader, girly girl, ringette player, listener, Masters graduate, boss, shopaholic, weight lifter, aunt, eye roller, scuba diver, mentor, organizer, speed demon, party planner, writer, skier, world traveller, wino, Winnipeg Jets fan, and yes, a FEMINIST. (It makes sense, really, as I’ve been a female for my whole life now so it would be stupid not to be on my own side.)

But the point is that none of these elements of myself take away from the other – they are all essential parts of who I am and show different aspects of my personality and capabilities. Not one of them defines me on its own. Embracing all these seemingly paradoxical parts of my makeup and staying true to them, rather than caving to societal pressure or stereotypes has made me a far superior leader and definitely a better human. So to all of you out there – it’s okay to say you’re a feminist, if you are one.  And I suspect you are, even if you aren’t willing to shout it from the rooftops. Because what kind of human doesn’t support equal rights for… humans?

And I know there are some of you sitting there – both men AND women – unconvinced, saying, “But what’s there still to fight for? Women HAVE equal rights.” So let me be clear. Until the question “but what was she wearing?” is not asked during a rape trial, I will continue to be a feminist. Until “bossy” and “like a girl” becomes positive comments, not insults, I will continue to be a feminist. Until female genital mutilation – still practiced in 29 countries – is banned worldwide, I will continue to be a feminist. Until we live in a world where it is unacceptable for a President to condone sexual assault by saying that he “just grabs women by the p*ssy”, I will continue to be a feminist.

Loudly. Fearlessly. Unabashedly. Because the future is female.



Hello, Sunshine

Today was a Monday of Mondays… I got sucked into the office minutia and wasn’t able to dedicate any time to the things on my list that were actually important, and left work feeling like I’d accomplished nothing. It’s the beginning of February so it’s dark when I leave in the morning and dark when I get home, and it’s -30 to boot. Just one of those really BLAH winter days, where it’s tough to shake the seemingly constant feeling of tired, and the best part of your day is coming home to your latest Netflix addiction (mine is currently ‘The Crown’ …you’re welcome).

Several of my co-workers are headed off to warmer destinations in the coming weeks, and I can’t be too jealous since I had a vacation in Mexico last month myself. Listening to them talk excitedly about their upcoming holidays had me reflecting on my recent trip and all the good it did me. A travel addict, I love all kinds of trips – ski holidays, tours through Europe, scuba diving adventures, long weekends full of shopping and partying – suggest an adventure and I’m there. But sometimes what’s needed is an all-inclusive-park-your-ass-by-the-pool-and-read-five-books-while-day-drinking kinda holiday. So in January, two girlfriends and I headed to The Hideaway at the Royalton Riviera Cancun for some much needed R&R. (Unsponsored plug: this resort is awesome and I highly recommend it!)

Not long after arrival, the girls and I booked ourselves in for some treatments and I enjoyed one of the most relaxing spa experiences of my life: a hydrotherapy circuit, followed by a body scrub and subsequent hydrating mask and an hour long massage. As I lay there, all I could think about was how therapeutically cleansing it was to have Veronika (a spa angel sent from heaven) scrub away the past, revealing baby soft skin underneath. All the stress of the previous year felt like it was being scoured away, unveiling a fresh start.

I also got up every morning with good intentions to work out – and some mornings I did – but often I found myself sitting quietly at the beach as the sun was coming up. I do not often sit quietly – actually, I do not often just sit. But listening to the waves gently crash on the beach finally gave me some head space to process and think, and this time alone was one of the best parts of my trip. There are few things more calming than listening to the roll of the ocean and having absolutely nowhere to be.

Since I make friends with people everywhere I go –sometimes it’s literally in line at the grocery store – we met a group of guys from Chicago. They were there for a 4 day long “Dad’s Trip”. At first this seemed sketchy, especially when I found out they all had their own rooms… what was this, a group hall pass?! But I was wrong – they were really nice guys, not sleazy dudes – all their kids go to school together and their wives had gone away for a few girls’ weekends so they decided to do the same. These guys became the life of the party, talking to everyone, bringing out fun pool floaties and birthday sashes (just in case it was someone’s birthday) and even making hilarious name tags with nicknames for all of us. Given that I currently live in a community somewhat notorious for its unflattering “nicknames”, I was prepared for the worst, anticipating they would pick up on one of my quirks – or worse, my flaws.

The nametag they made me said ‘Hello my name is… Sunshine’.

Didn’t see that coming. Truth be told, I hadn’t been feeling all that “sunshine-y” before the trip. I’d been worn out, like that Garth Brooks song, “I’m much too young to feel this damn old”. I’d been feeling defeated after getting hurt by someone I trusted. I’d been feeling discouraged that I had my priorities wrong after training hard to get in shape, only to let it start slipping away because I work too much. I’d been feeling cynical, because the universe had thrown a lot of unfairness at the people I love recently. But these guys from Chicago didn’t see that. They saw someone with youth and radiance and energy and fun and confidence, having a great time dancing with friends! I beamed as I put my name tag on and wore it the entire night.

This trip was a wonderful reminder that sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break – literally and figuratively. To take the time to do something kind for ourselves, to wipe the slate clean and to remember our own personal awesomeness. Our worth. That we are enough.

And that sunshine is going to stay with me all winter long.

An Ode to Ellie

The typical blur of a week that occurs in early January is upon us. Work is full throttle, with many new challenges and seemingly endless meetings, I am squeezing in workouts wherever I can (often at oh-dark-stupid in the morning despite the comfort of my loving bed but all those holiday treats won’t work themselves off), and the social calendar is beginning to fill up. The year is off to a busy but positive start, aside from the crippling Canadian cold. I am escaping the -44 weather for some Vitamin Sea on Saturday, and I should be packing at this very moment. Seriously, if you know me, you know I REALLY should pack. There are currently piles of outfit options and the shoes, oh the shoes… but I had to take a moment to give a short tribute to an old friend.

