cute! christmas cat

I took Gertie to my parents' place with me for Christmas, so she got to play with the wrapping paper after the morning 'carnage'.


singalong! renaissance girls by oh land

Okay, folks. I need to introduce you to Oh Land. She is simply the coolest. Cool tunes, cool moves, cool voice, cool message. Of course, she's so cool that everyone else probably already knew about her, but just in case someone else out there is as behind as me on life, here you go!

This song is especially awesome. Listen carefully to the lyrics (or read them below), watch her kickin' dance moves, and feel the power of possibility flow through your veins!

Oh Land

I can be an engine buzzing like a bee, I’m a real independent
Doing the laundry and planning for the future
It’s the nature of a renaissance girl
I can be your darling cooking you dinner and soothing your heartache
Having three kids and still remain a virgin
It’s my version of a renaissance girl

Lift me, lift me up where the air is thin and my mind will take off
Pull me, pull me down where my love is pure and my feet are on ground

Come along, come, come along, we can be your renaissance girls
Come along, come, come along, move forward, move forward
Come along, come, come along, tough like rocks and sweet like pearls
Come along, come, come along, we can be your renaissance girls

I can be an artist sculpting your face like you always wanted
Making you believe it’s just how I saw it
It’s logic for a renaissance girl
I can be impressed by all the things you know, I’m fan, I’m obsessed now
Knitting you a sweater while I drive in your fast car
It’s mastered by a renaissance girl

I’ll release my money you can be my back bone
I call you honey you can cry on my shoulder
Let it all breath, I got a degree in psychology

Lift me, lift me up where the air is thin and my mind will take off
Pull me, pull me down where my love is pure and my feet are on ground

Come along, come, come along, we can be your renaissance girls
Come along, come, come along, move forward, move forward
Come along, come, come along, tough like rocks and sweet like pearls
Come along, come, come along we can be your renaissance girls

Lift me, lift me up where the air is thin
Pull me, pull me down where my love is pure and my feet are on ground

Come along, come, come along, we can be your renaissance girls
Come along, come, come along, move forward, move forward
Come along, come, come along, tough like rocks and sweet like pearls
Come along, come, come along we can be your renaissance girls

learning! happy holidays persecution

It's still the holiday season, and this little gem gave me a chuckle.  In case you thought you were being persecuted by the "happy holidays" agents of political correctness, here is a handy flowchart to learn from.

Found via Rachel Held Evans' blog.

inspiration! you & her lingerie

This is so lovely! A lingerie company called You & Her. They make beautiful, simple undergarments, made right here in Vancouver, BC, and help fund a sewing centre in Zambia (I've been there! Not to the sewing centre, but to Zambia). They are trying to change this statistic:

"Worldwide, statistics show that on average 155 girls in every village in Africa have dropped out of school because they cannot afford sanitary towels and underwear at the age of menstruation."

You get beautiful, locally made lingerie, and she (aka "her") gets underwear and supplies that empower her to stay in school.

Plus, look how beautiful:

Women getting together to support each other?  BAM!  Inspired!

PS: I just realized (as I schedule this a week in advance) that this will come out on Christmas Day.  Perhaps I should make it more Christmassy?  Well what is more in the TRUE spirit of Christmas than this?  I say NOTHING.  Deal with it.

singalong! do you know (what it takes)

Mmmmm, high school dances. So many good memories (with conveniently forgotten patches of awkwardness whenever a slow song came on), and this is one of them.  Sing it, Robyn!

Do You Know (What It Takes)

Don't you know I can see what you're doing
Runnin' around with your cheap talk, cheap talk
What I need is a man who can do me right

If you got what I need I can gurarantee
To return all the love that you've given to me
But I've got to be sure that you'll always be around
Do you know what it takes to love me?
Do you know what it takes to do me right?
Do you know what it takes to love me baby?

Heaven knows in my time I've been lonely
Feelin' my love echo in my mind, in my mind yeah
A never satisfied girl's what they call me
But I just can't keep goin' on livin' lies

Guarantee unto me, you won't let me down
There's so much I can give but it's buried so deep
I just got to be sure that you always will be around

do you know what it takes?
do you know what it takes?

Don't waste my time with your lies (yeah baby, i gotta know)
You got to prove that you will always be around
I'll give you everything
Boy will you do the same for me?
Will you do anything?
I gotta know what will it be

learning! 20 wonderful effects exercise has on the mind

It's pretty common knowledge these days that exercise releases endorphins and helps people feel happier and less stressed, but that doesn't mean we can't all use some reminders of the positive non-physical effects of exercise.  Get the full meal deal here on PsyBlog including the science-y explanations. Here, however, are the Cole's Notes:

  1. Increases stress resilience.
  2. Reduces anxiety.
  3. Lower dementia risk.
  4. Escape a bad mood.
  5. Cut down on cocaine.
  6. Fight depression.
  7. Speed up your mind.
  8. Consolidate long-term memory.
  9. Boost self-control.
  10. Help with serious mental disorders.
  11. Reduce silent strokes.
  12. Alzeihmer's protection.
  13. Improve children's school performance.
  14. Stimulate brain cell growth.
  15. Increase executive functioning.
  16. Better sleep.
  17. Prevent migraines.
  18. Stop smoking.
  19. Reduce motivation to eat.
  20. It's more fun than we predict.

inspiration! you & the universe

Today's inspiration comes in the form of a sentence:
"The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you."
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
Who doesn't need a reminder now and again that the universe is way bigger than we are, that we didn't write it, and that we are not gods?

(via itsokaytobesmart)

singalong! boys of summer

This is one of my favourite karaoke tunes. It's just got so many feelings and so much 80's awesomeness. I don't know anything else Don Henley has done, and I honestly don't really care because this is all I need to know of him.

Don Henley

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air
The summer's out of reach
Empty lake, empty streets
The sun goes down alone
I'm driving by your house
Though I know you're not home

But I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin' in the sun
You got your hair combed back and your sunglasses on, baby
And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

I never will forget those nights
I wonder if it was a dream
Remember how you made me crazy?
Remember how I made you scream
Now I don't understand what happened to our love
But babe, I'm gonna get you back
I'm gonna show you what I'm made of

I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin' in the sun
I see you walking real slow and you're smilin' at everyone
I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

Out on the road today, I saw a DEADHEAD sticker on a Cadillac
A little voice inside my head said, "Don't look back. You can never look back"
I thought I knew what love was
What did I know?
Those days are gone forever
I should just let them go but-

I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin' in the sun
You got that top pulled down and that radio on, baby
And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

I can see you-
Your brown skin shinin' in the sun
You got that hair slicked back and those Wayfarers on, baby
I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

learn! 11 untranslatable words from other languages

How splendid other languages are. Here are 11 words that cannot be translated into English, found on

My favourites? Goya and Jayus. I want to start using them in conversation every time I talk to people.

