Acts of Self-Love

It’s February already. The month of L O V E. I like to call it the month of self-love, so I appreciate the movement that is going around to acknowledge this. Here in Canada, February is a cold and dreary month. As today is February 2 (aka Groundhog Day, Candlemas, Imbolc), I like to set the intention to do some gentle and relaxing things for myself this month. It’s a good month to experiment with things that give you love and also times of rest and comfort.

I recently discovered a great site, and the writer has put together a pledge to do daily acts of self-love and blissful activities. Since that is in tune with my own intention, I’m following her plan. Here is a link to it so you can read more.
flowers at work
For instance, yesterday we were to find something beautiful and keep it within eyesight or our reach. That way, we can see and notice it more readily. For me, I was wearing my new favourite pink top and fun necklace. I was constantly looking down at this pop of fun colour, and it was such a nice treat for me. Like secret pick-me-ups. The photo above is a capture of the plant i have at my office. I just noticed today it has sweet pink buds forming. Of course, i moved the plant over to my desk to keep it closeby.

Today, she encouraged us to think of a teany tiny habit that makes me feel happier. For me, it’s making my bed. I love being able to dress and walk around my room with my bed all made up and inviting. It takes no time and I look forward to being enveloped by it later tonight. I can picture my bed throughout the day, and can’t wait to be there.

I don’t force my kids to make their beds, but they see my ritual in doing so each day. And so, when my son makes his own bed without prompting, my heart is full and I’m overjoyed that he made the step to do that for himself.

We are also doing this lovely activity as a family. Each night (or close enough to this, who am i kidding), I’m asking my family to share 1 thing they love about each of us. We had a fun time doing it last night. My daughter wanted a heart for herself – as she reminded us that it is important to love ourselves too. I couldn’t have said it better. I am keeping them answers on a sheet of paper and we have it on the ready, to read anytime.

What are some things you can do as acts of self-love? Simple, gentle, inexpensive prompts that remind you that are loved and important: you deserve moments of bliss and beauty. In this ugly time in our world, it’s a quiet act of rebellion to be a self-love warrior.

Dates to Remember

Timing means a lot to me. I know not everything happens for a reason, but i can appreciate when some things happen just when i’m ready to open more. Strange how that happens. I’m also good with remembering dates. I still remember my first boyfriends’ birthdays, you know the boys i dated in high school. And i’m in my 40s now…I also remember other more pressing dates and like to honour special dates throughout the year.

In reflecting back about my own loss, something i have learned about myself and the women i support is that we need to be intentional with how we take care of ourselves on dates that are hard – whether it is an anniversary of a loved one’s death, a larger community loss like December 6/Montreal Massacre, or Remembrance Day. We can feel the date slowly start to creep into our consciousness so it’s helpful to prepare for it mentally.

heart-rocks

Someone recently shared a very powerful and heartfelt article about her miscarriage loss. It came into my feed on social media and i couldn’t believe the timing: just 2 days prior to the anniversary of what would have been my first baby’s expected due date.

So, when i noticed that November 19 was fast approaching, i started to prepare for it and take care of myself. This is not an easy task as a working mom of two energetic kids. And my kids don’t know that they could have had an older sibling, or that 9 years ago i would have had another first child.

I thought i was being more mindful and attuned to my feelings, but life still gets in the way. Friday was a PA day and the weather was glorious outside. Maybe because it was so lovely out, maybe because the kids felt my energy, maybe because i was just too introspective, but wow was it ever hard to be a parent that day. I take that back – it wasn’t hard to BE a parent, but rather have the presence and patience to parent my children when i was not feeling my best.

A good learning moment for sure. Luckily, after a stressful morning, we had a lovely play date (for all of us!) all afternoon at our local favourite park. I also scheduled in a luxurious facial for myself on The Day and told my partner i needed to take some time to myself. This helped – i didn’t want to assume he remembered the date or that he knew what i wanted. Telling him directly is something i’ve learned is the only way for me to get what i want and need.

For me, i have moved on with my life and don’t need a whole day of self-reflection, but i do need some time to honour my miscarriage and to take a moment to slow down and breathe out.

This made my day so much better and helped with my healing.

Music for My Heart

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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?

Everything is Better Outside

fire
We went camping recently with our little ones. We like to do it once annually and haven’t yet gone this summer. I’m a fan of camping and being outdoors, but I’m not a very experienced camper. I am amazed by friends who can go camping for a week – I’m more of a two-night camper. And there has to be a large lake nearby to seal the deal.

