Thankful Thursday 18: Coping

Welcome to the eighteenth instalment of my Thankful Thursday series, Coping!

Hard to believe, Thursday came around again (and went again just as quickly). This week, I’m focusing on gratitude for coping.

Here’s my Thankful Thursday for the week of September 7 – September 13, 2018!

Things I am thankful for over the past week:

  • To start off my week, I had a busy Friday, with work, an appointment, and my grad school department orientation. I was a bit apprehensive about the thing, because it was several hours long and involved a lot of socializing with new people, but I handled it well.
  • I then had a lovely weekend! A short run on a beautifully grey Saturday morning:

  • Followed by an afternoon jaunt. I took this photo because I looked up and just thought, “Man, that’s pretty.” I need to take more moments to appreciate and be thankful for how amazingly pretty my everyday surroundings are.

  • I’m struggling with this abrupt transition to fall that we’re having here in Vancouver. It seems like we went from 30 degrees, to 30 degrees and smoke, to COLD and WET. However, I do love the leaves. It’s almost time to take my annual huge leaf photo!

  • My latest gel manicure lasted almost an entire month, and after removing it, my nails were long and fresh for the first time in forever. I have a lot more to say about this because of my chronic health issues and my BFRB, but I’ll save that for its own post.
Naturally, in true Murphy’s Law Becca style, I broke my middle finger nail on a binder right before taking this photo. It had been just as long as the others.
  • I also had a lovely long 10k Sunday run, albeit very wet. This view at super low tide was a treat:

And finally, the theme for this week, Coping!

This week I’m feeling really grateful for the coping I’m managing to do. It’s not glamorous, but it’s important. In a time when everyone seems to be talking about self-care in terms of bubble baths and face masks, it’s important to remember that self-care is often boring.

It has been a very busy week, and that’s not going to let up for me any time soon. Very busy is the new normal, for the next two-plus years. For now, during this intense adjustment period, I’m coping. And that’s self-care. Boring self-care, but self-care regardless.

Some things I have done to cope this week:

  • Be in bed (not necessarily going to sleep, but at least ready for sleep and under the covers, usually reading) by 9pm most nights.
  • Still getting up at 5:30 and doing my planned workouts and runs before work. Except on Wednesday, when I listened to my body telling me it was exhausted and slept in instead.
  • Waiting in line at Starbucks for 20 minutes for a PSL I’d been looking forward to and craving all day. Taking the time to just relax and enjoy being a human being while waiting in line.
  • Appreciate the sound of the pouring rain.
  • Wear cozy sweaters to work where it is now as cold as a walk-in freezer.
  • Bullet journal to keep organized.
  • Work away at my grad school readings a little at a time.
  • Play games on my phone when I need to zone out.
  • Take showers that are a little longer than usual and just enjoy standing in the hot water.
  • Listen to podcasts on my drive to and from UBC.
  • Stay on top of my work e-mail.
  • Do the dishes as soon as I get home after work or class so that I can have a clean kitchen to pack my lunch/dinner in the next morning.

I’m busy, and I’ve got a lot of stressful things going on, but I’m coping. I’m not exhausted, I’m challenged. And most of the time, I’m enjoying myself!

There you have it!

So, that’s my Thankful Thursday list for this week. I hope it inspires you to make your own, and get on that gratitude train!

Peace and love,


Thankful Thursday 17: New Beginnings

Welcome to the seventeenth instalment of my Thankful Thursday series, New Beginnings!

Here we are again, finally on a Thursday! I’m really proud of myself for getting this post up today, because it’s been a crazy week. Yesterday totally felt like Friday. Anyone feel me?! Three big things have gotten going for me this week: Work, which for me is teaching high school French full-time; Grad school, which is my Masters in Education at UBC; and the youth club rugby season, for which I am a coach. Phew!

This week, probably unsurprisingly, I’m focusing on gratitude for new beginnings.

Here’s my Thankful Thursday for the week of August 31 – September 6, 2018!