24 Rules for Being a Lady in 2014

Very recently the clever minds at Thought Catalog wrote a piece called 24 Rules for Being a Gentleman in 2014.  I know the art of being a gentleman is sort of a buzzy thing to talk about right now, and being a "lady" doesn't sound quite so cool, but that doesn't mean that it isn't.  In fact, all those 24 rules for being a gentlemen match rules for women to be ladies, and they would make the world a better place.

A note on formatting: The "For Gentlemen" rules are direct quotes from the Thought Catalogue post, that you can read in its original context here.

1) The Drink:

For Gentlemen: Have a signature drink that you both can make at home after a long day’s work, and order with effortless swag at any bar you happen to be in.

For Ladies: The same!  Personally I think it's endlessly attractive for a woman's signature drink to be a) simple and b) not wine or super sweet, but really, whatever makes you happy.

2) Social media:

For Gentlemen: Keep all negative social media activities to a minimum, because no gentleman engages in things like Twitter fights or passive-aggressive Facebook statuses. It’s just not classy.

For Ladies: Again, the same! Being a negative nelly on social media doesn't show the other person who wrong they are, it just makes you look petty. The only time to engage in someone's angry social media banter is to defend the helpless.

And let's just add "VagueBooking" to this one. VagueBooking is the act of writing vaguely negative Facebook statuses ("Sometimes everything is the worst) so that people pour affection on you. Not classy either.

3) Chivalry

For Gentlemen: Hold doors open for everyone, because that’s just a nice thing that you do.

For Ladies: More of the same. If you get to a door first, or are on the side of the handle, open it for whoever you're walking with, man or woman. It is just friendly. And if someone opens a door for you, thank them with a word and/or smile, and walk through it. You don't need to prove to them that you can open doors yourself, nor do you need to make a huge deal about the gesture.

4) Texting.

For Gentlemen: Always text back promptly, even if it’s to let someone down gently. The worst thing you can possibly to do someone is leave them hanging so they can torture themselves with worst case scenarios.

For Ladies: Keep it coming. Not responding because your answer is no or because you don't want to deal with conflict is unkind. Let the person know your answer so you can both move forward.

5) The clothes.

For Gentlemen: Own and be able to sufficiently rock at least one suit. Suits are the greatest untapped resource that most men have access to, and can take even the most slovenly 4Chan dweller into slick presentability. You owe it to yourself to know your way around a suit.

For Ladies: Own and be able to sufficiently rock at least one Little Black Dress. I use the term "little black dress" lightly, because it need not be black, nor be too little. It should be, as the saying goes, tight enough to show you're a woman but loose enough to show you're a lady. Otherwise, what sets an LBD apart from other dresses is the fact that it elevates your look in an instant.

6) The handshake.

For Gentlemen: Master a good handshake, so that you are neither depositing your limp sea slug of a hand on someone else’s palm, nor crushing them with your Rock-Biter-from-the-Neverending-Story force.

For Ladies: Oh please, the same. The days of extending a limp hand to be grasped awkwardly around the fingers are thankfully gone. Show your confidence and capability in life with a firm handshake.

7) The Cat Call.

For Gentlemen: Never attempt to explain, under any circumstances, why a cat call should be considered a compliment.

For Ladies: Never engage with a cat caller. Yelling a crude response back might feel good but you're not actually teaching them a lesson and you're just looking kind of foolish in the process. On the flip side, encouraging them just encourages them.  On the other flip side, cat calling men isn't lady-like either.  If you appreciate a man's look, tell him with words, not sounds.

8) Accessories.

For Gentlemen: Do not be afraid of accessorizing, because a pair of nice shoes or a classy watch can Upgrade U almost immediately, as explained in the Beyoncé song.

For Ladies: Don't get too crazy with the accessories. If you're rocking a statement necklace, you don't need a statement bracelet and a statement pair of shoes. Or, if you're like me, feel free to throw on at least one accessory once and a while. It really does do wonders for your look.

9) Pejoratives.

For Gentlemen: Do not refer to things as “gay” that aren’t homosexual human beings. People who call things “gay” as a pejorative are truly the raisins in the trail mix of life.

For Ladies: I am so deeply saddened that this even needs to be mentioned. Of course you should follow suit on this one.

10) Putting down.

For Gentlemen: Do your best not to put others down in order to elevate yourself, it reeks of the people who categorize men by their Greek letter status.

For Ladies: Oh please, the same. There is nothing to be desired in being catty - by tearing down another woman, especially for her appearance or sexual choices, hurts us all. If you have a problem with something someone is doing, address the problem, not the person.

11) Call your mother.

For Gentlemen: Call your mother, even if you have to set up a Google calendar reminder to get yourself to do this.

For Ladies: Ditto. And hey, say hi to your Dad while you're at it. You might be surprised how much insight your Dad has to offer.

12) Cooking.

For Gentlemen: Know how to cook at least a few good meals, because a) there is nothing worse than guys who assume it’s up to the woman to do all the cooking, b) there is nothing sexier than a dude who can cook, and c) everyone deserves to feed themselves well.

For Ladies: Know how to cook at least a few good meals so that you can sufficiently feed yourself and others. Just because SJP used her oven for sweater storage in Sex and the City doesn't mean you have to. Being able to provide nutritious and tasty meals for yourself and your loved ones doesn't make you a barefoot and pregnant housewife, it makes you competent at life.

13) Eye contact.

For Gentlemen: Make good eye contact, but not so much that it gets into “I’ve been watching you from behind your dumpster” levels.

For Ladies: Make good eye contact. Period. The coy look-away is fine once and a while, but confidence can and should be a part of your arsenal.

14) Politics.

For Gentlemen: Don’t corner people at house parties with your political views (and this goes double — nay, triple — for libertarians, as you guys are the most egregious culprits).

For Ladies: Ditto, but that doesn't mean you can't engage in an intelligent and open-minded political discussion, should one arise, so know what your views are and be open to hearing someone else's.

15) Name calling.

For Gentlemen: Erase the word “slut” from your vocabulary.

For Ladies: Double ditto. Triple ditto.  Calling other women sluts, even as a fun pet name, is not classy nor does it help elevate respect for women in general. Calling men sluts might not have the same loaded effect as using the term on women, but it is still low on the "class" scale.

16) The opposite sex.

For Gentlemen: Treat every woman with the same amount of respect and humanity that you would your mother, sister, or daughter — and think about why there might have been conditions on how you treated them in the first place.

For Ladies: The same applies. Just because a man is not attractive to you doesn't mean he's a creep or a jerk. Treat him as you would want someone to treat your younger brother.

17) The RSVP.

For Gentlemen: RSVP.

For Ladies: RSVP.

Fun fact for all: RSVP stands for "respond s'il-vous-plait", not "let me know if you're coming and say nothing if you aren't or don't know". Let the host know your intentions, whatever they are.

18) Finances.

For Gentlemen: Always put a little money away at the end of each month, and not because you’re saving for anything in particular.

For Ladies: Do that.

19) Who pays?

For Gentlemen: Be up-front about your finances, because it’s unfair for anyone to believe in the outdated gender roles of “the man should pay for everything.” As long as you’re working hard and trying your best, you deserve to be honest.

