Balance – it looks different than what I expected

Five years ago, if you asked me what balance was I would say it’s having enough time for your work, your loved ones, and yourself. I thought it meant leaving work at work, and focusing on family after work. Having enough time in the day to be on top of things like bills, cleaning, and meal prep. Taking time for yourself.

Today, the things that define balance for me are different from what I expected. Things like having the ability to go into work at 7-11pm or 5-9am, so you can stay at home and be present with a sick child during the day. Working extra hours on certain days so you can make your church Coffee Break Thursday mornings for fellowship with friends and expanding your mind and spirit through Bible Study. Moving things around so you can do things like volunteer at the school fundraiser, attend daddy’s mid-day charity hockey game, take kids for an afternoon swim, and be at home for a PD day. Having more than 20 minutes to throw a dinner together, so you can try out new recipes and find out that (a) contrary to your beliefs, you actually are not a terrible cook (b) cooking can be kinda fun & rewarding, instead of a guilt-filled chore where it feels like nothing you prepare is tasty or healthy enough. It’s inviting friends over spontaneously because you’re not restricted with work commitments or tidiness rules. It’s cutting spending habits/budgets in certain areas so you have more funds to spend on experiences that renew your soul – like travel or weekends away with friends.

For me, balance is having room in your schedule so you can flex your time, energy, and financial resources to make sure they’re being invested in your priorities.

It’s also about your mindframe and perspective on your current situation.

The house is a mess, I’m behind on e-mails, we’ve had one too many processed meals lately, for my taste; and I did infact wake up at 4am to go to work, then come home at 10am to swap off and take care of a sick 2 year-old with a ferocious case of pinkeye. But I still feel grateful and that overall, I have balance in my life.

I’m realizing that balance isn’t so much perfection or something to be obtained and it isn’t always going to feel like everyday you are your best self. It’s more like a process where you’re making intentional decisions so on a daily basis you feel like you have control and take ownership for every aspect of your life, instead of it being at the mercy of someone else (whether it be an employer, friends, or family).

It’s very empowering to feel like you don’t have to do anything, but that you are choosing to do everything you do. I’m still doing things I don’t like to do, but they’re a lot easier to take on when I’m linking my efforts/actions to the resulting benefits for myself, my family, or others in my community.


Gifts to Myself (January)

This past month has been busy – between dealing with a death in the family, H’s wrist injury, C’s recent sickness – mixed with the usual busy-ness I’ve gotten behind on a few things.

As I filled my kettle at work this morning I thought for the 20th time “I really need to get some CLR in here and clean the calcium build-up off the bottom of the kettle” (that Waterloo hard water) – not because it looks gross, but because it was starting to overwork my kettle.

I have a mental list of these things that I keep meaning to do, but I just don’t make the time to do. So I’ve decided to give the following four gifts to myself in the month of January so I can both enjoy the benefits and decrease the clutter in my mind when I think about them almost daily:

  1. Clean my work kettle with CLR, so I can prolong the life of this “going to university gift” I received 15 years ago.
  2. Moisturizing my leather boots that I fell in love with, splurged when on sale, and wear everyday at work…so I can prolong its life and enjoy their “new” look again (p.s. It’s kinda amazing how dirty/scratched they get when I only wear them indoors).
  3. Submitting ~$1,000 of medical claims that have been on the to do list since summer/fall 2017, so I can either use, save, or apply that money to our mortgage. I get very frustrated submitting claims because the process of submitting, co-ordinating benefits, answering follow-ups and doublechecking the deposit in the bank can be a real pain in the neck…so I often put it off until a deadline is close or I can’t stand it…but it will feel so nice to have it done, the money in the bank, and not need to think about it again & again.
  4. Notating a song I wrote when I was 12 years old. When I was 12 I took a music writing course, which was part of the requirements for my piano degree. After some basic structures I curiously set about writing my own song and incorporated all my favorite techniques into it. I was (and still am) quite proud of it and dreamed that one day I would send it off to the Royal Conservatory of Music as a submission to include in one of their piano books. I don’t actually think they accept submissions (at least upon a quick google), but I’d still love to get the song notated. It’s one that is in my head and that my fingers still know and play (…21 years later! insane!), though not nearly as fluidly, and it would be such a gift to myself to actually see it written out and pass it on to my children.

