When we’re tired…

Today was a busy day. As I did my 10 min walk to my car I reflected on the day’s events, thinking about how exhausted I was but grateful for the opportunity to have flexible daycare and work arrangements so I can seize opportunities that I’m passionate about and that fit my priorities.

In a nutshell, the day consisted of teaching at our church’s Vacation Bible School, going to work, swim lessons, and a massage appointment. Pretty simple, right?

But in between you had the 4 year old who had anxiety about new people at VBS, the 1 year old who was not a fan of the VBS nursery and cried every time she saw you or heard you in the halls. You had the terrible hand-off to the daycare sitter at church where children were screaming in the building and parking lot. The crying hand-off of the 1 year old at the Y for her program so you can get the 4 year old to her swim lessons. The innocent idea to drop in to the library with the 4 year old for a few minutes (since there were 20 min until the swim lessons) which somehow turned into her rolling around on the floor, you literally dragging her out of the library…twice…as she screamed “I’m not fussing!” (while heads turned and you avoided eye contact with everyone). Bringing her into her swimming lesson where she was hesitant to meet a new teacher (but luckily came around fairly quickly). Dinner, massage, ran a few errands.

Prior to today you hosted the parent and sibling in-laws for the weekend, which included a day-long trip to an amusement park on Saturday, overnight stay, church nursery on Sunday morning, and cooking/entertaining Sunday afternoon.

And prior to that wakings from about 2am-4am most nights for the last 2-3 weeks as the 1 year old’s teething.

I don’t share all this to say “look at me, I’m busy!” I share this because tonight I got into a minor car accident. A minor car accident where I was paying attention, and was completely confused as to how this happened.

It would be one thing if I wasn’t paying attention, looking down, singing to the radio, etc. but the fact that I was concentrating and still made a mistake befuddled me.

Was it because I was wearing flip flops instead of my usual loafers? Was it because I had a massage so was a bit too relaxed? Was it because I hadn’t noticed something on the floor of the driver’s seat that was potentially under my foot without realizing?

Probably a piece of all of the above…but everytime something happens I think “What is God trying to teach me from this?”. It wasn’t to “pay closer attention”, because I was bloody concentrating the whole time…

After thinking it over, I realized that one of the contributing factors was also likely the lack of/interrupted sleep and the go-go-go of the last few days/weeks.

You see, I mixed up the pedals – which sounds (and feels) like the stupidest mistake. It does happen to people……………………………….but typically to those that are new drivers or elderly. Not people in their early 30’s. Luckily it was in our garage so it was a single-vehicle and no one was hurt.

I find this incredibly embarrassing, but feel the need to share because I often worried so much about my husband’s lack of sleep, that I tried to find ways to extend his sleep (i.e. getting up in the middle of the night and for those early 6am wake-ups). Thing is – I need sleep just as much as he does.

Lessons learned:

  1. Make 8 hours of sleep the biggest priority. Your brain just doesn’t function the same without sleep (and when you know your 1 yr old is often waking in the night, anticipate that and go to bed even earlier)…and neither does the rest of your body.
  2. Don’t overcommit. VBS is 1 week of the year and a true joy for me to be a part of…but maybe we could have done without the library trip, or even the swim lesson (though I already had guilt from missing last week, due to our anniversary).
  3. If it’s just the season for lots of things going on, step by, recognize it, and plan in extra rest (…like for the upcoming weekend when you’re on your own with thekids ;)).
  4. Everything in moderation. I recently borrowed 3 books from the library. I’ve been wanting to read them and squeezing in time where I can (which is often before bed). Thing is, it’s easy for me to read for 1hr instead of 20 min – especially when the due dates are coming up. I went from reading 0 books to 3 or 4 in a month…but perhaps now is not the time in my life for that. Next time make a list if you see books you want to read and focus on 1 book at a time.

I hope that by sharing my experience that it encourages others to both prioritize sleep/rest high on their list and to also continue to be very careful while driving.

If that doesn’t sound like mom advice, I don’t know what does. 🙂


Daily Snapshots – Day #26

“…life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” – Charles Swindoll

I am grateful for … living in a neighborhood within a 10 min car ride of grocery stores, church, work, our doctor’s office and J’s school (it just makes my little Sarnian heart give a contented sigh).

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.

