Filed under: Random Swellness

Healthy Swellness: 2018 Year in review

Miami Beach

2018 was a struggle.

Was it worse than last year? No. 2017 was stressful, and this year was just stressful but rather than feeling super wound up about it, I spent much of this year numb, as though my brain just shut down because I couldn’t manage even the energy and thoughts it takes to get stressed out. I’m not sure if it’s thanks to years of freelancing (which as fun as it may seem from the outside, you have to put a lot of pressure on yourself, or at least I do, and I find it quite anxiety inducing). I had too many days when I just felt like I could only throw up my arms because I just felt I couldn’t adult anymore.

When times like that would hit me hard, it’d take digging deep and reminding myself of the good things I had going on through the year…

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I found better balance in my schedule this year. 2016 left me burnt out with 31 trips, so in 2017 I scaled back but still found myself stressed with being away from home too often. This year, I happily settled into a manageable balance between travel, work and life at home. I traveled nine times plus four road trips (and two same-day trips but those don’t really count, it’s the being away from home overnight that throws my schedule for a loop). Those trips included some favourites, such as Calgary and Banff and Chicago (three times!), and new destinations I’ve long had my list, including one epic drive down Highway 1 in California in a rare vintage Mercedes and the incredible Mexico City. I often had FOMO in the past about travel, but after steady travel for several years now and it being extremely draining, but now I know these amazing places in the world will always be there. It’s not worth sacrificing my sanity to flit around the world every other week. This year I felt much more relaxed and loved having time to take Billie Jean on hikes and to see friends.

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I made new friends and made time for existing friendships. About a year ago, out of the blue, I got a really sweet note from an acquaintance, because, kind and empathetic person that she is, she knew I was ruminating about an altercation she’d been witness to. I’d only met Tiffany a few times in real life on a couple of press trips, but we got to know each other well when I was coming to Calgary for work and she invited me to plan extra days and stay with her and her adorable family and we explored Banff and Canmore together (this part of Alberta is one of my most favourites of everywhere I’ve traveled). And she’s just as fun and awesome as I thought she’d be. In addition to new friends,  I spent more quality time with my old friends. From fun dining out excursions whenever I had a car to the very first solo trip with one of my best friends. Life often gets in the way for us to hang out together regularly but she was able to come along on a press trip with me in December to Miami for a cruise. I’m so happy we were able to spend that time together (plus it was on the Celebrity Edge cruise ship, which is a stunner; I’ll post about that soon).

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I worked with brands I’m thrilled to support. So real talk, this “influencer” world is a mega frustrating realm to work in. With people buying followers and likes or not being transparent, it’s not an equal playing field whatsoever so it can be aggravating. But it is incredibly rewarding when speaking to certain brands about partnerships and hearing how they perceive Health & Swellness and why they want to partner with me, and I see that they really get what I’ve created for my platform. This year included working with brands I’ve long been a fan of including Reebok, President’s Choice, Shoppers Drug Mart, YMCA, Clif Bar, Kind Snacks, to name just a few, plus press trips with Marriott. And let’s not forget Michelob Ultra; besides repping the brand and racing in their Night Race, I had a steady stock of beer all summer, so it was a good summer, cheers!

I started working with some great outlets and people. In addition to having more stability and routine in my life thanks to traveling less, I also started working with two brands on a more regular basis and the teams for both are very supportive and open to my ideas and they’re just a joy to work with. One is You Are UNLTD, a magazine and website focused on changing the convo when it comes to aging. Aging doesn’t mean shriveling up and all sadness, people! And the other is D’FYNE magazine, a fitness and lifestyle magazine for women 40+. I swear that working on that mag makes me want to work out more, these women are fit and so incredibly strong.

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I ran my 12th marathon and, oh yeah, I was on a Nike billboard. While I’m still chasing that elusive BQ, and this year I raced less than usual, I ran the Chicago Marathon for the third time and had a decent result considering I had an awful cold for the race. Despite that, that race weekend in the Windy City will forever be a running “career” highlight thanks to the fun Nike squad, the informative and fun activations I got to attend and yes, that Nike billboard of me on Michigan Avenue.

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Even now looking at this photo of me with the poster, it still doesn’t seem like real life.

