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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Realizations.

I have opened this page 1000 times since January. And I haven't lingered long before closing it again. A few things happened that I will write about in the coming weeks, but long story short, I let other people's opinions/comments and negativity get to me. The final straw was after I started writing about my weight loss surgery I received several messages, some from people who I thought were friends, where I was told that I was completely full of myself for sharing the story and that I should stop immediately.

And I did.

I listened. And I quit.

But in the last few weeks, several other things have happened, and I'm back. In the end a few things happened that gave me the redirection, ie, kick in the arse that I needed. First, Shayleen went to the now annual girl day that they do here in Fort McMurray for the girls in grade 5. For several days after that, we had many conversations about what girls can do and how we think about ourselves.  I heard myself talking to her about making healthy food choices, working hard at school, loving her body and being kind to others. And then I had several nights in a row with older women, who ranged from their 20's-60+ where I could not help but think about how hard we are on ourselves as women. It made me sad. We criticize ourselves for our weight, our workload, our lack of work, how unorganized our houses are, how our kids are doing at sports, how our are kids are doing at school....all while trying to do the best we can do to get through every day no matter what is thrown at us. We deal with medical issues, depression, homework(christ I hate homework), our kids moving out, our marriages, our in-laws, our extended families, the deaths of loved ones, the frigging dog who keeps escaping, and feeding everyone. Our boobs are sore from nursing, saggy with age, any given week we need to lose weight while still are trying to make our butts bigger. We criticize ourselves the way that we would never criticize a friend. We hate our bat wings, the lack of time we have with our kids and we struggle with getting pregnant, losing babies, finding out we have cancer, and that our marriages isn't getting the work it deserves. So over the course of those few nights, I finally admitted to myself that life is complicated for all of us, and I once wrote about it all at one time. And I wrote about it because it felt good. I wrote about it, because when I was honest, people connected to that and reached out to me and shared their stories with me. I never told my stories before for any weird agenda or attention. Moving forward I want to start sharing again and not be so critical of myself. I am always open to criticism, but I need to write.

Here's the weird thing. Because I'm an elected official now, people have issue with me sharing my opinions. Which is kind of ironic because other people love that I'm real and approachable. So I will have to figure it all out as I move forward. But I also want to write about work some as well, especially to clear up misconceptions about issues when they come up. I will always be cautious of governance, but there are lots of things that I can address when rumours start flying about things that come up.

If you are on my social media, you know that I am quite wrapped up with everything that is related to Bills C-69 and 48. The week before last Mayor Scott, myself, Councillors LaLonde, Balsom, our CAO Annette Antoniak and some administration support went to Ottawa to meet with several MPs and Senators, along with a member of the Prime Minister's Office regarding Bill C-69. We went as part of The Coalition of Canadian Municipalities for Energy Action. A few of us were also able to meet very briefly with the Prime Minister. The Energy Senate committee came to Fort McMurray to hear from the residents of our region about three weeks ago. I will not mince words, if that Bill goes through without the suggested amendments, it will have very negative consequences for our region. While in Ottawa, we were also able to attend when Premier Jason Kenney presented to the Senate committee. I was proud of the work that we were able to do with the coalition. We literally hit the ground running and ran for two days. And I will continue to scream the Team Alberta message moving forward. I won't bore you with all the work details. But upon returning I heard many comments that "we flew off" to Ottawa on taxpayers money. So I have been dying to address that. I will always, as long as I sit as a councillor be conscious of every single nickel that is spent. No weather catchers on my watch, lol. And if you ever, ever wonder why I make certain decisions, just ask me. But I'm also hoping that I can use this forum to address such questions. The funniest part of those types of comments is the actual reality. We literally were so tired at the end of the first day of meetings that we ate chicken wings in our rooms. No fancy restaurant. It was a few girls with their feet up going over the agenda for the next day. And then I called my husband to tell him how the day went while we watched the end of a hockey game together. There are some cool things that you get to do as an elected official, but I will always put in the work and not take one second for granted. I remind myself every morning to get up and do the best I can for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and my family.

