Here’s a story all about how, an important teen book fell into my lap and flipped my life upside down.

Every once in a while you read a book that just changes you or your perspective. 10 years ago for me it was 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. After reading that book, I stepped back and looked at the way I treated the people in my life, even the ones who just pass me by for a moment and wondered to myself, “Am I adding to the list of things in their life that doesn’t make life worth it anymore? Am I adding to the list of things in their life that does make life worth it?” I wanted to always try to make the answer that I was adding joy to people’s life, or at the very bare minimum, not making it worse.

Then, here I am, working at Chapters (#indigoemployee holla!) and there is this book coming out that a friend of mine received and advanced copy of and I hear that it was just so good and so important. I marked it on my “to-read” list on Goodreads and vowed that I would read it this year. Fast forward to the beginning of July and I’m sitting on a conference call with Harper Collin’s, representing my store with their marketing team, and I hear that there’s a chance that I’m going to get to meet this author in the fall. I had to step up my game and read it by the end of summer, and here we are.

For those of you who follow me on instagram or facebook, you’ve probably already seen my post, but for those who didn’t, the book is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

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This is one of those books that no matter your background will make you think. The story follows Starr Carter, a sixteen year old black girl who lives two lives. She has grown up and lives in Garden Heights which is considered “the hood” but goes to school at Williamson which is in a rich and predominately white part of town and a bit of a drive from her neighbourhood. There are a lot of issues in her neighbourhood, drugs, gangs, you name it. The story opens up where she’s at a party and ends up leaving with one of her old friends who she hadn’t seen in a while, and when he’s driving her home they are stopped by the cops.

Unarmed, Starr witnesses the murder of her friend at the hands of a white cop, and the repercussions that follow are huge. There are protests, and riots, the story making national news. This is a story that may be fictional but very heavily based on some very true stories coming out of the US with police brutality and the deaths of young black men. Now, if you’ve known me for a second, you know I’m quiet and not vocally political, but damn this story is so needed right now.

Me, a white girl, so white that when you turn the lights off, I’m probably still glowing. I grew up going to a Jr. High where half of my school’s population were black, so I might not be completely unfamiliar with this story, but I will tell you right now, I, in no way have been able to relate because I am white. I don’t feel the struggle that Starr Carter or any black person feels because of their race, I acknowledge that I’m in a privileged position to never have to understand that struggle. This book though, this book is letting me look through the eyes of a young black girl, and it’s breaking my heart. I’m still never going to truly know what the black community goes through, but having this story, this perspective, I hope, will make me a more compassionate person who puts bravery on and stands up for injustices.

The thing about books is that people who read tend to be more compassionate people because they are always seeing the world through the eyes of other people, even if they’re fictional. I’m seeing this world where Starr lives, and I know I would be straight up terrified to live there, and here she is, standing up against police brutality, standing up against the murder of her friend. She is a character that I can look up to because she has gone through some tough things before she’s even eighteen years old and she’s handling them. It’s a book like this that we need to be getting into the hands of everyone, just so that they can see this perspective of what the life of someone they feel like that they could never possibly relate to. Just to see that we’re all human, and we humans, we can do crappy things to other people but that we have the ability to be the change.

Please friends, if you are white, don’t just look at this and say, “Naw, it’s a ‘black book’ I ain’t interested.” I’m telling you right now, you are doing yourself a disservice and you’re doing your brothers and sisters an even bigger disservice. Read it. Honestly, do it and I hope and pray that it helps to give your perspective. You don’t have to go out and be an activist after you read it, (though, that would be cool) and you don’t even have to LOVE the book, but I honestly think it’s so important and that now that it’s out, it should be read in schools, and the conversation it centres around talked about.

Just to add, the story does use a lot of slang and “words them young people use” (like dab?) and there’s a bit of swearing in it, but please don’t let that deter you. When reading it, at first I was a little uncomfortable with how the English language was used (because I’m so used to reading books written in a certain way) but it adds to the authenticity of the story. Please, give this book a try, and then tell me what you thought, because I would love to have a conversation!

In 365 days, a lot of things can change

It’s incredible how much can change in 365 days. This year I have experienced so much change in my life, but I’m also thankful that so much stayed the same as well. This time last year I wasn’t shooting with my camera anymore, in fact, it had been almost a year from that point that I had barely picked my camera up. Now, I’m shooting again, and relearning everything, and rediscovering why I loved photography in the first place. I have been taken under the wing of a photographer who is really good at what he does, and it’s such a blessing. If you had asked me 365 days ago if I would be working with this photographer, learning from him, I would have laughed and said, “No. No way.” It’s funny how things change.

I like that I’m moving forward too. I was so stagnant in my life, kind of just floating in one spot, not sure which direction to swim and what was to come next. I’m still a little unsure of where the destination is, but I know the I’m taking this journey forward, and it’s nice that it’s with people who are encouraging and wanting me to find happiness. They want to see me succeed, and that, in itself in a priceless gift, so if you’ve encouraged me, pushed me forward in the last 365 days, I want you to know how thankful I am. I love you a lot because of it.

