Not a Secret Anymore (starts with a “Z”)

I have a confession to make. Only a handful of my friends and family know what I’ve been up to – and it ain’t pretty.

I’ve been getting ready to teach Zumba.

Helmet and flack vest not mandatory in my class.

Helmet and flack vest not mandatory in my class.

If you don’t know Zumba, it’s a fusion of dance and aerobics to Latin and international music. One of Zumba’s taglines is “Ditch the workout, join the party!”. If you had seen me Monday night after teaching my very first class, you would have assumed I had been chased several miles by said party and then called for an ambulance.

It was one hell of a workout – for me anyway. I forgot that as a participant following along I could take it easy and bring it down a whole lotta notches whenever I wanted. As an instructor – not so much. I told my class that it was perfectly normal for me to turn eight shades of red, have trouble speaking and steam up the gym with approximately one party-sized-keg of my sweat.

Yep. It definitely wasn’t pretty. Which is why I can’t believe I’m asking – would you like to register for my Zumba class?

You see, we only had five people registered for the class and we need at least ten or the class will be cancelled.

Another confession: I was really leaning towards “This must be a sign I’m not meant to teach Zumba…. HOORAY!!!” – which I understand might not inspire confidence.

In fact you may be wondering why I would bother putting myself through that again. The first is because the class asked me to (granted, that was BEFORE the workout/party). And the second is: This. Is. Good. For. Me.

REALLY good.

I can stay stuck in my head for endless hours… which is not a good place to be if dealing with depression or PTSD or whatever it is that happens to you after spending four years in Afghanistan and returning home to find yourself crying when you hear sirens or the roar of airplanes or Carly Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe”. Learning the choreography and teaching my body to move the way it’s supposed to takes an amazing amount of cognitive work AND of course makes me stronger physically. Plus, dancing makes me happy – especially the line dance for Danza Kuduro which I learned when I took my very first Zumba class at Kandahar Airfield.

Last confession: I’m not yet a “GOOD” Zumba instructor – I sometimes get the moves mixed up and may have to rework my lineup, but I’ll get there and am willing to share in the fun along the way.

My Zumba class is from 7-8 pm on Mondays at the West Carlton Secondary School on 3088 Dunrobin, which according to Wikipedia is in the “rural west end of Ottawa”. For reference that’s about 20 km from the Canadian Tire Centre (GO SENS GO!), 40 km from Parliament Hill (GO HARPER GO! Just kidding.) and 30 km from Mom’s place (THANKS FOR THE CAR MOM!). For my American friends that’s 2694 miles from Vancouver.

So if you’re handy to Dunrobin, like to boogie and have always wanted to witness a human-humidifier push her way through salsa, meringue, hip-hop and Newfie jigs then you have until NOON, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2015 to register.

The course number is 78848 and you can register online here or by calling 613-239-2751. The cost is $76 plus tax for ten weeks, but if you’re starting a week late maybe it’s even less.

By the way, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board offers a TON of classes throughout the Ottawa area from arts and crafts to small engine repair to (of course) Zumba. To discover all they offer this fall and winter check out their Learning for Life magazine.

And if you can’t sign up my Zumba class don’t worry about it. It’ll just give me more time to get ready for next term’s class which starts February 1, 2016. Stay tuned!

The KAF Chronicle (AKA shortest newsletter series EVER)

We only put out two issues of the KAF Chronicle while I was in Kandahar, but I was proud of them nonetheless. I wish it could have been a full-time job– taking photos, talking to people and learning their stories – instead of squeezing it in between work and not enough sleep.

ATCO KAF Chronicle - Issue 01 - 2010 February

ATCO KAF Chronicle – Issue 01 – 2010 February

ATCO KAF Chronicle - Issue 02 - 2010 May-June

ATCO KAF Chronicle – Issue 02 – 2010 May-June



Poppies and Coffee: A Remembrance Day Confession

Poppies and coffee and a couple of Reid women trying to do good. Lori in Afghanistan 2008 (photo by Yannick Beauvalet) and I in Bosnia 2000 (photo by Denise Dowdy). Timmies photo by dautruong52 at

Poppies and coffee and a couple of Reid women trying to do good. Lori in Afghanistan 2008 (photo by Yannick Beauvalet) and Me in Bosnia 2000 (photo by Denise Dowdy). Timmies photo by dautruong52 at

The day before Remembrance Day I changed my profile picture to one of the last ones taken of me as a Canadian Forces soldier. The photo was snapped at Camp Black Bear in Velika Kladusa, Bosnia during the fall of 2000 and I’m wearing my very first medal as I stand in front of a painted map of Canada, positioned just so you can see Newfoundland behind me.

