28 Days of Self-Love

The card i pulled from my deck in January was Brigid – she came a month early for me as she’s the Goddess connected to Imbolc in February. She is a Goddess of healing, and brings fertility to the land and its people. She is also closely connected to midwives and newborn babies. She sits at my alter all month to remind me of her energy so i’m sharing her with you now.

February is a tricky month for a lot of us. If you are like me and you live where Winter really visits, then February is cold and full of snow. It makes it hard to go out and do things, to be spontaneous and have fun. I’m not opposed to getting cozy at home, in fact i kind of treasure it. But it can lead to a bit of Cabin Fever.

Another pitfall of February is that Valentine’s Day is in the middle of it. This holiday carries with it a love-hate feeling, whether you are single or not, as it pushes a lot of us to DO and GET and BE so much more than we typically are. The pressure is on for sure. A few years ago, i heard about a reclaiming of the day, a way to re-connect with our own selves, as to focus on self-love more than an arbitrary outpouring of love that is dictated by stores telling us how to show love.

So, since my word of the year is LOVE, i thought it was a good time to create this helpful tool to intentionally provide myself with some gifts of self-love. Each day has a simple and gentle suggestion for you to practice. Some take a few minutes, and others are a bit longer. I also made sure to connect it to key dates in the month – February 2 is Candlemas/Imbolc so a good time to plant seeds or get fresh flowers, February 14 of course, February 15 is the New Moon of the month (did you know there is NO Full Moon? So interesting…). Feel free to change up the days, but do try to give yourself these moments of self-love. Click HERE for a full size copy of this guide.

I see a lot of connection between self-love and self-compassion, and also the need to steal time as a working mom of two young kids. I may not have the abundance of time to leisurely eat brunch as i once did, but i do have the right to eat the best chocolate i can get my hands on, and to take a break from self-judgement and critique.

Please join me this month!

The 12 Days of Getting Through the Holidays in a Mindful Way

As parents we have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. December is a full month of visits, errands, chores, schedules, and to-do lists. Let alone the fun and joy we are supposed to be having. It can be hard pressed to find time to relax and truly have fun over the holidays.

This year, i plan to be a bit more gentle to myself. Most of the presents are done, i’m eating chocolate every night, and my partner and i are busy elves in the our workshop from 8:30 – 11:00 each night. I actually like that part of my day as it’s a guaranteed time where i get to be crafty and creative, and not thinking about ANYthing else. I’m reminded that sewing and knitting are activities that i do for myself as much as for my kids – the act of sewing is so methodical and meditative. And i’m sure any readers who are knitters can agree to this as well.

In our family we do an Advent calendar where we fill each day with a fun or meaningful activity. Today, for example we are reading some new Winter and holiday books we picked up at the library. Yesterday was our kids’ Winter Concert at school so that was the Advent activity. Sounds easy enough, right? Since we are literally incorporating what we are doing in real life, i made the decision to make our Advent activities a bit more simple and streamlined. And still festive, so it’s a win-win.

I’ve been thinking about how to take pause each day so i can allow the holidays to linger. Similarly to how i wanted the summer to never end back in August. Since my Donut Donut is a seasonal thing, i noticed that my love for Hygge is a close second in the Winter months.

In honour of the 12 days tradition, i’m sharing something with you each day to help you bring some joy, laughter, happiness, fun and rest in a mindful way – to yourselves and not just the rascals we love so dearly. Make sure to look at my FACEBOOK PAGE for daily tips related to this. Here is also a cheat sheet that covers each day for you. Feel free to print it and use it as a guide or reference.

To get us started, today, for DAY ONE here are some sensual ways i bring hygge mindfully into my home for the holidays. Being mindful and incorporating hygge (Danish word for cozy) are great ways to slow down and take a moment to pause, and to breathe in what is literally right in front of you in the here and now.

Scent

We keep the Solstice tree up as long as possible – the smell of pine is such a relaxing and visceral response for me. The photo of the horses above is from the tree farm we got our tree farm at. While my kids were screaming in the car to go because we were NOT EXPECTING snow, i took a serene self-ful moment to myself. I also added 4 new candles to my evening ritual. I especially love these ones as there is a gift at the end of the candle. We also bake cookies for our neighbours each year for Solstice, and the smell of baked goods lingers for a few days.

