Summer Memories ~ 2017

It’s only been three days since school let out for the year but what a start to the summer of 2017!  Lots has been happening at our end ~ so much fun and happy memory-building that I thought I’d write this post to share all the exciting details!  Here’s a little look at what’s been happening around here lately.

First, as I mentionned, school ended this past week which means SUMMER VACATION is finally here! This will only be my second summer not working since I was a kid so naturally I am thrilled.  Last summer was the first I ever took off from work and it was absolutely wonderful!  I am looking forward to having wide open-schedules, lots of time to catch up on little projects around the house, reading lots of books, and spending as much time as possible outdoors.  This year at school was a great one!  I had a pretty challenging group of Grade 5 students but overall it was a great year together.  It’s a good thing too, because I found out that I will be teaching Grade 6 next year which means I’ll have all the same students again!  I also had to move my classroom done the hall but thankfully, had enough time this past week to get started on setting it up which means a lot less to do come the last weeks of summer!

My little family. I can’t believe Mariah has already graduated!

On top of my school year ending, my stepdaughter Mariah graduated high school this past week!  I can’t believe that time has already come! As always, she looked absolutely stunning at her graduation and we all beamed with pride as she crossed the stage to receive her diploma. My parents were in town so they were even able to join us which was nice. After, we took a thousand pictures and enjoyed the graduation dinner with some friends we hadn’t seen in a long time. Overall, it was a great night!

Then on Friday, just four days after her graduation, our little girl moved out!  She’s gone to Ottawa to live with her aunt for the summer before moving into residence and attending college in the fall.  My husband packed her up the other day, we all shed a lot of tears, and then we saw her off.  So far, it just kind of feels like she’s gone on a summer vacation but I am sure the reality of her being gone will sink in soon.

Another big highlight of the summer already happened this past week as our little city hosted its first ever Stars and Thunder festival.  It was an eight-day concert series and international fireworks competition that literally brought thousands of visitors to our hometown. This is a big deal for our city since nothing much ever happens here.  Also, when the idea was first brought forth by our mayor there was a lot of backlash. But I’m happy to say, the festival was a huge success and so much fun!  Mom and Dad arrived last Saturday and parked their camper in our driveway for the week (which meant my adult dream of being neighbours with my parents became a reality for a short time! Haha) They attended the entire week of concerts but with my husband out of out town for work, my stepkids and I only joined them for one night.  We saw Hedley – one of my most favourite bands – who I had planned on seeing this summer anyway, even if it meant travelling to do so!  When I heard they were coming to our city, I was so excited and they definitely didn’t disappoint!  There’s just something so amazing about live, outdoor music in the summer especially when one of your top favourite bands is playing!

Me and the kids at Stars and Thunder waiting for Hedley to perform!

Mom and I at Stars and Thunder

But what happened after the show was even more exciting!  Mom, the kids, and I had headed down to the venue early to secure a good spot to watch, but my Dad had decided to wait awhile longer and take the free shuttle downtown to meet up with us.  He caught the shuttle at the hotel across the street from my house and while he was sitting there waiting for it to arrive, who comes out of the hotel, loads up a couple SUVs and heads off?!  Hedley!  So by a complete slight of chance, my Dad found out that the band was staying at the hotel across the street from my house!  With this information on hand, after the show, my Mom, kids and I decided to wander over there to see if we could spot any of the members. Surprisingly, only a few other fans got the memo that that’s where the band was staying so there wasn’t a lot of people. Some of the crew was hanging out outside though, so we got to chat with them for a few minutes. Then, only about twenty minutes after getting there, suddenly a black SUV pulled up and immediately I recognized Jake (lead singer) in the front passenger seat!  Not wanting to miss my golden opportunity, I called out to him the minute he stepped out of the vehicle, and the next thing you know we were taking selfies and photos with one of my favourite artists of all time!

Selfie with Jake!

I ruined this one by talking. I told my husband that I found the kids a new Daddy. HAHA!

Jake took this one with all of us!

Honestly, the rest is kind of blur.  It all passed very quickly (just a few minutes) and I barely remember what I said to Jake (other than that the show had been amazing!)  He also took my phone and took a selfie with all of us and if I can let my inner teenaged girl come out for a second…

“OMG, HE TOUCHED MY PHONE!”  Hahaha.

Needless to say it was a very exciting evening and one that I will definitely remember forever.  The fact that I got to share that moment with my Mom and my kids just makes it all the better!

For the rest of the weekend, I got to babysit my nieces while my parents took in the remaining concerts.  Isabella is five and Aubrey is two, and they are two of the sweetest girls ever and so well-behaved!  Aubrey talks so well for her age and listening to her babble as they play together is one of my favourite things! Between playing at the park, having dinner out, taking walks, colouring, and watching movies, I had a blast with these two.  Of course, it was all topped off with one of the best fireworks displays I’ve seen for Canada Day (which we met up with Mom, Dad, Brad, and Brandon for).

Watching movies with Auntie Kelly

Happy Canada Day!

Playing at the park listening to Keith Urban concert and waiting for fireworks!

Making summer memories – watching fireworks with Uncle Brad.

So that’s been my first week of summer!  Crazy busy, exhausting, exciting, and fulfilling.  I can’t believe we still have a whole summer ahead of us!  But the memories we’ve made this past week will definitely last a lifetime!

Stay tuned for the rest of our summer adventures!

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Disillusioned and Seeking Escape: How Social Media Nearly Wrecked Me

For a few weeks now I’ve been struggling.  I felt some kind of cloud hanging over me, a weight baring down on me.  I have started dreading going to work (something I have never before experienced in this career).   I’ve started worrying about myself and wondering if I am suffering some kind of depression.  I’ve been unusually tired and lacking energy.  But, worst of all, I’ve had no idea why I am feeling this way.  Is it seasonal depression?  (We have had a lot of bleak, gray days and it is winter in Northern Ontario).  Is it all in my head and I just need to pull up my socks, think more positive, and try harder?  Is something physically wrong with me? (I went to my doctor, got blood work done, and go for a sleep test at the end of this week.) Do I suffer from mental illness (like 1 in 4 Canadians?)

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Today, I was feeling so rotten that I stayed home to rest and take a “mental health” day.  I slept in, watched mindless television for hours, had a long afternoon nap, and finally dragged myself out for a short walk.  But all day, I felt like I was just barely holding it together.  I was teetering on the edge of an emotional breakdown, and at any moment I’d go crashing over.

And then I did.

My 13-year-old son was acting as all teenagers do from time to time, and had a small moment of defiance which on any normal day would have been nothing but a small disagreement.  But today, I broke.  I sailed over the edge I had been hanging precariously close to and came crashing down.  I screamed and yelled and shook with rage, and hurt, and fear, and sadness.  I cried, and cried, and cried….

But before you go feeling sorry for me, it’s okay.  Because throughout all that, thankfully my husband – my dear, wonderful, loving, supportive, and intelligent husband – was by my side.  He didn’t say a word, he just stood there.  He listened.  He let me get it all out.  He called my son into the room and calmy and gently explained to him that the argument he and I had had, had nothing to do with him but everything to do with the kind of day I was having.

“She’s having a really hard time right now and we’re her family, we need to be here for her,” he said softly to my son.

So the two of them stood beside me. They stood there watching me cry, and sob, and break.  I kept apologizing, always worried about my emotional fraility being a burden to my loved ones.  But they continued to stand there, in solidarity.  And even though they didn’t say a word, their simple act of being there spoke volumes to me.  The fact that my husband knew immediately what was wrong and exactly what to do was the most comforting and amazing feeling.  Some days I don’t know where I’d be without him…

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Then finally, after I had calmed, my husband spoke to me.  He spoke gently and lovingly, his words full of concern and care. I stood up, and threw myself around him, hugging him tightly and crying some more into his shoulder.

“I’m scared,” I told him, “Why do I feel like this?”

He let me cling to him until I let go and then we sat down to talk.  And what he said to me was mind-blowing.  His insight is always so spot on (I joked with him after that he really should have been a psychiatrist).

So here’s what I discovered during that heart-felt, eye-opening talk with my husband:

I have become lost.  

My abilities to cope with life’s realities, with stress, and with everyday emotions has been numbed and broken down.  I have inadvertently trained my brain to escape these things, so much so that when I have to face them they seen unbearable.  Instead, I have lost myself and have become disillusioned……

……by social media.

I know.  I can’t believe I am saying it.  But, guys, it’s so true. And my husband probably woouldn’t have been able to identify it so easily except that he realized it about himself recently too.  A few months ago, he discovered that the amount of time he spent playing games on his phone was interfering with real life.  It was starting to skew his vision of what real life is and he was starting to look at his own life as less impressive and less exciting in comparison to the things he saw and experienced online.

Before I explain further, let me be clear: it’s not that I think all social media is bad.  I’m not about to delete all my social media apps and never use them again.  It’s just that I can no longer let it consume so much of my time.  Let me explain….

 

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My husband (God bless him) described it like this: you find this escape (social media, video games, or in more extreme cases gambling or alcohol) and it feels good because it’s an escape from the stress and banality of everyday life.  When you “escape”, you create a bubble around yourself and no one else is allowed in.  You subconsciously turn off whatever you may dealing with in your life and get lost in a world of (mostly) meaningless distractions. After you do this for a period of time,eventually it comes to the point where you crave the escape.  All you can think about is the escape and how you would rather be doing [insert activity that serves as the escape here] then the other things you need to do in day-to-day life (your job, household chores, family responsibilities, etc.).  Eventually, your everyday responsibilities begin to feel tedious and wearisome because they take time away from your escape. And the irony of it is, the more time you spend escaping, the more your brain forgets how to cope with real life.  Eventually, you find yourself where I found myself ~ sad, confused, lost, and just generally sucking at life.

Wow.

