What Nan Taught Me About Love

It's been a really surprising couple of weeks. A week and a half ago I got a text from my uncle Glen late in the evening to say that my Nan had had a heart attack, but she was doing okay. I anticipated sending flowers to the hospital and then speaking with Nan in a few days. The next morning I got another message saying that things were not good, and my aunt Sharon and I made the decision to leave work and go to Belleville because we didn't know how things would progress.

We got to the hospital in time to see Nan and have her recognize that we were both there. It was surreal. As the day went on, we came to understand the impact of the repercussions of everything happening in her body that led to the heart attack and everything that happened as a result. She didn't make it through the night.

I'm so thankful that I got to say goodbye - but it was all truly shocking as everything unfolded so quickly.

As I've talked about before, grief brings up a lot of old feelings for me and I found it especially hard since it was my mom's mom. I'm so thankful for the incredible support I received from family and friends as I went through the motions of life in the days that followed. I was also really grateful for the love that surrounded Nan in the hospital on the day she died.

We had a celebration of life for her last week, which was attended by much of our family and friends. I spoke at the event, and I wanted to share my eulogy here as another way to honour Nan's memory and share my feelings about what her life taught me.


For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ashley. Thelma was my grandmother by relation, but to me, she was always my Nan. I was never allowed to call her grandma or grandmother or granny (because those made her sound old) – so Nan she was.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wanted to say about Nan today and how I wanted to express my feelings to celebrate her life. I’ve reflected on many memories that we shared over the years – from times at Tobe’s bingo hall, swimming in the backyard pool, getting my butt kicked at crib until I figured out how to beat her, having lunch at Zellers, eating lemon meringue pie to my hearts content, that time my mom warned her about my 3-year-old brother Cory putting her in a headlock, that time that 3 year-old Cory succeeded at putting Nan in a headlock she couldn’t get out of, that time I almost got married, Christmases, birthdays, graduations, shows– the list really goes on and on.

I’m the oldest daughter of her daughter Debbie, who died in 1998. Over the last week I’ve felt so many of the same feelings that I felt following my mom’s death – shock, disbelief, sadness and grief. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

Today I want to talk about love.

Because in the last week, I’ve realized that love is one of the greatest gifts that Nan gave me. Our family is unique – to say the least. But underneath it all, there’s a lot of love. And when I think back on the family reunions, the Christmases, the summers spent in the backyard – that love is a constant.

I remember waking up on Christmas morning in Belleville at the crack of dawn, and Nan being the first one to get up with me. This was always to the dismay of my mom who was NOT a morning person, even on the best of days. Nan’s spunk, excitement, and twinkle was always present and those mornings were filled with love – even if it was 6am, still dark out and we were the only ones crazy enough to be awake.

Nan taught me how to cook and bake all sorts of treats, which probably helped to cultivate my love for food. We would make up silly songs and put on cooking shows as we danced around the kitchen. We would laugh and be silly as we baked up a storm, with everything we made being infused with love (which obviously made it more delicious)

When I try to explain Nan to people, I tell them a story about when I was in college and visiting Belleville. I was sleeping and she came to wake me first thing in the morning. At my bedside, she said “Ashley, I’ve been thinking about it all night, you’re such a beautiful girl with a beautiful smile, and it’s just a couple of teeth – I want to get you braces” Still half asleep I said thank you, and a few weeks later I was in the orthodontists chair. Nan was known for speaking her mind, but she did it with love underneath it all. I smile bigger because of it.

As I got older, Nan was always very curious about the people that I dated and I realized that it was because she equated happiness with love – and didn’t want me to be without it. In the last couple of years, she would always ask me if I was “still going with Corbin” and when I said that I was, she would tell me how happy she was that I had found him. Because she held love in such high regard and truly wanted that for the people who were important to her.

What really inspired this reflection was the time we spent at the hospital last week - because there was so much love surrounding her in the room when she died. Love from my uncle Glen, my aunt Sharon, Martin’s children, friends, the ICU staff, people sending good wishes and prayers, but most of all Martin.

Seeing the two of them share their last moments together was one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen. Watching Nan look over and make sure that he was ok. Hearing Martin say that he was going to hold on for as long as he could.

Every moment.
Every breath.
That is love.

It's been said that grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we have loved. Where there is deep grief, there was love.

Nan’s life and her death has made me think closely about what we leave behind when we leave this world – and Nan has left behind many memories, experiences, very special people and most of all, love.

Toronto Fringe 2016

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Toronto Fringe Festival is basically the second coming of Christmas for performers.

