Always best to start at the beginning

The day after leaving Berlin, we spent a day sailing the Baltic sea.

We were knackered from the first three days of travelling and didn’t wake up until 10 AM. This was a welcome surprise, as it meant I was freed from roaming the ship like a homeless vagabond simply waiting for the sun to rise (and the gym to open.)

That afternoon, I ran and mum practiced yoga and then we met up with our trivia team for another hour of putting all of our strange and extraneous knowledge to good use.

I almost keeled over with laughter as we tried to figure out what animal is thought to represent long life in Korea.

When my mum suggested the duck I knew I was a total goner. Frank from New Jersey, known already for his serious side eye, nearly knocked over his beer. Good thing for gentle Queenslander Wendy, who quickly suggested that it might be the bear.

Turns out that it was the deer all along.

Afterwards, we returned to our room and laughed ourselves silly sharing hilarious stories, including a real doozy from Bath, New Brunswick, wherein on the way to a New Year’s Eve dance at the legion in Woodstock, NB (Bath being too small to have a legion of its own) both my mum’s boots and stockings melted all over her legs, coagulating into one gooey, goopy super pant.

As my mum put it: “Buddy’s heat in his car was all messed up. I kept telling him that I was cold so he kept turning it up. Turns out, he turned it up a little too high. I got out of the car and I had these big, big holes in my pantyhose and this goo all over my legs. I had to take them off and was left with nothing but my melting boots. That guy really liked me too. He kept telling Noreen that he was thrilled to be with me. All I wanted to do was get away from him. He was supposed to be the coolest dude because he had this stupid damn car. I didn’t care at all.”

I am actually crying with laughter just writing this down. Also, should you ever want to know why I am the way that I am, it’s because of this story. Period.

We capped off the day with dinner out on the terrace, drinking white wine and talking with the sommelier, who is a dead ringer for Novak Djokovic – just with better glasses. I am, of course, completely biased, but hey, they were good, good glasses.

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As we snuggled down to sleep, we watched Iceland go up one goal over England, and I swear to goodness, even this far out from the island, I could swear we heard that entire country lose its collective mind.

Alas, that night I was back to the insomnia, and was up at both 1 AM and 4:45 AM. Standing at the rail of our balcony, I let the Baltic wind blow through my hair. Let it whip through my clothes. Let it rip through me, and into my bones.

I watched as the colours of the heavens shifted and blurred; magentas bleeding into royal blues; the yellow of a daisy’s eye; a blossom pink.

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In the silence, everything softens. Everything cools.

Night rolls on, but the light.

It persists.

By 5 AM, the sun was wide awake, breaking through three layers of curtains into our room.

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I again crept outside, and watched it burn a path across the morning seascape.

I have wanted to go to Riga since reading Henning Mankell’s The Dogs of Riga when I was 19 and in my second year of my undergrad. I was taking a Northern European film and literature class and it was the last book on my class syllabus. That year I had read 92 pieces of literature (books, novellas, plays, graphic novels – just for school alone), and by the end of the semester I was burnt out.

The Dogs of Riga was sitting on my bookshelf and I was debating whether or not I would be able to get through the course without cracking it open.

One night, instead of writing a paper of his own, Marc read the entire thing in one sitting. The next morning, the first thing he said to me was, “Babe you really need to read this book.”

And so I did. Also over the course of one day.

It was that book that set off a twelve-year love affair with Mankell. I read, and re-read every Kurt Wallender crime novel, and most of his other fiction.  It was the catalyst for this trip. It is what is taking my mum and I around Northern Europe and into the Russian motherland, as I had passed on my love (and my collection of dog eared paperbacks) to her the last summer I lived in Halifax.

So today we adventured around Riga. We learned about the city and its history, marvelling at the incredible architecture of the new town, and the warmth and magnificence of the old town.

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Did you know that that legend behind Riga’s flag is that in the thirteenth century there was a mortally wounded Lavian warrior who was wrapped in a white sheet? The part of the sheet on which he was lying remained white, but the two edges were stained in his blood. During the next battle his soldiers used the bloodstained sheet as a flag.

The country has been occupied by the Swedes, Germans, Russians (Russian empire) and Soviets (USSR).

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In the fourteenth century, Swedish soldiers hated having to walk from their barracks to the beer brewing district, so they raised money to cut a gate into the city’s walls which would allow them easy access from their homes to the streets of beer.

In 1991, as the country was fighting for its independence, and Soviet tanks were rolling into the old town, the TV station fell, but the radio building stood strong.

