Looking for Joy in All the Wrong Places

With one week of February gone, I’ve had ample opportunity to “practice” working with the mantra “What would love do?”, and I had to admit, I’ve had some surprising results.  There have been many instances where I’ve stopped, asked myself what would love do . . . and then not been able to find an answer.  Like this morning – the kids were playing a game with some leftover balloons we had blown up for the Super Bowl last night.  They were shrieking, laughing, having fun, and running ALL OVER the house.  They were having a blast.  I was not.  I was trying to pack lunches, clean up the dishes and get organized for a day that required hockey equipment, ski equipment, uniforms for ballet, tap and jazz, never mind my own gym bag.

I wanted to scream “Stop”.  But I didn’t . . . I paused.  What would love do.

Would love see the joy the kids were having and let them continue on doing what they were doing.  Or would love see my need for some calmness and peace and place a priority on that over the fun the kids were having and calmly request they stop what they were doing?

I suppose what I’m getting at is this: Does love place a priority on others’ needs or on our own, or a mix of both?

This morning, I was able to find a compromise – the kids could play to their hearts’ content . . . as long as they were in the basement; Love, in this instance, could let us all be happy.

As I went about my morning this morning, I thought a lot about this situation . . . as silly as it was.  Not that I want to make myself out to be some kind of martyr, but love to me has always been about showing love to others; not about being lovingly kind to myself.

Now to veer onto a tangent for a minute . . . I listened to an amazing podcast on the weekend – Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness – in which Esther Perel was interviewed.  In the podcast, Esther, who is a “world renowned relationship expert” mentioned that we are most attractive to others when we are in our “element”.  I suppose this shouldn’t come as shocking news – I have been known to plead with my husband to make more time to play guitar because I love nothing more than watching him practice, to see him work in his element.

So if being in our “element” (aka working from a place of joy) makes us more attractive to others, and can in fact improve our relationships with others, shouldn’t we all be doing more to spend time doing those things that bring us joy?

I’m pretty sure that’s what Love would do . . .

And so, the proverbial penny has tumbled . . . rather than look for pockets of joy in my everyday life like I have been doing, I’m going to work hard to focus on what brings me joy, and to foster that which brings joy to my kids, and the Husband.  Don’t get me wrong, I have found so many of these little pockets of joy in the last 5 weeks.  But, I know that there’s more to be found if I dig a little deeper and work a little harder.

I’m not saying this will be easy.  This is “Practice February” after all!  My natural inclination has always been to forfeit my joy for the sake of others (again, not trying to be a martyr, promise).  And so, I will have to work to stand up for myself, if you will, and make sure that I make time for my joy.

Earlier today, I saw a great quote in the One Little Word Facebook community . . . and so I made a little image for myself using the quote to remind me to keep practicing.

Happy practicing!

IMG_9567

 

 

What Would Love Do?

So, as part of my One Little Word project this month, I’m to pick something, it could be anything, and practice it once a day for the entire month.  At first, I was disappointed.  I’d just spent the month of January trying to “practice” about a million different things; not drinking; not eating sugar; running at every workout; getting enough sleep; getting enough water . . . you get the idea.  Then, as I saw how excited other people on this journey were about the task, I started to get a bit excited too . . . after all, we were given a checklist and I do love to check things off . . .

So, after MUCH thought, I decided that each day I would practice finishing off my “picture of the day” albums.  You see, I’ve spent the last SEVEN years taking a photo of my kids every day.  The problem is, most of these photos aren’t in albums.  As in the photos stopped getting into albums around the time my daughter was born, which means I’m about five years behind on this project.  Finally seeing at least some of this project completed would bring me a serious amount of JOY.

But then I went to the gym this morning.  At the end of class, the teacher suggested that as we go through our day, before we react, we ask our selves:

“What would love do?”

After getting home and settling down with my lunch in front of the computer to get working on my picture of the day albums, the mail arrived.  The loud thud as it hit the ground meant a package had arrived; and indeed it had.  All the photos I ordered to complete the first of my daughter’s week in the life album had arrived!  (A few months ago, I wrote about how I had a serious amount of guilt about not creating a week in the life album for my daughter like I had for my son, and that maybe I was finally ready to tackle it.  Well, I decided that I would create the album during the course of her 5th year, so every 3 months, I’ll be documenting one week of her/our lives.)

