Friday, 16 December 2016

Perfectionism - A Love-Hate Relationship

Perfection. It's been a love-hate relationship. One one hand, it brings achievements, hard work, drive & success. On the other hand, it can inhibit those very things.

In my younger years, I used to think settling for nothing less of perfection was the right way to be. And as a child/teenager it probably served me in ways that it would not in my life now. I valued myself on my achievements & was recognized for it. And with the combinations of an extensive range of natural ability and this strong drive to be my best,  I was able to excel at most things I took on - academics, sport, leadership, art, social relationships. I focused on those areas in which I shone & created my own sweet comfort zone in which I received the recognition (from my self & from others) that fed me.

At times, however this would create a frustration that I could not control (or perhaps chose not to because I thought that it served me). my attitude would create friction with my teammates & detriment to my confidence. Because of my definition of self-value, I would come up short of these standards I had set, taking a huge hit to my confidence. When it came to achieving at higher levels, this led to inconsistencies & became a big frustration not knowing why I was unable to maintain that status quo.

Upon entering university, life started to throw me a lot more junk & so many more variables come into play.  Self-expectations expanded with these variable & I found this transition to be one of the mentally toughest times of my life. I held onto those achievements of my past & labels that defined me, but could not hold onto the standard that I held myself up to. I went from being a hometown all star to struggling to make the bench on the varsity hockey team. My grade average fell 30% & I failed my first two post-secondary tests, the first time I had ever failed anything. For the first time ever, I  lost my direction in life, & all the possibilities overwhelmed me. I no longer knew how to define myself, other than my failures & fell into a pretty big depression. I felt a disconnect from most people in my circle & was unable to ask for help, because I had always been able to keep my shit together, and then some.

I don't think this experience, however, was for nothing. In fact I think we all need to go through something similar to foster personal growth.  The short-sightedness of my attitude toward perfectionism became apparent. I started to realize the limits of basing my self-value on my outer achievements & how unstable that can be. Relationships with loved ones became so much more significant in my sense of being. My actions & intentions played a much bigger role in the core of who I am. Happiness, self-fulfillment moved up on my radar & my goals shifted. I felt a bigger purpose was at hand & I had an obligation to fill it (talk about raising the stakes).

It has been an ongoing struggle to manage my expectations but as I get older I begin to understand it more & more & how it plays into the bigger picture. I recognize the importance of balancing a perfectionist mentality in achieving success - the potential of striving to perfection, but the limits of it as well. Setting expectations to an unachievable level inhibits performance, preventing me from reaching goals. Yet setting them too high can lead to disappointment & fear of failure. On the other hand, giving up on your standard (too low) can be really unproductive & unfulfilling.

For myself the challenges I face involve letting go of those expectations when it doesn't really matter. Living up to a high standard for things my heart truly desires, those things that contribute to the person I want to be, to my personal goals, & to my relationships. But (here's where it can get tricky) recognizing expectations that are too high & how they are inhibiting my motivation, getting in my way. Overcoming that fear of failure. Allowing myself to fail. Picking & choosing to focus on the things that matter most. Letting go of the all-or-nothing attitude & acceptation that moderation is perfectly fine (or at least OK) at times, and even required in order to fulfill other expectations.

I find this doesn't only play into effect on myself but also the people in my life. I see in myself the high standards to which I hold for my children. I do think that for my kids, setting the bar high is not a bad thing, it teaches discipline & can help them to excel. But, as with myself, there is a fine line between teaching them to push themselves toward their goals & setting them up for disappointment, the challenge is to find that line & draw it. With experience & intuition I do feel most of the time I am able to recognize when I have lifted the bar to high & when to let it go. Realizing to let go when it really doesn't matter that much always keeping the bigger picture in mind.

Recognizing this in my relationship with my spouse has been a bit more of a challenge, but at the same time brought huge perspective shift. Although I think I knew it on a subliminal level, it only recently occurred to me the impossible expectations to which I have held my husband as well & how it had been frustrating me for years. Bringing this awareness to the surface (complimentary to various other self-revelations brought to surface in the last couple weeks) I began to understand how it fit in with the puzzle of who I am, my needs & was able to let go of that ideal that I had create & which no one person could possibly fulfill. This realization was, in a way, very freeing & I was finally able to let go of this unrealistic ideal I had manifested. I found focus on the many things that I appreciate about him, about our relationship & the areas in which it serves me in my search toward self-fullfilment. It has allowed me to accept his gestures of affection for what they are and not what they aren't. To focus on our areas of compatibility in a clear light. To be more present. And to really appreciate what we are without the frustrations of what we are not.

Although I don't think this ever becomes black and white, but recognizing the potential & the limits of a certain approach or attitude, such as perfectionism, also the importance of balance between these two facets allows us to move forward in self-improvement, in our relationships & in our goals in life. I know for me it has.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Jess, Unfolded

My fascination with psychology started at a young age. I remember observing my surroundings & realizing that I seemed to see the world differently that how my peers did. Understanding my differences & the reasons for them consumed me often. So it was only suiting that I fell into a psychology major in my years pursuing my arts degree. One of my profs administered the Myer's Briggs Personality Type test, which dates back to the 1920's & is still used widespread to this day. My results were a bit revolutionary in understanding myself. I was fascinated by how accurate it was and how simply something so complicated could be boxed into a category. Of course, life isn't that simple & who we are is also influenced by our environment, experiences, & personal goals, but at the same time it is fascinating (and a little creepy) how accurate, even to this day, my personality type description  fits my profile.

It's been years since I took that test & haven't paid much attention to it until just recently, during some soul searching. Encountering emotions with a new intensity sent me seeking a better understanding of where this is coming from, why I feel what I feel & what I can do with it. The latter is a bit of a mystery, but reading my profile shed a lot of light on my habits of coping with life, the source of my feelings, my needs, & how I interact with people around me.

