The Sting of Shame

My cockapoo Scooby Doo is kind of an asshole. He’s barky and anxious and prone to dragging his butt across the carpet (and licking his weiner obsessively but why pile on to the poor guy?) Trust me, I’m well aware of his shortcomings. In fact, we’ve had him to multiple dog trainers over the 9 years of his life and he remains the same stressed-out canine he has always been. My sister is convinced he was dropped on his head as a puppy and should wear a dog-sized medical alert collar with the warning: “Mental Problems”. And she’s right.

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As a sidenote- I should mention that he’s also adorable and super loving and gentle- and has never met a person of any age that he didn’t adore within minutes. And if you’ve got a treat he’ll be your best friend for life.

Scooby is also my running buddy. Bless his little doggy heart – he politely walks along beside me as I huff and puff down the sidewalk. Recently we were out for a run when I spotted a neighbour walking his dog up ahead of us. Although this man is not an acquaintance, I’d certainly seen him pass by my house many times. “Uh-oh,” I thought to myself “my jerky dog is sure to freak out.” Scooby is especially nervous around big dogs and compensates by barking his fool head off.

Anyhow – we crossed the road to avoid a scene. But true to form, Scooby started making a fuss. I smiled sheepishly and stammered out a lame apology: “I’m so sorry . He’s harmless, just hopelessly insecure.” The man literally stopped in his tracks, crossed his arms over his belly, glared at me and shook his head slowly back and forth. At first I thought he was joking but he locked onto my eyes and continued with the silent reprimand…and I swear even his majestic-looking golden retriever scoffed at the horrid behaviour of my ill-behaved Scooby Doo and his unfortunate/negligent/shameful owner.

For a second I was frozen to the spot. My face burned bright red. And then instead of saying a word, Scooby and I both hurried off with our tails between our legs.

By the time I returned home, my embarrassment had turned to anger. How dare he?! That old fart had some nerve criticizing me and my dog! It didn’t take long for my anger to turn to meanness and I launched into a full-on personal attack. My husband sipped his coffee with his head down as I raged against this smug/self-important/holier-than-thou dog owner.

After I finally calmed down I came to a sobering realization- the real reason I was so upset was because this reprimand from a stranger made me feel something I’d rather avoid – shame. If I’m being completely honest, I feel a deep shame at the way my dog sometimes behaves. I feel like a failure as a dog owner and that is really, truly embarrassing.

Yes we’ve had him to multiple dog trainers – but did my husband and I follow through on all of the things we learned? Nope. Did we heed the advice to make him sleep in a crate? Judging by the sight of his furry butt at the foot of my bed I’d say no to that one too. Did we spend the time teaching him how to properly walk on a leash? Or to not beg for food? No and no. And the list just goes on.

I recently overheard a friend talking about an encounter she’d had with another canine and how appalled she was that this dog’s owner would allow her misbehaved pooch to bark at her perfectly well-trained pet. I nodded politely but inside, I immediately felt a kinship with the other owner (I also silently wondered if the bad dog ever eats his own poop and decided I must track them down. I have a feeling we have lots in common 🙂

Certainly I’m not condoning bad behaviour – but this experience has made me realize how often shame and judgement (intentionally or unintentionally) creeps into our conversations:

“I can’t believe how much time that mom let’s her kids spend on electronics! We only let our kids spend 1 hour a week on their ipads.” 

“That school is such a dump – I would never let my kids go there!”

“I only eat organic food. As far as I’m concerned- people who eat non-organic are poisoning their bodies.”

“I could never get a divorce – it’s too damaging for the children.”

When we hold ourselves and our own choices “above” one other – whether it pertains to dog ownership or anything else- we creative a gaping divide between us that is filled up with shame. Can you imagine how much healthier our culture would be if we could meet each other with honesty, empathy and understanding when we talk about the hard and messy stuff of life – like parenting, relationships, careers, eating, exercising, marriage, religion, politics and barky dogs?

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A few weeks later, Scooby and I were racing down the street adjacent to our house when I spotted the man and his dog at the end of the road. I felt a bit nervous as we drew closer but our meeting happened to coincide with a neighbourhood search for a lost dog. “Hi.” I said tentatively as our paths converged. I gripped Scooby’s leash tightly. “Did you hear that there is a dog missing?” I blurted out. “If you don’t mind – would you keep an eye out for him on your walk.” I braced myself for another reprimand as Scooby started to growl – I was quite sure the man had been replaying our previous encounter over in his mind too and was ready to attack.

“Oh yah” he said “I did hear about that. I’ll keep a look out.” He sounded fairly amiable but by this time, Scooby’s growls had turned to barking. “Listen,” I said preemptively, “I get the impression that you are somehow annoyed with me and my dog.” He looked genuinely confused but I pressed on- “I realize he’s not the best behaved but I can assure you that he would never hurt you or your dog.” 

“Ok” he said dismissively – I could tell he was anxious to get on with his walk and away from Scooby and I. “You know” I said, mustering up my courage “It really hurt my feelings when you shook your head at me the other day. I know I’m not the best dog owner but we are neighbours and I hope we can treat each other with respect.” I had to force myself to meet his eyes and was surprised to find the man smiling at me. I half expected us to come together in a big bear hug…but he simply grinned and carried on with his walk.

Perhaps not the most cathartic of endings for me or you – but since then, this man and I have run into each other several times. And he always offers me a kind smile and friendly “Hello”. He even bent down to pat Scooby on the head on a recent run.

I don’t know for sure, but I half suspect that when I was able to be honest with myself about my shame, maybe he was able to release some of his judgement. Or maybe he forgot all about our first encounter and simply thinks I’m a crazy person with an annoying dog. Both explanations are kind of true really.

Will the “man” and I ever be best friends? No. But I feel like we have come to a silent understanding and kinship. I almost think he likes me and Scooby now. I’ll let you know if I ever get that hug ; )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Awesome Ideas for Healthy Holiday Giving

I love the holidays! I love the baking, the music, the traditions, the socializing and I love dreaming up special presents for my loved ones. As a little holiday inspiration, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite things to help make your holiday giving a little bit healthier:

1. All-Natural Homemade Gifts – I took a course this year on making homemade beauty products and my daughter and I have been whipping up our own concoctions ever since. This holiday season we are preparing Flower-Shaped Lotion Bars, a special Sugar Body Scrub and our very own Bath Salt recipe to share with family and friends. We purchased some inexpensive mason jars to use as containers, a bit of ribbon for decoration and voila – beautiful chemical-free delights. My favourite online recipe resources are meghantelper.com and wellnessmama.com.

Izzy and Lori’s Bath Salt Recipe: 4 tbsp. Epsom salts, 2 tbsp. sea salt, 8 drops of lavender essential oil and 6 tbsp. baking soda. Shake in a small mason jar.

epsom salt bath

2. Fitness Classes– one of the best ways to stay happy and healthy is to get out and move your body. Why not give the gift of exercise and treat your favourite person a gift certificate to experience a new fitness class? Make sure it’s one you have already tried yourself and can wholeheartedly recommend as being fun and worthwhile. My personal local favourites are Tread Powerfully (kick butt workouts with a caring and inspiring leader), Be Yoga Studio (zen atmosphere and gentle uber-bendy teachers) and Exhale Pilates (a lovely studio, kind instructors and mat, reformer and barre classes that will tone and lengthen your body).

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3. Essential Oils – I am completely addicted to essential oils and I have the cupboard full of little glass jars to prove it! Just a few drops of these plant essences have remarkable healing properties and virtually unlimited uses. Since all essential oils are not created equally, be sure to do your research and pick a company that has 100% pure oils and certified food grade ingredients. I order all of my oils from Living Libations and they are truly amazing!

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4. A Great Book- One of life’s great pleasures is settling back with a fantastic read. And it can be even better if the book inspires you to achieve greater health, more personal happiness or inspires some positive growth. This past year I enjoyed a number of game-changing books that I’ll definitely be sharing with the people on my Christmas list. My top picks are Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart, Marianne Williamson’s The Law of Divine Compensation and Tara Brach’s True Refuge.

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5. Charitable Gifts– There are many amazing charitable organizations that offer special opportunities for giving during the holiday season. Plan Canada provides a catalogue of items you can donate in the name of a loved one (including quinoa plants this year!) and the World Wildlife Fund will send a cuddly stuffed animal to people who contribute to their cause. And a big thanks to my friend and fellow veggie blogger Celeste who shared a great idea for “adopting” an animal from Farm Sanctuary. In her recent post entitled “Top 10 Vegan Christmas Gifts of 2013” she shared the following: “By adopting a farm animal, you’ll help provide their food, shelter, and veterinary costs, and you’ll show your opposition to farm animal cruelty. Adoptions can be made in a gift-recipient’s name and the recipient will receive information about their adopted “pet” including a picture, his/her story, and even details about visiting their animal. $10 to $50 per month for 1 year from Farm Sanctuary.”

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6. A Restaurant Gift Certificate– when people find out that I follow a mainly plant-based diet, they often assume I consume a very boring and limited selection of foods. But nothing could be farther from the truth! There is a bounty of amazing vegan and vegetarian foods and some very cutting edge chefs preparing exciting menus of  inventive dishes. A gift certificate to your favourite veggie restaurant or bakery is a great way to introduce friends and family to plant-based foods that are healthy and delicious. We are lucky in Burlington to be able to enjoy amazing vegan fare from Lettuce Love Café, The Naked Sprout and Kelly’s Bake Shoppe.