In the last 365 days, there has been a change of the people in my life too. There is one person in my life who I thought would be very important to me for a very long time, who barely crosses my mind now. It’s funny how someone who felt like such a permanent thing in your life doesn’t even make a blip on your radar anymore. It took a lot of hard work to get there, because letting go of someone who you had hoped would stay for a while takes a lot of effort, but I’m better and stronger for it. And it’s nice knowing now that they really weren’t worth keeping around in my life, that when I held the door open they walked over the threshold, and stood there staring back in until I closed it in their face, which, trust me, was needed.

Then, this time last year, my anxiety was on the rise, and made worse by certain events. I was sure that the panic/anxiety attacks were never going to end. They were so frequent and even irrational, and I thought, “Why can’t I just not be like this anymore?” Trust me friends, I’m still kind of like this, but I’m better at handling it. These last 365 days have helped me take those steps that I needed to gain the tools to handle my anxiety better, and for that, I’m a stronger person. It would be a lie to that I don’t get anxious or that I don’t have attacks anymore, but I’m better equipped to take them on and not let them build into something more. They’re fewer, and not as debilitating lately, and it’s because I’ve taken the time to better understand what makes me panic and using that as a jumping off point to get myself in a better headspace.

I’m moving forward in my faith too! What would have tore me apart and away from God a couple years ago only brought me closer and building that trust that through any storm I have an anchor to keep me still. I can see and put into practice what I learned from my season of anger with God, especially after this past year. Between the losing someone I thought would be important for a long time and my anxiety trying to rip me apart from the inside out, I am still standing. I have a couple scars from the battle, but I also have a faith built on a relationship and unwavering God. I honestly don’t know if I would be around right now if I didn’t have that relationship, because when my mental health was taking a nosedive, I saw some pretty dark places. Places that I hope that I never, ever will have to see again.

Overall, there has been a lot of changes since this time last year, changes that at the time I saw as something bad, with some distance and perspective, I can see as some of the best changes to happen to date. I’m excited about my future, and where I can go next, I’m excited to grow and see new places in the next 365 days. I know that having a post like this in the middle of May is kind of odd, it’s one that you usually do at the end or beginning of a year, but I can definitely pinpoint that this time last year was when a lot of these big changes were happening, and it was kind of good to look back and reflect on how far I’ve come since then.

I look forward to what will happen in my life by May 2018. Maybe a humanitarian trip to the Dominican Republic (I’m seriously considering this one), new opportunities with my photography stuff, stronger and happier relationships and so much more. Whatever is to come, I’m excited.

I ❤ the beach

I’m incredibly blessed to be able to live five minutes from the ocean and ten from the beach. It’s always been in my life, and I’ve never lived anywhere where the ocean has been more then 30 minutes away. I consider it my home, and have experienced it in so many different ways. Last year I had an experience that tainted the beach for me, made it a place of sadness and hurt…a place of anxiousness. I was determined not to let that ruin one of my favourite places to be, so I decided to make new memories there.

It really sucks when something that usually brings you so much joy gets tainted by a painful memory, and when you’re there/when you’re experiencing it, it’s all you can think about and it makes you feel like panicking. I’ve made a point to try and make new and happy memories with the things that have been tainted. I’ve made many visits back to the beach to shoot, and just enjoy the peace again that the ocean brings me and bring joy back to it.

Below are some of the photos I shot the last few trips out, where I made new memories, learned something new and brought new joy to going to the beach.

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Quick, make a list!

What if we only had 8 months and 12 days to live because an asteroid is hurtling towards earth and we were all going to die, what would you want to do before that day came? What things would you put on your “Apocolyst”? A friend of mine suggested that I watch a show on Netflix called No Tomorrow with this very premise in mind, and it got me thinking, what would I like to do before I died? After finishing the first season I mulled over the idea for a couple of days, and I decided to make my own “Apocolyst” or sorts and do it.

I know I won’t get everything on it done, but I wanted my list to be realistic, and I didn’t want it to be just big things. So my list contains a lot of little everyday things, and I’m constantly growing it (I’m at over 250 items right now, wow,) and I wanted some of them to challenge me into being a better person. There are things to push me out of my comfort zone, to get my creativity going, to try and be selfless, and simple things that I have never done that I would really like to do. Some things, I have already done earlier in life, but haven’t done in a while and would like to do it in my adult life.

I’ve spent a lot of time scouring Pinterest for ideas and inspiration for my list and as I was doing so, I felt so blessed that some of the things from other’s bucket lists I had already done. “Own a fancy camera.” Done. “Learn how to use a decent camera.” Done. “Call someone from a red telephone booth in London.” Done. “Ride on a double decker bus.” Done. “Go up the Eiffel Tower.” Done. “Travel to a new continent.” Done. “Go to Disney World.” Done. There were so many other that I could say, “That can’t go on my list, I’ve already done them.” and it felt like making a list and already having things checked off. It’s so satisfying.

I’m not going to put my whole list here, but I hope that as I check things off that I can blog about them and share my adventures. I have this cute little Hello Kitty Moleskine journal that I had bought on sale a year or so ago, just sitting, waiting to be used for something inspiring. So, I decided to write my list in it, allow myself to check things off as I went. I have a matching Moleskine journal that is a bit larger that I plan to be a companion to the little one, to write about the story attached to a completed task. IMG_2866

I want to inspire myself to try new things, re-try old things, be better, fuel my soul with adventure, see the world, and do small things with great love. I want my list to be ever growing, and be a journey to push myself out of my shell and live a joyful life. I want to encourage people, do things for others, and just generally feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Below are some of the things on my list, and as time goes on, I hope to post blogs that have some that I didn’t list here with accompanying stories and photos!