Things I am thankful for over the past week:

  • Over the weekend I got kind of “nest-y” in the sense that I cleaned a lot. It was kind of born from a want to start both of my school years off on the right foot. But I also fear that I will be too busy to clean very much for the next 3.5 months, so I decided I better get started with a very clean slate before things go down the tubes. I am thankful that I had the motivation and energy to do this over the weekend.
Part of my nesting process was continuing to work on my new shelf unit and finally framing the artwork I had done of my dog, Jazzy.
Another part of my nesting was reorganizing my bookshelves in the bedroom so that I can fit more books on them. The whole of the top is only Harry Potter!
  • I need another grateful word for PSLs. I’ve had so many already. I often say that coffee is my comfort drink. Pumpkin spice lattes  are my greatest comfort of the comfort. They are just the greatest and make everything brighter. Half sweet, though, of course.
  • On Sunday, we finally had a really good air quality day, and I was able to go for a run. I intended to do about 7k, but felt fantastic and kicked it up to 10. It’s the longest run since I completed my second half-marathon of the year in June, and I was so excited. I also especially love my longer runs because I get to this part of the seawall:
The view of the Lions Gate from the seawall is one of my favourites. This part of the seawall is also always much quieter than everywhere else!
The inukshuk guy was also out on the seawall when I was running and it was fascinating to watch him.
  • Yesterday night, Andrew and I went to the new ice cream place on Thurlow called Perverted. I got the lemon, which is cream soft serve with lemon drizzle, graham cracker, and toasted marshmallow. So good!

And finally, the theme for this week, New Beginnings!

This week I’m feeling really grateful for the new beginnings I’ve experienced this week.

First, work started back up, and I’m really thankful to have a job that is always new and exciting. Now, I’m the first person to say that I don’t much like change. However, I think that if my job were the same every day year in and year out, I would go insane (not that I’m not already, haha). I love that teaching changes every year. But I’m also thankful for little things that don’t change – this is the first time I’m getting to teach students I taught last year. Walking into that classroom on Tuesday morning to a group of familiar faces was so wonderful. New, but still the same! Magic.

I also started my Masters on Tuesday. This semester I’m taking two classes. It’s going to be a lot because they’re both on campus at UBC, which is a trek from West Van where I work. Also, working full-time and doing school at the same time is a lot in general. I did it two years ago to get my pre-requisite diploma, so I know. It’s certainly going to be a challenge for my mental health.

Thankfully, with these changes and beginnings, I’ve still been really focusing on my physical health through my workout program, and my nutrition. One of my biggest priorities is to make sure I don’t let that slide.

The last thing to start this week was rugby. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make practices this term because of school, but I am going to be at all the games and I’m really looking forward to it!

There you have it!

So, that’s my Thankful Thursday list for this week. I hope it inspires you to make your own, and get on that gratitude train!

Peace and love,


Thankful Thursday 15: Movement

Welcome to the fifteenth instalment of my Thankful Thursday series, Movement!

It’s been about a month! For my husband and I, it’s been a month FULL of travel, so I took almost all that time off from blogging. We hit up Seattle for four Blue Jays games, and went to our hometown in New Brunswick to visit friends and family.

Now that I’m back, this week I’m focusing on gratitude for movement.

Here’s my Thankful Thursday for the week of August 17 – August 23, 2018!

Things I am thankful for over the past week:

  • On Friday, our last full day in NB, Andrew and I hosted a BBQ at his parents’ house with a ton of our friends and their kids. Great food, company, and baby cuddles, what more could a girl want?!
  • Our trip back to Vancouver on Saturday went off pretty much without a hitch. Even though it was smoky when we got home, it wasn’t too hot in the apartment, and we slept well and adjusted to the four-hour time change quickly,
  • We grabbed brunch at our favourite weekend haunt Sunday morning – I’m sure that helped us adapt, too!
  • On Monday, I did a whole bunch of major adulting things make me anxious – getting things sorted for the upcoming start of my M.Ed. program, and making phone calls for things like car maintenance, car insurance renewal, and getting my new glasses.
  • I spent a lot of time reading and relaxing.