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I had to say goodbye to my first fur kid, but my sweet animal kingdom continues to bond. I suffered a huge loss about six weeks ago: my cat Kobe passed away at home. He was 17 years old. Kobe was a chill cat, he minded his own business and wasn’t one to seek attention from other people but of all the pets, he was always the one who wanted the most snuggles from me. I adopted him 16 years ago, so he moved with my from uptown to the east end and to the west end and in that time had to welcome not only a tiny kitten but also a rescue dog into his household and has been there though many upheavals in my life. I wasn’t prepared for him to go, but can you ever be ready for that? I think of him daily, and my heart still feel broken (I think it always will). I miss his presence and loud snores very much.

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The other two nutballs, Mya and Billie Jean, are healthy and happy. Mya, since Kobe’s death, seeks much more affection and I love that she’ll often come to snooze beside me now. As for Billie Jean, she continues to adapt to life in the city. She’s much more curious about people in the park and is much quicker to trust people than she was before (even letting people she just meets to pet her). One of the best days this year is when I happened to track down puppy photos from her rescue home in the DR and learned about her origin story. The joy and delight she exudes gives my heart a lift every single day. You have to spend time with her to see what I mean. My bestie who adores Billie Jean has said she’s never met a dog like her, and that part of what makes Billie Jean so sweet and special is because she’s happy, she’s really happy. I won the lottery with my rescue pup and my two cats. Love you and miss you, Kobester.

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So what’s next for 2019…

I didn’t accomplish many things I wanted to in 2018; I didn’t have time to blog about things I’m passionate about as much as I wanted to from the start of the year; for several years now, I’ve been wanting to pick up my reading habit again (I used to read a book a week at least, but haven’t done that in forever). I don’t have a fully fleshed out list of goals, but working on this blog more and reading remain on that list.

I also would like to improve my health and fitness. This year, I came down with what felt like cold after cold. I’m writing this right now sniffling and tired, actually. Thankfully nothing more serious health-wise, but it’s not like me to be under the weather so often and so I need to improve my immunity; maybe just wash my hands a helluva lot more, and take vitamin C. Fitness-wise, I want this to be an epic running year, and I’ll soon be choosing a few key races for spring and fall. I also want to incorporate a little more variety into my workouts, and in fact have already started to by going Spinning, taking a few classes at Studio Lagree and meditating using the app Calm (a gift from partnering with Capital One).

2019 is a fresh start. I still have much to get in order but I’m feeling good about climbing out of this rut. Life is fleeting. Even before Kobe died, I knew his time was near and so I made an effort to dance around the living room with him more often and let him cuddle as long as he pleased even if it meant I was trapped sitting or lying down when I had shit to get done. Nowadays,  I tell Mya and Billie Jean how much I love them every day and smother them with affection, and reach out to friends more, even if it’s just a quick text to let them know I’m thinking of them. The year will fly by in a blink of an eye. So let’s learn lessons from this past year, move on and make the most of 2019.

Wishing you a safe and happy new year, whether that’s out partying or at home and asleep before midnight!

Karen xo

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P.S. Here’s my #2018BestNine. The Chicago Marathon figures prominently (I mean, being on a Nike billboard is effing epic!) plus a few travel photos (Miami and Bowen Island) made into my most liked posts. By no means reflective of my year or what my real everyday life is all about, but we all know how Instagram is, but definitely some great moments from the past year that have helped shaped me into who I am today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment December 31, 2018

Culture Swellness: 6 things I learned at the Grey Goose Cocktails & Conversations with The Current War’s Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon and Nicholas Hoult

Grey Goose Cocktails & Conversation with the cast of 'The Current War' at Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto, Canada - 10 September 2017

I don’t cover the entertainment beat, so for me TIFF usually involves just a few parties, maybe one or two screenings. This year I haven’t seen any movies yet, but I did get to meet Charlie Hunnam at his pre-premiere Grey Goose party for his movie Papillon at STK. I’m a huge fan of Sons of Anarchy so this was very exciting, so exciting that even though Charlie was pretty accessible, all I could utter was asking if we could take a photo. He was really gracious with everyone and took plenty of photos.

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Photo credit: @photagonist

I also was lucky enough to attend the Grey Goose Cocktails & Conversations panel held on the Lavelle rooftop with the screenwriter, director and cast of The Current War. It was a intimate group (maybe about 20 of us), and it was really interesting to see how the actors all handled the sometimes convoluted questions thrown at them, and fun to drink Bloody Marys “with” Cumberbatch (he downed his first one pretty quickly and was promptly served another). In any case, here are six things I learned at this brunch.

The Current War story sounds compelling and I’ll have to go watch it.