I enjoyed … eating healthier over a girl’s weekend (where the host is a dietician and magically made food that was both super nutritious and super delicious), which has inspired me to take small steps to eating healthier. There wasn’t a mass change, but over the past month I’ve made gradual changes – swapping chips for bean crisps, peanut butter to natural peanut butter, yogurt to greek yogurt…..last night I made Portobello mushroom burgers for the first time. Too bad the response was a “Ya, they’re good…but you’re never going to turn a mushroom into meat.” 🙂

I’m also enjoying reading books again – something I enjoyed as a child, but got away from as high school and university had enough mandatory reading…and until now I hadn’t prioritized it, or even remembered how much I enjoyed reading. I used to make excuses to myself that I read lots of articles online…but there’s a difference between pulling a book where the topic interests you, and getting articles pushed to you through buzzy/bait-click titles and article summaries that begin by essentially asking “are you a good enough parent?”

Previous Challenge: I am hopeful that… I get more sleep. And challenge myself to … get to bed by 10pm each day (meaning, I need to head upstairs by 9:30pm…like the 9:30pm that happened 40 minutes ago).

Update on Previous Challenge: This happened! I ended up in bed around 7:30pm last night, reading until about 9:30pm. There were dirty dishes in the kitchen, unfolded laundry that laid crumpled in the basket…but I felt like my body and mind just needed to rest…and it’s a good thing I did because lo and behold I was awake from 2am-4:30am with a teething baby. Still tired, but much better off than I would’ve otherwise been! 

Daily Snapshots – Day #25

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford 

I am grateful for … daughters who play imaginative games in the car, supportive & appreciative co-workers, increased intentionality over the last few years, various opportunities to gain perspective on how blessed we are, and all time spent with friends. There’s endless lists of things to be grateful for – but the one that speaks most to me right now is having had the opportunity to get glimpses into blessings we’ve taken for granted.

As part of my Deacon role I’ve worked with folks who didn’t have grocery money, who had to choose between paying bills and replacing their daughters’ hole-filled pants, folks who fled war-torn countries and were so appreciative of being able to walk freely outdoors and enjoy the sunshine & small patches of grass.

When I initially left my previous role, without a plan to get another job too soon, it was the first time I actually needed to budget and be mindful of the grocery bill. It felt scary to think “we’re not millionaires, can we actually make this adjustment?” If you think you can, you can. Plus…I had no idea how much I had taken for granted.

As contrary as it sounds, significantly reducing our income has given me an opportunity to truly see how abundant our lives were, and how abundant they still are. To think the number of times I thought “we do okay, but it’s not like we’re rich.” We truly were and are.

This past Saturday our family went to a Jays game. It amazed me how 10 years ago I enjoyed our nicer seats and pricey concession food, but didn’t think too much of it. And now, when we go, heading up to our nosebleed seats, I’m grateful for the opportunity to freely watch a baseball game, to purchase a few snacks, and I’m amazed that there are actually people walking around selling us food & drinks. It’s like we’re kings and queens being served from our seats! I think about a refugee family whose currently in hiding, seeking asylum…I think about countries that are facing severe famine, and I’m amazed with what’s available to us.

I am hopeful that… I get more sleep. And challenge myself to … get to bed by 10pm each day (meaning, I need to head upstairs by 9:30pm…like the 9:30pm that happened 40 minutes ago).

I enjoyed … an “average morning” with the girls of running errands, eating a snack and visiting the park. It’s when I look back at photos of when J was 2 year old and younger that it really hits me that the children grow up quickly. It’s so true that the days are long but the years are short, and I hope to try to squeeze memories out of all of them.

Previous Challenge: I am hopeful that… I recognize that that the only expectations I need to fulfill are my own. I’ve realized that everyone has different perceptions or interpretations of events, and each person builds their own assumptions or truths based on their perception…I struggle when someone views events in my life and draws truths from them that are different from mine – because I then feel there’s an expectation that goes along with it and I likely won’t meet that expectation. Actually, I assume there’s an expectation that goes with it and put that pressure on myself. And challenge myself to … set some short/medium/long term goals to get clear on the expectations I’m striving to fulfil. I also challenge myself to increase my self-awareness to and in a given situation do a mental pause and check-in to see if my feelings are based on fact or on assumptions. I think this can be tricky because you don’t always realize you’ve made an assumption…but let’s give it a go.

