If you pay any attention at all to... well, me as a human being, you know I love hockey.
More to the point, I love women's hockey. A lot. I will happily set alarms for the wee hours to watch Canada's Under-18 women's team play for consecutive gold medals, or find the sketchiest streams imaginable just to watch games the sports stations see no value in broadcasting. That I disagree with them about the value of those games is its own blog post, but not the focus of this one. This post is all about one of the first times in a decade that I finally had the opportunity to see women's hockey live, in person. The last time I got to go to women's hockey games was the Vancouver Olympics.
Yup. You read that correctly. Vancouver 2010, ten years ago. I've watched games online, the few they have had on TV, but live pro women's hockey is few and far between in many places, including where I live. I bought a Saturday Pass to the Secret Showcase in Toronto on January 11th and a ticket to the PWHPA's Closing the Gap event on the Friday.
On Friday evening, I attended the Closing the Gap event as part of the #SecretShowcase stop of the Dream Gap Tour in Toronto. It was fascinating, and I am unpacking what I heard and saw. Because there was a lot to unpack.
The event was relatively small. Under a hundred people, I think. I am bad at guessing but it felt intimate, which was really nice. That said, it was a mix of teenage girls, women involved in girls or women's hockey, hockey/sports industry types, female players, sponsor representatives, and a few random fans. The event had a very "house party" sort of feel with players mingling with everyone and schmoozing. The panels themselves -the whole point of the event- were very good, with a couple standout participants.
Tara Slone was the MC for the evening, and brought her passion and familiarity with hockey and hosting events to her role, which added a really casual and easy-going professionalism to the proceedings.
The first panel of "industry professionals" included NHLPA's Mathieu Schneider, and reps from BioSteel and Budweiser who were informed and very blunt about their motives (all very positive) for sponsoring women's hockey. The panel also included "last minute addition" -Tara Slone's words- Tie Domi who BY HIS OWN ADMISSION had no place on that panel. He dominated conversation, unaware that there were 2 other panels after theirs and spoke with the eloquence of a bad used car salesman. He was all hustle and it felt like a lot of empty promises and buzz words with no idea, let alone a plan, how to back it up. While I do believe that Domi cares about women's hockey in his own way, he came off as uninformed and unprepared. While he spoke, I noticed that the women there supporting him and excited to see him boosting women were all white women. (I think there were only a handful of women of colour there, including Sarah Nurse.)
I have never been a particular fan of Domi (I mean, he was a LEAF, friends!) and before, during the #SecretShowcase weekend, and in the days after the Dream Gap Tour stop in Toronto, he said some truly concerning things about women's hockey, ignoring the American NWHL, bad-mouthing the only alternative to PWHPA membership. Picking fights with fans of women's hockey is not a good look, even for a former NHL player who made his living as a pugilistic enforcer.
Domi has said other problematic things in the past (which I will not go into, but they are well documented and easy to find if you are curious). While I understand the appeal of having a recognized, boys-boy name like Domi's attached to a movement, I'm worried it will do the PWHPA more damage in the long term than good. Some of his past actions also concern me because they don't bode particularly for women of colour in hockey, who are woefully under-represented as it is.
The second panel was of female non-hockey athletes (soccer players Diana Matheson, Carmelina Moscato, and speed skater Anastasia Bucsis) was really interesting and informative, but it really highlighted that one of the main struggles a pro women's hockey league in North America faces is not helped by some of the strongest arguments for other sports' domestic leagues. (Canada and USA already dominate international women's hockey, the improvement in standings of which is often used to justify better domestic pro leagues for other sports.) It was really fascinating and the speakers were really passionate and happy to inform the audience about their own experiences.
The third panel was the most exciting, because it was made up of Brianne Jenner, Sarah Nurse, Marie-Philip Poulin, and Kendall Coyne. They spoke largely about the realities of living life while playing the CWHL and the NWHL and Kendall Coyne specifically spoke to the egregious disparity she witnessed between her (NFL player Michael Schofield) husband's support (trainers, medical support, transportation) and her own experiences.
While all of them were strong speakers, Kendall Coyne had a remarkable magnetism that you cannot buy or learn. She was passionate but matter-of-fact, an eloquent and articulate ambassador for women's hockey.** As an American friend of mine put it: COYNE 2020! Coyne was an standout all weekend, on and off the ice, but her calm ferocity that women are worth more than the leagues they have had to play in was perhaps the most poignant moment for me.
"The leagues are pro in name only," Coyne said, "We are worth a lot more than that." The players are fighting for a platform in which they can perform day in, day out, like their male colleagues, with trainers and medical support, physio, and maintenance so they can stay in peak form. They said this, repeatedly speaking to the front two rows of the crowd made up almost entirely of teenage girls aged twelve to seventeen. Some of the biggest names in contemporary women's hockey spoke directly to these girls, knowing that this fight will not be over soon even if this current "gap" of women's pro in Canada is closed soon and that these girls need to be prepared for that fight.
