Music, as we know, can bring people together. One example in my personal experience has been getting to know Laurel Moring. We met in 2014 after I joined her team for the Light the Night walk, and, though I only see her once or twice a year (that second time is usually an Andrew McMahon concert!), her charity work is inspiring. Laurel was kind enough to answer a few questions for us today, World Cancer Day, so read on!
Welcome to Mind the Gap, Laurel! Thanks so much for doing this interview!
Thanks for having me! I usually do the interviewing, so this was an exciting opportunity for me. The tables have turned, and all that jazz. Shall I continue with the cliches?
Let’s start off with a mini introduction: if you had to tweet a description of yourself in 140 characters or less, what would you say?
I’m a terrible Twitterer - I have limited experience in 140 character synopses, but here goes... “I am a mum of two boys first, a wife, a philanthropist, and a writer. I love music above all else, reading, paddleboarding, and yoga.”
We met when I joined your Light the Night team, the only Canadian chapter of the Dear Jack Foundation. When did you start the team and what pushed you to get involved?
I started the team in August of 2012 after re-watching the Dear Jack documentary for the first time since its release in 2009. Back then I wasn’t in a place in my life to care enough for it to affect me very deeply - I was an early-20s college student, and philanthropy wasn’t even on my radar at that point. However, after losing an influential woman in my life to cancer in January of 2012, the cause had been weighing heavily on my mind. I watched the documentary again on August 20th, and by August 23rd I had done extensive research as to how I could help the Dear Jack Foundation, and had the team set up with a few family members on board to walk with me. Two weeks later that influential woman’s son-in-law died of leukemia. The burden of grief that family was dealt in just eight months time was more than most people could bare in a lifetime, and so I took it upon myself to fight for them. With only 6 weeks to fundraise before the walk, we hit our $1000 team goal, and my philanthropic journey really began.
You recently launched MFEO Matches. Tell us a little bit about the process behind starting the organization from scratch.
Over the past 3.5 years working with the Dear Jack Foundation and Light the Night, I have developed a professional relationship with Andrew McMahon. During his tour stop in Toronto in November, we spoke at length about furthering my work with the DJF and acting as a Canadian counterpart to their organization. While this plan sounds amazing in theory, it’s actually rather difficult to run an organization of their small scale cross-border, and will take some time to sort out the logistics. Later on in the evening however, Andrew mentioned with great regret that their friends at the Love Hope Strength Foundation, who sign concert-goers up for the bone marrow registry across the US and UK, weren’t in attendance at this Toronto tour date. This too is due to logistical issues, as our stem cell registry is set up differently than those in other countries. I had actually connected with LHSF about this in 2014, and it was then that I found out that our registry was incompatible with their organization. After Andrew’s disappointment however, my life’s path kind of just appeared before me, and I have been working on MFEO Matches since that day.
We will be following in the footsteps of our friends at LHSF and signing people up for the stem cell registry with the Canadian Blood Services at music-related events across the country. We have already received a commitment from Andrew McMahon to set up shop and swab all the cheeks on his future Canadian tour dates (yes, all of them), and we look forward to bringing other artists along for the ride as our organization grows. Starting a non-profit in Canada is actually a huge pain in the butt, we need a board of directors before we can even register our name - crazy, right? So for now we are working as a “volunteer organization”, and are getting our name out there via social media before we break the ice on our first tour.
What has the response been like so far? Your Ink for a Cure event tends to be quite successful - do you have any similar events or fundraising ideas planned for MFEO?
The response has been great. The Dear Jack Foundation and Love Hope Strength Foundation have been super helpful in the initial planning phases, and we are grateful for all the followers we’ve already gained across our social channels. If you want to find out more about what we do you can watch our launch video here. Because we’re working as a volunteer organization and not a “charity”, fundraising at this time is kind of a no-go. We aren’t recognized as a non-profit organization and because of that asking people for money on a large scale like [Ink for a Cure] is a little bit sketchy. I am however doing some minimal fundraising at GoFundMe, to afford startup costs and necessities like our website and marketing materials for events. We’ve actually just reached our goal, but extra funding for unforeseen expenses is always welcome! We love hosting IFAC for our Light the Night team though, and we raised over $5000 there in 2015, and hope to host another successful tattoo-athon for our 2016 team.
I know you were recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia. How has that affected your daily life? Have you learned how to manage the pain or is it still a work in progress? What kind of advice can you give someone dealing with similar health issues?