For Ladies: Don't expect the man to pay for everything, and don't fight back tooth and nail if he does try to pay. If he's paying, he's trying to make a gesture. It doesn't show him that you're independent if you force him to let you pay - it throws that gesture back in his face and makes him feel like a jerk. Of course, you should always offer to pay, and if he insists, thank him and offer to get the next one. Then actually follow through and get the next one.

20) The Sex.

For Gentlemen: Do not sleep with anyone who wants a relationship from you that you are not prepared to give. Using their affection to get something from them physically is easy, but it makes you a bad person.

For Ladies: We can be guilty of this too. Don't use your feminine wiles to get what you want from a man. Tempting him with sex (or using actual sex) to get a guy to do something for you is simply cruel. As is sleeping with him if he wants a relationship and you don't. As is using sex (withholding it or giving it) to get your way in an argument. This one is especially bad because it perpetuates the myth that women don't really want sex and that men want it all the time - both are hurtful.

21) Dancing.

For Gentlemen: Learn how to dance, at least a bit.

For Ladies: Learn how to dance for fun, not just for sex appeal. And learn how to follow on the off-chance you meet a man who knows how to lead for some proper partnered dancing.

22) Flowers.

For Gentlemen: Never underestimate the great value of unexpected flowers on a day that is otherwise nothing special, especially in long-term relationships.

For Ladies: You can give random little gifts in your relationship too. Flowers might not feel right, but maybe surprising your fellah with his gentlemanly drink, cigar, or cookie would be nice.

23) The Selfie.

For Gentlemen: Don’t be disdainful of selfies, guys have just as much a right to look and feel good about themselves as anyone else. If you want a selfie, take a selfie! Just don’t be a dick about other people who like to do it, too.

For Ladies: Don't be disdainful of selfies, even if you think the girl is "too young" or "just trying to show her cleavage" or "whatever else you are assuming about her motives for the selfie." If she is doing the things you assume, then she needs some extra love, not judgement. If you want to do a selfie with duck lips, go for it, with full awareness of what you're doing.

24) Compassion.

For Gentlemen: Be compassionate, and know that you are allowed to experience the full range of human emotion. Where the gentleman of our grandparents’ generation might have prided himself on keeping all of his feelings in check for fear of seeming ‘feminine,’ a real gentleman knows that the best thing about him is his ability to be kind and empathetic. Everything else — yes, even the suit — is just icing on the cake.

For Ladies: Be compassionate towards everyone, period. I feel like a lot of women these days think being kind of judgey, brash, and covering up their emotions makes them more hip, modern, and maybe even feminist. Remember, the assumptions you make about someone else's motives say something about you and your motives. Empathy is not old-fashioned, it's human.


25) Learn how to do at least one "taking care of the home" thing, from fixing your running toilet to properly drilling and hanging shelves on your wall. Self-sufficiency is empowering and sexy.

26) Don't accept drinks from people you aren't interested in. No, it's not a bonus free drink. The offer of a drink is the offer to get to know someone better, so if someone offers you a drink and you don't want to get to know them better, smile and say no thank you.

inspiration! replacing guns with thumbs-up

First of all, seeing this gave me a chuckle on what was otherwise a very difficult and sad day a few weeks back. Secondly, you may think I'm reaching here, but how inspiring is it to replace violence with a thumbs up? Very, if you're me. Or if you're similar to me in any way.

This one is my favourite, because he's just seems so into it.

See the rest here, on

cute! cats with antlers by marc johns

The artwork of Marc Johns is just way too cute. Specifically, this one, because think about it - cats with antlers??? Think of all the cute things cats do (cleaning their heads, scampering around the house, head-butting you, purring, hopping up onto high things, standing on their hind legs and meowing at you adorably), and then imagine them doing those things, but with antlers. TOO CUTE, right?

Marc Johns
(Check out his other art. It's great too.)

singalong! baby baby

I have a friend who's birthday is near Halloween.  One year she decided to take advantage and have a dress up party, which I thoroughly approved of.  I find that the older I get, the less people are willing to dress up for parties and the more often theme parties are flops, which makes me sad.  The combo of a birthday, Halloween, and cool friends made this party a hit.  Specifically, we were instructed to dress up like our childhood heroes, and guess who I dressed up as?  (This is where you find out why on earth I'm talking about a friend's birthday in a singalong post…)  Amy Grant!  Amy Grant, people.  I dressed as Amy Grant, on the cover of this album.  Because she is the best.

Also, I love this video!  The part at the beginning where a guy tries to give Amy a gift he was giving to his (presumably) girlfriend, because Amy is so amazing!  Then all the other parts where her and her man are the cutest, funnest, goofiest couple of all time.  Dreams do come true.

by Amy Grant

Baby, baby
I'm taken with the notion
To love you with the sweetest of devotion

Baby, baby
My tender love will flow from
The bluest sky to the deepest ocean

Stop for a minute
Baby I'm so glad you're mine, yeah
You're mine

Baby, baby
The stars are shining for you
And just like me I'm sure that they adore you

Baby, baby
Go walking through the forest
The birds above a' singing you a chorus

Stop for a minute
Baby they're so glad you're mine, oh yeah
And ever since the day you put my heart in motion
Baby I realize that there's just no getting over you

Baby, baby
In any kind of weather
I'm here for you always and forever

Baby, baby
No muscle man could sever
My love for you is true and it will never

Stop for a minute
Baby I'm so glad you're mine
And ever since the day you put my heart in motion
Baby I realize that there's just no getting over you

And ever since the day you put my heart in motion
Baby I realize that there's just no getting over you
Over you

Baby, baby
Always and forever
Baby I'm so glad that
Here for you baby
So glad you're mine
Baby I'm so glad that
When I think about you it makes me smile
Baby, baby be mine
Baby, I'm so glad that
Don't stop giving love
Don't stop, no
Baby I'm so glad that you're mine
Baby I'm so glad
Baby I'm so glad that
When I think about you it makes me smile

Post-Script: A really short and effective drinking game idea: shot every time she says "baby". You'll get so terribly, horribly drunk, but you'll feel so much more uplifted than all other songs that have equal or greater instances of "baby".

learn! tights or pants?

The "tights are not pants" war has been raging for quite some time, mostly from the people who yell "tights are not pants!" on the internet.  I'm pretty sure those girls who wear tights as pants aren't even aware that anyone notices anything except for … I don't know, their bright and cleverly constructed yoga tops with extra straps that make no sense and headbands with bangs sticking up underneath?

Regardless, the people (myself included) who don't think tights are pants continue to agree with each other about how you shouldn't wear tights as pants.  In a world of stretchy pants, it can be hard to tell if the cloth stretched over your legs are pants or leggings.  Luckily, blogger Bridgette Rays has solved the problem with a quick questionnaire:

My Favourites:
  • If your pants have feet attached to them, they’re tights, not pants.
  • If your pants have a control top, they’re tights, not pants.
  • If your pants are sold in the tights and socks section, they’re tights, not pants.
Also, she linked to this handy flowchart to help you out if you're still unclear.