It's an amazing opportunity to see lots of shows, visit with friends, hang out in the Fringe tent, frolic in the sunshine and enjoy the arts and general merriment for 10 days. This year is slightly bittersweet as it's the last year that the Fringe tent will be in the Honest Ed's alley (since Honest Ed's is set to close and be turned into condos...)

I've had many good memories in the Fringe tent over the years! It always takes at least 30 minutes to an hour to leave because anytime you try, you wind up running into 10,000 people you know and it's just a fun place to socialize and chat with people who you don't always get to see. I live nearby, so I end up in the tent many nights after seeing shows just to have that fun social time. Even though I'm not performing in a show this year, it's still such a blast and something I really look forward to every summer.

The Fringe officially starts today and I've already got a handful of shows picked out to get this ball rolling! With 160 shows, it can be tough to start making choices about which to prioritize. Since shows can also sell out quickly, it's also great if you can set your schedule, and pick up advance tickets for anything that you're desperate to see.

There's lots of great lists floating around (including ones from Derrick Chua and Steve Fisher at Post City whose opinions I value) But here are some things I'm getting started with this weekend / grabbing my advance tickets for!

Dance Animal - Knowing a friend in the cast and watching Dance Raccoon do a monologue at a recent event has me completely sold. Comedy + dance + animals = absurd hilarity.

#MannequinGirl: the musical - I really enjoyed writer Elize Blue Musselwhite's fringe musical last year and the premise of becoming an internet sensation after being hit with a mannequin in the street speaks to the social media lover in me. Alyssa Minchillo is a heck of a talent and I think it should be really cute!

SexT - The conservative parents of Ontario have been livid over the province's new sex ed curriculum and from my perspective it's all been pretty ridiculous to watch unfold. This show has been developed with a bunch of teens and I love that they're bringing sex, consent, sexting and relationships, front and centre from their perspective.

The Pirate Queen of the Stars - I met Megan (who is in the show as well as producing it) years and years ago on an internet message board (true story) and we finally met last year in Toronto during Fringe. It's been amazing to watch her grow over the years as a human and as an artist, so I'm ultra excited for this show! I've been hearing bits and pieces of some of the songs over the last few weeks which has piqued my interest and I'm really looking forward to seeing it all come together. They've assembled an incredible cast of hilarious powerhouse performers and it's billed a sci-fi musical comedy - COME ON.

Other shows I'm looking forward to: Life After (I was part of a reading of this a few years ago and can't wait to see how far it's come. Britta Johnson is such a talent), Bright Lights (top notch cast + Kat Sandler = Fringe magic), Romeo and Juliet Chainsaw Massacre (so much happening and lots of great folks involved), The Fence (Johnson, Johnston and Wilde are incredible and I adored Summerland last year), Wasteland (Sex T-Rex is always awesome), Blind to Happiness (coming highly recommended!) and Echoes (again another great team with a new musical)

I'm sure there will be other shows that come and go onto my list as word of mouth starts to spread - which is half the fun. I can't wait!

If you'd like to follow along with my adventures, I'll be tweeting up a storm (@ashleydtl) and probably adding some snaps to my story (ashleydtl) likely with shenanigans from the tent!

If you're in Toronto over the next 10 days, I highly suggest you grab a program or download the app and support some amazing theatre! All ticket sales go back to the artists involved and be sure to take a moment to tip the Fringe.

What are you looking forward to this Fringe?

To the motherless daughters on Mother's Day

Ah, Mother's Day. Here we are again for another year.

I was in a bit of a funk last week - things were busy at work, I was hustling in my coaching business and I just didn't feel like I had any downtime. I felt burnt out for the first time in awhile. And then I also realized that the halo of Mother's Day was shining down on me, and my feelings made even more sense.

I'm always hyper-aware of Mother's Day and how quickly the cards and flowers and mentions pop up after Easter. Part of me thinks "shouldn't every day be Mother's Day?" With my mom being gone 18 years, I think that's how I feel.

I was reading an article about Michelle McNamara's death yesterday and something her daughter said really stuck with me: “When your mom dies you’re the best memory of her. Everything you do and say is a memory of her.”

I've often said that I am the person I am now because of my mom's life and her death. Losing her at 13 took my life on a different course and things turned out a bit differently than perhaps I envisioned. A family member recently told me that I looked like her - which I took as a huge compliment and was also a bit hard to hear.

To the other motherless daughters - I feel you.

And I'm right here with you amid the greeting cards and flowers and brunches and plans and ridiculous email subject lines. As a motherless daughter you know that even a phone call would mean the world. For us, every day is a version of mother's day - and we carry it heavy in our hearts.