Update on Previous Challenge: Hmm…I often find that I get away from these daily snapshots, and when I come back to it I look at my previous challenge and think “Dang…I could’ve used that.” Or maybe I just keep making the same mistakes over and over again…what can I say, I’m a work in progress! 🙂 I did set a few vague short/medium/long term goals, but only in a couple areas of life, and not the fuller picture I’d like. I think breaking it down that way is great in theory but feels a bit tedious and overwhelming, so instead I’d like to start with determining a broad mission/purpose statement for myself and 3 goals I’d like to accomplish in 2017 that align with that mission.

Some gratitude…

The days seem to be whizzing by – each has it’s own challenges, but overall the move to working part-time has been a fantastic blessing for our family. For a gratitude blog, I haven’t posted a whole lot of gratitude lately (I really need to consider bringing back those “Daily Snapshots”).

At any rate, here are a few updates on the past month and 4 things I’m thankful for.

  1. Decluttering breakthrough – I’ve been slowly decluttering for the past couple of years…but in the 1.5 months I was off and the girls were in daycare part-time (partially to pad the shock of our daycare providers’ reduced income) I made some solid headway…just last week I got to the point where the main floor and basement aren’t perfect, but can be tidied in 5-10min. It used to be a 30min-3hr ordeal, so the gains are pretty significant! It’s resulted in less stress, a more relaxed environment, and more time to play & be present with the kids.
  2. Feeling at peace – Answering those mid-night cries always jumpstarts your heart (and feet) a bit, but I’m so thankful that now I can answer those cries, sit and rock my babe, and be content – knowing that there is nothing I’d rather be doing at that moment then feeling the weight of her body in my arms & listening to the sweet sound of her breathing in and out. Knowing that even if I get just a few hours of sleep, when I go into work my to-do list is manageable and not a shitstorm of crises to wade through (although those can be fun to work through & conquer, but it’s too much at this time in my life).
  3. Increased clarity – In all honesty, I’m not getting that much more sleep than when I was working full-time – but my mind has a bit more energy and a bit more clarity than it used to. I recently attended a meeting for our church’s officebearers – and while it went 7:30-10pm, on a week night (we were all a bit bleary-eyed by the end!), I was surprised that while I was physically exhausted, mentally my brain was lighting up and thinking of various ways to apply the learnings to upcoming projects/missions.
  4. Missed opportunities – At the beginning of the year, there was an opportunity for H to work abroad for several months. While I was 100% onboard, H wasn’t sure whether he wanted to take it. He decided not to take it and it left me both shocked and a bit disappointed. The placement was in England. Everytime I read about one of the attacks I’m saddened for the victims, their families, the English, and those who will continue to be unfairly portrayed in a negative light…but I’m also incredibly thankful that we are currently in Canada.

At the crux of it all – I feel like I actually have the ability to be present in the moment, instead of missing out on the “now” because I’m busy planning & fighting the fires that are coming around the corner.

Body Scan Meditation

Well, hello there…it’s been a while! 😉

Lots has happened in the last few weeks (including starting my new job) – I debated summarizing an update on the past month but will save it for a future post, as I’d really like to write about Body Scan Meditation.

It sounds very granola, doesn’t it? I’ve been having intense back pain and while I usually get a monthly massage my (amazing) RMT is on mat leave, so I’m about 2 months overdue.

Last night I had trouble sleeping and intense lower back pain…so I used the Body Scan Meditation technique (that I learned a decade ago taking a university yoga class for $18 – deal of the century!), and the results were pretty unbelievable.

There’s a few different ways to do Body Scan Meditation – but the steps I take are:

  1. Lie down, arms at my sides and focus on my breath (focusing on your breath takes some practice but some key tricks are breathing through your nose & feeling the sensation of your breath through your chest and other body parts).
  2. Focus on my left toes and imagine a warm sensation starting with my big toe, and slowly moving into the other toes, up through my foot, ankle, calf, knee, thighs and hip. As the warmth is moving, paying attention to how that part of the body is feeling.
  3. Do the same with the right toes/foot and all the way up the trunk of my body, fingers, wrists, forarms, upper arms, shoulders, neck and face.

The goal is to bring awareness to different points of your body and naturally release the tension. I’ve generally had some muscle relaxation, but last night I did this before bed (expecting it to last 5-10 minutes…………….it lasted 2 hours. TWO HOURS!) And for about 50% of the time my muscles were slowly moving themselves and working out the kinks without my focus (!!!).