One last thought. I have heard other women's stories lately, and I often reply, "That's amazing, how did you do that?" or "You should tell that story." But I wasn't taking my own advice. So in the coming weeks, I will finish telling you how I have lost 148 pounds, and like the story of my bone marrow transplant, or when my husband, Tim was in a serious car accident when he was hit by a drunk driver, I will be as open and honest as I can. I hope you can take something away from the stories I share, but if not, I still feel better already for getting back to my writing.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Off to Mexico!

I decided that Tijuana was the spot for me for my weight loss surgery. It has become a medical tourism destination, with many weight loss and plastic surgery clinics and hospitals to pick from there. As I said, I researched for a year before booking my surgery. There are many facebook groups you can join if you are thinking of going through the procedure, and I even watched the surgery on Youtube. I ended up picking A Lighter Me because it was more hospital based, and many from Fort McMurray had gone there and to the Obesity Control Centre. 

Once my application was accepted, I had to fill out an extensive questionnaire so that my pre-surgery preparation could be put together. For the two weeks before the surgery, my diet was very strict, but I didn't find it hard to follow until the last couple of days. In the last few days they want your stomach pretty empty, so it's broth and things like popsicles and protein shakes. So that was a bit hard while still at home when you are cooking for everyone else. But I wanted to follow the doctor's orders to the finest detail so that nothing would go wrong, so that stayed in the back of my mind. 

On they day I was leaving home to travel to Mexico I was extremely nervous. As my family was giving me hugs and wishing me luck, my ever present comedian son, Nathanial hugged me and said, "Good luck mom. Don't wake up in a tub of ice with your kidney gone." And even though he joked, many had expressed the same sentiments to me. "Why Mexico? You are going to end up dead and alone down there," and "Aren't you terrified that something will go wrong?" Well...yes, and I don't need you fuelling the fire, just support me and my decision. Just a few days before leaving a gentleman from town reached out to me when he heard I was going. He had gone a few years before me, and encouraged me to ask him whatever questions I wanted of him. I had several friends who had gone, but this man was a tremendous support for me while I was down there, and when I returned home. Just before I went into surgery he was one of the people who texted me and said that he knew I would do great. His texts always seem to come at exact moments I could use some encouragement. 

On the Lighter Me facebook page, I had "met" a few others who were going down at the same time as me. I really connected with one woman from Arkansas, and when we arrived in San Diego staff from A Lighter Me picked us all up and took us to the clinic for some blood work and an ECG. Before we got to the clinic I knew that the woman from Arkansas, and her friend were going to be my best buddies on the trip. We had so much in common, and they pledged right away that since I was alone that they would check in on me and we would keep each other company. 

Once we finished the basic tests and were given a quick tour of the small hospital we were taken to the hotel to check in and do some paper work. The hotel had "hospital" floors, where the front desk was much like a nurses station on the floor, and after the surgery they were there to check in on us and help us change our bandages. I was the lucky one and would be the first one into surgery the next morning. I hated the thought of waiting any longer than necessary. I can't really remember that first evening, except that I fell asleep fairly early and then woke up at midnight and drove myself crazy with my racing thoughts for the rest of the night. Staff were downstairs waiting for all the morning patients at 5a.m. We were all nervous in the van, but also excited about the positive changes that we hoped were in our future. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Some back story to the decision to have weight loss surgery.

It took me a full complete year of research before I decided to go for weight loss surgery. In the end, I went with vertical sleeve gastrectomy, or what is more commonly known as "getting sleeved". Funnily enough when I finally decided to tell my sister in law in a text, she thought I was going to get my arm covered in tattoos. It led to some funny texts before I figured out what she was thinking.

The plan was that my husband would travel with me when I went for the surgery two years ago, but as fate would have it, he had to have hip surgery about a month before I was to go to Tijuana, Mexico and he couldn't go. I didn't want to ask friends to take vacation time to go with me, so off I went all by myself. When I think back on it now, I don't know if I would do it alone again, but I can fill you in on it all as we go along.