I got a new vehicle. I know a few friends who will say that it’s about time. I finally have 4 wheel drive (critical for northern Alberta living), a heated steering wheel, satellite radio (a real treat if you’ve ever been forced to listen to the Cold Lake radio stations), all the bells and whistles. She’s a beaut. But welcoming this awesome new ride into my life meant saying goodbye to ol’ Ellie. And I find myself surprisingly sentimental about letting go of my car, maybe even a little choked up.

You see, Ellie is the car I’ve had for the past 10 years, my first set of wheels that I bought right out of university in 2007. Sky blue with a rear spoiler, heated seats, sunroof, just a nice little four door – nothing flashy. At the time, it was a big deal. I still remember how proud I was to have bought a new car! My first real car, aside from legendary Cruella, the 1984 Buick Skylark my parents let me bash around in as a teenager.

I. Love. This. Car. We have had some good times, Ellie and I. She has protected me in two accidents, including one that literally took a hazard sign out of the ground on the median. The irony of that is not lost on me. We’ve had some whoops moments, like when I scratched the side going up the ramp from my underground parking in Ottawa too fast and I could practically hear her saying “I told you so”. We have been on road trips to PEI, Borden, Halifax, Cape Breton, Ottawa, Boston, Kingston, Toronto, Cold Lake, Moose Jaw, Winnipeg, Calgary and everywhere in between. She has, despite her size and unassuming profile, kept me safe on the horrible four hour, single lane drive from Edmonton to Cold Lake an endless number of times. She has moved ridiculously large TVs, mirrors, decorative branches, lamps, ringette gear, and is almost permanently equipped with one of my suitcases. She has moved me across 6 provinces to two new cities and is as reliable as the sun rising in the morning. She has helped me put physical miles between me and a couple brutal break ups. Yes, I was that girl you saw bawling her eyes out listening to Adele on the highway in New Hampshire. Ellie and I have been through some shit together, people.

And when you think about it, our cars see a lot of life happen during their time with us. The amount of things that happen in 10 years, the number of people that come in and out of our lives, how much we grow, how much we learn, all we get to see and experience – happiness, adventures, heartbreak, grief, joy, excitement, fear – this car has been with me through it all. Driving brings so much freedom and clarity and I have done some of my best thinking in that little car. I have loved tearing down the highway on a sunny afternoon, sunroof open, tunes blasting, singing along at the top of my lungs.

So Ellie, our time has come to an end. You have been with me on quite a journey, helping take me from an unsure college grad just starting out to where and who I am today. Thank you.

To my new ride, Black Betty, you have big shoes to fill. I can’t wait to see all that life is going to bring during our time together. More road trips. More moves. More adventures. Let me throw some clothes in a bag and we’ll hit the road.

Never or now.

“Never or now.” These are the words that remain with me after binge watching my latest Netflix obsession, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, while polishing off half a bottle of wine (so much for that New Year’s resolution). There may also have been tears… those girls really get me. Rather than heading off on some Wild adventure (the book, not the movie) as Lorelei does, we find ourselves here together, at the beginning of something, of an idea, of I’m not sure exactly what at this time. Where the words are finally flying onto the screen so quickly I’ve had to move my wine onto the floor as I’m making the glass rattle.

For months now I’ve been yearning to write… ideas keep bubbling up inside of me. I’ve written a few down. I’ve jotted out some random paragraphs. And yet it is months later and I’ve yet to write an organized word. Why? I’ve had a million reasons not to. I need a new laptop; the fact that my glacially slow eight year old Sony VAIO even starts up is, in itself, a miracle. I’m too busy, I’ll wait until work/life/etc quiets down and start in 2017. Time wise, that’s technically what has happened but I guarantee nothing has slowed down (if anything, things only seem busier, but I digress). I don’t have a catchy blog name or a flashy site set up. The excuses are endless, aren’t they? But what is truly the reason? It’s fear. It is FEAR. As the other worldly author Elizabeth Gilbert knows, fear is what keeps us from our creative selves. Back in the fall when my skin was practically itching to write, I said to someone, who was of significant importance to me at the time, with great apprehension, “what if no one reads it?” He said, bluntly, “You don’t write for others, you write for yourself.” Ah yes, in its simplicity art is merely a way for us to express ourselves. Not for financial gain or for fame or for followers, but often because we must communicate it or we will erupt. And so, like many things of importance, the desire to write – despite the potential embarrassment of a third short lived blog attempt – has continued to nag at me until I have finally given in, exhausted, somewhat buzzed, on the ever-stereotypical “new year, new you” day, to the increasingly irritating ideas in my head that just-won’t-leave-me-alone.

My Dad has always told me “Dudette, don’t sweat the small stuff”. Unfortunately I seem to be biologically wired full of worry and with a need to plan things to the finite degree (truly delightful personality traits across the board, I must say).  I often lack the ability to just embrace the moment as it happens. I have recently been reminded however, that life is cruelly short. There is no time for self doubt, or more importantly, for fear. There is only time to live fully, and be truly present – ideally with a ridiculous grin on our faces as we take on the next terrifying challenge the universe throws at us.

I cannot promise I will write anything worthy of your time or even how long this journey together will last. I am not particularly inspiring or witty, and certainly do not have the abilities of The Mindy Project to make you laugh (though we do share a seemingly endless list of poor romantic choices and an equally kickass wardrobe). But as Atticus once said, “she was afraid of heights, but she was much more afraid of never flying.”

And so, we fly.