Saying ‘no’ and still being gritty

The word that I’ve been using as my daily mantra has been grit. When I feel lazy and want to skip a workout I ask myself, are you being gritty? When I want to sleep late, I lay in bed and ask, are you being gritty? Life can be hard and the last two years have not exactly been a walk in the park (I acknowledge they could have been much worse). I know struggle, but thankfully I also know success and sometimes after struggling for a long time, things fall into place and work out. For me, I’m moving into a new job: starting my career as an elementary school teacher. In the same week that I was offered the job, my thesis research was officially published!

Feel free to check it out here: http://www.learninglandscapes.ca/index.php/learnland/article/view/808

This week I truly feel happy and I owe it all to not giving up when things felt (and legitimately were) tough. Anyone who has written a thesis knows the perils of long days/nights of writing, procrastinating, re-writing, editing, being rejected, being critiqued, re-writing, crying and writing some more. My main focuses for the last three-ish years have been improving my academic writing skills and working my butt off to get published in an academic journal. Finally, this week I was able to read my name as an official author in an academic journal. My heart felt warm, and fluttery and I thought back to all those tearful nights when I thought it was impossible. Was it worth the struggle? Yes! And I owe it all to grit.

This high that I’m riding now can’t last forever, and I don’t think I would want it to. I appreciate the good news so much more after the struggle. Would it feel this good if I had whipped up that publication with no effort? Likely not. I feel grateful and appreciative for the opportunity to grow, learn and push my limits.

Having focused on some of the positive results of being gritty, I feel encouraged to continue bringing grit into everything that I do. I’ve been gritty for the past few years to improve my running and have seen PB (Personal Best) after PB crushed. However, at this  time I have chosen to let two of my big goals go. I have decided to pull out of the Salinas Half Marathon (August 5) and the Santa Rosa Full Marathon (August 27). I had big aspirations and big goals for both of these races. I was ready to race my second ever half marathon and crush my last time. I was ready to push my limits and test my boundaries by attempting to qualify for the Boston Marathon in Santa Rosa. Alas, both will have to wait.

Shortly after coming back from the Big Sur Marathon, I thought I was recovered enough to get started on my next round of training. My workouts were on point and my long runs felt smooth and controlled. I was feeling fit and ready to push myself to my goals. I was waking up at 3:45 am in order to get my workouts in (and my dogs out for their usual morning walk). The wheels started to fall off the cart.

It started with pain on the outside of my left knee for last 10 minutes of my long run. It gradually increased to the last 30 minutes of my long run. When I felt the pain, I would back off and cross train instead. I was on my bike and in the pool. I was icing, rolling, stretching, strengthening, doing everything I could think of to stop the growing pain. After a week, the pain subsided and I decided to pull out of the trail half marathon I had signed up for, and do a 5 km race instead. The 5k was fun, fast and flowy and I had no pain at all! Boom – I was back at it and felt invincible. I had one more high quality workout then everything felt apart again – this time I knew I was going to be out for awhile. The pain came back, this time it didn’t go away when I stopped running. Walking in general was painful, as were stairs, elliptical and even swimming. I got my butt to physical therapy and discovered it was IT band syndrome.

IT band syndrome does not put me at risk for tearing anything, which is the good news. It is however, a very painful and stubborn injury that can take weeks and even months to fully heal. Basically my IT band is stretched so tight it’s causing me pain. My hips and glutes have tightened up in response. It’s been about a month of completely no running, and very limited cross training in an effort to settle the aggravated IT band.

Here is an instance where being gritty (in terms of actual running) wouldn’t help me. I realized that pushing through the pain would only delay my healing time and would put me at risk of not being able to run the California International Marathon in December. I would like to say that I made the decision to pull out of the half marathon and full marathon, but the decision was made for me – by my body. I had to come to terms with the fact that I would not be doing these races, and that was okay.

Any runner knows how devastating it can be to not be able to run or even cross train.  I felt frustrated and frankly had too much pent up energy for my own good. I decided to take the time to recover, rest and focus on getting better. I still have my work cut out for me, but today I was finally able to get to the gym and take a couple of classes. I’m focusing on strength training and starting from the ground up. I still consider myself to be gritty, since I am working hard to accomplish my goals. I may not be running (yet) but the work I put in now will (hopefully) pay off later.

I was inspired to write this post after reading Stephanie Bruce’s post on Instagram and Facebook today. She too, is coming back after an injury and working her way through recovery. I do not consider myself to be at her caliber of running by any means, but I appreciate her message so much. She is real, and shares her struggles and her successes and she inspires me to keep going, be gritty and to reassess when I need to. It may feel hard now, but the pay off will feel so good later. I’m still riding that high from the good news about my career and publication this week… I’m focusing on the happiness I feel in my accomplishments and know that pushing hard now will pay off later. Future Leanne is going to be so happy 🙂

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Being Real

A friend showed me this trailer other night and it really resonated with me… especially the part about doing things without an audience. You may have noticed (but likely not) that I’ve been a little less present on social media (Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook) and it’s partly because I’m working full time and finding that I have less time on my hands, but also in part because I’m not sure if I want to be a part of it all anymore. I know it sounds crazy but, I’ve been feeling less and less invested in showing what I’m doing, where, when, how and with whom. I’ve started asking myself “why”?

I look at my role models when they have a bad race and write a post about disappointment, failure and how much it hurts to fall down in front of everyone … I feel that! It’s real and I appreciate it (sometimes even more than the posts about victories and successes). Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing the happy, motivating posts, too but there is something to be said when someone can write about their disappointments.

One of the reasons I started my blog was to write about real things. About my plans, hopes, dream, successes AND failures. I struggle. I work hard. I fall down and I do it hard. I cry. I have meltdowns. I smile, laugh, love and enjoy the beauty and simplicity of things. In order to truly find value and meaning in the small things, and feel grateful for what we have, we sometimes have to hit a low point, show our grit, and claw our way back up. I want to be more real. I don’t want to complain. I don’t want to gloat. I just want to be real and hope that in some way I can help inspire someone else to keep working hard. I hope that maybe just one person will read my words, and find enough value in them to help them get gritty and reach their goal.