For generations, there has been repeated, often aimless talk about "paving the road" for women's hockey, but Maria Dennis of the NHPLA asked the vital question at the beginning of the night, the question that no one seems to have an easy answer to: "When will the road finally be paved?"
As Brianne Jenner put it (reiterated by everyone on the panel at least once), "We want to leave the game better than we found it." And they will. Maybe not a perfect game, but better than what previous generations have had.
There's no easy way for a room full of Olympic medalists (because most of them WERE) to say "The issue here is that men don't want women to succeed," but at the root of it, that's one of the main issues. Not all men, of course. But enough of them. Enough men are threatened by the prospect of professional female athletes having a league that they've decided no one needs it. Luckily, it seems like the tide may finally be turning. Women having a professional league where they can make an actual sustainable living will not take away from men's ability to play in the NHL for ludicrous salaries. It will add to what we all have to be proud of. It will increase the amount of quality hockey on our television screens. Which would be a win for all hockey fans, not just the girls and women who deserve to watch their heroes and peers, but to the boys and men who would see just how talented girls and women are.
Now, if we could only convince major broadcasters that women's hockey deserves to be on TV...
On Saturday, I got to watch three incredibly awesome, well-attended hockey games, and what struck me was that the only thing making these games "less exciting" was the fact that there weren't fifteen thousand screaming, invested fans in the stands and the fact that female pro players do not have the liberty to take some of the chances that NHL players take because they do not have the financial and medical safety net NHL salaries provide. The games were fast, exciting, and included clear rivalries, fights, and the physicality that those who do not actually WATCH women's hockey claim women's hockey lacks. It was a joy to watch these women play, not for political reasons, but because they are talented and they play amazing hockey! I want more of it in my life and on my television screen, and so should you.
As a silly aside, on the Saturday, I won Fan of the Game for Game 1 (Team Larocque vs. Team Kessel) got to meet Erika Howe, and won a hilarious Budweiser goal light. (I never "win" anything so it was really lovely!)
The next stop on the Dream Gap Tour is Philadelphia, PA the weekend of February 29th through March 1st. If you are in the area, I absolutely encourage you check it out!
** It was brought to my attention after writing this post that Kendall Coyne Schofield has said exhibited some incredibly problematic behaviour concerning inclusion in sport in general (most obviously but not limited to her public criticism of Colin Kaepernick's taking a knee in 2016). While I truly believe that she wishes to champion women's hockey, it does force us to confront the inherent racism of hockey itself and the alarming whiteness of North American women's hockey in general and demand that we critically analyze WHOSE RIGHTS it is that everyone is fighting for. I don't have answers, only more questions.
You know that friend you have who just STOCKPILES notebooks like that's the one item they need to get through the apocalypse? Yeah. That's me. I'm that friend. I started that black bullet journal with the sparkly Hell Yes 2020 stickers in ... July of 2018. I really wish I was joking.
I did not come to Bullet Journaling via the usual means (... ie. Pinterest or Instagram, these days). I was handed a small booklet by my psychiatrist the day I was formally diagnosed with bipolar and told to get in the habit of filling it out. Being the Type A perfectionist who actually LOVED homework and bubble-sheet tests as a child, I took to it like a duckling to water.
It helped me not only because having concrete information is always useful but because one of my major issues (as a person, but also in my romantic relationships) is that my mood episodes affect my perception and having a written record of the last time I felt happy was a good thing. (It only FEELS like three weeks since you were happy, Mer, it's really only been two days. Depression is a jerk. Do not ever underestimate it.)
That was given to me in February of 2017. When I knew it was running out, my sweetie, Paul, began explaining how big of a Thing bullet journaling is. How varied it can be. How there are spreads and trackers for just about anything and artistic ways to do it all. There are also incredibly simplistic ways to do it. I began experimenting and, over the past two-ish years, I've figured out what works for me in my personal life. But I also spent the past few years trying to figure out better ways to organize my work-life. ADHD is a demon that makes it necessary for me to have used day planners since seventh grade, but they've never worked better than maybe 70% of how effectively I felt they really could. So I started playing with that too.
Recently, while discussing how UTTERLY EXCITED I AM about how I've refined my system to work at about 90% of potential, Paul mentioned how a lot of posts or videos about bullet journaling don't talk about How They Got There. I've also had several friends ask me, in the past few weeks, what I do and how mine work and what they look like, so I figured I would share a little.
My system is For Me. It will not work for everyone, but one of the best parts of bullet journaling is poaching the ideas you see that WILL work for you and using them. Cobbling together a collection of trackers and systems to create a journal that works for you is the objective, not making it pretty. Mine are NOT that pretty. Some people have incredibly gorgeous journals and I encourage you to check out Pinterest if that idea appeals to you because you will be gobsmacked by some peoples' creativity.
I am creative, but after a couple of years of experimentation, I've realized I'm much more concerned with function and efficiency. This is how it's all evolved.
A few months after I started bipolar medication, I was feeling more stable than I ever had in my adult life and I took the win. I dove back into my desire to write (which had become a near-impossible feat the way my moods were cycling prior to medication).