So let me tell you about myself. I am an INFP, aka the mediator, as described on the following  website:

"INFP personalities are true idealists, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events, searching for ways to make things better. While they may be perceived as calm, reserved, or even shy, INFPs have an inner flame and passion that can truly shine. Comprising just 4% of the population, the risk of feeling misunderstood is unfortunately high for the INFP personality type – but when they find like-minded people to spend their time with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration." 

After reading this there was no doubt in my mind the test was accurate. This couldn't be more true for me, especially that last part. Reading on just reaffirmed this assurance, but also validated who I am & allowed me to be more accepting to myself unconditionally. (apparently INFPs are known to be hard on themselves). My fascination is further explained by the fact that understanding themselves and their place in the world is important to INFPs.

Without going into too much detail (as I am sure you aren't as fascinated by my personality type as I am) there were a few key things that really resonated with me & helped me to understand some of the odd challenges I face. For example, I have a phone phobia. It seems ridiculous & my husband laughs about it, but speaking on the phone makes me extremely uncomfortable so I will do what I can to avoid having to make a phone call. This has been amplified since having kids. I have always been aware of this odd anxiety, & found it even stranger that it didn't get easier with experience. To my surprise the personality type explanation on the said website explains where this anxiety comes from

"INFPs prefer to conduct in person, for that personal touch, or in writing, where they can compose and perfect their statements. People with the INFP personality type avoid using phones if they can, having the worst of both worlds, being both detached and uncomposed." 

Who knew?!

Understanding my personality allows me to understand better how I fit into my world. These insights have been helpful in understanding my relationships - my marriage, my friendships, the people I am drawn to & those rare deep personal connections.  It has reaffirmed my creative spirit, outlets for self-expression & it has shed clarity on the challenges I face. My desire to know myself better, fascination with the psyche, idealistic views, constant soul searching clarified. Also, it has given me permission (and reminds me) to accept others for their differences, & to realize that our unique traits are not downfalls but what makes we as humans function together.

What type are you? Are there any other INFPs out there? I encourage you to try out the simplified  online test. You might learn something about yourself!

(Fun fact: my 2 closest friends are INFJs, the rarest of all personality types!)

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Letter to a Lost Friend

It's closing in on a whole year from the day you were taken from us. It has been a difficult year, one of the - if not the - most mentally challenging in my life. Not only has missing you brought me a lot of sadness, it has amplified my emotions & brought up grief for other lost relationships in my life. I never could have imagined the effect losing you so suddenly would have on my life & because of that I wish I would have made more of an effort to spend more time with you. It took not having the option to talk to you to really reflect on our relationship & what it meant to me. I made a promise to spread love & positivity, be a cheerleader for others, make more of an effort to stay in touch with the people most important to me & create more experiences & adventures with my family, just as you did every day. Shortly after the accident I had a vision of you walking toward me with your usual enthusiasm & a huge smile that showed you were genuinely really happy to see me. I want to have that effect on others.  But I can't help but feel like I have failed at this so far. It is like someone has dimmed the lights & it takes so much more energy to navigate my way around. I am tired. My emotions are heightened like senses trying to compensate for the inability to see clearly. My sad feels sadder, my love feels longing, & the occasional burst of gratitude feels more thankful. I feel deeper & am unsure of how to deal with these emotions. At the end of the day I find it very difficult to find the energy to fulfil these promises I made to myself, to you. But I know you would be very forgiving, because that's who you are. Your optimistic attitude would pick the positives out of each situation & assure me it will all work out in the end. I'm still looking for my way into the sun, so that I can forgive myself too. And  as I turn each corner it gets a little brighter & slightly easier to navigate my way out of this dark hallway. From you I find glimpses of optimism, of hope, I hold onto them, knowing that, in time, I will eventually find that better version of myself I promised to be.

Thursday, 10 November 2016


Jan 4. 2016 I received a message on Facebook from Chanda's brother asking me to call him. Strange, I thought. No, it can't be bad news. Maybe they are planning a surprise for her. But there was an alarm of urgency so I called him immediately. He asked if I was sitting down. I sat down. Not good news. Chanda & her entire family had been in a car accident the night before. Chanda & her husband Jordan didn't make it. Their kids, close in age with my two oldest, were taken to the hospital, Where Maguire passed away & Kamryn was on life support. They were just saying their goodbyes to her. Instant shock. Light headed. Denial of my ow. Feelings. All I could think was how hard this must be for her brother, to have to call all her friends & deliver this tragic news. And grateful f or including me so I didn't have to hear it from the media. I called my mom & choked out the mews. I think she was as shocked as I was.

It was a drunk driver that crashed into Chanda & Jordan. At first, I was angry. Angry at people for making the decision to drink & drive. But my anger subsided quickly. I wanted to spend my energy on the legacy of my friend & her family.

The next week passed by in slow motion. Sleep was non-existent, I just couldn't turn it off. At first I'm embarrassed to say I was in denial of the extent of my relationship with Chanda. We were so many people closer to her than me, we hardly talked, we weren't that close. I didn't deserve to feel sorry for myself, when there were so many people, namely their family, who have been hit so much harder by this tragedy. Save the grief for them.  But the truth was Chanda was one of my oldest, dearest friends - we grew up with a shared passion for hockey, spent every day together on & off the ice during university, she was the only friend I knew in Moose Jaw when we moved here & I had the honour of being a bridesmaid at her & Jordan's wedding. As our families grew, we saw less & less of one another, but she always made a point of checking in genuinely interested in my well being & always cheering me on no matter what was happening in my life. In retrospect it seems pretty silly to think that wasn't a valid enough reason to feel sad when I lost her, but perhaps this was my minds way of trying not to feel so much at once.