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1. Visit the Studio Ghibli Museum in Japan!
2. Meet Meghan in person!
3. Leave a note in a library book for someone to discover!
4. Go on a photo adventure with people I barely know!
5. See the Northern Lights!
6. Go on a missions trip to a different country!
7. See McFly in concert!
8. Try to make amends with someone I’ve hurt!

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46. Tell someone how much they mean to me!
47. Do something selfless and expect nothing in return!
48. Tell someone who gave me great customer service that they did!
49. Go snorkelling/scuba diving!
50. See cherry blossoms in Japan!
51. Truly forgive someone who hurt me!
52. Have my own personal library!
53. Have a date on Valentine’s Day!
54. Attend a high school reunion!
55. Have a photoshoot with a celebrity I look up to!
56. Try and meal I would normally never try!
57. Write a letter encouraging someone!
58. Have a tea party!
59. Leave a 100% tip!
60. Meet an author I look up to!
61. Shoot photos of a concert with one of my favourite bands/artists!
62. Go apple picking!
63. Join a book club!

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147. Find something good or happy for 100 days!
148. Make a baby laugh!
149. Learn a new word everyday for a month and use it!
150. Finish a novel in a day!
151. Leave anonymous love for someone!

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226. Have a yardsale!
227. Send someone a postcard!
228. Have a ‘treat yo’self’ day!
229. Just sit out in the sun and blow bubbles!
230. Fly a kite!
231. Buy a pet fish!
232. Learn origami!

I’m always looking for new interesting things to do, and try, so if you have any ideas or have done some really cool things on your bucket list, let me know! Let’s encourage each other to go out and check things off our lists.

 

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Self-Care

Most people who have read this blog know that I struggle with my anxiety. I can get anxious over really big things, but I can also get anxious over really little things too. A memory can wipe out my day, and sometimes there’s just an avalanche of really crappy things that can knock me out for longer. As I go through my life, I worry about things, and a lot of the time, they’re things that I don’t even have to worry about but I just can’t help myself. Sometimes they’re silly, sometimes they’re not.

Sometimes when I start to worry about things that I would have to make a decision about, I weigh my options into “do I need to” and “do I want to”. Example: The other day I was worrying about having a much needed day off. That day and the day before were really bad days, and I was worrying about what would happen if they called me into work a shift, and how I didn’t want to do it if they did because I just had two really bad days and I needed to just not be there. But then I started to worry that it would effect how often they called me when I was actually feeling up to taking an extra shift or two. I was worried about saying “no” when I needed a day to take care of me, which typically includes laying in bed with a book and a cup of tea, or watching Netflix, or photo editing. They’re kind of the lazy day things, and I was worried that they weren’t good enough reasons to say no to taking another shift or extending a shift I already had.

My friend and co-worker then reminded me that it’s okay to say no to those days sometimes because if you can’t bring your best self to work, then you’re likely to have resentment grow or lose whatever joy you’ve found if it’s a job you love. She’s right, and if you neglect yourself and your needs, especially when it comes to your mental health stuff, you only hurt yourself. Because of this, I’m learning that self-care is very important. That sometimes we need those days off, and we shouldn’t feel guilty to saying, “no” when you need your scheduled days off to relax and recoup.

This is a hard lesson for me, and I know that moving forward I’m still going to have to fight with myself about saying “no” because I don’t like disappointing people or letting them down, but I also have to remember that I’m no good if I’m not well taken care of. If I’m not taking time for me to recharge myself (especially because people are energy stealers and they wear me out) then I burn out and hate everything. That I really truly need to take care of me because I feel like I give so much of myself to others, and I don’t want to have nothing left.

Here are some of my favourite ways I try to show myself some self-care:

  1. Read a book. Lots of people read for different reasons, and mine is to relax and to escape. I don’t read award winners unless I’m genuinely into the stories because I don’t find reading something because I “should” or “have to” relaxing. I read the stories I like to read, and if I’m not digging the story, I try to not waste my time in finishing it.
  2. Have a cup of tea. This is usually combined with many other sources of my self-care choices, but mostly when I’m reading a book. It’s warm, and delicious and just makes snuggling up with a blanket and a book so cozy.IMG_2797
  3. Listen to music. Music is almost like soul healing it feels like. If I’m feeling down I usually go for some upbeat fun music, or something comforting like an old favourite album of mine. If I just need to relax and mellow out, or just need some white noise while I’m working on something or reading, I have a couple playlists with some of my favourite musical scores from movies, tv, and video games.
  4. Taking photos. There is just something about you + the world + your camera. A solo adventure or even one with some other creative people, it’s all good. Photography is just something that really fuels my soul, and makes me feel at peace…when I’m doing it for me. Sometimes I get lucky with a photo job that I really want to do, that makes me feel like this as well. They’re my favourite jobs, and make me feel better.img_9744
  5. Photo editing. I don’t know what it is, but I find editing photos just so relaxing. I find that it can be done at a decent pace, and gives you a final product which makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something while still being relaxing. Also, the colours when editing a landscape helps make me feel calm, especially when it includes a sunrise or sunset.
  6. Writing, even if no one will ever see it. It’s just an outlet to get my anxious thoughts out into the universe so that they’re not bundled up inside of me and making me more anxious. Write novels, write short stories, write blog posts, anything. Writing is such a therapeutic way to take care of yourself, and seeing your thought process in a physical way.
  7. Watching an old favourite or discovering a new one. A couple of years ago I realized that I watched a lot of my old favourites over and over again. Beauty and the Beast? I’ve probably seen that thousands of times in my life time. So I started keeping track of, and pushing myself to watch more movies that I had never seen before. I still very much watch my old favourites, but with this push to watch things I had never seen before, I found some new favourites that I can add to my repertoire of “I need to feel better, so I’ll watch this” movies.
  8. Spend some laid back time with people who don’t drain me. I like getting out and spending time with people, despite being an introvert. I like sitting at a cafe, both of us with our laptops working on something, or having a book, or just catching up, and it not feeling like a chore. I don’t do it often, because I’m really rather lazy, but when I do, I feel better.
  9. Crocheting a crap ton of roses. I don’t know how many I’ve made, but I’ve made quite a few crochet roses. They’re quick and easy and good for when I’m feeling anxious. It gives me this sense of accomplishment when I feel like I can’t do anything, and it keeps my hands and mind busy while I count stitches. I don’t know what I’m going to do with them all, but they make me happy.FullSizeRender.jpg
  10. Skyping with my beautiful friend from Connecticut. We don’t get to do this often, but when we do, we can literally talk for hours. It’s so recharging just to have this person who I trust and love so much to talk to when things are going to crap. She’s an incredibly supportive friend and I’m forever thankful for her.
  11. Naps. Do no underestimate the power of a really good nap. Sometimes you’re just so emotionally, physically or socially exhausted that a good nap pumps you up. I think we all need to take more naps.
  12. Colouring is magical, and if you haven’t tried it, you must. We all coloured when we were in elementary school, and some of us even participated in the adult colouring phase. I’m pretty sure I was apart of the teenager colouring phase, because even before it became a big marketable thing I was still colouring, in my Hello Kitty colouring book with a 64 pack of crayola crayons. It calmed my anxiety, and helped me relax, which made it an important part of my self care.IMG_2524.JPG
  13. Mindless scrolling through Instagram, or Facebook, but mostly Instagram. I have such a love for that app. It’s where I’ve connected with local photographers, found inspiration, and found accounts that give me an unreal amount of joy. (shoutouts to twhiddleston,  bonpon511, blackjaguarwhitetiger, popyeyethefoodie, logreglan, elsasketch, hotdudesreading, and a few others.)
  14. Just spending a day with no responsibilities or any set plans. It’s nice to be able to just lay and do nothing, or just go with the flow.
  15. Spending time in the sunshine. I struggle a lot in the winter, because it’s cold and grey a lot of the time, and that makes it hard to motivate myself to get out. Sitting out on the dock at the cottage with a book and a cup of tea in the sunshine is a soul healer.
  16. Spending time away from the regular world like at my family’s cottage outside of the city and by a lake. I grew up on this lake at my grandparents cottage, next to ours, and there’s just something about spending a weekend away down there. Sometimes I get anxious while I’m there, but it’s usually just left over from what I have been pushing back. I usually have no real responsibilities or things to really distract me from dealing with the issue, but sometimes that’s a good thing. It allows me to process it.
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There are so many more things, big and small, that I do to practice self care. It’s important to remember that we sometimes need to do things for ourselves, especially if we’re the type of people who do a lot for others. We need to remember that while we’re taking care of others, while we’re doing stuff to bring people joy, we also need to bring joy to ourselves. I truly believe to have a happy and joyful life, we need to have a nice balance. If you only give and never take, you wear yourself out. If you always take and never give, you’ll never be satisfied. So, for those of us who gives a lot of ourselves, those of us who are introverted and being around people takes a lot of energy, please don’t forget to take care of yourself a bit. You’re worth it, trust me.

Thank you to the women…

Thank you to the women who walked before me,
Building bridges, burning down road blocks and sacrificing of themselves.
Thank you to the women who fought so that I could keep moving forward,
For making a way so that we don’t feel so constrained in our fight forward.
Thank you to the women who laid the ground work so that our paths are a little bit smoother than those who walked before us so we can go farther for those ahead.
Thank you to the women who taught us, who mentored us, who poured into us, who fought for us and who prayed for us.
Without you doing those things, we wouldn’t be able to do what we can for those who will come after us.
Thank you to the women who have led me, who gave me chances, who stood up for me and who didn’t give up on me when I fell.
Your wisdom and faith in me have helped me see what I have to offer to other girls and women who cross my path.
Most importantly, thank you to the woman who gave me life, who held me when I hurt, who pushed me forward when things got hard, who built me up when I was tearing myself down, and who shows me such an unfathomable amount of unconditional love.
I am so lucky to have such a wonderful example of what it means to be a strong woman.
You are why I know that I can be a strong woman too.