The above might seem like a to do list to some, but to me they truly are gifts to myself because they really do make me happy. They add value to my life, reduce the stress of mental clutter, and provide benefits into the future.

Daily Snapshot – #28

“It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all; it’s a small, small world.” – Sherman Brothers

I am grateful for … healthcare, space in my day and great babysitters. I’ve been suffering from a sinus infection the past week or so and when it started to impact my eyes I made an appointment to see my optometrist (with an appointment 2 day after I called in). I previously went to our family doctor’s walk-in over the weekend and was floored when I was in and out in less than 1/2hr. I don’t take it for granted that there are places in the world and times in history where this isn’t/wasn’t possible. After my optometrist appointment, I had 1.5 hours before J needed to be picked up from school. While there was much to catch up on at home, I decided to instead have an impromptu visit with a friend on mat leave (who lives 20 min away, but only 2 min from the optometrist) and catch up on her latest travels. Yesterday H and I attended a work event and it was so nice leaving the house with an engaging babsitter and children who were happily chatting with her. Bonus – they were both in bed and asleep by 8pm which meant no “bedtime work” for us when we got back.
I am hopeful that… I place rest at the top of my priority list as much as possible And challenge myself to … meditate when I want to relax or feel like I need some time to “escape”, instead of watching tv or surfing the web. I recently unfollowed all of my friends on facebook (yup, even you!) and that has been great for taking away the feeling that I’m “missing out” if I don’t check. Unfollowing everyone means my newsfeed shows nothing – so rather than being pushed updates, I need to intentionally think “I wonder what so and so’s up to…” and pull the update. So far, I think I’ve only pulled 2 updates in the last 2 weeks. While limiting time-wasters is a good step, I’m hoping that meditating will (1) replace old habits, making it easier to break the twitch and (2) allow me to intentionally tune in to what my body needs (which I expect most of the time will be sleep), so that I can address the core issue, instead of distracting myself from it.
I enjoyed … finding out what a small world it is. At the dinner last night different areas of our lives overlapped in the most unexpected and delicious way. 3 times. First, was when we bumped into a colleague who had previously worked with H. We made this realization a few months ago, but it was neat to be face-to-face with both H and my colleague and have the husband/wife career worlds overlap. Second, was when we sat at our pre-assigned table and one of our tablemates saw our surname and asked where we were from. It took about 2 seconds to realize that their daughter married H’s cousin in 2017. I had kept in touch with H’s cousin here and there, and been in the loop of updates on their life/fiancee/wife, so it was incredibly bizarre yet awesome to realize I knew so much about this stranger’s daughter. We subsequently took a picture and sent it to the newlyweds so they could share in the moment. Third, was when we went to say goodnight to my manager and realized he was sitting at the same table as friends from our church (one of which was going to present my manager with his award that evening). While we knew they worked in the same department it was yet another delicious surprise to see a smiling, friendly face. “…it’s a small, small world.”
One more bonus/coincidental anecdote – H bought me a lovely tea mug/infuser/lid set over the holidays. Unfortunately C broke the lid (which was my favorite part since it kept the contents warm, especially while infusing) and when I called the store to see if replacements were available they let me know that 5 minutes ago they had found a random lid in the back and were hoping to put it aside in case it helped someone out – so what perfect timing that I called just minutes later needing that very thing! Sometimes we don’t realize how our actions/thoughtfulness are the exact solution to someone else’s need….. 🙂 A good reminder to listen when we get those nudges/ideas in life to do something kind!
Previous Challenge: I am hopeful that… I get back to my intentional/minimalist lifestyle and values. And challenge myself to … be ruthless as I purge things this week. There are things we’ve held onto for years that were shifted from different “clutter corners” in our house. We put up the Christmas tree this weekend, so now the main clutter is sitting wide-open on the dining room table. Instead of spending tons of time seeing what I could sell, and what I “might” use someday…I need to remember that these things have been in the house for 2-3 years…if I really wanted to use it, I would’ve by now. Keep the stuff that you’ve been looking for, and get rid of the rest.
Update on Previous Challenge: It took a few weeks, but the dining room table is cleared (it was an ugly sight to see – especially in the mornings, and especially when people came over). I recall thinking there were some things I could maybe keep, but then remembered my pact to be ruthless and tossed it out. Even now, I can’t remember what I was re-considering…so clearly it wasn’t that important.
I also went through the freezer clearing out the old things, taking inventory of the keepers and being intentional about using it up. Our pantry and kitchen cupboards also got a look-see with unused items boxed up for donations. More work still to be done on the final kitchen cupboard and drawers, as well as the washroom cupboards.