Vision

Besides the aforementioned tree, we also add other festive decorations all over the house. The only rooms that are spared are the bedrooms. For me, i like the sacredness of my bedroom being grounded in itself. But, otherwise, i have fresh flowers, garlands, Nutcrackers, and other decorations all over. And i take pause to intentionally notice them, so that i’m not just rushing by each day.

My kids and i play a version of I Spy when we are out. I do it to help them understand mindfulness a bit better. When we are going to school, we look at the neighbourhood decorations. Our favourite version now is looking for 5 Santas, 4 pine trees, 3 holiday lights, 2 wreaths and 1 winter bird.

Sound

It could go without saying that holiday music can be the worst genre ever, but it also can bring up some sentimental and warm feelings. I did not grow up singing carols with my family, but music has always been a big part of my life. Now as an adult, there are definitely songs and artists that i can hear (and sing along with) daily. For me, Joni Mitchell’s River is a standard on my playlist.

Touch

I’m all about the fuzzy sweaters, warm beds, cozy blankets and scarves that this time of year calls for. Since i don’t have a fireplace at home, i jump at the chance when i can to feel the warm fire on my face. I guess that’s why i’m constantly knitting – i like that feeling in my hands too.

Taste

I have a rule to eat at least 1 chocolate each day, and this time of you the selection is bountiful, or limitless, depending on if you are a glass half-full gal like me. My kids live for hot cocoa, and we always add a few new teas to our repertoire. And stock up on warm adult drinks like port and hot toddies.

So, take a moment sometime today to see if you can connect with your 5 senses in a fun, festive and mindful way. Enjoy and take a moment to pause for yourself.

A Hallow’s Eve Exercise in Mindfulness

All Hallow’s Eve is my favourite holiday. I love it for more than the sweet little chocolates we get (though that counts a bit too). I love it because it honours community and being part of a village. What other day do we get to go to neighbours and get sweets from them? I also love it as we get to dress up and role play being a character that we admire or wish to become even for a day. I also love it as it celebrates magic, being brave, and has roots in Pagan spirituality and witchcraft – times before the patriarchy and medical model of care took over. But i digress.

What i really love is that kids teach us important lessons in mindfulness. Being able to see life through their eyes is a good reminder that staying in the present, being in the here and now moment is how we can take care of ourselves. It is also a great way to enjoy life and not let it slip away from us.

One of the rituals we do for All Hallow’s Eve is to carve the pumpkin a few days ahead of time. We brainstorm our ideas and we typically pick scenes or an image that resonates with us. It changes each year. This year, as my eldest is a diehard Harry Potter fan, that of course had to make an entry.

What i forgot was all the mess it makes. I was ready to see if my kids could carve their own pumpkins – thank goodness for child-friendly knives. So in my head i pictured we would all scoop out the seeds and insides of our own pumpkins and then work as a harmonious little team carving alongside each other. You can imagine where this is going.

Lesson One
Of course my son was disgusted by the mess of his pumpkin; he hates the feeling of slime and goo on him. Unless it’s fart sounding play doh and pretend slime of course. I noticed i had to bite back my anger for him not doing his work, and notice instead that i know that he doesn’t like this texture. I visited my Wise Mind and reminded myself that the point of this supposedly fun activity was to have Jack o Lanterns as a result. And that each of us play our part. My daughter, for instance, doesn’t mind getting dirty and her pumpkin in fact had hardly any insides to scoop out. My son kept us busy with a song and dance routine, and Harry Potter commentary.

Lesson Two
We typically take turns as parents to go out for the door-to-door aspect of the night. This year, it was my turn to, and in fact i love it more than giving out candies (as a side note, we give out these amazing local cookies and i just love them). Our street is a small side street that most people forget about. But we know our neighbours and our children are loved by them. The lesson here is to follow the kid’s lead wit where they want to go – follow their map. I realized there was a reason behind the madness of zig-zagging around the street. My kids want to visit all the neighbours they know first. Sweet gesture, and the reason escapes me. I tried to reason that we can just go up one side of the street and down the other. But at one point i had to remind myself that this night, and the tradition of Trick or Treating is about and for children, not this party pooper mom.