I keep waiting for the year that Mother's Day will just pass like any other day in the year. Here we are at number 18 and I haven't gotten there yet.

My best suggestions for managing the day include making nice plans for yourself - with someone special, a friend, another maternal figure or just on your own. Make yourself a priority and be kind to yourself. You may be fine, you may not be -- and that's totally ok. Feelings

Find a way to honour your mom -- maybe through journalling, visiting a special place or even just talking about her. Sharing memories of my mom is one of my very favourite things. There are so many people who are now a part of my life who didn't get the chance to know her, and so just talking about her is very important to me.

You're not alone in your experience and we motherless daughters and those who feel sadness on this day need to stick together.

As I wrote in the above card in 1993, "you're a very special part of our lives and you'll always hold a very special place in our hearts". Little did I know how true that sentiment would truly be as the years went on.

So here we are.

Being a constant memory of my mom. And holding onto any and every memory I have of her for dear life. Sunday will pass and Monday will be a brand new day.

More posts on Mother's Day (2011, 2012, 2013)

This is 32

Ashley Gibson Toronto black and white

I celebrated my 32nd birthday on April 8th and I've gotta say, I still feel very similar to how I did last year on my birthday

Ashley Gibson Toronto Damzels dress

I celebrated my special day with some of my very favourite people and lots of great food. It was a Friday, so I started the day with a workout and then had a great day at work. We finished early and I had a beautiful walk in the sunshine and a manicure.

Tori's After Hours Toronto cake

In the evening, Jessie, Lindsay and Corbin joined me for a spectacular dinner at Tori's After Hours. I've been to Tori's Bake Shop before (which is an all vegan bakery in the beaches with a really great selection of gluten free options). I had wanted to check out the After Hours for awhile, and my birthday seemed like the perfect excuse to do so!

cheese plate - Tori's After Hours

mushroom pate - Tori's After Hours

gnocchi - Tori's After Hours

vegetable plate - Tori's After Hours

birthday cake - Tori's After Hours

The food was AMAZING. From gnocchi in a cheese sauce that I wanted to slurp up with a straw, to an incredible cheese plate with delectable gluten free crackers, amazing vegetables and a chocolate chip cake to top it all off - I couldn't have asked for a better menu. The kitchen even sent out a bonus mushroom pate appetizer because we were wearing birthday hats.

Ashley - Tori's After Hours Toronto

BFF birthday love

BFF birthday love

If you're in Toronto, I highly suggest checking it out - especially if you're with a small group! It's a great opportunity to order a bunch of dishes and sample the menu.

Ashley and Corbin

Corbin and I continued the festivities the next day with a delicious brunch at Harvest Kitchen followed by cupcakes at Almond Butterfly

best gluten free cupcake Toronto

Oh gosh, so good!

Corbin was leaving for Europe for a month a couple days later, so it was extra nice to have some quality time together. It was another beautiful, sunny day so we enjoyed the sunshine together and got to have a really nice meal! Harvest Kitchen is a great option for vegetarians and omnivores alike with lots of gluten free options. And Almond Butterfly just has the best gluten free cupcakes in Toronto - hands down. That weekend they had chocolate peanut butter cookie dough cupcakes that both Corbin and I devoured. 

I had a wonderful weekend and couldn't have asked for better company or more delicious food!! It was exactly what I hoped for and I felt very spoiled by all the love. 

In honour of my birthday, I started to make a list of all that I've learned in 32 years and it developed into a manifesto of sorts.

birthday manifesto - words to live by

Those are the ideas I plan to live by as I head into this new year of my life! 32, let's do this.

Thank you to everyone who sent birthday messages and wishes -- I truly appreciate it!! xo

Cruising for the very first time

That is the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas compared to a regular cruise ship. When I signed up for the 2016 Success Club trip back in January 2015, I had no idea how much fun I would have aboard my very first cruise!!

Each year Beachbody hosts a trip for its coaches, and we get the opportunity to earn the trip by helping people - how awesome! I registered for my spot while waiting at the airport to board my flight back to Toronto. March 2016 seemed a million years away, but as time went on the trip got more real. I was lucky enough to be able to bring a guest - so obviously I picked Corbin! We've had the chance to travel together (to New York, Alberta and Halifax) and this seemed like another awesome adventure that we could take together. The cruise was the thing that helped get me through February, and before I knew it - it was here!

I took lots of photos and videos and I'm stoked to share them!! If you follow me on Facebook, you've probably gotten a bit of a sneak peek - but here is the full scoop!