I think it’s important to confront your fears, to look silly, and embrace being vulnerable. It’s hard to fail and even harder to fail in front of people. But you know what has value? Picking yourself back up, not making excuses, and getting back to work. Maybe you want to do it in a public way or maybe you want to do it privately. I’m not here to judge you. Here’s me:

I want to put my thoughts into writing and express myself. I think I have something to say. It might not be great, it might even be embarrassing. You might sit at home and laugh at it, or roll your eyes at it and that’s okay. Because I’m not writing, running, dancing, working, doing yoga, walking my dogs or living my life for you or because of you. I’m doing it for me. And while I enjoy having an audience from time to time, I can still do those things without an audience.

This is my attempt to be more real, to be more genuine, and to share that with you – if you want it. Keep the updates coming and if you see less of me, it’s because I’m trying to do more for me… without always having an audience. While I’m already thinking about topics for my next blog post (setting goals) there will be lots happening behind the scenes (just for me) and some things I choose to share with an audience (that’s you!). My hope is to be as real as possible and provide some kind of inspiration (or at the very least some entertainment) for you.

 

 

My First BSIM Experience

It’s been two weeks since the Big Sur International Marathon (BSIM) and while I feel guilty that it has taken me so long to write about it, I also believe that I needed two weeks or so to fully process the experience.

Leading into BSIM I knew I was getting ready to do something challenging and truly amazing. Everyone talked about the breathtaking views and the humbling experience of running highway 1 and conquering the hills that come with it. When it was all said and done, I have to admit, everyone was right: it was beautiful – so beautiful in fact, that I may want to do it all again for the sole purpose of getting to experience the beauty again. I mean, there is something to be said about running along a road and seeing a herd of cows grazing in fields beside you; or hearing the ocean waves crashing against the shoreline; or smelling the freshness of the air surrounding the massive redwood trees.

The week before the marathon nerves were settling in for me but worst of all, my immune system was down. I was sick – not just a little sniffle – I’m talking about a full-on sinus cold complete with fever and aches. These are not good things to be dealing with a week before a marathon. Nevertheless, I had a smile on my face and continued with my run training and recovery as planned (taking a bit of extra time for recovery). The day before the race I was still taking cough syrup and trying to break my fever. After nearly four months of training, I was feeling disappointed and frustrated that my Big Sur debut would not be at 100%. But that’s life.

As I laced up my shoes at the start line I breathed deeply and repeated the mantras my coach had sent to me. For the first half of the marathon, “be in control” and for the second half “I am strong”. In all honesty, this is what got me through the race. The weather conditions could not have been more ideal. For me, I knew that I just needed to make it to the next water station for a fresh tissue (for my never-ending runny nose) and the mental check that I completed yet another 2 miles. Despite my runny nose, I made it to the 13.1-mile marker (halfway) feeling pretty good. The scenery and the memories of my previous visits to Big Sur kept my spirits high. The last time I was in Big Sur, I was getting married and seeing those gorgeous views all over again brought back a flood of happy memories. Running up Hurricane Point was tough, but I was mentally prepared for it and when I reached the top, tears welled up and my heart felt full as a live pianist (that’s right, live pianist) played “Let it Go” as I ran across Bixby Bridge. The timing could not have been more perfect and in that moment, I thought “I am strong. I can do this”. I started my descent to the other side of Hurricane Point and things felt okay.

(Photos taken from Big Sur International Marathon Website archives from 2016).

Another mile or so in and my mantra came back to me, this time to help aid in a shooting pain in my left leg. “No…” and then: “I am strong. I am strong. I am strong”. Marathons are unpredictable. Things can happen to you that have never happened before and you just have to keep going. For me, I was ahead of my goal pace by 2 minutes for the first 17 miles of my marathon. Just past the 17-mile marker, I watched my pace group pass and I repeated “I am strong. I am strong. I am strong.” I told myself it was okay to let them go, and to race my own race. The pain in my left leg slowly subsided and I wondered what more was in store for this race.

At 35 km, with only 7 km left in the marathon things really started to hurt. Everything from my hips down was in pain. I could feel my fever starting to creep back and I gave up on trying to control my runny nose. At this point, all I wanted to do was finish but finishing felt like it was forever away. I struggled for the next 2 km. The only thing worse than running was stopping not because of my ego, but because I wasn’t sure I could start again.

I glanced at my watch and did a quick math calculation. “Only 5 km left. Okay, I can do this.” With that, I got my second, second wind and picked up the pace. I was off my goal time, but I was still within range of my second goal time (marathoners are known for setting goals and back up goals because you just never know what’s going to happen).

In those last 5 km, nothing could stop me. I focused on pumping my arms and keeping my head up. I tried not to think about the next 2 hills, or how far away the finish line was. As I climbed the final hill, I could hear the crowd near the finish line before I could see them. I knew I was close and those cheers kept me moving. I crossed the finish line and again tears welled up in my eyes. Not because I was in pain, but from sheer happiness.

This was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life and when I crossed the finish line, I felt so much joy for my accomplishment. What made this marathon difficult was not just the fact that I was sick while running, or even that the terrain was difficult. In hindsight, I do believe that mentally I was not prepared for the rolling hills of the second half of the marathon. They were not as high or steep as Hurricane Point, but on a fatigued mind, body and soul they were crushing. Some people may have crossed the finish line saying they will never put themselves through that kind of suffering again. I crossed and decided that I need to do it all again, this time feeling healthier, fitter and tougher. That’s the thing about the marathon…. You either run it and never want to do it again, or you’re hooked. I’m hooked.

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B-to-B-to-B – results!

Time flies when you’re having fun and more specifically when you’re training for a marathon, having family visit, AND starting to work full time (for the first time in a year, I might add!). The month of April was in like a lion and out like a lamb. The beginning of April marked the official countdown to the Big Sur International Marathon for me, and the B (Boston) to B (Beer Mile) to B (Big Sur) for my husband. So much has happened, I could sit and recap for days. Instead, I’ll touch on the B-to-B-to-B results here and more (in my next blog post) about my first experience running the Big Sur International Marathon.