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The Russian orthodox church that stands in the city’s Esplanade was a planetarium under Soviet rule.

The building that once housed the Soviet agriculture institute was my favourite thing from the entire day, and is today the Latvian Academy of Sciences.

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We visited the market, and the national opera house, and the museum, and the outdoor market, and the independence monument. We had a delicious lunch in an outdoor square and basked in the late afternoon sunlight as we walked back to the ship.

I would very much like to return to Riga. To meet more of its multilingual inhabitants and learn more of its fascinating history.

Because this city is in my heart.

And its beat is strong.

These women. These women.

A very happy International Women’s Day to everyone!

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This year’s UN Theme is: Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!

I encourage all of you – everyone reading at home, as well as those on transit (or in-transit!); everyone hunkered down, or waking up; everyone navigating this amazingly complicated conundrum of a world we call home – to picture all of the brilliant, powerful, and brave women in your lives.

How have they impacted the world? How have they changed your life?

How do they impact? What do they change?

What makes them extraordinary?

And how do you picture an empowered humanity? What can we all do to ensure that these visions are no longer just visions, but reality?

Here are some of the brilliant, beautiful, and brave women in my life.

My amazing mum Donna, who, as an arbitrator for the federal government, wrote and oversaw many ground breaking decisions in the early 1990s on pay equity and discriminatory labour practices across Canada.

My sisters: Jessi – newly minted red seal chef, business owner, and new mum-extraordinaire; Kate Woznow – dedicated activist, non-profit director, and triathlete.

My sister in-law Mel, who is so very incredibly strong (both on the inside and outside) and who is unflinching in her belief that we can all make impacting strides to better our world.

Her mother, Valerie, valiant and fearless feminist whose work continues to support and inspire academics the world over.

My formidable mother in-law Cheryl, who in light of the discrimination she faced as a teenager after her family immigrated to Vancouver from India in the 1960’s is now one of the greatest champions of multiculturalism I have ever met, and who in 1973 co-founded the The Door Is Open – a drop in centre on the Downtown Eastside, that is still open today at its present location at 255 Dunlevy Avenue, in the heart of East Vancouver.

I would be remiss not to touch on my great aunt in-law, Flo Curle, who was the first of my husband’s family to immigrate from India in the early sixties. A single woman, she moved to Vancouver and sponsored every single member of her family’s residency to Canada.

My sisters in-law Veronica and Vanessa: two women passionately dedicated to our environment and education, as well as the high-seas (Veronica) and circus silks (Vanessa).

My step-mother Susan, who as a conscientious and exasperated American does what she can to move her birth county in positive direction.

To my amazing colleagues at Big Sisters, who fight tooth and nail every day to ensure that young women all across the Lower Mainland have the opportunity to be matched with a life-changing friend and mentor.

My own Little Sister Melissa, with whom I have been matched for almost seven years. This young women has grown into a confident, excited, hard-working young women, who takes the world by storm each and every day.

To my outstanding, heart-bursting friends who transform and deconstruct; who build, breathe, and believe in a better today and even better tomorrow.

And finally, to all of you reading. To every woman who wakes up every day and makes change, kicks butt, loves herself, loves others, smiles brightly, laughs loudly, dances madly, cries freely, jumps blindly, catches discretely – for all who are unapologetically her, and her, and her.

This is for you.

Close your eyes and make a wish

In one week I will turn twenty-nine.

Holy smokes.

That’s, like, super grown up isn’t it?

I mean, I’m by no means a proper Old or anything – goodness knows.

But! Growing up I always assumed that once I neared an age that had both a three and a zero it would mean that THINGS would be SERIOUS and that I would be MATURE and, oh, I don’t know, WISE.

(Or something.)

Now, it’s not that I think I’m none of these things.

I am, of course, properly wise.

(Or something.)

But mostly, it’s so awesome to realize that age really means nothing.

Nada.

Zilch.

Bupkis.

Nothing will ever be as inconsequential, fleeting and intangible as those four little numbers littered about your birth certificate, drivers licence, passport and all other personal identification pieces you have littered about your purse (or wallet, or fannypack, or what have you.)

And I mean, who actually wants to relive their early twenties?

(If you do – WHO ARE YOU? And WHY?)

Despite the fact that I spent these years with the massively excellent man to whom I am now lucky enough to call my husband (or permanent life partner in crime) I was pretty, deeply unhappy for a good portion of this time.

I was incredibly ill (suffering as I was from both anorexia and bulimia), and completely neurotic about school, and work and my constant quest for perfection in every, and all areas of my life.