BAM!  Learned.

inspiration! pentatonix covers royals by lorde

First, if you don't know Lorde, check that girl out. She's the latest Good Thing to Happen in Music, and her song Royals is The Awesome. Then listen to this cover by Pentatonix, a totally acapella group that create a full and beautiful rendition of this song with only their voices.

Inspired, much?

break up survival: using television for good

Recently I wrote about some basic break up survival tips with the goal of both feeling and dealing with your emotions and avoiding the downward spiral of awfulness.  Well, here is a bit more on the distraction train - but before I get into it I want to re-emphasize the importance of dealing with the emotions in a real way.

After I wrote that last post, I had an honest conversation with someone where I realized how good I am at pretending my negative emotions don't exist, which is okay except that if you never feel them you'll never work through them.  That said, sometimes distractions are a true blessing, and necessary to really gain enough distance to be able to experience the emotions in a healthy way instead of a terrible, wallowing, self-pitying, death-spiral-type way.

So!  On to the point!  Television can be a glorious tool to pass the time with less pain.  It also fills the background silence with familiar voices and thus makes a great backdrop to household puttering, crafting, cooking, or some light exercising.

The key here is to pick shows that are light-hearted but don't include real, deep love or heartbreak.  Most comedies revolve around romance and end with people kissing, so this isn't easy, but there are some great options:

Arrested Development

First of all, hilarious.  Second of all, you've probably already watched it all through, but it's still fun to re-watch, so it's perfect as background fodder or something to take your full attention.  Third, it's about a bunch of selfish, emotionally crippled people, so you don't have to worry about seeing someone actually fall in or out of love.  It's all very surface.  Fantastic.

(Oh, and I'm obviously just talking about the original three seasons.)

Better Off Ted

Another one with Portia De Rossi (that gal did some solid work as an entitled, selfish woman with few deep emotions).  This one was hardly watched and didn't get the same cult acclaim as Arrested Development, so you may not have seen it before.  It's funny, and there's sort of some romance that almost feels real, so it will start to re-humanize you without going too far.

Doctor Who

You want to watch a show that is funny, adventurous, entertaining, and shines a light on all the best parts of humanity (doing the right thing when it's hard, seeing the good in others, helping the downtrodden, etc.)?  Watch Doctor Who.  It will make you cry, and it does go to some pretty dark places, but the beautiful heroism of the Doctor and his companions, and their quest to make the universe a better place is inspiring.  Plus, there is VERY LITTLE romance, just a lot of good, down-home, love-your-neighbour-type love.


An animated comedy about a dysfunctional spy agency, with voice acting from the mom in Arrested Development (seeing a trend?)  Lots of funny, lots of satire, and again, no real emotions.

Sex and the City

The only traditional "chick" show on the list: this got me through my first break up big time.  Yes, it totally violates my "no real emotions/romance" rule, but here's why it's on the list: Sex and the City is all about the ongoing life-cycle of relationships: one ends, another begins, then someone else pops up, and so on.  This show will help you remember that there are, indeed, plenty of fish in the sea, and that you'll be able to move on and be okay with a little help from your friends.  Plus, at least you didn't get broken up with via post-it note.  (I hope!)

(Feel free to avoid the last few seasons when the marriage and babies thing starts happening.)

Any other awesome post-break up TV shows to watch that I've missed?

cute! cat in a box

What's this, a cat's in a box?  That never happens!  Nobody has ever seen this on the internet, ever!

Fun fact: when my cat was in this box, a friend thought he would mess with her a little by shaking it around and, without thinking I cried out "No! That needs to be her happy place!"  Apparently, that was funny.

8 things i learned from banning sugar for a month (and alcohol for half a month)

I've never been a person for any kind of diet-related discipline.  I operate on two principles: eat when I'm hungry/stop when I'm full, and eat whatever I feel like, with an emphasis on vegetables.

This month, however, I decided to give myself a challenge I'd wanted to try for quite some time - No Fun November.  This originally took the form of shunning all alcohol and refined sugar for the month.  Then I went through a break up halfway through the month and something had to give.  Since my main comfort foods are popcorn, chips, and cheese, keeping sugar off the table seemed far more manageable than turning down the sympathy beers from my friends.  Then it became just a No (Refined) Sugar November.

I say No (Refined) Sugar November because I did keep eating things where sugars naturally appear, I just avoided added, refined sugars.  Technically sugar is sugar, and while refined sugar is worse because of all the processes it goes through mutating it into super-crazy-sugar, it turns out our bodies actually process all sugars, natural or otherwise, in the same way, and that way is not great.  Still, baby steps.  Let's start with the refined stuff and see how that goes.

Why November, you ask?  Well, October has Halloween and Thanksgiving (for Canadians like me), and December has Christmas and all its festivities.  November is a little island in the middle just crying out for a detox.

1) I still had tons of fun.

The first weekend of the month included two birthday parties, a ladies' brunch, and a pub dinner. This was the true test: could I survive these sugar and alcohol-full activities and avoid misery?  Turns out the answer is a huge yes.  I joyfully drank soda water and diet coke at the parties.  I had tea at brunch.  I had water at dinner.  I simply didn't eat the sugary things.  And I felt great!

It is kind of sad, but I had forgotten how great it feels to go out with friends to a party, have a wild and wonderful time, and then go home with a completely clear head.  I'm not saying I'm used to getting smashed all the time, but even a few drinks can make things a little cloudy that night or the next morning (hey, I'm not 20 anymore.)

2) Avoiding sugar and alcohol saves money!

Let's think about what that first weekend would have cost me if I was having sugar and alcohol.  I could have easily dropped $100, and would have spent at least an extra $40-50.  Parties aside, adding a pint or two of beer to a meal fattens up that bill quite a lot.  Same with adding dessert.

Even those spontaneously purchased chocolate bars or the bottle of wine in the fridge - those little bits add up over a weekend, week, and month.  For someone on a tight budget like me, cutting that option out definitely gave me a lot more wiggle room to play with.

3) If you want to avoid sugar, avoid anything pre-made.

Almost all pre-made, pre-packaged foods have sugar in them.  Even the stuff that's not even a little bit sweet like soup or pasta sauce.  It makes zero sense except that we've become addicted to sugar and/or use it as an easy filler ingredient.

4) Apples are hella sweet.

A lot of fruits are, actually, but I especially noticed how sweet the apples were.  It was almost overwhelming at times!

Also, remember when people used to say "hella" and how annoying it was?  Yep, went there.

5) I don't really miss it.

I can think of a couple of times I was sad to not have something sugary, but most of the time it was more situational: a beautiful cake was being cut and served in front of me or I was bored and wanted to bake something.  Towards the end of the month I did have some visions of biting into a cupcake, but what I was really imagining wasn't the sweet taste but the moist, fluffy texture of the cupcake.

In fact, I really don't miss having sugary things much at all.  So much so that it is December 1st and I have not yet gone out and eaten a bucket full of sugary goodness, despite the fact that I just remembered there is ice cream in my freezer.