B-to-B-to-B

To put it simply, Boston was hot this year. Hotter than anyone anticipated and the results showed it. The thing about a marathon is, it pushes you to either regroup and do it all over again, or stop completely. In my husband’s case (and the case of most people we know and run with) his result motivated him to come back stronger than ever for the second “B” in the challenge. A mere 6 days after the Boston marathon, he along with a few fellow runners geared up for the Beer Mile challenge. I talked briefly about what a beer mile is in my last blog post here.

Most running the beer mile were doing so for the first time ever, and didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully all participants were successful in completing the beer mile vomit-free. If this seems silly to you, you’ve never chugged 4 beers and run a mile. According to Runner’s World magazine:

“Beer-milers themselves are no longer on the fringes […]. They’re in running clubs and startups, on campuses and Olympic teams. Chances are good you know one. In fact, the guys who invented it are now teachers, accountants, IT executives—in other words, well-adjusted folks who could be your neighbors.” So there you have it, you could be friends or even coworkers with a beer-miler and not even know it! (See the full  Runner’s World article here).

With the second leg of B-to-B-to-B complete injury and vomit-free, several of the runners advanced to the third and final round of the B challenge. One week later everyone geared up for the iconic 26.2 mile run from Big Sur to Carmel along highway 1. Shake outs complete, and ready at the start line, we all huddled together for warmth, support and motivation. 3… 2… 1… we were off and in the blink of an eye (so it seems now, but most definitely not at the time) it was all over. The third leg of the 3x B challenge was the strongest for my husband as he beat his Boston time on a course much more difficult. And to help put things into perspective, the men’s first and second place finishers of the Big Sur International Marathon (BSIM) both ran Boston and both ran faster Big Sur times. Again, let me reiterate that Big Sur has a 2-mile long hill, with around 2000 feet of elevation gain that starts about mile 11 and finishes at mile 13.

And that concludes the B-to-B-to-B Challenge! Participants in the extra “B” are looking to make shirts or hats to show off their accomplishments. My husband found his own way of demonstrating the challenge. He wore his Boston bib number on the back of his running singlet, and a small hand written note that said “Second Place Beer Mile”. He received many high-fives and congratulations along the course. I am incredibly proud of him and look forward to seeing him complete his next challenge.

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All Things “B”

As many of you are aware (if you follow me on Instagram or on Strava) I have spent the last four months training for another marathon. As my second marathon (ever) I’ve decided to really challenge myself and set my sights on Big Sur. For those in the California area (and those who are familiar with marathons) you will know that this is a doozy of a marathon. Not only is it the usual, gruelling 26.2 miles (that’s 42.1 km) but it’s through the mountainous terrain that is Big Sur. This location is also very special to me because Big Sur is where my husband and I eloped last September. Big Sur holds a very special place in my heart, so to be able to run along a route that is typically off-limits to foot traffic (and reserved for vehicles or bikes) means so much to me. While I understand the challenges of this course, I am setting goals to push my limits and test my boundaries to see what I am capable of. To be able to do this in a place that holds so much meaning, beauty, and love for me means that maybe, just maybe, I can pull this off.

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Photo by: Vanessa Hicks Photography

The course is from Big Sur to Carmel on scenic Highway 1, the nation’s first nationally-designated Scenic Highway. The course is USATF certified and is an official Boston qualifier. Knowing that, not many people qualify for Boston at the Big Sur Marathon, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. Runner’s World magazine writer Kit Fox recently wrote an article (Here’s Why I Don’t Want to PR at My Next Marathon) outlining his goals for the Big Sur Marathon and *spoiler alert* he’s not planning for a Personal Best, but rather to enjoy the scenery. My goals are a little bit different, but before I get into goal setting, let me paint a picture for you of what’s to come:

Start elevation: 356 ft
Finish elevation:  10 ft
Total elevation gain:  +2,182 ft
Total elevation loss:   -2,528 ft

One person’s hill is another person’s bump in the road and vice-versa. The Big Sur Marathon race director claims that there are thirteen hills the last 13 miles of the course.  The first half of the course is gentler; there are probably *only* five hills. Unfortunately, one of those hills is the treacherous climb up to Hurricane Point, a steady 5% grade mile from 9.8 through mile 12. That’s right. It starts at mile 9, and goes on until mile 12. Check out this link to take a Virtual Tour to get a bird’s eye view of the course.

Point to point, moderately difficult, with rolling hills, Big Sur is the largest rural marathon in the world.  The course winds through redwoods, alongside ranches, and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, making the scenery truly breathtaking. The idea to stage a marathon on a stretch of one of America’s most scenic highways came from Bill Burleigh, a former Monterey County judge.

The first Big Sur Marathon race in 1986 drew 1,800 runners. By 1989, there were 2,300. In 1997, the marathon field was 3,300. This year, 4,500 are registered for the marathon, with more than 5,000 others in accompanying same-day events: a marathon relay, a 21-miler, a 10.6-miler, a 9-miler and a 5K.

The Big Sur race is also part of two special programs that attract distant runners: The Boston to Big Sur Challenge, in which about 400 runners do both races in the same year; and the Runner’s World Challenge, in which 300 men and women train with coaches and run two other marathons (the Marine Corps and Disney) along with Big Sur. As if running a marathon isn’t enough, some people choose to torture themselves further by joining these additional challenges. One of those people, I happen to be married to, and happen to be incredibly proud of.

My husband qualified for the Boston Marathon at the California International Marathon in December 2015. It was his first marathon ever and as I proudly watched him cross the finish line, I felt an extra jump in my heart as I realized that his time qualified him to run the Boston Marathon in 2017. Now, here we are. It is officially the Easter Long Weekend, and my Facebook feed is FULL of Boston articles, inspiring posts, photos, goals, and videos all around the hype, the excitement, and the nerves connected with this iconic marathon. While I wish I could be at the finish line to watch my husband cross, I will be here in Monterey watching the online chip-updates and sending all my love and support to him.

