The LENA cup review: Making “that time of the month” easier for young girls and women alike

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When I was roughly nine or ten years old, I remember my Mom and I driving to the local Walmart to pick up a few things and suddenly, “the talk” happened. No, not THAT talk; the period talk!

At the time, I had been very wide-eyed and curious about the whole idea of a menstrual cycle. What do you mean girls bleed out of THERE for a few days every month? How long will it go on for? Is there a way that I can make it stop? Why does it happen to girls but not boys? My initial reaction was one of confusion, anxiety, and fear. However, after I started to learn more about the process and discovered that it is completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of, I started to actually feel excited about the prospect of menstruation.

At this point, in typical Ayla fashion, I decided that I wanted to be prepared so I asked my Mom to buy me supplies just in case. The next day, she came home with a package of pads and showed me how to use them. A few years later when I started high school, I discovered tampons; however, there was (and still is) a bit of a taboo about using tampons. Some people feel as though there is a certain age at which a girl is finally old enough to use tampons while others are completely against the use of such products because they pose a threat to the socially constructed concept of virginity.

Not surprisingly, when I discovered menstrual cups eight years later, I was faced with many of the same taboos that surround tampons…only much much worse. Initially, I experienced many of the same feelings of fear and anxiety that I had experienced when I first learned about periods. However, these fears were quickly dismissed after I did my research and discovered just how safe and convenient menstrual cups really are! Even still, I had an insistent voice in the back of my head telling me that I was too young to use a menstrual cup. Now, looking back, I wish I had known what I know now: any menstruating female can use a menstrual cup, no matter her age! Which leads me to the whole point of this post: the LENA cup.

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The LENA cup is the third menstrual cup that I have used and I can honestly say that it would be perfect for anyone who is just starting to use a cup, as well as anyone who is looking to switch things up for a more user-friendly and comfortable option. For starters, the flexibility and smooth rim design make the insertion process so much easier than other products such as the Diva Cup. Additionally, the LENA cup is the only menstrual cup that I am aware of that features slanted suction holes which not only prevents leakage, but also makes it much easier to clean than other menstrual cups.

Speaking of leakage, I personally find bell-shaped cups like the LENA cup to be better for avoiding leaks than cone-shaped cups like the Diva cup. I personally have not experienced any leakage with the LENA cup so far; however, if you’re new to using cups it might take you a few tries to get the positioning right so that you don’t experience any leakage. I recommend wearing a pad or liner for the first few attempts at using the LENA cup just in case you don’t quite have the positioning right. Additionally, it’s important to empty the cup every 4-12 hours (depending on your flow) to ensure that the cup does not overflow and cause leakage. In other words, if you use the cup according to the guidelines in the instruction manual, you should be leak-free!

In terms of removal, the long stem coupled with the grip rings around the base of the LENA cup make removal of the cup a lot easier than you might think. Before using a menstrual cup, my biggest fear had been that it would somehow get lost inside of my body. However, this is actually impossible based on the anatomy of the female body and the removal process becomes much easier with practice. Depending on your preference, you might choose to keep the stem or cut it off. The LENA cup features grip rings on both the stem and the cup so either way you should be able to get a firm grip on the cup to make the removal process much easier, which is definitely a plus when compared to cups with a smooth base or shorter stem.

The cup comes in two seizes: LENA small (for first-time users and normal flow) and LENA large (for a heavier flow). While other companies advertise the sizing based on whether or not you have given birth vaginally or not, LENA bases the sizing on whether you have a light/normal flow versus a heavy flow. Personally, I like this about the company because I know of women as young as 15 or 16 who use the larger sized menstrual cup despite never having given birth. With that being said, if you are new to using menstrual cups I would recommend using the LENA small to start out because its smaller size makes insertion easier and a bit less daunting.

Overall, the LENA cup is an excellent menstrual cup and I believe that it would be perfect for younger females (teens and preteens) as well as adult women. As the company claims, I can confidently say that the small LENA cup is the perfect starter cup for women and girls who are new to menstrual cups! I absolutely love the LENA cup and I would recommend it to all of my friends, family, and readers! Having your period is nothing to be ashamed of and neither is the use of a menstrual cup! So with all of this in mind, you might still be wondering:

WHY USE A MENSTRUAL CUP?

