Shifting Focus: a Letter of Love to Women

Women, we are too hard on ourselves my friends! As a photographer, I am acutely aware of this fact.  You see I photograph families. I am beyond excited when I capture an image that portrays the love that lives within the everyday. The kind of natural exchange of love that lies within a look, a gentle swipe of hair off the brow, an embrace, a shared laugh with locked eyes. I share this lovey dovey image with my client and she tells me she doesn’t care for it because her thighs look big, or her arms look chubby, or her stomach looks saggy, etc.  Rather than focusing on the love, she focusses on her physical body.

I understand it all too well. There was a time in my life, more predominately when I was at my heaviest, when I refused to be photographed. I saw a camera and I ran for the hills. If forced into a photo, I opted for the “Gopher” pose. You know the old hide-behind-everyone-in-the-back-row-and-poke-your-head-up look. Looking back on it, I now realize I took years of printed memories away from my children.

I had a revelation the other day while I was trying in vain to fall asleep. A memory popped into my mind from a few years ago that happened while I was visiting my little sister Brenda. We woke up on a lazy Saturday morning. Brenda and I poured our coffees and sat in the filtered sun surrounded by our children who were in their glory to wake up and play together. The girls were playing dress up and skipping around the house filling the room with laughter. My son Lucas was composing his very own piece of music on the piano while my other son Ty laid on the floor playing with his iPod. Brenda’s daughter banged her chin on the ground and ran to the reassuring arm’s of her Mom so she could be inspected for injuries.

Click….

Click…

Click…

As Brenda talked to my Dad on the phone, my niece ran over to me and asked for an airplane ride. I laid down the camera, and my shutter-bug son Lucas picked it up.

Click…

The reason I have this memory is because of these photographs. Had this moment not been captured, I would have never remembered this hour of everyday life. Through time, this seemingly insignificant everyday life moment has transformed into an extremely significant memory that tugs at my heart-strings every time I look at it.

Here’s a weird fact: If I see something I want to remember and I don’t have a camera, I hold up my hand to where a camera should be and click the air with my right index finger. Yes, it’s weird but I swear it forces the image into my mind.

Moms: our children don’t look at our physical body. They just love their Mom. They see  our spirit, our heart, our love…not our body. I think about how I love my own children, purely, wildly, and with all that I have. It has nothing to do with aesthetics, yet I hold so many judgements when it comes to my body.

Those self-deprecating thoughts that play in our mind about our body are damaging, not just to ourselves, but to those who love us.  Can you imagine saying any of those things to a loved one?  Imagine telling your sister, or your mother, or your girlfriend, or your child:  “Great family photo, but your arms look huge.”  Yet, we accept this as our own truth. What does that say to our children? What are they learning from us?

My sister Janice is unable to walk without support because of MS. Can you imagine if I said to her “I hate my jiggly thighs.”   The thought of it makes me cringe.

To all you Women out there…

Appreciate your bodies. Your legs allow you to walk/run/dance, your arms allow you to embrace, your smile lights up a room and exudes warmth and joy.

Be good to yourself, children are listening, watching, and learning from you.

You are not defined by your physical body, it’s a part of who you are as a whole but it’s merely the vehicle for the spirit.

Let’s stop trying to be something that we are not but rather shift our focus to all that we are!

We can blame the media for our focus on the physical, but we buy into it.  To change it, we need to take responsibility for feeding our insecurities.

What would be so wrong with loving ourselves the way our loved ones do? The person we are as a whole. The generosity we show, the love we give, the energy we put into making the world a little brighter. The raising of spirited little children into confident self-assured adults.

When you wake up in the morning, be proud of the person you see in the reflection of the mirror.

You are beautiful.

You are amazing.

You are loved.

You are different!

Just be you with confidence and pride.

Treat yourself with the same level of love and respect as you treat those you love most.

And the next time someone asks to take your photo, remember that photo will produce a memory. Your loved ones need those.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Recipe for Success via a Chick’s Weird Mind

I went for a run yesterday.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I ran. You see I’ve been “meaning to”, but good intentions mean nothing if you don’t actually lace up the runners. It’s like telling a friend you “meant” to phone them, but you didn’t because you were pinning crafts you will never actually craft on Pinterest.

Anywhoooo, As I was running I was wondering why I haven’t hit the trails in a while, and after much thought I had a EUREKA! moment.

I’ve put off running because my mind told me I need to lose these extra 10 pounds I’ve put on.

You would think that if my head said I should lose them, that would translate into the urge to run it off.  For me, It has the opposite effect.

What it does is put pressure on me and it panics me a little. Which spirals into NOT wanting to run, making a few bad food choices, which turns into more bad food choices, which turns into beating myself up, to pass me the chocolate, which leads to a chocolate face sportin’ a pout on the couch.

Here is the key to maintaining my healthy weight

(which for me is a weight that I can maintain and still enjoy chocolate and a martini with good friends).  

The key to maintaining is that my goal is to be fit and healthy.

~the will to exercise attaches to the desire to clear my mind of stress and improve health by building endurance and muscle. For the good of my mind, it has nothing to do with burning calories so I can lose pounds. Exercise makes me feel alive. I feel like Chuck Norris after a good workout, mixed with a dash of Angela Lansbury circa Murder She Wrote.

~the desire to eat healthy foods and drink lots of water produces understanding that these foods are what fuel my energy levels. Healthy foods
+ lots of water = energy, less sick days, and the added bonus of good skin.

~Balance in life is important. Enjoy the beautiful parts of life. Positive out, positive in. Live life with gratitude and a thankful heart. And above all, always give more than you take.