It was like my body knew exactly how to move to bring itself back to it’s natural, relaxed state…and it was incredibly trippy to feel the muscles moving throughout my body and have my legs/hips/shoulders moving without my brain telling them to.

If you’ve ever had a massage where the RMT worked out the kinks or you could feel the knot moving down you’ll know it’s deeply satisfying. When your body/mind is working the kink out itself with no physical manipulation it’s on a whole other level.

It totally blew my mind.

A couple things I noted:

  1. It took a long time for me to get the initial warm sensation (likely because my body was so tense). Usually I get it in 5-10 seconds, but this took 2-3 minutes.
  2. There were several spots where it simply felt painful – the first time it happened I just kept breathing thinking “well this sucks” and to my surprise, after 8-10 breaths the muscle started to relax itself.
  3. My lower back/hips did the same relaxing/rotating cycle about 8 times (over the course of likely 1-1.5hrs). The sensation was in the glutes but had my legs and hips making small movements, almost like I was riding a bicycle in reverse.
  4. When my lower back was working out the kinks, I felt other kinks release at points in the back of my calf and feet…I suppose they’re all connected!
  5. Even as I’ve been typing this, if I briefly think about a body part (e.g. foot, calf, shoulder), the muscles twitch and relax themselves with little focus – probably because it had such intense practice last night!
  6. I wondered if this was more beneficial and effective at relieving stress than physical manipulation by an RMT.

Part of me thinks “I don’t get enough sleep already so to have my body use 2hrs of sleeping time to literally unwind feels semi-torturous” (it actually was semi-torturous with the pain and not knowing when it would stop, yet not wanting to stop my body from naturally relaxing itself).

So what do I do next?

  1. Increase my body awareness & mindfulness throughout the day. As I’m sitting on the couch, at the office, etc. – do a quick 5 second scan to see where I’m holding tension and release it.
  2. Do the full blown body scan again tonight and see what happens…instead of starting it at 1:30am (I know…I spent 3 hours folding laundry starting at 10:30pm…it was out of control and once I started I couldn’t stop), start it at 9:30pm or 10pm. A good trigger for me is to start it when I think I want to surf Facebook or people.com…things I think are relaxing but probably aren’t physically healing. 😉

If this is something you’d like to try do a google of Body Scan Meditation – if you’re a beginner there are various youtubes and recordings online (ranging from 2 minutes to 45 minutes) where someone will walk you through the technique.

Hope this helps for anyone else with body aches and/or stress!

Then…& Now

Last night was a bit rough – with C teething she was up from 1am-3am, which meant I got in and out of bed 3 times, with a trip or two downstairs for bottles and teething medicine.

I’m currently battling a sinus infection so sleep is precious, and it’s extra tough to roll myself out of bed in the middle of the night…but while rocking C to sleep at 2:36am I realized a couple of differences between how things were when I was working full-time and how they are now, since making the decision to resign.

Then…it’d be just as hard to get up in the middle of the night…but while doing so I’d be focused on “how can I meet her needs and get her back to sleep quickest”. While rocking her my mind would be racing with “how long is this going to last?…how am I going to get up at 6am?…how is this going to affect what time she wakes up and whether we can get out on time?…is she going to wake up J and the whole morning’s going to be a messy race to get out the door?”. My mind would be racing and focusing on how to compose and implement a mini “Crisis plan” to reduce the crazy that would inevitably ensue.

Now… I was focused on “How can I meet her needs” & trying to tune into her feelings – was it pain, was it wanting closeness, was it wanting to spread out in her crib? While rocking her I savored holding my 20+ lb baby, enjoying the quiet of the night, stroking her hair, and being thankful that while this midnight wake was going to make for a tougher day, that at least I had some flexibility to adjust our morning timing and not immediately proceed into production mode at 6am sharp. I prayed as the moonlight shone into her room and gave thanks to God for my beautiful, healthy family; for amazing access to healthcare and medication; and for being able to enjoy moments like late night sickie babies. Don’t get me wrong – we still had a schedule to follow and places to be…but it’s much different trying to corral everyone out the door by 7:30am vs. 9:30am. I still have more things on my to do list than I have time for today …but without the added stress of also having more things to do at work than I have time for.

