Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the “Average Canadian Woman”

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau is a beautiful, charming mother of three, who attends many important events, and speaks on behalf of multiple worthy causes – many of which support women and women’s issues.  She also happens to be the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau…and it seems that she has pissed off a lot of Canadian women.

She recently gave an interview to the French language newspaper Le Soleil, where she revealed that she is overwhelmed and needs a break.  She also indicated that she wants another staff member to help her out with the multiple correspondences and requests for public appearances, speeches, and charity events.  All of this is IN ADDITION to the two part-time nannies the Trudeau’s already employ – on the tax payers’ dime, nonetheless.  Oh, and don’t forget the fact that Trudeau campaigned on wealthy families (like his) NOT needing so many tax breaks.  So I get the disgust that I’m seeing all over social media for Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

Except that I think this disgust is horribly misplaced.  And I keep seeing women disparage each other, and critique each others’ mothering, and judge each others’ life choices, and it makes me so sad.  Being a mom is hard.  Hell, being a WOMAN is hard, and I don’t know a woman who doesn’t, at some level, understand this and know it to be true.  Deep down we know that supporting each other is the way to go – that’s why there are moms’ groups in every community, and all over Facebook – but yet we continue to trash each other.  Have I mentioned that this makes me sad?

The anger at Sophie Gregoire Trudeau can’t be purely political in nature, since ALL of the Prime Ministers’ wives in recent memory have had staff devoted to them.  Mila Mulroney, wife of Conservative PM Brian Mulroney, who had the most similar family situation to Sophie, and who also spent a great deal of time championing a variety of important causes, reportedly had a very similar staff to what Sophie is requesting.  At the time, many Liberal opponents argued that providing Mila with these staff members was a waste of taxpayer money, but Conservative supporters argued that her work was valid and she needed the help.  I agree with them wholeheartedly.

I have read a few social media posts, including this one from a Saskatchewan mother of 5 who calls herself “an average Canadian mother.”  This woman sounds like an exceptionally hard-working person, and a very caring mother, and I certainly laud her for that.  She takes Sophie to task for choosing to attend charity events and speaking engagements, since Sophie has “no official duties.”  She also says that Sophie’s actual “job is to stay at home with [her] children and call [her] driver when [she needs] to go somewhere, eat what [her] chef has prepared [her and her family] and make sure [she doesn’t] get in the way of [her] cleaning staff.”  While I will certainly concede that the Prime Minister’s wife has no official duties, I think it’s laughable to expect her to do nothing in her position.  As the wife of a Canadian Prime Minister, just like every woman before her in that role, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau is undoubtedly expected to be present at a variety of events, and has a very important role in terms of representing Canada on an international stage.  The fact of the matter is, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau IS NOT an average Canadian woman; she is the Prime Minister of Canada’s wife, and unless your name is Laureen Harper, or Aileen Chretien, or Mila Mulroney, then you have NO IDEA what that entails.  To take this even further, only Mila Mulroney lived a similar life, raising a young family while her husband held office, and being very active with charitable events and speaking engagements.  But to be totally honest, no one – NO ONE – knows what it’s like to walk in Sophie’s shoes, just as no one truly knows what it feels like to live my life, or yours. And this is my point – this is where I take issue with the anger and disdain directed toward Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.  None of us get to tell her how to live her life as a woman and a mother.

Being a mom is hard.  It’s hard when – like me – you have only one baby, and are on maternity leave for a year as is typical in Canada.  It’s hard when you have three kids, or five, or nine.  It’s hard when you are a stay at home mom, and when you choose (or simply must) return to work.  It’s hard whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, whether you are an attachment parent or you cry it out, and whether you make any number of different choices than other mothers.  Every woman, every mother, has challenges that are unique to her particular situation, and none of us REALLY knows what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes.  Every mother also gets overwhelmed from time to time – some more so than others, and we all absolutely need a break.  ALL OF US.

So why all the hate and judgement for Sophie Gregoire Trudeau?  I truly believe it is because many women hear that Sophie needs help, and they look at their own lives, and they see that they need help too.  But maybe they aren’t getting it, or aren’t getting quite enough, so they lash out in anger, and they say that Sophie doesn’t need this help after all.  But what these women don’t realize is that by bashing Sophie, they are actually bashing themselves.  Every time women stand up and speak out professing to know what another woman is going through, and what another woman does or does not need, we are tearing each other down.  We are fueling the misconceptions that women’s work is less important, and that mothering isn’t a real job, or that the best place for a woman is in the kitchen, and this is unacceptable.  Women have a lot of power, especially when we band together, and lift each other up, and celebrate the gifts of each other’s unique strengths.  Unfortunately for the “average Canadian woman,” this power will be lost if we keep on tearing each other down.

