Creating my happy life on the other side of fear.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

He is back!


Remember when I told you that our young ram escaped a month ago? After we unsuccessfully chased him all over the neighbourhood to catch him, we found out two days later that he had joined a cult*.

*A herd of heifers

The owner of the young cows told us that he would be moving them in a few weeks, and that we could try to catch him then.
That day came last week, and we did, indeed, get him! I wasn't there, but Rich told me it involved a chute, a large net, and an old cowboy standing by with his lasso, just in case our freedom-loving boy would try to escape again.

Rich brought him him last Monday, and he seems beyond happy to be back with his family. He grew a lot, his horns have developed nicely, and I'm sure he entertains the lambs with tales of his wild adventures! By the way, there is nothing wrong with his coat, just in case you were wondering; our sheep have hair, not wool, and they are currently shedding their winter coat for a nice, light summer one.

I just thought I let you know about his safe return home, in case you were sitting at the edge of your seats for the last 4 weeks, wondering what had happened to him. 😉

Happy Sunday!  

xoxo Miriam

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Friday, 28 April 2017

About Body Positivity


Do you know what Bopo stands for?

I didn't either. Until I came across the absolutely amazing, inspiring Megan, aka. Bodyposipanda. Megan has successfully conquered anorexia, has a hugely popular account on Instagram, and will soon release a book about her story of beating anorexia and falling in love with her body. 

Bopo stands for 'Body Positivity'. In short, it simply means to be happy with the body you have right now
Not 5 pounds from now. 
Not after you completed that 30-day workout challenge. 
Not after you cut out sugar and carbs. 
But RIGHT.NOW.

Sounds simple?

It isn't. For most women, it's the hardest thing in the world

We have been conditioned from early childhood on that our bodies are not good enough. It's the raised eyebrows when we ask for a second piece of cake, the implied "you really shouldn't eat any cake, let alone two pieces". It's the magazines urging us to get "bikini-ready", because apparently our bodies are not presentable the way they are. It's the diet culture we live in, where we think it's normal to regularly starve ourselves, slowly destroying our body's metabolism and its ability to function properly.
We talk about "being bad" when we order dessert, about "having to make up for it" when we ate a large meal, like it's something to be ashamed of.  

I used to be self-conscious about my body for as long as I can remember.
Growing up, we had a set of petite, identical twins in our neighbourhood, and we played with them every day. They were dainty and delicate, whereas my sister and I were sturdy and ordinary. We had thighs and bellies, where the twins had tiny limbs and concave stomachs. 
We were convinced that our bodies were less attractive, and always felt self-conscious in bathing suits or shorts.


My mom was on a diet all throughout my childhood. She would diet when she was bored, proclaiming airily that she 'needed a new goal to focus on'. Half a slice of toast was her normal breakfast during her diets, making me feel like a pig for eating two whole slices with peanut butter and jam.  
Still, I was lucky; I was of average size. My sister, unfortunately, didn't get away that easy. She loved to eat, and was sturdy since she was a baby. 
As early as 8 years old, my mom tried to put her on a diet. Both were miserable: My sister for constantly being pestered about her weight; my mom for not being more successful. 

My sister and I differ in our body types: I have a big bum, strong thighs, and a small(ish) waist. 
My sister has long, slim legs, and tends to keep all her weight in her midsection.
We didn't choose this; that's just how we were made.
I was fiercely jealous of her thin legs; she envied my slightly slimmer physique. 

While my body was average as a child, I accidentally acquired coltish long limbs and a taut stomach after a growth spurt during adolescence. Boys began to notice, an older girl made me a compliment about my figure, and my mom couldn't have been prouder. It felt so good, that I was determined to do everything in my power to keep this body. 

Thus began a 15-year obsession with being less. I always tried to lose a few pounds. However, unlike other girls who could drop weight seemingly effortlessly, I wasn't very good at it. Being hungry made me feel lightheaded and nauseous, and I always ended up eating more than I would have if I'd listened to my body.
Due to this starvation/overeating-cycle, I started putting on the pounds. By age 19, I was a good 20 pounds heavier than I had been only a few months before, and I started to hate my body.