We all begin writing in a new notebook thinking it's going to be The Book That Changes Your Life. Right? Just me? Well, I began this notebook with incredible optimism. I had lists of goals. I had projects divided into tidy columns. I have timelines. And then...
To be perfectly frank, I got pregnant. We like to pretend that personal lives and professional lives can live in separate bubbles, but they never can. When I miscarried a short time later, I sank into a pretty bad depression. It was nothing compared to some of my depressive episodes (I'm looking at YOU, 2010), but I was devastated. We wanted that baby. We were excited. And then... we were heartbroken.
It took me about a year to really get back to a place where I could focus on my writing. (I mean, we also bought a house that winter, I painted the house myself, we moved, got a demon kitten. Life did go on.) That summer I tried again. I tried trackers, and found that the system I'd devised didn't really work for me in this context.
You've probably noticed that I like stickers. A lot. Yes, I am a five year old. Yes, it works for me. I don't care how professional it looks because these books are For Me. As any planner or bujo you, dear reader, will be For You. The most important thing Paul drilled into me -because he's been bullet journaling for a lot longer than I have, and his look like a different SPECIES of notebook than mine- is that you MUST be willing to adapt, and that no system works for everyone so you must experiment and learn what works for you.
By the end of the summer, I realized I needed a more comprehensive accountability system. I needed PLANS. I needed a SCHEDULE. I ... had this really adorable idea that structuring my days like high school would help me stay on task.
It worked to a point. This is what it looked like the first few months.
The 5 Questions thing was something else Paul introduced me to. Apparently it has military origins, but it's insanely helpful in approaching problems or failures in a constructive way. Eventually I decided to do it less frequently, but for the first few months that I did it weekly, it taught me a lot about what threw me off and what derailed my plans, and what actually worked to get back on the rails.
In October 2018 I attended Can*Con and -after being on the fence about self-publishing a project for YEARS- I made the decision to self-publish... on January 4th, 2019. Because I am a crazy person, apparently. But it WAS mostly done so it was just getting all the formatting, covers, etc. done. It did get done, but what I tracked and how I organized my pages slowly shifted. I needed more space for some things. I dropped things that weren't working for me. The whole "school classes" idea was abandoned.
I published the second book in my series in May. I will not lie: it was a terrible plan. But it got done. And by the time it was done, I was burnt out and struggling to show up every day.
Around that time I realized I also needed to consolidate my actual day planner and my work bullet journal. Some days I wouldn't even open my day planner. I forgot a couple appointments. *BIG CRINGE*
I'd used planners for decades, but it was time consuming to split my life into two books, to make sure I had all my appointments written down in both places and... I liked my work bullet journal better. I took a few months to undertake my new mission: to combine the two. To effectively have one book that managed my daily and weekly life and work meetings, appointments, tasks and responsibilities. I needed to find a way to keep my to do lists manageable, visible, but also separate.
I have all my personal goals, big tasks, chores, and all my personal and medical trackers in a large book that almost never leaves the house. (The black "Cosmic Child" book above is 2020's Personal Bujo.) Over the course of 2019, my term goals in my work bujo (I do three four-month terms: January 1 to April 30, May 1 to August 31, and September 1 to December 31.) and monthly goals became second nature. I reflexively do regular check ins with myself and alter goals if my health dips or life gets busy.
When planning, I tend to start with my bigger, longer-term goals: yearly, 3-year and 5-year goals. (I know a lot of people like to do 10-year goals but... I don't find them productive at all. For me. Do them if you love them!) Then I try to breakdown those goals over the course of the upcoming year to see just how bonkers it seems in context. They always seem bonkers. Results may vary.
Then I break down those goals into term goals...
And then further into monthly goals, which are then organically broken down into weekly and daily goals. The separated Life and Work to do lists and goals lists on my weekly layout are helpful and I keep them deliberately small-ish to not induce my own self-destruction that tends to result from me taking on too much and breezily thinking It Will Be Fiiiine. (Narrator: It is never fine.)
I have a lot of charts and things mostly because if I don't write something down, I will forget it in 17.4 seconds. I also find it helps me to start big and break it down. It helps to maintain some semblance of realistic expectations, be it how many hours a day you'll need to work, or how many words a human being can reasonably copy edit in a 40-hour work-week.
A lot of the lovely photos above of pristine pages are from my new work bujo that begins today! (The blue note book pictured at the beginning of the post.) Happy New Year to me! But that first notebook I mentioned? The one I began so optimistically in 2017? The one I kept coming back to, as I desperately tried to find a system that worked for me? It served me so very well, and my use of it ended yesterday, its pages all full of weekly spreads, lists of goals, pages full of brain dumps and more organized info, its spine broken twice over.
There's nothing quite like Finishing A Notebook. Especially not when it's seen you through publishing your first two books. I may not have taken over the world, but I definitely regained control of my own world since the summer of 2017. All it took was time, and flexibility, and a little self-reflection... and a kick-ass bullet journal!