You Just Need…

I read a great quote over the weekend on the Project Happiness Instagram feed. It read:

It’s so funny how so much of ‘finding yourself’ in adulthood is simply getting back to who you were and what you loved as a child

-Project Happiness

Now that the kids are back in school full time, and with one already vaccinated, and the other hopefully able to be vaccinated soon, the risk of lengthly quarantines seems to be diminishing by the day. But diminishing right along side this is my role as teacher, lunch lady, recess supervisor, and technical support. While the last almost two years have been challenging, as my friend wisely said, they also postponed the inevitable decision on what to do when the kids are self-sufficient and I am no longer so needed to attend to the kids.

Like so many other women I know, I stopped working when I became a mom. It was the right decision for our family. At the time it seemed like the job of full-time mom would last forever. But now it seems like the years are flying by an an ever-increasing clip, and my job of full-time mom is going to come to an end sooner than I’d like. Knowing that I am no longer qualified to go back to the job I held before kids, the idea of re-examining who I was and what I loved as a child seems like a very logical way to start my journey to finding out how to start out on this new phase of my life.

But knowing what it is you love isn’t much use if you don’t have the self-confidence to allow yourself to pursue what it is that you love. And this brings me to my quote of the day:

So . . . you can find true happiness in your life if you just remember what it is that you loved as a child, have the courage to pursue whatever it is that delights you, and you believe in yourself and what you’re doing wholeheartedly. Seems simple enough . . .

On Grief, Fear and What No One Ever Told Me

I have been more emotional in the past few weeks than I have been in a long time.  As it seems we are slowly inching our way out of the COVID crisis, with the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter every day, I am also barreling headlong into the ten year anniversary of my tumor surgery.  Both of these things should be reasons to celebrate.  I know deep down there is a part of me that wants to be throwing confetti and popping champagne.  But that part of me is buried way deep down under a boulder of emotion so big it sometimes feels like I can’t breathe.  

In my quest to clear away this boulder, to find a way to let that part of me that wants to celebrate life and all it has to offer, I have been reading more than ever, and in the process, I came across this quote:

No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.

C. S. Lewis

Suddenly I had a name for what I was feeling; grief.  

I feel grief over the fact that my daughter’s first year of life is enmeshed with all ofl the awfulness of my diagnosis, surgery, and recovery.  I feel grief over my damaged facial nerves that make half my face constantly feel like it’s fallen asleep.  And I feel grief for the fact that I can’t go back and not be that person who’s faced a health crisis; that the certainty in believing that my body wouldn’t, or couldn’t fail me at such a young age was taken from me.

I have grief for all that has transpired over these past 18 months as well.  Like everyone else on the planet, I am grieving all that we didn’t get to do, all the family and friends we didn’t get to see, all the celebrations we didn’t get to have.  And most of all, I have grief for the fact that my kids now know what it’s like not to be able to have certainty in their lives.  

All this grief has been tumbling around inside me for so long, it’s grown and morphed from tiny little pebbles into one giant boulder.  The aforementioned boulder of emotion that sometimes makes me feel like I can’t breathe.

Now that I have a name for my feelings, I can also start to work on dealing with all those feelings and emotions.  I can find a place and a space to grieve.  But I can also find a place and a space to remember all the good that has happened over the last ten years.  The good that has come from the tumor, and the good that has come from our seemingly never ending lockdowns over the past eighteen months.  And I’m certain that as I start to see more of the good and less of the grief, the fear and the sadness will start to ebb and the part of me that wants to celebrate this glorious messy life will dawn anew.

What Is the Silver Lining?

It’s hard when things don’t turn out the way you’d hoped they would; when you face defeat, be it big or small, not to feel defeated.  My son faced, what felt like to him, a few big defeating moments one day at the start of the school year this year.  In the grand scheme of things, these defeats were neither defining, nor were really that big at all.  But in his pre-teen, post-COVID, new-normal world, these little bumps on the road seemed like major roadblocks.  

While I employed all the usual parenting tactics with him – we talked about why the events had gone the way they had, if there was anything he could have done to prepare himself better, if there was anything he could do to prevent these sorts of things from happening again – it turned out that this wasn’t what he was looking for from me.

That night, as I was saying goodnight, he asked me to sit in his room with him; he wasn’t ready to put these events behind him and he wanted, not platitudes from me, but for me to listen to him as he wallowed in his feelings. And so we sat and talked about how bad it feels when we face defeat, and how it can be hard to move on.  But then I asked him:

What is the silver lining?

This is a little trick I’ve been trying to use myself of late; when things don’t go the way I’d hoped, I try to find the silver lining in the situation.  So I thought I’d try it out with my son.  At first, he told me that there were no silver linings.  That the situation, and his feelings about it, were all so bad, that there was no good to be found.  But as we kept talking, funnily enough, we did manage to come up with a few little pieces of good, and slowly, the silver lining started to take shape.

Facing defeat is never easy.  And whether those defeats are big, or small, it’s hard not to feel defeated and deflated.  But perhaps if we start to look for the shreds of good in these defeats, and try to slowly knit these shreds of good together, we can create our very own silver lining.

Postscript

As the school year has progressed, it’s safe to say that my motto has become “but what’s the silver lining”.  It’s a catchphrase I think my kids are getting sick of hearing (as indicated by their eye rolls and other facial expressions).  But I’m not!  And If there’s one thing I’ll be glad to have taught them it’s that defeats will happen, and they don’t feel great, but that you can always, always, look for the good in the situation; you can always look for the silver lining.

It’s All Possible

Almost ten years ago, I sat in a doctor’s office with my five month old in her little bucket car seat at my feet and heard the words “They found something. You have a brain tumour”. It’s funny what I don’t remember from that day; I have no idea how or any recollection of how I drove home from the doctor’s office for example. But what I do remember vividly were the cryptic words of the doctor after I pressed her on what my likely outcomes would be: “It’s all possible” she said.

With a prognosis that ranged from you’ll be back to normal in no time to the possibility of paralysis, brain death, or even death, I was sent home to await an appointment with a specialist and eventually a surgery. Unfortunately, in the intervening three weeks it took for me to see the specialist, and four months it took to have the surgery, each day I was forced to face the vast uncertainty of how my life would unfold.

I remember several epic meltdowns during this period in which, through streaming tears and clenched jaws and fists, declaring that I just did not want to go through this. I didn’t want to have to face the surgery, the recovery, ad all that that might entail. That I wanted to go back in time to when I could wake up each morning and not contemplate my own mortality. That simply put, I wanted my OLD life back.

Fortunately, and with more gratitude than I can express in words for our healthcare system, I was placed in the the care of the most talented neurosurgeon, and after a gruelling 12 hour surgery, my tumour was removed, I didn’t suffer any of the “worst case” scenarios, and my healing journey began.

Fast forward to last weekend, when through streaming tears I declared, “I want my OLD life back”.

The irony of my words yesterday is not lost on me.

The “old” life I crave so much is the one I was so terrified of ten years ago.

As our lockdown has been extended for another 2 weeks, and we have been given no promises on when we may regain pieces of our lives as we knew them, the direction our lives will take over the next weeks, months, years, are clouded with uncertainty. Or, to quote my neurologist, “It’s all possible”.

Just like ten years ago, it is so easy to get drawn into the negative possibilities of what could happen over the next few weeks, months, and even years. But instead, perhaps it’s time to start focusing on the good. We’ve had twelve months to slow down. To discover what we really can’t live without (haircuts), and what we can live without (all that business that came in the from of extra activities for the kids and meetings for the adults).

Hopefully as we come out of this season of lockdown and look towards a brighter future as vaccines are rolled out and infection rates come down, we can distill from this past year that which is most essential and build a new, better “normal” for ourselves and our families instead of running back to our old ways of doing things.

Maybe then, ten years from now, we will look back and realize that this “new normal” that we’re all so scared of, isn’t quite as bad as we’re imagining it to be.

Think of the Happiest Things

If you were to ask me to list my happiest things, after family and friends, of course, my first reaction would be to list the “big” things in life. Travel, whether it’s to a beach two hours from my house, or to a beach that’s a five hour plane ride away, makes me happy. Excursions with the kids, whether it’s to a new part of our city, or to a new city all together makes me happy. And celebrations with family and friends make me happy too. And under the gloom of COVID, thinking about these things seems like a torturous double-edged sword; not only can we not do any of them, we aren’t even sure when we can hope to do them again.

It’s easy then, to fall into the trap of focusing on the doom and gloom. And not at looking at the millions of tiny little happy things that happen every day.

While revelling in, or at least stopping to notice, the small bits of joy in a day aren’t going to do much about the absence of the big happy things we have taken for granted in the past, it does help lift some of the feelings of doom and gloom. And if nothing else, it helps to make the day pass in a slightly more pleasant manner.

If You Keep On Believing

As the end of December loomed, and we were placed into yet another lockdown, with school and sports and even outdoor visits taken away from us yet again, my word for the year came to me: Believe. With so much of my “normal” everyday life stripped away, more than ever I needed a word as a touchstone this year, something to ground me in the hope that things will get better.

Be•lieve

1. Accept (something) as true; feel sure of the truth of, without absolute certainty.

2. Hold (something) as an opinion; think or suppose.

3. To have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy or ability of something.

With today being the last day of January, I’ve had a month to live with my word. And it hasn’t been easy. Little beliefs that I had been clinging to were gradually dispelled of as case counts of the virus increased and restrictions on our movement and activities were correspondingly increased. And it all came to a head yesterday when I felt truly overwhelmed by the sadness of the reality to which we keep waking up. The irony that it is Groundhog day here on Tuesday is not lost on me.

But I digress. This morning, I woke up to an email announcing the start of the #The100DayProject. It was just what I needed to read this morning; I needed a call to action; something to stir me out of my doldrums and get me excited about what is to come when lockdown will inevitably come to an end and some form of normalcy will resume.

And so, welcome to Day 1 of my 100 Days of Disney quotes:

Why Disney quotes for 100 days? Well . . . I have been working on a project with the kids since the start of the year – every school day, we start the day by copying a quote into a notebook and illustrating the quote with chalk pastels while we talk about the quote. I started this project so that the kids could have a tangible record of the kinds of words and ideas and people that are most important to me. My hope is that they can refer back to their books when they need words of comfort, or inspiration, or wisdom. And that they will remember the cozy mornings we spent together in lockdown creating these books.

Anyway, this little project with the kids has reinforced for me my belief in the power of words. And that power, combined with the magic of Disney, surely will be the light and inspiration I need to climb out of the darkness of this particular winter and into a new season, in every sense of the word.

Different Doesn’t Mean “Bad”

Everything about this year has been “different”. My kids remind me of this last least once day day. Usually in the form of a series of groans and grumbles followed by “But everything is just so . . . different”, where the word different is most definitely being used as a synonym for “bad”.

Yesterday, as both kids participated in virtual school, I decorated the house for Christmas. When they came down the stairs for their lunch break both kids were at first filled with excitement with their first real signs of Christmas.

It took a few minutes.

And then I heard it.

“Christmas is going to be so different this year”.

My reaction was swift and snappy: “DIFFERENT DOESN’T MEAN BAD”.

Since then I’ve been thinking about my reaction. As we entered a new round of lockdown where we live, different has meant my skating with my little one in the morning before school at the rink we created in our backyard instead of ferrying her to the actual rink for 7am each day. Different has meant family dinners followed by movies each night because homework is done right after school since there are no after school activities. Different has meant long family walks on the weekend, exploring trails and parks near our home that we’ve never had time to fully enjoy before since there are no weekend activities to rush out to. As far as I’m concerned, different this month has been quite enjoyable.

Of course, different has also meant visiting family is either virtual or outdoors and socially distanced – which isn’t the most fun in as we enter winter. And different is going to mean changing some of our Christmas traditions.

But none of these changes are inherently bad. They’re just . . . different.

What I hope, after this month when the differences in our current COVID-controlled lives are more starkly apparent than at any other time in the year as compared to our pre-COVID lives, is that my kids develop, if not a love for things being different, at least a deep understanding that different doesn’t mean bad.

Different just means different.

Musings On Perfection

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good”

– John Stienbeck

I have always been drawn to the concept of perfection; the idea that something can be so good it is beyond reproach or criticism. Which is somewhat ironic as my fear never being able to achieve perfection in my life has lead me to spent a good portion of my life in, shall we say, less than perfect states.

The single clearest example of this is my “office” space in our house. When we renovated the basement, years ago now, I created a tiny office space for myself. This was meant to be a place for me to “create” – aka indulge in my crafty tendencies in a way that wouldn’t create a giant mess in a more visible area of the house. What my office actually became was a sort of dumping ground / graveyard for the detritus of our daily lives. My desk is generally scattered with old invoices, random items of clothing that need repair, a half finished sewing project of mine, the drawers filled with old tech that will certainly never be touched again . . . you get the idea.

However, the one critical item that does reside in my office is our desktop computer. The big screen, which takes up significant real estate on my desk, a modern relic of days gone past, when the idea of everyone in house having their own laptops was a laughable idea.

And then came COVID.

And with it the disappearance of all our available laptops into kids rooms and the Husband’s desk, forcing me to do all my “work” from the hoarder’s haven that my office had become. I have lived amongst the mess for months now. While there had been a few half hearted attempts to clean up along the way, for the most part, things remained, well, a mess.

Until last weekend. When I decided that I wanted to feel good when I came to get my work done. That I wanted to be surrounded by things that I love. And that I no longer wanted to live in mess. And that maybe my mindset would shift just a little bit if this little room of my own was in order.

And so I got to work. I actually put photos in the picture frames that have been stacked on the floor for years. And I even went so far as to hang them all on the wall. Having visual reminders of the things that make me happiest – family photos from our most loved trips and landscape photos of the places I love most – puts a smile on my face every time I come in this room. I cleaned everything up and I cleaned out everything that needed to go. And in this process, I came across a poster I had purchased years ago at the One of a Kind Craft Sale. When I saw it, I knew I HAD to have it. And then promptly shoved it away, forgotten about until now, as it is prominently hung beside my computer where I have no option other than to have it constantly in my peripheral vision:

These past few months have been a crash course in learning to let go of all of my delusions of perfection. I’ve been learning that my true joy doesn’t come from striving to be beyond reproach or criticism from others. It comes from doing what I love and creating a life that I love. And this was made oh so evident to me as I undertook this little office cleaning project. So now that I don’t have to be perfect, I can be good. And that feels a WHOLE lot better.

On Wonder

won  ∙  der

noun

a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable

verb

desire or be curious to know something;

feel doubt

 

Wonder was the word I chose for my One Little Word this year.  I’ve chose a word for the year every year for the past few years, using words like Joy, and Love, and Magic as guiding lights for how I want to move through the year, and my reasons for choosing  Wonder for this year were not different.  I wanted to focus on wondering what the best case scenarios could be when faced with uncertainty or unpleasant situations instead of defaulting to my usual way of solving problems that involves creating lists of all the possible worst case scenarios and trying to mitigate them all.  I also wanted to use my word as motivation to try new things, create new things … think new things.

Wonder bubbled along in the background of my life for the first few months of the year.  I wondered about lots of things, big and small, like how on earth I was going to find a way to enjoy all the driving to and from school and activities (the answer was podcasts and audiobooks), and if I could start training in January and still be ready for the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend (I did train, and I was ready).

And then … COVID.

All of a sudden my wondering stopped being so trivial as we all were forced to navigate through life in lock down with the kids in homeschool and the Husband all of a sudden working from home.  Like everyone else I wondered if we had enough toilet paper, enough food in the pantry, enough bandwidth in our wifi to support all of us at home.  I wondered if we would all stay healthy, and what things I could do to ensure that we could stay as healthy as possible.  And most of all, I wondered when things would go back to “normal”.

But as these past few months have ticked by, and lockdown has lifted, and things are returning to a new kind of normal, Wonder has taken on a much different tone for me.

Wonder has become less of a question of survival, and more of a soft invitation to try. I am finding that by “wondering” if I can do something, or try something, or experiment with something new, the pressure to succeed at whatever it is I am attempting is somehow lifted; while I can still have doubts about whatever it is I’m attempting, I can still make room to be curious and try.

And best of all, I am finding, that the more I open myself up to wondering, the more Wonder I find in my life.

And as if just to prove a point, as I embarked on a new workout regime yesterday that I had been wondering about for a while now, I was struck with Wonder at the beautiful sunrise that graced the skies above me.

IMG_1426

 

Back to the Basics (Or How I’m Planning Our Best Summer Yet)

Exactly how it is that the school year is just about over is baffling to me.  Maybe its because spring never really happened here this year and the transition to summer is coming rather abruptly.  Or maybe it’s simply due to the fact that I’m getting older and time is moving faster.  Regardless, the imminent end to my kids’ school year has forced me to start thinking about our plans for the summer.

As much as I want to plan the most magical wondrous summer filled with excitement at every turn, I also realize, that after a year filled with busy-ness, albeit the best kind of busy-ness, we are all ready to slow down and really take a break from it all.

Rather than get wrapped up in planning each day of the break, I stripped my summer planning back to the very basics; what do I most want to do with my kids in the summers that I have left with them as “kids” AND what do the kids most want to do in their precious summer?

So what is it that I most want to do with my kids in the summers that I have left with them as “kids”?  I want to teach them – teach them how amazing it is to have a love of reading, teach them how to take on more and more responsibility, teach them how to cook on their own, teach them how to grow things in the garden, teach them how to work towards their goals in sports, and of course teach them that hard work will, in the end, always pay off.

I also want to show them that life can be magical – that magic can be found in the routines of everyday life, AND that life can have magical surprises waiting for you when you least expect them.

What do the kids most want to do this summer?  Well, that was a question only the kids could answer.  So we sat down and compiled a list of everything they wanted to do this summer.  This is actually an activity we do before every major school break.  All of our lists are in one notebook, and it’s fun to see how the lists change as the seasons change, and as the kids change and grow up.

Some highlights from the list this for this summer:

  • Create a family band and make a song together
  • See the new Toy Story movie
  • Go on a road trip

Because I am a planner at heart, and feel ever so much better when I have a plan in place, I’ve come up with a way that I think will help us get everything we all want out of this summer.

So here’s how we’re going to get it all in.  Each week will follow the same format.

Movie Monday

Kids Make Dinner Tuesday

Field Trip Wednesday

Adventure Thursday

Fun Friday

Movie Mondays can happen either at a movie theatre, or in our house.  Since movies also aren’t a huge time commitment, the kids will plan and make shopping lists, and likely even shop, for the items they need for the dinner they will be making on Tuesday.

Kids Make Dinner Tuesdays is fun for everyone; the kids get to choose foods they really want to eat and/or make, they learn to work together and they learn to cook.  These days also often include the making of menus, and of course, setting the table and helping with the dishes.  And of course, I get to teach them what I know about cooking and baking.

Field Trip Wednesdays, Adventure Thursdays, and Fun Fridays are how I am able to work in the “magic” part of the summer.  Field trips can be educational (to the museum, the art gallery, or other cultural institutions) or they can be fun (amusement or water parks, or other fun destinations around the city).  Adventures can be to explore new parts of the city (like Underpass Park, or the Harry Potter Store).  And Fun Friday . . .well that can involve anything from a trip to a new ice cream store, to sleepovers to an amusement park visit, to creating that family band and writing a song together . . .

What I most love about this kind of schedule is that it can be changed on the fly (the kids don’t find out about what we are going to do on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays until that morning), so I can plan according to how we’re feeling, the weather, or spur of the moment plans with friends.  Some weeks can be busier.  And others can be more relaxed.

I started this all by talking about how much I want to teach the kids this summer – and so far all I’ve talked about is having fun – not that teaching can’t be fun . . . but . . .

As the kids get older, I want them to take on more responsibility and to be held accountable for the things they do.  Which means, that before we have screen time, or other forms of play time in a day, the kids are expected to compete a certain number of “must-dos” each morning.  These include getting dressed and ready for the day, making their bed, and reading a novel for 30 minutes (I’ll talk more about our summer reading plans in a later post).   I have found it is far easier to get all the chores done before screens make an appearance than to try and take the screens away when it’s time to get ready for the day.

And now that my plans are in place, I can relax and start enjoying what I’m certain is going to be our best summer yet! (Which is fortuitous as one kid is already done school for the year, and the other one is done tomorrow!!).

 

 

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