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.

The gold, silver, and bronze age

Holy frickmas.

DUDES.

IT’S THE OLYMPICS!!!

And hot damn do I ever love the Olympics.

Because hot damn do I ever love sport.

I don’t love corporations, or globalization, or nationalism, or any of the other buzzwords that Olympic detractors love to trot out at two and four-year intervals. I don’t love Coke, and I don’t love idiotic, phallic mascots (although my cat sure does love her Quatchi), and I don’t love doping scandals, or unsportsmanlike conduct – issues that are sure to plague these games as they do every other international amateur athletic event.

I don’t love any of these things.

I just love sport.

And I respect and admire these phenomenal athletes who have sacrificed so much – more than I’ll ever know or understand – to push their bodies to the physical limit in an attempt to (pretty much) attain the impossible.

And I cannot for the life of me understand how people can want to take away from this – take away from those who have trained their entire lives for a chance to perform in the world’s spotlight, for that all too brief moment when the collective mass of coagulated humanity turns away from whatever opiate that is currently keeping them apathetic, and docile, uninterested and disengaged – and watches.

If but for a moment, becomes re-engaged.

Ignore all the superfluous, gratuitous, pornographic background noise that is produced from the monolithic and terrifying Olympic machine; ignore the masturbatory circus that is the IOC.

Ignore everything but the events and the players.

At least I will.

I do.

Because when you do, it is magic.

Here are three memories (in no particular order) I have of watching this magic.  They are events that helped shape me not only as an athlete, but as an individual.

1.)    Donovan Bailey’s gold medal 100m final – Atlanta Olympics, June 24, 1996.

Location: The basement of my family’s house, Vancouver, wearing my older sister`s stretched and faded Los Angeles 1984 t-shirt, sun burnt, exhilarated, awe-struck, inspired.  To this day whenever I see 9.84 I think of that moment.

2.)    Myriam Bedard’s double gold, biathlon – Lillehamer Olympics, 1994

Location: The TV room of my family’s house (different from the previous post), Vancouver.  I remember the how tight my chest was, as if my pride has someone squeezed all the air from my lungs.  I was so happy for not only my fellow country woman, but for all Canadian women.  I cried when my mother told me Myriam had been selected to carry the flag at the closing ceremonies.  (It’s very unfortunate that her horrible actions post-games have come to define her memory for many.)

3.)    Matthias Steiner’s gold in the 105+ kg weightlifting – Beijing Olympics, 2008

Location: My tiny 600sq foot home as a newlywed, Vancouver.  Completely sleep deprived due to staying up all night to watch live feeds on cbc.ca  I wept when Matthias won, having learned that his wife – a German woman from Saxony – had died in a car accident just months before his Olympic triumph.  He receives his medal holding a picture of her as tears stream down his face.

What about you cats? What are you excited for?

Oh, and as a postscript (and counterargument to this entire post), take a look at The Hater’s Guide to the London Olympics. As someone who has lived in the UK, and who LOVES the Olympics, it is bloody funny as HECK.

On wednesdays, we wear pink

Yo, yo, yo beauty cats!

Today, I am PUMPED UP.

I am buzzing with inspiration, and love, and just general bonkerness.

This morning I, along my very glamorous, and gem of a genius colleague J, went to a leadership panel at the Vancity Theatre, where we heard six different talks from a brilliant buffet of speakers: they were athletes, intellectuals, doctors, storytellers, and demographers.

Seriously, these individuals were fascinating as they were diverse: ranging from Trevor Linden, ex-Canuck extraordinaire, to Dr. Samantha Nutt, the founder and executive director of WarChild Canada and US.

Hey! It's that Clearly Contacts guy!

What a collection of neat people.

Phew.

I know I often write about the inordinate number of injustices I perceive, (or hear about, or read about) – on a daily basis at that, and I know I am wont to chronicle about how this overwhelming tide of negativity can be pretty difficult to fight against, (particularly day in and day out)– but just sitting there, and listening to all of the speakers, allowing their passion, and humour, and dedication, and eloquence to just wash over me – heck, it really made me think that we just might make it out of this out-of-control space-ship-cum-wrecking-ball of a planet alive.

And kicking!

(Well. Maybe.)

It all may depend on the subject of Al Gore’s next documentary.

(I kid, I kid.)

And if we don’t survive?

And we are all exploded into millions of tiny particles of space dust because no one bothers to recycle their toasters, or throw out their bubble tea cups, and instead just stashes their Subway wrappers in university pruned bushes and other miscellaneous vegetation?

Well, I plan on looking darn stylish in the process of said annihilation.

And, why is that exactly might you ask?

Because, ladies and gentlemen…I did it!

May I present to you, my two favourite clothing purchases of 2012:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Hot damn.

The excitement around these parts (aka coursing around the length of my body) is palpable.

PALPABLE!

I cannot begin to explain to you all how excited I am to wear both of these pieces. Maybe not together (at least not to the office), but all day, and every day, I will don this as my warrior dress, as I kick ass and chew bubble gum.