Thank you.

Those damn winter blues

I know that a lot of us struggle during this time of year, I know that I do. This time of year makes me feel dull, like my light is going out. I’m always tired, I’m even more introverted then I am when the weather is nicer, and almost all motivation to do the things I love is at an all time low. Don’t get me wrong, I do have some pretty good days where I do get out with my camera, or catch up with a friend, but winter is mostly blah for me. On those good days, I feel my brightness and my glow come back for a little bit, but it doesn’t last, the winter blues come back full force. It’s a genuine effort that I just don’t have sometimes, to make these days filled with light.

So far this winter, I have spent a good deal of time secluded from everyone. I just don’t have the mental energy to sit in the living room with my family or go out with friends. I know that I get so tired after a day at work, where I am constantly surrounded by people and having to talk with them. I have spent a lot of quality time with my Netflix account and books since the weather started to get colder. I’ve watched seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, plus the revival, the second season of Fuller House, two and a half seasons of Jane the Virgin (season three is currently running), I’ve watched the first season of Dirk Gently: Holistic Detective Agency, two seasons of iZombie, I’m keeping up with Riverdale as well as keeping up with the network shows I’ve been loving (This is Us, Gotham, The Good Place and Schitts Creek). I have also been re-watching Veronica Mars with my mom, because she had never seen it, and has been enjoying. Then, since October I have read eleven books and I’m currently working on the twelfth one. I’ve just been consuming this low energy loves to keep myself sane.

Even blogging has been an absolute chore, which, I suppose you might have noticed because they have been abandoned, when I used to write one almost weekly. Winter blues have got me feeling super blah. I have ideas for posts, but no motivation to actually sit and write them, let alone finish them. It’s a miracle that this is even being written at all, and it’s not without it’s challenges. I keep getting distracted by things, like my phone lighting up every ten seconds because I just posted a photo to my photo instagram and I’m seeing the likes coming in, or because I’m watching Pitch Perfect and I started to actually watch it and sing the songs instead of writing. I’m not kidding when I say that I have 17 drafts of unfinished blog posts sitting in my account, waiting to have new life breathed into them. I just cannot bring myself to finish one, and it sucks because it’s one of my outlets for my excess anxiety.

I’m trying though, I promise you, I’m so trying. I hate this time of year, it makes it hard for me to get outside. Not that I’m an overly outdoorsy type of person, but I definitely enjoy it more when the sun is shining, the weather is warm, and getting up early doesn’t feel like such a chore. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember, and you’d think that I would have found a better way to cope, but not really. I’m trying though, actually writing this post is proof, and the mornings I get up and actually go shooting. Even extending invitations to spend time with people when I know that it’s a real effort for me to do so.

I look forward to the days that are sunnier, warmer, and when the landscapes are greener. I look forward to my energy being restored, being able to get out more with my camera, not freezing to death or just feeling absolutely drained all the time. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, and I know that sometimes things are too dark to see the light, but I promise, it’s there. I struggle to see it often at this time of year, but I promise that things do get brighter. And I’ll extend this to you as well: if you feel like you’re in the winter blues and want to get out and grab a coffee, send me a message. I can’t guarantee that I’ll always be down, because y’know, winter blues, but I’ll definitely try to make that effort. Send me a message, or a text, let’s grab coffee, let’s go out shooting with our cameras. Let’s try to make the darkness of winter a little brighter together!

Bell Let’s Talk Day, 2017

January 25th is the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, where every time you tweet #BellLetsTalk or if you are on the Bell network, every text, donates 5 cents to mental health initiatives around the country. I have friends who are both in support of and against this movement, and they have legitimate reasons for both. For me, I am in full support of it, with maybe a little bit of a caveat. I think that it’s important that we talk about the struggles of mental health in our country, for everyone. I think everyone needs to know that it doesn’t matter what your age, what you socioeconomic background, race, religion, gender, anything, mental health issues do not discriminate.

Bell Let’s Talk Day is designed to get people to talk about mental illness, to raise awareness about it, to de-stigmatize it,  raise money to provide better mental health care for all Canadians. So here’s my little caveat; as important as I think it is for this day to happen, it should be remembered that in order to help de-stigmatize mental illness, the conversation cannot just be this one day a year, it should be all the time. I try to talk about it often here, because I struggle with anxiousness and the more I talk about my struggles, the more I feel like I can take it on because I have other people say to me, “Hey I struggle with that too.” It makes me feel less like I’m alone in my fight. We need to let our fellow humans know that they’re not alone in their fight at every time of the year, not just on Bell Let’s Talk Day.

I’ve heard some people say that Bell shouldn’t “hold their donation hostage” and make people tweet and text, and just give the money. Fair, I can see that side of the argument for sure, and in some ways I agree, but also, part of me disagrees as well. I think the whole idea of this, “tweet with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk to donate 5 cents to mental health initiatives!” or “if you’re on a Bell network, send loads of texts and every text will donate money” is to actually give people initiative to talk about it that might not otherwise. I know it’s not a perfect system, there are definitely some flaws, but if more people become aware the mental illness does not discriminate, it does not mean that you’re “crazy” or that you’re a “psycho” that it’s okay to talk about, then maybe things will get better. Maybe I’m just an optimist and naïve, but I truly want to be in a world where it’s okay to talk about what you’ve gone through and not be looked at differently.