I will never forget how horrified and ashamed I was when an old acquaintance of my parents' came for a visit, seeing me for the first time in three years. Tact wasn't her strength, and as soon as she laid eyes on me, she exclaimed: "Oh my god, what happened to you? You gained so much weight!" I blushed furiously, feeling humiliated and worthless.  




I obsessively read books about anorexia and bulimia, secretly wishing I could get just a touch of bulimia. I knew that I was way too undisciplined for anorexia, but bulimia? Just a little? It seemed like the only way to stop me from gaining more weight, something I was terrified of.
But as it turned out, I couldn't make myself throw up. Sitting in front of the toilet, sweaty and teary-eyed, trying to stick my finger down my throat and failing, was one of the lowest points of my life.

I'm not telling you this to shock you or make you feel sorry for me.
I'm telling you because I'm convinced that most women have similar stories. On the website of the Canadian Women's Foundation are some startling statistics:

Over 50% of Canadian girls wish they were someone else.
50% of girls in grade 6 are on a diet; it increases to 60% by grade 10.
Only 14% of girls in grade 10 say that they are self-confident.
9 out of 10 girls say they feel pressure from the media to be thin.

With numbers like these, the Body Positivity movement is more important than ever. It seems that we are in dire need of realizing that we don't have to look a certain way to love ourselves. It should be the most natural thing in the world to be thankful for the body we have, yet it seems almost radical. As if by saying that we like our bodies, we may appear vain or full of ourselves. What BS!

Worrying about weight and being skinny is the biggest waste of time. It kills our joy for life and our confidence. Diets take up so much head space, there is little left for creativity and individuality. Diets make us boring - it's not much fun to hang out with someone who doesn't want to eat, who keeps obsessing about the size of their thighs, and who has nothing else going on in life than counting calories.

I wasted 15 years of my life being stuck in a vicious cycle of overeating, starving myself, over-exercising and hating my body. A body that is healthy, strong, and beautiful.
Learning to love my body the way it is is one of the most radical acts of self love I have ever done.

I'm hairy, I have cellulite, I have an ever-expanding collection of small scars, my chin is slowly turning into two, and the laugh lines and frown lines in my face are getting deeper every day.

And I love myself. I really like the way I look. That doesn't mean that I don't try to eat healthy most of the time, or don't exercise. I enjoy going for walks and I love yoga, but I don't do these activities to lose weight. I do them because I love how they feel, and because I want to honour my healthy body by letting it do what it does best: Move.

For more inspiration, here are some of the Bopo warriors whom I admire:
Dana Falsetti
Kenzie Brenna
Charli Howard
Halle
And of course, the mega-babe and bopo queen, Megan Jayne Crabbe.

If you want to feel better about yourself, check these kickass ladies out! They are truly amazing, and they are doing wonderful, important work.

Love yourself first, ok? You are worth it.

xoxo Miriam


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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Rural hospital diaries, vol. 2



It’s Sunday morning, and I’m sitting out on the patio, enjoying my first cup of coffee. It’s the first time in our new home that it’s warm enough at 7:45am to sit outside, so it feels very special.
Suddenly, the phone rings. And I just know.

“Hey, it’s emerg. Can you come in as quickly as possible? We need you STAT.” I say I’ll be right there, and race to my room to get dressed, hugely relieved that I already had a shower this morning. There are days where a shower is optional, but today wasn't one of them.  I pull my wet hair into a messy ponytail, throw my toothbrush in my purse and run out of the house. I’ll brush my teeth at work.
In the car I eat an apple from my lunch bag (which I packed the night before, a miracle), and then pop some gum to make my breath less atrocious until I get a chance to brush my teeth properly.

I make it to the hospital in record time. Instead of the usual calmness of a Sunday morning, it’s mayhem. The patient is sitting up in his stretcher, gasping for breath, while two doctors, four nurses, and several EMTs work feverishly on him to help him breathe. I dump my stuff on the desk, and grab the portable x-ray machine to do the chest x-ray they called me in for.