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What to Expect at Yoga

I was inspired to write this post so that the brand-new yogis aren’t quite so intimidated by their very first yoga class with me, but then I realized that the message here is really for ALL participants…

What Should You Expect at Yoga?

* Remember that this post is about MY classes in particular; there are a lot of parallels in other classes, but you might find something different there.

1. Expect to work hard – your muscles might shake, you will probably break a sweat, and you might even be a little sore the next day. All of that depends on your fitness level, and the intensity of the particular class, but I can promise you that my classes aren’t just “easy stretching.”

2. Expect a welcoming environment, but not necessarily one free of all distractions – my class is NOT one where the door gets locked the second the class begins, where the only sounds you hear will be waterfalls and birdsong, or where you must wear Lululemon (and look spectacular in it, even while your feet are wrapped around your head) to participate. Those classes are lovely, or at least they CAN be, but it’s not what my classes are about: I want to share the gift of yoga with all people – especially the newbies who are just learning to love it! Most of my classes are taught in local community centres and schools, where we sometimes have to move tables or desks out of the way, and frequently hear traffic or bouncing balls from the gym next door. One of the most important yoga principles is learning to focus on your own breath, and the sensations in your own body, instead of dwelling on outside distractions.

All of that being said, please try to minimize any distractions you might be bringing to the yoga environment for others! Turn OFF the ringer/vibrate function on your cellphone. If you forget and it rings, please don’t awkwardly pretend it’s not yours while everyone else looks around uncomfortably; just get up quickly and switch it off – people sometimes forget, and we will forgive you for that.

Try to make it to class on time, but if you must be late, please come in as quietly as possible. Close the door softly, lay out your mat quietly, and move into the pose we are working on. There is no need to announce why you are late – that only distracts the other participants from their own practice.

3. Expect a variety of body types and levels of practice – people often say to me that “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible.” And I always tell those people they are EXACTLY who should be taking yoga! You don’t need to be flexible and strong to take yoga, you just need the desire to become MORE flexible and MORE strong; and the more frequently and steadily you practice, the more strength and flexibility you will begin to see in your body. I provide various levels for students to progress at the rate best suited for them. As a student, you must pay attention to your own body and honour the place it is in. So what if you currently must bend your knees to touch your toes? So what if you must take Child’s pose instead of downward dog sometimes? So what if handstand isn’t part of your current practice? We call it YOGA PRACTICE, not yoga perfect. Yoga is about making improvements, NOT about being awesome.

4. Expect to challenge yourself, but remember to listen to your body – just as in the previous note, I want you to honour yourself and your body…but I also want you to work to improve. Often we confuse discomfort with pain, and it is imperative that you learn to tell the difference. That 80’s fitness slogan “No Pain, No Gain?” Total garbage. Pain is not a good thing! Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, and you should stop or ease up immediately. Please honour that, both in my class, and in life.

Discomfort is very different. Discomfort is your legs shaking in Chair pose, or your shoulders burning in Downward Dog, and it is a good thing…a VERY good thing. Discomfort means that you are making progress and getting stronger. Improving our selves and our bodies is never easy; in fact doing so is hard work, which takes effort and dedication. Challenging poses will become less challenging the more we work at them; if we simply stop because challenging poses cause us discomfort, then we will never get stronger, we will never become more flexible, and we will never improve. Learn to breathe through discomfort, and reap the benefits of challenging yourself.

5. Expect to hear some Sanskrit – those funny words you hear me repeating over and over? Those are Sanskrit terms for poses, and they will eventually become familiar to you. You might even begin to know them well enough to use the Sanskrit words yourself. But don’t be daunted by the foreign language; I also use the English terms along side the Sanskrit ones, and I will always DESCRIBE what I want you to do, so I promise that you will be able to figure it out. And there won’t be any tests!

6. Expect a relaxation component – at the end of practice, we always “seal in” the hard work we’ve just done with a relaxation component. You will lie on your back with your eyes closed, legs falling open toward the outside edge of your mat, and arms stretched out at your sides with palms facing up. This pose is called Savasana, or Corpse pose. I will turn the lights down low, and talk you through the beginning of Savasana. Then, we will all be quiet and you will focus on your body and your breath – usually for 3-5 minutes. Eventually, I will invite you to move up to a seated position, and bring your hands into “prayer position” for us the say thank you – to ourselves, to each other, and to God, to the Universe, or to life in general (whichever is most agreeable to you). The term we use in yoga is “Namaste,” which simply means “the light in me greets the light in you.” It is customary for the yoga teacher to say Namaste, and for class participants to repeat the word back to the teacher.