One of my favourite actresses, someone I thoroughly look up to, has been talking about her fight with mental health lately, and it’s nice knowing that even the people I look up to struggle. Everyone seems to know her as the voice of Anna in Frozen, or that girl who cried over sloths on Ellen, but to me, Kristen Bell, is a wonderful force to be reckoned with. She played Veronica Mars (and if you know anything about me, you know that that is my absolute favourite show, it gives me such comfort when I’m anxious) but she’s also this voice who is speaking up, and it’s nice to here a celebrity talk about their anxiety and depression, and how they refuse to be ashamed of it. She talks so candidly about it in this article on Motto (that you can check out here) and it’s nice to have a person with a voice and has a huge stage talk about mental health. Normalizing it, and trying to take the taboo away from talking about it.

I think we all need to do our part to make this Bell Let’s Talk Day a great one for everyone who struggles. I know that people feel like there are some who only support this initiative on this one day a year, and then do nothing for the other 364 days, but the majority of them are not doing out of malice, but out of ignorance. The more we take the other 364 days of the year and talk about this, the more that people will feel comfortable talking about it, and then the more people who might actually become informed and work towards this brighter future where mental illness is not taboo and people are not “crazy” for struggling. Again I may be an optimist and a bit naïve, but I refuse to let negativity take ahold of this day that brings a little bit more awareness and light to such a heart wrenching and dark topic.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for things like the struggles of the people I love so much, people who I look up to talking about it, and this day made to talk, I might not be as open as I am about my own struggles. I might have kept it buried and away from people. I might have let it consume me and continue to sit in the dark. I’m determined though, to be a brighter light, to be a listening ear, and to be a voice who won’t be ashamed of speaking out for myself and for those who aren’t ready yet to speak out.

So, get your thumbs ready friends, because come this January 25th, I will be tweeting up a storm! #BellLetsTalk

Hello Twenty-Seventeen

Can I just say a big hearty good bye to twenty-sixteen? Good. Bye.

Last year was just one of those years that had such a negative shadow looming over it for a lot of people, and I wasn’t exempt from that. There were some pretty big low moments in twenty-sixteen that when I look back on the year, they will be a part of the painting. Break ups and struggles with my mental health, feeling less than and a few other things. The thing is though, this post, I don’t want it to be all about the lows, because that doesn’t help me move forward. It’s important for me to talk about because they were big parts of the year, but I won’t let it be the only thing I think of when I think of this past year.

I had so many good moments in twenty-sixteen that I think should be celebrated. Some go hand in hand with the bad moments, like the first time I fell in love, and evidently got hurt, or having overwhelming anxiety and learning how to take better care of myself. Sometimes you can’t have the good times without the bad, and sometimes it makes the good times sweeter. I can look at parts of it with such fondness even though some ended in sadness. I can look at the strength I’ve built within myself and know that I made it, even when I didn’t think I could.

So now, I want to celebrate the good moments that I had in twenty-sixteen.

Even though I found out technically at the end of twenty-fifteen, I was officially added as a permanent team member at Chapters, and celebrated a full year of being there. That was really exciting for me, because as much as my past jobs were pretty good, nothing so far has fit me quite as well as this one has. I mean, I get to sell books to people, and talk about them, and for a book lover, that’s pretty much a dream.

I built fantastic friendships with some of my co-workers, and enjoyed their company outside of work. They quickly became some of my favourite people, and a big part of that is because it’s all rooted in a common love of books.

I finally got to go to The Magical World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida, which I was incredibly excited about. It was just as magic as I imagined it would be, and I can now check it off of my list of things I wanted to do.

I read quite a few books that were outside of the teen genre, which is my usual genre of choice. I read some non-fiction, some mystery, some fantasy, and more. It was so satisfying to find more books that I was excited about sharing with other people. Some of my favourite reads of the year were The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke, The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, The Girl from The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor, and The Last Immortal by Alex Marlowe.

On top of exploring books, I explored some new movies and tv shows. Some were new, made for this year, and some that have been around for a while and I was late for the party. Some highlights for me were Captain America: Civil War, Dr. Strange, Zootopia, Song of the Sea, Gilmore Girls and Dirk Gently: Holistic Detective Agency.

As silly as it may sound, I bought a dress that made me feel beautiful in a time when I didn’t feel like I was. There’s just something about finding something that makes you feel like how you wish you always felt about yourself and I’m glad I got to find  my ‘feel good’ dress. I almost swear it’s magic.

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I enjoyed my favourite time of year, the summer, having adventures and making so many memories. Enjoying that summer sunshine, the water, and the warmth. Though it was dotted with bad days, there were so many good ones too, so I’ll take it as a victory.

I started to pick up my camera again. After spending a year absolutely having no desire to turn my camera on, to use it as my tool of exploration, it is probably one of my biggest highlights of the year to fall back in love with photography. It’s a part of me that brings me absolute joy, it makes me feel like my soul is actually singing, especially when I catch that shot that I was chasing, or I catch a shot that was better than what I was chasing. I branched out in my photography as well, started to learn how to shoot something other than people, and I loved it. I loved seeing the world through my lens again, and this coming year will be filled with more adventures through it.