I posted that photo on Facebook because it was almost Remembrance Day and I was proud to have been a soldier. I also missed all my friends from those days, so I tagged everyone I could think of from my home unit in Halifax and some of the people I worked with overseas and elsewhere. Their response was fantastic! I heard back from so many friends and I checked in a few times on the morning of the 11th to say hi back and “Like” all the great posts about Remembrance Day. Although I wasn’t heading downtown for the ceremony, I knew good and well the importance of Remembrance Day and I was going to make sure I had my own meaningful moment of silence at 11 am.

And so it was at one minute before the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, I found myself in line at a drive-thru of Tim Hortons.

I was a Canadian Forces veteran who had the honour of serving as a cenotaph guard twice in my seven years in the Reserves and here I was at 11 am on Remembrance Day nosing my car along to order two fucking double-doubles and a breakfast sandwich.

I couldn’t believe I forgot. How do you do that? Yes, it was a busy day and my sister and I were scrambling to finish painting her basement, but my GOD – hundreds of thousands of Canadians across the country paying their respects to the men and women who sacrificed so much, and I’m in a Timmies drive-thru? Seriously?

It was too late to pull out; at least two cars were already behind me. Live 88.5 had switched to a Remembrance Day montage on the radio, Tim Hortons had stopped serving customers and I started tearing up. I get emotional about Remembrance Day anyway, but I was also feeling bad about forgetting. By the time the moment of silence descended I was openly crying. Oh good Lord, do I have to do this here? I thought about Afghanistan and Bosnia and my colleagues who witnessed the horrors of Rwanda. Finally the moment of silence lifted. And then came Willie McBride, also known as The Green Fields of France, No Man’s Land or as I apparently remember it, The Saddest Song in the World.

I have previously mentioned a few songs that still make me cry, but I had completely forgotten about Willie McBride. Let me be clear, Willie  McBride doesn’t make me cry; it makes me sob. Uncontrollably. Not just because of the haunting melody or the tragic story about the losses of war, but because I heard my cousin Lori Anna sing the same song beautifully in Afghanistan – a truly memorable event at which I was also sobbing uncontrollably because I couldn’t stop thinking of my father and the wonderful gift Lori gave our family a couple of years earlier, just ten days before Dad passed away.

I don’t know how I did it, but once the line of cars started moving and with Willie McBride still playing in the background I ordered two coffees and a breakfast sandwich. With sausage.

I wasn’t in the clear yet though – I still had to pay and make a run for it, all without making eye-contact with the cashier at the window. I did my best, but there was no disguising my wrung-out face nor the two piss-holes in the snow that were my eyes just ten minutes earlier.

I was drained when I got to Kelley’s with the loot. We sat down with Mom as I told the story amid their choruses of “Oh no!” and “Oh dear!”. Mom couldn’t remember Willie McBride so I found it on iTunes and we listened to a short, tinny version on my phone. All three of us started crying. We talked about poppies (How are you supposed to dispose of them with reverence? Is it wrong to wear them on your hat instead of over your heart?) and about Lori (Did you know she sang at Beaumont-Hamel and Vimy last week? We miss her!).

We didn’t talk about Dad and we didn’t talk about soldiers or veterans, but it was there. Unspoken but felt, pushing against our silence and our hearts. How strange it is that we do often forget something so big and so painful. And stranger still that we can almost simultaneously forget and always remember that loss.

Ceremony is important. It brings us together and can shape our individual experiences into one elemental emotion and event. Most ceremonies take place with honour guards, flags and crowds, but sometimes ceremony shows up over coffee and a breakfast  sandwich and a sad, haunting song… even alone in a car at a Tim Hortons drive-thru.

(There are many covers of Willie McBride/No Man’s Land, but the one sung by the wonderful Lori Anna Reid, is simply the best. A few others think so as well. Listen to an excerpt of Lori’s Willie McBride below.)

Willie McBride by Lori Anna Reid