The patient is in such critical condition that he needs to be sedated, and a tube is inserted through his mouth into his trachea to get air into his lungs. One lung was collapsed, and they re-inflate it. Another tube is inserted into the side of his chest to drain fluid from his lungs. After every new tube, I go in for another chest x-ray to check for proper placement.

In the meantime, the High Acuity Response Team has arrived. HART consists of highly trained critical care nurses, who care for severely ill patients during their transport to a higher-acuity hospital.
Watching them work is a thing of beauty. The team clearly works together often, because each person anticipates what the other needs before they even ask for it. They are calm, quick and efficient, and it looks like a dance, with one person leading and the other following smoothly.

They insert a central chest line through his neck into his jugular vein, and I'm taking my last x-ray on this patient to check for placement again.

Then they leave. After two intense hours, the sudden silence is unsettling. We all look at each other, and breathe a collective sigh of relief. Housekeeping is called in to clean up the trauma bay, and I finally get a chance to brush my teeth.


After lunch, the combination of digesting food and the aftermath of the prolonged adrenaline rush from the morning hits me hard. In between patients, I find myself sitting motionless on my desk, staring into space, not doing anything. I'm literally just sitting. It's a bizarre feeling, one that I have rarely encountered before I started this job. But it looks like I better get used to it, because this is the second time in a month that I feel like that.

Eventually I force myself to get up and tackle the long list of housekeeping tasks we do on Sundays. The rest of my shift goes by quickly, and at 5pm, I'm done.

But not for long. We've just finished dinner and I'm stretched out on my bed, ready for some Netflix, when the phone rings.
"Hi Miriam, it's emerg, we have some x-rays for you."
Oh, the joys of being on call. I have to return twice more that Sunday, and when I'm finally back in bed at 1:30am, I feel like I have worked a week instead of a day.

But you know what?
It's thrilling. And also ironic. The girl who has successfully avoided answering the phone for most of her life, now has to sleep with it next to her pillow. Life has a twisted sense of humour, doesn't it?

Having been at my small town hospital for almost 3 months, I'm starting to feel at home here. All the staff knows me, even people I have never seen before. Patients are curious about the new face, and I have repeated the story of where I'm from and how we ended up here dozens of times.

I'm so grateful for how things are unfolding. It feels good.

I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.



Rural hospital diaries, vol. 1


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Thursday, 20 April 2017

10 little tweaks to my routine that make me feel like a BOSS



Guys, today is a great day. I have discovered the secret to feeling like a real grown-up! And because I like you, I'll let you in on it. You're welcome!

1. Have a shower
You may already nail this one every day, but I don't. The reason behind my non-daily shower habit is a mix of being European (many of us don't shower daily), living in the semi-desert (I feel the urge to conserve water), laziness, and living on a farm. I checked with the animals, and they assured me I smell fine. Ditto Richard. But rest assured, I always clean myself before I go to work! 


2. "Do" my hair
I put this in quotation marks because I still only did the absolute minimum one can do to one's hair. After shampooing and conditioning, I blow-dried and then straightened it!  I blew my own fricking mind. It felt amazing. 

3. Put on some mascara
AND THEN I PUT MASCARA ON!!

4. Tell the people of the Internet about it
Make sure you immediately take selfies and/or post about it on social media. I have a newfound (and surprising) obsession with Instagram stories, so I obviously informed my impatiently waiting followers about the astonishing changes to my so-called beauty routine.   



5. Find yourself a new doctor
There was clearly an important reason behind all this unexpected grooming, which was a visit to our new family doctor. It's extremely difficult to find doctors around here, but today we were accepted by a doctor who recently moved to town. He is young, nice, and easy on the eyes, and you better believe that I did the full rigmarole, including getting rid of copious amounts of body hair, putting on a new bra, and plucking, primping and moisturizing myself within an inch of my life. It must have paid off, because we got him! Or he got us, I'm not sure who's the winner here. Us, most likely.