When I combine these factors: Exercise + Healthy Foods + A Grateful Heart: it’s a recipe for Success!

Onto the next part of the formula…Define success?

If I were to measure success by the number on a scale, I would feel like I’m failing!  Especially when I add weight training to my exercise routine.  Muscle weighs more than fat.

It’s the way I think about things that make me feel successful.

I will give you two scenarios to explain it, because this thought process eluded me for years!

Scenario 1: I weigh myself in the morning. I am up 2 pounds from the last time I weighed. Shit balls. Time to work out. Go for a run thinking about the stupid 2 pound gain the entire run. Return home. Drink water. Think about all the foods I want to eat but can’t eat because I’m chubby-chubberson…insert more self-deprecating talk here. Eat a salad with no dressing. Get hungry. Sport my angry eyes. Air punch something. Spend the day thinking about the chocolate bar I’ve hidden in the top shelf of the pantry. Stop taunting me Reece’s peanut butter cup.  Time for supper. What can I eat with the least amount of calories? I choose more salad. Put the kids to bed and the Reese’s peanut butter cup comes alive in the pantry, screaming at me “Hey Chrissy, I’m a cup of sunshine”. Go eat it and return to the pantry to find more snacks. Nothing looks good. Walk away. Return to the pantry with lowered expectations. Eat a bag of butter flavoured mini-rice cakes. Go to bed feeling like a loser with no will power. Will do better tomorrow.

Scenario 2: Wake up and feel off. Why? Realize I have missed part of the maintaining equation. Mood and energy is down, lace up my runners. Run in the sunshine focusing on gratitude simply for the gift that I am able to run. See a goose on the trail, run large circle around it while I scream a bit as it hisses at me. Thank you goose for improving my running time. Return home feeling like a million bucks. I’m awesome. Drink water. I’m hungry and the fridge is full of  fruits, and veggies and left over chicken. Perfect foods to give me even more energy. Drink more water. Feel productive and alive. Turn up music and dance like an idiot around my house. Kids roll their eyes. Try to force a son-mom dance…it’s like dancing with a mannequin. Plan supper, going to roast some veggies with olive oil, seasoned just right with a side of fish and dash of love (I’m corny that way). Eat until I’m full, it feels good to fuel my body with the right foods.   Drink more water. Feeling successful and full of joy and pride, I pat myself on the back. Watch Modern Family on the boob tube and choke on my water as I laugh. Life is good, today was great.

See the difference?! The key to success lies within the mind. That’s great news! I have lived both sides of those scenarios, and life is just a whole lot more fun in scenario #2. I believe I have also given you a glimpse into my weird mind.

I will leave you with some iPhone photo moments, taken when I stopped to enjoy the sunsets and to smell the flowers. 🙂

And a video that my friend Clint shared with me today that brought a smile to my face.

Clint also created a facebook page with thoughts, photos, and links to bring a smile to your day: http://www.facebook.com/sideofthebed

I wish you a ridiculous amount of success finding joy through out your day!

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Why I Relay for Life 2012

Many of you have supported my Father’s journey as he’s been fighting Prostate cancer.  You have no idea how much your well wishes, thoughts, prayers, and support means to my Dad.

You see my Dad is the most social person I have ever met.  His smile lights up a room, and he loves to meet new people. In fact where ever we go, most often than not he runs into someone he knows. This happens in the most obscure and remote areas. I can only assume it is his mission to talk to every human he comes into contact with.

His heart is so generous. He would give you the shirt off his back, and he would even buy you an extra one. The very thing that drives him forward in life is to help others with words of kindness, gestures big and small, and the gift of his accepting heart.

He makes me proud of him daily.  My heart also breaks for him daily as he struggles with his health.

Cancer has taken little pieces away from my Dad that are a part of who he is as a man. It has invaded parts of his pride, dignity, joy, energy, and health. However, cancer has not succeeded in taking away any part of his Faith nor his Hope.  If anything, it has allowed his Faith and Hope to grow and by sharing his story, he has supported and uplifted others who share and understand this fight.

Here’s the thing, talk ing about cancer is uncomfortable.  It’s ugly. But how can we not talk about it?  I don’t know many people who aren’t touched by cancer in some way.  But what if we didn’t talk about it? What if we kept all talk of cancer behind closed doors because it’s too personal to talk about?  How will we ever hope to find a cure if we don’t do something? How would we raise awareness?

But I have to share something that cancer has given us as a family. This ugly disease has brought our family closer. It’s taught us to appreciate the gift of health, because it is indeed a gift. It’s taught us to value life, cherish those we love, tell our loved ones how much they mean to us, laugh a little more, and complain a lot less. And don’t sweat the small stuff!

I know I’ve shared photos of my Dad before, but here’s a little video featuring my soft-hearted Dad.

On June 15th, 2012 I will once again be joining Team Hope in the Leduc Relay for Life as a way to fight back.

Team Hope 2011

Team Hope, last year (2011)

From 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. we will be walking the track in honour of my Dad, in memory of my Aunt Lorraine and my friend Chris, and in honour/memory of my team mate’s loved ones. If you would like to join the fight by making a donation, please click:

http://convio.cancer.ca/goto/christine.hopaluk

All donations big and small make a difference!  The Canadian Cancer Society  advance in their research towards finding a cure each year with the help of your donations.  You can make a difference. No one can take away our hope. Let’s join together to fight this fight. If we don’t come together to make a difference, who will?

I will leave you with a photo of my Dad taken on Easter Sunday. Awww, he’s so cute.

From my Dad’s heart to yours,

Christine