And I was instantly torn.  I WANT to get this week of my daughter’s album done . . . but I have limited time to devote to my “practice”, so I also WANT to dutifully go and work on my photo of the day albums like I promised myself I would.

“What would love do?”

So I sat down, tore open the envelopes of photos and got to work on my daughter’s album.

As much as I want to make progress on my annual albums, that’s not where the love needed to go today.

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my Practice February though . . . nope.  It just means that for the rest of the month, when faced with a decision, I’m going to pause and ask myself what love would do.  I’m pretty sure that as long as I stick to it, I’ll find lots of JOY along the way.

On that note, I’ve got some photos to sort through!

IMG_9441

A Missed Lift, Goals, and Finding Joy

Last week at the gym, this happened:

Yup . . . I fell while trying to do a heavy lift . . . and I laughed.  When I showed the Coach the video, instead of offering some insightful commentary of why it was exactly that I missed the lift, he simply said “you laughed because you know you you can get right back up and hit that lift”.

Ok . . . so here’s where I’m going to head out on a tangent . . . but I promise, there is a point to this meandering path I’m taking here today.

There was a time, not so long ago, where missing a lift like that would have made me mad.  I would have gotten frustrated, annoyed, probably would have stomped around a bit, pretty much behaved like a petulant three year old.

Why?

Simply because missed lifts meant I wasn’t performing the way I was “supposed” to.  Missed lifts meant I wasn’t progressing.  Missed lift meant I wasn’t reaching my goals.

Right.  Goals.

So a few days ago, there was a fantastic seminar at CrossfitAIO about goal setting.  During the talk, we were encouraged to write down our goals.  Normally, I would have been able to churn out a list in about ten seconds flat . . . things I knew I could achieve, things I wanted to achieve, and things that I could maybe possible stretch to achieve.  But this time, I was stuck.  As much as I love the idea of having measurable markers of improvement, goals with any kind of deadline simply don’t fit into my world of unpredictability; when something as benign as a sick kid can keep me out of the gym for a week, what point is there in setting weekly/monthly/yearly goals?  It can only lead to frustration, annoyance, and likely disappointment.

Which brings me back to the whole concept that I talked about earlier about focusing on how you want to FEEL as opposed to what you want to get done (There is Magic in Focusing on How you Want to Feel).  When I go to the gym now, it’s because I want to work on getting stronger and feeling good.  And when I’m freed from the shackles of trying to meet specific targets in set amounts of time, I can just work on getting stronger and feeling good.  And the funny thing is . . . I’ve gotten stronger, and I feel pretty good.

And here’s where I loop back to where I started  . . . I could laugh as I fell squarely on my rear because one missed lift didn’t mean anything at all.  I was simply having fun, working on getting stronger and feeling good.

And here’s where I loop right back to “real” life . . . I have very publicly stated that this year, I want to feel JOY.  I’ve spent more than a few hours already this month just thinking about, working on, and figuring out just what allows me to get to that place of joy through my One Little Word project.  And yet, this month, I’ve really struggled with finding joy.  Put differently, when things haven’t gone as planned, when I’ve been knocked on my rear, my reaction hasn’t been to giggle . . . I’ve gotten down on myself and searched for external things to make me feel better (I won’t lie . . . I am loving my new gym wardrobe that was an offshoot of a particularly aggravating day, but I digress.).

And for one last giant loop back to where I started . . . life really isn’t that much different than the gym.  I may get knocked on my rear for any number of reasons in “real” life, but I can still get right back up again and do whatever it was that I was trying to do.  And when I focus on having fun (and finding and feeling the joy) in whatever it is that I’m doing, rather than trying to work towards some crazy self-imposed goal, life really is a lot more enjoyable.

Ok . . . and now for one last tangent.  January is a month where most of us embark on something new.  As this month draws to a close, most of us won’t have succeeded in whatever it is we were trying to do.  We can lay blame (on ourselves or on others), we can get down (on ourselves or on others), and we can quit.

