A Good Day

As I settled into bed tonight, I pulled the covers up happily. Feeling fulfilled and content with life. It made me think “it’s just a normal Monday, what really happened today?”

And then I remembered how in the last 18 hours I (in reverse order)…gave a friend advice with their start up business, got late night groceries and chatted with my favourite cashier who always greets me with an excited “heeeey!! How are you doing!?!?” Like we’re long lost friends (though she likely doesn’t know my name), saw/purchased for the first time “Peace by chocolate” chocolates prominently sold at Sobeys which was a highlight of my evening (a company started by Syrian newcomers who came to Canada 2 years ago and started their business with the help of their Antigonish, Nova Scotia community), successfully requested/received a refund when the company accidentally overcharged me (by 5x), engaged in meaningful discussion at the school’s parent council meeting, finally submitted our tire purchase rebate, rescheduled J’s swimming which switched her to today (so taking 3/4 of our fam to the Y for activities today) , and signed myself and C up at the Y again (we stopped over winter); actually got off work on time and decided to pick J up from school 1 hour early to go on a spontaneous mommy/daughter noodles date and spend some quality time together, comforted a student at work who found out her young friend had passed away from heart failure, supported a friend going through emotional distress, supported a friend going through physical distress, worked, survived the usual morning bamboozle craziness, and cleaned up a 2 year old who started her morning by stripping her sheets, taking off her clothes and poopy diaper…while trying to also encourage her to use the toilet (like, for real, not just sitting on it and stuffing toilet paper into the toilet bowl).

Overall – a very full, but also fulfilling day of normal, everyday life. Something I know I take for granted and don’t stop to appreciate often enough.

There are moments where you feel like you are doing exactly what you are meant to be doing and being the person you’re meant to be – and those, my friend,are moments to be celebrated and enjoyed.

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Daily Snapshot – #29

“I fall. I rise. I make mistakes. I live. I learn. I’ve been hurt, but I’m alive. I’m human. I’m not perfect, but I’m thankful.” – Unknown

(During our vacation I had all the best intentions of doing a daily travel journal to note the big and small things of each day, so I could revisit and relive…you may have seen “Travel Journal – Day 1″…and then nothing else! With late night strolls, almost daily laundry, and plan setting for the next day the nights ran late and it just didn’t happen. And that’s okay. 🙂 I still plan to jot down notes about our trip so I can review them in the future, and even though they won’t be as fulsome…it’s okay. I’m learning that imperfect is perfectly okay.)
I am grateful for … warm spring weather, new courage to reduce the number of committees I’m on (in an effort to create more space in my schedule, more balance, and, in turn, feel less drained), Faithwalking Retreats that give me an opportunity to get to know 3 individuals better in an authentic and intimate way, and that most of my frequent destinations (work, church, grocery, gas station, etc.) are in such close proximity to my home.
I am hopeful that… I continue to consciously notice when I’m multi-tasking and take a step back to critically look at whether multi-tasking is the most efficient. And challenge myself to … determine why I’m multi-tasking different things, determining the root cause (do I need prepare better, do I have the right tools to do things where I need to do them, etc.) and figuring out ways to be more present with whatever task is at hand.
I enjoyed … taking C to the grocery store for some one-on-one time. Usually I either take J or both of them, but I’ve noticed that with J’s school times, the need to prepare dinner, etc. I just don’t have the one-on-one time with C that I want (and that I had with J). Because I only had to focus on her I let her walk through the store (instead of plunking her into the cart – a.k.a. holding pen) and she was ecstatic to see the grocery store from a different view and so proud to hold some of our purchases and plunk them on the conveyor belt when we paid. C is such a bundle of fun who is constantly pushing boundaries and keeping us on our toes…while we do point out when she does funny/sweet things, sometimes I feel like we work so hard to remind her of the boundaries that we don’t get to savour her individual loveliness.
Previous Challenge: 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.
 
Update on Previous Challenge: This is a constant challenge and a constant work in progress. My decision to reduce my committee involvement is an effort to make more room for rest – though I need to fight my own urges to then fill that space with other enjoyable things and become disciplined at telling myself no. It’s true that there is a time and season for everything, and some seasons are busier, but I think by changing my mindframe was “Do I have something already booked? If not, err on the side of doing it” – going the other way and committing to myself “I will make no more than x commitments per week – whether they are learning, social, mandatory, because I need time for rest. Real rest that fills my bucket – not ‘rest time’ that I can use to catch up on my home to do list.”

Travel Journal – Day 1

 

And so it begins!

Pic 1 – After planes, trains and automobiles we arrived at an english cafe for afternoon tea with my friend Cait. We live on different corners of Canada…so the most convenient time to meet was when we were in London. Naturally.

Pic 2 – The clever thing to do would have been to take a picture of the food before delving in. It didn’t happen. These were the leftovers.

Pic 3 – Buckingham Palace with Herb (and Cait). We pondered deep thoughts like “do they randomly start marching with their partner to keep the blood circulation flowing?”, “why are some curtains pink and some cream?”, and “I wonder how much it costs to heat this place…”

Pic 4 – Gorgeous row of mews.

Pic 5 – The dorky tourist photo of a phone booth and double decker bus. Made more awkward as locals walked by chuckling.

Pic 6 – This street is behind our apartment and just sits in its natural, unassuming beauty. I could probably take hundreds of pictures just of their streets and still not be done. I’m a little obsessed.

Not pictured – grocery shopping, our homemade stir fry dinner (our bodies craved wholesome food after recent unhealthy eating), picking out a London book for the girls (we bought J a Chicago book years ago and it’s a memorized favourite, and started a tradition of buying children’s books about our travels), and almost getting run over a few times (these pedestrian crossways are  not for the faint of heart and call for bold strides while maintaining eye contact that says “neither of us know who truly has the right of way, but right now I’m claiming it, thanks.”

And now…we sleep. 🙂

 

My Facebook “Unfollowing” Party

Four months ago, I sat on the couch with H, venting that I was feeling overwhelmed. Not by any one thing in particular, but by all the little things added up. I did a brain dump of all that was on my mind/plate – skating lessons for J, swimming lessons for both J&C, parent council, book club, 3 friends going through a rough time that I wanted to support, a handful more friends who I had been meaning to touchbase with, the mess at the “decluttering station” (i.e. the dining room, where I had been putting things to sort), prayers I hadn’t made time for, Deacon-related responsibilities I hadn’t yet fulfilled, nudges from God to take on different things, yet I was already feeling overwhelmed and behind on life.

Later that evening, I was doing a “pre-bed facebook scroll”. As I scrolled through, I remembered a reminder I read earlier in the day to remove the negativity from your life – whether it was people, things on your newsfeed, etc. I decided to start “unfollowing” people that weren’t adding value to my life.

Initially, I unfollowed any post that didn’t make me feel good. It included those that were haughty, those that were ungrateful, and those that were boastful.

Then, I realized I could do this more efficiently from the settings page, and was an unfollowing machine. I clicked on the faces that didn’t make me feel good, the faces that were acquaintances from high school or university – only keeping the people that gave me warm fuzzy feelings, that I wanted to support, or that posted really interesting articles.

I refreshed (following ~140 friends) – eagerly looking forward to seeing a newsfeed letting me know what was going on in the lives of the people I cared about.

What I found in the first 5 posts was a bunch of shared Delish/Tasty video recipes and quiz results.

I realized that many of the people I cared about didn’t write too much about themselves on facebook, but rather shared things that were of interest. It was almost like my newsfeed had become a curated homepage of bait click-y links.

Fine, I thought – I’ll just keep it to family, best friends, and my neighborhood mom friends. That way I stay on top of family pictures and know what mom friends are talking about when they reference a recent post. But even when I refreshed that, there were still posts that popped up that I didn’t want to see.

How can I set this so that I only see updates on people’s lives, like the real updates that let me know how they’re doing? And then I figured out…if I want to know how someone was doing – I should either go directly to their page, or e-mail/message them and ask!

Like…connect. For real.

We’ve become such a society of convenience where convenience is often interpreted as things being “pushed” to consumers instead of “pulled” by consumers. For instance, I once watched a Dragon’s Den episode where the Dragon’s were commending a restaurant app that tracked your GPS location and automatically sent you notifications & reviews about great restaurants where you were. Sounds “convenient”, but also sounds like a great way to burn through your bank account. If you weren’t planning to go to a restaurant, why would you want little messages/pings making you feel like you should go or giving you FOMO for not going?

I determined my newsfeed wasn’t giving me daily personal updates on my friends like I thought it was. So then I decided to unfollow the whole lot. Even my husband. Even you.

It was so freeing to feel like there wasn’t a newsfeed I “needed to catch up on”. Sure, I could have just disabled my account…but knowing me, that would feel too permanent.

I like the way I can message friends quickly through facebook. I like that people can still look at my page if they want to. And now I like that if I think of a person and want to see how they’re doing I can look them up specifically or, better yet, reach out to them.


Aside from the beginning “four months ago”, I wrote all of the above in January and never got around to posting it.

So four months later how are things going?

  • I don’t miss having a newsfeed. I can count the # of people I’ve looked up on one hand, but I’ve messaged more to actually ask and see how they’re doing.
  • In the beginning I did find I had more time for the things I hadn’t been making time for. But eventually as life busy-ness, winter sickness, etc. happened I went back to old vices that are time-wasters (I’m looking at you, people.com)
  • After realizing that I had replaced a bad habit with a new bad habit, I tried breaking the twitch by not bringing my phone into the bedroom, and charging it in the kitchen.
  • I’ve come to terms that January to April is a busy time in our house. It always has been due to work schedules and looks like it always will be in the foreseeable future…and on top of that I took on a number of new responsibilities in the last year that made it even more busy. Rather than trying to numb the feelings of being overwhelmed and stretched with mindless browsing – I would have been better off sleeping more (though any parent could tell you that the last thing you want to do after a bedtime struggle that lasts until 9pm after a long day, is to get in your pj’s while you’re still fired up… but maybe I need to change my mindframe about sleep and how sleeping early is a treat for my mind and body, vs. “the responsible thing to do”.
  • Self-care during and after busy times is important. I.e. Taking the time to see friends, planning those getaways (big or small), making plans to look forward to (whether they’re at home, at a restaurant, or at a nearby trail).
  • I plan to continue not following anyone, but also need to replace bad browsing habits with reading, sleeping, meditation and stretching.

While I may be a bit “behind” on the latest happenings of what’s going on in everyone else’s daily life, overall I feel I’m a lot more ahead on being present and intentional in my own life.

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.