Annual Snapshot: 10 Questions to End the Year (Belated)

I wanted to do a “year in review” sort of post…if memory serves me right, I may have even started drafting a post late last year, gotten busy, then forgotten about it! 🙂 The following are 10 questions I’ve lifted directly from one of my favorite blogs (, that help to give that annual snapshot. I’d love to do one again at the end of 2018.

1. What makes this year unforgettable?

There were 3 things this year that were unforgettable.

i) The biggest was my decision to quit my full-time “dream job” that was morally fulfilling, challenging, well-paying, and secure…without another job or plan in hand.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, 2 weeks later the “dream job” for right now came along. One that gives me the flexibility to put time towards my priorities and seize unexpected opportunities and that is fulfilling. I will always remember this as the year I took a huge risk, put substantial faith & trust in God, and was blessed with the hugest win in return.

ii) My eldest daughter, J started kindergarten.

iii) H’s Opa (grandfather) passed away during the Christmas holidays which is a change that we are still grieving and processing.

2. What did you enjoy doing this year?

A lot! I enjoyed spending a girl’s day with J on her 4th birthday (getting nails done, going for Vietnamese noodles, skating outdoors and having hot chocolate!), being a Vacation Bible School teacher during the summer, attending our church’s Coffee Break on Thursday mornings – giving me both a chance to socialize with my friends and challenge myself to think more and deepen my relationship with God. I enjoyed taking J out of school early to watch her dad play in a charity hockey game with NHL alumni. I enjoyed a cozy home day with the girls yesterday doing crafts and having fun. All things that I recognize were either made possible or easier by my current work arrangements.

3. What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?

This may sounds cliché…but I am grateful for my new dependence on God. I’m a planner, a little bit of a control freak, shall we say. This was the year I really put my trust into God, said I didn’t know how things were going to turn out, and heard from Him that things would be better than I imagined. I didn’t know how He was going to pull it off, but He did. I am grateful for how He shows me his presence in my life, time and time again.

4. What’s your biggest win this year?

Eating healthier. I definitely don’t eat perfectly…but this year I reduced the amount of meat we ate, the dairy we consumed, and the times we ate out. I tried new things like zucchini (we had been missing out!), cauliflower rice, and greek yogurt. It’s interesting how one change impacts another, because the decision to reduce meat/dairy was made primarily to reduce our grocery bill as a result of our reduced household income. I had more time to try different recipes and things like cauliflower rice because I had more time to research, plan and cook. And we ate out less also due to our reduced household income. It’s the biggest win because it’s reset my mindframe on what a meal needs to be, given me more energy, and will hopefully influence healthier eating habits for my children (and their children).

Also, picking up reading again (thanks to joining a book club in March). It’s been a much more productive and life-giving way to spend my time.

5. What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?

I listened to a lot of good Ted Talks on intentional living while folding laundry…but by far, the book that made the most impact on my life was the book “The More of Less” by Joshua Becker. I had been on a minimalist journey (still journeying) for the past 3-ish years…reading this book helped give me the perspective and courage to be more intentional and make big changes in my life – including my career, being intentional about the food I prepare and eat, and significantly reducing the amount of time I watch tv and/or listen to the radio. In truth, I think I actually read the book at the end of 2016, but I sure took it to heart and made a lot of great changes in 2017!

6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?

I worried most about giving up the job I had at the beginning of the year. I worried about the impact it would have on our finances and lifestyle. It turned out better than expected. I love my current job and how it allows me to live the life I want to lead and become the person I want to be.

7. What was your biggest regret and why?

My biggest regret is not insisting that we visit our Opa asap after we received the call that he was ill. My initial instinct was to go immediately and I also said we have no do-overs or second-chances if something were to happen. The daily updates we received were getting progressively better, and we planned to visit him 3 days after he passed, but I still wish I had heeded my initial warning and not taken time for granted.

8. What’s one thing that you changed about yourself?

I am much more aware. I’m more aware of how watching tv may feel like what I want to do but actually take time away from things that better my life. I’m more aware of how keeping the radio on in the background can seem like helpful white noise but can also distract you from the thoughts going on in your head and from the gift of silence. I’m more aware of how annoying ads can be and how frustrating it is to realize that the job of marketing is to make you feel like you’re not enough and will feel better once you have their product. I’m also aware that topics the radio hosts I listened to were pretty superficial and while “light-hearted”, subliminally pushed the wrongs things. e.g. how much did certain actors make in the year, did you know there’s a new thing called thigh highlighting (plastic surgery), wine fixes everything, etc.