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The finish line at CIM 2015 in Sacramento, CA.

As I said earlier, my husband will also be completing the Big Sur Marathon this year as part of the Boston to Big Sur Challenge. Crazy, right? To add an extra element to an already difficult challenge, my husband and several others are planning their own special event and calling it the “B-to-B-to-B” (Boston, to Beer-mile, to Big Sur). As far as we know, this has never been done before, so we’re in for a real treat! For those who do not know, a “beer-mile” is a race where you run 400 metres, chug a beer, and repeat for a total of one mile (4 x 400 m). I myself have never participated, but I will gladly watch as others torture themselves by mixing two things that seemingly to go together and simultaneously not go together: running and beer.

Stay tuned for more blog updates on the unofficial “B-to-B-to-B” results and more about goal setting, and nutrition leading up to the Big Sur Marathon.

Planning on racing the Big Sur International Marathon this year or in the future? Check out this link to Runner’s World articles citing great places to eat, where to stay, and tips on running the iconic 26.2 miles along Highway 1.

http://www.runnersworld.com/big-sur-international-marathon

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How to… learn more about cruelty-free products

When I decided to start writing a blog again, I set a few goals for myself and for my writing. While I enjoy writing personal pieces, I also want to get into some topics that I’m passionate about in the hopes of either educating others, or at the very least starting conversations. This week a video depicting animal cruelty to monkeys went viral on Facebook.

After reading some eye-opening articles I feel inspired to write about cruelty-free products and how to be informed. Be warned: I’m about to get on my soap box and start preaching. Please note that I will not be posting any gruesome photos or videos, but some of the topics I discuss may be sensitive. My goal is to inspire others to reconsider their behaviours (i.e. shopping habits) after reading this post. If you want to stay ignorantly unaware, then please close the tab and check out another (less opinionated) post.

I have never been an advocate for animal cruelty, but I will admit that I didn’t pay much attention to it… until I rescued my dog Winston. Since rescuing Winston (and our dog Ruby as well) whenever I read articles about animal cruelty, or see the viral videos, I immediately imagine that those cruel things are happening to my dogs. I don’t know why, but for some reason, that’s just where my brain automatically goes. I cannot help but look at that poor animal, whether it be a dog, a cat, a monkey or a rabbit, and feel a deep pit of nausea as I embody what they must be going through. I wouldn’t do it to my pets, so why would it ever be okay to do it to another animal? Is it because it doesn’t have a home? Or is viewed as being “less than human”? Why do big companies (and let’s face it, small ones too) feel that as humans they are superior to other animals and can torture them in order to “test” products for human use?! My opinion: if it’s not fit to test on humans, it’s not fit to test on any living creature. 

The counter argument: some argue that animals are not conscious the way that humans are and do not register pain or emotions the way humans do. Some claim that because animals cannot represent themselves, it does not matter what we do to them. Some even play the “hierarchy” card and say that humans are at the top of the food chain, therefore they get to call the shots. Another popular opinion is that the products need to be tested somehow, so why not use animals, since they are lower than humans. These are outdated arguments (in my opinion) that go back to philosophers such as Aristotle, Thomas Aquinis, and Rene Descartes who spoke of animals being less than human therefore devoid of human consideration.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we should dismiss everything they say – but I think their understanding of animals was different during their time. Since then, more theories have come to exist (i.e. Darwin’s theories of evolution) and be questioned within the realm of human and animal relationships. 

Some philosophers that support cruelty-free practices are Immanuel Kant and Peter Carruthers. Both argue that there can be extensive indirect duties to animals. These duties extend to refraining from harming the property of others and the duty to not offend animal lovers. However, we also have a duty to refrain from being cruel to them. Kant argues:

Our duties towards animals are merely indirect duties towards humanity. Animal nature has analogies to human nature, and by doing our duties to animals in respect of manifestations of human nature, we indirectly do our duty to humanity…. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals (Regan and Singer, 1989: 23-24).

Carruthers writes:

Such acts [as torturing a cat for fun] are wrong because they are cruel. They betray an indifference to suffering that may manifest itself…with that person’s dealings with other rational agents. So although the action may not infringe any rights…it remains wrong independently of its effect on any animal lover (Carruthers, 1992: 153-54).

Kant and Carruthers argue that we need to not only consider how our actions affect animals themselves, we also need to consider how our treatment of animals will affect our treatment of other human beings. I add that it should go even further than using animals merely as ways of gauging our treatment of humans, but rather to treat them fairly. We should be grateful to animals for the sake of being grateful to animals.

According to Peter Harrison (1991) both human beings and animals respond in the same way when confronted with “pain stimuli”; both animals and human beings have brains, nerves, neurons, endorphins, and other structures; and both human beings and animals are relatively close to each other on the evolutionary scale. Since they are similar to each other in these ways, we have good reason to believe that animals are conscious, just as human beings are. (From: http://www.iep.utm.edu/anim-eth/)

One of the biggest dilemmas about the animal testing industry is the deceit that goes on to get you to buy their product. Companies will label things “green” or “natural” as a way of convincing consumers to buy their product (I’ll get into the whole “green initiative” in another blog post). These companies make it confusing and difficult to know if their products really are cruelty-free. The little bunny rabbit image on the side of the product is one good indication, but it’s not always the best way to know what really goes on behind closed doors.

There are several apps and websites that you can use as resources to help you uncover the truth of your products. Please be advised, that these apps, and websites will be updated and changed over time. Just because a company previously did not test on animals, does not mean they won’t change their ways down the road.

Three years ago, I immersed myself in digging for information about the products I use and the companies that produce them. To make a long story short, I stopped using all my previously purchased make-up products from Mac, Maybelline, Cover Girl (and many more) and started using products from The Body Shop. When I looked into who owned The Body Shop, it appeared that they were owned by L’Oreal. According to Cruelty Free Kitty, L’Oreal has a history of trying to disguise it’s cosmetics as drugs as a way of getting around animal cruelty claims. They label their cosmetics as “drugs” then use them to test on animals still claiming that their cosmetics, face/body products are “cruelty-free”. Needless to say, I am not a huge fan of L’Oreal for their deception, but the fact that they are such a successful company means they own many others – even some that are cruelty-free.

