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.
One summer a long time ago (clears throat...10+years), I worked at a bar to make money to pay for university. I met three of my absolute best friends during that summer. We formed a bond that continues to grow even now all these years later. We backpacked around Europe together and continue to have many adventures now as we're older and our life stages have changed. Lucky for me (I corner them and send desperate email pleas) my friends agree to let me interview them about gratitude and other such things.
Kristine was blessed with an adventurous childhood, which she spent moving throughout Western Canada and Ontario with her close-knit family. She graduated from Journalism and Communications Media at Mohawk College and spent several years in the media industry working freelance for CTV News and several publications. She soon realized, a pursuit of her true self was calling. After several years working odd-jobs while pushing for her dream, Kristine was hired by the Toronto Police Service in 2014. She has since continued her vocational growth in the ever-changing position of a Police Constable. (I tried asking her all sorts on intel about conspiracy theories and stuff but she responsibly said "I can't talk about that stuff publicly Linds." Duh..I guess that makes sense. I'll just have to let my imagination run wild where the Toronto crime stories are concerned...
If you were to meet someone that you haven’t seen in ten years and they ask you how things are and what has changed - how would you answer?
Everything has changed and continuously is; that’s life and it’s fantastic. My path has been one truly carved out in my heart, but realized through the trial and error that is my human experience. As I continue to progress and search for truth and purpose in myself, the more clarity I am blessed with. Strange pieces of the past become a patchwork of my path to the now - and to my future. I feel completely blessed. I have realized everything I have honestly asked for, has been given to me. I feel empowered with purpose and driven to see what’s next to surface in my life.
Can you share a time or times when you have had to dig deep to find gratitude?
I think any time you experience great loss or watch a close family member or friend suffer, is where you are challenged to feel positive in many ways, including feeling gratitude. Specifically, for me, when my father went into hospital as a result of a heart attack - and following that had a secondary heart attack and passed away; this was a most difficult time of course for myself and my family.
I think while your living those moments, it can be hard to focus on soul searching and meaning, especially when it’s fresh, and your mind and heart are mourning. However, after some time has passed, the blessings begin to surface and you find the gratitude you were so desperately missing during that painful time.
I can say I am so blessed to have had such an amazing and loving father; he’d give you the shirt off his back. I am grateful I had two parents who weathered the hard times and always put their love for us first. I am blessed to have broken-off a relationship and ended up moving home in my thirties – which resulted in an enormous amount of quality time with my father I would have lost. And although his death was sudden, I am grateful he did not end up back in hospital again to his complete dissatisfaction. And of course, I am grateful to be alive today with the remaining, amazing members of my family – the word gratitude does not suffice in describing their true meaning to me.
What is your version of a gratitude attitude today?
My version? Waking each day with the intention of being present in the moment and mindful of blessings, no matter how seemingly insignificant. I will say with assertion, my job affords me heightened perspective; I see daily, the ways of life and challenges faced by so many. When I return home at the end of the day I am grateful for that insight, for the private moments, and for the confidence and trust complete strangers have afforded in their times of crisis, vulnerability and need; that is an enormous blessing.
So, let me introduce you to my best friend in the whole wide world. Her name is Jin Millea (nee Glover). She lives in Switzerland (which is awesome and terrible all at the same time). She also happens to be my daughters God Aunt (you know , the one that shows her how to dress fashionably, table manners a la Swiss, and which wine pairs with which meal).
We first met something like 14 or 15 years ago when we were both working at a bar in Wasaga Beach during the summer as a way to pay for our University studies. When we met we just clicked. She was the only one at our interview session for the job wearing heels and carrying a very fashionable purse. I liked this immediately. But obviously I realized that she was far more than just her Euro-inspired fashion. You know those people that just GET you? Jin is just that person for me. I can call her with whatever irrational ridiculous sentiment that I am having and she will listen, laugh at me but then also help me see the logic where it's lacking. She's kinda my filter and moral compass all in one.
I am so lucky that she took the time to participate in my gratitude project because she and her husband are in the middle of designing, building and opening a bar and grill in Langenthal, Switzerland.
If someone were to meet you at a dinner party for the first time and asked you about your life in the last ten years how would you describe it?
I would laugh, inhale and exhale deeply. Where to begin? Very intense but also easy, full of new but yet so familiar period of strengthened bonds while letting go of less meaningful ones, also letting go of bonds that may have been meaningful but didn’t support my character, my inner fire or sought to “calm” it for that matter.
I've had ups and downs. The highest of highs and the hardest of challenges. I married my first my love and most trusted friend, someone I never thought I would end up with again despite knowing how much I always cared for and favoured him. I lost all of my grandparents, losing Grosi has been the biggest heartbreak I’ve ever experienced.
Although I've always been a big family person I’ve realized even more how important , and immortal, loved ones really are and how much they are to be cherished.
I’ve been high on love and life and knocked down, knocked flat, even run over by things I couldn’t control or things I was too stubborn to realize or change.
There's been a rediscovery of who I am? Or a realization of who I have become? Not sure which but it's been a natural evolution, but somehow magical, as if predetermined
What are your best qualities and what are the things about yourself that you find yourself wanting to “work” on?
