Monday, 20 July 2015

Authenticy in the Port City

authenticity has been on my mind constantly lately. Living an authentic life, being genuine and direct are things I strive to practice every day. It has always been a challenge for me as an impatient implementer. My grand vision for things leaves me feeling downtrodden when the road ahead looks so difficult and precarious.

This leads me to the greatest thing that has happened to me in my mental health journey. Effexor. The NSRI that has transformed my outlook on life. I've been blessed with the affliction of depression and anxiety. It's something I had always considered 'part of my personality'. It had been an excuse to lay in bed and fret and worry and obsess.

The panic attacks became more frequent and I was running out of energy at a cheetah's pace. Nothing felt like it could be totally right and easy.

I tried exercise. Lost some weight and whatever. Stopped indulging too much and generally slowed down completely. But that still wasn't solving that nagging voice inside my head that was telling me I wasn't good enough, I'm not worthy of the love and support around me, the world would be better off without me and so on and so forth.

In comes a therapy stint and recommendation by my doc. I gave cipralex a try. Six weeks of no change. I actually lost my appetite completely and lost more weight. I then wound down from that to Effexor. Long process but at that point I had switched jobs.

Enter enterprise SJ.

I've been talking them up since I started. For me it was a switch into the non-profit atmosphere that helped me find my focus & passion. I live in a hard city to love. Now I was getting to meet the people who want to carve out a place for themselves and to ADD instead of subtract from the atmosphere of this place.

Back to authenticity. By some stroke of luck, I've been able to witness a stream of authentic, genuine and overall, forward-thinking stream of people. They want to defy the odds by opening up shop in NB. Getting to be part of their journey is just about one of the best privliges I could have asked for.

My own journey towards a better mental state I believe can be attributed to two things: my blessed luck to have a doctor that understood my struggles & to finding my purpose.

I want to be honest about my personal stuggles publicly because I  know now that there is no reason to be ashamed. Speak out and ask for help. Be your authentic, beautiful and talented self.

I got to meet this filmmaker today who has such a vision for himself and the people he works with. I was clued into this perfect representation of life in SJ in my mind. Your weird SJ summer weather, your gorgeous rockwood park bbq with the whole crew, music, dancing, laughter. The whole gamut. I feel privliged that I get to feel this authentically beautiful vibe now.

Hope this rant finds you well, readers.

Friday, 5 June 2015

elastic heart

Anyone else a closet Sia fan? Elastic Heart has become my theme song and my newest feminist experience.

You see. I am a depression and anxiety sufferer. This past year has been extremely insightful. I've had moments of feelings of extreme failure, humiliation and just pure exhaustion. The problem with a person like me is that I feel too hard. Both good and bad. The book I've read on it and would recommend to anyone who feels similar is Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron.

The book highlights the 20% of the human population that have bodily reactions to moods, fears and upsets. Being 31 now, I feel like I have a bit of perspective on the matter.

When I was younger (and til now really) I was an extremely moody child.  The slightest thing would have me in a bawl fest. WAY beyond when it was appropriate to be like that. (Props to my parents in all this by the way <3)

I won't bore you with all the details but it was dramatic. As I look back and realize what types of behaviours have become problematic for me, it was all of those ones. The extreme sensitivity in all situations. I am not being negative toward myself either. I have also been extremely fun and social through this period of my life. Depression isn't always debilitating, and I would argue that is because the lion's share of us suffer from it in some degree so we all get along swimmingly.

Anyway, back to Sia. The elastic heart. I reckon that is what it takes to be a part of the world today. It is overwhelming to feel for everything. Toughening up is the only way I see myself thriving.  In my case, I have turned to modern medicine to try and help me.

I wanted to write this because I think that if you are feeling bad about yourself or your situation in any way, that you should get out there and get help. Your talents, strengths and capabilities are all clouded when you're feeling like that. Don't waste precious time not allowing yourself to thrive.

Your mind and mental health is a gift. Take care of yourself. As this beautiful new brand says, 'Selfcare is not Selfish'

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Clean Up #CommunitySJ CHALLENGE!