Not everyone has the ability to do this – and I’m thankful we’ve been fortunate enough to make critical decisions to create a life that works better for us.

I realized that the greatest learning (& gift) I’ve gained from leaving my full-time job – is the ability to be present. To actually see what is right in front of my face, enjoy, and be thankful for the current moment. That’s not to say everything is sunshine & lollipops – it’s tough trying to balance making dinner, playing with the kids, cleaning, changing poopy diapers, and reading your kids well enough to know when a toddler whines “I don’t want a nap” it means “I need a nap before I am implode!!!!!!!!!!!”. But I have more opportunities to be present with the kids and be intentional about how I shape and influence them, instead of being half-present, and half-planning how to make the next few hours go as smoothly as possible.

I’ve also learned that while change is difficult and defining decisions are tough to make – things happen for a reason, we all have a unique path, and things will work out.

To use my friend’s words, by some “miracle”, I’ve just accepted a part-time finance role. It’s a 5 minute drive from home, 4hrs/day and I’ll be able to work during school hours – which gives me the opportunity to spend time with the kids before and after school, while also having time for my career. It also happens to be with an institution I’ve talked about working with for the past decade.

I came across the posting fortuitously – and while I did put forth my best efforts to land the job, I know that this is not just some lucky coincidence and not totally my doing – this was part of God’s plan for where I was meant to be. It came much sooner than I anticipated (and maybe even wanted), but it is 100% a blessing that I’m immensely thankful for.

Tough times are challenging when you’re in the moment – it’s only in retrospect that you see how those times either shaped the person you’ve become, how it created opportunity to accept the next thing, or how it gave you skills to apply for that job 2 or 3 steps down the road. Without making the decision to resign from my previous role I would not have come across this role and would not have had the time or head space to prepare my resume or for my interviews…the resignation was necessary in order for me to successfully land the next thing.

Change is tough – but it’s necessary to get to where you want to go, and to get to where you’re truly meant to be.

Daily Snapshots – Day #24

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

I am grateful for … sleep when your body needs it. Whether you have a baby waking in the night…stresses that are preventing you from falling asleep…too much to do in too little hours…or an illness that’s wearing your body down, sleep deprivation is something we usually can’t control but completely impacts how we function and react to things the following day. So when you can get the sleep your body’s telling you you need, you’re pretty darn thankful.

I am hopeful that… I recognize that that the only expectations I need to fulfill are my own. I’ve realized that everyone has different perceptions or interpretations of events, and each person builds their own assumptions or truths based on their perception…I struggle when someone views events in my life and draws truths from them that are different from mine – because I then feel there’s an expectation that goes along with it and I likely won’t meet that expectation. Actually, I assume there’s an expectation that goes with it and put that pressure on myself. And challenge myself to … set some short/medium/long term goals to get clear on the expectations I’m striving to fulfil. I also challenge myself to increase my self-awareness to and in a given situation do a mental pause and check-in to see if my feelings are based on fact or on assumptions. I think this can be tricky because you don’t always realize you’ve made an assumption…but let’s give it a go.

I enjoyed … a lovely evening with a new book club. It was so luxurious to chat with 3 wonderful, intelligent ladies, eat amazing snacks, sit by a beautiful fire, and connect. I love being a mother and watching my children grow, but in those moments where I’m with friends and  get to “just be Tiffany” (e.g. be present in conversations, actually taste the food I’m eating, learn more about people’s lives, etc.) – I feel like I’m grounding myself and opening my eyes to other ways I can learn & grow as an individual.

Previous Challenge: I am hopeful that… I continue to empower myself and recognize the good & learnings from each situation, instead of focusing on the bad. And challenge myself to … love myself unconditionally (hopefully forever and ever, but especially over the next 2 weeks as we anticipate change).

Update on Previous Challenge: Over the 2 weeks I was finishing my job I reminded myself of advice my friend Suze gave me, shortly after I decided to leave. “Don’t be a hero.” So many times I wanted to leave everything amazingly perfect and to put 200% into doing everything…and her advice helped me give myself permission to not over-extend myself, to do a great job and work hard (but not work myself silly over it), and to cherish the time I had with fantastic co-workers. By taking away the tendency to set high expectations for myself, it gave me an opportunity to love myself more and just focus on the things that truly mattered.