9. What surprised you the most this year?

The amount of footwear I purchased – before we go all “hey, that’s not minimalist!”, I took a lot of footwear I owned from 5-7 years ago (i.e. before kids…with high heels), and was really mindful of replacing it and investing in higher quality, lower-heeled shoes/boots that fit my current home life and work life. When it takes 5 minutes of hallways and stairs just to get to the staff room, and 10 minutes to walk from your office to your parking spot comfort is key.

Some of my previous choices were good for that time in my life. Some of them were good deals that I didn’t really need and didn’t really wear. Some of them were good deals that I needed but hadn’t tested out at home enough before wearing outside and realizing they were not that comfortable. Some good reflections and learnings were taken away.

10. If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?

Keep breathing – everything you’re thinking and doing is for a reason. Stop trying to do so much. As much as you can, prioritize sleep as one of the best ways for you to spend your time.

Daily Snapshot – #27

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

I miss writing. I think about things I’d like to write about pretty much everyday, but don’t seem to find the time. Therefore, I’m giving the Daily Snapshots a try again, which were quick 10min blurbs that typically hit the topics I wanted to jot down anyways.

I am grateful for … time with my children. The flexibility to go to work, pick J up early from school, and go watch H play in a hockey tournament together. Having space in my day and life to say “yes” to things I want to do (but must work on not saying “yes” to everything I want to do). Making authentic connections and relationships with students at work. Glimpses of when I can see why God put me in certain places at certain times for a specific purpose. Being able to buy McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish sauce at the grocery store and make easy-peasy homemade Filet-o-Fish’s. Not super healthy – but so delicious.
I am hopeful that… I get back to my intentional/minimalist lifestyle and values. And challenge myself to … be ruthless as I purge things this week. There are things we’ve held onto for years that were shifted from different “clutter corners” in our house. We put up the Christmas tree this weekend, so now the main clutter is sitting wide-open on the dining room table. Instead of spending tons of time seeing what I could sell, and what I “might” use someday…I need to remember that these things have been in the house for 2-3 years…if I really wanted to use it, I would’ve by now. Keep the stuff that you’ve been looking for, and get rid of the rest.
I enjoyed … play. Today on our walk to school J and I used our imaginations to create an adventure. In truth, she started complaining about wearing show pants, so I picked up a few sticks from the ground and asked what we should pretend they could be. We went fishing, made s’mores, used them as flashlights, used them as puppets (I was impressed she thought of that!), used them as a walking stick…ran away from bears (which was a wonderful way to keep up the pace) and jumped over rivers (cracks in the sidewalk). Having young children I’m often galloping into church with them, skipping as we head into the grocery store, dancing like a ballerina and crawling around on the floor and being a monster. I need to figure out a way to continue the act of play without having the “excuse” of young children. I still want to have my own version of play when they’re out of the house in 20 years!
Previous Challenge: I am hopeful that… I don’t get discouraged when unimportant setbacks happen (unimportant like when the house goes from tidy to tornado). And challenge myself to … celebrate the small wins. Instead of focusing on all that hasn’t been done or won’t get done or “wants” to get done, focus on setting small goals and knowing that the accomplishment of each small goal gets me closer and closer to achieving my bigger goal. Don’t be complacent, but don’t beat yourself up because you haven’t perfected everything.
Update on Previous Challenge: I am still a work-in-progress on this. I’m better at not getting discouraged, but still feel some disappointment when things don’t get done (which I think is human). That said, rather than ship the kids off to bed early and keep cleaning, we seized the moment and did our Christmas decorating which was fun and didn’t stress me out. So I think that’s an improvement.

Those Pesky Triggers

There’s been a number of times I’ve thought about a topic or event in my life over the last few months where I thought “Ohhh, I’d like to blog about that!” But it never seemed to come at a good time – either I was at work, at bedtime, or in the middle of something.

This morning I have 20min before I need to head out, but unfortunately I can’t remember any of the things I wanted to blog about. Mainly because I had one of those pesky triggers last night that sends me in a spiral of self-doubt, loss of self-confidence and self-worth.