Lesson Three
Speaking of party poopers, we decided to treat (pun intended) the kids to a walk to a much busier and more fun street. So, we put our cookies in a bowl and all 4 of us went. It was already pushing close to bedtime for our youngest. So my partner started to remind them after every house that we had to go quickly and get back home. How do you rush a kid who is getting free candy, and walking on a street after dark? You don’t. My partner and i quickly bickered debated on the street that we had to remember that this one night is about the children. And yes bedtime would be messy, and probably the next day. But it is a wonderful reminder that staying in the present and witnessing the kids’ joy and excitement (over candy, being out after dark, costumes, being with neighbours) is a great lesson.

Bonus Lesson
And yes, we did pay for it the next day – a Halloween Hangover was surely felt at our place. How about yours? Even the Good Witch couldn’t help the kid’s sluggishness. I take that back, my son was happy as a clam to get a much hoped for book and Harry Potter Lego figures – he just took forever to get ready. My daughter (the younger of the two) was a beast. Was it worth it, yes oh yes it was. Case in point – here she is later that day with her new unicorn stuff the Good Witch got her. The lesson here is to notice your sleeping babe, enjoy the silence and beauty in the cuddles. And know that you played a role in that.

(the sunflower pumpkin at the top of this post is from my friend’s porch – i love everything to do with sunflowers as the represent resiliency, strength and beauty)

Self-Care Rituals

As World Mental Health Day (October 10) is today, and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day (October 15) is approaching later this week, i wanted to share with you a tool that can help you take intentional steps in take care of your emotional well-being.

I know that there is a lot of talk about self-care and it seems to be a trendy word. But being able to take time out for ourselves, to rest and recharge is so important to building post-traumatic resiliency as well as helping us put our needs down as a priority.

There are other similar tools that help us find a moment to do something for ourselves each day. I think that it helps to be able to find or steal a few moments for ourselves every day. Especially when we are busy with other things and are starting to feel overwhelmed.

I call this tool the Weekly Self-Care Routine. I put it together i noticed it is something i do in my own life and it helps me. It is a part of my Wellness Toolkit. Some activities can take a mere few minutes, and others are more indulgent. I put together this weekly routine as each day touches on key areas that can help boost our mood as well as distract us from what was causing us stress or anxiety. For instance, a few activities encourage you to connect with someone you love and trust (i.e. Motivate Me Monday). Having connection and belonging have been shown to help with our mental health – just ask Brene Brown and her great new book Braving the Wilderness.

Another activity i touch on is using the body to move and get feelings out (Tuesday Jam Session). Movement exercises like yoga and dance have been proven to help boost our moods. The brain geek in me is always telling people about how amazing and powerful the mind/body connection is.

As someone who uses expressive arts tools in my life, i also wanted to incorporate some here – the dance exercise above for example, as well as Woman in the Mirror Wednesday (who doesn’t *love* a good role play?!) and Thoughtful Thursday journal exercises. You can also do a fun art activity alone or with your family on Friday Family Fun Day or a class for yourself on Saturday Self-Care Day.

Feel free to download this worksheet as a starting point for yourself: you can tweak it to suit your needs and routine. Each week, i will share some suggestions on my Facebook page to help if you get stuck as well.

It may feel strange at first to do some of these exercises, and hard to convince ourselves to take this time out. But feel free to include family members in some of these activities, or do it when you have a moment alone after everyone is asleep. Remember, we can’t give from an empty cup so if we don’t take care of ourselves, who will?

Expectation vs Reality: The Anniversary Edition

This weekend was a special anniversary for me. I’ve been with my partner for 17 years. Call me sentimental but i like to honour that. So, when our favourite summer music festival changed the dates on us, we (naively?) thought we could still all go and enjoy ourselves.

Typically, my partner and i go to the Hillside by ourselves for most of the weekend, and bring the kidlets on Sunday. It’s a win-win: we spend the day outdoors listening to music we love, and the kids stay at a pool with their cousins for the day. This year, as the festival dates fell right on our special day, we tried to have the best of both worlds – take the kids to the festival AND be all romantic like.

It almost worked.