P.S. Pro-tip: If you suspect to be weighed (which we were), put on the least amount of clothing you can get away with, and no jewellery. I literally only wore a bra, panties, and this lightweight dress, to add as little extra weight as possible.

6. Put on a pretty outfit
There are weeks where all I wear is yoga pants, old jeans, and scrubs. It may be comfortable, but it's no fun, and it definitely doesn't make me feel pretty or sexy. But once you're in the comfy-clothes rut, it's really hard to climb out of it again! 
Well, once again thanks to the doctor's visit, I have rediscovered my closet, and I have promised myself that I will put a bit more effort into getting dressed again.



7. Bake a cake
Nothing makes me feel like a domestic goddess like baking. I'm convinced that it's impossible to feel like a failure if you have baked a loaf of bread or a delicious cake that day. I made this coconut banana bread with lime glaze, and it's to die for. Seriously, seriously good. 

8. Feed the cake to people and bask in the glow of their praise  
Well, the fencing guys liked it, and they didn't hold back with their compliments. I love them.

9. Go to the dump
Okay, this may sound weird, but hear me out. I don't know about you, but knowing that my garbage or recycling bins are full, is giving me slight anxiety. I can't ignore it; in my subconscious, I know that there are overflowing bins in my life. It bugs me. Every time I throw something away and see the garbage bin in the kitchen get fuller, my anxiety level rises, knowing that once I have to take the full bag out, there won't be any room for it in the big bin. It sounds ridiculous, but that's how my brain works. I didn't ask for it, believe me.
But, on the bright side, going to the dump and getting rid of the garbage is a deeply satisfying experience. It's Feng Shui on steroids! Few things make me feel more accomplished than literally ridding my life of garbage.

*P.S. In case you're wondering why we aren't just putting the garbage out for pick-up: That service doesn't exist where we live. We're truly in the country!


10. Blog about it
Because blogging makes everything better.  



Shirtdress: Work'n Play (a local store)
Booties: Mark's (not available any more; similar)
Belt: Taken from my husband (similar)




P.S If you haven't yet signed up for my newsletter, what are you waiting for? Just to make it clear, it's not a regular newsletter. It's a COOL newsletter!
(Bonus points if you get the reference!)



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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Why I want to tell my story


I have tried to suppress the impulse for a very long time. Years. There are lots of reasons why I shouldn't do it: For one, it would be way easier not to. Why put yourself out there for all the world to see and criticize? Why not live your life quietly, happy with what you have? 

I tried, but the need wouldn't leave me alone. I couldn't stop thinking about it. Every walk, every yoga session, every beautiful sunset, every time I stared into a campfire, lost in thought - it was there. Nudging me. There was a story inside me that wanted to come out. I tried to ignore it. If you ignore it long enough, it will eventually give up, right? 

Wrong. It didn't. 

'But I'm scared,' I would argue with The Story. 'I'm terrified. I'm not good enough. People will judge me. My family will get mad at me. Why are you making me do this?'

'Because you have to. It will set you free.'

"When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending." (Brené Brown)

I come from a long line of story-deniers. In my family, we don't talk about stuff. We don't share how we feel. We don't interact with the world. You put on a mask when you have to deal with people, and that mask stays firmly in place. You never take it off. You never let your guard down. You never show weakness. You don't share your doubts and insecurities. What goes on inside you is nobody's business. You do your work, and deal with all the unpleasant mushy stuff - heartbreak, depression, anger, jealousy, feeeeelings -  on your own. 

That way of thinking suffocated me. It drove me nuts. I can't hold my emotions in - if I try, they will drown me. They need to come out.
The other downside to this sort of thinking is that if everybody hides their vulnerabilities, you feel like the only messed-up person in the world. You think you're the only one who can't hold it together, who has these ugly feelings. 
You feel broken. Worthless. Less than what you should be.


You know what saved me? 

Memoirs. 

As you may know, I have always loved books. For a long time, all I read was fiction; as a matter of fact, I believed that's what it means to be a writer: To make up worlds that don't exist. I was aware of biographies, of course, but thought only famous people get written about. 