7. Expect to get hooked – if you REALLY let yourself be in the moment , one day you will experience the highs that yoga has to offer. For many of us, the most difficult part of yoga is turning off our minds and focusing on the moment at hand. We can be distracted by others in the class, outside noises or smells, worries about our “to do list” or our family, and even our own feelings of limitations and weakness. BUT if you can set all that aside for the duration of your practice, focus on your breath and your body, and really just be in the moment, that feeling of lightness and strength will find you, and you will be hooked forever!

Hiatus and Good News

Hello my dears!  Just wanted to post a quick note to say that I’ve been traveling all over Alberta and Saskatchewan, and for the precious few snippets of time that I’ve been home, I haven’t been able to hang out much at my actual home.  You see, we are having renovations done, so we’ve got tradespeople trying to get some work done, and they probably don’t want me pestering them, so I’ve been leaving them alone.  Because they’re here, I had to go to the lake (oh, poor me – right?!  Supremely kidding – I LOVE it at our family cabin!), but there isn’t any Internet access there, so alas there have been no posts lately.  Annnnnddddd I’m heading back there tonight – I don’t even have a toilet here, so there isn’t much point in sticking around home!  That means I probably won’t post anything else for another week-ish.  I think you’ll survive without me.

Before I go, though, I want to share some happy news:  today I wrote my last yoga exam, so I AM COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY DONE my 200 hour teacher training.  I won’t be certain until I get the marks back, but I feel pretty good about today’s test…and I felt pretty good about the last one too.  I got that exam back today, and guess what?  90%!!!  That’s right – I’m a smartie-pants.  I’m being facetious, but I am pretty proud of myself, and it’s fabulous to be finished.  Amazing feeling, I tell ya!  Now I just have to wait for my certificate to arrive so it feels even more official…oh, and then I’ll probably enroll in the 300hour add on when my teachers offer it a little later on (but don’t tell my husband – he thinks all this fitness learnin’ business is OVER!).

Anyway, I’m off to the lake – I hope your summer has been delightful so far and only continues to get better!

My thoughts exactly – LOVE this!

the view from my mat

In the yoga world (as in the world at large) you will run into a small population of die hard opinionated people who take their belief systems to an all time extreme. In yoga these over-opinionated folks tend to take the teachings of the Yamas and Niyamas quite literally and very passionately.  I have total respect for these people in the same way that I have total respect for people who are really into their religion.  However where these yoga extremists lose me is in their judgement of others… Criticism and harsh words go hand-in-hand with everything yoga is not about.

You know that yogi who starts bawking about the philosophic teachings of yoga in that typically condescending and self riotous kind of way?  Whether they’re really into sobriety, or are sexually repressing themselves in the name of brahmacharya, or are super-vegans who live on a diet of nuts…

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Emerging from the Hibernation

Hello lovely blog readers!

I have not gone into hibernation, I promise – although I’ve certainly been away from you for far too long, and the gorgeous weather of late reminds me of hibernating creatures waking from their slumber and stumbling out into the glorious sunshine.  Sincerest apologies, but sometimes a mini hiatus just cannot be helped.  The life of a High School English teacher (who has zero prep time) simply does not lend itself to blogging daily.  Especially during progress report time.  In addition, I’ve been dealing with some other “time suckers;” I believe that I mentioned some medical issues a few posts back, and they are exactly what I’m referring to.  I’ve got two entirely separate, but fairly serious medical problems right now.  One of them I am not quite ready to speak about publicly (but it is not life-threatening, so please don’t worry!), and the other is a tumor on my liver.  Now, I know that the word “tumor” can be awfully frightening, so let me start by telling you that my specialist DOES NOT believe that my tumor is cancerous.  He does, however, think that it needs to be surgically removed.  I had a biopsy this past Friday so that we can learn more about the mass, but I don’t have the results back yet, so I am still not sure when I will need to go for surgery.  I don’t imagine that the surgery will be scheduled immediately, as Cancer patients with more pressing needs will obviously take priority, but other than that, I have no idea about timelines.

What I do know is that the recovery period from such a surgery can be a rather lengthy process, where intense physical activity must be avoided.  That likely means no running, no yoga and no weight training.  Yuck.  Now is not the time to stress about these things, though – I will cross that bridge when I get to it.  For now, I will focus on being as active and healthy as I can, and I’m sure that everything else will fall exactly into place in due time.

With all of that being said, I hope that you can forgive me for not posting in over a week.  While life in the next while will still be nutty for me, it looks as though it will slow down at least a tiny bit.  I will try to post at least every 3 or 4 days from now on…and if I don’t, well, I think you can handle it.  🙂

I hope the rest of your week is fabulous!