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7. A Meditation CD or Course– We live in a fast-paced society and it can be hard to find quiet moments to relax, unwind and get in touch with your mind. I started my own meditation practice this year and I can tell you that it has made a tremendous difference in my life. Yes life is still hectic and crazy but I am able to approach most situations with much more calmness, awareness and patience. You can simply sit and begin but I found it very helpful to start with a guided meditation. Check out the Chopra Center for Meditation and Oprah and Deepak Choprah’s meditation courses, CD’s and downloads.

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8. Healthy Foodie Gifts– This is another opportunity to whip up a homemade gift by pulling together the ingredients for your favourite veggie dish and wrapping it up in a creative way. You could make homemade granola and share it in a large mason jar (thanks to my friend Elisa who recently did this for me!), bake up your favourite holiday goodies and pop them in a decorative box or gather all of the spices and cans of beans for the world’s best Spicy Chia Chili and package it together with the recipe. And if homemade is not your thing – there are tons of fabulous and unique healthy foods you can buy online to share. Check out Coco Polo’s stevia sweetened chocolate bars, Wild Branch’s maple syrup infused with medicinal mushrooms or a big bag of Black Elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs to help ward off and treat the flu.

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9. Non-toxic Beauty Products– I am always on the hunt for a great new beauty product that works well, smells great and makes me look at least 10 years younger ; ) If you aren’t into making your own stuff – check out a couple of my favourite new all-natural products: LaVanilla All-Natural Deodorant Stick, John Masters Organics lavender and Avocado Intensive Conditioner, Good Gums Natural Tooth Paste Powder and Aubrey Organics Facial Moisturizing Rose Hip Seed Oil.

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10. Bling– I am a girlie girl at heart and nothing makes me happier than a beautiful new piece of jewellery. I can highly recommend the lovely Tiny Devotion Mala Beads that my husband got me for Mother’s day and I have been coveting a ring from the vintage collection at Brilliant Earth for the past few years (hint, hint Mark). This Canadian company  is committed to using ethically sourced materials, conflict-free diamonds, and recycled gold. Also -check out this funky Swatch watch that I saw featured in Today’s Parent magazine that reads “Be Happy For This Moment, This Moment is For Life“. What a great reminder to slow down and fully appreciate the holidays!

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I hope this list inspires you to put your health and the health of your loved ones at the very top of your list this Christmas. I wish you and your family the happiest and healthiest of holiday seasons!

5 Strategies to Become Less Judgemental

“We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”

Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

My own personal journey of letting go of judgement is an ongoing and evolving process. If I’m being completely honest, I have certainly been guilty of passing judgment on others in the past and it is something I continue to work on. I have come to realize that my judgment of others is less about them and more about myself and my insecurities and feelings of lack in my own life.

The first step for me has been learning to love and accept myself- including all of my wonderful and not-so-wonderful bits and pieces. It’s easy to pat myself on the back for my efforts in the kitchen and the recent strides in my career and much trickier to embrace my belly that’s still jiggly 3 years after my last baby was born or my tendency to flip out and lose my cool with my kids. But I’m much more likely to be kinder and gentler to those around me if I can be kind and gentle with myself.

Here are a few other things that help me on my journey towards becoming less judgemental:

1. Pause, take a deep breath and look inward. When a jugdgy thought pops into my head (“how can that mom berate her child in the grocery store?”, “why is that 13-year old smoking?” “what kind of parent feeds their children such crappy food?”) – I catch myself as quickly as I can and simply take a deep breath. If the thought persists, I make a note of it and when I have a quiet moment I reflect on the judgment and how it may mirror my own fears and insecurities.

2. Reframe. I first learned this strategy from Dr. Stephen R. Covey and the chapter on “paradigm shifts” in his Seven Habits book. If I see a person who I’m tempted to judge – I’ll rewrite the negative script that starts unfolding in my head and change their story in my mind. For example, that goth-looking teenager with multiple piercings might be a lonely child dealing with the devastating death of a parent or the man freaking out on his kid at the playground may have just lost his job. This is not to excuse or ignore bad behavior but only to free my mind from judgment and to look at situations in new ways. It also allows me to approach people with more genuine compassion.

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3. Be cautious of stereotypes (especially those perpetuated in the media). My 12-year-old son recently told me that he doesn’t want to become a teenager because “all teenagers do drugs, drink and get into trouble.” Pretty harsh! We are constantly bombarded by media images that portray individuals and groups in very stereotypical ways. There are bombshell women, housewives, businessmen, nerds, jocks, musicians, gangsters, terrorists (and on and on)- and each one calls to mind a particular person with a certain way of behaving in the world. Repeated exposure to these very warped and limited depictions of human beings can be very damaging- especially for children. I had a long chat with my son about the amazing and positive things teenagers are doing in the world (thank you Kielburgers!) and I reminded him to do his own research before buying into an image put forth in the media.

