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Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Person of the Week!

A few months ago, at the end of each column that I did for the Fort McMurray Today, I would write a line or two about someone I had met who had made an impression on me for one reason or another. I called it My Person of the Week, and I loved sharing about the wonderful people that I had either met or heard about because they have been doing wonderful things in our community.

I had played with the idea for weeks now of doing the same thing here in the blog, and then in the last few days I have had four people mention to me about how they loved hearing about my Person of the Week in the paper, so since I am always looking for signs, I thought it was time to finally start sharing here. So each week, on either Saturday or Sunday I will tell you about someone who is doing something positive. But it won't just be someone from Fort McMurray, although since I live here I am sure many of them will also be from here. But if you have someone in your community that you would like to tell me about, please send me their story!

Over the last few years I have many wonderful people, so this will be a fun blog post to share each week, and probably an easy one to write!

This last week I met someone who really helped me to make the decision to write about wonderful people again. His name is Mohammad Zafar Iqbal, and this week we sat down over a coffee to talk about his latest humanitarian work. He made quite the impression on me, and I had to tell everyone about him.

Zafar has been living in Fort McMurray for about 6 years now, and he has his family in Ontario. The first time I met him was briefly a few years ago when he was volunteering during the July 1st festivities in town. And then more recently I have been watching his cultural clips on Shaw TV, called The World Meets in Wood Buffalo, where they have talked about everything from weddings to parenting from the point of view of the different cultures that are all here in Fort McMurray. Here is one where he talks about what a wedding is like in Pakistan.

I was very curious to meet him to hear about what he was working on lately. Did you know that over one million people have been affected by the floods this year in Pakistan? I am embarrassed to say that I did not know the far reaching effects that the floods have had this year. Instead of the annual rainfall staying around 78-80 mm, this year over 200mm came in the same amount of time in September. Once I started watching more news about it the last few days since meeting with Zafar, I have learned that damage is estimated at almost a trillion dollars! Thousands have been left homeless, and hundreds have died or are now suffering with water born diseases.

Zafar has been working hard since he has heard of the devastation from the flooding, meeting with local media, businesses and organizations to get the word out about what is happening in his homeland of Pakistan. He has been able to get the Red Cross to help him with his effort, and if you now donate through the Red Cross for the Pakistan Flood Relief, a donation of $20 will be issued an official tax receipt. But Zafar is hoping that if you cannot give $20, that you will consider donating even $1. When I asked him if he had family there, why was he so motivated to help so much, he started to tear up. I was almost ashamed of myself for asking the question when he answered, "It makes me sad that people have to have a motivation to help their fellow human beings. We should all try to help each other, no matter where they live, what their color or race." And indeed Zafar lives this mantra in his every day life. As I mentioned him to several people this week, many had stories to share about him. How he helped new community members to become more involved with events in Fort McMurray, teaching some English, giving others a place to stay and even bringing others to doctor appointments to help.

Zafar is the type of person that when you meet him you leave the table thinking that you should really be trying to contribute more to your community, and yes, even to the wider world, where ever kindness may be needed. I can only hope that I will get the privilege of some day calling him a friend, because he is definitely someone I want to spend more time with in our community. And I am guessing that if I just continue to volunteer that our paths will cross again soon.

If you want to donate to the Pakistan Flood Relief effort that Zafar is coordinating there is a donation station at MacDonald Island, several businesses have donation cans at their cash registers, and you can call Zafar himself at 780-880-1604 or email him at: If you get the chance to talk to him personally, it is something you will never regret. 

Tune in next week for some more inspiring people! 

Friday, September 26, 2014

First confession

I totally screwed up this week, my first week for weigh in. We had gotten tickets to the movie, The Grand Seduction for last night at Keyano. So I missed my first weigh in at Tops, but according to my scale at home, I am down about three pounds. So next week I will have a bit more pressure, in that I have to stay focused and be down even more when I go on Thursday.