We decided to take the kids camping at a nearby conservation park. One that was part of the early days of my dating life with my partner. We are by no means camping experts, but we go each year. This year, we jumped on a recent sale and bought a 6-person tent. One that my partner (all 6 feet of them) could stand in. We also treated ourselves to those fold-up chairs. So fancy. What we didn’t plan was the tantrum both kids threw when we told them there were no more caves to walk to and discover. That the first night away from home is always a shit show. That the Elora Quarry was too full at 2:00 to allow us to go swimming. That they couldn’t finish that world’s biggest lollipop on an empty stomach. All this was on the Saturday, which was my special day. MINE.

In the midst of all this, my son lost his newly bought souvenir. He’s been wanting ‘real gold’ for a while: why, i have no idea but it’s a thing. And so when we found this dig-your-own gold nugget toy, we treated him to one. In the span of an hour, he forgot where he left it. We were already back at the camp site when he wanted to dig for his gold. Our tensions were already high from the shit show i mentioned above. A part of me really just wanted him to Learn His Lesson for losing yet another belonging. But another part of me wanted to just turn the day around. I went with that decision. He and i ended up having a lovely scavenger hunt for it in town (kind of like pirates we are!) and no we didn’t find it. So what did this great and understanding parent do? I bought him a new one. Yes i did. We told the store clerk what happened and she said ‘you’re the world’s best mom.’ No, i’m not but i did tell her i did it for me too – it would make MY day better too: and he did learn a lesson – we agreed he was going to pay me back

Call me selfish i guess. I did get the best hug ever after from lil c, and he made sure that all his body was hugging mine. And, did he found gold? No. He lucked with a plain ole rock. Has he left it in his pocket and forgotten about it? Yes he has.

Ahoy matey!

But, we all had a good night’s sleep in this massive tent, with our cozy sleeping bags. And we went to Hillside recharged and refreshed. We selvedged the weekend and had a glorious time at our annual summer music festival.

One thing that i will especially treasure if my older kid (lil c) has recently discovered his own style of music. He appreciates music and performance and jumped right in there appreciating it all: This is what i hope to give him with our annual ritual of going here. My youngest (Miss M) was happy just to go around and around (and around) on the homemade Merry Go Round.

While it wasn’t exactly what i wanted, i did get to enjoy a favourite musician, eat great food, and see the night sky. I got to cuddle with my sweetie and remember why we are still going strong 17 years later. That counts for something and i’m so glad we honoured our tradition. I love this chocolate – the names were as much action as i got this weekend. But the chocolate was amazing.

We Marched

IMG_3620
This Saturday, we joined the masses in the Women’s March. I definitely didn’t want to miss it and my daughter was happy to attend as she has learned already (at 4) that ‘Trump doesn’t like girls, and we’re girls mama!’ She made a sign, i knit pussyhats, and packed snacks.

More importantly, we had a good conversation with her and her older brother about what it means to be a feminist, an ally, what privilege means, and how to make our voice heard. My son joined us for the march too, as we have been talking about how language is powerful and about consent. As a white woman, who is currently able-bodied and partnered with a man, i know i have a lot of privilege. I work on being an ally and to unlearn the mis-truths i’ve been taught. I know it’s also my place to teach this to my children. We don’t know yet who they will love, but we do know that they need to learn more about being an ally and about consent.

Both my children know about consent and the correct words for their bodies. My daughter in fact used her knowledge of consent recently when she wanted to cut her long hair into a bob. I was suggesting just a trim, but she wanted more – ‘my body my choice mama’ is what i got. Of course i couldn’t challenge that. My daughter is also a hugger and a really good one at that. We are working on reminding her too about needing consent from others. It’s a continuous conversation surely.
IMG_3621
My daughter decided against carrying a poster so she wore our Vagina Activist pin proudly. We have discussions about gender fluidity often. Miss M has a good understanding of this, so she wore the pin in reference to her own vagina and her rights. I appreciate that. We’ve been talking a lot about gender and labels, and my son is quick to remind us that he has pushed boundaries with his clothes in the past. In the context of my work, my kids know too that not all women are mothers, and not all parents who birth babies or chestfeed are mothers. This will be an on-going conversation too as they get older and unpack things more.