The accident created questions, life didn't seem as simple as it once was. I suddenly felt very vulnerable. The what ifs. How a split second would have changed their fate. How being in the wrong place at the wrong time changed everything. How is this fair? Why them? Chanda & Jordan made such a positive impact on the people around them. This world needs them. Their loved ones need them. My children became vulnerable too. How is it possible for the lives of children that young to end so suddenly? It could have been us.

During those first couple weeks I was consumed, obsessed with social media.  Jordan had a pretty high profile through his photography & his friends were bringing people together through Facebook. Looking for a place where my feelings, my sadness was validated, & that was it. It was a place of hope, sharing, support, understanding & I spent hours looking to fill the huge void I had in my heart. I connected with others who knew Chanda as well or better than me.  I was inspired by the amount of people that joined in celebrating this beautiful family & it helped to process infinite spiral of thoughts swirling in my head. Constantly reminded to not take life for granted.

The funeral was tough, but helped to lift a weight that bared my shoulders...a little bit of closure. Seeing our old hockey friends, most of who I have lost touch with, was a bit nostalgic. It gave me that feeling of belonging, & reminded me of how tight we once were. Another little reminder of cherishing my relationships & experiences.

It wasn't long before all the media & Facebook hype wore off & coping became a little harder, that support network was diffusing. I was no longer surrounded by the attention this tragedy had been getting & the world had started to move on, but I hadn't really. I still wanted to talk about it because what I felt was so strong. But people got weird when I would bring it up. I felt like it made them uncomfortable. They didn't understand (how could they?) I felt like it was old news, so I shared less & less. In fear of making others uncomfortable or bringing them down, I kept most of what I felt unsaid.

The trial consumed me as much as the initial days following the accident. I was hit unexpected by the need to follow & spent the entire day following. News stations were tweeting a play-by-play of victim impact statements & I couldn't stop reading them. I was given the opportunity to write one, but chose to pass it up...I imagined how hard it was for Chanda & Jordan's closest family & friends to talk about how this affected them.

I could never had predicted how much losing a friend would affect my life over the last year. And although with time it has gotten a little easier, there are still changes I notice that loom. First the anxiety. Something that hasn't really been an issue for me since my early 20s.waves of it creep up on me & it's mere presence concerns me. Sometime I can't even decipher its source or what I am anxious about, it's just that wound up feeling inside, making me feel all amped up. I start to focus on things that feed it. Other times I worry about things I normally wouldn't & it feels out of character. I worry more about my children, having flashes of terrible things happening to them. I drive with nervey caution & often have visions or thoughts of other cars crashing into me. One time I lost track of my baby for a minute & started to panick. I had thoughts of him choking unconscious on his bedroom floor. Thoughts of police at my door with bad new stuff about my husband while he was working the night shift. Things that never used to consume my thoughts so often. Bad news in the world hits me so much harder than it would normally, it seems like such a waste to worry about all these things beyond my control.

I've lost interest in things I used to really enjoy & lack the motivation to go do them. Working out (despite telling myself I would take better care of myself with respect to Chanda who always encouraged me to push myself to my best) has become difficult & like a chore. Even hockey, my best sport, isn't as appealing as it used to be. I have more health problems, food sensitivities, injuries than I have in years. On low days we don't leave the house, the thought of hauling everyone out is completely overwhelming.

I used to get a lot out of being around other people, going to gatherings, a break from home. It took a while to realize that I wasn't feeling any less stressed after a night out, sometimes it just caused more anxiety. Until this year, I've always felt a social responsibility to go out of my way to make sure the people around me are happy, but I stopped caring to do that, I just didn't have the energy. Giving to my children I see about all I can muster up these days taking a toll on my relationship with my husband, my very understanding husband.

I made a promise to myself & to Chanda, her family, that I would live life more fully, with more intention. To spread positivit as they had, to ask others about what's going on. I their lives like Chanda did always with me. To smile more. To make more of an effort to keep in touch with the important people in my life. To love more. To take my kids outside more, go on more family adventures, focus less on the material & emphasize experiences, like Chanda & Jordan. I had a vivid dream of Chanda with her big smile walking toward me as if she was genuinely really happy to see me. It made me feel like somebody important.  I want to make others feel that way too. At first I was so inspired to be this person, but with time it has become more difficult to get there. Guilt for not keeping to my promise sits in the pit of my stomach.

Not all bad has come from this, as much as it saddens me, sometimes it takes something drastic to make a real impact. For me, I am much more conscientious about the time I spend with my children. Rules of less time on our phones, & more face to face interactions. Taking time to talk to my kids about the important things in life. Teaching them to be true to themselves & do what is right. This has been my focus. Letting go of material possession with much more ease, in realization that they do not contribute to my happiness & at times bring more stress to my life. I've learned to let go of a certain level of perfection & to be kind to myself during my struggle. Lower expeciations & shift my focus to the most important aspects. Lessened value of material stuff, heightened value in experience & relationships. Taking care of my own needs, rather than putting others before mine when it becomes detrimental to my mental health. Touch base with the friends I don't hear from often & even be more open with the people in my life, expressing my gratitude for their presence in my life. This is a work in progress none-the-less, but something I have become better at it. I know this low won't last forever, & although I do think this loss will have changed my life from that moment, and although I have a ways to go, I do think it will make me a better person in the long run.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Feeling Deeply

Some days your emotion becomes too big to comprehend. You feel things that you don't know how to explain to another person. It comes in cycles. You have a strong understanding of why the heart is associated with love and with pain, because that is the area in where the deepest of emotion pits. Knots. Heaviness. Energy. Inspiration. Gratitude. All depending on the day.

The low days bring a dullness to your world, colours are a little less vibrant & your view narrows into tunnel like focus The thought of everyday tasks deplete your energy & there's a part of you that just wants to curl up underneath the covers & stay there until the dullness subsides. Your dedication to the people around you allow you to carry on, but not at your top performance, you know it. But it doesn't really matter. Gravity tugs at your heart. Sadness. Sometimes too sad to cry. Fatigue. Things you usually love to do lose your interest. It's hard to understand where this lull is coming from, let alone trying to explain it to someone who won't understand. You don't want to be a burden to your loved ones, & feel less than worthy of it anyway, so you keep it inside & carry on. 