6) How often I eat (and drink) without thinking.

Cutting something out of my diet had the benefit of forcing me to be aware of what I was putting in my mouth.  I realized how often I eat sweets just because they're there, or I drink because I'm with people who are drinking.

Our environment and social situations have a huge influence on our behaviour, and when we aren't paying attention we can very easily conform.  As someone who has been avidly non-conformist from the age 14-on, it grates me to think that I do this, but the proof is in the (sugar-free) pudding.  It's not a conscious desire to fit in, but the fact is that someone else ordering a drink makes me more likely to order a drink too, and someone else eating chocolate means I'll probably grab a bite as well.

In this case, the results of conformity aren't totally dire, but they do have a cost.  I already mentioned the fact that sweets and booze don't come free, but they also tend to come with a high calorie count, which is not ideal health-wise.

7) It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

Could be because I'm an all-or-nothing type, but cutting out sweets (and drinks, for a while) wasn't nearly as hard for me as I thought it would be.  It even became kind of fun to scan ingredients labels and then shake my head at our crazy society the puts sugar in vegetable soup.

8) Moving forward from here is a mystery.

Speaking of that all-or-nothing personality, I'm a little lost on how to really carry this forward.  I'm sure my newfound mindfulness-in-eating will carry me for a while, but without the ban, we all know those sweets will wiggle their way back in.  At first it will be intentional treats here or there, but that's a snowball that keeps on growing.  Throw in Christmas and it won't be long before I'm absent-mindedly chucking office chocolates into my mouth and grabbing handfuls of baking.

Maybe I'm not giving myself enough credit, but I want to be realistic.

So how does a person keep the awareness of what they're eating and a sizeable portion of the discipline, without completely cutting the tempting foods out?  Should I just try the mindfulness thing and see where it goes?  Should I say that I can have sugar once a week?  Should I say no daytime sugar (cutting out the office snacks problem)?  Should I just forget about it and live a little?  So many options!

singalong! solsbury hill

Around the age of 19 I learned that listening to Peter Gabriel is (apparently) something a person is supposed to be embarrassed about.  I learned this because my sister wrote some kind of confession post on Myspace (because that was the thing at the time) about finally not being embarrassed about loving Peter Gabriel, and since one of my sister's primary areas of expertise is cool music, I figured she was on to something.

Now, make no mistake, I'm not, nor have I ever been, some massive Peter Gabriel fan.  I pretty much know his big hits and that's it.  I probably couldn't even name them all.  But oh man oh man, do I love the ones I know.  Especially Solsbury Hill.  One of the loveliest songs ever for sure.  I feel my heart boom boom boom every time he sings about his heart going boom boom boom, and not in a weird flirty/sexy way.  In a "this is what it's like to be human" way.  So sing along with Peter Gabriel, and feel no shame.  Because why would you?

Peter Gabriel

Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night
He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing stretching every nerve
Had to listen had no choice
I did not believe the information
I just had to trust imagination
My heart going boom boom boom
"Son," he said "Grab your things,
I've come to take you home."

To keep in silence I resigned
My friends would think I was a nut
Turning water into wine
Open doors would soon be shut
So I went from day to day
Tho' my life was in a rut
"Till I thought of what I'd say
Which connection I should cut
I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery
My heart going boom boom boom
"Hey" he said "Grab your things
I've come to take you home."
(Back home.)

When illusion spin her net
I'm never where I want to be
And liberty she pirouette
When I think that I am free
Watched by empty silhouettes
Who close their eyes but still can see
No one taught them etiquette
I will show another me
Today I don't need a replacement
I'll tell them what the smile on my face meant
My heart going boom boom boom
"Hey" I said "You can keep my things,
They've come to take me home."

learning! the cost of being a single lady

All the single ladies, gather around.  If you're ready to start bopping and hopping about putting a ring on it (thank you, Beyoncé*), perhaps continue along that path.  Turns out, being a single woman ain't cheap, and being married shares more than just a little lovin'.  It shares the costs of living in a very real way.

The folks at MintLife have done the math.  Check out their complete infographic in its informational glory here.

*I don't know about you, but whenever I hear the words "single ladies" I start singing Beyonce in my head.  Thanks to her, I also can't hear a reference to "putting a ring on it", going "to the left", or wondering if someone "can handle this", without getting her catchy tunes stuck in my head.

***Fun Fact: I scheduled this a while ago, but now, as you know from a few recent posts, I am now once again a single lady! Look at that, it's like I manifested it. (Note: I don't think that's why I'm single, also, technically I have always been legally single because, you know, you're either single or married according to the state (or should I say Crown in Canada?) and I'm as of yet, thankfully, unhitched.)

break up survival: 9 ways to save your dear little heart

When you look at it objectively, there is something truly odd about the serial monogamy our society prefers: meet someone, slowly make them into the most important person in your life, share a level of intimacy that you share with no one else, and then cut it off and attempt to move on like it never happened until you find someone else to do it with.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we all jump on the polyamory train, nor really any other relationship model you can dip a hippie in. No matter what everyone who's read Sex at Dawn says, just because early societies may have been like that doesn't mean it will work today, nor is it the best way for humans to interact anymore. If you ask me, one person at a time is still the way to go, with the ultimate goal of finding one person to stick with until you die.

Of course, this means that you will occasionally (or frequently, depending on your patterns, although if that is your pattern you may want to get it "checked out" so to speak) either have to cut someone out or be cut out by them. And that's rough, pretty much always. From the sadness to the missing of this person who was (or was becoming) your best friend to the assumption that there will be no one else ever again, there are hurdles to jump. Now, every human person is different, but since I like to think about everything that happens in my life a couple (or a couple hundred) times over, I have some thoughts on what has helped me big time during these unfortunate break up times.

Photo by bunchofpants

One: Remember that every break up is different.

Just like every relationship is different because it's with a different person, every break up is different. My few break ups (I was a late bloomer in the dating world so I don't have many) have ranged from really hard/sad-but-for-the-better to rug-ripped-out-heart-stomped-but-I-still-love-him-so-I'll-offer-it-up-again-and-again. What I learned the second and third times around was that I couldn't expect the experience to be the same as the last one. This was especially important the second time, because that was the walk-all-over-me-in-case-you'll-love-me-again break up, and I thought I would still get over it in the same way I had my first, which included a lot of major personal revelations and feelings of empowerment. Those expectations of healing and empowerment did not help the process when I was feeling anything but, not at all.

So lesson one is to allow your experience to be what it is and not to expect yourself to feel any certain way at any certain time.

Two: Take necessary steps of avoidance on social media.

I'm not saying that you need to go and delete this person from your online life, although I don't know what happened in your relationship, so maybe that would be a good idea. What I'm suggesting is that you hide the "ex" from your Facebook newsfeed so that you don't have to see their crafted social media-self all the time, and maybe unfollow them on Instagram and Twitter. Protect your idle social media moments, and at least make it so that you have to intentionally seek them out instead of having them just pop up in your life.

