I met Stef when she worked at Press Juice and I was honestly going there far too much that I'd like to admit. While I was pregnant I craved fruit and juiced nice conversation - and that I would find when I ran into her at my favourite juice and smoothie shop. Stef is the writer and creator of lokaldigs.com which is an incredibly savvy and delectable blog about all things Georgian Bay. She has an eye for culture and her recommendations are on point not to mention the photos of food are drool worthy to boot! She let me interview her and honestly she has such a way with words that I kind of didn't want the interview to end! Read on and find out about Lokal Digs and Stef's views of Gratitude.
If someone were to meet you at a dinner party for the first time and they asked you about yourself and your life what would you say?
First, they’d have to steal me away from the hors d'oeuvres. I live for dinner parties – simply for the food but also for the good conversation. It feeds my soul if you will. Most people see my life through the lens of Instagram or my blog, and in reality that’s only a tiny spec. Of course I highlight all of the wonderful things this area has to breathe but I am a growing human and I’d be kidding myself if I said everything was amazing. It’s pretty darn close though! I’ve learned that genuine, creative and real people are the secret to MY happiness. Without these relationships flooding my every day with the most amount of joy, seeing a Georgian Bay sunset, dining out at my fave restaurant or hiking through the escarpment simply wouldn’t be the same. I live for the connections (little and big) and this little place we call home is just bursting with curious beings. I can’t see myself leaving anytime soon.
What inspired you to start your blog Lokal Digs?
Would you believe me if I said two girls and a brunch date? Seriously though. During a really hard time in my life, I met these two wonderful friends who inspired me to do great things. There were parts to me I had yet to explore and it was a neat feeling. I 100% credit them for introducing me to the person I am today. Eggs, beans, guac and a few glugs of sriracha later, we came to the conclusion that I should write a blog and document my undying love for the area. Who knew almost three years later and I’d still be chugging away. The love just keeps on growing!
Since you could be called an “expert” on all things southern Georgian Bay - what would you say is THE best part about living here?
The people and Georgian Bay. That feeling that good friends and a good ol’ sunset makes you feel is irreplaceable. Living mere footsteps away from everything you need to make a bad day turn good is such a luxury. Those who don’t live here understand, and those who live here just need that reminder.
Can you share a time or times when you had to dig deep to find gratitude?
If I’m honest, I dig deep for gratitude quite regularly. I’m notorious for filling my plate with projects and commitments and every so often I hit that sweet spot of exhaustion (more times than I’d like to admit). I can be very hard on myself, and during those times where I’m crying to my peers, nursing a killer headache or when I think that I have failed myself yet again, I try to think of all the good that has come with the bad, and the opportunities that I have made for myself. It comes full circle and I enjoy looking back and knowing I can do it all. Appreciating the lesson and the reminders that life brings is a vital part of growing. Be good to yourself and appreciate the process.
What is your version of a gratitude attitude?
Keep an open mind. We have no idea what the future holds or where we will find moments of gratitude or when we will need them most. I believe in the classic phrase “treat others how you want to be treated”. Be a good person, and hopefully someone will be good to you when you need it most. Every choice, decision or act accumulates to who you are in this present moment. Be proud, be raw, be vulnerable and don’t shy away from telling people when you appreciate them. It means more than you’d know.
Check out Stef's blog at LokalDigs.com and follow her on Instagram @lokaldigs
I first met Meghan at the School where we teach. I used to come into her classroom once a week to teach Health and at the time I was just back to work after a leave and she had a very challenging class. I found her to be incredibly supportive and helpful towards me in her classroom and in the staff room Meghan was always so positive. It is easy to be drawn to her energy and passion for teaching!
I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed on the blog about Gratitude and of course about her love of New Kids on the Block!
If someone were to meet you at a dinner party and asked you to tell them about yourself and your life - what would you say?
Im originally from Tillsonburg. I’ve lived in Collingwood for the last 19 years. I’m a teacher, and love it. I’ve been with my significant other for the last 10 years and I have two teenage step sons.
You have this insatiable joy for the New Kids on The Block in fact, when you talk about it your energy is contagious! Can you tell us what it is about this group that lights you up so much?
I have a sweatshirt that says “it’s a blockhead thing, you wouldn’t understand” it’s hard to explain. I have loved them since I was 13. Maybe it’s a first love.... that never broke my heart. Maybe it’s pure innocents, never been jaded, by a single negative experience. Always 100% a positive. It’s hours and hours and hours of thoughts, over a life time... they have been apart of my life for 30 years. As a kid I worshiped them. I remember at a concert, Donnie split the audience, one half chanted ‘drugs’ the other half chanted ‘suck’ (goosebumps) I was never tempted to do drugs because of that moment. I can honestly say they have been nothing but a positive influence on my life. I have met so many amazing people along the way (including the band) some of my very good friends I met standing in line at a nk’s concert. It really, really is pure joy!
