Saturday, 19 July 2014

Big Changes!

2014 seems to be the year of change for me.

It started off with getting engaged last summer and then married this past April. Having David move in with me, and starting our lives together, counts as a pretty big change, I think!

We also decided to move closer to the town that he works in- Ware. So we started looking, and found a great flat (to rent) right on the High Street. With views towards the river, and right near the library, and pool, we quickly agreed to take it. Moving means that David won't have to bike miles and miles each day to work and back, and it also helps give us a fresh start. A place that we can call our own, that we picked out together, and doesn't feel like it belongs to one of us (as our currently flat still feels like "mine" and not "ours"). I'm excited for a new place to live and move to a town that has such a great reputation.

A while ago, I also made the decision to not return to my current school next September. David and I had talked about moving close to Ware, and through those discussions, amongst other reasons, I knew that the best option for us would be for me to leave my position at the school. For a while, I thought about doing supply and short term contracts, but another thought occurred to me: I could go back to school as a student!

For a long time, I have wanted to pursue my interest in Psychology and continue my education in that field. I love teaching, and working with young people, but it is not something that I could realistically do long term. Being on my feet, carrying boxes of books, and the other physical requirements of classroom teaching is very hard on my spine. As many of you know, I had a spinal injury whilst at university and have been left with bone, muscle, disc and nerve damage. While I can deal with this now, I cannot imagine being able to lug books around when I'm in my 40s, or 50s, when my neck will mostly likely be much worse than it is now.

Teaching anywhere is a difficult and time consuming job. Teaching in the UK, is almost an impossible job. The ever changing curriculum, constant check ups (because we aren't trusted to do our jobs), OFSTED and the way the system is set up, means that teachers here face an insane amount of pressure. In fact, one of the reasons that there are so many teaching jobs across England, and why there are so many young teachers, is because teaching here is very stressful. While I've not reached that burn-out stage yet, I don't see the point of waiting around until that happens, and staying in a profession that will likely make me miserable (and not because of the actual teaching, but because of everything else the system throws at you) doesn't make sense.

Since taking some Psychology courses in the past, I have entertained the idea of becoming either an Educational Psychologist, or working as a Counseling Psychologist. I have always fallen into the role of listener, and been the person that others confide in, so it seemed like a path that would make sense for me. By taking a MSc in Psychology, I will get the foundation that I need to specialise further and start a career in one of these fields. Within these jobs, I can still work with young people, but just in a different capacity. And, if all else fails, I can go back to teaching, or tutor part-time, to earn some extra income.

Because we were moving, and I was planning on moving jobs anyways, we figured now was the ideal time for me to go back to university to get the qualifications I need to shift careers. Getting accepted into the MSc Psychology course at the University of Herfordshire meant that I could make this dream a reality.

So while getting married, moving, leaving my job and starting a masters programme are all big life changes, they are all ones that I am extremely excited about.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Why I'm a feminst.


The "F" word has a lot of connotations attached to it... anger, bra burning, negativity, anti-family, etc.

To me, and to most true feminists, it means equality. It doesn't mean putting females above males, or giving them more privilege. It doesn't mean that women must become career driven and forget about staying home with their family. It also doesn't mean that men lose their rights, but simply that women gain theirs to share in the power and choices that men have, historically, had.

I also believe that part of feminism is the abolition of strict gender roles. If our society picks various roles for women, and men, from past time periods and cultures and makes rules (even if they are simply de facto) for both genders, then neither gender has the freedom to act, and be, individuals. For example, I would not enjoy being a housewife. I cannot imagine having no other outside work, and instead my job being to cook and clean for my family (which... if you know me.... should come as no surprise!). Now this does not mean that I look down upon those who choose to make their home their work. In fact, I think it is one of the hardest jobs a person could have and admire those who make that choice. It is just not one that would make me happy. David, on the other hand, has told me that he would be happy to be a stay at home dad, and I know that he'd be amazing at it. In our family, if we were forced to follow "traditional" gender roles, both of us would be unhappy, as neither David or I would be doing the things that we'd like. Feminism is simply about ensuring that all humans, regardless of gender, have the freedom to make such choices.

Feminism is also about respect. I believe that no matter what gender you are, each human being should have respect for others. This means not looking at the other sex as an object there for your enjoyment. The process of objectification is wrong, regardless of who is doing it. You may enjoy looking at someone because you find them attractive and there are certainly situations in which it is appropriate to verbalize that, but objectification happens when you only care about the body, and aren't bothered about the person inside of that body. This happens when someone drools over another person because they are "hot" or focuses on one particular body part that they think looks good. By doing this, the person becomes just a thing to look at, as the body becomes removed from the whole of that person. Their personality, hopes, dreams, intelligence, and emotions are removed and only the appearance remains, as an object for others to look at.

As I said before, this can happen to any gender, and by any gender, however the majority of women in our society can tell you that that it is common for men to look at women this way. The reason why feminism is so important is because the objectification of women is something that happens far too often. I could list the many stories that I have heard, or experienced, but instead I will tell you one story. The story that prompted this post.

Recently I was teaching a group of boys, and one of them got up to look out of the window. When I told him to sit back down, his response was, "No, there is a girl with a fit ass out there and so I'm going to look at it." When I told him off and mentioned that that kind of comment is objectifying that female, the student got angry and told me that I was wrong. That girls who look good are there for him to look at. The other boys agreed and backed him up.

This is just part of the conversation that we had, and many could argue that they are just silly teenaged boys who have hormones and like girls. The problem with that is that, regardless of their age, they were still objectifying the female, and didn't see a problem with that. Not only did they view her as something nice to look at, but their attitude suggested that they have the right to act this way. Indeed, they got angry and argumentative when I suggested that there was anything wrong with their actions.

I know they are just a few teenagers, but this incident worries me. It shows that there are still young people who see women as objects that they have the right to. These same beliefs and attitudes lead to disrespecting women (after all, we are not humans but objects to be used), and sexual assault, which are problems that plague our society. If you still don't believe me that these types of comments are common, or problematic, read this.

This is why feminism is not dead. This is why so many of us believe that more work needs to be done to make all humans equal. And this is why I am proud to call myself a feminist.

Note: The discussion of gender in this post focuses on binary gender roles (male and female). This is not to discount those who might not fit into those categories, but rather to simplify the discussion and to focus on the main issue of objectification between males and females.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Why I love Canada Day

I've been living abroad for almost four years now, and every July 1st, I have the uncontrollable urge to dress in red and white, sing 'O Canada' and only listen to music from the "great white north".

What I mean to say is... I love Canada Day.

Before I lived in England, I enjoyed it. It was fun to see the fireworks, and to have the day off, but now I truly love the first day of July, and all it stands for.

It sounds obvious, but when you live in a foreign country, you become a foreigner. Even though England is, in many ways, similar to Canada, I do still feel very much that divide in cultures that continuously reminds me that I am the odd one out. I don't say this to complain, but to just state a fact. Every time someone mentions a television show that I'm not aware of, says a certain phrase that I've not heard, or even talks about football (soccer), I remember that I am from a different part of the world. Canada Day gives me the chance to (shamelessly) talk about my country and culture, and remember that there is a country in which I am not the outsider.

Living overseas has also taught me a lot about Canada, Canadian culture and what it means to be Canadian. Before moving, I never realised that other countries don't have poutine (or even cheese curds!!!), or know Canadian bands like Our Lady Peace and Blue Rodeo. I never thought that bilingual packaging, screens on windows, or 24 hour coffee shops were things that wouldn't be standard here in the UK. There are many things that I've come to understand are uniquely Canadian, and this has helped me better know what Canadian culture really is.

Although I love living in England, and there are tons of things that I enjoy about living here, I cannot help but be proud of the country that I come from. Being able to see and compare Canada to other places, has allowed me to see all the amazing things about Canada.  A good health care system, excellent education system, trees, lakes, Tim Hortons, and friendly people are just a handful of things that Canada has to offer. It is certainly not perfect, and there are many ways in which the country could improve, but unarguably one of the most beautiful, and awe-inspiring nations on Earth. The land, and the people in it, are in my heart.

Because of this, I feel strongly that no matter where in the world I am, I need to celebrate the day that Canada was born. The day that pen was put to paper and my home country became a nation. It might be simple longing for the lake in the summer, or a double double on a cold winter's day, but I believe that Canada is a great country that deserves to be celebrated. The rest of the world has had an impact on shaping it, through the centuries of immigration, so now is the time that we share our culture with the rest of the world!

And that is why I, even though I live far away, will continue to celebrate the day that Canada became a country.

Happy Canada Day to all!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Back as a Mrs!

Well everyone! I'm officially back as a Mrs!

On April 11th, surrounded by our close family, David and I got married. It was an amazing day and an overall fantastic trip back to my homeland of Canada.

We flew to Toronto on an early morning flight the Sunday before the wedding. I hadn't slept and getting up at 3am didn't help as the looming alarm kept me from falling asleep. After a long wait at the airport and an even longer flight, I was home. We were greeted at the airport by my fantastic parents and welcomed home with signs that my niece made for us. A home cooked meal, lots of tea and lots of love was just what I needed after travelling so far.

Mom, myself and Cathy (David's mum) at the shower
The rest of the week was wonderful. We had a night out with friends on the Monday night and my church family blessed us with a shower on the Wednesday. It was tea party themed and the hats were spectacular! I felt so incredibly lucky, blessed and thankful to have been the recipient of such an event. The church, Bethany, was like a second home to me growing up, and the people there are still in my hearts and I cannot be more grateful to have such loving people in my life.

Cutting the shower cake!

The next few days were full of shopping for sweets and bathroom basket stuff, manicures (I had my nails done for the first time since my sister got married, seven years before), and family time.

On the Friday, I got up and despite it being such a momentous day, I felt quite calm and relaxed. My mom and I headed to get our hair done just before noon, and shortly after, my sister arrived with a Starbucks coffee for me (the perks of being the bride!). I was dropped off back at the house, where I watched some MASH and had lunch, before the makeup lady arrived. My face was done and I had about an hour to kill before our lovely photographer, Karyn, was due. My niece noticed I had a laptop on my bed and informed me that you can watch movies on it. I got the hint and her and I snuggled up to watch a Pirate Fairy film.

My niece Charlotte
After a while, Karyn showed up and so my sister helped get me into my wedding dress and Karyn started snapping away. Around 5pm we headed over to the Osler House B&B for the ceremony. I was shuffled into a side room and ended up waiting for about 25 minutes for the rest of the family to get there and for everyone to get things sorted. I spent the time making sure my niece didn't destroy the bouquets and playing Candy Crush.

Coming down the aisle
Soon it was go time. The music started, my sister and her daughter disappeared from the side room to walk down the aisle and then my dad and I followed. I remember feeling so excited and just so relieved and glad that the time had finally come to get married. David looked so handsome in his suit and I had to restrain myself from giving him a kiss straight away!

Just married!
The ceremony was lovely. We wrote our own vows, and that made it feel so special as it was our words and our promises to each other and not some generic phrases that would never mean quite as much. During the ceremony, I felt like my heart would burst when David managed to whisper to me that I looked lovely and a few other sweet things. I really am a lucky girl to have married such a sweet and loving man.

Afterwards, we had a quiet (well as quiet as my family ever gets) family dinner. It was really nice to be able to sit and talk to everyone, which is something you rarely get to do quite so much, at a larger, more traditional, reception.
Wedding dinner

First dance
Cutting the cake
The next day, we got back into our wedding outfits and got ready to party it up with the rest of our Canadian family and friends. My mom put a lot of effort into planning the party and it was awesome. There was a lot of fresh (yellow!) flowers done by Katelyn Hughes, a girl who goes to my family's church, and even a surprise TARDIS! The candy table seemed to go over well as every time we looked ever, there was a queue for it. The yummy cupcakes, music and time spent with everyone was just really fun. By having the party on a separate day, we were able to be relaxed and just enjoy the time celebrating with everyone. I mean... who doesn't love dancing to Hanson with all your friends?

Note the TARDIS?!

The next day we jetted off (ok... we took a bus...) to Montreal. While there, we embraced the culture and ate poutine, enjoyed a maple tasting, and took in the sites of the old city. We experienced 20 degree weather and snow, within 24 hours, and soaked in the hot tub while looking through the window at Mount Royal. It was a great little honeymoon.

The trip back to Canada and our wedding celebrations were so special, and I'm sure that we will look back at everything fondly for years to come. Both David and I are so thankful for all the love, support and generosity that we have experienced these last few weeks. Married life has started well and I love knowing that I have my best friend and partner with me for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Wedding Bells!

I've been quiet the last few weeks as life has been rather busy for me!

One major thing that has taken up my time has been making sure we have everything to fly to Canada for our upcoming wedding!

Yes... you heard that right! David and I are getting married next week! I apologise for the many exclamation marks that will litter this post, but I think they are quite justified as I am excited!

Our engagement has been short, compared to most people's, but in a way, it's felt like forever. Ever since David and I started talking about marriage, to the moment he pulled out that special ring, I have been eager to blend our lives together and make our commitment to each other official.

The planning process has been interesting. Some days it feels like we barely had to do a thing, and on other days, it felt like our to-do list was impossibly large. Planning a wedding abroad meant that I had rely heavily on my family in Canada. My mom became our wedding planner and so while that meant that we didn't have to do a lot of the running around, calling, and appointments, it did mean that my mom got the pleasure of doing that for us! A huge thanks to her for that. As for our work... well... I have a couch full of things we need to remember to take with us when we fly over. We will have very full suitcases!

One of the things that I enjoyed far more than I expected to, was the whole dress thing. Originally, I wanted something simple, non expensive, and not super wedding-y. I first went to try on dresses with a friend, and all of the dresses that I found were too much. Too much poof, too much bling and far too much dress for me. The next time I went, I had my future mother-in-law along for the ride. I showed the shop lady pictures and told her specifically what I didn't want. She was amazingly great at figuring out what I actually did want. When I put the dress on the first time, I felt great. I felt pretty, fancy, but yet still very much like me. The second time I tried it on, I knew I wouldn't find a dress that I liked more. Even though it was a proper wedding dress, it fit my criteria and I loved it.  After the alterations were done, I didn't want to take my dress off! I think that's the moment that I turned from a woman getting married to a bride.

If that doesn't convince you that I've turned to the dark side of the wedding industry... I've also got an appointment to get my nails done the day before the wedding. Yup... me. I hate nail polish and haven't had any on my hands since my sister's wedding, years ago. But alas... the wedding industry has claimed me.

Don't worry too much though... because although I am excited over my dress and submitting to the beautification process that many females do on a regular basis (I may even wear eye makeup!), I do realise that the wedding itself is not what I am actually excited about. Sure, I'm looking forward to seeing family and friends. It will also be great to eat good food, and dance to good music, but at the end of it, what I'm most excited for is the marriage.

See... marriages often follow weddings and while I'm sure the wedding will be a lovely time, at the end of it, I won't be a bride, but rather a wife.

And that, my friends, is why I cannot wait until next week, when I get to officially start my life with the man that I love.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Twice Broken... Now Shy (of crossing the street!)

    I stood there waiting for the light to change. It was red, but I needed to cross the street to get to the bus stop. The sun shone brightly in the early morning sky and my thoughts strayed to the class I had that morning. The light turned green, my eyes scanned the road quickly and then I started off. A quick second later, I saw a truck turn into the middle of the intersection. A pickup with some landscaping company's logo across the side. It's probably just turning so it can go through when I'm clear, I thought. It's not uncommon for a car to pull into the intersection, pause until the pedestrian has moved on, and then continue their turn.

    Suddenly, I realised the truck wasn't stopping. It was coming right for me! I started running but it was too quick. The pickup hit my left arm and hip and though I desperately tried to maintain my balance, I fell to the ground. I lay there for a minute. Shock overtaking my body and brain. The driver stopped and there was silence. I forced myself to get up and stood there, unsure of what to do. The driver wound his window down and, horrified, asked me if I was okay.

    Okay? Am I okay? I don't know, I thought. "I think I'm okay," I replied. He didn't seem convinced and asked me again. I was in shock, but I wasn't aware of that yet. Since I didn't seem to be struggling to walk, talk or wasn't even bleeding, I told him I was fine. He didn't know what to do himself, and oddly, the only thing I was worried about was getting to school for my lecture. So, I got myself, safely this time, across the street just in time to make the bus.

    Five minutes later, as I sat waiting for my stop to come up, I felt a lot of pain in my arm. I looked down and saw that my wrist was swollen and found that I was having difficulty moving it. Then it dawned on me, I had been in shock, and I was actually hurt. I knew there was a hospital on the main campus (just past the building where I attended classes), but I didn't know where it was. I called my friend, who happened to be in medical school at the same university. She'll know where the hospital is! As it was just before eight in the morning, and she was across town, I think I scared her a bit when I told her I'd been hit by a truck, was on the bus and needed directions to the emergency room. Not a call that anyone would like to get!

    With the help of her directions, I found the ER and explained what happened to the triage nurse. "I a tuck hit me." The nurse looked at me and so I explained what happened and showed her my arm.  It was a very quiet morning so they took me back after waiting only a few minutes. After examination the doctor proclaimed that I had broken a bone in my left wrist. He then put a plaster cast on me and checked me over for any other injuries. Sadly, this was not the only time that I had broken that wrist. Whilst I was doing my first degree, I worked for a summer at a call centre. Coming home late one night, I fell into a ditch, created by the construction on my street. By the time I had made my way home afterwards, my arm was rather painful. A visit to the ER found that it was broken and I had to wear a cast for several weeks after that.

   My phone buzzed. "Hello?" It was my friend. She had made her way to the hospital and was checking in with me. We met up and went for ice cream, because I had been hit by a truck and quite frankly, I deserved it.

P.S. I just wanted to add in that I am very proud of my home country of Canada for doing so well in the Sochi Olympic Games. Today. I was able to watch the women's teams for curling and hockey win the gold. Well done ladies!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014


    Last post I mentioned a trip that I took with a good friend of mine to Bordeaux. It was a bachelorette trip for me as David and I are getting married this spring.

View from our room!
Kitchenette in the hotel apartment
    When I got engaged, Ashley proposed something different to me: that we go on a somewhere for a bachelorette/hen trip. I loved the idea and soon we decided to go to Bordeaux, France. It ended up being just the two of us, but it was a fantastic time. We flew out on the Monday morning, on the tail end of a major storm. THE STORM was all we heard about during the week as we would watch BBC World in our hotel and that news story was their favourite, I'm sure. Anyways, we arrived and checked into our hotel. The hotel was more like a studio apartment with one large bed, a smaller sofa/bed, table and chairs, fully operational mini kitchen, complete with pots, pans and the rest, and a bathtub with separate shower. It was great.

     We spent the next day or so walking around the city and remembering whatever french we knew. The first night, we randomly came across a large carnival in the middle of the city. It was bizarre. It was set up in what must have been a sort of town square, or park, as there was a large column and fountain right in the middle. The fair itself had us in stitches. It was meant to be an "American" style fair and so had random English words on most of the rides. When I say random, I mean random. One ride was called, "Sexy Dance". I'm not sure how it was sexy or where the dancing was, but hey... why not?

Me posing by a fountain in Bordeaux
    On Tuesday, wandering around, we came across a cathedral, many cool streets lined with shops, the river, and a reflecting pool. In a supermarket, I even found a brand of biscuits that was my last name! I was very excited. The weather was beautiful too. That is, until a freak rain shower started when we were by the river. I had left my coat behind because the weather was warm enough, so by the time we got across the street to hide under the window arch of a building, I got pretty soaked. It was all worth it in a way, because a few minutes later there was a gorgeous rainbow. We then walked up and got on a mini-train (ok... not a real train... it was a car train for tourists) and took a tour of Bordeaux. I really enjoyed it... when I was not shivering from being wet!).

    Wednesday was wine day. As part of the trip, Ashley had booked us a wine tour of the Medoc region. We were with an American brother and sister and our tour guide was great. He knew a lot and was constantly telling us facts about Bordeaux, the wine making process and all sorts of stuff. We visited three wineries that day, and learned a lot about why some wine is good and some isn't. Just so you know, pretty much all Bordeaux wine is fantastic!

Wine being stored in the third Chateau we visited
Wine doesn't get labelled until it's ordered so they can put the correct label on it, depending on where in the world it's being shipped to.

Tower and square
    The next day we took the train to Saint-Émilion, a town in the Bordeaux region that has been around since the Medieval era. In fact, when we were there, I found what I believe was the original monestery that was the reason the town was founded. Vineyards completely surround the town, making it very picturesque. Once inside, be prepared to walk and climb hills! The city was founded at the top of a large hill and there are many layers to the town. As it is very old, the streets are random, and you can find lots of neat, hidden treasures if you go down the odd alleys and paths. One of my favourite memories of the trip was eating lunch outside in a large courtyard that was overlooked by a giant tower and surrounded by centuries old buildings. On a beautifully sunny day, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.

Vines and an old ruin
View overlooking the town
Square where we ate, and the wine shop we went into

    While in Saint-Émilion, we went to a wine shop that was highly recommended to us by our tour guide the previous day. Le Cellier de Saint-Émilion was great. We went in as our wine tour guide was finishing taking another tour group through. He introduced us to the owner and then we were sat down for a wine tasting experience. He started off with a lovely red and continued all the way up to a bottle that cost about 150 euros. The wine was pretty much the best wine I've ever had. I was a happy camper that day! We left after ordering a few bottles to be shipped back to the UK (don't worry... neither of us got any over 50 euros!) and went off in search of some more good French pastries (little did I know that at the airport they sold massive nutella macaroons! mmm...).

    This trip was amazing all around. Other than that terrible rain shower, we had great weather, followed up by great food and even greater wine. It was a bachelorette trip worth remembering and I can safely say that this falls under the "wonderful" part of my life.