Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On Paying Attention

Sad Petrushka ignored her health, ignored her heart, ignored her dreams

If you know me at all, you will know I am a little bit scattered.. prone to flying whichever way the wind blows, and not really having a set course of actions, goals or intentions, so hold on to your hat, this year, I actually planned something. I planned to PAY ATTENTION.

Where this seed was planted, I'm not sure, whether through yoga class, or something I read, or something I heard, or a combination of influences (likely), I decided that I would face some things and not just run away. And by run, I mean, walk, because I don't run.. not yet, anyway.

About 6 years ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and since then, I made vague attempts at healthy living.. but again, not put forth with true intention to change. I had my Doctor write me a prescription for exercise, and every once in a while I'd remind myself that eating whatever I was eating probably wasn't the best thing for me, but I ate it anyway, and suffered the consequences. I was eventually referred to an endocrinologist to help manage my diabetes, and again, I played the game of showing up for appointments, feeling guilty for being diabetic, and not really changing anything about myself. This cycle just made me feel bad. I felt bad, so I did bad. Repeat, repeat.

Last fall I was invited to join a healthy living group run by my medical clinic, and I expressed interest but never heard anything back. Later on, I found that there was so much interest that the group had filled up and I was invited to join a group starting in January.  This played right into my new intention to pay attention... hard to fight something if you don't know what you're fighting or where you stand.

I don't want to make this a super long post so I'll summarize here: I had to start from where I was.. and to do that I had to understand where I was.. with actual numbers and science.. and secondarily but more importantly, I removed judgement about those numbers.. after all, they represent the state of my body, and somewhat gave me a picture of my health, but I am not my health alone... but it was my health I needed to improve.

As a person who has been kinda fuzzy about this kind of goal-setting in the past, realizing I could effect change over time by making changes, has been eye-opening. The fact that I am sitting here posting on my highly neglected blog is a sign.. Guess who's back in the game!

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Story of Chubrub Cabaret!

 I'm Heather Witherden and this is my happy face!
Let me tell you why I`m so happy.

I met these women on the internet. We knew each other, well, knew of each other, anyway.  Ray E. and I had met at a Fringe event called the Smut Slam, where, doing stand-up and being MC, I was witness to her spoken word talent. What we had in common was threefold: being plus-sized, being theatrical and being proud! Our membership boiled down to:
Ray Eskritt, Melissa Granovsky, Johsa Manzanilla and Heather Witherden: the fat-tastic four* ( * maybe really 3, Johsa is an honourary chubbette) 
Eventually we grew to include Matt Gillies, who, with Ray, owns Bang Interactive, an interactive visual program used for parties and clubs.

Formed from this little coven of mutual admiration was 'Chubrub Productions', a body-positive cabaret performance troupe and not-so-secret society.

We started to meet, first in coffee shops, then in office space, and eventually in a big rehearsal space at The Purple Room.

Word got out that we were chubby superheros; we were booked to appear at Genderfest on Valentine's Day 2014, as the opening act for Courtney Trouble. Kate Sinclaire of Cherrystems thought we'd be a perfect complement to Courtney's message.
We put on our tutus and rocked that stage of the Gas Station Arts Centre!

Buoyed by our exciting experience, we put together plans to make Chubrub an even bigger and better name, so we put together a fundraiser, called the Fat Lovers Dance Party, just a month later. 

Fame Nightclub kindly allowed us to sell tickets to our event, where we performed, held a cupcake eating contest and generally glittered up the crowd into a frenzy! Now the word
was really out about Chubrub Productions, because we experienced a bit of 
backlash regarding the name and/or intent of our event. Was it to fetishize
fat women? Was it a safe venue for anyone of size or gender or orientation?
Would we somehow be construed as self-hating but yet also narcissistic?