OR, we can choose to try again.  For those of you that were trying this month to get to the gym more or to eat better . . . don’t give up.  Focus on how you want to feel, and what you need to do to feel that way.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, and again, and again . . . it might be easy to reach for the fast food, for the “easy” answer to feeding yourself and your family. And it certainly is easy to skip going to the gym.  But is that really going to make you feel any better?

Working In Joy (aka Sprinkle Cake)

I mentioned before that this year, I decided to jump in with both feet and commit to Ali Edwards One Little Word workshop.  As Ali says on her site, “a single word can be a powerful thing”.  And yes, my word for the year is JOY.  There are a million reasons why I think this is the absolute perfect word for me to work with this year, but I think this quote sums it all up quite nicely:

Joy quotes

Or, as Danielle LaPorte put it,

“Happiness is like rising bubbles — delightful and inevitably fleeting.
Joy is the oxygen — ever present.”

While the start of a new year is supposed to be filled with the excitement of fresh starts, new challenges, and first steps on the path to being a better person, the first few weeks of this year for me have brought more than a few reminders of how life doesn’t always go quite as we had hoped for or planned.

But rather than focus on the dark clouds in life that are sickness and setbacks, I actively looked for the joy in the situation.  For there was joy in snuggling with my little one on the couch while she was home sick from school for two days.  And there was joy in making special dinners with the kids as the Husband worked late.  And there was even joy in changing up my gym routine when I wasn’t able to meet with the Coach (and for those that know me . . . i do NOT like a change in my gym routine . . . some things are sacred and not to be changed . . . EVER).

As the days of January tick by, I’m also starting to realize that it’s a whole lot easier to find joy in life when you wake up each day full of vitality and refreshed from a good night’s sleep . . . the benefits of a clean diet, no alcohol, and lots of physical activity.

It’s also a whole lot easier to wake up early so I can work on my One Little Word project when I am so rested and full of life!

IMG_9002

While the gym is definitely one of my happy places, I am probably happiest in the kitchen.  And this weekend, because the majority of my family’s birthdays happen in January, I found myself in the kitchen all day on Sunday baking birthday cakes and making frosting.  In all, I made 2 four layer cakes and with two different frostings.  The first was a sprinkle cake, for which I am about to share the recipe, and the second was simply the sprinkle cake without the sprinkles.  As for the frosting, I made a simple vanilla frosting for the sprinkle cake and a mocha one for the plain vanilla cake.  I will freely admit that there is nothing nutritionally redeeming about sprinkles, or their appearance in cake.  And while I’m admitting to things, I also used vegetable shortening in my vanilla frosting (yeah, even I was horrified by it) . . .but it made for an excellent frosting that hardened on the outside just that little bit, you know, the way the icing is on a cake from a bakery.  And yes, I did have a slice of cake (the mocha one which didn’t have shortening . . . but cake nonetheless).  And yes, there was a whole lot of joy in that slice of cake!

Vanilla Sprinkle Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1 1/2 cups milk (any kind that you have on hand)

2 tbs vanilla extract

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 1/3 cups flour

1 cup sprinkles (I used the thin round ones, but you could also use the little ones that look like balls – other kinds of sprinkles may bleed too much into the batter)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter and flour 2 9″ cake pans.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and two sugars.  Beat until they are well combined.  Add in the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light, fluffy, and pale yellow in colour.
  3. Add in the yogurt and mix again.
  4. Measure the milk and vanilla into a bowl.  Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into another bowl.
  5. Add half the milk mixture and half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until just combined.
  6. Add in the remaining milk mixture and flour mixture and again, mix until just combined.
  7. Add in the sprinkles and mix on last time.
  8. Distribute the batter between the two pans and use a spatula to even out the batter in the pans.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes and assess how well done the cakes are.  At this point, I put the cakes back in for another 10 minutes.  I then covered the cakes with tin foil and baked them for another 15 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cakes came out clean.
  10. If you are making these cakes without the sprinkles, baking time may be reduced by about 10-15 minutes.
  11. I cut each of these cakes in half to make a total of 4 layers!