Anxious thoughts, feelings, knots sometimes accompany. Tension rises & it frustrates you to not know where it comes from. Headaches. You make up scenarios of the 'what ifs,' they suck up your energy. These don't come on very often so the feelings are foreign to you when they do. They disrupt your motion, just in trying to figure them out. Worry. Thoughts of bad things happening to the people you love. 

Eventually the feelings fade & normalness comes back. Refocus. All the things you should be feeling, good & bad days, laughter & frustration, fear, motivation...every day motions. Balance. You work harder, play harder. Your feel like normal real person again, validated. You look forward to your days, & have a general appreciation for your life, your people. Aspirations reappear, motivation, goals. Proud for your accomplishments. Organization, picking up the pieces neglected & the feeling of wholeness comes back. Life is good.

Then a more vibrant energy encompasses your heart & you start feeling more energized. It comes in spurts, even within a day, but it's a feeling you cannot ignore, distracting. Creativity flows in, in waves. You become aware of the beauty of your surroundings, inhale. Overzealous feelings of gratitude. You want to share the love & gratitude you have for the people in your life, but a little afraid of how that might look, knowing that these feelings are so strong & will come & go. You feel an immense appreciation for the things you have in life, but new wants come on strong -- new experiences, stronger connections. Aspirations. Inspiration. Ideas & ideas flow in so quickly you cannot keep track, the possibilities are endless! Your heart opens & you allow it to feel fully. To feel the pain of others who ache, tears for past loves you have had to let go & wanting so badly to reconnect. You find it difficult to focus on mundane tasks of life, you want more to fill this yearning. You know this feeling will pass, so you hold fast while it lasts, experience it, not wanting to let it go.

You don't really know what this is or if it is anything at all, but you do know that not everyone feels these things to this extent. You can tell those that thrive on a much more simple level. There are days you wish you were more like them. But you know the highs wouldn't be there if it weren't for the lows. Creativity cannot be without lulls. You trust, however, that there are others out there that do feel this way, others who may understand what you feel. You don't talk much about it, afraid of being labeled crazy, weird, different. You've let only the closest in, they sometimes don't understand & it doesn't always help, sometimes it does. But you know it helps to know others experience what you do & you think there is more to this than people lead on. So you consider taking a chance & putting yourself out there, I hope that it may be helpful to someone else like you. You fear that they will look at you differently. Judgement. Rejection. Nervous, but you decide to accept yourself for the whole person you are, the real human emotions you feel, the beautiful creation that you embody. Breathe in. And press publish.




Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Drinking & Driving Mentality

There is no excuse for driving drunk. Let's get this in our heads.

Yesterday was a tough day for friends & family of the Van De Vorst family that was killed in a care accident back in early January. The drunk driver that ran into them was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The family's closest loved ones appeared in court, reading victim impact statement after statement, hoping to send the message of the magnitude of this incident on their lives.

The days following the accident I didn't think much of the accused. Many people were angry at her, the city, the law...we were all dealing in our own ways. A friend, not directly connected to the family asked me "Doesn't this make you so mad???" At first I was angry, not at her, but at all the people that choose to drink & drive, at the selfishness & the disregard for the people they could hurt. This anger subsided & I vowed to focus my energy on the legacy left behind by this beautiful family that I miss so dearly.

The days leading up to the court date & yesterday, many of these feeling of frustration & anger have resurfaced.  I woke up yesterday distracted - and not unlike the days following the accident, I was consumed by social media. I followed the news reporters live tweets of the court session, consumed by the details, by how others close to this family were affected, how the accused reacted, the outcome of the ruling. The public's reactions. I felt sad for the family, how hard it must have been to relive the day they lost their children, sister, brother, neice, nephew, cousins...and can only hope that it was not for nothing.

There has been a lot of finger-pointing since this incident, people want to blame one person for this tragedy. I'm convinced the Catherine McKay knows the brutality of the mistake she has made & has taken full responsibility for this. I'm not saying what she did was ok, but I do think it is time stop pointing fingers at her & look at the bigger picture - as McKay has vowed to do - to take a stand & change this mentality that is taking innocent lives. This is not one person's problem. It is a provinces problem. A nation's. A society's problem. But I am at a loss how to change the mentality of such a large population so stuck in their ways.

Saskatchewan has a ridiculous rate, 3 times the national average, for drunk drivers. People are full of small-town excuses, we've all heard them: 'It won't happen to me,' 'I don't have a way to get home,' 'Everyone does it,' 'People's judgements are blurred when they have a few.' But there is no justified excuse for getting behind the wheel intoxicated. For risking your life. For risking the lives of others.

Today I woke up feeling a loss of faith in humanity. Part of me has given up on the idea that people will change their ways, the idea of an end to drinking & driving. I've never understood the mentality of it. A little piece of me hangs on to the hope that people can & will change. Although it is unfortunate that it takes a tragedy of this magnitude to change people's ways, I like to think it is enough to spare at least one life (or four) and hopefully more. But how to change the rest of the habitual drunk drivers? Even the occasional ones....or that person that does it for the first time. Is it up to us - those impacted enough by the losses caused by these terrible mistakes - to influence the people around us? Is it enough?

To me it is simple. It is a shift in perspective. If you preach don't drink & drive, they will not change their ways. Because as soon as they start to drink, they will make stupid decisions. But think of it this way: if you are going to drive, don't drink.

I just wish it was this simple for everyone else.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Self-Portrait Saturday: Me Time

Well another week has gone & come & I did not come up with a new self-portrait so I am cheating with one I took a few weeks back...and that's ok, because I make the rules! I got out for a little much needed me time today, went for a run in the company of my favorite playlist, & did some soul searching. I feel like this photo is a good representation of that.