In the year leading up to my decision my blood pressure was extremely high, and I was on medication. I went on an extra "water" pill and my pressure was still staying high. I was extremely low on energy, I hated going out where I had to dress up at all, and I was sick of dieting, losing a few pounds and then gaining it back. It felt like all I thought about was food, exercise and dieting. I constantly beat myself up for overeating, and would try to plan ahead when we went out to such an extreme that most times the fun was lost. I knew I had to do something, but I was absolutely terrified of surgery. Every time I have ever been put "under" I did not react well. My heart has stopped, I am sick to my stomach, I have a hard time waking up(every single time for this point), and I'm generally one of those foolish people caught on camera who are crying, laughing and not making any sense. I remember one time that I just was partially sedated for a procedure, and it took me two days to be able to walk around and make any sense. During those two days I would wake up crying, telling my husband, Tim, how much I loved him and I was sorry. I would fall back to sleep and even if I woke up 20 minutes later I would repeat the whole procedure. So thinking about all the horrific things that could happen to me in another country, alone no less, made me almost cancel the whole thing three times after I had decided to book it. But I didn't. And this week marks two years.

When I booked the surgery I was sitting at about 260 pounds. I say that as a guess. When I hit 250 pounds I literally hated checking my weight. I remember trying for a couple of weeks to lose some weight, and when I got back on the scale it said 252, so I stopped weighing myself. When I filled out the application, I put down 260, but it could have been a little higher, or a little lower. I never in a million years imagined my weight would get to that point. I can remember after my bone marrow transplant years ago that I promised that if I got better I would always look after my body, but as the years went by many hard situations, and stress had brought me to the point where I felt completely overwhelmed on how to get it back under control.

What was the final push for me? I really love my family doctors. I say doctors because in my whole life, I have only had four. Dr. Bernie MacLean brought me into this world, and was my doctor until I was 25 or so. Then I had Dr. Nicholson during my pregnancy with Mitchell. Dr. Pluta was my doctor when we lived in Mackdale, and for about the last 8 years I have had a wonderful doctor here in Fort McMurray by the name of Dr. McCombe. I have always been very particular about my doctors. I have to be comfortable with them, they have to be willing to answer all my questions, and they have to have my complete trust. So when I finally went to Dr. McCombe I was nervous. If had said it was a horrible idea, I would have put the idea out of my head and never thought of it again. But he was so supportive. He gave me research to read, and talked about the benefits of losing weight and keeping it off. Part of me had hoped he would convince me not to do it. Instead he gave me information and helped me prep, and told me what to expect afterwards.

Everyone is different, and the same is true for those who decide to go for weight loss surgery. We all have to prep differently, we choose different places to go, and we all have different results. In my next post I will start telling you about the actual trip and what the whole experience was like. For all my research and experience, I literally never once regretted the decision. I have been sitting between 125-129 pounds now for about 8 months, and I literally had 170 as my goal weight. You never know what you can accomplish until you put your mind to it.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Want to find out how I lost 140 pounds?

I probably am asked about my weight loss every day, and I have been saying I am going to write about it for over a year now. Over the last few days as I started thinking about sitting down to do this series of posts, I noticed I got anxious almost every time. So then I started really thinking about it. And you know what I came to? I haven't written about it because of a few reasons. First of all, I don't like "bragging". I think part of that comes from growing up in Cape Breton, you probably will never meet a group of people who downplay everything they do more so than Capers, lol. So talking about what I have done in the last two years to lose 140 pounds seems very much like bragging. But I also realized that I didn't want to write about it because I live in fear of gaining it all back. It's like my brain hasn't caught up yet. Some mornings I wake up and honestly expect the scale to jump up by 20 pounds. Over Christmas I gained 2 pounds, and during the first 5 days of the new year I lost it, but my first thought was still...it's coming back.

It's no secret what kicked off the weight loss for me. I went to Mexico and was "sleeved". That was two years ago this month. In this series of posts I will tell you all about every detail, from how I made the decision, to what it was all like, and how it's not the "easy way" out for anyone who makes the decision to go. It was by far one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. I researched the surgery for almost a full year before finally booking it all. And I researched the options of where to go for a couple of months as well.