100% safe!

The LENA cup is made of medical-grade silicone and is hypoallergenic so it is completely safe for you to use. Unlike other feminine hygiene products like pads and tampons, you never have to worry about harsh chemicals entering your body.

Maintain your natural balance

Unlike tampons, the LENA cup helps you maintain your pH balance and natural moisture which can help you avoid discomfort, dryness, and itching.

Comfort

Once inserted, you cannot feel the LENA cup. This coupled with the 12-hour capacity means that you might just forget that you’re on your period while using a menstrual cup!

Convenience

Menstrual cups have a much higher capacity than pads and tampons so they can be left in for up to 12 hours without needing to be emptied. This means that you could empty your cup in the morning and leave it in all day while you’re at school or at work without worrying about leakage. Plus, there is no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) which means you can leave it in overnight!

Save money

While the cost of a menstrual cup is higher upfront than the cost of pads or tampons, you can re-use them for years which means that in the long term you save hundreds of dollars! The LENA cup sells for $35.99 on their website.

Better for the environment

Pads and tampons create a huge amount of waste that ends up in landfills, oceans, and lakes. Menstrual cups, on the other hand, are re-usable and much more environmentally friendly.

ARE YOU READY TO MAKE THE SWITCH TO MENSTRUAL CUPS?

If you are interested in purchasing your own LENA cup, visit their website and enter promo-code LENAMOON to get 15% off of your purchase on lenacup.com! 

Remember, there is no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed about menstruating or using a menstrual cup! The cup tends to get a bad reputation and is often viewed as unhygienic despite all off the research which demonstrates that menstrual cups are actually much more sanitary and safe in comparison to other feminine hygiene products! Whether you’re 10 years old or 35 years old, it’s never to early or too late to make the switch and reap the rewards of using a menstrual cup!

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, comments or feedback!

xo
Ayla

Note: I received a complementary LENA cup in exchange for an honest user review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

 

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Grad School week one: success!!

apply_nowThe past week has been a whirlwind of excitement, anxiety, uncertainty, information overload, and incredible opportunities. Tomorrow marks the first day of official classes which means that I successfully managed to make it through the orientation and introductory conference days! Week one of grad school was a success!

One week ago I was full of anxiety and nerves. I was terrified of navigating the city and such a large campus and I was equally concerned that my panic attacks would get in the way of me being able to truly enjoy the experiences. While the first day was certainly a day fit for a few panic attacks, the rest of the week went relatively well which was great! Much better than expected!

Additionally, I managed to find two other women with similar interests and lifestyle habits who I instantly bonded with and spent the rest of the week with. Having someone to sit with, talk to, and eat lunch with made a world of difference for staving off my worries and anxiety. Plus, I had added the bonus of travel buddies to help me navigate public transit and get used to getting around the campus.

Overall, I am excited about this new chapter in my life and I am completely exhausted. I can officially say that I am pursuing a career in social work after years of thinking that my own struggles posed a barrier to my ability to achieve this dream. I finally feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. I am becoming a social working and I am going to dedicate my career to helping people who struggle with mental illness.

I can’t wait to develop my skills and gain the knowledge that I need to be an effective, empathetic, and supportive therapist. Here’s to making the most of an incredible opportunity!

Ayla

Detached by Christina Kilbourne Review

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Synopsis

Anna has always been so level-headed, so easy-going, so talented and funny. How could anyone have guessed she wanted to die?

Anna is not like other people. For one thing, she’s been an accomplished artist since she was a preschooler. For another, she’s always felt like she didn’t belong: not with other kids, not with her family, not in her body. It isn’t until her grandparents are killed in a tragic accident, however, that Anna starts to feel untethered. She begins to wonder what it would be like if she didn’t exist and the thought of escaping the aimless drifting is the only thing that brings her comfort.

When Anna overdoses on prescription pain killers the doctors realize she has been suffering from depression and start looking for a way to help her out of the desperate black hole she never thought she would escape. It’s then that rock bottom comes into sight and the journey back to normal begins.