I think we all have one or two (or more pesky triggers). Whether it’s a phrase someone says that reminds you of a period or experience in your life where you felt like less, a rejection that doesn’t just smart due to the current circumstances but brings old feelings from prior similar rejections, or something else.

It always surprises me how much a trigger can take me from being a full-functioning, happy, productive adult/mother/wife/woman, to someone who is quiet, sullen, and feels like tears could come from behind her eyes at any given point in time. Just one sappy fb video away from pouring it out.

I like to think that I’m a strong, bad-ass, mother of two who rises to challenges and pursues her passions.

And I am.

But I’m also human and have 33 years of experience of ups and downs, memories, and emotions, and sometimes you just need to let yourself feel and address your emotions, give yourself time to understand yourself and why something that might be insignificant to one person feels like pulling out a jenga block and having the whole tower crash for you.

Sometimes you need to have grace, forgive, and put yourself in another’s shoes to say “is what I’m perceiving what they’re intending?” – I can already honestly say no…it’s not. But that doesn’t mean the history still isn’t there and that my feelings are invalid.

I think the conclusion I’m coming to is that you should never discount or invalidate your feelings (or shove them away and distract yourself with other things, as it’s often quite tempting to do) – but instead acknowledge them, allow yourself to feel them, and give yourself time to understand the feelings and what is contributing to them.

Actually – don’t just give yourself time to understand the feeling, make time to understand them, because it’s all too easy to get distracted with life and not actually deal with it. Prioritize it, schedule it in, do whatever you need to do – but give yourself the gift of relieving some of the luggage & burden you’ve been carrying around with you.

Those pesky triggers still might have a hold onto you, but hopefully with time the strength/effects will be less and less.


The last month has been a whirlwind of finding a new routine between Kindergarten drop-offs, work, programs, social events and school involvement. Throw in some of H’s business travel and organizing the accounting exams, weekend family visits, with a good measure of sleep deprivation (with C waking nightly multiple times) – which left me exhausted at the beginning of this week. Which meant this week the house stayed a mess and I focused more on recharging batteries and less on tackling the to-do list.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about balance…and how once one thing changes in your life, it impacts other areas in your life – whether or not you realize it.

I often say yes to programs/activities the girls enjoy doing (most of them we do together which is great fun and great bonding), but I forget that that means I have less time to stay caught up at home. Clearly, time with the girls is my priority, but as I’ve mentioned before – too much of a good thing is too much.

Tonight I tried something different – a massive bulk cook-off.

When I say massive I’m talking 1 lasagna, 36 mini pizzas, 1 pumpkin loaf, 1 banana loaf and 12 banana chocolate chip muffins. Truth – the only reason I’m writing this blog post at 11:38pm instead of getting ready for bed is because the last banana loaf needs 14 min more.

I know I just said “too much of a good thing is too much” – but I partially did it because I had food that needed to be used up, partly because I (for once) had energy to do so, after taking an afternoon nap; and partially because I wanted to see if this new method would let me have my cake (being with the girls) and eat it too (literally…eating the food and staying on top of things). Also, I’m hosting 2 things over the next 2 weeks so it’ll be nice to have the loaves already made that I can just take them out of the freezer the night before to defrost – and ta da! “fresh” baking. 🙂

I casually roped H into doing it as well which was great for a few reasons:

  1. It was a fun, cheap, and productive way to spend time together (I considered it a date night).
  2. It gave him an appreciation for what goes into our food “WHAT? This loaf needs 1 cup of sugar? Talk about diabetes!” (almost verbatim what he said).
  3. It gave him a chance to step into my shoes for a bit and see how much time and effort it takes to “kinda” feel like you’re on top of meals. He looked a bit bemused when it was 10pm and I realized I forgot to put in some laundry that’s needed for tomorrow.
  4. It gave him a chance to feel the same pride I feel when I serve my family a meal or when J says “I want to eat this every day!”, and to know that when J is at school eating her mini pizzas that it’s like she’s taking a little part of him with her.

This post has been written without a specific message in mind – but I think when it comes down to it I’m coming to terms with the fact that a life that is balanced will always come out of balance if you are continually trying new things…and that’s okay. Trying new things is a good thing. The important thing is to continue to keep a pulse on your health & well-being and not being afraid to make decisions to adjust things so they work well (or even better than expected) for you and your family.