Clara Hughes: The Story Behind the Spotlight

Like most other Canadians, I recognize Clara Hughes on TV because of her huge, tremendously vibrant smile, and she has always struck me as a sunny, positive, confident person, not to mention a world-class athlete.

Reading her memoir called Open Heart, Open Mind showed me that being sunny, positive, & confident doesn’t always come easy to Clara. There’s a world of struggle behind that smile. Hearing Clara speak in front of a sold-out audience in Lloydminster last week was even more affecting.

Clara speaks with so much passion & energy. She sounds like a spoken-word poet, delivering line after line of sincere, honest, evidence, attesting to her personal struggles with mental illness. She insists that while one in five Canadians suffer from mental illness in their lifetime, it is the five in five that really matter. We are all in this together. We all need community, & we all need to be willing admit it when we aren’t doing okay.

I was so moved by Clara’s passion and message, that I found myself openly weeping several times throughout her story. Most of all, I was moved by Clara’s incredible willingness to not just meet everyone who wanted her autograph, but to really connect with people and have a personal conversation with everyone she met. She laid out her huge collection of medals from both winter & summer olympics, and encouraged people to feel them, hold them, & even wear them in pictures with her. The ribbons of the medals were tattered, but so beautiful. If there’s anything I took away from meeting Clara, it’s that we are all a little tattered, but still so beautiful.

If you have the opportunity to see Clara speak, take advantage.

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#Idareme February: 28 days, 28 new things

January was a difficult month. To be blunt, it sucked. While it was really tempting to continue to stew in the grief of loss, I needed to shake things up in February & inject some positivity, excitement, & wonder back into my life. I came up with the idea of challenging myself to try something new every day for the month of February.

“All too often we let the fear the unknown stop us. But pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones is actually good for us. Trying new things not only helps us to vanquish those fears, but it also allows us to expand our minds and learn—both about said new thing, and about ourselves.”
-Maggie Peikon

I didn’t stress over what my new thing would be each day. Sometimes it was obvious, & sometimes it was 10 p.m. & I hadn’t tried anything new yet, so I had to get creative. Regardless, it was challenging & enjoyable.

Here’s what I did:

1. Tried bookcrossing

2. Jumped off the diving board at the local pool

3.Played squash

4. Drank a double-double

5.Took on a solo renovation DIY

6. Tried a chia seed drink

7. Made a DIY headband

8.Made overnight oats (To make, layer the following in a mason jar & leave in fridge overnight: 1/2 cup quick oats, tiny bit of vanilla extract, sprinkle of cinnamon, 2 tbsp. almond milk, tbsp. of chia seeds [they’re optional], 1/2 cup vanilla greek yogurt, sliced strawberries)

9.Took my Gr.11s to the local Lodge to interview seniors for the “Gathering Wisdom” project

10. Took the Anthony Henday around the North side of Edmonton

11. Visited the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum

12. Ate my first maki cone & tried a new roll

13. Made an at home oil + honey deep conditioning treatment

14. Taught Brian aquafit

15. Tried a new brainstorming technique: Iconic Figures

16. Went to my first Oilers game @ Rogers’ Place

17.Made a lucky paper star

18.Seen Garth Brooks in concert

19. Watched ear candling

20. Tried having a Chopped competition

21. Tried a Qi Gong video

22. Listened to a new podcast: Missing Richard Simmons

23. Started a new series: Kindness Diaries

24. Installed Privacy Badger to block spying from invisible internet trackers

25. Watched the Oscar-nominated shorts

26. Drank a Starbucks sample

27. Hosted a Creativi-tea activity

28. Posted a message to the Canadian Armed Forces Members

I chronicled this challenge on instagram. To see my thoughts about the experiences each day, check out the posts below.

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The takeaway
If you’re in a rut & feeling frustrated, give this challenge a try. The new things can be big, or little. Either way, they’re a reminder that the world has plenty to offer, sometimes we just need to make an effort to look ?Be curious & open to explore. It makes every day better, I promise.

