First comes love, then comes marriage… in all US 50 states #LoveWins

“First comes love, then comes marriage” is a nice playground rhyme that wasn’t true for everyone, until Friday June 26, 2015.

In an historic decision on marriage equality, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 5-4 that the “Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage” – thus making it legal for gay and lesbian couples in all 50 states to marry.

So, Americans, welcome to the marriage equality club. Canada’s been waiting for you for 10 years.

Speaking of marriage, my best friend got hitched recently.

At their wedding, they had family members read-aloud selected passages that meant something to them. My best friend chose a passage from Corinthians, in the Bible, about the kindness and patience of love. Her husband chose a sonnet from Shakespeare.

I never thought much about readings at weddings, until I read Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s decision for the majority: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.”

That’s beautiful and powerful, and I hope that I won’t be among the minority of people who choose to use that as a reading when they decide to get married.

Love wins.

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You can read the historic decision, Obgerfell v. Hodges, here.

Life moves pretty fast…

“If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

Because before you know it, you could wake up and realize your profile photo on Facebook is a sunburned middle-aged office worker slurping back a margarita on your spring vacation in the Dominican Republic. Assuming Facebook is still a thing in 15 years.

Thanks for the timeless reminder, Ferris.

Truer words have never been spoken.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday.

It’s an opportunity for a feast, sure, but it’s also a great opportunity to slow down and spend some quality time with friends and family. It’s also a time to reflect on what matters to you – what you’re grateful for and how those things impact your life.

I’m grateful for many things – some more important than others. Of course, family and friends rank pretty high both on the importance scale and the gratefulness scale.

But I’m thankful for some every day things:

The beautiful weather that allows me to have a few final brunches out on the new balcony enjoying the view with friends…

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For being able to afford and enjoy the small luxuries in life, like a fancy cup of coffee with a special someone…

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I’m also very grateful for the opportunity to work in a field I love, and work with and learn from some great people… and for my life in Canada.

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Cheers to you all this Thanksgiving! May you all be blessed with positivity, good health, and happiness.

Strength, Fitness, and Flexibility: Barre Fitness

Barre class is a triple-whammy of a workout that has changed my body and my mindset.

Thanks to barre, I now have the strength to do close to 50 push-ups in a row, have admiration for how strong my body has become after hours of planks and Pilates moves, and have increased my mental and physical flexibility to tackle a challenge. (I also have leaner, more toned limbs, a flatter stomach, and a greatly increased sense of satisfaction with my body thanks to my improving strength and fitness.)

It all started a few months ago when I bought a Groupon deal for a 20 class pass at Moksha Yoga Winnipeg. I was looking to try something new and the class’s combination of yoga, Pilates, and ballet sounded interesting.

It also didn’t sound sweaty… but it is.

I wasn’t sure what to expect – I figured the class would be mostly lean women who are barely sweating as they elegantly extend their arms overhead as they practise pliés.

Wrong.

All shapes, sizes, and genders come to barre class so I never feel self-conscious. I typically go twice a week and there’s usually at least one guy at every practise – and it’s a reminder that while the male body tends to look more athletic and fit naturally than the female body, the female body is a lot more flexible.

After a few classes, you come to learn which instructors love to torture you with core work and push-ups, and decide who you like to practise under. There’s always great music to amp up the energy, boost the mood and positivity, and enjoyment of each class. The yoga and stretching at the end of every class makes all the hard work worth it when you feel how much further and deeper you can stretch than when you started.

I highly recommend purchasing the Moksha Groupon if it comes up again and you’re interested in trying something new – it’s a fantastic value, and you can always start by getting the 10-class pass if you’re not sure you’ll enjoy it.

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If you’ve done barre – what did you think? What’s the best fitness class you’ve ever taken? Leave me a comment!

Getting fit with Groupon: How to find a fitness deal & make the most of it

Groupon is a great and affordable way to try new things – especially when it comes to fitness classes.

Fitness classes can be expensive, and if you’re trying something new for the first time, you probably don’t want to spend a lot of money on something that you’ll potentially hate.

That’s why I like Groupon – they typically have a few interesting deals on fitness classes in town for trial memberships or a few classes for a reduced price. It’s a nice way to try something you’ve always been interested in but don’t think you could afford regularly, or just as a way to spice up your exercise routine.

Take me recently – I’ve always been interested in Pilates, but it’s very expensive so I’ve never tried it in a studio.

Then I saw a Groupon on for Pilates classes at studio nearby so I thought it would be a great fit – but the class schedule didn’t fit with my schedule and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get all of the use out of the Groupon so I didn’t buy the deal.

Instead, I bought a 20 class pass for Moksha Yoga Winnipeg. I had heard good things about them, and while I’ve tried yoga classes in the past, I’ve never been to Moksha.

Before I clicked “buy” on Groupon, I looked at all the classes Moksha offered and what times they’re on so I could see if it would fit flexibly into my schedule. Then I noted the caveat for the 20 class pass: you have to use all 20 classes within 90 days… So I calculated how many classes I would have to attend a week to use up all of my Groupon classes.

I’ve been to two Barre classes at Moksha now, and it’s been a great experience. I’m definitely looking forward to finishing the other 18 classes – and it’s nice to know that I can switch it up and attend a yoga class at Moksha, too, because I’m not limited to taking one type of class with the deal.

Tips for finding a great fitness deal on Groupon and getting the most out of it:

1. Make a list of a few things you’d like to try: Kickboxing? Rock climbing? Dragon boating? Yoga? Then watch for it on sites like Groupon and Dealfind.

2. If you see a deal you like, check the organization’s website. It will give you an idea of their studio and what their classes and instructors are like. Also, make sure to check their class schedules to make sure it will fit into your schedule.

3. Note things the organization offers, like pre-registering for class online. For me, registering online makes my life easy – I can pick a class and save myself a spot, so I don’t have to rush from work to class and be half an hour early to make sure I get in.

4. Read the fine print. Sometimes the deal dictates that you have to use the classes you bought within 90 days after you go to the first class. Calculate how many times a week you have to go to class to use the whole deal.

5. Ask yourself: Do you feel this is really worth it, punk? Sometimes, the savings aren’t that big, and if it’s not a class you think you’ll like, you’re probably better off paying a drop-in fee for three classes than purchasing a deal-pack of 10 when you’ll stop going after three.

6. Tell a friend about the deal! Unless, of course, you like to do new things alone… and are really accountable to yourself to do them. Trying something new with a friend makes it a lot easier (and fun!) to go regularly and get the full value of your deal.

I definitely recommend using sites like Groupon to spice up your workout routine, or even to try new activities with friends or for a date.

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What’s your favourite way to find and try new fitness classes? Leave me a comment.

Spiking the Devils Punchbowl: Hiking Spruce Woods Provincial Park

Did you know Manitoba has a “desert”?

Spruce Woods Provincial Park, about two-and-a-half hours away from Winnipeg, just past the town of Carberry, is home to the Spirit Sands.

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Looking out onto the Spirit Sands. (Photo Credit: Adam Carroll, 2014)

 

The Spirit Sands aren’t technically a desert – they’re a delta, the remnants of the Assiniboine River as it carved a path for glacial meltwaters into Lake Agassiz almost 15,000 years ago. Only 4 square kilometres of delta sand are around now – but when you walk it, it definitely seems like you could be in a desert.

 

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Hiking up a dune. (Photo Credit: Adam Carroll, 2014)

 

It totally makes sense that the military practised detonating bombs out there – when you’re in the middle of the sand delta and you can’t see any forest vegetation, you definitely feel as though you could get lost in the dunes. Only one kind of burrowing wasp and some wolf spiders live out in the dunes – and I wouldn’t want to get lost and have them as my only company.

 

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Hiking into the Punchbowl. (Photo Credit: Adam Carroll, 2014)

 

Hiking the Spirit Sands and Devils Punchbowl was an excellent challenge. It’s about a 10K round trip if you do the Sands first and loop back to do the Punchbowl.

 

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The Punchbowl, as seen from the viewing point. (Photo Credit: Adam Carroll, 2014)

 

I’ve only ever hiked once before, last year, when I went to Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) for work. RMNP was amazing – set in the Manitoba Escarpment, it’s a lush hike that keeps you cool on a hot day thanks to the shade of the trees. (What a huge difference in landscape, eh?)

 

The lookout on the escarpment about three-quarters of the way through the hike.

The lookout on the Gorge Creek Trail in Riding Mountain National Park, about three-quarters of the way through the hike. (Photo: Erika Miller, June 2013)

 

Cool shade is something you’re thankful for when you’re hiking the Spirit Sands, because there’s no shade out there, unless you make it to one of the rest shacks.

 

Pit stop for a drink and some shade before trekking through more sand dunes.

Pit stop for a drink and some shade before trekking through more sand dunes. (Photo Credit: Adam Carroll, 2014)

 

The hike was fun, but if you’re a beginner and out of shape, it could be difficult. I definitely suggest building up endurance for a 10K hike in the hot sun. Environment Canada recorded the temp at 33.4 degree Celsius out in Carberry the day of the hike, but it seemed more like 37 in the middle of the sand dunes at noon.