What we learned from the event was that there will always be naysayers. Forging ahead, we earned enough money from the Fat Lovers Dance Party and gained enough publicity that we realized there was indeed goodwill and interest in doing even more performing, so we gathered up our dollars and put together a show for Winnipeg Fringe.
Of course, no summer in Winnipeg would be complete without a big Pride celebration, and Chubrub was there too! We put together a beautiful banner with the help of some good, handy sewers with an eye for detail, and did three Pride events back to back! First we were in the Dyke March, then we rode on a Winnipeg Transit float (so much fun!) and our Pride culminated in a performance Sunday night with QueerView at the Windsor Hotel. As our very first full show, whoa, it was fantastic.. and a big learning experience. 

We mainly learned we needed more help! Luckily, we soon met the world's most wonderful stage manager, Andrew Henderson, who polished us up and turned our Chubrub show into a 45 minute romp of body positivity and sass. He was freshly home from Toronto and ran the Scotiabank stage at Pride Winnipeg. He is truly our magical unicorn!

After an amazing photoshoot with Teri Hofford, we developed some terrific marketing material and started to sell, sell, sell our Fringe show, telling everyone we knew.
We opened our show July 16, had seven shows in ten days and had over 500 people come see it!

Reviewers were quick to hear the message of our show:

 "ChubRub.....have a blast celebrating themselves, challenging body-image ideals and conveying the message that “fat” doesn’t deserve to carry any stigma as an adjective." - Bartley Kives ,Winnipeg Free Press

'Bursting with intelligence and sexuality and positive messages about the body' - Michelle Palansky, CBC Manitoba 

Full disclosure, the reviews said we needed more polish, but we know in our hearts that we put together a show that really hit home for people, even with a limited time and budget. We know who we are, where we stand, and can't wait to continue to make Chubrub Productions the best it can be. We've already been contacted by Pilates Manitoba (who run Plus Size Fitness) and also the Women's Centre at the University of Manitoba, regarding body positivity events, and Boutique Erotica is also planning an all-body-type sexy event soon as well!

Seems like our group, and the ideas we're brewing are ironically, fitting right in. That makes our hearts feel extra-extra-large.

Chubrub Productions can be found on Facebook, and to enquire about performances or special events you think we should know about, send a message to . We love to perform!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chocolate gives you wings!

Your wish has been granted, Winnipeg; you now have an annual event to celebrate your love of chocolate and raise money for the United Way. Last night was the kickoff party for the 2nd annual Chocoholics Buffet, and it was sweet! Over 50 people purchased tickets to a shopping party at the Lindt Outlet Boutique, where they were treated to chocolate and wine samples, special discounts and the red carpet treatment; it was delightful to see so many chocolate lovers enjoying themselves in support of a great cause.

As your chocolate fairy, I have pledged to make sure all chocolate served at our events is of the finest quality, so I go to any lengths ( or widths)  to try it all, and the staff of the Lindt store indulged me! I tried: white peppermint squares, hazelnut chocolates, milk chocolate wrapped Lindt balls, small and large, chocolate with caramel and sea salt, milk chocolate bars with fruit and nuts, and even a sip of Ghirardelli hot chocolate. A special treat that everyone enjoyed were the chocolate-dipped strawberries so juicy that the chocolate fairy couldn't talk for a minute, and you know, that almost never happens!

Organizer Anna Echols and volunteers from the Chocoholics Buffet mingled with the shoppers and encouraged everyone to hop on their smartphone and tweet about the event, using the hashtags #chocbuffetwpg and #lovelindt on Twitter. Everyone who attended was given an entry to a draw for chocolate prizes, including some very sweet Advent calendars perfect for those who just can't wait 'til Christmas!

It was clear from the shopping baskets that many of the attendees stocked up on the special deals, and may have even found a few indulgences for themselves; the Lindt Outlet Boutique pulled out all the stops with red velvet ropes, a smiling doorman and servers in white gloves with trays of samples. It was a sweet evening with a smooth, silky centre!