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Self-Portrait Saturday: Here I Am

This is about as real as I get...after a day of the flu, no make up on, hair in a ponytail. Annnnnnd until my tripod shows up from its mystery place, you may be stuck with pixelated cell phone selfies. Here I am.


Friday, 3 June 2016

My Distracted Life

For a long time, I have craved a simpler life. The idea of living out of a camper & travelling for a year slightly appeals to me. Or living away from western civilization, in a small house with a wood burning stove, living off the land. Or travelling the world as a photo journalist, experiencing other cultures that live off the land. And though I don't think I would ever do these things for real, there is a luxury in the idea of escaping this competitive, overbooked life, ruled by technology, that we tend to lead.

I feel overwhelmed all the time. And exhausted. Surely, three kids is challenging, but does it really have to be this hard? My mother had twice as many of us, she survived. I'm not saying it wasn't hard at times & I imagine she was twice as overwhelmed as me at times, but somehow I can't help but think that we (my generation) have created this recipe for failure, social media being the main culprit...

Since the birth of my 3rd child I have attempted to eliminate what I thought were causing this overwhelming sense. Simplifying my social responsibilities - stepping down from the Moose Jaw Camera Club Executive, leaving the Business Women of Moose Jaw, & taking a hiatus from my business - was supposed to be the answer.  These decisions are supposed to allow me to maximize my potential as a mother & enjoy it while my children are young. But since, I feel I have done quite the opposite. By ridding of these other responsibilities I have put my role as a mother on a pedestal, a self-proclaimed status quo I have been unable to achieve. My stress levels are more often than not though the roof, & despite every good intention in my busy little brain, I can't seem to break the cycle.

Just last week, I was reading this blog post (which, ironically - or not - I came across on my phone while at home with my kids...) by Hands Free Mama on yelling at your kid.  It couldn't have come across my feed at a better time. It was a particularly hard day, & felt as if my reactions had no effect on my children whatsoever & I was easily frustrated. In fact, I may or may not have snapped the head off a barbie in front of my kids out of frustration because her boot wouldn't fit... I had also been struggling with the fact that my oldest, who has always been a very kind person, was developing an attitude & I didn't like the person she was becoming.

Upon reading the blog post, & with further investigation into the author, I discovered her theory on how we create distractions that are taking away from our quality of life.  That's when things started to really become clear.  I was causing the problem. I am responsible for my actions. Not my kids. My daughter was mimicking me, my attitude toward life, toward the people around me & treating them like I was treating her. I was so distracted, that I reacted without intention, yelled all the time, & constantly felt a general sense of failure in all areas of my life. The next day I pledged to stop yelling at my children. I lasted almost a day. My 3 year old even called me on it when I hollered at my 9 month old to get something out of his mouth. Sheesh!

Since intentions only get you so far, this realization has sent me on a mission. I have since looked into ways to lessen these inhibiting distractions that are getting in the way of my happiness. I have often thought about leaving Facebook & removing all the apps on my phone. Maybe I will yet. But for now I have been using an app called Moment (highly recommended) which keeps track of your cell phone usage, making you accountable for all the time you spend perusing on your phone, when you could be doing something more conducive to your well-being. Turning off notifications & resisting checking the phone every 5 minutes (if you text me & I don't reply right away, now you know why!) Creating no-phone zones, such as the kitchen table, bedroom & while I am holding the baby. Adopting 3 item per day to do lists, so that my goals are more achievable. Also, I've been collecting things around the house for a garage sale, less stuff = less organizing/cleaning = less stress, right?

Wanting to know more, I ordered the blog author's book, Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp what Really Matters!, which arrived today, highly anticipated. I am really looking forward to delving into this book more, finding ways to reconnect with my children, & enjoy the things I used to. Lowering my unrealistic expectations of myself & of my children, so to feel like a success again. Being present. This is going to take a lot of work, but I am determined to make this shift in my life. Stay tuned for my progression on this journey, and do join me if you feel the need to do so!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Self-Portrait Saturday: Stuck in a Bubble

Cravings for creativity have been seeping through my pores lately, & I have been seeking ways to foster it out without completely abandoning my daily responsibilities. Somehow the preschool crafting just isn't quite cutting it, so I've decided to introduce Self-Portrait Saturday, something I have been meaning to do for a while, where I will  - or at least try to - post a photo each week. Respectfully, I thought it suiting that this week's self-portrait is in a bubble, reflective of feeling confined to limited creative outlets.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Van De Vorst Sunset Tribute

Yesterday people from around the world took part in a tribute to the Van de Vorst family, who lost their lives in a tragic car crash early January. Jordan was an avid photography enthusiast, & had this idea to have a whole bunch of people take a photo of the sunset on the same night wherever they are & put them in a geographical order to see the differences between locations. Taking part was something I felt was important.

Chanda & I go way back to awkward early teen years, when my hometown hockey team rivalled hers, & being the only girls on the teams we were placed in the same dressing room. Although competitors, we were both secretly glad for that common bond as girls fighting to prove ourselves in a boys world. Our kinship continued strong, on & off the ice, until the accident. We played on a number of hockey teams together growing up.  I was a bridesmaid in their wedding. Chanda & Jordan were the only people we knew in Moose Jaw when we moved here. She was my go-to person, my workout buddy, good company on a unplanned Friday night, someone to vent to & the person that would be willing to tag along any time I needed a partner in crime.

I'm a bit of a home-body & leaving the house independently often brings anxiety. In preparation for this sunset challenge, Iwas reminded how independent I am not...I did not want to to do this alone, so I solicited my dog for company. Years ago not long after moving to Moose Jaw I was short-listed for a radio contest called the 'stay-cation' & invited to the special guest party where they would draw the winner. Typical that I didn't want to go by myself & wasn't planning on going unless someone, who happened to be Chanda, would come with me. It was a bit of a last minute plan to go, thanks to her 'we've got nothing to lose' attitude. They pulled my name & I won $3000 worth of merchandise in gift certificates from local businesses! All thanks to my friend, who cheered for me the loudest, who gave me that little extra push out of the house (and my comfort zone) and who was always on my team (even when played for different teams).