Review

I want to begin this review by first recognizing the author’s dedication to writing a book of hope rather than writing for the purpose of glamorizing mental illness. While I believe that there can be tremendous value and inspiration found in the pages of books about mental illness, I also believe that if authors are not careful, their work can do more harm than good. Christina Kilbourne not only recognizes this fact, but she does a wonderful job of harnessing the power of written words in a way that inspires the reader to seek help or empathize with the character rather than triggering copycat behavior.

While I was in the initial stages of researching this book, I came across a quote from the author which states, “I wanted a story that would be sensitive, but not suggestive. I wanted a story that would appeal to teens, yet not scare off parents, teachers or librarians. I wanted a story that would show the despair suicide brings to family and friends without being preachy […] I wanted to write a book about suicide that would bring hope, understanding and perhaps a measure of comfort to anyone who might be reading and want to end their life. At the same time, I wanted those who had lost a loved one to suicide to realize it wasn’t their fault”.

My reader’s note to the author (if she ever happens to read this…) is that Detached absolutely 100% without a doubt achieves each and every one of these goals. I did not find the book to be the least bit suggestive or preachy and as a mid-twenties reader I could definitely see myself referring Detached to teenagers and older adults alike. The story is written with such finesse and the reader truly gets to experience an inside look at depression, suicide, and the debilitating reality of mental health conditions. If you are someone who has personally experienced depression, suicidal ideation, or suicidal behaviors, you might just find yourself feeling incredibly understood  and inspired by the pages of Detached. Alternatively, if you are someone who has not personally struggled but has a loved one who does, you might begin to better understand what your loved one is feeling by reading Kilbourne’s novel.

Detached is both deeply saddening and yet somehow powerfully inspiring. I felt such a strong connection to the main character, Anna, due to my own experiences with mental illness and I can honestly say that Kilbourne did an excellent job of depicting Anna’s struggles realistically rather than glamorizing it for a more dramatic storyline. But don’t let that statement convince you that the story is not dramatic; on the contrary, I found Detached to be an entirely gripping novel to read. I could NOT put this book down! In fact, when my alarm woke me up at 9am the morning after I finished Detached I mentally scolded myself for staying up until 3am reading, but it was definitely well worth staying up to finish!

One unique element to this book which I have not previously found in any young adult fiction about mental illness is the inclusion of an adult point of view. The story is told from the rotating perspectives of Anna, her best friend, and her mother. This aspect of the book is both intriguing and functional because it allows the reader to approach the story from their own perspective whether they are the person who is struggling or the person who is looking in trying to help. In my opinion, this element of the novel makes it more appealing to a wider audience because adults might actually find it easier to relate to the story from the adult perspective. Of course, this is just a theory as I am not a parent nor an “adult” (I refuse to embrace that title until I’m at least 25) but I might test this theory by referring the book to a few of the more “adultier” adults in my life to see what they think!

On another note, I also wanted to take a moment to appreciate the applicability of the title of Detached. When I think of my own experiences with depression, the first thing that comes to mind is the overwhelming feeling of being detached and isolated from the world around me. While no two people will experience mental illness in the same way, I know many people who have expressed a similar feeling of detachment from both themselves and those around them. I can think of absolutely no better word to describe Anna’s story in this novel and if I’m being completely honest, it was the title which initially drew me to this book and inspired my decision to contact the publisher for an advanced reader copy. So in this respect, I suppose you might say that I began empathizing with this book before I even turned the first page.

Overall, Detached is an incredibly remarkable story about grief, suicide, substance abuse, and learning to rebuild a shattered life. Upon further reflection I realized that this book is reminiscent of one of my favorite quotes by J. K. Rowling which states, “rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life”.  This quote has been something of a mantra that I have adopted into my own life when I am struggling and I found myself relating to Detached in the same way that I relate to the quote. The story allowed me to feel as though my struggles are valid while still recognizing the fact that it is possible to overcome even the darkest of depressive episodes.

I honestly believe that this story has the potential to save lives. If you or someone you know is struggling, perhaps you might consider reading this novel. It might just help you shine a light on all the darkness in your life.

