Poor Patient

I am such a baby when I’m sick!  And it seems that it only getting worse as I get older.  Or perhaps it’s as my kids get older.  It’s almost like the instincts that give me “mommy mode” know that the kids are old enough to entertain themselves for long enough while I nap, or make themselves a snack or get a drink.  This was defiantly not the case as little as a couple of years ago.    So now that I can be a little less “on guard”  I can have my turn at being the big baby because my throat hurts and I can’t swallow, and my nose it stuffed up and now I’m coughing.  Oh yeah I forgot the part where everything, even my teeth hurts.  Yeah that’s fun.  I’m just glade that my hubby accepts my baby like complaining, although he does do his fair share when he is sick.

 

What I don’t get is WHY I’m sick.  I take vitamins like they are going out of style and try to eat healthy, most of the time and I have been more active of late.  So what’s with this attack on my immune system?????  I sometimes wonder if when you are going along busy with life, something HAS to HAPPEN to throw you a curve ball.  Yeah that sounds about right.

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The Definition of Me

The question of what defines us as individuals has been asked by many professionals and individuals alike.  For some of us it’s our careers, for others it’s our heritage and for some their baggage.  I think for all of us though there is an element of our personalities that we each cling to and derive our self importance from. Something that we perhaps feel we would be remembered for or even revered for.  For instance one thing I would personally love to have the privilege of defining myself as is a writer. 
For as long as I can remember I have written.   Poetry, short stories and blogs. I have this constant narrative of stories in my head but lack the discipline to put them down on paper in completion. Long have I wanted to write and publish a novel. Probably a dream of most writers.  But it takes a great deal of discipline and dedication to see that kind of body of work through.  Getting closer to 40 and working with people at the end of their time has given me a new sense of living life fully and have therefore made it my goal to change my procrastinating and undisciplined ways. So I began writing a novel.  
For the past few months I have been working on one and have even taken the step of making a story board and timeline. I  have 8 chapters written and although making the time to write is challenging, I feel better for it.  It is as if the action of purging the stories helps make me more sane.  Well at least slightly. So I hope to stay more true to my desire and ability to finish at least one novel in my life. Even if it never gets published. Although it would be really nice if it does!

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Big Shoes To Fill

I’m quite sure somewhere along the way someone has told you that being a parent isn’t easy, and well I’m here to confirm it.  There is a lot of pressure to get it right.  To not screw up your children.  To make good people.  There is this implication that this is a natural or even simple task, somehow innate to all people who have kids.   All you have to do is look around you to know this is far from the case though.  Not to be overly judgemental here, but I’d say there are many people out there failing their kids miserably.  It’s easy to tell too, who these people are by the lack of boundaries and respect their kids show others.  Now before you get on my case here, I know kids will be kids and some kids have self control issues linked more to their medical conditions than their parents’ track record.  However, there are kids who just don’t care about being polite, caring or even compliant, because no has taught them that they need to be.

 

This all comes up for me because I had a sleepover party for my kids this weekend.  We had six kids come to our house for about 20 hours.  You can observe a lot in 20 hours!  Having 9 kids running around the house did not make for a quiet or clean weekend, let me tell you, but it did make for some happy kids.  Some not so much.  The way people behave when they come to your home is dependent on a lot of things, for instance your relationship with them, their cultural customs, their upbringing and your house rules.  I made sure to set out the rules for my kids before anyone came over.  In fact I harped on them for several days before to ensure they were listening.  Simple requests to keep everyone safe and all things intact.  I told my kids that they needed to be the first line people to ensure that their friends followed the rules.  I would be their backup, but that they needed to take responsibility for their guests as a good host should.  It was also understood that they would be in charge of running the activities for their themed event, with me as a helper not the ring master.   I have to say I am very proud of my kids for doing just that.  They did everything they could to keep their guests in line.  Did it work entirely – no, but the important thing was for them to learn how that kind of responsibility felt and give them the knowledge that they have power over their environment and situation.  Now of course there was a personality that was not easily reigned in by rules and in the face of my tiny and endearingly kind daughter this was no fair match.  This is where being a parent becomes difficult.  There’s a fine line between going all “mamma bear” defending my lair and “sure you can walk all over us in this household” mentality.    There is this middle ground of fair mom, but in control.  I went for this one.  Not easy!  There were definitely a few “I need to take some deep breathes” moments, and some “gee I’d like to take this a step further by sending you home” moments, but I tried to remember my goal of cool, go to mom and backed down a notch.   My greatest challenge though was not keeping control over the situation, but allowing my kids to take the lead in controlling it.  To back off and allow them the freedom of expressing their own judgement and desires, was harder than I thought.

 

Being a person is hard.  You have to manage your health, your emotions, your place in society (whether that’s employment or status), and your relationships.  It’s a full time job to be a person!  Being a parent means that you have to do all this AND teach another human being how to do all this AND manage letting them try out and discover doing all this.  It’s a wonder any of us succeed!  Finding that balance where you give your kids the freedom to make their own friends and decisions feels like your walking on the rim of a volcano that might explode at any time.  You just don’t ever know for sure how it will work out.  So I guess I learned as much as my kids did this weekend about how important it is to keep working on social boundaries and personalities.  And I am proud of my kids!  They never cease to show me how absolutely wonderful they are!!

 

Oh and I also learned that from now on, we have one or two people over at a time.  Way quieter that way!!

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Eastward Bound

When you’ve decided that change is what you need, figuring out what that looks like is a huge challenge.  There are so many things to consider, especially when you have three  little kids.  We looked at so many things like cost of living, opportunity and what would make us all happiest.  The decision was one of the hardest we’ve ever had to make because it meant a complete change.  A change of direction in career choice, a change in lifestyle and most importantly of all, a change in province, which ultimately means leaving behind our extended family.

 

When I was about to turn 5 my parents packed up their lives and moved us across the country to Ontario.  It couldn’t have been an easy choice.  They left behind all of their families too.  In fact as it stands the only family I have in Ontario are my parents, everyone else is still out west.   So now I plan to do the same, moving even further east.  This isn’t an easy choice.  I am after all an only child, so leaving behind my parents is not something I take lightly.  But it is also a happy decision for me as I have long wanted to live by the water and after having been to the east coast 12 years ago for our honeymoon we have long wanted to return.  It is beautiful and full of opportunity there, so we brave the harsh weather and long distance to make a new and exciting life for ourselves.

 

This is only half the story though.  We are also changing our lifestyle in that both my husband and I are returning to university to complete graduate school.  This will be no easy task we know, both of us being in school and working and taking care of kids.  Sometimes though you have to take the tough route to get where you need to be, and that’s what we intend on doing.  So off to school and off to Newfoundland!

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Join Them!

Video games are more popular than even and you’d be hard pressed to find a kid out there who hasn’t played one. There’s a lot of controversy and debate over the worth and problems that arise from our children being raised in a technical world, but honestly I believe it’s like anything else, moderation is key. 
In our household we play video games as a family. We take turns with the games we play and in the games themselves. We play against each other and in team work scenarios.  I believe that there are worthy lessons to be learned from video games.  Here are some of them:
1.  Creativity. 

Many games encourage kids to make things or entire worlds, like Minecraft. Sometimes there are boundaries or limits to what they make, but often it is a completely open platform. Some games even allow for kids to make their own games with the system, like Roblox. 
2.  Teamwork 

Many games involve working with other players either in the same room or over the Internet. It seems noteworthy to point out that learning to work with people you don’t know and are elsewhere is bound to come in handy in our ever evolving world. And yes sports also promote teamwork, but not all kids are good at sports. 
3. Reality Check 

This one requires a little help from the parents.  Giving young people the insight to recognize what is real and what isn’t is a very important lesson. Video games give us this opportunity. To teach our children that these platforms are based in fantasy is a golden opportunity for parents. Just like movies and tv we suspend our beliefs and buy into the fantasy for a short time. Video games allow us a brief moment to dabble in fantasy and knowing this gives kids the power to dechipher their world and the fantasy world. 
There are of course downfalls to video games and over exposure is ultimately a bad thing for anyone. The onus is on parents to ensure their children are not over exposed and that the games they play are age appropriate. 
As I said before in our house we play as a family. And I have to admit some of these games are ridiculously hard. They take coordination and quick thinking, not really my strong points.  I do love the time spent with the kids, no matter how hard the game. And I also love that my kids are always willing to teach mom how to play. Or at least try. 

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Winds of Change

I had a dream. Well truthfully I’ve had many many dreams, but let’s start with this one; home ownership.  I had a dream to own my own home and just shy of two years ago we made this dream come true when we bought our little house. It was very very run down and in need of a lot of TLC but it was ours. And over these two years we fixed up our little house and made it nice.   But as it seems to go with my dreams, home ownership was not all that I expected it to be. In fact it comes with a pile of responsibilities and problems that renting gets you out of. Nonetheless I am glad to have achieved this dream and maybe someday will enjoy home ownership again. Right now however I cannot resist the deeply embedded nomadic tendency I apparently have. I am restless and in great need of change. I need to fullfil a different dream.
When I became a mother I made a decision. Perhaps not even an entirely conscious one, but a firm one.   My sole purpose now is to raise my kids and any job I have to do to support them is fine because my purpose is to live for them. It is easy to feel this way when you have a tiny, completely dependent human being that lived inside your body, in your arms. I couldn’t imagine a more important job than keeping each one of my kids safe and loved. I still can’t.  But somewhere along the way this devotion caused me to lose, well myself, and what kind of a role model can I possibly be if I have denied who I am?  Like most parents I want my children to grow up an live what they love.  I want to them to find and make their own happiness.  This in my opinion is success.  I realized though that despite wanting this for them I sure wasn’t showing them how to do it.  In making my decision of sacrifice I had unwittingly taken away one of the most vital components of motherhood from my children; role model.  Sure I modelled being a hard worker and caring person, but I also modelled complacency and mediocrity.    I didn’t do this through the type of work I did, I’ve had some good jobs with great coworkers, including the rewarding work I do now as a health care worker.  No it was more of what I didn’t do.  I gave up.  I didn’t pursue the things I love to do, or even try to make a career out of them.  I didn’t show drive and determination to “have it all” in family and career.  No instead I settled.

 

Now before I get some hate mail from this, I’m not trying to put anyone out there down that has done what I have and put aside their dreams to make a living to support their families.  Some dreams are harder to achieve than others, and some dreams, even if pursue do not come to fruition.   For instance, the chances of me becoming an astronaut now at 36 with no related experience or physical aptitude for it, are slim to none (good thing this wasn’t my dream).  There can be elements of your dreams though that can be pursued either in a related career or hobby.  Which is what brings us back to me.  I had long given up on being a professional writer, thinking that ship to hard to board let along the fact that it sailed.  I half heartedly put in scant effort to blogging as a small consolation prize, but in the huge ocean of blogs, it seemed almost pointless.  I had given up.  And then, serendipity.

 

My husband was laid off from his job as an editor, and although we were fortunate enough to have his employment insurance for a brief time to keep us going along with my job, we both knew that it was time for a change.  The small town in which we had bought our little house is a former mining town that is still struggling to find it’s footing again, so jobs are scarce.  We knew we could not stay here.  So I told him to look at this as a second chance.  A fresh start or do over if you will.  I told him to think of what he really wanted to do if he could do anything.  And he did.  The funny part is that I took my own advice.  In finding his next step, I found mine.  As it turned out the path I had started 16 years ago in university was the one I should have stayed on all along.  I found a way to use my love of writing, even my love of photography in a career.  So I am going back to school to get my master’s in Anthropology, and if I can even be the least bit lucky, I will get the chance to work on documentaries.  In the very least I can use my writing for an academic career.

 

SO we are selling our house, trading one dream for another, and moving so that we can go back to school.  An adventure of sorts.  I hope that even though this will mean some sacrifices, that it will also mean that my kids will have the courage, drive and desire to pursue what they love.  After all they are my life, but it’s ok to live for myself as well as them.