Simple Vanilla Frosting

  • Servings: ices 1 2-layer cake
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3-4 cups icing sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp milk or cream

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, shortening and vanilla together until well combined.
  2. Add in 3 cups of the icing sugar as well as the milk.  Mix well.  If the icing is not as thick as you’d like it, add in the remaining cup of icing sugar.  Depending on how “fluffy” you like your frosting, keep beating it until your desired state of fluffiness is reached.
  3. If you are making a 4-layer cake as I did, double this recipe.

Well hello there 2016

Happy new year.

We ended off 2015 in the best way possible; with our house filled to the brim with friends and family all laughing and having fun.

And we started 2016 off in the best way possible too; with a quiet family breakfast.  To be followed by a larger family lunch and an even bigger extended family dinner later tonight.

I’m excited for this new year.  More excited than I’ve been for a new year in quite a while.

I’m excited to work with my “one little word”.  To see just how I can work more joy into our lives.

I’m excited to see what changes the year is going to bring for me, for my family, because I know that if nothing else, this year will bring change.

I’m excited for all the cooking I’m going to be doing; and for all the help the kids are going to give in the kitchen (it started already this morning with the 2 kids asking to and then peeling 5 lbs of sweet potatoes between them).  I love NOTHING more than cooking with the kids.  Nothing.

I’m excited for the travel we’re going to embark on as a family.  And maybe just as a couple.  And maybe just by myself.

And of course, I’m excited to see how my body changes with the work I put in at the gym; what new PR’s I might hit; what new skills I might learn; how much fun I have with my friends at the gym.

I wish you all the very best for this new year and hope that you’re excited for all that the new year will bring for you too.

xoxo

 

 

Goodbye Christmas, Hello New Year’s & Finding my JOY (Oh, And the Best Sugar Cookies Ever)

With the Husband back at work today, it seems as though Christmas is really over in our house.  I started putting all the decorations away today, (despite the little one’s desperate pleas to leave the tree up in the living room all year long) and while I worked, New Year’s was on my mind; what my hopes, my dreams, my (gasp!) goals might be for the year ahead.  Which lead into a much deeper train of thought . . .

The coach once asked me what my worth was.  It was part of a larger conversation, and was a very valid question at the time (it clearly still is a very valid question).  I couldn’t answer him then, and I still can’t answer him.

How can I define my worth when I don’t even know who or what it is that I am.

I know that I used to be a banker.  And that I have a degree in economics and an MBA that lead me to that career.

I know that I’m the girl that went through that whole brain tumour thing.  And that I’m the girl that loves to spend time in the gym and lift heavy things.

I know that right now I’m a wife and a mom and a daughter and a friend.

But none of that answers the question “who am I”.

I’ve always had something to rely on to define who I am.  In high school, I was the “figure skater”.  In university, I was an “econ girl”.  And from there, I transitioned into my career where i was a “banker”.

As meaningful as the roles of “wife” and “mom” might be to the people to whom I am the wife and mom, anything I do in those roles is, well, expected.  Taking care of the house, making sure the kids are fed, dressed, educated . . . all part of the job.  And thus, while I may be “good” at these jobs, they don’t define me.

And so, as I stand on the precipice of the new year, I am faced with the great task of figuring out who and what it is that I want to be and from there what my worth is.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am thrilled to be freed from the shackles of the whole brain tumour thing.  And I love the idea that I have the ability to choose where it is that I want to take my life.  But I am also absolutely terrified.  Because I want what I do with my life going forward to have meaning; to be worth something to more than just my husband and my kids.  And I also want whatever it is that I choose do with my life to bring me joy; so that I may teach my kids what it’s like to truly follow your joy.  And because I know all too well that life’s just too short not to follow your joy.  And I suspect that discovering this “life” is going to take a considerable amount of thought, hard work, and time.

But, with all that being said, I know that one day, in the not too distant future, I will have figured some of this out . . . and I will be able to confidently walk up to the Coach, and with a big smile on my face, tell him just what my worth is.