Cruise Life

Having never been on a cruise before, I now understand why people enjoy cruises! There is literally everything you can possibly imagine at your fingertips. Restaurants, parties, nightlife, an endless itinerary of activities, shopping, pools, hot tubs, cozy nooks, a library, park - the list goes on!

I got into the habit of going through our daily itinerary and highlighting the things I wanted to do each day as a means to plan our days (I'm a nerd like that!) In addition to the normal cruise activities, Beachbody had also planned some awesome events for us including daily workouts with our favourite trainers, a panel with the trainers and a panel with the Top 10 Coaches from 2015. I did my best to take advantage of EVERYTHING that was offered and loved every minute.

The boat was so massive that it amazed me that a) it could float and b) I didn't feel it moving for the most part! I didn't experience any sort of seasickness and for that I felt very lucky! It was neat to have the mix of days at sea as well as our port days (in Jamaica and Bahamas)

Some of my favourite activities were ice-skating (so Canadian!), watching the live shows (including an amazing a cappella group from Florida called The Edge Effect), reading & napping in the solarium and nightly karaoke!! Yes, I got to sing my little heart out every night and made a bunch of new friends who loved doing the same.

Swimming with Dolphins

Swimming with dolphins in Jamaica was truly, truly magical. It was everything that I could have hoped for and was literally beaming the whole time.

We got to see a bit of Jamaica on the hour long drive to Ocho Rios and our sweet tour guide gave us a great rundown of history and fun facts about the places we were driving through. Once we arrived at Dolphin Cove, we got to enjoy a whole slew of other animals as we headed down to the dolphin zone. There were cats, love birds, iguanas, bunnies and sting rays that we got to make friends with along the way. So fun! I also added some sweet reggae dance moves to my repertoire.

Finally it was time for dolphins!! There was about 10 of us in with the trainer and 4 dolphins. Our dolphin's name was Stan and he was super sweet! He pulled each of us along in the water, gave us a smooch, we smooched him and then we got to touch him. It was unbelievable. I was BEAMING the whole time and maybe had some feelings in my eyeballs.


There was food everywhere. Like, everywhere.

I understand why people can go on cruises and gain weight - it's just so accessible! I was impressed with the gluten free options and the efforts to avoid cross contamination. Menus were labelled with gluten free / allergen friendly / vegetarian options and in one of the buffets there was even a gluten free corner. I learned quickly that I could ask for gluten free bread if it wasn't available, and one night I even convinced the pizza place to make me a gluten free, cheese free pizza.

We also learned that we could order room service, so that's what I did each morning! We would put our little card out with our requests the night before, and then in the morning after my workout, a platter of breakfast / snacks would arrive. There was fresh fruit available at all meals and room service, so I would usually snag a banana or apple to munch on later in the day.

The sit down meals were pretty incredible and we started going to the dining room for most meals to take advantage of everything that was available to us. Some days at meals we had couple time, we enjoyed a few team dinners and we also had the chance to sit with some awesome coaches who were total strangers when we sat down!

I definitely ate more than I normally would, but didn't go too crazy! I was working out every morning, walking a tonne  drinking lots of water and eating fruits & veggies. It felt like a vacation - but I didn't feel gross when it was done.

The Workouts

Ahhh the workouts were so much fun! 
You can see in the video that I decided to get up for the early workouts each morning. Because we arrived on the eve of daylight savings time, it was dark and windy each morning for the 6:30am workout! That didn't stop me - I just learned to bring a sweater with me!!
 I loved having the chance to workout with Autumn, Tony, Sagi, Joel & Jericho and it felt good to get my sweat on each morning. I found a great spot to workout with lots of space and made some lovely new friends every day. We were treated to a Shakeology bar after each workout and it was truly an awesome way to start the day. How incredible to be working out in the middle of the Caribbean, surrounded by other coaches while the sun was rising?! 


Most of all, it was so inspiring to be surrounded by some of my very favourite people, meet coaches and trainers that I admire and have the opportunity to be a little Beachbody sponge and soak it all in. I connected with some amazing new friends and took copious notes in our trainings. Having the chance to spend time with my coach, her coach and a bunch of kick-ass leaders was just the best. 
It was also really cool for Corbin to be there to meet all these people who I talk about all the time! So much of what I do is online, and I think it made it REAL for him. He's always been such a supportive partner in this journey, but I think he 'gets' this coaching thing + our wonderful community that much more now. 
It was truly an incredible trip for SO MANY reasons!! And I'm so thankful that I had the opportunity to go on my very first cruise, surrounded by so many awesome people and have so many experiences that I will cherish for a lifetime!!