Another interesting note: China has a regulation that states all products sold in China MUST be tested on animals. Therefore, all products sold in China are subject to animal testing. Check out this website (http://www.peta.org/living/beauty/beauty-brands-that-you-thought-were-cruelty-free-but-arent/) by PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) that outlines cosmetic/facial/body product companies who sell their products in China (i.e. who conduct animal testing). You’ll see from this list that L’Oreal does sell their products in China, however The Body Shop does not sell in China, therefore upholding their cruelty-free compassionate position.

In conclusion, the best advice I can give is to look at the resources provided at the end of my blog post. I do not guarantee that they will give you 100% accurate responses to your questions about which brands (and in turn, companies) are truly cruelty-free. I implore you to take issue with the way many bigger companies try to dupe you into buying their products. Ask questions, dig deep, and don’t be afraid to spend a little time researching truly cruelty-free products. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I am inspired to keep asking questions and keep talking about these issues.

List of Resources:

Bunny Free App (by PETA):

http://www.peta.org/action/bunny-free-app/

Cruelty Cutter App

iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/cruelty-cutter/id794639918?mt=8

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.beagle.crueltycutter&hl=en

Websites:

http://www.leapingbunny.org/guide/brands

http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com

http://www.peta.org/living/beauty/beauty-brands-that-you-thought-were-cruelty-free-but-arent/

References:

Carruthers, Peter. The Animals Issue: Morality in Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

Harrison, Peter. “Do Animals Feel Pain?”, Philosophy 66 (1991): 25-40.

Regan, T. and P. Singer, eds. Animal Rights and Human Obligations 2/e (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1989).

Wilson, S.D. Animals and ethics. Accessed on March 29, 2017 at: http://www.iep.utm.edu/anim-eth/#H4

Greed, envy & gratitude

Most of you are probably unaware (because I tend to follow the trend on Facebook of posting about happy things and accomplishments rather than about every day struggles of life, goals, and decisions) I am currently struggling to find my place here in California – and it’s not for lack of trying.

It’s true, I have been “living/visiting” in Monterey, CA since April of last year. As the end of March approaches and my Facebook feed shares memories of final races, goodbyes and packing in Canada, I am reminded that I have indeed been in Monterey for nearly one year and I still feel… well, lost.

As I said earlier, it’s not that I haven’t tried to find belonging here. I have made friends in the last year, joined numerous running groups and clubs that meet up from time-to-time. I have a routine with my dogs and am always reaching out to community members. I volunteer when I can (I’ll tell you all about the science fair I helped judge in another post) and get out to group events to meet people whenever the opportunity is there. With all of this (and yes, I realize I could easily DO more) I still don’t quite feel like I fit here. I love it here – but where do I belong?

Now that I have a work permit I’ve started applying for different jobs (some teaching, some not) and so far, I have had to wait patiently and keep my chin up as the weeks keep rolling by. I’ve had a job interview (my first real interview I’d say in 7 years) and I feel like I spend most my day job searching online and tweaking my cover letter for positions that could help me find belonging.

I’m not saying that working is the only thing that will help me “belong” in California. I know plenty of people in the area who don’t “work” (I use that term very loosely since “work” can be defined by many different things by many different people) but continue to work hard, belong to clubs and organizations, and are the busiest, most informed and seemingly “belonging” people I’ve ever met. For as long as I can remember I have always had a very distinct and outlined plan. I’ve always had the next step prepared, and had a goal I was working towards. While I do have goals (qualifying for Boston; getting new personal best times in my running; learning to knit; learning to play an instrument; being more involved in my community; learning more about health and nutrition; cooking more) they are not entirely reflective of my career goals.

For the first time, in a long time I’m not really sure what I want. I’m not really sure what my next step is. I know that I want to work. I know that I love working with and teaching children. I know that I enjoy reading, writing, and research, but I’m having a hard time finding something that combines all those things together. I had a plan: to pursue my PhD in Education. Everything was lined up. I was going to continue running for my university team (from a distance), I had my research question, and methodology for my proposal ready to go. Then everything felt like it was working against me. Nothing was lining up. Every decision I made felt like the wrong decision and soon I found myself saying “I can’t” – something I HATE saying. I had all my goals set, but the universe shut every door in my face and with a final thud I felt myself standing at a closed door, blinking away tears, feeling confused, and let down.

I focused my thoughts and energy on things I could control: running. I dedicated my time to researching practices, nutrition, emailing my coach and setting goals for myself. While I felt happy and fulfilled in that area of my life, I still felt the nagging in the back of my mind: but this isn’t what you planned. I would go through waves of feeling good, feeling accomplished, then I would wake up feeling like a failure, a disappointment, and a let down. What am I doing with my life? I would ask myself. Why are things so hard? Why aren’t things working out for me?

These are dangerous questions to ask and they can take you down a dark rabbit hole that is hard to pull yourself out of. Yesterday, was one of those days for me. After researching more teaching jobs in the area, I came to realize the true hurdles I need to overcome in order to teach (as a Canadian) in California. Yes, the things I need to accomplish are doable, but when you’re standing at the bottom of a large mountain looking up, you feel like what you’ve set out to accomplish is impossible. Yesterday, looking at the mound of paperwork, and other hoops I need to jump through, I wanted to curl up in my bed and sleep it all away.