4. Read, research, listen and learn about others. If you are feeling judgemental about a particular person or group, it can help to dig a little deeper and learn more about their particular story or set of beliefs. This could mean taking the time to chat with a new person or doing some research in the library or on the internet. This has come in very handy recently in my own family when we’ve been curious about different religious groups, political figures, celebrities and even sharks!

5. Find a role model. I am fortunate to be married to one of the least judgemental people I’ve ever met. As long as I’ve known him, my husband has been very accepting of all people and always makes friends easily and often. When I feel the urge to stand in judgment of someone else, it can really help to chat with him and get his perspective on the situation. I encourage you to seek out a non-judgemental person in your own life who can act as a sounding board and mentor when those judgemental inclinations pop up.

As a mom, I am particularly aware of the example I set for my children and I strive to model both self-acceptance and acceptance of others. At the end of the day, we all would benefit from spending less time judging and more time becoming kinder and more loving towards ourselves and each other…..jiggly bellies and all.

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A Challenge – Thanksgiving Without The Turkey

“What is added by having a turkey on the Thanksgiving table? And what would happen if there were no turkey? Would the tradition be broken, or injured, if instead of a bird we simply had the sweet potato casserole, homemade rolls, green beans with almonds, cranberry concoctions, yams, buttery mashed potatoes, pumpkin and pecan pies? It’s not so hard to imagine it. See your loved ones around the table. Hear the sounds. Smell the smells. There is no turkey. Is the holiday undermined? Is Thanksgiving no longer Thanksgiving?

Or would Thanksgiving be enhanced? Would the choice not to eat turkey be a more active way of celebrating how thankful we feel? Try to imagine the conversation that would take place. This is why our family celebrates this way. Would such a conversation feel disappointing or inspiring?” (Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals)

This coming weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada I’m issuing a big challenge to my readers, family and friends: I would like you to consider serving this holiday dinner without any meat. Do you think it’s possible? Could you add a new element to your meal by sharing with your family the reasons behind your decision to forgo the usual turkey centerpiece? (If you are interested more information about the truth of the turkey industry, you can check out this link.)

Trust me I get it- this is no easy challenge. Suggesting a Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey can elicit reactions ranging from curiosity to downright anger. But as I am midway through Brene Brown’s amazing book “Daring Greatly“, I am encouraged to test out my own bravery and vulnerability by tackling this tradition and putting my own neck on the line (I guess you could say in place of the turkey).

What do you think? Could you give it a whirl? I’m picturing you seated around a festive table with your loved ones and raising your glass of wine to say  “I am thankful for this 100% cruelty-free dinner that I can share with my family.”

If you are open and willing, here is what I will be preparing with my family this Thanksgiving as inspiration:

Tofu Stuffed Mushrooms (recipe courtesy of Vegetarian Times)

tofu stuffed mushrooms

Vegan Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

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Kym Salad

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Fresh Baguettes from Pane Fresco

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Vegan Shepard’s Pie with Mushroom Gravy

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Vegan Caramel Apple Pie (courtesy of Healthy. Happy. Life)

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Whatever you decide to serve, I wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving weekend! Cheers!

Looking at Vulnerability

The most interesting thing for me so far about starting this blog is how many women have reached out to connect with me regarding my very first post “I’m Gonna Look.” I think I struck a chord when I allowed myself to be open and vulnerable about my own personal struggles with my aging and changing body.

Let’s face it – as women there is a ton of pressure that we put on ourselves and on others to be the perfect woman, wife and mom. The one who can hold down an amazing and fulfilling job, make gourmet meals, raise the most amazing children, have a blissful marriage, spend the right amount of time with friends and family, make an enviable salary, have the skinny and toned body, and on and on and on.

Trust me, I struggle with all of these things too and I often allow myself to fall victim to the fruitless pursuit of perfectionism. But I sometimes wonder what is at the root of all of this craziness. What do you think would happen if we all gave ourselves permission to be more real and honest and vulnerable?

Indulge me and take a quiet 20 minutes to yourself this weekend and watch this amazing TedX talk by researcher Brene Brown. She has spent years delving into heart of vulnerability and human connection and her findings are amazing. I have probably watched it 10 times over the past few months and I learn something new each time. It’s funny, touching and might just nudge us all in the direction of letting ourselves become more vulnerable and ultimately feeling more joy and peace.

Have a great weekend!

(email subscribers – you might have to go to the online blog to view – www.lorileighwilson.com)