Would you share a time or times in your life that you had to dig deep to find gratitude?
There have been so many. I have had a lot of big (traumatic) events in my life; deaths, accidents, financial, legal, family...And for a long, long time I always just marched through. So many times people would say to me, ‘you’re so strong’, ‘you’re so positive’. I don’t know that I was...I used my positivity to cover it all up. I think I was (am) an expert at stuffing. Stuffing it all away. As I type this I can feel it welling up.... It’s only just recently that I have begun to dig deep... and not by choice. You see when you stuff it away, it doesn’t go away... it gets worse. Recently, last spring I crashed and burned, after years and years of feeling numb. I felt it all, emotionally, and physically. I couldn’t avoid it any more. So, I took time off of work, I went to counseling and lots of it. I took everything off of my plate, so to speak. And it was really, really hard. I went to yoga. I breathed . I walked and walked and walked on the beach. I picked up driftwood and I created. I painted. I am still a work in progress... I have a lot more digging to do. But I feel again, I can breathe again. I know I am on a path that is rocky and not always stable. But I will keep trying.
What is your version of a gratitude attitude today?
This is a work in progress for me. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I was much better at it when I was off work and had more time. But, I try to find time in my day to breathe. Because for a while there, it felt like I couldn’t breath. I have always been a positive person. I am trying to find a balance between being positive and feeling those, not so nice feelings. I do take time daily... well sometimes weekly to write in my gratitude journal. I ask my family and friends what they are grateful for. I try to be more present, and mindful during moments in my day. And... I need (working on adding) more yoga back in my life.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to participate and be part of the blog Meghan!! I believe that everyone’s story is valuable to someone and that by sharing we help each other in so many ways.
It's hard to believe that it was two years ago since our wedding day! I feel like so many major life events have happened since then. I love our wedding story so much that I just can't help but sit back and reminisce.
We were engaged at the Eiffel Tower in Paris (I know, swoon right?) and since we were working in Europe at the time we thought we would enjoy our engagement and think about the planning when we got back home later that summer. (I highly recommend taking an engagement honeymoon period).
So when we returned we were asked all the questions - WHERE and WHEN? We figured a beach wedding since we live at the most beautiful beach in the fresh water world. The planning started....and so did the stress. The costs alone began to wake me up at night never mind people's opinions and issues. If you know me you know that I don't handle stress and social drama very well AT ALL.
So, we kind of cooled off on the planning and at the end of November that year we went to a hockey game with our friends who had recently gotten married in the traditional style - it was a gorgeous wedding honestly I'd never seen so many beautiful flowers and people in my life. But, the whole experience (I was in the wedding) felt like a lot of overwhelm for my personal mental health. So, as we enjoyed our evening with our friends on the drive home we started to brainstorm ways in which we could save a ton of money and still have the wedding we wanted. And that night way past midnight, we decided that we were going to have a surprise wedding. Meaning that no one would know that it was a wedding until they got there!
Now, this was super tricky because I tell my best friends and my sister like everything. Like what I had for breakfast to how many foils the hairstylist used. So Blair was obviously hesitant that I could keep this a secret (spoiler alert I did tell SOME people out of necessity - wedding officiant (duh) hairdresser, wedding dress seamstress, caterer, manicure lady, flower boutique - I mean come on a girl has to squeal excitedly to a few people ok?)
So we started planning furiously, making calls, staying up super late every night after work cleaning and prepping the house. Oh ya, I guess I should tell you that we decided to have our wedding in our backyard on our home made skating rink.
Oh and I guess I should ALSO tell you that this is where Blair and I really started. We had dated previously and grown apart for various reasons but when we reconnected it was because he had built a home made skating rink and needed someone to test it out. I grew up as a figure skater and I LOVE skating so I was in. I mean my DREAM as a young kid and teenager was to have my OWN personal skating rink (Have you ever watched the movie The Cutting Edge???) So truthfully, the rest is history. Like how could I not fall in love with a man who makes his own home made rink?
Right so back to the wedding planning - we did it all the two of us! We pulled strings with caterers, I tried on and bought my wedding dress alone - which sounds kinda sad but it wasn't really because I Skyped my best friend who lives in Switzerland because I obv needed SOMEONE and I knew she wasn't going to spill the beans to anyone over here.
We sent out invitations to our close family and friends to come to a winter skating "Engagement" party. We also told our families that we were having family photo's taken at 3pm and only had the photographer for one hour so that they would be sure to show up on that date and time (This was only a part lie because we DID have a photographer and we DID get photos taken).
We had our wedding rings designed and made by the very talented Sasha Oda of Archerade whom I have known since I was 6 so that was super special.