I am using my Fitbit to get my steps in, but I have to admit that this summer I fell down some stairs, and I am feeling that ankle when I go for my longer walks. Hopefully it will get better as I get used to walking more again. It is definitely easier to stay on track when everyone in the house is trying to eat healthier too, it even makes a difference having Shayleen in school and they are talking about better choices. So here's hoping that I can stay on track, I know that it will get harder as the weather gets colder, but I will just have to get creative on how to keep it up, right!?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

One promise I wish I hadn't made!

I really never thought I would be one to have such a struggle with weight. On the day Nathanial was born, I was my heaviest ever, and that was around 166, that was before I gave birth too. And then something changed, could have been that I was getting older, but after losing two babies after Nathanial, I found that I started having a harder time with my weight. Last year I thought I was finally in control, and was taking the pounds off. And then life threw us some curve balls, and I stopped going to TOPS(Taking Off Pounds Sensibly)....and the weight started to creep back on. Last year when I posted that I was going to start a weight loss journey I started at 214.

Last week I had posted that I would start sharing my weight again, it's a good motivator for me to have to check in and actually say if I gained or lost, in fact, I lost every week. But I have a bigger journey this time because I went back to TOPS tonight and did my first weigh in, and I kind of wish I hadn't said I would post it, because it's a big number. But let's face it, if you see me, you can see that I have put the weight on, so it's not like it's a big secret. So here we go, this week I weighed in at 225.4. Yep, I have been heavier, but not in such an official way. I think I topped out around 230 a few years ago, but I had stopped weighing myself, and it was never written done because I did not want anyone to see it.

So join me in my weight loss journey, if you are in Fort McMurray or Nova Scotia and need some encouragement, I have a Facebook page called Losing it from Fort McMurray to Nova Scotia, and I will once again start trying to find some healthier recipes and posting them, and feel free to post any motivators you like! Here's hoping that next week I can say I lost, we booked a trip to Mexico in January, and I would like to be under 200 to go, so let's get started....AGAIN!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

It's not just about Matt you know!

This weekend is my weekend, Matt Minglewood is in town, and we went last night and we will go again tonight. Every year I have a few people ask me what it is that makes me such a die hard fan. And last night on the way home I thought I finally had the answer, but I had a few drinks too, and the perfect thought that I had last night was gone from my head this morning. Come to think of it, the drinks might have just made me think it was perfect, but who knows.

I have loved Matt's singing since I had his 8-track tapes as a kid. Then I moved to albums, then tapes, then CDs, and now I have a downloaded collection on my phone. And over the years I have gotten to know Matt and his wife Babs personally, and it just made me love them more.

But there's something else about Matt for me during these nights, and that's what's always hard to capture. It's the whole effect he has on the crowd. When we lived back in Nova Scotia he was able to do it too, so it's not just a Fort McMurray thing and we are all brought together for our love of something from home. I love watching the people that go to see and hear Matt. Last night for example there were people 20 years younger than us who knew every word of every song, and there were people 20 years older that knew them as well. There was the token drunk East Coast, die hard Matt fan who stood by the stage during Can't you See and sang his heart out, and there were some there that hadn't heard Matt in years and felt nostalgic in that hearing him brought them right back to a certain time of their lives.

Some times people give me a hard time for my love of Matt. But you know what? I feel sad that not everyone has a Matt in their lives. Music has always been such a part of my life, I can play songs and remember the first time I heard them, who I was with, what we were doing. For me, Matt has been part of the biggest days of my life, and some of the saddest, and he didn't even have to physically be there.

Last night as Tim danced with me to Can't You See I looked around the room, and saw a few tears, I saw some huge smiles, and I saw everyone singing. What a way to spend the night, and I got to see some old friends and made some new ones.

But I have to mention how wonderful my friends are too, old and some newer ones. I had one message from a high school friend, who I haven't seen in like 15 years, Shannon, who was concerned about me because I didn't go to see Matt on Thursday. She wanted to make sure I was alright, because she had never heard of me doing such a thing before. My friend out here in Fort McMurray, Kerin, texted on Thursday and asked if I was sick. How lucky I have been over the years to acquire such wonderful people in my life is beyond me, but I feel so blessed.