This morning – with a fresh perspective – I walked my two dogs and listened to a podcast in the hopes of either learning something worthwhile, or finding something to distract the feelings of despair I buried away yesterday. Luckily for me, the universe sent a podcast my way that I really needed to hear. The podcast talked about the headwinds and tailwinds of life and how we perceive what we “get” and what others “get”. The part of the podcast that resonated so deeply with me was when the speaker said the two worst things to succumb to, when you’re facing a headwind (which is what I’ll say I’m going through right now) is greed and envy and here’s why:

As humans, we often complain about the headwind. When things are tough and we’re struggling, we hate it and all we can focus on is how much happier we would be if we could just change directions and have the tailwind helping us along (anyone who runs or cycles will totally feel this analogy). The sad part is, when we do eventually get the tailwind, we only appreciate it for a short period of time before we stop noticing it. This is how greed works. When we struggle with the headwind all we want is the tailwind, and when we have the tailwind all we want is more. When we focus on what we don’t have, rather than being grateful for what we do have, we are making ourselves miserable. In looking back at the struggles I professed having, are they really that bad? I have a loving and supportive husband, whose career and schooling have brought us to one of the most beautiful places in the world. I am healthy and able to run and enjoy the outdoors. I have two healthy dogs who I love and adore and who I get to spend time with every day. I have family and friends in Canada (and all over the world) who I love and get to speak with on the phone or through email/Messenger anytime I want. Is life really that bad? I may feel lost and out of place at times, but I have so much going for me that perhaps instead of wishing away the headwind, I should lean in, put my head down, and know that it’s going to feel that much better when I finally change course and feel the tailwind, helping me along.

Envy. We all know it, but putting words behind the meaning helped me better understand some of the struggles I feel. Envy can be felt when you look at the fortunes of someone else and feel that they are undeserving (at least that is how one individual in the podcast explained it). It got me thinking… do I feel envy? YES. It’s hard not to feel envy when Facebook exists. As I said earlier, we’re all guilty of posting the happy update telling the Facebook world about our latest accomplishment, vacation, engagement, baby, graduation, gorgeous photo, workout, whatever it may be. We feel good sharing it and seeing how many of our friends will *like* the status/photo/whatever and give an encouraging word or two. It feels so good! But then, every so often you see a status that makes you roll your eyes. You judge. You feel anger. Resentment. Then your whole body turns green (hey — it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I needed to throw some green in here) and you’ve turned in the envious green monster. It’s hard to pull yourself out of that funk. Now, I’m not saying that every time my friends or family post something happy that I immediately turn green. No, no. I am genuinely VERY happy for good things happening to the people around me. But on some of those low days, I can’t bring myself to *like* the post and need to be in a better frame of mind. AND THAT’S OKAY. It’s okay to feel envy, but the important step comes next and that is to acknowledge those feelings and dig a little deeper and ask “why” you’re feeling that way.

However, sometimes asking why is just not enough. Sometimes you know why, and it’s because you hate so-and-so and it’s so unfair that they got this thing just handed to them and they didn’t even work hard for it and it’s so unfair that everything works out for them and why not for me and LIFE IS JUST UNFAIR!

– – – – And that’s when you need to stop.

And focus instead on gratitude. It has been proven that when people focus on things that they are grateful for – no matter how big or small that may be – that they become happier, healthier people. And isn’t that what we want in life? To be happy and healthy? Should it matter what job you have? Should it matter how much money you make? Should it matter who has a bigger house? Fancier car? More elaborate vacation? No. Because the things that you take for granted may be what others dream of. And while I’m not claiming to have all the answers or that I don’t feel greed or envy from time to time, I am advocating for digging deeper, and switching your mindset to gratitude. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, or what others have, reach out and express gratitude to someone who has helped you. Keep a gratitude journal and write something in it every day.

While I have never tried this myself, it’s something that I am going to incorporate into my daily life as an experiment. And I challenge you to do the same. I’m tired of feeling sad or like I don’t belong. Instead, I want to appreciate the beautiful place that I live in and enjoy what life brings to me. I may be facing a headwind right now, but I’m going to enjoy the push so when the tailwind comes, I can appreciate it that much more. So I challenge you to spend the next few days, week, or even months focusing on what you’re grateful for and see how it changes your life and your perspective.

Inspired by:

Freakonomics podcast episode: “Why is my life so hard?” by Stephen Dubner, produced by Christopher Werth, March 15, 2017.

Sources from the episode:

Shai Davidai, Assistant Professor of Psychology, The New School for Social Research

Tom Gilovich, Professor of Psychology, Cornell University

Resources:

“The headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry: An availability bias in assessments of barriers and blessings,” by Tom Gilovich and Shai Davidai, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2016.

“In Praise of Gratitude,” Harvard Medical School, 2011.

 

All things Spring

Do you ever feel like there are certain times of the day where you can express yourself better than others? Sometimes I’ll spend a whole afternoon picking away at something, fitting the pieces of the puzzle together, trying to make it work, only to find that I hate it then scrapping the whole thing. Suddenly, this magical thing happens and I find inspiration. The words forming too fast for my hands to type or for my brain to even comprehend. After re-reading it and with a little massaging it feels… right. It feels like me.

Weirdly these bouts of passion and inspiration come to me at two times during the day. Sunrise and sunset. I’ve always felt drawn toward sunrise. It’s quiet, not many people are out, and I feel like I have the whole world (yes, the whole world) to myself. I feel inspired and I stop to marvel in awe at the simple things as they pass me by (or as I pass them by). This happens – more often than not – when I go running, just before the sun’s light spills over the horizon warming the land and my heart. It’s magical and suddenly stresses, pressures, worries, and fears melt away and I’m engulfed in the beauty that surrounds me. It’s not hard to notice beauty when you live in a place like Monterey, but it does surprise me how often I forget to pause and truly appreciate where I live. In the first few minutes of those early morning jogs I feel tight, tired and cranky. But after five or ten minutes, things loosen up and my mind clears. I return home feeling refreshed, jubilant and energetic.

I notice a similar phenomenon at sunset as well. As humans are we connected to the rising and setting sun? Why do I feel inspiration and creativity when the sky is bright? Things calm down and suddenly words and thoughts string together and pour out of me as if from my very soul.