Oh, and try really really hard not to look them up. If they are even semi-regular users of social media it will look like they're off being awesome and it will make things harder. Staring at their profile pictures is not going to help anything.

Photo by chopped_pork

Three: Talk about it.

I find that the more friends I tell about the break up, specifically the "why" and "how", the easier the whole thing becomes. The reasons and the events that lead up to the relationship ending hold less emotional power over me, and with each telling it becomes more of a story and less of a current emotional reality. Plus, friends are typically great for helping you feel good about your choice (if you did the breaking) or helping you see why you're better off without the so-and-so (or at least telling you that enough times that you might sort of start to think it might be true.)

I challenge you to be totally honest with at least a select number of trusted friends about how you're really feeling. Saying out loud that you're sure you'll die alone, that you pretty much don't want to get out of bed, that you can't imagine ever being happy again, or even that you're doing better than you expected, is truly beneficial. Again, by taking these thoughts and feelings out of the place you're hiding them in your heart and letting someone else see them, you take away some of their secret power over you. And then your friends will also be able to be truly helpful instead of stabbing around in the dark at random niceties.

Word of caution: you do want to avoid talking about it non-stop until your friends want to throttle you. Also, I suggest avoiding the ceremonial demonizing and vilifying of the ex. Sure, it might feel good in the moment, but unless they really were heinous, it's just not classy nor is it fair. Besides, you were dating them, so they must have some good qualities.

Four: Keep thy mind occupied!

Reflection is an important part of a relationship ending, for sure. Knowing what happened to your heart, what happened to theirs, and learning from your pain are all good things. Not right away though. Right away things are way too raw and way too likely to turn into horrible downward spirals of darkness and the emotional equivalent of damp, grimy burlap. I like to use a mixture of binge-watching television, reading, listening to podcasts and talk radio, attacking new projects, reconnecting to my spiritual practices, exercising, and lots of socializing to keep my thoughts from going to those dark burlap places as much as possible.

Photo by Kitsuné Espresso Bar

Five: Use music like a weapon.

I've already mentioned this in my last singalong post, but I am a big fan of using music strategically to help nudge your thoughts and feelings in the right direction. I know that wallowing is tempting, sometimes even necessary, and that hearing a song of heartbreak can make you feel like you're not alone. However, it can also pull you down in a major way and curl you up into a little black ball of death. This is an undesirable situation.

When I was going through the big time awful, heart-crushing break up, I made a playlist that I forced myself to listen to every day, sometimes more than once. It was full of songs that were upbeat, uplifting, and contained messages about being better off alone, having life after love, or that had always made me feel generally good. This was a hugely important part of my ability to go through each day, you can't even imagine.

Six: Keep the health-train going.

Drink water. Sleep. Eat some vegetables. Move your body around. At least, try to do all these things in between the serotonin-laced ice cream and feeling-dulling wine. There are physiological components to grief and when your body is trying to battle grief you make it way harder by putting a bunch alcohol and no-sleep in the way.

Seven: Try something new!

This relates to occupying your mind a bit, but what makes you feel like a complete and accomplished person more than doing something new?

Photo by Nicholas Swanson

Eight: Spend time with babies, animals, and/or nature.

There is magical healing power in being outside (in actual, un-manicured nature, if possible), holding babies, and playing with animals. Really.

Nine: Be honest with yourself.

When you are in a place to think things through, be honest with yourself. Be honest about how you feel. Be honest about why the relationship ended. Be honest about what you need. Be honest about what this is teaching you about yourself, and what you will need to learn in future relationships. Be honest about the parts you played in the relationship ending, as well as the bad signs you ignored in the early stages. This is where the whole learning and growing thing happens, and it really is big-time important. If doing it on your own seems daunting, bring a friend into the mix, or even a counsellor. Those people are good that this kind of thing and will be (gently) honest with you in a way your friends might not.

inspiration! let it go

A good remembrance for this week. Let it go. (And then, if your brain works like mine, let the Beatles take it from there: "don't you know… If you feel like giving up, don't you know, life is tough, let it go!")

LET IT GO Banner by Ashley Brown Durand. (School House Electric)

singalong! celebrating ladies with leslie knope (aka the best break up playlist of all time)

This week's singalong isn't just one song - it's an entire list. Specifically, Songza's list entitled Celebrating Ladies with Leslie Knope.

There are many reasons to be thrilled about Songza's extravaganza of positive ladies. I give you two:

First, Leslie Knope is one of the most wonderful, inspiring female characters on television who is fiercely feminist in the most positive and uplifting way a person could be. She is smart and fun and mayyyybe a little pushy, but only out of love. She also says "ovaries before brovaries", so, you know, score.

Second, this is one of the best playlists to listen to after a break up. I suspected this would be the case from the first time I discovered it, and have recently found this to be, in fact, true. (Which means that, yes, I am going through the whole "break up" thing right now - oh yay.)

I am a big believer in using music strategically to improve your life. I know it can be tempting to just revel in the pain during hard times, but I find that I get sucked into an abyss of darkness easily enough without sad songs to help me get there. During my last break up, which was of the true rip-my-heart-out-and-stomp-it-to-bits-while-I-offer-you-more-opportunities-for-the-same-type break up, I made a playlist of upbeat songs that I listened to at least once a day. This time, I realized I didn't need to - I had one offered up and waiting for me.

learning! halloween urban legends

Not really timely, but still, a cool article on the truth about the "Halloween Sadism" urban legends: The Terrifying Truth About Razorblades in Apples.  (Spoiler: the "terrifying" truth is that no one has done it.)

My favourite takeaways:

Out of all of history, the only time anyone has given away anything to trick-or-treaters at Halloween that was poisoned or tampered with was an old woman in the early sixties.  She gave rat poison and other such unfortunate substances to kids who she thought were too old to trick or treat, but (here's the kicker), she told them what she was giving them.  A terrible and mentally unstable thing to do for sure, but no trickery to speak of.

All other instances of poisoning on Halloween are terribly sad and targeted.  No strangers handing stuff out to kids at their door, just those horrific stories of adults giving poison to kids they know and care for.

The stories are all based on total fabrications, yet they continue to propagate to the point where kids today are being deprived of the awesome experience of getting free candy from their neighbours.  Why?  The article suggests that it's linked to the move from the rural to the urban - suddenly being crammed together with strangers and the fear and violence that comes out of that situation.

inspiration! believe in the beard

Your weekly inspiration is brought by the lovely comics of Poorly Drawn Lines.  Just believe!

Now do the Inspiration! Wednesday dance.

cute! a boy and a puppy

My friend David came back to town and brought his puppy. They are so cute, both as individuals and a pair, don't you think?

singalong! you are not alone

Sarah Slean is my gal.  I fell in love with her while I was still depressive high schooler, and immediately connected with her dark, mysterious, and evocative lyrics.  Now, like a true fan girl, I feel like our paths have actually been somewhat similar.  We both seemed to learn to love ourselves, life, and all that jazz at about the same time.  This is from her latest and is one of my New Slean Favourites.