What finally gave me the push I needed was the wild fire of 2016. After coming back to Fort McMurray after the evacuation, I felt like many things were out of my control, and I was extremely frustrated. I literally was lying in bed one night, and thought about how I could at least try to control my weight. That was something I could do. I was lucky that my husband, Tim fully supported my decision in every way, and that night I told him I was ready to finally go through the steps to see if I qualified for the surgery. Looking back now I wish I hadn't taken so long to decide, as it obviously was a good decision for me and my health. Over the next few days I will dive into and share my weight loss journey with you all. I hope it might inspire some of you as we go into this new year to take control of whatever challenge you want to take on in your life.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Sad but Happy.

In the next few days I am going to publish a series of blog posts about my weight loss journey. It's probably one of the top things that I am asked about. So buckle in, and if you have someone that is thinking about tackling the mountain that it can be, let them know, or share the posts when they go up with them. It really is a journey, and it's easier if we have support.

But tonight it's all about my family. The day after tomorrow our oldest leaves again, and we don't know when we will see him next. How is it that they can be six months one minute, and be 21 years old the next? I am trying to suck up every minute. I am literally that sucky creepy mom that went down and watched him sleep a couple of nights, curled up with him and cried on Christmas Eve....I'm sure he felt a bit smothered at times over the holidays. But he seems happy to be home, and actually wanted to come here, so I will always go with that.

About 9 years ago I wanted a raclette grill, and my parents gave us one for Christmas that year. Every year since we have done it up over the holidays, and tonight was the night to do it. Raclette is not something to be rushed, so it's a perfect way to hang out for a few hours and chat. Tomorrow night is beef wellington, and Friday I just might cry in a glass of wine. These last few months was the longest amount of time that I have gone without seeing one of my kids. In the coming months, I don't know when we will all be together again, and I feel lonely already.

For now, I will go enjoy the sleepover for the nine year olds, catch up with the rest that stayed in tonight to bond over Shark Tank, and try not to be miserable for them all as I block out how fast Friday is coming.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Here we go!

Where did 2018 go? It was one of those years that literally felt like it flew by and is a slight blur. In the last few weeks again I have had many conversations about starting my writing again. I joined a blog challenge for the month of January to see if it will help me kick start a few projects that I have long been working on. I seem to have a wall that is blocking me from putting things out. I am worried about being politically correct or upsetting certain people. But in conversations, I can be logical and I know that the people who love and support me on a day to day basis will always support me. I need to tell my heart to stop worrying about people who really don't care about me.

Sounds so easy right?

Over the years, I know that I am more productive with my writing when I am sharing and receiving feedback from other writers, thus the reason for starting the year with the blog challenge. I am hoping to start meeting with local writers again as well, and have a first meeting scheduled already for this week.

I recently poured my heart out to someone who didn't know me over the last few years. It was that person saying several times now that I should be writing down more of my stories that made me start picking at things in the last few months. My ultimate goal for 2019 for my writing career is to finally put out some of my fictional writing. It's like the last terrifying thing that I need to at least try....or die disappointed in myself for not doing it.

I am already working on several blogs about local issues that will be coming up in the next few months. I love helping to inform residents as much as possible, and will try harder to post more about what is going on in the region, and with council. Often when I am struggling with an issue going into a meeting it is the interaction and the feedback that I receive from residents that guides me in my decisions. Every decision we make as a council affects local residents almost immediately, I will never take that responsibility lightly. I have learned over the last year that we will never, ever please everyone...even when we thought people would be extremely happy with something that we have brought forward we have received negative feedback...and that is literally on every single issue. I try to make decisions by thinking about the big picture, and long term. But even when residents don't agree or upset, those conversations are extremely important as well. If I never try to see all the sides of an issue, I think I am at risk for having a closed mind, and in a healthy democracy that is not healthy.