It was exhausting.

And now?

I cannot even begin to explain how good it is to be able to walk by a mirror, or window, or any semi-reflective surface and not feel compelled to look at myself.

It has got to be the most freeing experience in the whole wide world, and I wouldn’t trade all the anti-wrinkle cream in the world to go back that time in my life where, like Narcissus, I was just drowning all the live-long day.

Of course I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t still struggle with perfectionism (daily), because I do (and probably always will, in some iteration or another) but I am no longer sick, and every day I get better and better at giving myself a break (or the many breaks that I deserve.)

And how awesome this that?

And you know what is more awesome?

I am finally getting to a place where I am comfortable celebrating myself and all the cool things that come along with being me.

Because dudes, I have accomplished a lot of really cool stuff in my relatively short time here on planet earth and for the longest time I refused to even acknowledge them, let along celebrate them. As a young women that just always seemed SO gauche, and I didn’t want anyone to think that I was stuck up, or a braggart, or just an insufferable jackass.

(I might be that last one, but that’s only when playing Ticket to Ride after too many glasses of white wine.)

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Not quite the right photo but one that really, really makes me laugh.

And no only that, but there are so many amazing and brilliant things coming down the pipe in the next few months which leaves me with ever more reasons to celebrate: work adventures, incredible public speaking opportunities, radio show hosting gigs, half-marathons, Tough Mudder, trips to the Okanagan, Chicago, and Hawaii, and so much more!

PLUS –

Five years ago, Marc and I bought our first home (our exquisite town-home that I love very, very much), and very soon we will be moving to our first real house-home!

Not to mention the fact that I have the most amazing, life-affirming and life-enriching friends, many of whom will be coming over to have a massive dance party with us next Saturday.

And even though they live so gosh-darned far away,my family are my rocks, and they make all the beautiful diamonds and gems of this world shimmer just the more.

Finally, I am married to my best friend, the greatest man I will ever know.

Man.

The simple act of just typing out those words makes me SO excited for not just the next season or two, but for the bloody next twenty-nine years!

Twenty-nine mirror free years.

Won’t you join me?

Looking back, but moving forward

Holy smokes.

In three days’ time it will be 2014.

How did that happen?

All’s I got to say is: WHERE ARE THE FLYING CARS YO.

(Am I right, or what?)

If my life isn’t like an episode of The Jetsons in the next year or two, I am going to be very, very disappointed.

Also I cannot really believe that it’s been fourteen years since we rang in the millennium and everyone ripped their heads clean of hair, worrying about whether or not they had enough canned food and water to outlast the Y2K apocalypse.

(Remember the insane fear mongering that just ran rampant on every news channel leading up to the ball drop that year? PLANES WERE GOING TO JUST BE FALLING OUT OF THE SKY AND ALL THE COMPUTERS WERE GOING TO BLOW UP BECAUSE NO ONE KNEW WHERE TO PUT THE EXTRA ZERO!)

Good grief.

Actually, I remember that New Years as if it was just yesterday.

What I wore: a delicate, pink slip of a dress, that cinched at my waist and fell just below my knees.

Who I celebrated with: My then best-friend Mira who was – and still is – an amazing violinist, my little sister, and her best friend Emily.

Where we were: The Hard Rock Café Vancouver’s all ages party. (We were fourteen and twelve years old, respectively.)

What we did: Ate dinner, drank fake-champagne, and danced will all the other kiddos who were too grown-up (in their minds) to spend another December 31st with their parents, but too young to actually party like those grown-ups with whom they refused to, well, party.

Mira and I bussed back to her parent’s house around 1am, and as we crammed in with many other revelers I remember thinking “THIS is what it feels like to be an adult!”

And heck, if taking public transit with a bunch of intoxicated weirdos a grown-up makes, that I definitely have achieved this title ten-fold over the years.

Achieved this in SPADES.

As we teeter on the cusp of 2014, let’s look back on the year that was blogger-style:

2013 – An Overview

In January Marc and I flew back from Halifax after spending nine days there over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

I wrote about a light hearted piece about my weird relationship with body hair and it became one of my most popular and stumbled upon blog posts.

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In February I performed at the Vancouver Comedy Festival, turned twenty-eight, and that mad man to whom I have pledged my troth and I entered the Amazing Race.

Come March, we ran away for a weekend and I wrote about learning how to drive.