Guys, I am almost ashamed to admit that this happened to me.  But now, I can see it so clearly!  This is exactly what had happened to me.  Every day, I can’t wait to get home, get through dinner, and be able to curl up on my chair with my blanket and my social media…. to escape….

And one of the reasons it happened, is that without even realizing it I pretty much became addicted to social media (which, if we are looking at social media as an escape from reality, makes sense). For instance, whenever I see the little red bubble that notifies me that there’s been action on Facebook, I feel a compulsion to check to see what the update is.  When I’m home, even if I am doing something else, I will pick up my phone constantly, to see if there is anything new on the feeds.  When there isn’t much new (most likely because I just checked it ten minutes ago), I actually feel disappointed.  Alternatively, when there is too much that’s new on the feeds, I sometimes feel overwhelmed because I feel that I have to scroll through everything that’s new.  I can’t just scroll for a few minutes and then stop.  Some weird thing inside my head tells me that I have to keep looking until I get to the stuff I’ve already seen, until I have consumed all the new stuff.   This is frustrating because sometimes there is a lot of new stuff and it takes a long time to go through it all.  And even as I am doing this, I can be sitting there thinking about how this is taking too long and I have other things to do, but yet I continue scrolling, utterly and totally consumed by the images on the screen….Wow….

 

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It’s not like I was completely naive to my compulsion to check social media.  Part of what makes it even more disturbing is that there are times that I’d be on it and I’d be telling myself I should be doing something else. For example, nearly every night I go to bed with the intention to read before going to sleep.  But the temptation to check social media one last time all too-often wins and my book gets left untouched.

Furthermore, how many times have I been in a room full of people and only half-listened to conversations because I was busy scrolling? (And this is a behaviour I see often amongst so many people!) It brought me to tears to realize how many times I’ve been in a room with people I care about, my family and ignored them while I paid attention to social media.  My precious, beautiful, sweet nieces have played on the floor in front of me while I’ve ignored them to scroll through social media…. my son has complained he’s bored and my husband and I have told him to go find something to do, while we stare at our phones…. my husband and I sit side by side every evening, not talking, just zoned into our screens…. Wow…

 

Then my husband asked me this, “Does it cause you anxiety if I tell you to just leave your phone closed on the kitchen island for the rest of the night?”  I instantly responded yes.

“Does it cause you anxiety to know that if you use your phone you’ll sit in the living room with me tonight and we will barely talk to each other?”

Tears rolled down my cheeks.  Wow…

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But not only is all the time I spend on social media taking me from time with my family, but it’s causing the same effect it had on my husband ~ I’ve started looking at my own life and feeling less than impressed.  I’ve started seeing my day-to-day activities as burdens I have to carry… as things that I need to escape…. Wow…

Which, by the way, is totally ironic because often on social media, I’d see people post messages cautioning others that the photos we see are often highly-stylized and not a depiction of real-life (particularly on one of my favourite apps Instagram). These posts warn that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to these images and fall into the trap of disillusionment.

“Well, duh,” I would think, “as if we need to be told that.  Obviously!”

Which just goes to show you how blinded I was.  This “fog” I’ve been feeling, this depression… It’s not because something is physically wrong with me… it’s because I’ve fallen into the trap of disillusionment that is so prevalent on social media.  I fell, without even realizing it. In fact, I became so disillusioned by the fantasy worlds on social media that, in comparison, my own life seemed so dull and unberable that I could hardly make it through the day without feeling dissatisfied and sad.  Wow….

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Now that I am beginning to see what’s happen, I am gaining some insight into some of my behaviours recently.  I can see why I was gravitating to certain feeds and topics online.  For instance, I had started following all kinds of free-spirit-type photographers who travel the world and make a living taking stunning images of nature and the places they travel.  I had started following women who live like gypsies and do yoga all day in Bali.  I started following mountaineers who get paid to travel, stay in sponsored log cabins, and spend their days exploring the wild and quiet solitude of the back-country.  Escape.  Not only was I using social media as my escape but the very notion of escape itself was the ongoing theme in so many of the things I was consuming!  I even noticed that I started gravitating to books with this theme.  Girl in the Woods – the story of a girl who drops out of “life” and hikes the Pacific Crest Trail alone for months on end to find herself.  Big Magic – by none other than Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love – the memoir of a woman who leaves everything behind and travels the world to find herself.  Does anyone else sense a theme here?

 

And so there it is. By filling my mind everyday with images and stories of escaping, suddenly that’s all I wanted to do. Suddenly, my life didn’t measure up.  My day job became tedious.  My life overall became unsatisfactory.  I had romanticized the social media messages so much that I was beginning to believe there was a diffent life out there. Something that could be better….  Wow…

It’s no wonder, I’ve felt terrible lately.  It’s no wonder my everyday tasks have felt so cumbersome, so uninspiring, and so mundane.  It’s no wonder I’ve felt so sad, lonely, and lost…. Wow….