Moving into twenty-seventeen, I have many hopes for a better year. I look forward to more personal growth, building friendships, leaving all the bad crap that happened last year there, and moving forward to great things. I want to read more books, write more blogs posts, take more photos, go on more adventures, build more connections. I want to become more confident in myself and my skills, take more risks, and reach out to people that I look up to for advice on how to do better.

To the people I’m leaving behind in twenty-sixteen, it’s a shame we couldn’t work things out, but I think that’s where I’d like to keep you. To those who made it through to twenty-seventeen with me, I’m thankful to have you still here, you make my life a little brighter. To the new people I’ll meet this year, welcome to the wild ride, I’m happy to have you here. The great thing about a new year, is that it’s a great way to start over, and we all know there’s nothing like starting over.

There’s nothing like starting over,
There’s nothing like shedding a heartache,
Writing a new page to say what you wanna say
There’s nothing like a heart wide open,
That bittersweet comfort of knowing
You can let go and take the weight off your shoulders
There’s nothing like starting over

Nothing Like Starting Over by Hunter Hayes

Hello twenty-seventeen, I look forward to seeing what you have in store for me.

Here’s a shout out to you Nova Scotia Teachers

Education is a huge part of our society’s foundation. Without it, we are absolutely lost, and the modern teacher has to deal with so many different things in a run of a day, many of us wouldn’t even know how to begin to deal with it. Honestly, the people who further their education to bring us ours are the pillars of our society, and some of the most important people that help build the future of our province and our world.

Primary teachers and early educators lay the foundation for understanding reading and writing, they are the people who set us up to start being smart, passionate learners. There is a heavy burden on their shoulders, and they do so much for their students. Do you know what I do to pay my bills? I sell books. Do you know how many teachers I see coming into my store buying the best, the newest and the most loved books for their classrooms on their dime? So. Many. I have teachers who know some of the things that their students are loving right now, but are also wondering about some other hidden gems that will captivate their students so that they become lovers of reading.

Children are hungry for education. They crave knowledge, and it’s the responsibility of those who chose to become teachers to bring that, but it doesn’t rest solely on their shoulders. It rests on our government, and honestly, some of the decisions that our current Liberal government of Nova Scotia have done have shown that they don’t care about having bright, intelligent students flourishing here. And you know what, it’s a real shame, because we here in Nova Scotia have the capacity to have these things. A lot of parents I know see the true value and what these teachers are fighting for because what they’re fighting for is for the best of our children, and ultimately the future of this province.

Right now, they’re having a student lock out, and it’s this bass ackwards sort of thinking that is going to hurt our province. With the teachers choosing to do “Work to Rule” while in the midst of contract negotiations with the government instead of a strike, is a way that they can at least continue some education while fighting for competitive pay and better ways to help their students. The way “Work to Rule” for them works is that they show up 20 minutes before classes begin and leave 20 minutes after they end as well as no volunteer supervision over breaks.

I can absolutely guarantee that it devastates our teachers that they can’t do what they need and want to to help our students be safe because of how “Work to Rule” works, but I’ve seen them try to make arrangements to help with that. They don’t want to see anything happen to their students and y’know what, the government acknowledges that this is “unsafe” for students, thus the lockout, but doesn’t want to acknowledge that this is another part of the struggle that these teachers face “on their dime.” Because time is money, and those earlier mornings and later days, where they make sure their students are safe are probably not counted towards their salaries. The extra curricular activities that the teachers do, not counted towards their salaries. Some of the materials that they go out and buy to help get their kids excited about learning, not counted in their salaries. The trips, the sports, the clubs, the plays, the extra help, so many things that these teachers do do not count in their salaries, and that’s not fair. They’re some of the most important people that we have in our society.

I would like to make a call out too, to some of the most influential teachers that I’ve had in my life because I think it’s important to acknowledge and see how teachers affect our everyday lives. These teachers were people who helped foster my love for so many things that ultimately made me the person I am today. They built on my love of the arts, for reading and writing, for technology, and just kept me falling in love with the things that make me happy. I was so lucky to have so many teachers that saw me as an individual student and wanted to help me thrive and grow, even in a class of 30+ students.

So let me begin with Mrs. Kennedy, because holy crap this lady is a power house of awesome. She was one of my drama teachers in high school, as well as one of the volunteer teachers who took me and a group of 20 high school students to Europe. Hours of fundraising on her own time, time away from her family, and even money from her own pocket went into making sure that this trip was absolutely amazing. I tell you now, it was a dream come true for me to visit London and Paris, and Mrs. Kennedy and the many other volunteer teachers helped make that happen.

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First arrived in London in our Hotel before we headed out to Buckingham Palace.