Lastly, I would also like to point out that the Detached blog tour is perfectly timed to align with the approaching World Suicide Prevention Day which occurs on September 10, 2016. I can think of no other book which would be better suited to raising awareness about suicide so it seems especially fitting that Dundern Press has arranged for this book tour to take place in alignment with such an important day. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be part of this book tour and I would like to encourage all of my readers to not only read Detached which was recently released, but also to raise awareness and start conversations on World Suicide Prevention Day. Every voice counts in the fight to end mental health stigma!

xo
Ayla

Note: I received a complementary copy of this book from Dundurn press in exchange for an honest reader review and participation in the Detached Book Tour. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own. 

When a house doesn’t feel like a home

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How do you make a house feel like home?

I’ve been living in my current place for over a year now and try as I might, I just can’t make it feel like home. I’ve got my belongings here; I’ve tried redecorating numerous times; I’ve lived with a roommate and without. Nothing seems to make a difference.

I think part of me really just can’t get past the temporary nature of my living arrangement. While I technically have my own “apartment”, I live in a house with other people and there are a few common areas. The apartment is intended only for students which means that as soon as I finish grad school I will have to find somewhere else to live. Furthermore, because there are shared common areas in this house, it doesn’t feel like my “apartment” is truly a private space.

Similarly, in my previous living situation I had moved into a condominium with two other women who had been living there for three years. When their roommate moved out, I moved in, but because they had been living there for so long already, I felt like a guest in their space. In this case, I could understand why I felt this way, but it’s so frustrating to feel similar experiences in my current apartment as well.

Am I going to feel this way about every space that I rent? Will I never experience the feeling of “home” until I actually own my own house?

I feel as though I’m in a very transitional period of life in which I changed career paths, quit my previous job, and am going back to school in a new (and terrifyingly huge) city. Everything is changing and I don’t even feel as though I have the comfortable familiarity of home that I did growing up. So, I wonder, how do I make a house feel like a home? How do I make my space feel like my own personal haven rather than feeling like a storage bunker for my clothes and furniture?

Have any of you ever felt this way? What do you do to make your space feel like home? Will this feeling go away once I finish school and move into a more “permanent” space? Ideally I’ll be living here for the next two years, which is a long time, but just knowing that there is a predetermined end to my stay here makes it feel so temporary.

Any advice?

xo
Ayla

We all have those days: A how-to guide for getting out of a rut

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We’ve all had those days (or weeks…or months as the case may be). You know the ones I’m talking about. The days when it feels like everything is going wrong, life is a disaster, and the day seems lost from the start, so why even bother getting out of bed? Well, for those of you who really just don’t know how to get yourself out of the rut of bad days, here are some of the ways that I try to make my bad days just a little bit better.

Get out of bed.

Seriously. Pull back the covers, sit up, have a stretch, and GET OUT OF BED. How can you expect your day to get better if you just stay in bed wallowing for hours on end?

Treat yourself to a nice breakfast.

Food can improve your mood. When you wake up in the morning after 8+ hours of sleeping, your body needs food to start the day right. If you skip breakfast, your body will stay in starvation mode which can increase your anxiety.

On top of alleviating anxiety, eating breakfast can be a great opportunity to treat yourself to a nice home-cooked meal, or maybe if you’re feeling up to it you could even take yourself to your favorite cafe or breakfast restaurant! A nice yummy breakfast is bound to improve even a small portion of your day.

50-ways-to-take-a-break-printableGive yourself permission to take a break.

Sometimes you just really need to take a break. Burnout can happen when you forget to take care of yourself or take time for the things that you enjoy. Make sure that you’re giving yourself permission to take time for yourself each day to recharge.

Spend some time with friends.

Spending time with friends (whether its in person or via phone/skype) can be a great way to pull yourself out of a rut. It gives you an opportunity to talk through whatever might be dragging you down. Recognizing the problem and putting it into words can often be a great way to help yourself brainstorm ways to get through it and feel better.

Look at pictures of baby animals.

Seriously, I was skeptical about the actual effectiveness of this one initially; however, it is scientifically proven that looking at images of baby animals can improve your mood! And the effectiveness of this mood booster increases even more if you can spend time with a real animal such as a puppy or cat. Animal therapy is a real thing. How can you resist a face as cute as this?

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Go for a walk.

Fresh air can often work wonders on a negative state of mind, not to mention the scientifically-backed idea that exercise is a great way to improve mood and reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.

Take it ten seconds at a time.