Okay! So, I posted a list of things to make Saint John better here recently. I have gotten such a lovely response from that post & I can't thank all you guys enough!!

This week my husband and I decided, along with some awesome friends, to just get out with our preschoolers and start picking up junk in our neighbourhood.

It was not a pretty sight to say the least but it took much little effort than all of us imagined. We are planning for more evening clean ups in the future! 

SO! I thought! Let's have a little #communitySJ challenge! I'm offering up $50 gift certificate to Brunswick Square for the person who submits a photo of the trash they pick up in their neighbourhood!

I put out the challenge on Loyalist City Newschasers and I'm adding the readers here and my Facebook & Twitter followers to join in. Let's do it! 

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Top 15 Places to Loiter in Saint John, NB #communitySJ

I think we give the word 'Loiter' a bad rap. 'No Loitering' is a sign we see time and time again along with 'Stay off the Grass'. Well, I'd like to challenge the negative connotation of the word and give you some options for places to go 'hang', 'chill' or LOITER. 

In the spirit of my last post, (which, by the way, THANK YOU READERS for sharing so much! xo) I wanted to expand on one of the ideas within that post with some ideas on where you can connect with your neighbours. 

What makes a community? I have to believe it is making an effort to continually connect and support each other. It's being willing to sit and wait for the connection, conversation or chance meeting to happen. It's being open to meeting people, sharing stories and experiences. It's taking one person's idea and helping to move it forward. 

So without further ado, here are the top 15 places to spend some quality time getting to know your fellow Saint Johners! 

1. King's Square- Spring, Summer and Fall is the time when you should take a chance and sit on a bench with someone you don't know. There are ALWAYS people in King's Square. Don't just buzz through. Ask leading questions like, 'Are you a north/south ender, west/east sider, ?' or 'What do you think about that Mayor Mel Norton?' Us Saint Johners LOVE sharing our opinions so do so in person!

2. Brunswick Square/Market Square/McAllister Place: I work for Brunswick Square and positively ADORE the morning coffee club that gathers in a few common areas. Get your favorite hot beverage and park yourself and see where the day takes you. Every mall has their own set of awesome local characters. 

3. For Summer Day Drinking: Any Patio - If there is a top summer activity Saint Johners love, I would argue it is patio parking. I know it is mine. After a few bevys, get to talking with the people at the next table. Are they travelling? Do they know Pete from the Ale House too? Find the common connection. Some options:The Boardwalk, Britts, Mexi's, Lily's Cafe, Steamer's have some incredible patio game. (Name your fav in the comments!)

4. For Winter Day Drinking: Local Watering Holes - This is also a favorite winter activity when I get the chance. There is nothing like waking up, grabbing a delicious breakfast and meeting pals for a snowy sit in at some of our favorite local haunts. Get to know your server! Let them know you are sticking around and looking for someone to challenge to a game of crib/darts/pool.  Special mention to Pete's Pub, Callahan's, Peel Pub, Rocky's Saint John Ale House, Portland Pub (Name your fav in the comments!)

5. The Floating Dock at the Coast Guard - Don't let the teens have all the fun! When the gate is open (or even if it's not, hehe), hop down on a sunny day and feel the sway of the surf below you. Bring a snack and even a blanket or something comfy to sit on. Tote along your camera or take some snaps with your phone of the gorgeous view of the bridge. Share on social media. 

6. The South End Splash Park- This is the IDEAL family activity in the heat of summer. The monkeys run free (without fear of drowning, yahoo!) and you can sit on a towel with a mindful gaze as you chat with other parents doing the same. Ask where their kids go to school and what else they do for fun in SJ! 

7. Queen Square Market- Okay this is by far my favorite weekly SJ summer activity. My three year old asks every Sunday if we are going to the market with the pizza. Get in line for a hot pie (or grab any other delicious offering) find the sunniest spot on the grass and just loiter the heck out of Queen's Square. STAY FOR HOURS! Talk to the vendors. Walk the area. Get to know the people making your lemonade, french bread, cheese and oatcakes. Ask why they do what they do! 

8. Fisher Lakes Dog Park- For all the dog lovers out there, what better topic is their! Fisher Lakes has an awesome enclosed dog park with the pooches can run free and you can chat with the person next to you about whether or not their dog is a rescue and what their other favorite dog friendly spots are. 

9. Every Single Beach Area: Make a Saint John Beach Bucket List. Go to every single beach this summer and challenge your friends to do the same. Winner buys a round on a patio. ;) Bring your suit, just in case the urge to take a dip in the surf comes along. Special mention to Fisher/Lily Lake area, Bayshore, Mispec, McLarens', Saints Rest (Name your fav in the comments!)

10. Frenchy's West- I cannot even count the amount of times some sweet lady has given me something she thinks would look good on me. DO THE SAME! As your digging through the awesome finds, make a suggestion to your fellow thrift searcher. I have walked away with some amazing things due to the Frenchy's fashionistas! 

11. The City Market -  This one is very obvious but I am not sure people spend enough time allowing themselves to just hang out there. Saturday Mornings, but also lunch hours are the peak times but why not take a free afternoon and linger. People usually have their own crew who they go with, but if you see the same faces week to week, make an effort to say hello. Say hi to Joe at Pete's, Diane at Sisters, Kylee at Sagratis or Dave at Slocum's. Ask how their day is going and thank them for their years servicing our community! 

12. The Beavers at Loyalist Burial Ground- This is a more relaxed, 'take in the history' loitering zone. If you are a bit shy, this place is a good spot for taking a book and just being a part of the park's landscape. As I said in my last post, making an effort to take your day to day activities to public spaces will make our city look better and takes little effort! 

13. Any Coffee Shop: Why not forgo the takeaway cup and settle in and see what happens? Top's, Second Cup, Java Moose, Starbucks and Timmy's all offer cozy corners for people watching. There is a 50/50 chance you will see someone you know so just make no plans and just go park! Chat with the barista's! Friendly regulars are the best kind of customer. 

14. Saint John Free Public Library-  This is another fantastic spot for the shyer sect. A bustling library populated with knowledge hungry locals is a sight to see. Read the newspaper together in the common room. Share your opinion on local matters with someone. Get in a debate! Don't be afraid of friendly discourse. 

15. Community Centres/ Shamrock Park- I love this one because my dad used to take us to Shamrock/Carelton Community Centre to just 'see what was going on'. He would bring some tennis rackets for us and there was always someone looking to join in a game of doubles in badminton, volleyball etc. Go chill at a community centre and see who's up for a pickup game of something. That is what they are there for! 

I know there are plenty more ideas out there so please, feel free to share and chime in! Let's make an effort today to get out there and connect with our fellow Saint Johners. We are special and have a lot to offer each other. Take the pledge to build a #communitySJ with me! I dare you! 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

12 Ways to a Better Saint John.

This topic cannot escape my mind lately. How do we make our city better, faster. I feel like as Saint Johners (and New Brunswickers) we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well I am tired of waiting for someone to come along and make it better for me. 

SO. I am here today with 12 ways YOU can make Saint John better, right now for little to no cash beyond normal living expenses. 

1. Go outside. Seriously. Use our parks, trails and use our long winters as a chance to explore parts of Rockwood and Irving Nature Park that are left untouched. Start a unique sea glass or driftwood collection. Bring something home that is 'Saint John' as a reminder.

2. Take a drive. Bring along a dice labeled left, right and straight. Get lost in an area of the city you've never been to. See where each roll of the dice takes you. You'll get to know the ins and outs of the city & I bet you find some place you've never laid eyes on before that you can boast about later.

3.Talk to a stranger NEIGHBOUR. Our community is divided on so many issues. Why not engage with someone you've never met and start to build a larger community fabric despite our differences?

4. Frequent locally owned businesses. YES, often times local spots are a bit pricier but a lot of them are on even par. A Java Moose coffee clocks in around the same price as a Timmy's. Every little bit helps and will get you focused on helping people who give back to the community by building their businesses here. 

5. Volunteer an hour a month. Even if it is offering to sit and chat with a less fortunate person in the park to hear their story. Every little bit of good energy makes a difference. 

6. Clean up your street. Grab a bag & maybe your kiddos and head outside for some DIY neighbourhood beautification. Instead of complaining about the state of the streets and each other's supposed roll in making it that way, lets just move on and each make our little corner of SJ gorgeous again. 

7. Attend public events. Having organized free events for the public, I can tell you just how difficult it is to get people to actually show. Whether or not it's a highly organized event or a free community BBQ, JUST GO. Seek out these events. Having more bodies out experiencing everything will only help these types of events grow bigger and better. 

7. Don't scoff at slow tourists. Seriously, why not ask if they need a hand or point them toward your favorite SJ landmark. A bad experience is spread 20 fold and a good one much less so. So always make a point to be helpful and be proud of what we have to offer. 

8. Share SJ Positive things on social media. Too often we use the internet as a soapbox on which to scream from. (Take this post for example ha!) There are some gorgeous sites dedicated to our beautiful people and area. This, this, this and this for example. 

9. If you want to complain, have a solution or an action plan. Often times we think we we know everything about all things. Take potholes for example. I don't pretend to understand the beating our roads took this winter nor am I an engineer charged with fixing this whole place. It is useless to waste time complaining about things I can't personally fix or know anything about. However, if you want to organize and head to council with your concerns, by all means! Either use your energy and expertise on something you do know about or use the proper channels to protest.

10. Build up the doers.  We are all strapped for time. If you don't have much to give, make sure you shoot a Facebook message or tweet to someone to say, 'Nice One Buddy'. It really will make a world of difference to someone who feels like they are working against the tide all the time. 

11. Get to know Saint John. Seriously, there are free walking tours, info kiosks and an insane free public library. The more you know about the history the place, the more you will love it, I promise you. For a laugh, go back and check out the Times Globe from the 1900s or simply have a conversation with the illustrious David Goss. We have incredible stories and legends attached to this place. 

12. Be Yourself. There is nothing more 'Saint John' than the people in it. Ignore the voice in your head saying we are 'downtrodden', 'poor' and 'unlucky'. You know that isn't true or you wouldn't be here. We are a bunch of tough cookies you guys. Most people in the world couldn't live here but we do anyway. 

Our strong spirit is going to be NECESSARY if we want to build ourselves up again. The blows we are experiencing now by way of daycare fund decreases, tuition rebates, senior care cuts are extreme and painful. It is time to put our heads down and AS A COMMUNITY figure our way out. No more relying on anyone else but ourselves. #CommunitySJ

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Seeing New Brunswick in Vermont

If anyone follows me on social media at all, you'd be well aware we exchanged the usual week away down south for a chilly week exploring all things Vermont. Let me tell you, the adventure was much more transformative than any all inclusive could have offered me personally. I totally didn't expect this. After all, on the surface, the state looks a heck of a lot like New Brunswick. 

From almost hitting a pack of wild turkeys to the maple syrup crazed tourist culture to the incredible devotion to its historic properties, this pastoral state has the look and the feel of my own province. It was the subtle differences that began to blow me away and got me thinking about what Vermont does right that NB could take a look at.

Obviously there are some major bonuses Vermont has when it comes to its layout. With its proximity to a gorgeous ski region and more than a few major U.S. cities, it has tonnes of draw when it comes to tourism. However, beyond tourism, Vermont's industries are few. New Brunswick has the opposite setup so we are at a disadvantage. We certainly have a fantastic recreational scene but the drive to get there would be tough for the Quebecois, Americans, Nova Scotians etc. My argument today is that some of the things VT has done to preserve its uniqueness are a major part of the reason people are drawn to visit the state, not JUST for the convenience. 

The biggest thing we noted when we began our trek to Manchester, VT is how drastically the highways change between New Hampshire and the VT state line. You very suddenly go from major tolled highways to an outrageous tour through every last little town you can imagine. I'm talking 'the highway goes through Main Street' kind of thing. It was as if they decided that once you got to Vermont, you were going to slow the eff down whether you like it or not. Being forced into slowing down and taking your time to soak in tree drenched mountains and towns frozen in time in is a theme we ended up seeing often. 

I love this idea for New Brunswick. Encouraging people to 'take the long way' can result in the best adventures. We stopped at weird convenience stores and saw the pristine and falling down old barns, horses, cows and farm stands. All of it was part of the scenery, not meant to be 'driven through'. New Brunswick is so often called the Drive Thru province. What if that was taken in a positive context? 

The other major thing we noticed about Vermont through talking to MANY people, is just how adamant they all are about supporting the community at large. From the fanciest fine dining spot we visited to the dive-i-est dive bar, all things Vermont were most prominently featured. Whether it was cheese, meat, cider, beer, coffee or the wood the bar was made out of, they excitedly talked about how it was from their Green State. Even the gas stations only served Green Mountain Coffee and a few other local brands. Imagine Java Moose in EVERY Irving? 

We were looking for a cab downtown in Burlington and spoke with the front desk. The woman told us that the cabs had recently become unreliable. When I asked her why and it was because the company that had been reliable, began acquiring too many shuttles and were thus taking airport business away from the other cab companies. The city considered it a monopoly and shut it down. Now Uber is the best way to get around Burlington. The mayor even reported using it and is considering changing the cities ordinances on the matter. Our very first Uber ride was with Thomas, a retired professor who just loved driving around chatting with people. He gave us the run down of how supportive people are of each other in their community which is why Uber has worked so well as it's P2P. People trust their neighbour to pick them up and get them where they need to go. New Brunswickers know their neighbours, often within 1 degree or two. Putting the money back into the hands of the driver instead of the company is something I personally see as the future of commerce. Imagine an overhaul of how public transport works in NB? 

We saw one smoke stack for a small paper mill the entire 9 hours we drove through south to north west and through the north east of the state. The rule in the city of Burlington is if a building you want to build is beyond a certain height, you have to purchase a Fire Truck that has a ladder that can provide service to it (usually to the tune of 1.5 million). They have no clothing and shoe tax to encourage commerce for local business. There are food co-ops everywhere. Vermont liquor policy ENCOURAGES you to open your own craft brewery, winery etc. The main shopping district in Burlington isn't a sprawl of malls but a pedestrian and there is no smoking ANYWHERE on that particular street. There are very few suburbs and there are solar panels for miles. The big ideas surrounding what's important to the state itself, trickles down creating all of these other policies protecting, preserving and celebrating what it is to be 'Vermont'. Imagine if New Brunswick embraced it's identity instead of constantly ripping it to shreds?  

There is so much I see in New Brunswick that can be done to make this kind of mentality shift happen. A few mom's I spoke to said they went out, lived other places in the USA and then couldn't imagine not coming home to raise their kids there. The schools are so fantastic, safe etc. etc. etc. They bring their kids to happy hour at craft breweries for pete's sake. Of course people who grew up in the area would leave for their own wanderlust and for opportunity. Just like our youth leave New Brunswick. What if we started making NB a place that families couldn't imagine not coming back to?  What if we reorganized to make our community whole, healthy and supportive of one another? How do we change minds and make people see that being from NB isn't something to hate but to celebrate? I am not saying to 'Be Vermont'. I want to Be New Brunswick. 

Friday, 6 March 2015

dream baby

So since I was a little kid, I've had this consistent dream about this blondish, curly haired, chatty, blue eyed kid with a well worn diaper on running around as I am witnessing his antics from a sleepy state in bed.

I could never clearly describe what he looked like when I woke up but the same scene played has played out randomly for as long as I can remember. All very vague.

Anyway, this is just a little moment I wanted to recognize here because I see that dream kid daily now. I have no sweet clue what that means but hearing the bridge in this song made me remember how I've had Neil in my head and heart since the beginning.