So tonight I will gather with more friends, and we will dance, and sing, and catch up. My soul will feel full and I will be happy for weeks with the memories of another night spent in the company of Matt Minglewood. Oh, and did you know that Matt is the entertainer to beat at the casino out here for the one who has brought in the most money in a weekend in Fort McMurray? Yep, he holds the record.

Thanks Matt, for all the wonderful nights, all the great memories, and the entertainment you provide with your wonderful voice. You are the soundtrack of my life.

Here's a short clip from last night, I got busted by security for taping! Hope to see you tonight! But go early if you want a table.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's all about the weight, again.

So for all my talk last year, about how I "finally got it" about getting healthy and losing weight, I'm back in the same boat, and maybe even a bigger boat than before! From Christmas of last year until August or so, I lost. I made the connection and I was looking after myself pretty well. During those months I even said how I realized that when things came up I tended to put myself on the back burner, and I wasn't going to do that any more. But guess what? Life threw us a few curves, and again, I didn't put my health or myself first. In the last week or so I made some hard confessions to myself, and to Tim(hubby). And so I thought I would share with you all as well.

The first confession is that since Tim is still struggling with pain and some issues from his accident, and can often be restricted from doing all that he used to do, I have some terrible guilt about being able to do more. So I don't. I haven't been going for walks or to the gym, or really, anything. And of course, Tim is/was the first one to say that I should not be feeling like that at all. And he doesn't want me to be feeling gross/unhealthy because of his situation.

The second confession is that I just cannot get motivated this time around. I thought that in going home I would get motivated to lose before we went, but nope, it didn't happen. And since we came back from Nova Scotia I have to admit I have been in bit of a funk, one that often comes in the fall when the kids go back to school, but it came early this year.

So why can't I get motivated? I am not sure, but I thinking that on Thursdays I will once again start posting my weight. It was a motivator for me when I did it last year, and I found that so many others were joining me in their weight loss journey. Someone said to me the other day that when I was posting maybe it was a huge motivator to me not to be humiliated by gaining, maybe she's right.

This last week I know that I felt inspired for the first time in a while to get back on track, and that was thanks to Morley Googoo. We went to school with Morley many moons ago in Nova Scotia, and about three months ago he had a heart attack and had to undergo surgery. He spontaneously posted a video and challenged other males to get serious about their health, especially Aboriginal men, who have a very low life expectancy in Canada. Morley has always been someone who spoke from his heart, and he has such a genuine concern for his community and his people that it just struck a real nerve with me, and that afternoon, I found myself getting my sneakers on and going for a walk. And then again the next day, and the next. I will post the first video he did, and he is going to start a page, but in the meantime if you feel inspired to join him, he is posting updates every day and I know he would love to hear from others who have felt inspired as well.

I have picked Thursdays to post this time around, because that is TOPS(Taking off pounds sensibly)night, and when I will be getting weighed out here in Fort McMurray. If you see me chowing down on something unhealthy some where in Fort McMurray, feel free to call me out on Facebook about it,  I need all the help I can get. Next year is our 20th wedding anniversary, and Mitchell's graduation. Two events that I would like my husband and son be proud of how I look, and that I fought to get the weight off.

One week from tonight, the weight postings will begin, and I am quite sure that I have gained all my weight back, that's pretty humiliating to admit, and I am sure the first few posts will be quite painful. I just have to remember that it is just a number and that those that love me will not love me less because I publish how much I weigh. It's just a number, right?

Here is the link to Morley's video! Just copy it, and then go to it to watch.

And one for fun.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What the hell do I do now?

I'm sitting here in total silence. Nothing. No Max and Ruby playing in the background, no dog chasing Shayleen down the hallway while she giggles in delight. No yells outside the bathroom door earlier when I went in there, nothing. And it will be like this for hours. Today Shayleen started first grade, full days. Days full of silence and a lot of nothing for me. New friends, new teacher and lots of adventures for her. And the two boys? Nathanial starts high school today, grade 10. And my first baby, Mitchell, is off to his last year.