On the morning of our planned trip, my daughter was having an especially strong bout of strong will and disagreement. She started Junior Kindergarten this month, and Saturdays have been especially tiresome as she is adjusting to this new routine. And, I think her quota for being nice nice to everyone and cooperative was done.

So, she argued with her big brother, she argued with me, she argued with her dad. If she could have, I think she would have argued with our turtle and cat. That said, the empathic and wise side of me knew that it’s about her feeling tired, excited and full – but in the moment, all I want to do is get the car packed asap, eat breakfast, and get her dressed. In any order.

My partner looked at me after yet another difficult moment and declared, ‘that’s it, we’re not going camping’ and I promptly stated ‘oh yeah we are, we can’t stay here all day like THIS. Remember our mantra: Everything is better outside.’

Let me explain: a few years ago, after a hard few months being indoors with the winter blahs, I was looking for support from a friend. I was sharing our feeling of cabin fever and she, a wise friend, told me that ‘everything is better outside.’ She shared that it’s almost instant, the change our body and mind feels after getting outdoors – be it your backyard, porch, sidewalk, a park.

Being the therapist that I am, I looked up more info about this theory. And sure enough, studies show that being outdoors improves mental health and well-being, fights off feelings of depression, and it also helps heal physical health issues like colds and more. Win-win, right? Here’s a good article that explains this more.

And now, I can confirm that this theory is true. On days that the kids are at each other, or are bored, or I’m feeling low or drained, I suggest going to our neighbourhood park (or even our backyard if I’m too unmotivated). My kids usually are quick to get ready and burst out the door – and if they aren’t, we pack toys and the best. snacks. ever and go.

This past weekend was the icing on the cake to prove this theory to be true. We were camping for just over 24 hours, and in that time, there was not 1 fight, we all were jovial and excited, the kids slept well and through the night, we swam our last swim of the season in a lake, and I remained calm. We all relished the outdoors and were even content with the flies and fire smoke.

So the next time you have a day that is just too much to bear, take it outside. You don’t have to do it with the kids even. Why not go outside to read a book (or who’s kidding, your social media news), enjoy a tea? You will also see that everything is better outside.

Vacations

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As today begins a new school year, summer break is officially over. This is a time for a big shift in routine, rhythm, and real life. While most of us as adults don’t have a break from ‘real life’ like our children do, summer still brings a slowness to life and a happier approach to daily living.

I like to think of September as an opportunity for change and renewal. It seems like a more realistic opportunity to make space for New Year’s resolutions and the pledges we make for change. Maybe I’m just being optimistic though: I like to think September as the new January.

One pledge i am working on is to hold on to the summer slowness as long as possible. Here’s why:

I was listening to a story on the news last week that shared new research about the vacations we take. It really sat with me. As I was able to go on a vacation with the family this summer, I truly relished the gift of being away from home and everyday life. It was a wonderful trip, though it came with stressors of heat waves, stitches (we’re all okay now), sibling arguments and spending over budget. What this new research shows is that it takes just about a week (or two if we are lucky) to get back to this so-called real life after we go away, or at least take a break from it. It also shows that it’s best to spread out our vacation time over the course of the year, so that we don’t use up all those great relaxed and happy feelings that come being on a break. The article further shares that people who do (and can and are privileged to) take vacation, are healthier both physically and mentally.

Of course, as a mama to 2 young children, my vacation time is not truly a break for me but rather a trip to a new place where i still have to cook, clean, pick up, tidy, and coordinate my kids daily lives. Sometimes a trip is actually more work than being at home as we don’t have the luxuries of our usual appliances, etc. So, it’s important to be mindful and intentional with what you need too. Maybe we can’t take a trip without our children – or you don’t want to – but in that time away, make a point to take time for yourself. Be it a long shower, reading in bed after the kids go to bed, morning walks, a quick get away in the canoe, and even turning the work of cooking in a leisury act.

It also helps to do things to savor the good memories from you summer vacation. This helps us reflect and stay mindful of the moments we hold dear. In our family, we keep a weekly Highlight Jar where we share things that happened in the week that made us happy. We do this each Sunday at dinner. We also make a communal art work that depicts something we cherish. This year, we are making a painting together where each of us share 1 thing from our trip that we loved. Other families I know make photo books just as summer is ending so that they can look at the books in the Fall and Winter, in order to stay connected to the good times of summer. And look at this sweet crafty idea, a new message in a bottle of sorts!