Takeaway lyrics: "there isn't time for anything but mercy" and "nothing in the world is as it seems."  BEAUTIFUL!  LOVE IT!

You're Not Alone by Sarah Slean

endeavour to go into it
until sign appears
don't be afraid of anything
you are guided

it will never be as we imagine it
unless we imagine it to be
I wonder where you are now
I hear you calling me

I'm telling you you're not alone
a kind of light flows through it all
I hear a voice inside my own
like a waking dream
no you're not alone

you cannot see or listen to
the very heart of life
it isn't there, then suddenly
you feel it

going no direction it is everywhere
knowing every word it makes no sound
I was no believer
but I am certain now

certain that we're not alone
a kind of light flows through it all
I hear a voice inside my own
like a waking dream
no you're not alone

there isn't time for anything but mercy

everything is giving birth to everything
nothing in the world is as it seems
light upon the water,
that is the light in me
and it's telling me you're not alone
a kind of light flows through it all
I hear a voice inside my own
like a waking dream
and no you're not alone

learning! diy sunscreen

I love making my own beauty products (or even just getting back to the basics of using single, natural ingredients for beauty-type purposes), and I've always wanted to try making my own sunscreen.  I already know that one of coconut oil's magical properties is supposed to be sun-resistance, and apparently the only other things I'd need are olive oil, beeswax, and zinc oxide.

For actual instructions, learn from the brilliance known as The Secret Yumiverse.  Then let's try making this together, although perhaps we'll wait until a time of year when sunscreen becomes relevant once more?  (Unless you live in Australia, then maybe do it now.  Or maybe not - with the whole ozone issue you've got going on maybe you don't want to mess with your sunscreen?)

inspiration! lindsey stirling (aka the most beautiful thing i have ever watched and maybe i'll just die now)

I have a confession.  A confession people who know me in real life are mostly aware of, but a confession none-the-less: I hate watching videos online.  Truly.  I do.  They interrupt my day. They interrupt whatever I was doing, because I'm always doing five things at once online, and if you watch a video you have to stop all the other things and turn off your music and just watch it, and everyone else in the office will hear what you're doing, and it's not like you'll get in trouble because they all do it too, but then they'll start asking what you're doing and come over to see and if it's good you'll have to start it all over and… Yes.  It's so terrible I just wrote the longest sentence ever.  Life is hard.

That was the lead up to this week's inspiration.  An inspiration so inspiring I bumped the inspirational post I had scheduled for this week because it couldn't wait.  Because I pressed play on this video fully intending to move on and listen to whatever it was in the background with 30% of my attention (because of my aforementioned hatred for watching videos online) and then sat, open mouthed, staring at the screen for four minutes.

I am listening to it again as I post this and it is a constant battle not to go back to the tab with the video in it. WHY DO I NOT HAVE MULTIPLE SCREENS FOR MY COMPUTER?   I used to think it was lame and pointless but now it all makes sense.

I don't even care that this is a promotional video for an NBC show (that I'm TOTALLY going to watch, by the by), Lindsey Stirling is the dark, creepy ballerina I always wanted to be, and she plays the violin at the same time and everything is so beautiful it hurts and makes me happy all at once.

Mega shout out to my friend Alex for posting this in a list of random-things-his-internet-ramblings-found-him on Facebook.

Then I read her website more.  Augh, this girl is so cool I'm going to have a girl-hate-crush on her rather swiftly.  (A girl-hate-crush, for those of you who don't know, is that perverse jealousy/hatred girls get for other girls who are so awesome we love them too much.  It's not great, but it comes from a good place to begin with.)  Except that she's actually so good she might join Sarah Slean in my realm of undying affection and sisterhood.  Look at her:

She's so flippin' cute!  And she's all savvy with the internet and the marketing, which I really appreciate as a marketing-type person (who can't bring herself to actually market herself ever and only does it for others in a remotely effective way).

AUGH!  I can't decide if I'm inspired to do more with myself now or actually want to give up on life.  No.  No.  NO, Andrea.  Stick with it.  Don't give up.  Be inspired.  Okay.  I choose inspired.

this really gets my goat: fitness quotes on pinterest

Most of the people I follow on Pinterest are friends who are mostly into cooking, baking, and crafting.  It's a wonderful and harmonious online existence.  I post recipes, they post recipes.  I post DIY how-tos, they post DIY how-tos.  They also post a lot of make up ad nail polish stuff I'm not into, but hey, to each their own.

There are a few folks, though, who are all into the whole fitness thing.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love fitness.  I am a certified yoga instructor, I grew up taking dance, and enjoy walking as much as possible.  Having a body that can actually do things is awesome, and the feeling of making your body do things is also awesome.

What gets my goat, then?  These fitness inspiration quotes they're all into posting.  Most of them are just pictures of supermodel sized girls with cheese-pirational quotes about not giving up.  Not a huge fan, but whatevs.  The ones that bug me are as follows.

Crop #1: The "We're Not Motivating You With Skinniness" Images of Lies

Really?  Your argument would be MUCH MORE CONVINCING if the girls weren't all super skinny.  These aren't even just thin, healthy-looking girls.  They are superstar, celebrity, Hollywood skinny.  It's just kind of insulting.

Here's the thing: I have a friend,  her name is Tammy and she is the strongest woman I have every met.  She also has a gorgeous bod, and it is not supermodel-thin.  You know why?  Because she has full-sized muscles under her skin.  Muscles that are actually functional and don't exist purely for the sake of making her look hot.  There is a difference, ask anyone with functional strength and they'll tell you.  Showy muscles are kind of useless.

Then there's this crop. The "Ignore Your Pain and Potentially Damage Your Body Forever" Images:

These images wreak of the kind of logic used by people with eating disorders.  They are actually dangerous.  Fun fact: when your body is in pain that is because you are getting hurt.  Hurt, as in damaged, as in (if you're into this whole crossfit thing) potentially life-threateningly, irreparably damaged.

I get what they're trying to say.  They're trying to say that just because working out is hard and not necessarily comfortable doesn't mean you should stop.  I agree completely.  When you push yourself, it's going to be uncomfortable, and it's going to be hard.  Sometimes you're going to want to stop because you're not used to the feeling of moving for more than 5 minutes.

There is a difference between discomfort and pain.  Discomfort happens when you change a habit and your body isn't used to it.  Sort of like how it used to hurt to sit hunched over a chair all day, and then your body got used to it.  Reversing that trend feels weird at first too.  Discomfort is the feeling of "I want to stop."

Pain, on the other hand, is a bad sign.  Shortness of breath is a bad sign.  Your body telling you it needs to stop is something that should be listened to.  If you are crawling, falling, puking, crying, and bleeding your way through your workout YOU NEED TO STOP.

One of the greatest strengths we can have is recognizing the difference between "I want to stop" and "I need to stop".  Pain, falling, shortness of breath, blood, puking, or anything else in that realm is a bad sign, and pushing through it is not a sign of strength.  It's lying and it's weak.