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So here’s what I did.  I immediately logged on to my Instagram account and unfollowed every single person that I felt was feeding that notion of me needing to escape.  I went from following 222 people, to following 100.  I kept my real-life friends and family and my most favourite bloggers (mostly just fashion bloggers, or health/fitness bloggers).  I did the same on Facebook (pretty much the only people I follow on there now are my closest friends and family.   Side note:  while doing this, I also realized that we often say how Facebook is great for keeping in touch with friends and family.  While this may be true, I would also argue that it makes us lazy in our relationships with friends and family.  How many times have I picked up the phone to call my long-distance friends/family?  To have a real chat and hear their real voice? It’s so much easier and faster to shoot a message online…. Wow…

Of course, as I mentioned above, this isn’t to say that I’ve written off all social media and will never again use Facebook or Instagram. There’s no need to be that dramatic.  But it’s definitely a relief to have some insight into why I’ve been feeling the way I have lately and to know that social media has more of an impact on my life than I truly realized.  It’s absolutely critical to realize how easily we can become disillusioned by the images we consume every day, without even realizing it, and to make ourselves aware so we can do something about it.  In other words, when you know better, you do better.  And now I know, that if I am not careful and conscious of the time spent on social media, it can easily consume me.  It can give me a warped sense of my own reality and cause me to become disillusioned and depressed. Most importantly, I can now see that my life is not mundane and wearisome.  I definitely don’t need an escape.  My life is wonderful and the moments I spend living it are worth paying attention to.  It’s time to put down the phone and do just that.

xoxo

Quiet, Easy Days at Home 💕

Well, here we are, the night before my return to work after yet another wonderful Christmas Break.  The last two weeks of holidays have been incredible.  Of course, we had Christmas in there which is my most favourite holiday, but I think what I enjoyed even more were the quiet, easy days at home.

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When we left school for Christmas Break I was exhausted.  And the last two weeks have been so restful and easygoing.  It was so needed.  I am realizing more and more just how much I love just being at home, spending a quiet day, puttering around, not running on a schedule, and just doing whatever makes my heart happy.  I guess I really am getting older!

For at least the last week, I haven’t been setting an alarm and just sleeping in everyday which feels amazing (granted, I really didn’t mean to sleep until after ten everyday, but it is what it is).  Upon waking, I’d linger in bed, chatting with my husband, scrolling through my social media feeds (loving Instagram even more than Facebook these days!) and cuddling our dog.  When I got hungry enough, I’d get up, turn on some soft, acoustic music and cook eggs for breakfast.  After breakfast, I’d make a coffee and curl up for some more social media time (yes, lots of social media but hey, it’s whatever makes you happy, right?) Many times, I’d sit for an hour or more, just relaxing, sipping my coffee and gaining inspiration from feeds and blogs I follow online.

This is not my home but I love how cozy it looks.

This is not my home but I love how cozy it looks.

After that, my day was wide open.  I don’t necessarily feel good when I have an entirely lazy day.  I like the satisfaction of being productive.  But I also like to do it at my own pace and on my own schedule.  I can’t believe I am going to say this but I don’t even mind doing laundry, washing dishes, or cleaning the house when I have all day to do it and can take my time.   The other day I lit some candles, played music from the Relax & Unwind playlist on Spotify,  and actually enjoyed cleaning my house.  It felt so good!  Other things I would do throughout the day include blogging (right here!), reading (currently: Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis ~ so good!), watch television (faves:  Cityline, The Marilyn Denis Show, The Big Bang Theory or Dr. Phil), or look for sources of inspiration on sites like TeachersPayTeachers and Pinterest. 

I’ve also found time in my day to cook healthy meals and do at-home workouts.  After, I’d take my time enjoying a hot, lavender bath or long shower and then sit around wrapped in my big, plush towel~ no rush to get my hair and makeup done, and get dressed and out the door!

There’s just something so lovely about being at home – about being in my own space with the people I love, doing the things I love.  Not to mention, it’s so quiet here.  Bliss.

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But alas, the day has come and tomorrow I return to work.  I will miss my quiet, calm days at home but am hoping I can carry a bit of this relaxed, easygoing feeling with me as I jump back into a routine.  It might be wishful thinking, but at least I’ll still have my weekends!

For all of you heading back to work tomorrow, I hope you have a smooth and easy day!   xo

My Intentions for 2017

Happy New Year!

Like many, I love the fresh start of a new year.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting over the last little while to try to decide what my resolutions will be this year.  I love exploring different sources for creativity and inspiration, and a theme that keeps coming up over and over again, and one I am really latching on to, is the notion of self-care.

img_1011Self-care is unique to the individual so it really means figuring out what is right for you.  Here’s what I’ve discovered so far about the components of my own self-care practice that I hope to implement this year.

PHYSICAL HEALTH

Exercise

This year, I’ve decided to cancel my gym membership and find different kinds of exercise that I truly enjoy.  Some things I plan on doing are:  walking my dog, cross-country skiing, hiking, at-home basement workouts (cardio, strength training, weights). I’ve also finally registered for my first yoga series at a local yoga studio that I can’t wait for.

Nutrition

I’ve decided to commit to cleaning up my diet for a few reasons.  One, I’ve continued to struggle with ulcerative colitis and am hoping that by making changes to my diet, it will improve my symptoms and eventually put me back into remission.  Secondly, I want to be in the best physical shape of my life and I know a huge part of that is eating properly.  I’ve decided to try something different and have recently started the 21 Day Fix in hopes that a new program will give me the motivation I’ve been lacking.  Finally, I know that eating healthy foods (and cutting back on the unhealthy ones) will give me more energy and help alleviate a lot of the fatigue I have been feeling.

Water

As part of my new nutrition program, I am trying to consume more water on a daily basis.  I find drinking out of a reusable water bottle helps me to get my daily water intake and also helps me to easily keep track of how much I’ve consumed.

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MENTAL / EMOTIONAL

Yoga

Besides its physical benefits, yoga positively benefits our minds helping us to become more mindful, release negative thoughts, and open our hearts to love, light, and peace.  Yoga helps me to feel relaxed and helps me to slow down the rush of day-to-day life.  I am really excited to get started on my yoga journey!

Journaling

The main reason I started this blog was to have an outlet for creativity.  While others may paint, dance, sing, or scrapbook, my creative outlet is writing.  I think a lot and sometimes my brain feels overloaded with too many things.  Journaling helps me to release some of the things I am thinking about which eases my mind.  Furthermore, it allows me to express myself and reach out to others in a positive way.

Slowing Down

As I get older, I find I crave a more simple and quietwe life.  The drama, chaos, and negativity that thrive in the world, make me upset and make me desire a slower, simpler pace. This year, I intend to slow down my daily activities whether it’s my morning routine, driving, reacting to the choices of others, teaching, or just day-to-day tasks.

Being Outdoors

Until recently, I never truly understood the benefits of spending time in nature.  Lately though, I’ve realized that being outside makes me feel overall more positive, calmer, happier, and more at peace.  I’ve even found a new appreciation for our Northern Ontario winters.  I’ve finally realized that fresh, outdoor air and quality Vitamin D is essential to my mental health.  This year, I intend to spend more time outdoors by doing things like: walking (with friends, my hubby and my dog), hiking, cross-country skiing, skating on outdoor rinks, camping, and exploring the woods.  When summer rolls around, I may even try canoeing or kayaking!

Home

One of the places I love being the most is at home.  Our house is small but it is cozy and it’s one place where I can (usually) fully relax.  Most of the time, this happens in my favourite arm-chair, with a cuddly blanket.  Nearby, you’ll find my water bottle, sometimes a coffee, the latest book I am reading, my Chapstick, my hand cream, my iPhone, and my iPad.  Next to me, my husband is watching TV from the couch with our fur baby curled up beside him.  Another favourite place in my home is my bedroom. I love the cozy weight of our duvet, the coolness of our pillows, the light pouring in from behind our white, gauzy curtains.  On my nighttable, I have a simple statue of Buddha that helps me to feel peaceful before bed.  I love long, slow mornings lounging in bed on the weekend with my husband and our dog, scrolling through social media, reading, or making plans for the day.

Of course, there is always room for improvement in our home.  While I have some projects I’d like to see happen this year, there are a few simple things I can do to help make my home even more cozy.  I’ve started listening to acoustic music when doing household tasks.  I love lighting candles around my home.  I love the greenery of dispersing plants throughout our house. I love having cuddly blankets and pillows.  I am also considering putting up some white twinkly lights in my bedroom to help create a cozy, romantic, warm space.

Relationships

There is nothing in life more important to me than the relationships I have.  I am very blessed to be surrounded by so many special family members and friends.  This year, I hope to cultivate those relationships even more by paying more attention to my loved ones’ needs and showing more kindness and appreciation where I can.  I hope to stay in better contact with friends that live far away and to visit my three, precious nieces more often.  There’s nothing that makes my heart feel fuller than time spent with those I love.

Parenting

Parenting is a tough job, and I would argue that step-parenting is even harder, especially to two teenagers.  That being said, this year I intend to practice more patience when it comes to parenting.  I am a highly sensitive and emotional person that tends to react too quickly to feelings of stress, frustration, hurt, or anger.  This year, I will pause and think before reacting to these kinds of situations.  I will listen, not half-heartedly, but really listen to their needs and interests when they talk so that they feel the love and attention they deserve.  In essence, I will be kinder and more loving to my children.

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SPIRITUAL

Mindfulness

This year, I hope to practice being more mindful and fully present in the moments of my life.  By slowing down my day-to-day routines, I hope to notice the small things that make life so pleasurable (example: the beauty of the snow-covered evergreens that line my route to work).  Practicing mindfulness will also fill my heart with gratitude, faith, and love.

Yoga / Meditation

I am excited to learn more about yoga and meditation this year and hope to discover more about myself through the practice of both.  I plan to explore some guided meditations and perhaps even create a yoga space in my basement surrounded by things that inspire and motivate me.

Light

For me, light is both figurative and literal.  Especially in the long, dark days of winter, spending as much time in daylight is crucial.  It’s one of the reasons I always open the blinds in my home and in my classroom, and switched all my indoor supervision duties for outdoor ones.  But light can also be figurative. For me the notion of bringing light into my life means to bring positivity and happiness ~ something I definitely intend to do this year!

Morning Intentions

At school each morning, our principal asks us to take a moment of silence to reflect on our day.  Each day, I use that time to set some intentions for myself, for my students and co-workers, and for my loved ones.  Recently, I have starting sharing my morning intentions via Facebook as a means of sending hope and light into the world. Also, by writing down my intentions, it allows me to reflect on them and express them more clearly.

Gratitude

Similar to my morning intentions, I sometimes share daily expressions of gratitude on my Facebook account.  Again, writing these thoughts helps me to see them and feel them more clearly.  But it’s also my intention to help others recognize the small, simple things in life that we have and to realize how very blessed we are.

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What are your goals / resolutions / intentions for the New Year?  Whatever it may be, I hope your year is filled with love, light, peace, and positivity!  💕

Learning Curve

Just recently I wrote a post about my new realization about how closely linked my mental health is to my daily exercise and nutrition.  It’s something I should have recognized years ago, but for whatever reason I didn’t. Perhaps I was too caught up in my efforts to lose weight simply to look better and to fit some kind of ideal that I thought my body should be.  But after dealing with feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, lack of motivation, and mild depression for some time now, I finally made the link. What I eat and how much (or how little) exercise I get, truly matters.

I put this new information to the test immediately.  I started out slowly – cutting gradually back on the amount of sugar I consumed, going for a brief walk, and ensuring I went outside for at least 20 minutes each day.  Within just a few days, I felt the positive effects. I was still tired after a day’s work, but I wasn’t completely exhausted.  In fact, I had enough energy to be more productive at home in the evenings and didn’t actually feel really tired until bedtime instead of my typical 4 p.m. crash.

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That was two weeks ago.  Last week, I started to let things slip. It started when we headed out of town for my son’s hockey tournament.  For convenience’s sake, we ate at fast-food restaurants several times (burgers and fries mostly).  We stayed at my parents’ place which is packed full of every treat and goody you can imagine at this time of year!  On top of that, Mom graciously hosted a Christmas party, complete with all my favourite appetizers.  After a weekend of indulgences and eating “crap”, I was determined to get back on track with my new-found habits on Monday. But when Monday rolled around, I had no energy.  I dragged myself through the day at work, over-ate at the potluck lunch, and when I got home, collapsed with exhaustion.  I’m too tired from the crazy weekend, I told myself, I’ll workout tomorrow. 

Tuesday came and all of Monday’s leftovers were pulled out of the fridge at work. Without thinking twice, I ate another huge plate of mostly unhealthy foods.  Then I had a huge piece of chocolate cake for dessert.  I dragged myself through Tuesday and collapsed with exhaustion when I got home. I skipped yoga at the gym, although I did attend my Weight Watchers meeting (how I dragged myself out of the house, I am not sure).  When I got home, I put on my pyjamas and promised I’d work out the next day. Later that evening, feeling agitated and overwhelmed, I got into a fight with my teenaged daughter and cried myself to sleep.

Then came Wednesday.  It was another hard day at work.  Granted, it’s the week before Christmas and I teach ten-year-olds, but the reason it was so difficult, was because I simply had no energy.  Sure, it’s safe to say that most teachers feel this way at this time of year (the typical pre-Christmas Break burn-out), but I knew that all the crap I had been eating and my lack of workouts was contributing more to my sluggishness than anything else. For the third day in a row, I immediately changed into pyjamas when I got home and buried myself under blankets on the couch.

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Normally, I would have sat there wallowing in self-pity and asking myself over and over again, why am I so tired?  Why don’t I have any energy? Why do I feel like crap?  But when you know better, you do better and know I know that the reason I feel like this is because of my poor nutrition and lack of exercise.

Although I just wanted to hibernate for the third night in a row, I knew it would only lead to making me feel worse the next day.  So I reached out to my friends in Weight Watchers on our online support group.  I confessed how terrible I was feeling and within minutes, one of my friends was urging me to get out for a walk.  I decided right then and there that that’s what I had to do.  I didn’t even hesitate to think about it (for fear that I would too easily find an excuse not to go).  I closed my iPad, got dressed in my outdoor gear, hooked my dog to his leash, and headed out.

I was so proud of myself for actually getting up and doing it that my motivation and energy immediately increased.  In fact, it jolted me awake so dramatically that rather than take my normal, short route, I set out on a much longer route.  Fifty minutes later (and lots of trudging through deep snow), I had completed my walk and my motivation to take care of myself was back.  This morning, on my coffee break when I usually indulge in sweets, I headed out for another walk and took in the mild weather and gorgeous sunshine peaking through the clouds.

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It’s still absolutely incredible to me how simple it is to change our emotions and mental state into positive ones, yet so many people like me get sucked so easily into the dark hole of lethargy, fatigue, and depression.  It’s all the more reason to remember just how critical proper nutrition and daily exercise really is.  I am so happy that I have finally make this crucial realization!

 

 

So Blessed, So Happy

Three weeks into September, I think it’s safe to say that we’re back into a routine.  After the long lazy days of summer, I was feeling all kinds of emotions about heading back to school, but now that we’ve been back a few weeks, I can honestly say I’ve been feeling nothing but happy lately.

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Last December, I made a life decision that has done nothing but benefit my life.  I made the choice to quit my part-time job that I had been working on the side since I became a teacher ten years ago.  For much of my teaching career, I’ve only been able to secure short-term contracts so always needed some kind of additional work to help make ends meet.  But finally, two years ago I secured a permanent position with my school board – and this year, that position finally became 100% full-time.

I’ve always had a job since I was 13 years old and have always believed myself to be a hard worker.  Even when I was in my undergrad at university, I often worked two part-time jobs on the side so I could do the best to support myself and not have to depend on my parents or too many student loans.  This continued well into my early 30s as I struggled to secure a career in a market that was over-run with qualified teachers, and build a family and a life with my husband and stepchildren.

But last December, the time to leave my second job behind finally came.  This decision wasn’t easy to make.  First of all, I felt like my family needed the extra money – no matter how much we make, there never seems to be enough.  But secondly, I had finally landed a part-time job that I actually loved (working retail in a clothing store).  The work was enjoyable but the staff of ladies I worked with were what made the job so wonderful – they were incredibly lovely and made such an amazing team.  Plus, I got a great discount on clothes!

But the stress a second job added on my life was nearly unbearable.  I taught all week, marked assignments, planned lessons, cooked dinners, tidied our house, did laundry, and took care of my family.  When the much-anticipated weekend finally arrived, I had another schedule to meet – shifts at the mall- which sucked up the time I’d normally spend on the weekend cleaning my house, catching up on laundry, cooking for my family – not to mention, relaxing and taking some time for myself.   There were days where I’d get home from school at 4:30, have to been at work again for 5 pm, and not get home until 10 pm or later (in my waitressing days).

The stress of that lifestyle was taking its toll.  I had to start anxiety meds, I was always cranky and irritable with my family, and I was constantly worried about not having time to do the things I felt I needed to do to be a good wife, mother, teacher, and friend. I felt like my life was spiralling out of control. I cried a lot and I felt panicky and overwhelmed all the time.

Finally, last November I was at my breaking point.  I couldn’t take the stress of two jobs anymore – I was seriously concerned about my own mental health, which was also affecting the well-being of my family.  (Not to mention, I am pretty sure I already struggle with some level of Seasonal Affective Disorder – a kind of depression that creeps in when the season changes – usually around October/November for me).  Finally, the day came where I had to make a decision.  I seeked the advice from my doctor who advised me to leave my second job and assured me that I could maintain a satisfactory lifestyle without the added income.  My husband was tried of having an over-worked, cranky wife (and of having to cheer me up all the time).  With a heart that felt guilty for diminishing my family’s income and for leaving the wonderful women who I worked with, I gave my two-week’s notice (in the midst of the insane Christmas rush no less).  My boss hugged me and was incredibly understanding which lifted the crushing guilt I had been feeling.  (To this day, she is one of the sweetest, most genuine women I’ve ever met!)  I worked my last shift on Boxing Day and bitter sweetly said goodbye to my amazing co-workers (and awesome discount).

As the summer neared and another school year came to an end, I started to think about all the free time I was going to have.  For a brief few moments, I considered going back to my part-time job for the summer (which I would promptly leave in late August so I wouldn’t have to work two jobs again).  But my husband put his foot down and said no.  He knew that if I went back to work, I probably wouldn’t quit come August, and we’d be right back to where we’d been before.  And I knew he was right (plus, who doesn’t want a work-free summer?!)

So I took the summer off (for the very first time since I had my first job when I was just thirteen years old), and it was marvellous.  My days were wide open and I could fill them with whatever activities I wanted, without having to check any kind of schedule.  If my parents planned a camping trip, I tagged along without having to book the weekend off work.  If my cousins were visiting from out-of-town, I could go stay at mom and dad’s and visit family for a whole week.  Or I could just stay at home, read a lot of books, go for walks with my dog, and get little projects around the house down.  It felt amazing and so stress-free.

Relaxing this summer

Relaxing this summer

And now it’s September.  We’re going into our third week of school which means I’m back to working full-time.  I generally leave my house at 7:30 am and get home just before 5 pm.  I usually stay late after school to get all my marking and lesson planning done so I don’t have to bring any work home.  And now, when I get home I don’t have to rush out the door to my second job.  I get to cook dinner for my family, take the dog for a walk, and then have an entire evening to relax.  Life is so good.