Keep an eye out for more events leading up to the Chocoholics Buffet and if you see me, give the chocolate fairy some sugar, won't you?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I Don't Normally Do This

I'm about to be shamed. Feel the white hot heat of the glares and disappointment of my friends when I admit: I sometimes eat at McDonald's.

And, when I went to (the sophisticated continent of) Europe, I also ate at McDonald's.

I enjoyed it.  I took pictures of my experience, like a true North American country bumpkin.

Look, y'all, the McDonald's is DIFFERENT here! They have different menu items! Different furniture!  It's so.. different!

It's also the same: it's familiar, it's cheap and it's reliable, which is why we ate several breakfasts and a few roadstop lunches at McD's while in Germany.  To add to the fun, our son now works at McDonald's in Canada so we felt the need to offer our opinion on what we thought was actually done better in Europe (everything's better in Europe, right?)

First of all, Bacon McMuffin, hello, where have you been all my life?  Send that 2 bit floozy Egg McMuffin to the trash bin!  This is your Egg McMuffin, minus the watery ham circle, plus crispy bacon. That is a win not to be missed.

Second, McCafé is a REAL CAFE guys!  A separate space apart from the lowly soda-drinking rabble, with real espresso, cappucino and outright fuckin' cake. I said it. You can get cake and coffee in a McCafé, like a decent human being. Real cake, on a real porcelain plate. Yum.

Third point, there's weird stuff we don't have here. Western Sauce! That's BBQ for all you 'mericans, but in Europe, it's called 'Western', as in John Wayne sidled over and squirted awesome onto your Big Extra. Oh yeah, that still exists in God's country, over there.  As does the McVicky Tzatziki, a donair-style sandwich, the McPietsmiet, the McGoerki, and a few other choices.  My favourite though has to be the Café Breakfast, which is coffee and a couple of fresh-baked bread rolls with 4 of your favourite spreads. My favourites were butter, strawberry jam, honig ( German for honey) and NUTELLA. You know someone loves you when they let you eat chocolate hazelnut icing on your toast in the morning, guys.

So there it is, I went over the ocean, on a plane, went to one of the world's finest cities, Berlin, and ate at McDonald's. La La La La La!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Part II - Havin' a Heat Wave in Landstuhl

Landstuhl is a pretty little town next to the large American Air Force Base Ramstein, and was the location of the NATO Conference Rick attended from the 17-20 June of our trip.  A few streets that intersect at a little town square, set at the base of a castle on a hill, the town was easily traveled on foot, but we also drove around and explored a bit. Our hotel was very comfortable and had a full breakfast included each day, including omelets, meats & cheeses, the ever-popular muesli and just for fun, cakes and assorted breads. Coffee is strong enough for a man but made for a woman. It was a treat each day to sit under the wooden cherubs in the wooden dining area of wooden walls; have I mentioned how much Germans love woodworking? Well, guess what, it's because they LIVE IN THE WOODS. Everywhere is a forest; it really is a lovely place full of trees.
Rick exploring Burg Nanstein above the town of Landstuhl

Landstuhl and seemingly most of Western Germany was in the midst of a heat wave during our stay; unusually high temps in the mid-30's (Celcius) combined with high humidity meant a lot of our exploring and walking was limited to short trips, and thankfully, Rick's conference and our hotel rooms were air-conditioned enough to allow for comfortable working and sleeping.  During the day, we would meet for lunch or coffee on his work breaks, and walk around town. Lined with restaurants ( Kebabs, Gelati, Chicken Wings, Pizza, Chinese, and the ever-popular Irish pub in another country) and shops, we mainly window-shopped. Prices for goods seemed to be high compared to North American pricing, i.e., what we'd pay in dollars, the Germans would pay in Euro, $79 for a dress / 79E for a dress.
What Size Am I?