Finally, there's this gem:

The first time I saw this I let out a giant sigh.  There are so many things wrong with this.

1) Is that photoshopped?  She looks scary skinny.  That waistline, the way her hips are shaped, those tiny arms.  They don't even look real.

2) Unreal body sizes don't make great goals.

3) 6 months???  Maybe if you're already practically that size.  If you are a regular-looking woman and expect yourself to look like a creepily-proportioned android in 6 months that is going to take a truly unhealthy level of dedication.  Like the kind of dedication outlined in the super-dangerous pictures above.

Just, please, just don't.

remembrance day

Today is Remembrance Day, if you're a Canadian-type person.

For a long time I had a sort of ambivalence towards Remembrance Day.  Probably due, at least in part, to the fact that I grew up in a Mennonite (and thus pacifist) family.  We didn't really emphasize war or fighting, and I don't have any descendants who served.  Then in high school I was a pretty stubborn, "damn the man, save the empire" type youth who liked to be anti-establishment with my beliefs, which definitely played a part.

At our Remembrance Day assemblies in school, I felt little to no connection with the aged veterans who would come and sit at the front of the room.  It all felt so far away.  Yes, during the moment of silence I would feel some sense of sadness or honouring of the people who died, but their sacrifice seemed, honestly, like a given.  Perhaps it's just because in a sense it was - it had happened, there was no longer any question of that.  It was a part of history.  I didn't see their turmoil, their question, or the circumstances that lead them to choose to enlist, nor the sadness or sacrifice in those they left behind.

Another factor were the movies, where war was often presented as a time of swing dancing, cool music, and smartly-dressed people swilling whiskey while they decided to get married or have sex for the first time.  The men in the movies were confident about what they were doing, they weren't afraid or conflicted.  They were young and cocky and their brides (or gals) expressed confident pride in their fellah's actions.  Some of the men didn't come back, but of course that was part of the perfectly arced tragedy.  It was a story.

Then, when I was in high school, the war in Afghanistan began.  That's when I went to protests for peace and defiantly chose not to wear a poppy so as not to be part of the "war machine".  I didn't wish ill of the troops, but considered them as more or less objects of sympathy.  People who, for whatever reason, had life circumstances that made them think enlisting was their only option.  People who believed they were doing good, and thus obviously had less independent thought than I did.  I certainly wanted them all to come home alive, but I mostly wanted them all to come home, period.

After a while I grew up some, I realized that war is more complex than all of that.  That people who served and fight deserve more than just my sympathy, and that being a cheeky brat about poppies was a) not changing anything and b) really insulting.

I also realized that my grandparents met in Ottawa, far away from their prairie homes, because they were giving alternative forms of service to the war effort.  They were pacifists, so they didn't fight, but they didn't neglect their country in its time of need.  My other grandpa actually tried to enlist but was rejected due to his eyesight.

That shook me enough to help me step back from my militant anti-military stance.  I stopped spouting so much insensitive mumbo-jumbo and started being much more thoughtful around what Remembrance Day could actually mean.  I still felt a strong disconnect from the wars of times gone by and my life now (or, rather, then), however.

The big change happened when I met some veterans.  Just like how, upon attending university and making friends with gay people, I learned that they aren't all on the non-stop sextravaganza-bound-for-hell that my youth group had lead me to believe, I also learned that I couldn't really "type" those who chose to fight in the army, nor what military life was like.

First of all, it was a bit of a head trip for me to apply the term "veteran" to someone who wasn't over 80 years old.  These guys are young, younger than me, in fact, and they are veterans of war.  They went to Afghanistan, fought, and came home.  Yikes.  That's pretty huge.

The second thing I learned was that people who join the army are not all brainwashed goons who have no personality or subtlety of thought, and who are kind of unnecessarily aggressive all the time.  These guys are funny, intelligent, and quippy.  We bonded over a mutual love for Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and games nights, for Pete's sake!

The Canadian military is also not quite the brainwashed masses we hear about all the time, at least not the branches my friends were a part of.  It was explained to me that everyone out there knows what their supervisor's objective is, as well as their supervisor's supervisor's objective, and so on up to four levels.  They are supposed to follow orders, yes, but if the poo hits the fan and those orders don't apply to the situation anymore, they are supposed to use their brains and the knowledge they have of what's going on around them, and try to achieve that objective.

My third lesson was that there is a lot of variation in what it means to serve overseas.  They aren't all running around with big guns shooting the bad guys, and maybe some innocents, in between high fives.  There are a host of different jobs and positions a person can have and they are jobs that require skill and intelligence.  They take a lot of training, and not just the jumping-through-tires-crawling-under-wires type, although that's important too.

The fourth thing I learned (and perhaps this war is different from WWI and WWII in this regard because of how the war is generally perceived in society) is that these guys aren't swashbuckling young so-and-so's who come back bragging of their exploits overseas.  They rarely, if ever, discuss what they did or went through over there.  I presume because they don't really want to.  And, I'm sure in some cases, aren't allowed to.

Sure, apparently most young bucks who come back from the war think their uniform is a free pass to get some booty, and are quite let down then they realize it isn't so.  I'm also sure that when they all get together the war stories get rolling, because it's a good thing to be with a group of people who have been through what you've been through and share your experiences.

I've heard relatively few stories from the war, and mostly what you might consider the "blooper reel" - you know, the time someone fell down a sand dune in full gear and looked like an idiot in front of some troop they wanted to impress or what-have-you.  They don't use their daring exploits as fodder for parties, and I can only assume that's because they don't really want to.  Or maybe because they know that a lot of people here aren't so into the whole "war stories" thing because there's a lot of people who aren't fans of this current war.  Either people like me,or people like how I used to be.  People who (and I am actually quoting someone I know here) think they should all go "fuck off an die."  Yikes.

Which brings me to "the thing": when they came back, they needed support.  They had some huge experiences that changed them and the way they saw the world.  They needed to figure out how to have a life at home, how to get work, make new friends, and just how to live, in Canada.

Veterans need support.  Whatever reason they went to fight, whatever state they come home in, they need help now and they need to know that their home nation doesn't think they're a bunch of jackasses who did something only worth feeling kind of sorry for.

I still believe in peace.  I still want all those folk to come home because every single life lost is a tragedy, whether it's lost to the grave or because of an experience they can't recover from.  Deep down, I feel there must be a better way, a better story that we can tell of humanity than killing each other.

I also now consider Remembrance Day and everything that goes along with it a part of that belief.  Peace is about seeing people for who they really are, honouring that, and, if they need it, helping them.  It's about doing your part, whatever that part is, to promote healing.  It's not about banding together with people who share your views or making loud, protesty statements.  That's what war is about.

So to any other pacifists out there who are unsure about participating in Remembrance Day, who want to wear white poppies or no poppies in protest, or who want to shout from the rooftops that war is not the way: today is not the day.  Today is about people, and if you think all human life should be honoured, then spend today honouring every human life, including those who made different choices than you.