For this point, I give full credit to the writers of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. In the TV show, Kimmy explains that when she is having a hard time, she focuses all of her energy on getting through the next ten seconds. This can help make the day seem more manageable and it can also act as proof that you are strong enough to get through whatever you are facing because you will get through those ten second intervals time and time again.

Think of the things you have to be grateful for.

In moments when it feels like everything is going wrong, I find it especially helpful to remind myself of the things that I am grateful for. I am grateful for my family and friends. I am grateful for my place in grad school. I am grateful that I get to pursue my dream career. I am grateful for my hopes and dreams. I am grateful for my therapist. I am grateful that I am alive. I am grateful that I have a roof over my head, food to fuel my body, and air to breathe.

By reminding myself of everything that I have to be grateful for, I can re-frame my negative mindset and remember that even though it feels as though nothing is going right, this is not the case.

♥♥♥

These are some of the tricks that I use to get me through those days when it feels as though everything is chaos and nothing is going right. Let me know in the comments what you think and also feel free to add on any of your own tips!

Happy long weekend!

xo
Ayla

Money saving tips for university students!

In just four short days I will be returning to university to complete my Master’s degree in Social Work. While I could not be more excited for this new chapter of my life, I am also acutely aware of the financial strain that comes along with being a university student. So with that in mind, here are some money saving tips that I’ve learned over the course of my years as a university student!

Track your spending

spending_moneyJust as counting calories helps dieters hold themselves accountable, tracking your spending by keeping a financial log book can help you keep track of not only how much you’re spending, but also how much of your monthly expenses are unnecessary. Treating yourself to a non-essential item every once in a while is okay, but if you notice that you’re treating yourself every single week then it might be time to reevaluate your spending habits and budget your money more strictly.

Shop for groceries with cash rather than cards and always use a list

When you go grocery shopping you should always be shopping for what you need rather than what is on sale. Its easy to get sucked into spending too much on groceries if you see items that are on sale for a good good price. By creating a list before you go shopping and restricting yourself to a cash budget you avoid spending too much money on things that you don’t actually need. Say no to sales! They might seem like a good idea at the time but they are there to make you spend more money. The only exception to this rule is if there is a sale on something that you actually use a lot, in which case you should stock up! For me, I eat a lot of pasta during the school year so I stock up on pasta sauce whenever it goes on sale!

Make bulk meals

Slow-cooker bulk meals are a student’s best friend. I tend to cook a lot of chili and stew in bulk batches so that I can get 8-10 meals out of it. This not only saves money, but it also allows you to freeze leftovers for convenient meals when the semester starts to pick up and you don’t have time to cook. Who says you have to live on ramen  noodles? Cooking a big pot of chili is just as cheap per serving and its much healthier and nutrient packed!

woman-drinking-coffeeMake coffee at home

If you’re a coffee or tea drinker you might want to consider switching to instant coffee and/or tea bags from home. A container of instant coffee ranges in price from 3-6$ usually and can last 1-2 months depending how many cups you’re drinking everyday. Alternatively, a package of 100 black tea bags can be purchased for 2$ which means you’re paying roughly 2 cents per cup of tea rather than 2$. Over the course of a year this really adds up! You can easily save hundreds of dollars by making this switch.

Cut your own hair!

This one might be a bit extreme for some, and if you’ve never cut your own hair before then I suggest you watch a few YouTube videos before giving this a go, but it can definitely help you save money. Personally, I have a fairly simple hair style so its easy for me to cut my own hair. Depending on where you get your hair cut, prices range from 15$- 150$. Therefore, this could be a good way to save a few bucks or a significant amount of cash as the case may be. DIY hair cuts won’t be for everyone, but it’s not as hard as you might think!

Buy textbooks used or borrow from the library

Buying used textbooks is a great way to save hundreds of dollars per semester. Alternatively, if you only need a few chapters of a textbook for a class, it might be worth spending some time at the library photocopying only the chapters you need (or just borrow the book to read the chapters) rather than spending the money to buy the book.

Sell things that you no longer use

Recently, I went through my closet and took a pile of clothes, shoes, jewelry, and purses to a local consignment store. The store did not take everything (in fact, they only took six items) but I managed to make an extra 30$! This may not seem like much, but that money was used to buy myself an alarm clock and a school bag, both of which I would otherwise have needed to buy with the money I earn from my job.