If you were to enter the house now you wouldn't hear silence, I have been sniffling and sporadically breaking into my ugly cry all morning. For better or worse, my life is defined by my kids. The night before my maternity leave was to end when we had Mitchell, I can remember curling into a fetal position beside his crib and calling Tim, who was away working at the time and hysterically crying. The woman I had picked to come babysit our baby just didn't seem good enough, I didn't want to leave my baby with her, and I was in a total panic. I don't remember exactly what Tim said, but I remember him just being soothing and saying that it was okay, we would work it out, I wouldn't go back to work. And for the majority of the last 17 years that's what we have done, I have stayed home with the kids to be here for them as much as possible. It doesn't work for everyone, and in those earlier years we really did without a lot of things and some years it felt like we barely made ends meet. But we did it. 

After moving out here to Fort McMurray, I did take some full time jobs those first two years. First so we could get a mortgage and then because I loved working for the local newspaper. But when we decided that it wasn't a good fit for our family, I was surprised at how happy the boys were that I would be home again to get them off to school and greet them when they came in the door. And then we decided to adopt Shayleen. In some ways the last five years we may have paid more attention to her in some ways. It felt like we had to make her stronger for when she would go out into the world, and with all the kids we wanted them to never doubt how much they are loved. 

So this morning, Mitchell and Nathanial kissed me good-bye and told me to not worry and to have some fun today. And then they got in the truck to drive themselves to school. Shortly after I buckled Shayleen into the car and drove her for her first day. On the way she reminded me that this was only temporary, as she wants to get on the bus. And then she hugged me and said, "See you after school mom." Tim and I always wanted them to grow up to be strong minded, and independent thinkers, but now that they are stepping away from us I just want to grab them and hold them close and keep them a little longer. 

When I was pregnant with Mitchell I kept a calendar and I marked off the days until he was due. In the back I wrote down some notes about milestones in his life, like first birthday, first year of school, and I also marked down that in 2014-15 he would be graduating and leaving home. And here I am, starting that year. I have always been one that has never taken my kids for granted, nor the time that I have been able to spend with them. They are my pride and joy. And while I am pretty sad this morning, I am so proud of them and the young people they have become. 

Tim, we did okay, it wasn't easy all the time, but I still thank you for always supporting my decision to stay home with our children. And thanks in advance for all the times you will have to listen to me weep this year as we prepare to watch Mitchell leave the nest and really go off to make his way in the world. 

I am a bit more emotional this morning because I am also thinking of our dear friends, Mel and Rick. Their son Drew was in a terrible car accident on the weekend and they are in Edmonton with him. When Shayleen first came to us, we didn't know how long she would be with us, but we fell in love right away. And then she was very sick and in the hospital in Edmonton. Many asked how I could leave my "real kids" to be with her down there, and some said I was becoming too attached. Not Mel. I remember her calling me late one night and totally dismissing me when I started justifying why I was there instead of home with the boys. "You are right where you need to be, that little girl needs you Verna, and you love her, so you need to be there for her or you wouldn't forgive yourself." Mel always got me...we moved West from Nova Scotia in the same year and while our sons had brought us together through their friendship, it was our connection that has grown and stayed strong. She is one of those friends that no matter how much time goes by we can still pick up right where we left off. She was the only person who drove all the way to Edmonton when Shayleen was in the hospital, on my birthday to see us. She is the ultimate mom, and my heart is breaking that she, Drew, Rick and her daughter Ally are all suffering now. So this morning, I would ask for your prayers for her family. I can't stop thinking of them all, and can't wait to see Mel later this week. I would give anything if she could be sending her kids off to school this morning like I am lucky enough to do. So for Mel, I will not wallow this morning, I will do what she would want, and I will make the best of the day, and I am thinking of all my "mom" friends, and I hope that you all have a wonderful day too.