My best qualities : hmmm my loyalty and commitment to those I love, caring, good at bringing people together to have fun, I suppose I’m fairly resilient ( at least after rereading my answers to the first questions haha)
What needs work: patience, learning to be less demanding of myself, learning to forgive myself if I don’t meet all expectations at once, my temper.
You live in Switzerland but grew up in Canada, can you share some cultural or societal differences that you’ve observed or had to adapt to?
Haha. In many ways Canadians and Swiss are very similar but very different. They compliment each other very well and usually enjoy each others’ culture very much.
Culturally the Swiss are more discreet, introverted, reserved than Canadians. They can be a bit held back or shy at first, making it difficult to make friends quickly, but once you have them, they are extremely loyal and friends for life.
Culturally Canadians are known for their openness, friendliness and extroverted characters. They hold back much less than the Swiss, making it easy to make new friends in Canada, but unclear as to who will evolve into a forever friend.
Societal differences: Canadians love XXL – whether it be houses, meals, machinery, autos etc and the Swiss are quite opposite, favouring instead quality and ingenuity. The Swiss are super-efficient and organized, and this comes directly from how society is organized at all levels. Your township is your first check in, who then communicate with the Canton and then onto the Federal level. Canadian bureaucracy could definitely improve on this end.
The education system in Switzerland is also very different. School children are already organized from the 6th grade into the direction of study (ie. Trade schools or university). Only about 30% of school children here go directly to university after completing their mandatory schooling, while the majority head into excellently designed apprentice programmes (pretty much anything you would do in trades or college in Canada is completed via apprenticeship in Switzerland – this is a combo of schooling and practical application with a trade master). Further specialization/continued education and training programmes are huge here and the reason, in my view, for the famed Swiss quality. As you can probably tell, the whole system here is quite structured and begins at an early age – this has an effect on the way that people live their lives.
Punctuality – while Canadians are generally punctual (weather permitting), even they stare wide-eyed at how serious the Swiss take it. If the train schedule says 14:59, you better be on that train by 14:58 – because it is leaving at exactly 14:59 (and not a minute earlier, because people have planned down to the minute).
What the Swiss love about Canadian society is what they perceive to be a very spontaneous, relaxed and open culture. It is common for a Canadian to spontaneously invite someone over, host them for the night, feed them etc. The Swiss need to have this planned because they would feel they are not adequately prepared (especially with food, the Swiss tend to shop every day or every second day for their ingredients).
Both are very proud and patriotic and often noted for being ‘over polite’. Both have a slight neighbour complex, both are multilingual.
Canadians are strong in making newcomers and new Canadians feel welcome. The values that define Canadians can be easily adopted by newcomers, there really aren’t that many strict cultural aspects a newcomer must adopt to feel (or be seen as) Canadian. In Switzerland this definitely does not work as smoothly. Aside from all of the rules and regulations a newcomer must learn (and there are thousands of written and unwritten rules of conduct), the Swissness goes far beyond core values – it includes very much your day to day activity, the foods you eat, the holidays you celebrate and so on. Canadians are strong in celebrating diversity whereas the Swiss expect integration and adoption of their culture in many, many more aspects.
Canadians are also much louder and can start a party much quicker. There is less shame in Canadian society about letting loose than there is in here Switzerland. And if one lets loose here by accident, there’s usually a degree of embarrassment or shame felt about it later. Not serious, but definitely not comfortable with it.
Can you think of a time or times in your life when you have had to dig deep to find gratitude?
Indeed, While undergoing fertility treatment, most notably in vitro-fertilisation (IVF), I really struggled with the side-effects from the hormones – and quite honestly the whole bloody process. The hormones literally changed the way my brain was behaving and I was beginning to experience very dark and depressive thoughts and moods. I was honestly hardly grateful for anything during the process other than the support (and tolerance) I received from my partner and the support I received from friends close and far. I forced myself to feel gratitude for living in a country that had this medical technology available and legal. I forced myself to feel gratitude for living in a country that values me as person beyond just my gender and requirement to bear children. It was a very difficult time to find gratitude but forcing myself and practicing gratitude out loud did help a little. Shortly after, I was also informed that I would lose my job, a career I had worked very hard on and for over the last seven years, but really had grown miserable with. While anger and resentment were my first reaction, I slowly came to look at it as a sort of blessing as I noticed that I felt much lighter knowing there was an end in sight to the place. It also sent me down a new path, towards an opportunity and career in something that I am very, very passionate about. At the moment, as bizarre at it sounds to me know, I am grateful for exactly how it all unfolded, including the IVF process, because I am happy and motivated to live for myself right now.
What is your version of a gratitude attitude?
Never forget how fucking lucky you are. I tell myself this every time I get down. Sure, I have had rough times, but I have all of the tools, resources and privilege to overcome these. I remind myself that I was not able to pick where I was born, how healthy I was born, which citizenships I would receive, which family I would have, how much love I would receive from those that I love…and when I remind myself of these things, I overflow with gratitude.