Then there are the weekends.  We’ve had three weekends since school went back in and each one has been perfect.  I love the feeling of productivity and I’ve found the time to get projects done at home (washing bedding, cleaning, preparing freezer meals for busy week nights), but I’ve also found tons of time to relax and take time for myself.  The weekends used to make me feel panicked.  I’d wake up on Saturday morning and a long-list of to-dos would immediately take over my mind.  I’d start trying to figure out how I was going to get everything done in between my shifts at the mall.  I’d start to panick as I realized my weekend was going to slip away, drowned in more work, and I’d be left with no time to relax, before the vicious cycle started up again Monday morning.

Now I have lots of time to snuggle with this guy on the weekends.

Now I have lots of time to snuggle with this guy on the weekends.

But now that I’m not working two jobs, this season isn’t feeling so stressful.  In fact, I feel so incredibly happy lately.  My life feels so much more simple and fulfilling.  I’m so happy with  my new school, my wonderful new co-workers, and my amazing group of students who have impressed me so far.  I love spending my time on the weekends hanging out with my family, cooking (something that only ever stressed me out before) and still having time to take a nap or watch mindless TV.   And the thought of being able to slip away for a weekend to see family without having to book a weekend off is incredible.  There are moments on the weekend now where I look at the clock and can’t believe I still have so much time left before Monday morning rolls around.  It’s unbelievable and I feel so blessed.   Because now I have more time to do what matters most in life – spend time with my family and spend time with myself.  The benefits far outweigh any amount of added income.

Happy Sunday, guys!

xo

 

 

Do What You Want, Not What You Should

I’m struggling today.  It’s the same old problem that I am faced with so often – the decision between doing what I think I should be doing versus doing what I actually want to do.

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It’s beautiful out today.  It’s warm and sunny with a perfectly cool breeze.  It’s the last unofficial weekend of summer and the weather is perfect.  I should be outside.  Summer is so short around here, I should be soaking it all up before the weather turns dark, gloomy, and cool.  I should be out in nature, enjoying a hike or visiting my friend who is camping for the weekend, because I know it will be good for my mind, body, and soul.

But instead, I’m curled up on the coach, unshowered, still in my pyjamas, and wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket.  Because I’m tired, and it’s cozy here, and I don’t feel like moving.  I slept in today too – until nearly 10:30.  Then I laid in bed for nearly another hour playing on my phone and just dwelling in the cool comfort of my bed and the wonderful company of my husband and our dog.

I did get up after that and make pancakes for the family.  I even tidied up the kitchen.  I had intentions to shower. I told my friend I would drive half an hour to see her at her campsite.  We’d go for a walk or maybe to the beach.  I could stop at the grocery store and stock up on the few things we need for lunches this week.  I could take something out of the freezer and plan dinner.  And lord knows, the bathroom needs to be cleaned, there’s laundry to do, lessons to be planned, the list goes on….

Haha, love this one!

Haha, love this one!

But I don’t feel like doing any of those things.  I don’t even feel like getting dressed.  I’m even seriously considering ordering pizza for dinner. The Jays game is on, my husband and dog are here with me, and I am comfy and content laying here on the couch – other than the bit of guilt that is eating away at me…

My husband has a theory.  Whenever I complain that I have so much to do, he tells me “You’re an adult.  You can do whatever you want.”  I usually counter back with, “Yes, but adults have responsibilities” as I continue working my way through my never-ending to-do list.  And it’s not that my husband neglects those responsibilities (although he is a procrastinator), it’s just that he understands and accepts the whole notion of having the freedom to do what he wants rather than what he should be doing.

At the beginning of this year, I claimed the mantra “good enough” for myself in the hopes that I’d learn to let things go and step away from being such a perfectionist in so many areas of my life.  But, despite my good intentions, somewhere along the way I have forgotten what it means to let things be just good enough.

Now that back-to-school is just around the corner (two days!), I’m clinging desperately to this notion of doing what I want instead of what I should because I know in just a few days time, the slow, lazy days of summer that I’ve enjoyed are going to come to a screeching halt and my life is going to become chaotic again.  There will be alarms to wake up to, busy mornings, jobs and school to get to, laundry to do, lunches and dinners to make, errands to run, lessons to plan, a house to clean, assignments to mark, practices and clubs to bring kids to…. You get the idea.

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For me, my personal time is so important.  I’m a bit of a day-dreamer, an over-thinker.  I like time to explore my personal interests and to find inspiration for new ideas.  I like a schedule that’s wide open so I can decide each day what I feel like doing (and not just what I have to do). I like time to write and read books for pleasure. This is what this summer has been all about and it’s been glorious.  It’s been wonderful, peaceful, and so fulfilling.

So maybe my resistance to wanting to do anything productive today is a desperate attempt to hang on to those days when I have nothing to do.  Or maybe I’m just finally starting to accept that I am an adult and I can do what I want.  Because there has to a balance in life.  And I am sure there will be many more days to do what I should.  So today I am going to let go of the guilt, do what I want (which involves a whole lot of nothing), and try my hardest to accept that it’s all good enough.  And I might order pizza for dinner.