Conversation with Jules Schoolmeester
This week Liv speaks to Jules Schoolmeester from Two Bitches & Jules. I love her passion, honesty, the impact she makes on the lives of others. She is funny, smart and has wonderful child-like sense of humour. And we have a shared love of dogs. Did I mention that she also lives in Portland?!
Here is how Jules describes herself:
Hmmm…. I’m 39, but act like I’m 12 years old a lot. Sometimes I feel like I’ve accomplished a couple good things in my life that are bio-worthy, but then other days feel like doing the dishes is hard. I was almost switched at birth and love dogs, turtles, and baby gorillas. Running balances me. And I think farts are funny.
Kitchen Table Conversations
Liv: As we’re talking in Liv’s Kitchen, what have you had for breakfast today?
I’m pausing to stuff my face with breakfast as I type! This morning is oatmeal with chocolate protein powder and almonds. Plus coffee, which is obviously served in my Darth Vader mug. Breakfast is amazing—I’m one of those nerds who can eat breakfast for any meal of the day. Last night I had eggs with spinach and mushrooms for dinner.
Joey had kibble. She always has delicious brown, crunchy kibble. Dogs are the best—you feed them the same thing every day and they think you’re the second coming.
Two Bitches & Jules
Liv: I love your website, Two Bitches & Jules. The strapline for the site is ‘You can get through anything in life with a sense of humor, a couple of leashes, and a pair of running shoes.’ What in life did you get through, in relation to addiction?
I love the word “strapline.” I’m gonna start using that every day, most likely in an inappropriate manner.
Thank you, I have a lot of fun with the site and it helps me process all the nonsense floating around my brain. The addiction piece is a strange one for me. I spent most of my young adult life out of control and out of balance. I’m a rape survivor and until I flipped the switch from seeing myself as a victim, I continued to exercises poor choices, whether I was sober or not.
When I finally did start reclaiming my power, I realized getting loaded was a total escape for me and a terrible coping mechanism. I had a certain amount of resiliency and people who cared about me, but I was so angry and fixated on the wrong done to me, I wasn’t ready for any healing, so I was loaded for the better part of a decade.
Liv: And how does that philosophy help process life’s woes today?
Life happens—it’s all about perspective. I know I can say that as a straight, white, cisgender person, so I carry a lot of privilege. But I also know that when I didn’t believe I could do anything, I didn’t do anything. I was stuck. Humor carries me, to the point where sometimes I may seem insensitive or shock people. But if you don’t like it, don’t listen. It’s not like I have some bully pulpit with millions of Twitter followers and can affect stock prices with a single tweet…
But yeah, life happens, like Joey getting kicked out of day care for being too athletic. She’s a good girl and they liked her, but it wasn’t safe with her constantly being an escape artist. Even a few years ago, that would have crushed me. I would have spent hours agonizing over what I did wrong to have a dog get kicked out of day care. Now, well, she kept jumping the fences. Solution? Put on Run-DMC’s “Raising Hell” and found a new day care.
Liv: You have abstained from addictive drugs for a long time. Some years later you decided to occasionally drink. What is your view about complete abstinence and can you tell us what works for you?
I’ve learned that platitudes have a basis in experience. You can never fully walk in someone else’s shoes, so you can never understand fully why someone does what they do. I am grateful for all the years of sobriety because I needed the clarity and development time to figure myself out and learn to live in my own skin. I trust myself now.
I’m sure someone in a total abstinence-based recovery might read this and say, “That’s bad self-talk. She’s looking for validation to drink.” And all the other textbook stuff.
And that’s okay.
It’s sort of like religion to me. Believe whatever you need to believe to get you through the night. Nothing is black and white to me; everything is a grey area. Everything is circumstantial.
Only a handful of friends know that I drink socially now, so some may read this and be shocked or worried. But the interesting thing is that friends and family I’ve shared with all said something along the lines of, “You know yourself best,” which is an exceptional compliment to someone who couldn’t look in the mirror and felt that she had no value for years.
Liv: My experience of speaking to others, who make a choice outside of the complete abstinence blanket approach, can be one of isolation. What has been your experience?
I felt like complete abstinence was isolating. I saw a lot of people in the complete abstinence approach turn another habit into excess, whether it was cigarettes, food, or meetings. And I sometimes felt like I wasn’t part of that club because I didn’t have some of the “life baggage” that others did—multiple rounds of treatment, issues with children, etc. Also, in the last city I lived in, it felt as though people were only sober or drank to excess. I don’t remember ever seeing any type of healthy drinking until I waited tables and saw people sharing a bottle of wine with dinner or just having a drink before dinner. That fascinated me. I wondered if I could be like that. Turns out, I can.