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When Someone Dies

Would it make you think any differently about your life if I told you that you are born to die?  Would it make you enjoy every moment?  Would it make you see things more clearly or feel things more deeply?  Would you still take people for granted?  Maybe.  For a little while you would change. But soon you would forget and life would go on as if it will always do so. 
It’s not a morbid thought or even depressing, it’s just the nature of the life cycle.  There are no certainties except that at some point, whether young or old, prolonged or sudden, we will die. It has to be that way or there would be no space, no resources for new life. It’s this way in all forms of nature, we have just mastered the art of avoiding it. Medicine. But inevitably, it must happen. 
It’s hard to imagine that we or someone we love will someday just not be there.  And when it happens that someone we loved, liked or knew passes away, we are stunned. Numbed for a moment. Whether we knew it was coming or not. At first we cannot process it.  And when we do, we not only each do it differently, but our timing is also different.  Some of us run through the stages of grief openly, while others morn in private. Some of take time to grieve while others seem to pass through it quickly. It all depends I think,  on who it is that has passed and how they were in our lives.  But no matter how distant or close, the loss of a fellow human being touches something deep inside us. It reminds us of this truth of life that we don’t really want to remember. That we are born to die. 
I work with the elderly. People who are coming to the end of their life. People who love to reflect back on all the things they’ve done, places they’ve been and people they’ve know. To comment on how different things are now. People who have lived. And although they have this doesn’t make the reality of an end any easier.  They are still fighters, survivers and for the most part happy to be alive.  Some aren’t. Some have had enough of their fight.  But the will of our bodies to live is the strongest Drive there is. The drive of survival. Even if it is not the best thing for that person, their body will drive to survive as long as possible. As if somehow our bodies are also in denial of nature’s truth. 
 Over the years I have come to terms with losing people I have taken care of.  It is easier to do this when you know that they have lived. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the young dying. To have a coworker or friend or family member that is young and should still have time left, is almost impossibly hard to come to grips with.  That is why I have to remind myself that we are born to die.  It is the only way to truly force my brain to understand that everyday is precious, even if it doesn’t go the way I’d like.  That every person  deserves to be looked at right in the eye, because tomorrow I might not be able too. That expressing my love for those special to me, cannot wait another day, today is what I have.   There are many sayings that remind of this. We say them, but do we appreciate it?  Perhaps it is our minds way of protecting us against the pain of losing people. The fear of being lost. And we shouldn’t dwell on it. But I think we should be grateful, truly grateful for the gift of life while we have it and respectful of the fact that it cannot last forever. 

I would like to dedicate this to a great woman that we lost far to fast to cancer this week. 

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Mirror, Mirror

We all know this one, ” mirror, mirror on the wall; whose the fairest of them all?” From the Disney Classic Snow White. The evil queen desperate for validation seeks approval from anyone she can. Her obsession going so far as to want to take another’s life just for being prettier. We can all relate I’m sure. The green eyed monster rears it’s ugly head at least once in everyone’s life. The thing about Snow White though, was that she was not just another pretty face. She was pure of heart. She was kind, caring and compassionate. All traits that made most flock to her and live her. So was it really the pretty face the evil queen despised? Or was that her own heart had long been eroded by vanity?There are lots of thing the mirror can’t see. It can’t show us our personality or our good hearts. It can’t reflect back to us the positive choices we make or influences we have on our world and people around us. But what if it could? What if when you looked in the mirror you didn’t see fault with your appearance, or even vanity over your beauty; but instead saw the purity of your heart. What if you could look in the mirror with love and kindness? What if you could see that you are much more than the face that stares back at you?

I strive for this every time I look in the mirror. I used to avoid mirrors, not wanting to see my imperfections and how much I was letting myself down. Now I don’t mind looking. I enjoying seeing the changing I am making through better health choices. I look into my eyes instead of scrutinizing for imperfections. The eyes show you a lot. Try looking in yours and the others. What do they tell you about what is going on inside? Usually a lot. 

I’ve decided that the mirror is not my enemy, nor is it the judge of who is fairest. We are all beautiful in our own way and should embrace this in ourselves and others. If the mirror is reflecting something ugly back you then you should change what you see. And chances are it’s not your appearance that needs changing, but the pureness of your heart. The happiness and love that you hold within will ultimately be what makes you look beautiful to others and yourself.  

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Negative Noose

 You would be hard pressed to go through life never encountering negativity. It’s everywhere. A fact of life. The question is not will you experience negativity, but how will you deal with it when you do?  Negativity is like a black hole. It likes to pull everything into it in an all consuming way. I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase “misery loves company.” So when you encounter people that are negative or in a negative place in their life, the last thing they want is to see you or anyone else happy. They want you to feel as miserable as them. They either feel threatened, jealous or just low and can’t deal with seeing something they don’t have. Happiness, positivity, change. Unfortunately it is so very easy to lose your own happy and get pulled into the negativity. To then get pulled into the drama that comes with negativity. 