And folks, I’m all out of bubble gum.

Okay, in all seriousness, I have really been trying to make conscious choices when it comes to my fashion purchases. This works rather well with the fact that I have a very hard time breaking away from the “student” mindset when it comes to buying, well, anything really.

I want to make sure that whatever it is I am purchasing, it will be something that I will wear and get good use of, as well as being as ethically responsible as possible.

It can be a hard balancing act, and I am by no means perfect, but I am working on it.

At the root of it all, I just want to understand where my clothing is coming from, who is profiting off my purchase, how well the product will benefit myself as a consumer, and (of course) first and foremost: ask myself – do I actually need it in my life?

Now, I could argue that I don’t actually need 99% of the stuff that I buy – I become more and more aware of this issue every time I walk by a store, or through a shopping mall.

But I hope that, at the very least, by just asking these questions, I am making some sort of impact, or progress – that it is the catalyst for a slow building, slow moving change, even if just in my life.

A change of one.

And if it can grow from there? Well then, that’s just perfect.

As two quick post-scripts, let me share with you two of my biggest laughs (or gaffs?) of the day:

I was an overzealous coffee pourer at the speaker’s panel. Can you tell I was a tad tired this morning?

Java moat.

And, prices advertised by Flight Centre:

Good marketing there folks. Fine print is pretty crap though.

WOW, this flight is only $29.00?! But taxes are $600.00?

Well shit.

Looks like I’m riding my bike to Europe.

Ready to run

Today after work I went to the gym and ran sprints until I was about one stride away from ralphing all over the treadmill (and maybe the poor soul to my left.) Luckily, I was able to overcome the seemingly inevitable need to upchuck and continued on with my strictly planned (and even more strictly enforced) exercise in masochism, pun intended.

Tonight, I was in it to win it (or you know, lose control over my most simple bodily functions.)

The Canadian women warming up.

Full disclosure: THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN.

So anyways, after running, I went and threw myself into the toughest elements of strength training I could think of (and therefore purposely avoid during my regular nights at the gym.)

These are the parts of the routine I dread with the fiercest fires of Hades  – the ones I never feel like doing because they are the worst things invented in the history of invented things: lunges, squats, burpees, push-ups, pull-ups and the piece de resistance, the hardest possible ab workout I could muster without giving myself a hernia (I’m looking at you plank, you evil, torturous pose.)

So why dear readers, did I do this?

Two words: CONCACAF Soccer.

Seriously.

On Sunday night Mister M and I went to the finals of the Women’s Olympic Qualifying Soccer Tournament down at BC Place. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric  – over twenty-five thousand jazzed-up Canucks (and a very healthy American contingent) dressed in their best red and white (or blue as may be for the Yanks). Everyone showed up ready to watch an hour of awesome sportsmanship and athleticism.

Ready to get my cheer on!

It was a bit of a throw-back to the Olympics really. A nice reminder of how much support there is for our athletes when we have the chance to take part in their achievements and actually watch them compete.

Do you hear this Mr. The Honourable Bal Gosal? TAKE NOTE!

It was a great night, filled with drama, suspense, and remarkable athletic feats – everything a sporting event should be.

Unfortunately, our ladies ended up losing 4-0. The gameplay was heavily dominated by the American squad, notwithstanding two brilliant efforts by the Canadians, that on any other day most likely would have been goals.

But alas, such is the way the cookie crumbles.

I really however must give credit where credit is due: what else is there to say about an American team that were truly breath-taking to behold.  There was no question at all as to why the team is ranked number one in the world.

To put it simply – the ladies are hands down fricken amazing.

Now, I am in no way knocking our Canadian squad, in so far as they played a solid game, however in the end they just we no match for a team that could out-run, out-manoeuvre, and out-skill them.

As a giant aside however, I must give a healthy shout out to our Ace in the Hole, Ms. Christine Sinclair – seriously, she is a force to be reckoned with, and an all around world-class athlete.

In short, she is a complete BOSS.

So it was watching this incredible display of talent, skill, endurance, and passion that really pumped me the heck up to go out tonight and push myself to my physical limits.

Because when you boil it down to its most basic properties, I truly love sport.

I love what sport does for not only others, but what it does for me.

And going to the gym day after day in the winter, after the sun has set (at 4:30 in the afternoon), makes this a little hard to remember.

But it’s true: playing, watching, talking about, arguing over, crying after (or during),  running so hard until you feel as though your lungs have caught fire and the only way to put them out is to throw the up – jumping up and down, pulling out my hair, sweating, grunting, exhilarating, liberating, stupefying, beautiful –

Sport.

I love it. 

After my 2nd half - I ran for Big Sisters and raised $1,020. Seriously one of the best things I've ever done.

And watching those women last night was just the reminder I needed.

Last year I completed two half-marathons.  I ran my first in 1:46 and my second in 1:38.  I will begin training for my first marathon this coming May and I am completely dedicated to running it in 3:30:00.