Purslane Fruit and Veggie Wash

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about how “dirty” fruits and vegetables often are – and earlier this evening I read a post over at Natural Knowledge 24/7 about the 10 Dirtiest Fruits and Vegetables.  Obviously we should opt for locally grown organic foods whenever possible, or even better – grow our own – but that is not always do-able.  My husband and I do try to purchase locally grown food when we can, and I frequent the farmers’ market in my town when it runs during the spring, summer and fall.  We live in small town, Alberta, Canada, where our growing season is something like 3 weeks*, however, so in order to have fresh fruits and vegetables year round, imported foods in the supermarket are a necessary evil for us.

Even if you have to buy fruits and vegetables that are not organic, you CAN do a few things to lessen the impact of pesticides and other contaminants.  Fruit and vegetable washes have become much more popular in recent years, but it seems to me that most of those are really just additional chemicals that you put on your food to get off the dirt.  Kind of counter-productive.  Instead of the typical fruit and veggie washes you might find in your supermarket, my husband and I use an all natural fruit and vegetable wash that is made right here in Canada, just a few hours away in Saskatchewan.  Natural Plantation makes a fabulous fruit and vegetable wash from Purslane (from the Portulaca plant), and it is so safe that you could drink it if you wanted to (though I’m not sure it would be the most satisfying beverage).  This stuff is good, and I mean good.  We use it for all of our produce, and simply put a pump or two into about 1/2 a sink of water, then let the food soak for a while.  It takes off a LOT of dirt and grime; you should see how gross the water is when you take the fruit and veggies out of the sink.  The nice thing is that you don’t even need to rinse your food!  We also sometimes use the wash to clean off meat and seafood before cooking, and one bottle usually lasts us for a couple of months or longer.

Even if you buy organic food all the time, your fruits and vegetables probably still have dirt and other contaminants on them – including animal feces…yum!  So no matter what type of produce you buy, you can benefit from Purslane Fruit & Veggie wash.  You can buy this product in both Canada and the United States, and I really believe it is worth it.  Check it out!

*Yeah, okay – I’m exaggerating, but not by a lot – I swear!

I Want to Pump You Up!

Did you read the title with an odd, pseudo-Austrian accent a la Hans and Franz of SNL fame?  I hope so – it is much cooler that way.

I thought it would be a fitting title for two reasons:

A) I spent a lot of moolah this weekend on fitness equipment for my “Sunrise Sweat” class, which starts this week.  The point of the class is to “pump up” my participants…well, sort of.  Two of the ladies in my class texted me a picture of a woman with arms as big as my calves (and much more muscular) accompanied by the message, “We’re game for class but we don’t want to look like this!”  I guess that means they aren’t going to be taking any steroids before arriving at my fitness class.  I don’t think they really have too much to worry about; while I design workouts that build strength, I am much more interested in a streamlined physique than growing giant manly arms!

B) I spent a large portion of my evening pumping up recently purchased stability balls and BOSUs.  Notice the foot pump?  I overheated my electric pump and had to use the manual one.  It took a while, but I got everything inflated, and had a little leg workout at the same time.

Speaking of legs – I have really exciting news!  At least it is exciting news for me…you might think it’s a little silly, because I tend to get excited about things that other people sometimes find a bit ridiculous.  But on with the story:  every time I have attended one of my Yoga teacher training weekends, many of the other teacher trainees have these fabulous leg warmers and cool high socks to keep their feet and legs toasty before and after practice.  I always wear plain white ankle socks and feel really boring.  Plus, because my yoga pants are crops, the bare skin on my legs sometimes gets cold.  I covet the cool leg warmers…but no more!  I am now part of the cool kids’ club.  That’s right – I have leg warmers.  I found them at Wal-Mart for about $6, and had to have them.  I also bought two pair of $3 knee-high socks while I was there, and turned them into my own DIY leg warmer creation.  I can’t take all the credit, though; I totally stole the idea from a wonderful yoga classmate named Melissa.  Melissa reminds me a bit of a rock star, and she wears the neatest stuff – including a sweet pair of home-made leg warmer socks that I have been coveting for the last month.  I hope she doesn’t mind that I borrowed her idea!

Here’s how to create this look:

1. Find a pair of tall socks that you enjoy – this pair can go all the way past my knee if I stretch them, and I really like the purple stripes.  The other pair is a pretty boring grey, but they will probably match with more of my other stuff.

2. Take a pair of scissors and cut off the toe of the sock just below the seam line.  Then cut a triangle out of the heel.  Most socks have a slight line where the knitting changes direction, and many socks (including these) have a different coloured heel – cut just inside the different colour/knitting line.

3. Voila!  You have a neat little pair of leg warmers.

Here is a close up of my toes – I just got a pedicure on Friday, and I’m loving the sparkles on top of the dark plum, so I thought I’d show off up close.  Thanks Sharla at Exhale!