Interested in giving this challenge a try yourself? Here are some additional ideas:

  • Try Tai Chi (check online for videos)
  • Check out an art show
  • Go for a backwards walk
  • Calligraphy
  • New Pinterest craft
  • Play a new board game
  • Play a new card game
  • Walk to work or take a new route
  • Eat vegan or vegetarian for a day
  • Learn to change a tire
  • Get acupuncture
  • Creative challenge: take one object & take photos of it from 7 different angles
  • Make origami
  • Have your palms or tea leaves read
  • Try shopping on Etsy
  • Watch a sunrise & a sunset in the same day
  • Have a tech. free day
  • Have a progressive meal
  • Order dessert first
  • Go to a live game of a new sport: hockey, basketball, baseball, football, etc.
  • Try a new workout (Rowing intervals or hot yoga anyone?)
  • Play a new sport (I tried squash!)
  • Learn a new style of dance
  • Workout at a new time (yup, try getting up early before work)
  • Go for a barefoot run
  • Ride a segway
  • Try a new food (the ethnic aisle at the grocery store is great for this one)
  • Cook a new food/dish (homemade icecream?)
  • Throw a dinner party or a murder-mystery party
  • Check out a new restaurant or shop at a new store
  • Donate to a new cause that you really care about
  • Write a letter to your MP or MLA about an issue thats important to you
  • Capture your day in pictures: try taking a photo every hour
  • Join a new gym
  • Learn to count from 1-10 in a new language
  • Try cake decorating
  • Attend a Paint Nite
  • Visit your local library
  • Watch a classic movie that you’re secretly ashamed you’ve never watched
  • Play bingo
  • Get hypnotized
  • Milk a cow
  • Take on a new project at work
  • DIY spa treatment
  • Try Uber
  • Try Postcrossing
  • Geocaching
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2016’s 50 Book Pledge

Looking back at the list of books I read in 2016 is an interesting exercise in reflection & recollection. For example, when I see book no. 34, My Wish List, it takes me back to my honeymoon. I bought My Wish List in a small bookstore in Quebec City, with an itty-bitty english-language section and read it on the train trip back to Montreal. But the most important book I read was no. 26, The Happiness of Pursuit, because it made me realize that the #50bookpledge is more than a goal to encourage myself to read; it’s a quest for continual learning & personal growth. Inspired by the benefits of pursuit outlined in the book, I decided to turn my yearly reading goal into a life-long quest to complete the 50 book pledge for 50 straight years.
So, without further ado: my #50bookpledge list for 2016 (2 years down, only 48 more to go!)

  1. Open Heart, Open Mind By Clara Hughes
  2. They Left Us Everything By Plum Johnson
  3. The Garden of Letters By Alyson Richman
  4. Ballad of the Whiskey Robber By Julian Rubinstein
  5. The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules By Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
  6. Remembering Forever: A Journey of Darkness & Light By Eva Olsson with Ron Jacques
  7. Sugar Falls By David Alexander Robertson
  8. The Steady Running of the Hour By Justin Go
  9. Ellen Foster By Kaye Gibbons
  10. All My Puny Sorrows By Miriam Toews
  11. Code Talker By Chester Nez
  12. A Rose for Her Grave By Ann Rule
  13. Fatty Legs By Christy Jordan-Fenton
  14. Pinnochio By Carlo Collodi
  15. Introducing Shakespeare By Nick Groom & Pie
  16. The Birds By Daphne Du Maurier
  17. In Cold Blood By Truman Capote
  18. Horse Sense By Tillen Bruce
  19. The Way of the Runner By Adharanand Finn
  20. The Fish that Ate the Whale: The Life & Time’s of America’s Banana King By Rich Cohen
  21. If I Should Die Before I Wake By Han Nolan
  22. Precious By Sapphire
  23. God Thinks You’re Wonderful By Max Lucado
  24. Running with the Kenyans By Adharanand Finn
  25. Bay of Secrets By Rosanna Ley
  26. The Happiness of Pursuit By Chris Guillebeau
  27. Adore By Doris Lessing
  28. My Year of Running Dangerously By Tom Foreman
  29. Little Bee By Chris Cleave
  30. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy & Hard Times By Jennifer Worth
  31. Kingdom of the Golden Dragon By Isabel Allende
  32. Call the Midwife: Shadow’s of the Workhouse By Jennifer Worth
  33. The Mermaids Singing By Lisa Carey
  34. My Wish List By Gregoire Delacourt
  35. Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End By Jennifer Worth
  36. The Undertaker’s Daughter By Kate Mayfield
  37. True Crime Addict By James Renner
  38. What Doctors Feel By Danielle Ofri, M.D.
  39.  The Midwife’s Sister By Christine Lee
  40. The Wave By Todd Strasser
  41. Animal Farm By George Orwell
  42. Maximum Insecurity By William Wright, M.D.
  43. Running Like a Girl By Alexandra Heminsley
  44. Stuart Little By E.B. White
  45. Maybe this Christmas By Sarah Morgan
  46. Stiff By Mary Roach
  47. Fun Home By Alison Bechdel
  48. Julius Caesar: A Shakespeare Story By Andrew Matthews & Tony Ross
  49. The Tempest: A Shakespeare Story By Andrew Matthews & Tony Ross
  50. Modern Romance By Aziz Ansari


Interested in joining me for 2017’s pledge? Visit & get reading!

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