I will never forget the feeling that overcame me when I read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Her memoir was the first one I read that spoke deeply to me. Not because we had so much in common (we don't), but because I was in awe of her courage. Jeannette was a successful career woman living in NYC, yet she decided to bare her soul and openly write about a family that was deeply flawed. And she didn't do it in an accusatory manner - she did it with incredible grace, dignity and love.

I was mesmerized.
From that moment on, memoirs became not only my favourite genre, but an addiction. There's nothing I find more fascinating than learning people's stories. Reading about other people's struggles helped me with my own, because it showed me: I'm not alone.
I may have grown up in a world where people hide behind facades and silence, but that didn't mean I had to continue to live like that for the rest of my life.

There were people out there brave enough to share their vulnerabilities, who opened their hearts and souls for everyone to see!

These storytellers became my heroes. They were doing the bravest thing I could imagine: Owning their story.
Sharing their flaws, because we all have them. 


I want to become one of them.

I'm not a brave person. On the contrary: I've been scared for most of my life. Still am. New people, new situations, arguments, disagreements, judgement, pain, loneliness - I fear all of those things.
(Also: Snakes, falling off my horse, getting sick, our neighbours getting made at us, losing my eyesight, bossy women, teenagers, putting my foot in my mouth, my husband dying before me, not appreciating what I have until I lose it. The list goes on.)

I have learnt that I'm not alone: all of us are afraid. No person is born fearless.
But we have a choice of how we want to deal with it:
Hiding and hoping that nobody will ever discover our flaws and weaknesses; or facing it head on.

Everybody has a story. And I have been saved by other people's stories over and over again.
They made me believe in myself.
They made me believe in the power of love.
They made me stronger.
They showed me that being weird is okay, and that being different is what makes life interesting.

Now it's my turn: It's time to tell my story.

Not only to write my own brave ending - but to show others that they are not alone.

We are all in this together.

Much love, Miriam



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Monday, 10 April 2017

Want me in your box?



Good morning! How's everybody doing?
I thought I pop in for a moment, because my appearances here are quite sporadic lately. 
It's not that I've stopped writing, quite the opposite! I'm working away on my book (last week I crossed the 50,000-words mark!), which is taking up most of my writing energy right now. 

If you're missing my weirdness or random thoughts about life, I send out a weekly letter directly into your mailbox if you want me in there. Just sign up →here!
In my latest letter I talk about living in a retirement community that feels like a holiday resort, about 80-year old fitness freaks, and about not settling. Never settle!

Some photos I found on my phone:
Yoga with llamas and dogs
Our newly painted entry hall

Life is good!

xoxo Miriam



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Monday, 3 April 2017

Rural hospital diaries, vol. 1


I walk to emergency to pick up my next patient. All I know is that he needs to have his knee x-rayed.
As is my custom, I ask him what happened. 
"Oh, I got a horn to my knee."
Huh
Seeing my uncomprehending face, he elaborates further: "From a bull. I'm a bull rider."


And that's why I love my job at a small town hospital.

It's different from anything I have ever done. While I have always lived in small towns, I have never been in one that's quite so - Stars Hollow-esque

Stars Hollow with a decidedly Western twist, that is. 
I love it. 

I've met plenty of cowboys, Indians (excuse the politically incorrect expression), and people who are just different.  In the best and most fascinating way possible. 
I've talked to an electrician who works up north in camps I've only ever read about: Rugged, dangerous, highly paid.
I met a nurse who works so close to the Alaskan border, that her normal rotation is a 2-weeks-on, 6-weeks-off deal. Pretty sweet, right?
I had a drug addict who refused to take her clothes off, and when I finally persuaded her to do so, packets upon packets of drugs fell out of her bra. 

This town is not boring. 