My best friend in the whole world Jin, (who lives in Switzerland) wasn't able to be there but we were able to borrow the white benches for seating that her husband built and used for their own weddings (long story - needs another blog post) so that was also super special and felt like in a way they could be there with us. She also sent us the spices that we used to make our Mulled Wine for the toast in the ceremony. (In Paris when Blair proposed, it was so hot out that I jokingly said that the red wine we were drinking under the Eiffel Tower seemed like Mulled Wine.)
Our flowers were put together by the gorgeous Leuk in Collingwood - funny side story - my bouquet was made by a girl who has now become one of my besties and we didn't know each other back then!
The seat we used for our signing table was one of Blair's collection of "The original 6" hockey arenas - the one we used was the Montreal Canadians. (My favourite team is the Maple Leafs and Blair's is the Ottawa Senators so we agreed that Montreal would be a good meetinthemiddle.)
Blair literally woke up every night at like 2 - 3 am the nights before the wedding to make sure that the ice was just perfect - if you know him you know how he takes on these personal challenges and takes them SERIOUSLY and in the middle of the night is when it is the coldest and best ice making weather. I mean this skating rink on the morning of our wedding looked like GLASS. It was perfect.
Did we feel badly not being able to invite every single person that we know and love? Yes, of course we did.
Did we think that they would understand? We sure hoped so. We wanted to buy a house and have a honeymoon with the money that we could have spent on a wedding (flash forward we DID those things!) So, we hoped that people we love and care for and who love and care for us would see the bigger picture and appreciate where we were coming from. To be honest, we only got a few sideways glances and grumpy sentiments- for the most part 99% of our responses were pure happiness for OUR pure love and happiness.
So, as people arrived they saw the sign that said "Welcome to our Wedding...Yes, Wedding! Surprise!" And the best part is that our wonderful photographer Kate of Visual Roots was able to capture their faces when they read the sign!
Not even my own mother or sister knew! They were shocked, I mean jaw hit the floor shocked!
Oh ya and I forgot to tell you - we got married wearing our skates (I almost ate it coming down the stairs in them too which would have meant an entirely different spin on this recollection for sure!)
Honestly, it was the most magical and special day of my life (before our baby was born obv) and because the two of us planned it right down to the fine details TOGETHER. At 11pm night before we were sitting on the same couch writing our vows on clipboards from one of my old classrooms and giggling that his was on green paper and mine on pink. The whole thing was just so so so special to us.
So here are MY personal tips on how to plan a wedding:
I hope you enjoyed this little recollection of our wedding day! I know I do every single time I share this story.
So, I spoke about having some anxiety last week and and how I work through that. Going to therapy is one of the tools that I use to keep me afloat and doing well. It is, for me, a safe space to contain thoughts and feelings that otherwise don't get a chance to escape my mind or my body. I honestly look at therapy as an oil change for my brain - even when things are going well I still need to get that oil change. I make a point to go regularly.
Not all therapy is meant to dig up tough stuff. While it can be helpful to understand the way we are because of the way we were or the way things went, a good therapist will not re-traumatize you or lead you somewhere you don't want to go.
That's the key learning I took away from today. I walked up the steps to my appointment and thought to myself "Hmm, last time I was here I was really struggling with anxiety and yet today I feel like I've released that and can focus on the positive work that I'm doing in this world." I realized that by writing about the anxiety and sharing it with you, as well as the Gratitude Challenge from last week that I had made space for new and better things to talk about and work on.
Today there were no tears. There were no anxious feelings. I wasn't worried about leaving the baby with Nana today. And I am a firm believer it's because I TALKED ABOUT those fears, worries and anxious thoughts that I was having. (Talked about it, wrote about it, was open and honest about it and finally - moved OUT OF IT.)
The more we release these things that no longer serve us (but that may seem taboo or unmentionable), the more space we have to create joyful projects and meaningful connections with others. I did realize though that people are not used to, nor are they trained to respond when you open up about having anxiety.
I'd like to offer some suggestions on how to respond to someone who might open up to you when they are having a difficult time:
Sometimes people with anxiety don't know that is what they are dealing with. So, if you notice a friend or co-worker having a hard time coping with stress, maybe just do a little something to lighten their load without asking them what they need. (Sometimes they don't yet know what they need) An example of this might be, bringing them a tea or another random act of kindness. Just asking how they are doing. Maybe tell them a funny story or joke. Whatever act of compassion that you can do could just help that extra little bit.
Finally, if you or someone you know needs help on a clinical level please know that there is no shame in seeking help. We take our cars in when they need maintenance. Our brains deserve regular maintenance too! We would never tell someone not to get their blood pressure checked if they felt it was out of whack so we ought to be more understanding of someone seeking help for feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
But most of all, talk about it. Write about it. Sing about it. Dance about it. Paint about it. Express it however works for you. And if you happen to be the person that someone talks to about it - try using some of the suggestions above.
Once you release the struggle you allow space for the magic to happen (I think of this like letting the fizz out of the champagne - once the fizz is out and has settled a bit you can get to the delicious tasty treat) In that space you can work on creating new passions, new hobbies, feeling good, exercise, eating well, connecting with others - whatever it is that you feel great doing.
So this week I started a Gratitude Challenge. Which means I'm obviously the most grateful, happy, cool, calm and collected person on the planet right?
This week I think my anxiety hit a high note. It hasn't been this out of control in a long time. Probably since back in 2015 - but that's a story for a different post.
This could possibly be "postpartum-lack of sleep-hormonal rollercoaster-broken back and wrists-anxiety" , but as I'm not a doctor nor am I in my scope of practice to diagnose - this is simply what I'm calling it.
Anxiety rears it's ugly head when the nervous system is taxed to the max. When you're so stressed out either mentally, physically or emotionally - that's when those anxious gremlins come a knockin'. (As you're reading this is your jaw clenched? Theeeere you go, relax baby.)
Anxious gremlins? What are those? Those sound like muppets....(that's how I picture mine to be truthful).
They are those little thoughts that creep in and sound something like this:
"You can't do that..."
"Who are you to do/think/say those things?"
"The world is terrible and there's no point in doing the things I love..."
"No one understands me..."
"I'll be judged if I do or say what I really love to do..."
"Why did she look at me like that?"
" Stay home don't go out and socialize with the people who lift you up because it's so much cozier here at home in your misery pyjamas...."
"I'm afraid that XYZ will happen to my child so I'll just bubble wrap her three times and never watch tv let alone go anywhere."
"I forgot everything I had planned to bring because I was rushing and couldn't think straight, ugh what's wrong with me?"
"I'm afraid I'm not good enough at XYZ so I am not going to join the club, or speak up in a conversation..."
"I cried about that stupid thing in front of soandso, why can't I get it together?!"
"What's wrong with me!?"
Any of those sound familiar?
Those are the anxious gremlin muppets (like the evil muppets not the cute ones) and they love to take over your thoughts. (And sometimes not even thoughts but just actions) And guess what? The more attention you give to them - the more you feed them. The more you give in to those scary gremlin thoughts the more they grow. They can get so big that you literally can't move because the gremlin muppets have gotten so fat that they are now sitting on your chest and your heart is pounding because it feels like it has no room to beat.
The baby hasn't been sleeping, she's teething and I have been on the go visiting family all week which has been exhausting. I can feel myself slipping down a slippery slope when I snap at my husband, can't take a joke or cry for no reason. (I mean don't get me wrong a good cry is needed once and awhile ammaright?) I've been having nightmares and paralyzing fears that something will happen to the baby if we drive somewhere or if I leave her with someone or or or....it's exhausting. And I know that they are irrational thoughts but man it takes a ton of energy that I don't have to talk my mind back on track (everything's fine, she will be fine, just drive safely, she's in good hands etc etc. )
Thanks a lot anxiety. You are sooo fun to deal with. And man do you ever pick the best times to come out and play like, oh I don't know, family holidays, after the birth of a new child, in the middle of report card season, on the way to the Santa Claus parade or, sometimes they do all their work behind the scenes and jump out at you in the middle of a lovely dinner and you're like "what and who the hell are you?!" (This is where I kind of picture Animal Muppet)
They're crafty those gremlins.
So this week - the Gratitude Challenge week OF ALL THE WEEKS - this is when my gremlin muppets decided to come out in FULL effect. And I'm supposed to be leading the gratitude challenge. Efffff.
In part though - I think that they came out to show me that I am likely not the only one. And that maybe being honest with you about this struggle is a way for us to support each other and maybe I can even help you understand and name what you might also be feeling. In fact research has shown that being able to name it - ANXIETY GREMLIN MUPPETS (there I did it!!!!) can actually LOWER the symptoms of said anxiety. So, there we go, one step closer.
Gratitude is also such a powerful tool to combat those gremlins. When they show up to be all like "everything sucks and the world is shitty and climate change is real and I can't do anything about it" you can respond and be like "Actually not everything is shitty because I have (name and count your blessings) and yes climate change is real but there are actions that I can take everyday (recycling, compost, eat less meat, walk/bike). And guess what happens when you do that? That gremlin starts to shrink a little bit because you've taken away some of his fuel so he can't keep getting bigger. (See - this is where the muppet visual is useful).
I could honestly write a blog post on each specific tool to use to combat anxious thought gremlins (and I still might) but for now I am going to just make a list of suggestions that you can use and that I find to help calm my nervous system the eff down.
I hope that it was helpful to you in some way either if you are dealing with anxiety yourself or perhaps to understand what's going on for a loved one.
I guess this is where I finally understand the meaning of "make your mess your message."
Sending you support and empathy,
PS. We can all support each other at the My Gratitude Attitude Facebook Group HERE.