What will you do to help you stay mindful to the things you loved about this summer?

Nurturing You

rest and self care
I was having a conversation with a colleague recently about the term ‘self-care.’ We both noticed that it is used quite often and in abandon, but maybe some of us still struggle with how to incorporate it into our lives. And then she told me that we in fact need to look at things that nurture us – Nurture.

I held onto that word for a bit and it really resonates with me. To do something nurturing is to feed my body and mind in a way that is both cleansing and invigorating. And more importantly, something that is nurturing also lasts for a while – be it a day, part of a day, or days and days.

Like for example, something I find nurturing is being close to water. Playing on the beach with my kids, floating in the water, feeling the warm sun on me – that nurturing moment last for at least 2 days for me. Self-care acts don’t typically last as long. Something I do for self-care is watch a funny TV show, eat some dark chocolate after a stressful day, or knit with music playing in the background.

Do you see the difference?

We definitely need self-care, but I think we need to increase ways we nurture ourselves too. We are taught that we need to be nurturing to our children – to cuddle them, hug and kiss them, to provide food and shelter, to help them fall asleep, to nurse their boo boos, you get the picture. But who reminds you to do that same for yourself as a mama?

So, what can you do to increase both your self-care acts as well as your nurturing moments? What can you commit to doing each day so that you are nurturing yourself as well? There are some simple daily rituals that can be so meaningful and life-affirming. Like, a morning shower that cleanses away the yesterdays, a quiet moment drinking a cup of tea before others are awake in your home, time outdoors admiring yours (or others) gardens.

It can also be the monthly date you have with your girlfriends, or the long bike ride you haven’t had the chance to go on in months. In our world of needing to accomplish, stay busy, and multi-task, sometimes the best thing for us is to just sit with a good book or a fun magazine AND a box of chocolates. Put your un-pedicured feet up and savour the quiet. That is a nurturing moment that reaches you deep inside and sustains us.

I read about something called the “Beauty Vitamin” and it captures how I feel about self-care so well: “Start with doing something creative you know you love. Do that. Keep doing it. Follow the beauty in your life and ingest it daily, like vitamins” (source: Creative Light Studio )

Think about consciously celebrating the small thrills. It can be the way fresh strawberries taste, seeing a child play outside, or listening to birds sing outside your window. These little moments are so easy to skip by. And yet, it can be so healing when being present with the beauty around us. Think of these moments as ‘beauty vitamins.’ In the journey of self-care, acknowledging beauty both inside and out is essential. Collecting small moments like this trains your mind to find it everywhere and it then becomes something you can draw from when skies are greyer and you need a boost.

So, take a moment today to think about what your daily rituals of self-care and nurturance can be. Write the list out and keep it handy like a grocery list. Refer to it, practice it. Brainstorm things you love to do, things you used to do, and see how you can get them back in you life, one way or another.

You deserve it.

With a Cup of Tea in Hand

Welcome to the BLOG!

tea

Have you heard of the Forth Trimester? Its the idea that women still are adjusting and growing their babies in the first 3 months after the baby is born. This can be such a challenging time – exhausting, emotional, trying. We are feeling mixed feelings of joy, loss, excitement, pain, and it can be quite taxing. The Forth Trimester works on the premise that babies today are being born too early but our bodies are not made to give birth to babies any larger.

So, we need to remind ourselves and each other that it is okay and even imperative to S L O W down after giving birth. Asking for help may be a challenge of its own, but remember that your only job as a new parent is to be present and nurturing your little one. That means to stay in bed, be skin-to-skin, rest and take care of both your needs.

Herbal teas provide a great source of wellness for you. This tea will give you some added energy to give you a boost in your day, will help cope with those low feelings that come up, and support you as you heal and recover after giving birth. Here is a great recipe that you can make ahead of time, to be ready for when your baby comes. You can find this dried herbs in most health food stores.

Mama Moon Tea

In equal parts;
– red raspberry leaf
– alfalfa
– stinging nettle
– oatstraw
– red clover
– lavendar buds
– calendula flowers

Combine in a large jar and add 1 tsp to cup of hot water. Steep for about 10 minutes. For the first 7-14 days postpartum, drink it daily, twice a day.

For more ideas about the Forth Trimester, click here to read other wonderful ideas.