It was a peaceful march, a walk really. My son called it a ‘standstill’ at one point for all the standing we did too. They learned some powerful songs and chants, and read some great posters. My daughter took notice of all the other Pussyhats that looked like ours. For these reasons, i believe whole-heartedly that there is a place for children at marches. It teaches this new generation that change is possible, and that we can be at the centre of making change.

The people united will never be defeated.

Expectations Versus Reality: The Sugar Plum Fairy Didn’t Make the Cut

img_3201
The month of December is a whirlwind of busy-ness – holiday parties, things to make, presents to buy, school concerts, and more. It also marks my birthday on top of everything else. This year i thought it would be great to introduce my kids to The Nutcracker ballet.

I was wrong.

Now, to give me some credit, my kids already know the story. We read the book numerous times over the year, and that much more in December. We also have seen the New York City Ballet movie production of it, complete with a young McCauley Caulkin. We have even acted out the play at home, where i got to wear my old ballet shoes and wedding dress. Yes my wedding dress! And we listen to the sweet audio story by Sparkle Stories where the big brother Martin (age 7) gets to go to see the ballet with his mom. As my kids are similar ages to this story, i was sure that they could sit through a dance school’s production of it.

Oh, and i need to mention that my kids also attend dance classes themselves and have been in dance recitals. So, let’s just say i did my research and thought they were ready to share something that i love and was so eager to invite them into.

If i may back up a bit, i also had a birthday party out on the town the night before, which means my kids stayed up late too with their babysitter. My son (i’m sure) did not get enough sleep. So, in his excitement and with lack of proper sleep, he is not the most cooperative of folks. Who is, right?

At intermission i should have taken their behaviour as a clue to leave – they were irritable, loud, whiny and agitated. But i truly just wanted to sit through the second half and bear witness to the lovely Sugar Plum Fairy and company, and to see my kids excitement of it all.

Needless to say, i was that mom who had to shush her kids loudly many times, and to tell them to get their feet off the chair in front of them, and to sit still and be quiet, and to cuddle/hold them down from leaving their seat. It was rough but i also refused to leave.

It was a lovely show and i’m so glad that we chose a small dance school’s production as their initiation to the ballet, and not the professional dance company. I’m also glad we were in the cheap seats surrounded by other young families.

As we walked out of the theatre, my son declared ‘i never want to do THAT again.’ After my heart fell a few inches, i agreed with him that this was a bad day to choose to go. Who knew but hindsight. And then my sweet boy backtracked and said ‘well, let’s not do that after i stay up late and have a bad sleep.’

I couldn’t agree more.

Next year we may not go to see the ballet in person but i’m sure to be more mindful both of their need for sleep as well as my need to have the birthday i’d like. That may mean doing things a bit different as the mom to young kids, and that may mean i get to celebrate my birthday on another day and over the course of a few days. And not all if it with my kids in tow. That’s ok too.

How to Bring Joy

We’re in the midst of the holiday season right now. Our home is decorated, we’ve already watched seasonal movie classics, our holiday records are on the ready, and we have been excited about our Advent Calendar each day. It’s hard to not be excited about the holidays, when you have small children it’s almost a contagious feeling.

img_1945
But, there are times when it’s just so.much.work to be happy and on top of things. We did two holiday fairs yesterday alone. We had to see Santa and we had to see the Good Witch too. So that means TWO full fairs that are normally not on the same day, nor should they be.

So, as someone who tries to live with an intentional word for each day, i made a point to bring JOY into my day yesterday. And you know what, it worked! I had a blast – i was in there when it came to strolling in the school halls of standing room only busy-ness. I caught myself smiling while watching my happy kids talk to Santa. And i loved how earnest they were in their wishes this year – my son wants a Star Wars Lego toy more than anything, but when Santa also offered Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, my son thought it was best to wait for that request until next year. Thank goodness – little does he know i’m making him just a regular Hogwart’s cloak. My daughter – well she asked for a ride on a unicorn as her special gift from the heart. Of course she did.