I'm excited about 2019, as far as the municipality goes I think that Mayor Scott and the rest of council has laid a good foundation in 2018 to get some very productive things done this year. But I am also realistic and know that we have some hard work ahead of us before we see some movement on big items like downtown development. I guess I will continue to hope that residents have patience, as nothing was done with the downtown for so many years, and we are working on it, but it can't just be changed miraculously over night.

My personal challenge for 2019? I am going to tackle my house. We are going into year 3 of construction around here, and I had a conversation with someone and admitted that I am having a great deal of anxiety of what it will look like again come the spring. Once the foundation issues start to be addressed will more things be found wrong? Will the contractor be committed to the job and get it done in the least amount of time possible? Will I once again be avoiding being around the house because of the noise and mess? We all don't want to complain about the situations we are in since the fire, but it's okay to feel frustrated that it's going into year 3 and we are still dealing with contractors and insurance. It sucks. So I'm hoping we will finally have our home back this year, and I will take control of it again, much like I have done with other aspects of my life(ie my weight).

I love the beginning of a new year, it seems to stretch out like a canvas, or some blank pages. I can't wait to see what will be written on them. I am hoping if you read this far you will help me on my challenge over the next 31 days, keep me accountable and ask where my blog posts are if it's not up by 3p.m every day.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Let's finally get this started.

I wrote out several longer posts over the last two weeks trying to capture my feelings about the last year. As I often do, I sat on them after finishing them, and then read them again. And they all hit the junk pile. After reading them again I realized that they all sounded political and stiff. In trying to be politically correct about the last year, I lost my voice. That's why I haven't been writing at all. I don't want to insult anyone or look like I am favouring one group or another. But I don't favour any group, and I would never insult anyone or any group intentionally. So here we go. People don't want to read long posts, so I thought every couple of days I would put some short ones out that gave updates, and I could tell everyone about what is going on.

Tomorrow Mayor Scott is presenting at the Teck hearing at 9am. At 10a.m. we are attending the grand opening of the Conklin Multiplex. Then we head to Anzac and have the grand opening of the new firehall at 1:30p.m. And then we have a special council meeting at 3p.m. in Anzac regarding the community hall.

As much as I would like to attend the Arts Awards tomorrow evening, I literally have not seen my husband/family together in three weeks, so I am hoping to get home and have supper with them all and hang out for a bit tomorrow night. It really sucks sometimes not being able to attend absolutely everything, but I continue to try to find balance.

The coming week will be busy. We have a council meeting on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday we have another special council meeting to discuss the Moccasin Flat report that the Fort McMurray Metis had done.

I haven't written for so long that I almost don't know where to start. People keep asking me if I am enjoying my time council....and I can honestly say that I am. It's probably the first time in my life that I don't mind putting in lots of hours, as long as it's all for the benefit of the region. I am working with some amazing people, both on council, and in administration. I have met some unbelievable, hard working community leaders, and I still wake up pumped to start the day and see what can be done.

I am always open to any conversation on any topic, my cel is (780)838-1782, or you can send me a message at verna.murphy@rmwb.ca. Councillor McGrath always loved when I wrote about him before, so I'm sure he will be happy to be mentioned in my blogs again, lol. The past Councillors, Claris, Keith, Jane, Phil, and Mayor Scott and Mike have all been wonderful supports this last year. I continue to learn so much every day and they all share their knowledge whenever I ask. And I have bonded with some of the new councillors as we all navigate this new job. It has not been an easy year, but we have been working very hard for our region and the residents that live here. This still sounds awkward, lol...maybe as I do more of these it will become easier again. I will do my best, I think it's important for residents to know what's going on with their council, and I also think this will be important for me, as I miss writing.

This last year has been an absolute honour for me. I still wake up some mornings and think about how blessed I am to serve in this elected role. I hope that people continue to think that I am approachable and open to conversations, as that has always been my goal going into being on council. Otherwise, feel free to slap me up the side of my head whenever I am failing. And feel free to follow me on social media, and I will try to start posting more pictures and updates about everything that is going on in our region(but heads up, I still hate getting my picture taken, so don't expect lots of selfies from me....you don't need to see my face to know what's going on). And if anyone has questions or suggestions about what you would like to hear from me, please send them to me.