There have been several times in my life where I’ve been in situations that engulfed me, entangled me, or pulled me into negativity. And let me tell you, it has never ended well. There is such a fine line between standing up for yourself and trying to be right. To stand up for yourself is to voice your opinions, concerns and needs in a non aggressive but assertive manner. If you can’t be heard in this, yelling louder will not make you heard. If you cannot get what you need, whether it’s through compromise or not, than you must walk away. This is not the place, relationship, organization for you. You need to find where you fit. 
Being right means that you stood up for yourself and even though you can see no resolve, you continue because you have to prove that you are right. Your actions and words become much less logical and even aggressive. Being right eclipses the original problem. In these cases, no one wins. 

Then there are times when you are a third party and dragged into negativity through gossip, or conflict amongst friends/coworkers/family. This can be the hardest as you have less control over the conflict. In these cases, although it’s the hardest thing to do, separation from it is the best way to do it. Allow the parties involved you want no part. Find a neutral ground. 

Living in a positive light with positive intentions is a harder task that one would think. It takes more effort and harder choices to remain out of drama and conflict. But in the end, it is what can give you a happy life! When you live happiness, you feel happiness and you pass happiness on to others. It can be a wonderful thing! This is the place that I want to be in. To always choose to put out good karma and avoid getting pulled into negativity. It won’t be easy but I can do it. Some people will always be negative. They thrive on it, encourage others to do the same. These are the people that need avoiding. That need to be shown kindness when encountered, and avoided when possible. Making choices to not have people like this in your life is difficult but in the end well worth the effort. 

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Stand True

For a lot of us self assertion is of great difficulty. We worry about others feeling, putting our own aside, even to our detriment. For some of us it’s because we crave acceptance and what better way to be accepted than to allow the other person to have everything they want?! Being an only child, I learned very quickly that this tactic was a great way to not HAVE to be alone. There’s a problem though with always putting others first; it breeds resentment. 
Relationships are or should be a fine balance of give and take. Of mutual acceptance and consideration for one another. When they function like this, both parties get what they want and need to some degree. When the relationship isn’t mutual and is one sided, one person ultimately is left wanting. And the frustration and pressure of not being considered, festers in the form of anger issues, self confidence issues and lack of true connection. 

It may not even be that the other party realizes that this is happening. As the “doormat” of the relationship we are less likely to bring our lack of contentment and dissatisfaction to the other’s attention. One my call it ignorant bliss on their part. Well there’s no complaint so it must be ok. And as the doormat we think we are being kind and caring, by not asserting our needs. We are essentially being martyrs to an unnecessary cause. Because the truth is, it doesn’t do anyone any favours. 
When we aren’t true to ourselves we don’t give others the chance to see how great we are and truly know if they like us or not. We are false advertising. Our not taking satisfaction in being heard, considered and valued, doesn’t give anyone more happiness or a better life. In fact they probably don’t even notice the “kindness” you think you’ve bestowed. You are the only one being affected by this action. It’s only when we burst out in frustration or anger (often at the wrong person) that anyone even knows we have a voice. And then it’s not only shoking but misinterpreted. And when you do assert yourself after having not spoken up, don’t be surprised if people walk away. They may feel they don’t know you. Or feel uncomfortable with having to take on the new role of considering your feelings. Whatever they feel or do, it is for them to own, not you. 

See when you are true to yourself, you can own your behaviour, your choices, you feelings. You don’t have to worry about what other’s think of you because you are secure with you. That’s not say you can’t be wrong or that there may not be ways to improve yourself. But if you are true to you then you can also recognize these things too.  

Being a “martyr” has not served me well. Putting myself last has only put me in places that were filled with negativity. I can still be a good friend, and person while considering my own feelings first. Of course I still care about how others feel. And I never want to hurt anyone. But I won’t put myself in a place of disappointment, dissatisfaction,inconvenience or hurt because I don’t want someone else to feel “bad”. Chances are that person is asking something out of line to make me feel that way. 
I hope that I can show my kids that their feeling are important, by taking a stand in my true self. I wouldn’t want them to place less worth on themselves because I was misguided enough to do so. 
So the next time you start to accommodate someone in a way that puts you at a disadvantage , stop and think about your motivation. Are you doing this for acceptance, or just so they don’t have to feel bad? Or is there a genuine reason that involves that mutual kind of relationship? Remember you have just as much worth as they do, or anyone else for that matter, and you deserve a happy outcome too!

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