She got me out of the house then. And once again, got me out last night. I grabbed my camera, dog & music & took a therapeutic walk to the bridge where I could watch the sun set over the trains. I don't remember the last time I watched the sun go down, something I used to do all the time growing up. It was what I absolutely needed after a week of being housebound with the kids while my hubby was out of town.

Chanda & Jordan were always making an effort to create experiences & more recently passed that passion on to their kids. I always admired this about them. A browse on their Facebook pages is proof of their many adventures, almost always outdoors, that they took & documented as a family. One of the last photos posted they took their kids to watch the northern lights on New Years Eve. I can tell you where I was - in bed, I didn't even consider staying up until midnight, let alone venturing out to see the northern lights...I know how much of an effort it can be to pack up the family, never really knowing how it is going to turn out, to go somewhere, & it is usually a hell of a lot easier to just stay home - but they didn't let that hold them back even in the wee hours of the night!

During my sunset walk I thought a lot about the last few months. The rut I have been in since the accident, occasionally getting my head above water & feeling inspired, only to sink a little again & feeling ashamed for the times when I am unable to pull the positives out of situations so often, opting to stay inside because it's easier even on the nicest of days, letting excuses get in my way, or not following through with the promise of making the most out of my relationships & time, which I made in Chanda's memory. And how I could use the friend that Chanda was to help pull me out of this rut, empathetic, but also helping me to look on the bright side. How, even though we saw one another seldom since our family's began to grow, her absence is felt daily & I miss her more than I thought I ever would.

So with these thoughts running through my head, it was unlikely a coincidence that a song called Living in the Moment by Jason Mraz came on in my playlist toward the end of my walk. A happy go lucky song that is exactly what it sounds like (link posted below). A funny little reminder that made me smile out loud, as memories of my friend always do. I hope that these little reminders continue to be thrown my way to help push me toward the goal, so I shall remember keep my stick on the ice, always ready for a pass from my friend, my teammate.

My contribution to the tribute

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Be Kind to Yourself

Since the birth of  my third child, I've been struggling to lose the last of that post-partum weight. I reached out to my fitness consultant and she stressed over & over if I want to reach my goals, it is important to be kind to myself. This, my friends, as I am sure is for many of you, is something I really have to work on, a real lifelong challenge. I have spent the last couple weeks thinking about what being kind to yourself means to me. This will be different for everyone, but here is what I have come up with in my reflection.

Being kind to yourself means not letting single successes or failures define your self-worth. Defining yourself by your failures is unhealthy, but also to determine your self-worth by a single success can be an unstable emotionally. If your self-worth is based on a single determinant, accomplishments can turn into challenges overnight. Growing up I was a roller-coaster of self-esteem. I excelled at sports, but if I made a mistake I felt I let everyone down. I was well liked, but if my friends decided not to play with me, in my view nobody liked me. I was hard on myself at everything I did & thought this attitude would be the root of succeeding in life - and to a point it was, but passed that point, I later learned, it would inhibit my ability to excel at the elite level in sport & academics. It wasn't until I quit the university hockey team was I forced to chang my definition of who I was, what made me worthy. We are made up of a collects of traits that make us the beautiful beings we are, it is so important to recognize all that you are made of. And to focus on our strengths that make us unique, accepting the challenges & striving to improve on them.

Being kind to yourself means setting the bar at an achievable level. In have no problem giving the others the benefit of the doubt, but when it comes to myself I tend to take a no excuses approach, to the point where it can inhibit my self-acceptance. It has taken me years to realize that being hard on myself was actually inhibiting my success & detrimental to my confidence, self-acceptance. Every day I still struggle to find this balance for self-acceptance, but the more I do, the happier person I become.

Being kind to yourself means treating yourself (rather than punishing yourself). Having a glass of wine (not 6), going for a walk, eating some chocolate and enjoying each bite.  Make choices that will make you feel good after they are over. Treats, as I explain to my kids, should be occasional, that's what makes them so special. Overindulging, on the other hand, is not kind to you nor your body. Polishing off a family sized bag of chips in one sitting does not come without the consequences of feeling guilty & crummy. No pun intended. Okay, maybe there was.

Being kind to yourself means putting yourself first once in a while. I used to think that putting everyone ahead of me Meade me a better person. But when I deprive myself of my passions I become miserable. My unhappiness leads to treat others with resentment & I become a worse wife/mother/friend for it. Making time for yourself is all part of the balance.

Being kind to yourself means celebrating the little victories & taking credit for them. Choosing to focus on the things that you have done well, rather than the mistakes that seem to blow up in your face. This can be challenging especially when others are involved because it is often the mistakes that get the attention. Only you know the little differences you make in the lives around you, these little victories are worth celebrating. Cherish those 3 year old 'I love you' moments. Validate them by telling someone about these accomplishments, invite others to celebrate them with you.

Being kind to yourself means accepting your flaws. Everyone has flaws (take my overuse of parentheses, for example). Many flaws. More flaws than perfections, but that is what makes us human. Makes us learn. Makes us stronger. As my 5 year old says: nobody is perfect, but everyone is perfect in their own way.

Being kind to yourself means accepting legitimate excuses for your struggles, but also working to overcome them rather than giving into them. If you let them happen, they will get in the way & you will not be happy with the result. But if you take control of the situation & do all you can to make it better, you may not even fix it, but you can say you did all you could to. and to accept that there are some things beyond your control. So here comes the true test for me, accepting that there are some things beyond my control (nooooo!) contributing to my mental health, hormones & my ability to reach my goals, and that is OK. Wow, was that hard to type.