I know it can be so hard to get into the holiday spirit and this time of year can be especially triggering for some of you. It’s also hard to spend extended time with family, and their unwelcome and unkind comments. While we can’t control other people’s comments, nor can we wave a magic wand a la Harry Potter, i do think it’s a good practice to reclaim the holiday spirit and work at staying positive. I love the workbook Mind Over Mood, and i also love the mindfulness practice of the holidays – the scents, sounds, visuals, tastes, and the cozy textures are a great way to absorb Joy for instance. Even when i can’t escape the hecticness, the work, or the stress, i know i can come home and put my cozy red slippers on and drink a hot cocoa – complete with Elizabeth Mitchell Christmas album.

I guess i’m a kid at heart – it doesn’t have to be hard to be this month!

Music for My Heart

13745074_496053727272606_1869979870_n
Music is definitely a support to me. From my teen years, to low times in university, and now as a mom to young kids, music gets me through the witching hour and times when i just need to scream.

This summer, at our annual trip to Hillside Music Festival on Guelph Lake, i discovered Old Man Luedecke. Particularly this song: The Early Days. It’s a perfect anthem to my life right now. Yesterday, after the kids tore away from the breakfast table and we yet again had to remind ourselves that they are grateful to us, this song came on our Spotify mix. Perfect timing – because it wasn’t deliberate it really made me stop and listen and be mindful how i was feeling. I love that my kids have an appreciation of music too, and can really hear the words and recognize the melody. Dance hour is a special and purposeful time for us at our home – it gets the sillys out and also helps us re-focus our energy into a more positive direction.

Here are the lyrics – it really speaks to me and i suspect it will for you as well.

The Early DaysOld Man Luedecke

I was standin’ out at Stanfield, had to go away
Saw a brand new baby and the mother’s face
I knew that it was over, all those early days
Our babies are not babies, we’ll never be the same

Shopping cart full of toddlers at the Superstore
They were eatin’ Goldfish, askin’ for more
An old man lined up behind us, and he shook his head
The kids were strangely quiet
I heard him when he said

You’ve got to hold on, it goes so fast (Chorus)
These early days, well, they don’t last
Got to enjoy them, they go so fast
The baby days, well, they don’t last

Look forward to the evenin’ when the monkeys go to bed
Then we talk all night about ’em, we feel half dead
We used to be too tired to eat in but it’s a total crap shoot to eat out

(Chorus)

Oh you’re gettin’ rid of diapers that you washed every night
And we’re saving up for date night so we can have our fight
If its quiet for a moment, oh you better run upstairs!
‘Cause the toothpaste in the bathroom is redefining everywhere

(Chorus)

Oh, I like the way you talk now, you talk like me
All the funny things you’re saying, you’re real good company
Oh, the odds are strong and crazy, and our love profound
you make our messy house feel like holy ground

Pretty awesome right? It puts things in perspective when my 4 year old is being especially challenging. What are some songs you gravitate to? Does music carry the same tune for you heart?

A Simple Summer

m caterpillar

Today starts the summer break for school age children and their parents. It carries with it a lot of excitement, expectation, and ideas.

I can remember some key summer days with my sister and our friends. What I remember is playing in the various backyards, school playgrounds, and fields. I remember eating a lot of popsicles, freezies, and fruit. I remember shucking peas out of their shells, making tie-dyed tops, and making friendship bracelets. I remember playing with bugs, caterpillars, and frogs.

What I don’t remember is the work my mom had to put into it all but I’m sure she did. I do know I loved summer more than any other time. Maybe because it was fun, maybe because I was with my bestest friends, and maybe because there was no pressure of school. But I do think ultimately it was because it was simple, sweet, and unhurried.

In this day of gadgets, play dates, summer camps, and full agendas, lets also remember that its ok to not do anything at all some of the time – to just unwind and put your collective feet up. The kids won’t mind. Really they won’t. They too will relish the time to do nothing and (egads) be a bit bored. It won’t last long, really.

Give yourself a break too – your children will love summer anyway and we too deserve to put our feet up with a cold class of lemonade. They remember the fun days of summer and we need to as well. So put down your agenda and to-do list and help yourself to your (third) popsicle today.

Here is a link to a lovely site that honours a Simpler Summer: Simplicity Community And for more good reading about summer, check out this article. Oh and ETA a similar article by Hands Free Mama writer that was written later in the day that i originally posted this – i couldn’t pass this up!