  • I took the time to enjoy the chalk art that has taken over my home corner of Robson Street recently.

  • And although I really hate the smoke because it’s keeping me cooped up inside, it does make for some eerily cool photos.

    On the way to Starbucks, very close to my home. It felt like walking around in a dystopia that day!
The view from my counsellor’s office. Normally you can see a huge stretch of North Shore mountains. Not so on this day!
An angry, red, smoky sunrise.
Out our apartment window, that crazy, yellow, hazy post-apocalyptic light.

And the theme for this week, Movement!

This week I’ve felt gratitude for the exercise routine I’ve gotten myself into over the last month. I believe I mentioned in my last Thankful Thursday post that I started a new workout program. I’m doing Kayla Itsines’ BBG program using the Sweat app. And it’s doing me a world of good. I knew I wanted to do a body weight exercise-based program to go along with a reduced running schedule as cross-training during the half-marathon off-season (which for me is July through December). I’d seen a few others trying and loving this program, and it was easily accessible for me and reasonably priced ($20 a month, and I can do it at home!).

It has been really smoky here in BC since we got back from vacation. I am so thankful that I’m in the rhythm of doing these workouts, because I’m still getting my body moving even though I can’t run outside now. I’ve always needed to exercise regularly for my mental health. Even though I’ve done the BBG workouts, I’m still feeling antsy because I haven’t been able to go for a run. But I am thankful for the movement I have been able to do! And to get some cardio in this morning I pulled the stationary bike out of the closet to do a little HIIT.

A little more about BBG

I love everything about this program except its name. BBG stands for Bikini Body Guide. Ugh, even typing it out makes me cringe. All bodies are bikini bodies, not just bodies that are as RIDICULOUSLY sculpted as the trainers in the program videos. I have to admit, it would be nice to see someone a bit more average-sized demonstrating the exercises in the app occasionally. I’m not trying to be down on myself, but with the lifestyle that I want I am realistically never going to look like Kayla, and sometimes it makes me feel bad. I’m human.

Anyway, the program is composed of three resistance sessions a week that take 35-40 minutes each. Then, you can do whatever kind of cardio movement you want three times a week. For me, this is running, obviously (or stationary biking this week, due to the smoke). It can be hiking, swimming, walking, biking, whatever. The last part is recovery. One day a week is completely off, and one day you incorporate a stretch and foam roller session. I think this is a really great balance that helps me keep my running legs. And I also get to build muscle and strength to help me do even better next half-marathon season. Plus, it’s structure that works really well for my mental health. It’s gotten me into a really great routine, so it’s easy to motivate myself to do it. And it’s almost daily, so my anxiety levels are partly managed by all that movement.

There you have it!

So, that’s my Thankful Thursday list for this week. I hope it inspires you to make your own, and get on that gratitude train!

Peace and love,


Job (In)Security: “Millennials’ Problem”

Before I even begin, I need to preface this with my concept of what is a Millennial. For me, the word is not derogatory. It means to be the offspring of a baby boomer. To have inherited their forebears’ work ethic. To add to it heavy doses of creativity and a willingness to collaborate. To be planted in a hostile job market and pitted against heavy competition. We are enthusiastic and resilient, but we also deal with increased occurrences of mental illness. We also have antiquated perspectives placed upon us (especially women). For example, the need to “get a good job, get married, buy a home, settle down, and have a family” in an economy where this is increasingly difficult. Besides, many of us do not feel the urge to do so until later in our lives anyway.

A post-baby boomer job environment

The basic understanding of the world of work for the parents who raised us Millennials is “work hard, and you’ll succeed.” Unfortunately, that perspective did not prepare us for the 21st century. So, when I hear yet another baby boomer from my parents’ generation tell me that success rewards hard work and that I shouldn’t worry too much, I can’t help but roll my eyes, justifiably. How can it not be the problem of millennials to be worried about their futures? What even is success anymore anyway?

