Hey y’all and welcome! Before I begin with this week’s feature, I just want to say how privileged I am to know all of these people and to be able to share their stories with you. Before I even released my first Feature Friday post I interviewed 12 people. So much time and effort goes into each interview and write up, but the rewards are endless. I feel super lucky to have met so many amazing people in my life, and have enjoyed this method of communication while in lockdown due to COVID. Basically what I am trying to express is gratitude. Gratitude for the people I have interviewed, for my lovely life and for you, the readers. So thank you. 🙂
Now, on to this week’s feature. We have the lovely and talented Lora Salloum. I met Lora during the first day of our teacher orientation for the 2017-2018 school year. Yes, Lora is another person I have taught with. Lol! I had just moved from Vancouver and was excited to start my new job. When I first arrived at the school, I was given my schedule for the year, and it was absolutely crazy. I instantly started to panic. If you know me well, you know that panicking is not something I usually experience. Lora, being a cute, young teacher like myself (hehe), seemed like a decent person to confide in with my worries. I didn’t know it at the time, but Lora had done her student teaching at our school, so she was very familiar with how our schedules constantly change. She basically told me I’d be fine and that was it. For some reason this really intimidated me and I ended up being kind of scared of Lora for the rest of the school year. Again, this is not a feeling I usually experience. Little did I know that Lora would end up becoming one of my closest friends in Calgary who I absolutely love and adore.
So let’s fill in the gaps on who this person called Lora actually is. Lora and her entire family were born in Baghdad, Iraq, but left in the early 90s when she was just a few years old. Lora’s family had to flee from Iraq to Jordan in the middle of the night for safety reasons. They lived in Jordan for about a year until they were sponsored to come to Canada. This means Lora is a refugee to Canada and has the immunization scar on her arm to prove it.
While I cannot go into too many details about why they had to flee Iraq, her family knew they were eventually going to leave. Saddam Hussein was in power at the time and Lora’s dad had dealt with some problems with conscription into the Iraqi army. Immigrating to another country wasn’t really an option for her family because you had to do so legally. You were allowed to vacation in other places, but you had to return. Because Lora’s family was needing to flee, they weren’t really in a position to get approval from the government to leave the country. In order to leave, Lora’s family had to make it look like they were going on vacation. They couldn’t bring very many things and had to hide certain items that might make it look like they were leaving Iraq for good. So they ripped up the carpet in the trunk of their car and hid cash underneath. Her mom also sewed money into the shoulder pads of her clothes. (Keep in mind it was the early 90s so shoulder pads were still a thing.) Miraculously, they made it to Jordan in one piece. Her family managed to find a place to stay, although it was pretty rundown. Because they were there illegally, they couldn’t work and had to live off of what they had while they tried to gain asylum to Canada.
Fortunately, Lora’s dad found someone to sponsor him in Canada via a work permit. So they packed up the few things they had and flew to North America. While they were in the air the company that was sponsoring her dad went under. Long story short, they were still able to stay in Canada and claim refugee status. Interestingly, you don’t get to decide where you end up in a country if you are a refugee; you are just told where you will live. Some people in Lora’s extended family were sent to Toronto and some were sent to Phoenix, Arizona. Luckily for me, Lora ended up here in Calgary. 🙂
Now that we have that crazy story out of the way, let’s move on to Lora’s career. Lora teaches English and Socials at Renert School to grades 7-12. She is also a facilitator in the human services department at Columbia College. This means that she works with social workers and educational assistants. She teaches educational psychology, classroom specializations, scaffolding, different approaches to learning, etc. etc. She is a contract employee at Columbia, so if she has a busy month or two at Renert, she won’t take a contract. When she does take a contract, she works one night and one weekend day for several hours each time for courses that are five weeks long. This is on top of her regular teaching load at our busy, busy school that she is highly involved in. Basically she’s a bad ass bitch who crushes it!
Lora’s first degree is from the University of Calgary and is a Bachelors of Arts in English. She also has a Masters of Arts in English from the University of Western Ontario. Then she came back to Calgary for a Bachelors of Education in Secondary English, again from University of Calgary. And now she is going back one more time for her Doctorate in Educational Research focusing on language and literacy education. She will get to use Renert School as the model for her research, which is so freakin’ awesome!
I have mentioned countless times how stinkin’ cool Renert School is, but I got just another thing for ya to prove my point. One of the owners and founders of Renert created a masters program on transformative education with the University of Calgary that is only offered to teachers from our school. Since Lora already had a masters, she wanted to take it a step further. Our boss was all for it and she was accepted into the doctorate program. So here we are and I’m just screamin’ a big “hell yeah!” for her and for my school.