 

Cooling off at a watering hole! Felt so good. (Photo Credit: Adam Carroll, 2014)

Cooling off at a watering hole! Felt so good. (Photo Credit: Adam Carroll, 2014)

 

Tips for beginner hikers from a beginner hiker:

  • Buy a provincial park pass: We didn’t realize we needed a park pass for the day and then had to find the campground office to buy one. A day pass is $5 and well worth it, because Manitoba Conservation can fine you $70 for not having one. Waaaay easier and cheaper to just buy a day pass and be done.
  • Sunscreen is a necessity and “reapplication is key”: I didn’t put sunscreen on my shoulders because I thought my backpack would cover it, and I ended up with a burn. Do as I say, not as I do.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses: You need the hat to avoid heatstroke, and the sunglasses so you’re not squinting all the time and can enjoy the sights.
  • Don’t wear mesh shoes through the Spirit Sands – your shoes will fill with sand and you’ll have to empty them all the time: I wore running shoes with mesh tops and so much sand filled my runners that I felt like my shoes were two sizes too small.
  • Bring lots of ice water: I drank almost three litres of water out there, and I still didn’t bring enough water. Also, add some lemon to your water for a number of health benefits.
  • Beef jerky is always the best hiking snack, but some ice-cold fresh fruit in a Ziploc bag will double as a tasty way to give your mood and blood-sugar a boost, and feel great if you put it on the back of your neck like an ice pack.
  • Don’t forget to look up!: Yeah, it’s important you watch where you’re walking, but don’t spend the entire time looking at your feet and the trail. Look up and enjoy what’s around you!
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The park from a viewing deck. (Photo Credit: Adam Carroll, 2014)

 

If you’re looking for something different to do this summer, Spruce Woods is a great day trip, and I would recommend hiking the Spirit Sands and Devils Punchbowl at least once.

 

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Hiking the Spirit Sands and the Devils Punchbowl is a great substitute for leg day. (Photo Credit: Adam Carroll, 2014)

 

When you finish the hike, you totally feel accomplished and you’ll appreciate the Petro Canada in Carberry with their Slurpee machine. A Slurpee has never tasted so good!

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Thanks to Cody Monkman for the clever title “Spiking the Devil’s Punchbowl”, and special thanks to Adam Carroll for the awesome photos. Check out Adam’s website and more of his work here.

Read about my first hike at Riding Mountain National Park here.

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Where’s your favourite hiking spot? Let me know!

Salutations from the other side: Life after CreComm

People – instructors, CreComm grads, our parents – promised us we would have a life after CreComm. They weren’t wrong.

Now that I’m a CreComm grad (okay, I officially receive my diploma on June 4, but my college account lists me as a graduate) I can say there IS a life after CreComm.

I decided it’s time to take control of my life and go vegan (before 6 p.m.). I’m also going take up a couple of very dichotomous hobbies: yoga and shooting handguns.

I’m like Ron Swanson, except I don’t like fishing or killing animals or eating meat really, and I don’t have a sweet moustache or work for a parks branch of the government (anymore).

Going “vegan before 6 p.m.”, or VB6, is this concept that Mark Bittman, a food writer for the NYTimes, came up with when his doctor told him he had to go vegan or face getting diabetes and going on statins for his cholesterol. I want to eat even cleaner, and have a more active lifestyle. When you spend a lot of time in front of a computer doing work, you really need to make sure you’re offsetting your sedentary day with exercise and a balanced diet. So I’m going to work on my cooking. I bought Angela Liddon’s “Oh She Glows” vegan cookbook, and although I haven’t cooked anything from it yet, it looks amazing and I can’t wait to make my first dish.

Groupon (that wonderful and awful site) had a 20 class pass for Moksha yoga on, and I couldn’t pass it up. It’s close and convenient and the pass was affordable. With 20 classes, I will be able to decide which classes I like and get somewhat familiar with Moksha’s style.

As for my unorthodox hobby of shooting handguns… It came about because it sounds fun, I just don’t think I should squander my talent for accuracy. I’ve only shot a handgun once, at the Gun Store in Las Vegas, where my handler (a super cool ex-NYPD officer named Carmine who had a wicked Brooklyn accent) told me I was a pretty good shot – especially seeing as I was a first timer.

I also signed up for my second ever 5K fun-run, the Electric Donkey, in September. I’m running with one of my BFCC’s (best friends in CreComm, as Duncan McMonagle would say) – which is a nice way to stay active and stay in touch with a college pal.

So, if you’re looking for someone to try something new with you, gimme a call. I’m your gal.

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What are your hobbies? Have any suggestions for things I should test out as a past-time?