I can’t help but feel also, that inspiration comes to me not only at certain times of the day (sunrise, sunset) but also after being outside. Luckily for me, I have two little dogs at home who help me get outside several times during the day. I experienced such a huge change in my life after rescuing my dog Winston and I know my husband says the same thing about when he rescued his dog Ruby. This morning it struck me, after Dillon and I took our dogs for an early morning stroll, just how grateful I am to have two furry little friends with us. It made me reminisce back to our days living in Korea when we would meet on the beach with our two doggies, and coffees, and talk. The colours of the sunrise dancing across the ocean waters and the warm breeze rustling our hair. Perhaps it was love in the air, or perhaps it was the magic of the natural world, or some combination of both, but we felt happy, and at peace. This morning as we sipped out coffees and walked our two dogs along the sandy beach trail we felt those same feelings of content and happiness.

As Dillon pointed out the little seals diving, splashing and frolicking in the water, I felt the warm sun on my freckled cheeks and looked over at our two dogs: Winston kicking the sand playfully, Ruby sitting quietly, observing the waters caressing the shoreline. Spring has officially sprung in Monterey, and it is glorious. The trees are full of budding blossoms, (the cherry blossoms are still my favourite) their fragrance wafting through the warm air. The country side is green again after the winter rain, and the sunny, clear skies allow us to see the other side of the bay. As I write this blog post, I’m sitting on our balcony breathing in the spring air and feeling lucky to live in such a beautiful place. Wherever you are in the world today, whether there is snow and cold, rain and clouds or sun and warmth, take a moment to step outside, breathe in the air, and appreciate the place where you are standing, and the moment you are in. Whether you can see it, or feel it, spring is here.

For those who live in or are visiting California over the next couple of months, have a look here for information on where to find California’s best wildflowers! (◠‿◠✿)

 

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For Mama

Time is a funny thing. As a child, it often felt like it took forever to become a grown up and as an adult, years seem to fly by faster than I would like to admit. Sometimes you think you have all the time in the world, then you are quickly reminded how truly fleeting this moment is. One minute I’m in Monterey, California enjoying the warm sun and walking my two dogs, the next I’m on a last-minute flight back to my hometown, Thunder Bay. With two words on my phone “call me,” I knew it was about Mama and I knew it couldn’t be good.

Mama. She got the name from me, you know. I don’t remember of course, but Mama sure did and she loved to tell the story. “…and this is Mama” I would say to friends when I introduced her. She would beam and ask them: “Do you know why they call me Mama? It was this one here (gesturing towards me). She’s always been a stubborn one. We tried and tried to teach her to say ‘grandma’ but she would say ‘No! Mama!’ So I guess the name stuck and now, I’m Mama to everyone”. She loved telling this story. It always made me blush, but also proud. Everyone who met Mama loved her. She had the warmest and kindest heart. The ladies at the bank would always ask me: “Are you Helen’s granddaughter? Oh! We love your grandma”. The lady who did my nails “Are you related to Helen? Oh…. She is the NICEST lady”. I hope that people speak so kindly of me some day.

Mama was always there for us; all of us. She didn’t miss a dance recital, competition, hockey game, soccer game, awards ceremony, graduation, birthday dinner… you name it, Mama was there in the front row, saving seats with her jacket. There was always a bouquet of flowers, a big smile and an even bigger hug waiting at the end. Even in my newer interests Mama was there. When I lined up at the start line for my first ever 10-mile road race, just minutes from the gun going off, my phone rang. It was Mama calling to wish me luck and to “go get ‘em”.

She always wanted to know what we were doing, what we were planning and what was next. She was our biggest fan and we knew it. You couldn’t ask for a better cheerleader.

Mama was such a special person, to all of us. If you needed help, she was there. Needed a ride to dance practice? She was there. Mom and Dad were out of town? Mama was picking us up and taking us out for dinner. Needed a place to live? Mama cleared out her spare room and welcomed you in. After returning from Korea (the first time) I experienced what it was like to live with Mama (with my dog Winston, too). I must say, for a woman in her 80s she sure had spirit, spunk, drive and yes, some of that stubbornness I’m so famous for having. Within the first week of living with Mama I came home to find her walking Winston in the front yard. At this point her arms weren’t very strong, but she insisted on walking him because “he looked like he needed to go”. The next week I came home to find her digging through the tool shed for her weed-wacker. Why? Who knows! But she was determined to find it, get it out, and wack those weeds. There was no stopping her, and I worried what I would come home to next.

My funniest moment with Mama happened when a mother bear and her two baby bear cubs were going through her trash bin outside. Winston heard the ruckus and barked and barked, just about making my heart stop. Carrying Winston over my shoulder, I went downstairs to see what the commotion was. There in the hallway window, was a big bear head, looking in at me. “MAMAAAAAAAAAA” I shouted, clearly rattled from the sight (I’d been living in Korea for the past two years and seeing a bear this close shocked me!). She came charging out of the living room, wearing her nightgown and house coat, wondering what was going on. I explained the commotion I asked if she knew the number to animal services. Without skipping a beat, she swung open the backdoor and marched outside. “Where? I don’t see any bears!” she exclaimed. They had scampered off by this point. Who needs animal services when you have Mama around? Yet another example of how she was fierce, and fearless. I wondered if I could ever be like her. I had the stubborn personality, that’s for sure, but could I be fearless? Could I be tough?

On February 16th, I lay in bed with my phone clutched to my chest. I was in Monterey and the news wasn’t good. My heart hurt so bad… please Mama. I thought. Just hang on a bit longer for me. Every time I started to drift to sleep I would jolt myself awake and check my phone. Maybe she would pull through the night. At 5:20am (Pacific Time) the message flashed across my screen: “She’s gone Leanne”. The hole grew bigger in my heart and the hot tears poured from my eyes. I quickly stepped out of bed and tiptoed to the balcony window to gaze outside. I’m always drawn to nature in times of happiness, or sadness and in the darkness of the early morning I searched for something to ease the tightness in my heart. The sky was cloudy and there was a soft, gentle rain. The smell of the wet grass and the sound of the breeze rustling the trees outside made my heart ache even more. The skies were crying for Mama, too and, why shouldn’t they? She was a kindred spirit through and through.

I decided I needed to do something. I already had a flight booked for later that morning and my suitcase was packed and ready to go. I had hours to kill and a deep sadness in my heart. I laced up my running shoes and I was out the door before I could have a second thought. Ruby and Winston, our two dogs sleepily jogged beside me. They knew I needed them.