In April this happened, and I won $500 in a comedy competition. Writing about Ray Bradbury saw my second foray into the world of Freshly Pressed, which was super awesome and totally unexpected. I came seventh in the Sunshine Coast Half-Marathon and talked about all the ways in which I have grown-up on the outside, but not on the inside.

May meant talking about all of the things that scare me (irrational and not) and writing some fiction about my days as a love-struck eighteen year old. We also covered politics, and all of the things I like to do by myself.

In June I quit my old job, and procured a new one (alias Dream Job). I ran the Scotiabank half-marathon and raised $1,135 for Big Sisters, celebrated five years of marriage to my one true love, and flew away to New York for my big sister’s wedding.

In July I talked about the importance of taking risks and wearing less make-up. Marc and I hike A LOT.

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August came and went in the blink of an eye. I hardly had time to write a blog post or three what with the two weddings I was in (bridesmaid x2 and MC x2), the other weddings I attended, the insanity of a new job, and doing all of the comedy (upwards of five shows per week!)

It was enough just trying to keep my head on straight.

In September I tried to get back in the grove of things, writing about great friends, and the importance of Terry Fox (as a Canadian, runner, and just, well, human being.)

October = BEST HALOWEEN OF LIFE.

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We also visited the place we got married one last time before the gardens closed forever.

Oh, and I made this.

In November I fell in love with Helen Mirren and kick some butt in the Fall Classic 10k. I also aired my beefs with Love Actually.

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December has brought so many things I haven’t even had the chance to write about, but I think this sums it up pretty darn well.

And to top it off, two photos that never stop making me smile and laugh:

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A million thank yous for sticking with me friends.

I so very much look forward to another year of blogging – you inspire me, make me laugh, and leave the best comments a gal could ask for.

Happiest of New Year’s to you all!

Good strong words that mean something

So there’s this scene in Little Women, when all four sisters are lying in bed together. It’s just after Amy has fallen through the frozen pond while ice skating (arguably almost dying, had it not been for the speedy response of Jo and Laurie), and she is apologizing to Jo for being just THE WORST© (seriously, Amy March has always been my least favourite March sister and I won’t even get into the fact that she is the one that ended up with Laurie, because WHAT THE EFF right?) because she had burned her sister’s book in anger over the fact that she was too young to attend the opera with her and Meg.

Too convoluted an opener? Then you must, MUST read the book!

Or at the very least watch the movie version with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon. It is really bloody great.

Anyways, Amy then asks her sister, “Do you love Laurie more than you love me?” and Jo responds aghast, “I could never love anyone as I love my sisters!”

MEEP. My heart hurts just thinking about this phrase.

You see, that folks – THAT is exactly how I feel about these gals:

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My sisters are two of the most important people in my entire life, and it absolutely slays me that they live so gosh-darned far away, as this means that the majority of the time I see them is when they are looking back at me through their respective computer screens.

It also means that usually one (or both) of us is lying in bed, completely knackered after a day of racing about our respective cities, desperately trying to stay awake and concentrate on what the other one is saying.

When all I really want to be doing is sitting on a sofa with both them, drinking a glass of wine, and laughing about all the ridiculous things we do in our lives, whether together or separate.

For instance, always thinking we can recreate that scene from Little Women and sleep in the same bed together (often on Christmas eve), only to just destroy ourselves in the process of trying.

And in only one week’s time, this will be a reality!

(Hopefully sans shared bed, of course. Seriously, I also end up stuck in the middle.)

Holy crapola, I cannot wait.

I am especially excited because this Sunday I am headlining my very first comedy night, and Kate (my older sister) and her wife will be here to see it.

YEAH!

I have fifteen minutes to bring all the laughs that I possibly can.

Elsewhere on the docket, they are currently filming Supernatural pretty much right in my backyard:

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I used to get super jazzed about television and movie filming in my city, (Kate and I actually used to steal those arrow film signs you see littered about Vancouver and we’d use them to decorate our respective bedrooms. And by we, I mean she did it first, and I, as the younger sister, copied her lead) but now I’m pretty blasé about the whole thing.

It has to be a show I really, really love for me to get all shirty over something like that. (However, I’m pretty sure I would live in a perpetual state of bonkerness if Marc and I were ever to move back to the UK and put down roots in London because I would just constantly be on the lookout for all my favourite panel show comedians. Good grief.)

Oh, a this also happened:

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And finally, in but three days I will be on vacation until the 6th of January.

During that time I will be doing nothing save running, eating, laughing, writing, reading, sleeping, and spending all of the time with all the beautiful, magical, brilliant loves of my life.

I so very much hope that all of you will be doing much of the same.