The thing that stands out about Mrs. Kennedy is that as her students, we were her little chicks. She looked out for us, and made sure that we were learning and thriving. What some might not know about drama class is that it isn’t just a “fluff” course, it is designed to help students become more confident, to help explore themselves as individuals as well as an ensemble and time management. When you have a play to put on, there are so many cogs in motion and in order to make it work, everyone has a part to play behind the scenes. You have know to memorize your lines, know your blocking. You have to make sure that if you’re on the props team that you have all of the pieces in order to make it work or if you’re on make up, you need to learn the skills to make stage make up look real. You manage your time between doing what you need to to get the show going as well as all of your other responsibilities outside of the classroom. Drama class was a fun way to get students to learn in a way that didn’t feel like learning and Mrs. Kennedy and every other drama teacher I’ve had made sure we were learning.

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All us students in front of The Apollo Victoria Theatre in London’s West End after seeing Wicked!

Next, Mrs. Thompson who was an art teacher at my high school. I took Digital Art and Culture with her and I’m pretty sure this was the highest mark I have ever received in high school. I can absolutely guarantee that this class gave me many of the skills I needed to continue on my education in photography. In this class I learned how to use photoshop for the first time, and it laid the foundation for being one of the better users of the program while in my college courses. (No joke, I was tutoring my fellow classmates in college because I had this early introduction and love for it.) I’m sure it’s what helped my high school friend (and fellow college friend) move into Graphic Design. Mrs. Thompson made sure that the learning was fun, but also that for those of us who were creative and loved digital media, who might want to pursue it in the future, had the skills to do so. She put up with many of my questions about how to navigate photoshop and even ran the short lived photography club that I went to regularly.

Mr. MacKenzie was one of those teachers that knew his students. I currently work with some of his other past students, and they talk about how awesome he was. He was tough, but fair, and genuinely cared about our education. He was my philosophy teacher, and that was a course that I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy, but I absolutely loved. We learned about philosophers, critical thinking, and how philosophy affected our modern world. The way that people thought, like Socrates and Plato, Aristotle and more modern philosophers like Kant and Marx, and how they shaped our modern society. This course was a blast, and also listening to Mr. MacKenzie’s stories made it a wonderful class. I remember when Justin Trudeau came to visit our high school, and Mr. MacKenzie pulled some of us from his first semester classes who he thought would really enjoy being apart of this presentation to sit in. It’s little details like that that show that Mr. MacKenzie genuinely cared about his students, just as many of my other teachers.

English was always one of my favourite classes in high school, and we all know how important language arts are. They help us communicate with each other, as well as absorb information by being able to read, understand and evaluate what is being communicated. I had 3 wonderful English teachers in high school, Mr. McGowan, Ms. Nugent and Mr. MacLeod. They helped foster my love for reading and writing, and helped me find out somethings about myself. Honestly, when getting into high school, I was worried that I was going to struggle with Shakespeare, but honestly, I loved it, and I thrived in it. I’m sure they were the only assigned books that I ever finished in school and each teacher brought their own way to these stories that made me appreciate my visit to the Globe Theatre in London. They are absolute superstars and were laying so many foundations for Nova Scotia’s future.

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Another group of students getting their education on at The Globe Theatre

One of the great things about Canadian education is that we have the opportunity to learn a second language, and in a primarily English speaking province, the opportunity to learn French was a wonderful one. There is always one teacher who truly sticks out when I think about my French education and that is Mme. Girouard. She taught at least 4 of my high school courses (Drame 10, Fraçais 11, Français 12 et Droit 12) and I can tell you, I learned so much from her. She’s one of those teachers who comes around once in a lifetime for many (sometimes we get lucky and get multiple, I know I did!) who just makes the biggest impression on you and how you remember your education. She was quirky and so much fun, but you could see that in everything she did, she genuinely cared about teaching.

She didn’t have to work, but she chose to because she loved this job so much, and you could tell. I remember sitting in my Droit 12 class (Law 12) and her talking about the assassination of JFK, and she was standing up on tables and showing us how the projection of the bullet that Lee Harvey Oswald shot traveled. She encouraged us to dig deep into everything that we were learning. When it came to presentations in her class, she encouraged us to go at them fully with creativity and soak up as much information as possible. I remember two projects that I worked on in Droit 12 being about The West Memphis Three and the JonBenét Ramsey case that I still keep up with now as a twenty five year old. I reached past those walls of the classroom and have seen documentaries that I truly enjoyed and read books about them because they were things that interested me, and I learned that because of her.

These are just some of the many, many teachers that have influenced my life, who went above and beyond for me. They made sure that I had a well rounded education, that went above their pay to ensure that me and every other student who walked through their doors felt like they were someone. Without them, I honestly would not be even close to the person that I am. I’m sure I wouldn’t have found the things that I’m passionate about as quickly as I did, or at all. They saw the potential in me and chose to water it, let it grow and flourish. Now I think it’s time that the government does something for them. I want to see them flourish and grow and continue to make our students some of the brightest in the world.

Our teachers are so important, they shape our children into the adults that they will become just as much as a parent does. If we’re not taking care of our teachers then we’re not taking care of our kids, and if we’re not taking care of our kids we’re not taking care of our future. The students in this province understand the importance of our teachers, they’re showing that in their protests, in their walk outs that they value and KNOW how much our teachers do for us. If it wasn’t for teachers, do you think our Liberal Government here in Nova Scotia would be where they are today? I didn’t think so, so let’s do something for our teachers please. Let’s take care of them, because they take care of us.