The Bitch Movement
Liv: Tell me about the bitches and how they enhance your life?
They make me a better person. They made me keep the house more organized so they wouldn’t be tempted to chew shoes or counter surf. They need lots of exercise, so they keep me in shape. They are incredibly intuitive, so if they are cautious about someone, I take note.
Liv: It is with great sadness that you lost Alli in November. How have you been dealing with the grief and loss?
Alli’s death hit me harder than any other loss in my life. She was my everything and the one consistent thing in my life for over 11 years.
Americans are really fucking weird about death. Like we talk about people passing or going to heaven when they die. We all are gonna die. You agree to be born, you agree to die. It’s okay to say someone died. Die. Die. Die. It’s part of life.
She had dementia and I wasn’t gonna let her suffer and waste away, so I made the decision to end her life. I was glad I was with her as she died, but there was a part of me that felt guilty for killing my best friend.
I’m okay with being sad or upset about her. Sometimes I think about some shit she pulled and laugh. And then something will catch me off guard and make me sad, like washing blankets last week. When I pulled the lint trap out of the dryer, it was almost all white fur from Joey, where it used to be half brown fur from Alli.
Dogs stretch our hearts out because they take a piece of us with them. A piece of me died with her.
Good thing I kick so much ass because I have a lot left to do here.
Liv: Tell me how the movement is a synergy; in that it is still bigger than the component parts?
Two Bitches and Jules is about finding balance and finding yourself. Then claim that shit! Some people don’t even like saying “Bitches” out loud. Facebook won’t let me boost posts because the use of the word bitches “could create a hostile environment.”
IT’S WHAT THEY ARE. THEY’RE BITCHES.
Just because the rest of the world made it into something offensive doesn’t make our experience less true.
So even if Alli isn’t running next to us anymore, she taught me to be true to who I am and celebrate it.
Liv: Moving on to food…During your journey how has your relationship with your body changed?
Running has taught me that I am physically capable of much more than I thought. I’m slower than Christmas, but I get it done. Actually, that’s not fair—I’m faster than the average female on a 5K, 10K, and a half marathon, but the wheels fall off the bus on the marathon and I haven’t finished under five hours yet. I should be able to hit 4:30ish.
The point is that I keep trying because it feels right. Someone once told me I was a spiritual warrior sent here to experience the physical earth. I live SO deeply in my head, I need physicality and sweat and dirt to pull me out of my noggin and experience my body.
I used to hate my body. I weighed 215 pounds when I graduated from college, which was definitely part of dealing with my trauma. I would binge eat and exercise, then overeat and gain weight, then just drink and smoke and lose weight. I got down to 131 way too quickly at one point. At the time, I thought I looked good, but then I still was getting critiqued by others about losing weight.
Now I want to take care of my body, nurture it, and enjoy it. So I have a few wrinkles and some cellulite. BFD. I can still have lots of fun with this body and feel free to read into that any way you like.
Liv: How does good nutrition feature in your life?
It’s a huge part of my life. I look at food as fuel now. When I’m training for something, I need to be mindful of getting proper nutrition for my runs and also not getting caught up in the, “I ran eight miles today, so I can reward myself with this 8,000 calorie treat” cycle. I make an effort to eat real foods and don’t keep much junk in the house. I love to cook, but I also love to eat out and living here is a real treat in that regard. We get to try new places all the time.
Also, I listen to my body now. If I am craving salt, I find something salty. If I am craving sugar, I drink a soda. So long as I keep the overall focus on health and balance, this has worked for me.
Liv: Can you tell me your favourite meal?
That is like picking a favorite (AMERICAN!) Dylan song… Are you talking to cook or enjoy out? I make some pretty good chicken and dumplings, I found a lower-carb variety where the dumplings are made with almond flour and we really enjoyed that. My fella makes really good chili—super spicy!
I love all sorts of Asian food, especially Japanese and Vietnamese. I just had an amazing Pork Belly Rice Bowl at this place called “Double Dragon,” and I will totally take you there when you get to PDX!
Liv: What are your top rituals/tips for those in recovery?
- Find balance—healthy routines are good!
- Learn to know yourself. You are pretty rad.
- When you know yourself, trust yourself. You are a lot smarter than you think you are. Your brain was hijacked when you were loaded all the time.
- You are still gonna screw up, but know you can be accountable and learn from your mistakes.
- Get a dog. They are amazing!
Thank you for taking part in Kitchen Table Conversations.