I've always used to work as part of a team. It has many advantages, and I enjoy many aspects of it; but I'm an introvert, and I often found the constant interaction with co-workers exhausting. 
In this new job, I work by myself the majority of the time. And omg, how perfect is that?! 
Oh, I always have help if I need it: The emergency staff is just across the hall. And I need them frequently. They are universally nice and helpful, and I have yet to meet a nurse who gives me the eye-roll (you know the one, right?), before she deems to help me. 
They are awesome.  

But mostly, it's me and the patients. Just the way I like it. 
With just the two of us, they have confided in me about divorces, illnesses, diseased spouses, body struggles - and many more of the problems they have in their lives. I can't help them - but I'm happy to listen. And I hope that by talking about it, they will get some relief and comfort. 

This past weekend was - truly remarkable. I honestly have a hard time finding the right words to describe it, but I will try my best. 

Let's start at the end: I had coffee and cold pizza for breakfast today, at 11:00 am in the morning. That's really late for me. 

But that's just what I needed after the completely cray weekend I had at the hospital. 

Here's what went down:

Saturday:
I worked 9-5, all by myself (which is a rare shift for me, unlike for many of you - it's actually kinda weird), and it was good. Just the right amount of busy time and catching-up time. 

After 5 o'clock, I was on call. This is still a novelty to me, in the way that I carry the phone with me everywhere I go (yes, that includes the bathroom), because I'm terrified I might miss a call. 
Good thing I did: They ended up calling me in four times that evening and night. Nothing too crazy, but I did learn a couple of new jokes from a patient (warning, they are dirty - but they're "the most harmless jokes I know", according to the patient):
"Why is urine yellow and semen white?
So Trump-supporters know if they're coming or going."
(We Canadians are mostly liberal.)

The other one is worse (if you're easily offended, skip over that one):
"Why do Scots wear kilts?
So the sheep don't hear a zipper go down."

(I warned you. Shouldn't have read on; didn't I tell you?!)

Anyway, that was Saturday. 

Let's move on to 

Sunday:
Same shift (again by myself), and it was pretty chill. Sundays are all about house keeping: Cleaning, maintaining, auditing, ordering, improving. That took up most of the day. 

At about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, ER called me. 
"There was a mass collision on the Coquihalla. We're expecting at least 4 ambulances. Stay put, will you?"
I was immediately at attention. "I sure will!"

Okay, now's the time to tell you a secret. 

(Don't tell anyone, okay?)

I live for that stuff. 

As soon as they told me, I was wide awake. 
Electrified. 
Adrenaline was pumping. 

It's not that I'm wishing for tragedies like that, far from it. 
More than anything, I wish that accidents wouldn't happen. I like to go home, drink wine and watch "Girls" as much as the next person. 

But accidents happen all the time.

And when they do?
I don't mind being on duty. Quite the opposite.

Your body will do something amazing when an emergency is happening and you're a vital part of it: The normal background noise is silenced; you focus purely on the task at hand. Your attention is sharpened; your usually chaotic mind becomes calm. 
All you do is focusing your attention on the person in front of you.
You won't feel hunger, thirst, or exhaustion; you are solely concentrating on the task at hand. It's incredible.

When they called me yesterday, I x-rayed patients non-stop for 4 hours straight. I consoled an upset father who missed his son's important hockey-game because of the accident; chatted with another patient about his upcoming trip to Europe, and how worried he was that he may not be able to go now (I'm pretty certain he will be going); listened to the concern of a patient who's family was also involved in the accident, and who didn't know what had happened to them (everybody turned out to be fine).
There were the stoic ones; the hysterical ones; the nervous ones; and the funny ones (my favourites!).

It was intense. 

At some point, at the nurses' urging, I called in my boss to help me, because I had been running around like a chicken with its head cut off for hours, and the flood of patients wouldn't stop. Every time I thought I was almost caught up, three more orders would print out. 

It was intense, exhausting - and exhilarating

By the time I got home, I had nothing left in me but to curl up in the fetal position and go right to sleep. 
But you know what? It was so worth it. 

I felt needed. It felt like what I did mattered

And that's my favourite part of all: Being an important part of this beautiful, small, rural hospital. 

This is all working out much better than I ever dared to hope. 



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