In terms of passions and hobbies, Lora really enjoys reading. She was inspired by a friend to challenge herself to read a book a week for an entire year. Lora, being the overachiever that she is, has now read more than 30 books and it’s only the end of April! As of late, her favorite type of book has been self help books. Her recommendation for self help books is called Make Your Bed by US Navy Admiral William H. McRaven. She also recommends a young adult series called The Arc of a Scythe Trilogy by Neal Shusterman, which she absolutely loved.
She also enjoys weightlifting and does it for fun, but for her mental health as well. Unfortunately this has been put on pause because she is still recovering from COVID, which she got in November. Yes, it’s been more than 5 months and she still isn’t back to normal. So TAKE COVID SERIOUSLY PEOPLE! Moving on now… She worked with a trainer for several years and wants to pick back up with kickboxing. Her trainer is trying to convince her to do an amateur fight, which I would pay money to see!
She also enjoys bouldering and has even built a bouldering wall in her basement! And she’s recently found a new love for the trees in Alberta, and feels so lucky to live in Canada. Because of this, she’s been doing a lot of hiking and taking in all the beauty that Alberta brings. She feels like she always took this for granted, but the pandemic allowed her to look inwardly at this province and see how beautifully amazing it is.
Skateboarding is another hobby that Lora started doing when she was young. In fact she teaches a skateboarding skills class at our school with more than 30 students! It should be noted that our school is on the smaller side, so a class that students get to choose to take with more than 30 students enrolled in it speaks to Lora’s popularity amongst the kids.
This time last year was really tough for Lora. She had just gone through a horrific divorce. She had been living else where for 7 months because she was fighting with her ex husband about who would keep their home. Then in February of 2020, Lora got back into her house just in time for COVID to hit. She had no furniture – her ex had taken it all – and she was all alone. It was the darkest place mentally she had ever been in before. She didn’t know how to handle that, and then she just thought “eff it”!
This is when she decided to put her best foot forward. She purchased new furniture, reached out to her friend groups more, built a climbing wall in her basement and started dating again. It was still hard for Lora though because her Grandma passed away during this time. And then an aunt and an uncle passed away shortly after. Lora mentioned how her friends were everything to her in that moment. She ended up really digging in deep and focusing on the things that made her happy. She is very proud of the work she has done around her house because she ended up creating a home that feels like it belongs to her and fits her personality. She also did everything in her power to take control of her health. Then summer hit, and she finally felt like she was in a good place again. This is when she met Ryan.
When I asked Lora how she stays on top of her mental health, she quickly and easily said, “Ryan”. Lora and Ryan started dating in July of 2020, and they are in a very happy and healthy relationship. She said he’s really good at centering her partially because he believes in mediation and deep breathing. He also values the simple moments where they can just be together and do things that are just for them and their relationship. Lora is privileging her wellness, physically and emotionally, by learning from and being with him.
When I asked Lora her favorite memory of us, she immediately went to the day that we found out/didn’t find out I was pregnant. Keenan and I had just had the conversation about wanting to get pregnant soon. We thought we had missed my ovulation period, so we decided to start actually trying the next month. Well, it turns out I was a few days late for my period and my boobs were really tender. This was unusual for me because I am NEVER late for my period. Lora and I had plans to go to dinner that night with our boss, but I asked her if she would pick up a pregnancy test with me beforehand. We arrived at the restaurant and went straight to the bathroom where I peed on the stick. The faintest of pink lines showed up, yup two of em. But since the second one was so faint, Lora and I assumed I wasn’t pregnant. Turns out – any second line, faint or not, means you are pregnant! I called Keenan on my way home to tell him I had taken a pregnancy test (this was news to him). We decided to try another test in the morning, and sure enough I was pregnant! And here we are with the best baby girl in the world who absolutely loves her Auntie Lora. ❤
Another favorite memory was when we went to Rewind. Remember when I talked about how this is my most favorite event ever in Jana’s Feature Friday post from last week? Well Lora and I went together one time and we shook UP that dance floor honey. People gave us extra space because we were cuttin’ a rug so hard. Lora even did some of her break dancing moves, like right in the middle of the dance floor. 😂 Like literally y’all, if you are looking for someone to have a good time with, Lora is your girl.
When asked for any closing words to share, Lora said that everyone should have a Disney+ account during the pandemic because they have all of the great programs. She says you are “missing out right now” if you don’t have this! Lol!
If you can’t tell from this post, I absolutely adore Lora. She is always down for a good time and brings excitement where ever she goes. I have seen her go through several highs and lows in her life, but she always keeps pushing forward. It is truly amazing to see all that she has accomplished. She is a dear, dear friend of my whom I feel so fortunate to know.
If you or anyone else you know would be a good fit for my Feature Friday series, please comment below or message me on Instagram. Drop a note in the comments section to give Lora some lovin’! And as always y’all, happy day!