This goes to show that I complain too much. One of my goals for 2016 is to keep my health issues closer to my chest. Even though I’ve been suffering with it to some extent since my first son was born in 2011, it really hit me hard this past year and I finally received my diagnosis in August 2015. I actually live with multiple chronic illnesses, and every day is a fight with at least one of them. Traditional medications make me extremely sick, so managing the pain and other symptoms is definitely still a work-in-progress. I have now turned to more holistic treatments like yoga, meditation, and medical marijuana.
As for advice, I’m still new to all of this myself. I would however suggest that the most important thing to do is educate yourself. Some of the traditional treatments for these types of illnesses are extremely damaging to other areas of your life, and coming off the medications can be worse than heroin withdrawal in some cases. Do your research and always get a second opinion. Secondly, be sure to find a support group - whether it’s online or in person, you need to make connections with others who share your struggle, especially with fibro, because no one else gets it no matter how understanding they are. There is actually a company making social networks and apps for these types of diseases, for this purpose exactly. There is one for fibromyalgia, and one for rheumatoid arthritis; I’m not sure if they’ve made more than that.
Living with chronic pain is difficult enough, but it's even harder if you're a parent. You have two adorable sons - how do you balance being a mother with your charity work and your job?
Thank you, they may be cute, but they sure are a handful (or two)! I am really lucky to be able to work part-time from home, so my job is extremely flexible. My oldest just started kindergarten in the fall, so I only have my youngest at home and he still takes two naps a day - this affords me plenty of time to work on philanthropic endeavours, my work, and get other things done around the house (when I’m having a “good” day at least). My husband is also incredibly supportive of all of these aspects of my life, without him none of this would be possible.
On top of ALL THAT, you’re also a writer. How do you find time to work on your personal writing? Do you still write for magazines/websites/blogs/etc?
My writing is the one thing that really has fallen by the wayside these days. One of my most prominent fibromyalgia symptoms is the dreaded “fibro fog”, which is similar to being exhausted and having ADD at once - there is literally no concentration happening most of the time. I shut down my mommy blog at the beginning of year, and while I still have a personal blog, I only update it once a month (mostly less). Writing for magazines usually proves to be more productive however, I guess the drive probably comes from seeing my name in print; from holding a physical magazine with my name on the page. It’s something I dreamed of from the time I was a little girl. I only write a handful of articles a year, so I am able to really put my all into them.
Thanks for such honest answers! Now we’ve reached the fun questions! If you could live in any fictional/fandom world, which would it be?
Harry Potter, no contest. I’m not a huge fan-girl, but the idea of living at Hogwarts sets my soul on fire. I have always been a sucker for surrealism, magic, and things that go bump in the night. Harry Potter is the perfect culmination of these things. Besides, who wouldn’t want those incredible feasts each night? Yum.
[Sam's edit: HARRY POTTER ALWAYS!]
QUICK TAKES: No need for long answers here, just hit us with the first thing that pops into your head.
Andrew, always Andrew. Though I guess I should take that down a notch now that we’re working together… Awkward.
Current thing that makes you RAGE?
Cancer. It should make us all rage. 1 in 2.4 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
Pop culture-y item that’s coming out soon that you’re too excited about?
I’m really excited about all my shows coming back after the ridiculously long holiday break. Criminal Minds especially.
Girl crush of the moment?
Adriene Mishler from Yoga with Adriene. She is the opposite of what you picture when you think of a typical yoga teacher. She throws up devil horns mid-practice, makes references to Wu-Tang, and is just generally awesome.
What’s one thing that you love that you wish got more attention?
Paddleboarding - at least in Canada, it’s quite popular elsewhere in the world. I fell in love with it this summer and couldn’t believe the healing I felt while being out on the water.
Guilty pleasure (though we believe no geeky love should ever cause you shame)?
Emo and pop-punk, circa 2000-2005. Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, and old school New Found Glory and Fall Out Boy are all still on regular rotation in my car. I know most people have outgrown this by now, but I just can’t let go.
[Sam's edit: I listen to so much pop-punk, I can't ever see myself growing out of it!]
One recommendation that a fangirl just HAS to read/watch/play/ingest:
I’m obsessed with Lego Dimensions on PS4. I was always a nerdy tomboy kid and chose books and Lego over dress-up and Barbies. Now that my boys are into Lego I am in love all over again, and the video games are crazy fun.