I realize that my anxiety is different from regular worry; that it’s an uncontrollable physiological fear response to fear that has little basis. However, the life circumstances that Millennials face should make any normal human being quake in their boots. We are naturally worried about truly worrying circumstances.

It’s just even more fun to handle it when you have an anxiety disorder.

So you want to be a teacher? Good luck.

Which brings my to my particular situation. As a beginning teacher in a province with a terrible job market for teachers (see Christy Clark’s 2002 decimation of our bargaining rights, only recently (February 2017) won back in the Supreme Court of Canada), job security is, needless to say, poor; that is, if you can even get a job to begin with.

In September 2013, when I began my Bachelor of Education program, the Secondary Education practicum coordinator had all ~300 of us in a lecture hall and began with, “You will not get a job.”

I graduated with my BEd in August of 2014, and I applied to be a TTOC (Teacher Teaching on Call – for all my New Brunswicker friends, this is a glorified term for ‘sub’) in every district, even those that weren’t recruiting at the time. It was a summer of many applications and zero calls. It didn’t help that BC teachers were on strike — what perfect timing.

A common theme: Sacrifice to get your start

I got lucky, as I made a follow-up call to a district where I had applied to be a TTOC. It turned out that they were looking for a French, English, and Social Studies teacher, which matched my qualifications almost exactly, and they asked me to apply. Sounds perfect, right? The only problem? This district was 6 hours north of Vancouver and I would have to leave home and fiancé behind and live alone for at least a year. I applied, and the interview was essentially an advertisement for how much I would enjoy life up in their neck of the woods.

I accepted the offer (how could I not, it was the only one I got!) and sat on my hands for most of September. As soon as the job action ended, I hauled ass up to the BC interior desert land. I worked there for the year, and peaced the heck out when I was finished. I loved the job, but the place was not for me for an extended period. Frequent trips on a tiny-ass plane that made me feel like I was in the middle of the Donnie Darko crash scene were my mental saving grace.

Another new start

I returned to Vancouver and once again entered the TTOC application race. Fortunately, this year, the district where I completed my practicum was accepting applications for French Immersion TTOCs. I applied, and eventually got the job. Thus began my career in the Lower Mainland.

Great, right? Pretty great, except that some months as a TTOC (namely September and June), you only work an average of 6 days. So I also had to stay at my other part-time job shift managing at McDonald’s. I spent my days religiously poring over our finances. Every morning, I counted the number of days I had worked so far that month. I created a formula to figure out how much I earned per day after taxes and deductions. I would figure out exactly how much I needed to work to “get by.” And of course, I’m one of the lucky ones, with a husband who has a steady job with benefits, which cover most of my prescription and extended health needs. However, as a TTOC, I don’t get access to teacher benefits so I’m still out-of-pocket for a number of things.

I spent the year last year as a TTOC, but I also picked up 2 months of a 1-block contract. 1 block. Out of 8. That’s what they had on offer! I loved it, but it also reduced my ability to TTOC, as I was unavailable in the afternoons every other day, and ended up reducing the amount of money I made overall. But contracts are currency in my district. TTOCs don’t get seniority, and seniority is what gets you a continuing contract (permanent – for my NB friends, a B contract).

Pair this with anxiety…

This transitional period in my life has me thinking. Particularly about what it’s like, for a person with anxiety specifically, to deal with a lack of job security. This is something so many millennials like me face for years once we graduate. The common perspective of older generations about millennials seems to be that we’re lazy, when in fact there are just not enough jobs to go around. Workers are taking later retirements. Companies and governments are squeezing wherever they can to save money in a tough economy. Cost of living is now exponentially higher compared to average salaries versus 30 years ago.

I’m  a new teacher. I have anxiety. It’s hard to convince myself that I am worthy of the districts I’m applying to. It’s hard to convince myself that the reason my 100s of applications are returning no calls is that everyone else that applied had more seniority than me (highly likely, at this point). The amount of dead air I’ve encountered in response to my job searches, I’m sure, is enough to cripple a normal person, but a person who doubts every single word they say? Crushing.