Being kind to yourself means stop comparing yourself to everyone else.  For me, focusing on what everyone else is doing is more discouraging than motivating. It's a little too easy to look at others results with envy. I have been majorly guilty of this. The competitive side of me sees 'that girl' who just appeared to walk out of the hospital after her second back to back baby with a six pack. Why can't I be that fit? How does she make it look so easy? How does she find the motivation with a baby that young? Etcetera etcetera. But I need to remind myself that I am not her. I have a different genetic make up, different support system and a different baby. My life faces different circumstances than hers, so why expect the same results?

Success, for me, is defined by happiness, ability to receive love & to give it to others. Being kind to yourself is such an important part of this. But it is easy to lose sight of that, especially when life gets difficult. Expectations of oneself can be healthy, they can help us strive toward successes in all areas of life....but we must find that balance between self-expectations & self-acceptance, without allowing
 one to get in the way of the other. We must make the effort to be kind to ourselves to better serve the world around us & to find self-acceptance & therefor happiness within. What does being kind to yourself mean to you?

I leave you with one of my favorite videos, Try by Colbie Caillat. I just love playing this one for my girls.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Caught in a Misinformed Web

The world wild web can be a beautiful and barbaric thing, simultaneously. It can be a way for people who live far apart to stay connected in ways they wouldn't otherwise be able to. It can be a way to find a network of support for any problem you have with the option of remaining anonymous. It can be a source of information at your fingertips for just about any inquiry you may have. But it can also cause a huge disconnect from the people around you, posing as a distraction from real life. It creates a venue where bullying becomes a easy to get away with. It is a source of a lot of misinformation that can lead to decisions the become detrimental to your health & well being (gossip on steroids) & frankly, can be down right confusing. And so, much like survival on the street, using the Internet requires a specific kind of cyber street smarts. If you don't use these skills you will fall victim to the web's ability to sweep you off your feet. Plus, it'll probably give you cancer, ruin your kids lives & even make you grow a pair of antlers. Shocking.

As parents we often second guess our decisions, this is a strategy we use to check in on ourselves, to ensure we are doing the best we can to raise our kids. We want to be better so we start to look elsewhere for answers, reinforcement, help. The Internet is usually the most convenient accessible place for this information. And the more we look for it the more our smart-browsers feed it to us. But we must use with caution or before we know it, according to the Internet, every thing we say, do & feed to our children is damaging them for life. We are fed this one size fits all approach to life that makes every single parent out there feel like the worst kind of parent. And we can't all be the worst, can we?

Here's the thing. The Internet is a free fall. Anyone can post on the Internet (like me, for example). Just because it's on the web doesn't make it true (or false). And just because a thousand other people took it at face value doesn't make it true & doesn't mean you should fall for it.

I got caught up in this web of opinions & started second guessing my every single move as a mother. What impact are my strategies having on my kids long term? Am I being too protective? Should I be worrying more? And so I looked toward the internet for answers, reassurance. I forgot one of  the main perspectives I try to live by. There is no one answer. Every child is unique and requires different parenting. There is more than one way to achieve similar results...and even at that, why would we want to try to shape all our kids into this one type of person? Find their strengths & nurture them. Teach them your core values, not someone else's. It is our differences that make our world so colourful, and as I've told my kids time & time again, it is our differences that make our world work together. What good would we be if we were a world full of engineers only? They are an important part of the team, but the big picture requires a network of other skills to be successful.

At some point it dawned on me that I had been plagued by the internet's in-your-face strategy & this awareness was all it took to break out of this downward spiral. I made a rule of not clicking any link that listed ways I am damaging my child. Or the what-not-to-dos. Or the what-only-to-dos. And, what the heck, might as well leave out anything that is going to 'blow my mind' too. Instead of looking to 'artificial intelligence' for answers I began to reach out to people I trust for help with my questions - my mother, close friends, mentors, my husband. I've become cautious about where I get my information online & read most articles & blogs with criticism, who knows what motives lie behind these publishings? What business do they have telling me how to raise my kids anyhow? I take what I need from the pool of information & disregard what doesn't apply. I don't try to tell others how to raise their kids but am willing to offer advice when asked. What's right for me & my family isn't necessarily right for others. I do believe this frame of mind makes me a better parent, & a better person.

Perhaps I am pointing out the obvious. But then I see these types of posts circulating on Facebook, going viral & it creates a little fire in me. These types of articles have been detrimental to my confidence as a mom & I am sure it has the same effect on many others out there. So perhaps this could serve as a little reminder. Next time you start second guessing all your parenting strategies, take a critical standpoint. Take a break from the Internet. Spend time with your kids, observe & learn real life. Have coffee with a friend. Call your mom. If you are second guessing your ability as a parent, chances are you are doing great! ❤️

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Happy Birthday To Me

Guess what!? It's my birthday! I'm 34 today.

Remember when you were young and time seemed to stand still? Days, weeks, months took forever. A year was an eternity! Yet now there are days You would do anything to freeze time. Relish in the moment. Actually really complete a to do list for real. Do you ever wonder why life's pace for a grown up feels full throttle compared to a kid who can hardly articulate the difference between yesterday, today & even last week? Sure life is busy busy when you are faced with grown up responsibilities....but have you seen my kids lately? They are just as busy! It was once explained to me like this one time: a 3 year old has been alive for 1095 days, compared to a 34 year old, who has been alive for just a few more, namely 12,418 days. One day out of 1095 is a much larger fraction of the 3 year old's life (& therefore much more significant) than one out of 12,418 days of grown up love, life & laughter...and all the other stuff that goes along with this world. So it makes sense that yesterday, which was a slightly larger portion of our life, felt like it took slightly longer than today.