I'm very glad we brought along my laptop, as I had great internet access at the Hotel Christine and essentially became my own tour guide with the help of Google Maps, TripAdvisor and Urbanspoon. I found recommendations for recreation at Monte Mare and dinner at Olmuehle; both places exceeded our expectations. We actually returned to Olmuehle a second time during our stay in Landstuhl just because it was so outstanding. Embarassingly I ordered the same two menu items just because they were delicious and mouthwateringly appetizing.
Scallops are Larger Than They Appear

The pool (schwimmbad) at the Monte Mare complex was a welcome break, both for Rick's back and for relief from the heat. A visit for a few hours cost an equivalent of about $12 per person and was well worth it for the beautiful facility and relaxation. With more time and planning you could also book massages and spa treatments there but we happily went for a swim, floated in the wave pool and screamed down the water slides sans kids. (Why do I always end up going backwards on the inner tube?)

No visit to Landstuhl would be complete without the short trek to Burg Nanstein; the castle atop the hill. We went in the evening when the castle had already closed to tours but the trekking paths and grounds were still open, as was the bar! Hike = Beer. We took some photos and then at the bottom of the hill returned for more beers and scallops to our new favourite restaurant. So far Germany seemed quite pretty and wholesome.

Ohlmuehle (translation: Above the Mill) Hotel/Restaurant

Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Mrs. Witherden! Tear down this wall!" - Our anniversary trip to Berlin and points in Germany , Part I

Earlier this spring my husband mentioned the possibility of a June conference in Germany, right about the time of our anniversary and wondered out loud if I would be able to get time off work. This has been a wild year for travel for our whole family; another trip at this point just seemed like a bonus, but again, because of how busy we've been, we also had not made any solid plans for our 25th wedding anniversary. A big family party with all the extended relatives had been proposed, but we declined; when it comes down to it, marriage is really an agreement between two people, and those two people should be the ones celebrating. Sorry, wedding industry, you already got us once; this time we knew we'd do something personal.  It was pure accident that this conference happened to fall right during our June 18th anniversary, so we started to make some plans.

June is always such a crazy month, we knew we'd need professional help to pull off the events we'd be missing by being away for 11 days, so I called my Mom ("Amma" to our 3 boys), and she agreed to handle everything: a Grade 8 Farewell celebration for our twins, exam time for our oldest, driving to lessons and work, keeping up the supply of food and milk required for three teenagers, etc. We stocked the fridge, gave her a calendar, hugged her and knew it would all be cool.

From Winnipeg to Montreal we were bumped up to first class thanks to Rick's frequent flier points and it was lovely and peaceful thanks to the delicious meal and the Gravol that turns me into a happy, dozey simpleton, every time. Once in Montreal we were able to make our way to the Maple Leaf Lounge to wait for our connection to Frankfurt; had some snacks, wine, free internet, cappucino, stuffed my carry-on bag with free magazines, and generally enjoyed my Gravol buzz until it was time for the next dose. It was probably a good thing we had a nice restful stopover prior to getting on the cattle car to Frankfurt!  Once we were starting boarding we realized we were on a full flight, with a lot of families, and yes, our anniversary trip included a 6+ hour flight with a crying our row.. in her mother's arms, being violently rocked, elbows flying into the meat of Rick's upper right arm. The mom was doing her best to get the baby to go to sleep, which seemed to include possibly knocking her out by banging her baby's head into the armrest, seat table tray and Rick's elbow. It was one of those awkward social situations that is only cured by knowing glances and the end of the flight. The real hero in all this turned out to be pharmaceuticals once again: Rick was so knocked out by Naproxen (for his back pain ) that being maniacally elbowed for hours on end really was not as big of a deal as it might have been. I too, was being helped along by a pair of earbuds and my old buddy Gravol. As much as I wanted to soothe a baby and help the Mom out, I really just wanted to drool and sleep more. We arrived in Frankfurt, mildly dazed, and set about the task of getting our bags and our arranged rental car (ooooooooooooh, German engineering).