I often tell myself I got lucky again when I pick up another small contract. I need to remind myself that I’m likely getting them now because I am becoming more skilled and more recognized and valued by the schools I am working for. My anxiety leads me to constantly think the worst about myself – to constantly assume that I am not worthy.

Lack of structure…

One of the things I find toughest to deal with as a person with anxiety is a lack of structure. This comes with unemployment. It’s also provided by the long breaks that I have in my profession as a teacher.

Now, I’m definitely not complaining about the (remember, unpaid) time we get off at holidays and in the summer. However, I often find that during those periods of my life, my anxiety is at its peak. I grow listless and depressed, and become increasingly anxious about not accomplishing anything, which then paralyzes me even more. I definitely feel the need to take on big artistic projects in the summer especially. These could be redesigning the layout and decor of my apartment, creating a scrapbook, or undertaking a photography project. I then create a day schedule in which I work toward project completion for at least a certain number of hours each day. I also dedicate day parts to relaxation, reflection, cleaning, and exercise.

Unclear schedules…

Sometimes more difficult are the days I don’t get a callout in the evening or early morning. This doesn’t mean that I am off for the day – callout is open until 1:30 pm. I could spend my morning assuming I’ve got the day off, only to have the phone ring at 1pm for the afternoon. Sometimes, I’m settling into the couch with a book at 8:30, and I get a call demanding I brave the worst of the morning’s traffic to be at a school for 9. On these days, it’s impossible to have a schedule. First, they are unexpected days off. I generally don’t have an anxiety-calming schedule created for a day when I expect to be working. However, they are also not necessarily days off, so I have to structure my time such that I can grab food and run out the door at a moment’s notice.

The dog’s breakfast…

There is also a lack of structure in the career development process for young teachers. We often get what is known as the “dog’s breakfast,” if we can even snatch that. Anything is better than being on call! In that first contract I took, I had 5 preps – French 7, French 8, French 9, English 8, and Social Studies 8. The normal maximum for any sane person is 4, preferably 3. This past year, I covered a paternity leave and had 5 again – French 8, French 9, French 10, French 11, and FRAL 8.

And negative amounts of security.

All of this with no clear “end” in sight. The “end” for me means having a full-time continuing contract. This equals working every day for the same district, receiving health benefits, and having the right to take leave (maternity or otherwise). My current school district requires 2 consecutive years of full-time contract work plus an extra contract before they award you continuing. To make matters worse, if a teacher goes 6 months plus 1 day between any contracts, all previously accumulated seniority disappears. For example, my current contract extends until June 30. That means that I have until December 30 to get another contract, or I lose the 1.5 years of seniority I now have. That’ would have been 75% of the way to a continuing contract. It’s a terrifying, paralyzing space to live in every day of my existence.

We’re losing such great people

I speak what I know. This is what I know about an increasingly difficult teaching market: it continually loses bright stars due to the difficulty of finding a secure job. A very small percentage of the wonderful people I met throughout the Education program are working in schools. Many did end up in educational positions that are unrelated to the private or public K-12 systems. However, many others work retail or administrative jobs or went back to school to do something else.

This is not just my problem, not just teachers’ problem

I am confident that my situation is not unique. Nor is it to unique to the teaching profession. My peers across the country, and the world, face very similar struggles. Small wonder that even more people do not deal with anxiety or other mental health disorders than already do.

But what can I do?!

I wish I could propose a solution, but I don’t really see one. The only thing that really helps to settle my anxiety is to work toward the fulfillment of my values, regardless of how I earn money. I think that to feel fulfilled in our lives, we need to do a few simple things:

  • do something for work that we enjoy
  • live life according to our values, in the greatest capacity of which we are capable
  • work hard
  • be creative
  • collaborate
  • ask for help
  • reflect
  • love ourselves
  • breathe

The rest is positivity and hoping for the best! This list is gets me through the worst of times and the best of times. Add a bit of luck, which often comes from that  positive perspective, and hopefully, you’ll find your days are more fulfilling than not.

Peace and love,