The objective: to qualify for the Boston marathon and I know that I can do it.

I just need more nights like this to remind me – of the beauty of the game, the run, the goal, the win, the loss, the triumph – of it all.

So I will continue to run, and sweat and strain. I will grow stronger. And I will write of that which inspires.

And I welcome you all to share the things that drive, motivate, invigorate and exhilarate you.

For the best day of my life

Hi friends,

As a palette cleanser from my last post, I would like to offer you a portrait of some of the incredibly rad ladies who populate my life, who not only accept me for my bonkers self, but who make me at least sixty-five percent less likely to blow a rage-out gasket and/or move to Baffin Island for a life of solitude and frost-bite.

Last week whilst I was out to lunch (there’s a double meaning in there somewhere, I’m sure of it) my mother phoned and left me the most heart-warming, highly comedic voice mail that perhaps has ever been recorded.

It went something like this:

Okay, let me explain why this photo of my mom is one of my favorite ever (she's the one all in black with the hood) A hurricane arrived just as my cousin was set to wed, so my mom went in her rain gear and helped keep everyone under control. Awesome sauce.

Hi there. You’re probably out somewhere, trying on clothes and taking photos of yourself, you weirdo. Just wanting to chat and I’ll try to you again later. Bye!

Holy smokes. This nearly bowled me over when I listened to it.

And while I wasn’t out skulking around my favourite fashion haunts, just knowing that this is what she pictures me doing on my lunch breaks not only cracks me up, but fills me with such a simple, sublime happiness, I could probably power a small household appliance (or at the very least, a key-chain flashlight) from the wattage of my smile alone.

Love you mom!

Today, along with of my two lovely coworkers, A and J, I ventured out at lunch in search of food-truck treats and a reprieve from the cloying warmth that has infiltrated our otherwise freezing office space. Seriously, the place is normally plagued by random frosts and sub-zero temperatures. Brutal!

Unfortunately, the establishment we were hoping to buy from had a 1+ hour wait (for a grilled cheese from a van? Outrageous!) so we decided to try out the Philly cheesetake cart and its offerings.

This, in retrospect was not the greatest choice, especially on my end – I don’t know whose idea it was to put fried onions, processed cheese and thousand island salad dressing on top of French fries AND THEN MARKET IT, but having tasted that vile concoction, I believe it should probably be banned in all ten provinces, and three territories.

Bletch.

A and J were wonderful in so far as they didn’t mercilessly mock me (when it could have been oh-so-easy) on my choice of food (and in my defence let me say I didn’t know the cheese would be processed and that the “secret sauce” would be the dressing equivalent of a bloody archipelago), nor did they take the piss out of me when they saw what said “meal” looked like.

Their food wasn't much better but at least there was no salad dressing to be found.

I kind of wish I had a picture to post on the blog, but at the same time I really don’t need to be reminded of that hot mess of a plate for the discernable future (aka for the rest of my life.)

These two ladies are brilliant, and beautiful (both inside and out) and make my days at work (especially the ones where my stress level is ratcheted up to eleven) considerably less overwhelming. Plus they can turn a lunch populated by long-line ups and tasteless gruel into a fun, funny outing where conversations range from the etymology of the word ma’am, to the absurdity of men’s couture fashion.

Because that stuff is just darn bizarre.

Finally, while I am not intimately acquainted with these women (in fact, I not acquainted with any of them in any sense of the term) I have had the opportunity to watch many of the Olympic Women’s Qualifying Soccer (erm – Football) Tournament and it has been awesome! Sure, the talent disparity between many of the teams exists, and has been evidenced by quite a few blowouts (mostly from the hands of the highly-skilled, incredibly fit American team) but I have really enjoyed watching the different teams play and interact with one another.

Now, you can ask anybody and they’ll tell you that I have been that big of a soccer fan – in fact I’ve lived the majority of my life with a never-hidden (and often voiced) aversion to the sport, but I feel as though this tournament has somehow completely erased this condition and replaced it with a healthy need to learn more, watch more, and maybe even play a game or two (I just need to get over my fear of headers. They scare the crap out of me.)

Our tickets on our, erm, colourful cork board.

I was supposed to go to two games last Friday, but alas the terms of my illness dictated that I couldn’t leave the confines of my living room, wrapped in a blanket, plunked down on the couch.

However, Mr. M and I will be going to the finals this coming Sunday and I am very excited to see the game live, and gather energy and inspiration from the passion, teamwork and dedication on display from these remarkable women.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again (and again, and again) – the power of sport is something to behold, and the way it brings together such a vibrant mix of people, from disparate countries and cultures serves as terrific reminder of the beauty and strength inherent to humanity that is so often lost among the folds of everyday life.

So thank you to the competitors, the dynamic duo that is Ms. A and J, and of course my answering machine comedienne mom. You, and all the other strong, stimulating women in my life help me breathe and believe.