Make your own meals rather than dining out

Eating out is one of the first things that I cut from my budget as a student. Packing your own lunch and eating breakfast and dinner at home saves a ton of money!

Avoid costly outings and instead opt for fun nights in

As an introvert, I prefer to spend my time at home so it wasn’t exactly hard for me to cut costs on entertainment. But for those of you who enjoy going out, perhaps you might opt for cheaper options like a movie night in or a games night with friends.

Stop going window shopping to quell boredom

Window shopping is rarely just window shopping. If you spend enough time wandering aimlessly through stores to quell boredom, chances are that you will find something that you will want to buy. Resisting temptation is a lot easier if you never go into the store to begin with! You can’t want that new purse if you don’t even know it exists!

Walk instead of driving or taking public transit

walkingshoePersonally, I love walking and I hate public transit so making this switch was also fairly easy for me. Not only is it a great way to get some exercise in (which is a great way for students to relieve school stress!) but it also helps you save money.

If you don’t absolutely NEED a car, don’t get one!

As someone who has owned a vehicle before, I can understand the strong desire to own your own car. The convenience is wonderful; however, car payments and insurance payments will put a huge dent in your budget. By taking public transit rather than owning a vehicle you will automatically save thousands of dollars in car insurance every year. Sometimes being a student means sacrificing some of life’s luxuries. Owning a car is one of those luxuries.

Work part-time to reduce loan debt and save on interest long-term

At the pay deskWorking part-time is not only a good way to build your resume and gain new skill sets, but it also helps you pay for some of your expenses without needing to rely solely on student loans or lines of credit. Working just ten hours a week could bring in roughly 400-450$ (assuming a minimum wage payment) and over time this can really add up when you consider that you won’t be paying interest on that money which would otherwise be accumulating as a debt to be paid off in the future.

♥♥♥

These are just a few of the tips that I use to save money while I’m in university and I hope that some of you will find them useful as well! At the end of the day, you’ll have to make sacrifices in order to afford the cost of a post-secondary education. Just remember that it will all be worth it in the end when you’re working your dream job!

xo
Ayla

Reminder: FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY (open to Canadian residents)

9780349142104If you haven’t already, be sure to enter to win a FREE copy of The Dog Who Dared To Dream! I’ve partnered up with Hachette Book Group this month to offer one lucky winner a free copy of THE DOG WHO DARED TO DREAM, a book which I absolutely adored (see my review here)! In addition to receiving a finished copy of the book, the winner will also receive an exclusive book poster as well as a postcard.

Contest Rules and Regulations:

  • Open to Canadian residents only
  • Opens September 1st, 2016 12:00 PM EST and closes September 6th, 2016 12:00 PM EST
  • The winner will receive a finished copy of THE DOG WHO DARED TO DREAM plus a special edition full sized poster and postcard!

If you are interested in entering this giveaway, please fill out the contact form below.
Note: entries submitted after 12:00 PM EST on September 6th, 2016 will not be considered. 

The winner of the giveaway will be contacted by email on or before September 8th, 2016. Please note, only the winner will be contacted.

Thank you for your interest and good luck!

Ayla

GIVEAWAY! Calling all bookworms: Enter to win a free copy of The Dog Who Dared to Dream!

9780349142104Calling all bookworms!! I’ve partnered up with Hachette Book Group this month to offer one lucky winner a free copy of THE DOG WHO DARED TO DREAM, a book which I absolutely adored (see my review here)! In addition to receiving a finished copy of the book, the winner will also receive an exclusive book poster as well as a postcard.

Contest Rules and Regulations:

  • Open to Canadian residents only
  • Opens September 1st, 2016 12:00 PM EST and closes September 6th, 2016 12:00 PM EST
  • The winner will receive a finished copy of THE DOG WHO DARED TO DREAM plus a special edition full sized poster and postcard!

 

 

If you are interested in entering this giveaway, please fill out the contact form below.
Note: entries submitted after 12:00 PM EST on September 6th, 2016 will not be considered. 

The winner of the giveaway will be contacted by email on or before September 8th, 2016. Please note, due to the volume of entries received for contests such as this, only the winner will be contacted.

Thank you for your interest and good luck!

Ayla