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I Should Feel One Way But I'm Guilty For Feeling the Opposite

As I sit here typing this, I’m 17 weeks pregnant. I can feel this little bean moving around now and my husband has felt her/him kick twice. My breasts are bigger and tender. I’m still nauseous and eating is a struggle to keep the food down. I’m emotional and weep at most movies, regardless of the genre. I have a small bump but really, it’s mostly a layer of fat from winter hibernation. The reality that I am pregnant after four recurrent losses should excite me. I’m FINALLY pregnant! I should be ectatic! But I have a confession: I’m not excited. I’m scared senseless.

Pregnancy #6: 14 weeks here and the night before my husband and I both felt baby kick! 

Pregnancy #6: 14 weeks here and the night before my husband and I both felt baby kick! 

For a long time, I thought I needed a second child to complete my family. The primitive and physiological desire for a baby overrode my logical mind. I had to have two kids and they had to be no more than three years apart and boy, did I try to make that happen! The need consumed me for almost five years and like I’ve mentioned previously in other posts, 2017 was full of loss and grief but also of acceptance and peace. A second child no longer holds the same weight it once did. A second child doesn’t feel necessary anymore. And I feel incredibly guilty for saying that.

 

Just because I wanted this doesn’t mean it won’t be hard

We have a good life as a family of three. We all sleep through the night, our daughter is toilet trained and she can independently play without me worrying what she’s getting into. She goes to daycare two days a week so I can work and write and clean without distraction. We can travel without hassle and she can communicate her needs and frustrations. We have our routine and our life and it’s perfectly imperfect for us. This new baby will change everything!

I’m scared of losing my autonomy as a person, as a woman. I’m afraid this baby will be a nightmare baby; one of the ones that are colicky and don’t sleep and grow into wild, difficult toddlers (re: the opposite of our daughter!). I’m afraid of the toll sleepless nights will take on my marriage. I can confidently say I’m a horrible person when I’m tired. Exhaustion seems to be the one common thing other moms are telling me about the transition to two kids.

The early days when I believed even having one child would ruin my life because I'd be the worst mother ever. I think we're doing okay though. 

The early days when I believed even having one child would ruin my life because I'd be the worst mother ever. I think we're doing okay though. 

I’m scared I won’t have time for my business, Potions, or my non-profit, The Family Fertility Fund of Saskatchewan. More, I’m worried I’ll no longer make time to fulfill my dream of becoming an author and that the book I’ve been working on for months now will fall to the back burner among the other things that will become neglected: exercise, self-care, showering and probably laughter.

I’m scared I won’t be able to manage my priorities and I’ll become that person who loves the “I’m too busy” or “I’m too tired” excuse. I worry that the things that are important to me as a woman now will become obsolete as I try to keep a newborn alive while simultaneously taking care of my daughter, husband, two businesses and home. And my dreams? What dreams? I've always wanted to be a writer but put those dreams on hold because of my fears and beliefs that I was inadequate. Now that I'm facing those fears and writing anyways, I'm scared to lose the momentum and that those old beliefs of not being good enough will resurface.

I’ve met countless women who, when asked who they are, automatically start with “I’m a mother of two, (name) is (age) and (name) is (age).” I’m afraid I’ll become her: the one who identifies solely as a mother and who has forgotten who the woman underneath is. The mother who believes she isn’t worthy of a quiet bubble bath. The mother who gives so much of herself, selflessly, that she doesn’t feel like there’s time or money or even the energy to invest in herself. I’m scared I’ll lose the person I’ve grown into. I’m scared it’ll take me years to find her again once the second baby is in school. I can’t imagine 3-5 years of just “momming.” Being a mother is an amazing gift and one I am blessed to have received but I don't want to lose myself in the vomit, poopy diapers and haze of exhaustion. I'm horrible for it, I know. 

I wanted another baby with such a desperation and hope that I looked crazy to those not involved in the infertility community. I wanted this! But I’m so scared. And I’m not sure if that’s normal because I’ve been too ashamed of these feelings to ask fellow mothers (of 2+ kids) their opinions.