In the meantime, we’ve been having an ABSOLUTELY amazing break to date – by far the best decision I ever made was to just keep the kids home with me and not to put them in any activities or camps.  In fairness, they have had some time with their grandparents so that I could get a few things done.  But by and large, we’ve just been hanging out.  And we’ve been cooking.  I think the biggest hit this year was our sugar cookies.  They are PHENOMENAL.  And I don’t mean that lightly.  I could (and perhaps did) eat a dozen of these over the course of a day.  They are totally NOT paleo, healthy or in any way good for you.  Except, they are super fun to make with the little people in your life, and I grin from ear to ear when I eat them . . . We have devolved to the point with these cookies where we don’t ice or decorate them – we just eat them plain.  And we also debate as to whether we prefer them a smidgen under-done or more well cooked.  Do with them as you please.  They certainly can take smarties or other candy decorations on them before you throw them in the oven; or you can let them cool, ice them and decorate them fully.  Just please, provided you don’t have any gluten issues, MAKE THESE COOKIES!!

Best Sugar Cookies Ever

  • Servings: about 24 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour (I have also used cake flour and it works just as well)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cups softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand beater, cream the butter and sugar well.  Add in the egg and beat until the mixture is light, fluffy and pale yellow in colour.
  3. Add in the vanilla, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined.
  4. Add the flour and mix well – but try not to over-mix or the dough will get a bit tough.  Basically, mix until everything is combined and then mix just a bit more to be sure!
  5. At this point, I generously flour my working surface, and get straight to rolling the dough.  The dough can be quite soft, and hard to work with – so feel free to wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for an hour or so.  If you choose to do what I do, mash all the dough into one big ball.  Flatten the ball out a bit with your hands, then flour the top of the dough, your rolling pin, and get rolling.  I like to roll till the dough is about 3/4″ thick.  Then I cut out shapes with whatever cutters the kids want . . . Just be sure to have big spatulas on hand to transfer the cookies to the cookie sheets – this can be a bit tricky when the dough hasn’t been chilled.  If you have chilled the dough, flour your work surface, and the top of the dough as well, and then roll and cut the cookies out.
  6. Place the cookies on the cookie sheets leaving some space between them – they will rise as they cook so you don’t want them to turn into one giant cookie.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes if you like them slightly under-done and closer to 20 if you like a crispier cookie.  Please note though that the larger the cookie cuter you use, the longer the cookies will take to cook.  I tend to use a range of sizes of cookie cutters, and just accept that the smaller cookies will be more done and the larger ones will be more under-done!

ENJOY!!!!

One (little) Word: Joy

Despite wanting a quieter holiday season this year, we have still managed to get swept up in the whirlwind that is this time of year.  We’ve bounced from holiday concerts to holiday recitals, to holiday parties.  There have been dinners and brunches.  And of course, there’s been lots of shopping.  And with all that’s been going on, there simply hasn’t been time for much writing, cooking (at least not any new blog-worthy recipes), or much time at all to just be.

During my training session today, as the Coach and I were discussing my training schedule, the concept of just waiting it out the end of the month, keeping things simple, and just working on building strength came up; with the underlying idea that come January, a period of more intensive training would get underway.

After my workout, as I ate my lunch and got caught up on emails and a few blogs, I came across a few other interesting concepts.  The first was an Elephant Journal piece about the Winter Solstice from an astrological point of view.  What struck me in this piece was all the questions the author poses to help the reader plan for the new year ahead.  The second came via Ali Edwards and the kick off for her 2016 One Little Word workshop; it was an encouragement to start thinking about choosing a word to guide you through the next year.

And then I got thinking . . . the next few weeks are an absolute gift.  I will have time to sit, to just be, and to plan on what I want for the year ahead.  I don’t have to have all the answers right now . . . like in the gym, I can wait out the next little bit, keep things simple, and work on building on the strengths I have developed this year.  When I have larger blocks of quiet time, I can look to answering some of the questions posed in the Elephant Journal article; I can start to think about what I want to focus on, where I want to take my life, and what means I want to get there.

And then the concept of One Little Word entered this thought process.  I want this coming year, more than any other year, to follow through with the concept of One Little Word.  And while my outlook on life, and what I have been espousing on the blog has been all about “happy” . . . . more than anything for next year, I want more than just happy . . . I want to choose “JOY”.

Choose Joy

(PS . . . the site where I got the above image from is pretty neat!  The DIY Mommy)

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: