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. ;)