Frankfurt Airport is enormous; if there were any time to include moving walkways, this would be it but instead you are on your first German Volksmarch, walking for several kilometres, with sights such as Starbucks, Hermes and full-service grocery shopping en route just to the rental cars! In the spirit of the trip I wore a good pair of supportive Birkenstocks, and they did not fail me as I flip-flopped all the way to Hertz. Our flight arrived early Sunday morning so once our flight crowd dispersed, we were fairly alone in the giant airport terminal. We found our Hertz representative having his morning Starbucks, and were assigned this beauty, a Volvo D3 diesel.

Rick being the planner that he is, had purchased a Garmin GPS unit loaded with European maps, so once we had a look at the fancy dashboard of our new Volvo and plugged in our GPS, we thought we'd be on our way to our first destination, Landstuhl, where Rick's NATO conference was being held. Just leaving Frankfurt airport was a challenge, as we tried to figure out which ausfahrt (German word for exit) would be the best. Just as an aside, say AUSFAHRT " ows-fart ", for fun, over and over, if you want to be THAT annoying tourist. " Take the AUSFAHRT!", I'd yell, for no good reason other than to act like I was 10. Okay, enough fart jokes, now for the serious business of getting lost at 160 km/hour.

We drove to the wrong town. Not gonna lie, even with an onboard GPS unit in the car, and a Garmin on the windshield, if you type in the wrong town name, you will drive to the wrong town. That is how we happened to find ourselves on a Sunday morning, talking to local Polizei about how to turn around and get ourselves to Landstuhl, from Karlsruhe. Karlsruhe does look like a very nice place from what we could see as we were blocked by a bike race in progress, but really, it's no Landstuhl.  So an extra hour or so added to our trip, we had a little more time to see the sights and let the Naproxen and Gravol buzz wear off as we enjoyed the famous Autobahn highways of southern Germany. Always good to be overtired, recovering from pharmaceutical effects and driving faster than you ever have in a car you don't know on highways you have never driven. Very comforting! 

*Now I'd like to introduce my first guest blogger, Rick! He'll share with you the next part of our journey to Landstuhl!

First we should describe what I called the "magic car."  This Volvo was fully loaded with features that would put the F35 fighter aircraft to shame - glass cockpit, smart cruise control, heads-up display, proximity detectors (I'm not joking with any of this!) and the list goes on.  I had no idea how to use any of it initially, as it was quite a step up from my 1998 Escort.  However, soon we were screaming along the autobahn at Mach 2, with my legs crossed on the seat and hands in the meditation position using the mind control driving feature of the car (OK, I made that part up).  And all of this would have been great if we stayed on the autobahn but the GPS calculated an interesting route from Karlsruhe to Landstuhl.

We departed the well traveled path and began a scenic journey through the forests and mountains popular in movies like the Sound of Music or Heidi.  Unfortunately, GPS technology works on having enough satellites visible to at least triangulate your position - we were now lucky to have one satellite visible to the car, assuming it was directly above us through the rocks and trees.  Much of this portion of the trip was spent with the GPS reminding me that both of us were lost so best to enjoy the view.  It was spectacular, even when the road became increasingly narrow and it was a struggle to avoid putting passing motorcycles into the woods...then it was cyclists...then it was a wagon being pulled by a tractor.  We figured that the road would end at someone's chalet and the next few days would be spent eating bratwurst with long-lost relatives.  But there were just enough GPS hits to tell us that we were actually on real roads and heading in the right direction.  Remarkably, we ended up at the hotel in Landstuhl and began our efforts to stay awake and adjust to German time.

So we arrived safely and settled in... stay tuned for the next days of our trip to Germany!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Looking forward to seeing this new magazine when it comes out! I should know better than to read any comment section but just for fun, I did count how many comments it would take until ' diabetes' was mentioned. The answer is , ' Two'.