Enough about other people, back to the part about my birthday. I like birthdays.  I'm not one to hide behind the day pretending it isn't happening. Why not celebrate the anniversary of the single most significant day of your existence. It's kind of a big deal. In fact, I have a theory that birthday celebrations should last atleast a week. And heck, since time moves faster as you get older, you might as well tack an extra day on to that celebration every 10 years or so. Traditionally I have celebrated with a group of friends, whether it be a gathering at my place or (even better) out on the town where someone else can deal with my dirty dishes (you thought I was going to say something else didn't you?). Tonight? The Hubby works the night shift, so I will be at home rounding up, feeding, scrubbing & hushing & hustling & shushing my kids to bed. Most likely listen to my 8 month old cry it out (the worst!). Maybe bake a cake. Probably do some dishes. So thus is life. And to honest, I wouldn't have life any other way. Which makes it easy to be ok with being 34. But these responsibilities didn't stop me from inviting a couple of my younger 'less experienced' friends over to get in on the chaos of my life. Because birthdays should be celebrated. Even if it involves dragging your friends down with you... Suckers. Just kidding. It's fun here. Please still come!

I've always been A-OK with getting older. I think generally I've always been pretty happy with where I am in life, which helps I'm sure. But last week I had a realization smack me right in the face. In 5 years, which in the grand scheme of time is not that far away, my youngest will be in kindergarten, my oldest 10 years old. I'll be turning 39. 39 is almost 40, and for as long as I can remember, 40 is old. Yikes! Put that thought away. For now I think I'll just focus on enjoying 34, while I can still count the grey hairs on my head without my arms getting tired.

Celebrate with me by watching this clip from a very funny movie I watched recently, which confronts some of the hilarious realities of getting older . And then go watch the movie. 😂

Let's Talk

Let's talk mental illness.

It's been on my mind a lot lately. Yesterday I found out a former friend & hockey teammate chose to end her 15 year battle with bipolar disorder. She was made of all the ingredients you would find in a recipe for success. Brilliant, kind, hard-working (the hardest of the working kind), determined, perfectionist. She was selfless & treated everyone with the utmost respect & had a great sense of humour.  But, despite her nature, she spent most of her adulthood fighting the demons of her illness. The last email I received from her gave me the impression she was on the road to recovery, she sounded hopeful & talked about the future. But only a couple months later the battle became too much & she took a more tragic exit.

Less than a month ago, my husband lost a friend & co-worker to depression & PTSD. Also an outstanding human being, father, husband, friend, frontline worker -  all around an exceptional person. It came as a shock to us, I recall double checking to make sure I heard his name right. He was one of the most upbeat people we knew & the last person we expected this to happen to. And so, we were overcome with the realization that it can happen to anyone, that it really is a disease.

These battles lost have hit home hard. Some of you know to some extent that mental illness has directly affected me & my family. My sister has spent her entire adulthood struggling with schitzoeffective disorder: a combination of schizophrenia & bipolar disorders. In order to cope best she has created distance between herself & our family.  We miss her greatly. We worry about her constantly. We stand by & are there for her when she needs us.

We don't talk much about it. We often avoid the subject. The restraint we hold with a hesitation has the power to bring a conversation to a dead silence.

So let's talk. Let's help to alleviate the stigma. But is it that simple? I've spent the last couple weeks trying to better understand why mental health is so hard to talk about. Digging deep, I have found some of the sources of my hesitations in sharing my sister's story.

Dignity. There's a fine line between dignity & exposure. How do I keep her dignity in tact while sharing her story? Can I get the message across without people getting the wrong idea?

Is it my story to tell? Would she be ok with it? I know she is embarrassed & has cut ties from her past, do I dare attempt to bridge these ties?

How do I paint a complete picture? I can only tell her story from my perspective. So do I tell my story? Is it fair to tell how I have been affected by this when I am not the main victim here?

The subject is a scary one. The reality of it is too personal. We are afraid to admit it is real. Of the possibility that it could overcome us too. So we hesitate to bring it to the surface. To face our own demons.

There's a general sense of mourning that overcomes those of us that love her, when her name comes up in conversation. There is a part of my sister that we have lost. These are emotions easier kept inside.

So, from the perspective of someone with a loved one who suffers from mental illness, I have some questions... How can we talk about mental illness in a light that keeps the dignity of those affected in tact? How do we respect the wishes of those that suffer while bringing the issue into the spotlight. How do we educate the world about mental illness in the most efficient & effective way? How do we encourage those suffering to speak up about their experiences knowing there is a good chance of public shaming involved.

What do you think? Let's talk.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Welcome. Grab some tea. Sit. Read. Enjoy.

Do you ever have moments when there are so many thoughts going through your head that you have a hard time sorting them out. Your attempts to explain them to your partner, who has a much less complicated formula within the system of his brain, result in a sideways look as if to say, "Are you ok, dear?" Welcome to my life. Every single day. I live in a complicated world, where emotions peek a little higher & lower than average, decisions are impossible, curiosity gets the best of me & expectations are difficult to live up to. Yet, I wouldn't trade who I am for the world....because with these challenges come passion, ideas, creativity, love & growth with depth like no other.  I know there are people like me out there (including the few I have met & clung onto with my life so that I can convince myself that everyone else are the weird ones). If they are you, hi there.

So, in light of my love of writing & taking photos, along with the need to sort my thoughts, here I find myself blogging. Putting myself out there. I won't lie, only half hour ago I asked the almighty google if you need a purpose to write a blog. A few strategic clicks later, I decided I am interesting, deserving & brave enough to host my own blog...purpose or no purpose. With a little more thought, I conclude, that perhaps the purpose of this blog shall be to find a purpose for this blog. Who knows, I just might have something to say...

In the meantime, enjoy my random ramblings centred around of my keeping-it-real life, where I will write about motherhood, photography, health, relationships, woos & woes of the world, & whatever else tickles my fancy.

I leave you with a little glimpse into the chaos of my life - as real as it gets....more on this later. ;)