As soon as I stepped outside, the rain stopped and the world felt quiet. We headed out to the coastal trail, taking the northern route; my favourite because of the rolling hills, tree lined pathways and ocean views that take your breath away. I jogged up the hill, searching for something, not knowing just what it was. Closure? Peace? I stopped to watch the waves as they slowly and silently pulled back, like a slingshot winding up. There was the briefest of pauses, then a thundering roar as they water billowing towards the shore. As I watched the waves crash, tears flowed as if straight from my heart. I cried for Mama, I cried for not being there, and I cried because I missed her. I stopped for a few moments to stare at the sky and to take in the moment. It’s so rare that we stop and truly feel our emotions to their fullest. I felt in that moment sadness – deep sadness – for the loss of my beloved Mama. I felt a hole in my heart, the tightness in my chest, the shortness of my breath and the warmth of tears running down my cheeks. I watched the waves crash and as the water began to calm, so did I. I turned back towards home and as I started jogging again the sun broke out from behind the clouds. It felt warm on my face and in my heart, and I knew that while I felt sad now, everything would be okay. By the time I arrived back home, the rain had started again; like a mist.

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It’s been eleven days since I received the news about Mama, and in that time, I have travelled to Thunder Bay and back again. It all feels like a dream. Everything is the same, and yet so different. While I’m happy to enjoy the sunshine and warmth of this coastal city again, moments of sadness still wash over me. Whenever I feel that tightness come back into my chest, I think back to the day of Mama’s funeral service. I was standing in the little room, off to the side of the Chapel, with my brother, sister and their partners nearby and my mom and dad quietly talking to relatives. My husband, Dillon stepped away for just a moment and I glanced back to Mama’s open casket behind me. I took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves before the service started. Our minister, and close friend to my Mama, noticed me and approached. He placed an understanding hand on my shoulder and said, “She may be gone from this earth, but she is always with you.” In hearing those words, I thought back to my last run in Monterey, how the rain stopped, the sound of the ocean waves crashing along the shore, the way the sun burst out from behind the clouds, and how I felt a little less alone. Mama was with me that morning, when I felt so much sorrow, and she is with me every day in everything that I do.

This is for Mama. Because I can’t say the words to her now, I choose to write them and speak from my heart. I looked up to Mama as a strong, tough, fierce, hardworking, patient, loving, kind, attentive woman in my life. My mind cascades with happy memories of Mama that I will cherish forever. Her smiling face in the window every time I pulled up in the drive way; the way she wanted to know what was happening in my life; how she told me I could do whatever I put my mind to; her brilliant mind that could recall the smallest details of stories from long ago; how she adapted to every place that she lived, and was loved everywhere she went. She moved almost as much as I have (maybe even more) and always came through the other end stronger and with close friends at her side. She was there through thick and thin and I hope that I can be even half the woman she was to me and to everyone she encountered. And so, in my final words for Mama, I leave you with the image I have in my mind and the way that I remember her… standing at her kitchen window, waving goodbye.

 

 

 

 

Do or do not. There is no try.

Well, hello there!

Welcome to my blog. Today is a day of firsts as I complete my first blog post and prepare to share it with the world (or the small group of people on my Facebook who will click the link – THANK YOU FOR CLICKING!)

I’ve started writing this post numerous times, each with a new *catchy* greeting, message or plea of: “Please… find me interesting and come back again. No… no, don’t reach for that close button. Please.  Just give me a chance!” Did it work? Are you still here? Ah, thank you.

I wanted to start this post by telling you a story and admitting something right off the bat (Tangent: where did that idiom come from? Off the bat. It feels like it fits here…).

I lied.

This isn’t my first blog post – in fact – this isn’t even my first WordPress website. Now, now, before you set off Googling me, let me assure you that the old blog is long gone. Deleted years ago. Why you ask? Well, it didn’t serve the purpose it was intended to serve. You see, I had just moved to South Korea (for the first time) and was writing the elusive “look at me, I’m a foreigner in Korea” blog. It was an easy way to update my friends and family back in Canada as to what I was doing. It quickly became a place where I either complained loudly or sang with joy about my experiences in Korea. Finally, I looked at it and thought, “this just isn’t me” and I deleted everything. The writer in me cringes when I think back to that blog and deleting it. Sure, a lot of that old blog was probably crap… but at the same time it was my crap and crap that I might want to read again now that I’m older, wiser, and more experienced with this thing called life. What I failed to realize at the time was that those blog posts were windows… tiny windows into the life and thoughts of a Canadian girl living abroad for the first time, but also living away from home, and working a full-time job, and experiencing freedom for the first time in her life. Sure, there were ups and downs, but in the end it’s a story and one that I wish I could just peek at one more time.

*sigh* Nostalgia.

Here I am, a Canadian girl in California (#canadiancaligirl). The purpose of this blog and this space is not to talk about my experiences living in America as a Canadian (although I can’t promise that it won’t sneak in from time-to-time), but more about passions. I’ll write about the area (Monterey, CA), my experiences, my training (oh, I’m a runner now!), what I’m reading (right now I’m reading: The Spell of the Sensuous and Run the World), what I’m cooking (something with bananas because they are brown and sitting on the counter), what my dogs are doing (they are runners now, too) and what it’s like to be a newly wed (to an American!!). I promise to keep things interesting, light, and to the point. One aspiration of this blog is to get some of my writing out there into the world. I’ve always loved writing and I find it therapeutic. It’s scary taking the giant leap from quietly writing my thoughts in a Word document, saving it to in a hidden file somewhere in my desktop folder, to actually sending them out into the cyber world, but I think I’m ready to do it again. If I want to be a writer, it’s time to write and as my running coach back in Canada would say:

“Do or do not. There is no try” ~Yoda

img_5964P.S. Check out that awesome sticker on my laptop! I swear it looks just like me – right down to the coffee in hand (my husband has one as well that really resembles him). Shout out to Lee for bringing us those sweet, sweet stickers xo