“”It’s about a rivalry to electrify the world, but to me it’s about legacy and importance of leaving the world a better place through creativity, innovation and spontaneity, and the wonderful traits these men have and bring to the world and do so fearlessly; that is why I wanted to tell the story,” says director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.

Grey Goose Cocktails & Conversation with the cast of 'The Current War' at Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto, Canada - 10 September 2017

The stars knew little about this story before the script came along.

Benedict Cumberbatch: “I knew very little about Edison til this project came my way the interesting thing to me was the more I discovered, the stark contrast between this man who promoted himself as part of his product, his branding as well as inventing, researching, developing and manufacturing and who he was underneath that. How he journeyed from his beginnings to a point where he was seemingly a wizard. the king of it all.  And what happens when all that gets threatened how you can lose your integrity and become someone who acts reprehensibly at the time and forget the intention of that work of bettering mankind can be.”

Michael Shannon: “To me Westinghouse was just a name on products things in my house, but I’d never stopped to consider he was an actual person, it seemed like he wanted it that way, didn’t seem like he was ever trying to be glorify himself anyway. He worked hard and tried to make things that would help ppl, so I didn’t know much about him beforehand it was a real pleasure to get to put a face to the name.”

Nicholas Hoult: “I read a book Devil in the White City so I knew a little bit about the World’s Fair and the build up to that but not that much about Tesla so that was one of the great pleasures about doing this was learning about him , what foresight he had how incredible he was in terms of his inventions and imagination but also how selfless he was in terms of giving up to create a better world, but not being able take care of himself, to patent things properly or take care of his health.”

Benedict Cumberbatch is pretty funny.

The discussion had turned to the characters relationships in the movie, and Cumberbatch joked, “Edison was a player, he just couldn’t k– no (laughing). Chris,t I’m on a rooftop in 2017 in Toronto talking about a dead man’s relationship with his wife, I don’t think think that’s right on any level to cast dispersions, he does neglect his family, I feel so awful about doing this, I much prefer to talk about someone who is a good example of marital bliss. It cost him, and he tried to make amends.”

Grey Goose Cocktails & Conversation with the cast of 'The Current War' at Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto, Canada - 10 September 2017

The actual science is beyond the actors comprehension, but everyone seemed to agree Nicholas fared best at understanding it.

When asked by a physicist at the panel whether they’d prepared for their roles by delving into the science, Benedict replied,

“I have to confess not, as an actor I cannot begin to, I cannot lay claim to the complexities of your profession, your world, your expertise. It is a cipher for which the human interaction plays out, not to belittle it in the importance of the story. My understanding as a simple layman, it goes beyond my comprehension, I was really bad at physics in school, circuit boards used to just make me freak out and the only thing I liked doing was drawing them but I always made the switches in the wrong place and none of my LEDs would ever light up when I made a circuit in physics class, But I have a profound respect for the men and women in that field and the field we were portraying so I did try my best …to try to have a layman’s understanding of it. Did I understand why he’d hold onto DC when AC was clearly the better option? That to me seemed to be more of a human blunder than a scientific one, the power that can be applied; a human flaw more than a scientific one.”

As for Hoult, “I understood everything and I think that shines through in my performance,” he bragged, jokingly. “We had a science lesson this guy came in trying to teach us this stuff and that got me more into a tizzy than I was to begin with and I was trying to understand it but was, oh boy, but that just spiralled into more and more questions.”

Cumberbatch then gave him props, though. “You were pretty good though, you did kinda get what he was on about, I was lost at page one bit you stuck with it.”

For Hoult, he was very intrigued by Tesla. “The thing that was remarking about Tesla,he could create these things in his mind without building models, he could run them in his imagination and then fix problems through that as well, and you could see why people of the time we be like dude you’re insane, that’s not possible, it was so remarkable.”

The actors loved the costumes and were fine with being less than handsome for their roles.

“I loved being ugly in this film,” said Cumberbatch, referring to a scene where he’s fixing his hair in the movie. “Like you do when you’re 41 and going oh fuck what should I do with that bit of receding hair, should I just scrape it over, that’s very human like that I like that too, he doesn’t always shave, who does? I know what you mean it’s not about presenting a more perfect vision of yourself about trying to be who he was in the moment, he hated dressing up, Edison, in all honesty, jokes aside, he did hate the parade of fashionable dressing up, big money and occasions and panopoly of social mores, airs and graces and figures of authority.”

Cumberbatch feels there’s a long way to go for his industry to becoming more environmentally friendly (when asked a question about the energy crisis).

“And as far as energy goes, I feel deeply hypocritical…being flown here to talk to you on a lovely rooftop here in the sun’s heat that’s prop as hot as it is this time of year because of the fumes shooting out of the plane I was on, to put a finer point on it, but you know, it’s hard to talk about environmental concerns when in our industry, we have a great ways to go. But you need light to rellect through lens onto films or sensors these days, and light often isn’t available from nature at the time you need it and you need light for stories like this about electricity; and there’s a ways to go recycling on set, transporting people on sets, electric vehicles should be mandatory, to be a bit authoritarian about it, it gets you there, charge it when at work, don’t get why we don’t all do that on film sets, probably the cost of the hardware at the moment…and yeah and recycle, I don’t know what else to say,” he replied. “I try to wear clothes more than once!” he added in jest.

And with that, our brunch panel with The Current War cast ended, but not before I took a photo with Hoult.

Nicholas Hoult Sept 2017

The Current War hits theatres in November 24th.

Leave a Comment September 13, 2017

Pet Swellness: Welcome home, Billie Jean

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“What have I gotten myself into???”

This is what I asked myself late the night of February 3rd. This was the night my first official Save Our Scruff foster dog, Billie Jean, was dropped off at my place by a transport volunteer (fostering means I open up my home to a rescue dog until it is adopted, and while in my care, help train it, bring it to vet visits, meet with trainers if needed and learn the dog’s personality so that the organization can find the right home for the dog).

Billie Jean had just landed from a rescue org in the Dominican Republic and she was cowering in sheer fear as far back of the crate as she could. I’d opened the crate door and was trying to convince her it was fine, and had reached in to pet her, and she had snapped at my hand. And I freaked out a little.

I left her alone for a bit, but then sat outside her crate chatting to her, thinking that’d be comforting. After awhile I went to add a blanket so she’d have something soft to sleep on, and she went to snap at me again. WTF. I went to bed and figured I’d figure out what to do in the morning.

I found out from the awesome team at Save Our Scruff that I was basically doing everything you shouldn’t do with a very terrified dog. The talking, the eye contact, the trying to pet her — this is all intimidating and scary. So I spent the day just cooking and hanging out at home, reading online about how to handle scared dogs. In the early afternoon, I saw Billie Jean had exited the crate and was sitting near it, so I sidled up to her slowly and just stood next to her and let her sniff my hand, which I just left by my side (I didn’t reach out — but had I, I would’ve done it palm up; learned this from the reading I’d done that day). She quickly returned to the crate, but a couple of hours later, she exited the crate and went straight onto my bed.

I’d have just let her hang out there alone til she felt less scared, but my cats were hiding in the closet, and I wasn’t sure what would happen if they emerged, so I thought I’d better be in the room, so I shuffled in slowly backwards and lay facing away from Billie Jean. After about 10 minutes, I reached back to let her smell my hand, and then later I pet her. She sat upright and tense, on guard, for about an hour before she felt comfortable enough to relax a little and lie down more comfortably.

That was one of our breakthrough moments in terms of our bonding, but getting her to go outside to walk was extremely draining, physically and emotionally, for both of us, I think. She’s only about 42 lbs but Billie Jean is surprisingly strong if she’s using every ounce of her being to resist me. I had to wrestle her into my arms to get her out of my door (and carrying a 42-lb dog is awkward!) and then she would burrow herself close to the wall or into the bushes.  So “walks” were really just me standing there with a terrified dog that was hiding. And there was no such thing as a quick walk, since the entire ordeal would take over an hour. The trainer’s email said that me facing away from the dog with light tension on the leash would be motivation for BJ to stay with me…which I had a good laugh about at the time, because Billie Jean had zero motivation to stay with me at all. Her only goal was to not be outside at all, and hiding and not moving in any way she could was her life mission. Neighbours would walk by with their dogs and chuckle sympathetically at me with the dog refusing to budge.

I was frustrated, heartbroken for this scared dog, and simply didn’t know how long I could foster this dog for because I didn’t have time to spend four hours a day walking her. I was low on patience. But I don’t like to give up, so I vowed to commit to two weeks of fostering her and seeing whether she’d improve. But I felt that maybe I simply wasn’t cut out for the commitment fostering calls for. Perhaps I’d been lucky with the rescue dogs I’d dogsat for SOS; they’d all been relatively well-behaved and mostly trained. Billie Jean was proving to be a lot of work and caring for her was all-consuming and I had stuff I had to do on top of fostering.

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And then, seemingly out of nowhere, on day 5, Billie Jean decided to walk outside. Getting her out the door eventually got easier as well. And after about a week we were walking more than an hour some days. After a visit with a Save Our Scruff trainer, we started on crate training and she took to that really quickly. Now she understands that meals take place in her crate and sleep time. This also helped her to learn that the bed and sofa are off limits, unless I allow her to (she still attempts to make it happen though! She’s persistent, we share that in common!).

She also got more affectionate with me. One day I walked into the bedroom and I thought I’d scared her, but it turns out Billie Jean was wagging her tail at me. I’d never seen her do that, which is why I didn’t realize what was happening at first. Another day, she was lounging in her Casper dog bed (which Casper generously gave me for my foster dogs) and I was on the sofa and I said “Hi, Billie Jean!” and she walked over, put one paw on my shoulder and licked my face. And I thought my heart would explode.

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I saw that she was great with the cats, and is very quiet (to this day, I’ve never heard her bark; I’ve only heard her growl at some dogs). And given her energy level and lean build and her breed (hound cross), I thought I’d try running with her, and she runs really well. She keeps alongside me at a good pace…but who’s kidding who, she could go much faster, she just maintains my now slow pace.

I can’t recall when I started considering adopting this cutie pie, but I knew with every day that it’d be hard to give her up. And when I got the email two weeks into fostering that it was time to fill out the Save Our Scruff paperwork so that an adoption listing could be written up, I was filled with panic that Billie Jean would no longer be in my life. I told SOS I was considering adopting her, and they gave me more time to think.

And over the next week, I talked to other dog owners about the realities of owning a dog.  I tried to work out which friends would be able to take care of her when I have to travel. I thought long and hard if whether this was the right dog, and the right time of my life for a dog.

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Because I’ve always wanted a dog. When I was living in Montreal, I’d often visit the SPCA there just to see the dogs. I’m always the one petting dogs on the street, even ones I probably shouldn’t be (street dogs in foreign countries, for example). I asked for a dog as a kid (denied!) and as an adult (also denied!), despite dropping hints each and every year how a dog would be the most incredible gift ever. About 10 years ago, I’d read several books about dog breeds and narrowed it down to a handful (with key factors being “good with cats” and “low energy” — this was before I became a runner!). I photocopied the chapters so that when I was ready to adopt, I’d have the info on the breeds that would work well with my lifestyle. It’s my love of dogs that lead me to volunteer with Save Our Scruff in the first place. I have the cats and have volunteered with cats, but I love dogs and cats equally (I think you can be both a cat and dog person!) so when I heard about SOS, I realized it was a way to get some time with dogs, or in the case of doing home visits initially (that is, making sure potential homes for the dogs are safe) that I’d be helping dogs in need of a loving home in my own small way.

And after more than a week of consideration, I decided Billie Jean had to be part of my family, and applied to Save Our Scruff and within a week, was told that Billie Jean would be joining my fur family. That week or so I spent debating the adoption, I truly needed that time to make sure I wasn’t making an emotional decision. But I believe the timing is right. And as much as I may have helped her, she’s also helped me. Last year was a hectic one, and 2015 was an awful one personally. In 2016, I ran around like a crazy person; I know to many people this will sound like first-world problems and that it’ll fall on deaf ears, but I simply traveled too much. I ended the year burnt out and knowing I need to travel less and have  more of a routine and make more time for me. And after five straight weeks at home in 2017, four of them with Billie Jean, who forces me to have a routine (minimum of three walks daily, meals at a certain time — although she’s not that demanding of a dog, tbh), I felt so much anxiety and stress melt away (except for that first week with her — then stress was at an all-time high trying to help this terrified pup adapt to life in Canada!). I’ve already started to turn down travel opportunities (both personal and work-related) so that I can be more rooted at home, but when I do travel, I have support of friends who I know will care for and love Billie Jean as much as I do. And life, thanks to Billie Jean, is better. Happier. More focused on the things that matter.

I’m looking forward to a lifetime of adventures with this new member to my family. I wasn’t expecting to be a foster fail, but am so thrilled that I am.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Save Our Scruff for bringing this beauty into my life and for all of your help along the way.

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Leave a Comment March 15, 2017

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