Amidst all of this swirling anguish and worry, deep down I know I’m speaking from a place of fear. I know once this little rainbow baby is in my arms, I will fall madly in love and all previous doubts will vanish. I will probably willingly accept the sleepless nights and constant sleep interruptions. I know the primitive side of me will awaken and I will just know what to do and how to do it and I’ll mostly do it with love as my motivation. I know my husband and I will argue and fight and probably sleep separately for a long time and I’m sure there will be some nights when it’s welcomed.

Our family of three on vacation to Vancouver Island in June 2017. Vacations will be on pause for awhile but I hope we can take both kids back out west to enjoy!

Our family of three on vacation to Vancouver Island in June 2017. Vacations will be on pause for awhile but I hope we can take both kids back out west to enjoy!

I know this baby will complete our family; probably in a way I can’t even comprehend right now. She or he will be a delight some days, a nightmare on others. And somehow, I know we will all survive these next few years. I hope my tribe will remind me that underneath the messy hair, vomit and soaked breast pads, there’s still a woman in there. She’s just busy right now trying to raise her family but she’s there. She’ll emerge eventually. My time will come to focus on me. My dreams will just be on hold, not crushed as I’m imagining now, as I try to raise the best children I can for my community and planet.

I’ll probably worry and continue to feel scared for these huge life changes coming our way. In the meantime, I’ll be shopping for better breast pads and sleep training books. Wish me luck!

Presence please as a new chapter begins

By Wendy Winiewski

It's been more than two years since the day we found out I was pregnant and 17 months since my daughter was born. I can comfortably say I was at peace with my body for nearly a year after her birth. Although I didn't conceive naturally I carried a pregnancy to term, easily recovered from a cesarean and kept my girl alive exclusively from my body for the first six months of her life through breastfeeding and just recently at more than 16 months of age, we finally had our final feeding.

 

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It's a job I've enjoyed. It was tough the first few months as I fed at her beckon call whether my tired body or aching boobs wanted me to or not. As the months have worn on breastfeeding became one of our favourite times of the day. After a long day of work for me and a long day of toddler-ing for her, it was our moment. The world slowed, our eyes would lock, her free hand felt smooth and light as a feather as it rubbed lovingly along my arm. I've spent the better part of 66 entire days feeding her according to my rough calculations. In our final months it would happen as naturally as most daily tasks. My lap and my legs knew exactly how to fold, my arms found their positioning and her baby body would slide into its spot like a hand in a pair of well worn gloves. Until her final day, we hadn't missed a single day since she was born. I appreciated our feedings as it's something my hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) ridden body shouldn't even have been able to do. 

Uncertain if she will be the first and last baby I ever have, I hesitated to eliminate this bonding time, if it weren't for that lingering question that's been bouncing around in my brain increasingly in the past few months - "will my cycle return when I stop breastfeeding?" 

"Return" is an interesting concept to me. How can something that hasn't happened naturally for me in more than a decade "return"? I began taking oral contraceptives in 2007. My last 'natural' menstrual cycle would have been immediately before that. Somewhere in there my body lost its rhythm and I'm hoping that the surge of hormones produced during pregnancy, will have been enough to kick start my reproductive system. Nothing I've read scientifically proves this happens, but we've all heard the story about so and so's friend who conceived via reproductive technology then, voila, got pregnant with another child out of the blue. 

The pressure to have a second child is heavy. Not nearly as heavy as the pressure I put on myself and others put on me, to have a first child, but it's still heavy nonetheless. Realistically, it's the only reason I've eliminated breastfeeding. 

We're building a new house. It has three bedrooms on the second floor. It doesn't escape me that tradespeople we encounter during the building process refer to the bedrooms as "the kid's rooms". After-all, any true family has at least two children, right? Many of those within my circle of friends who had children around the time Aeralyn was born, are now pregnant with another. It doesn't escape me that I'm not. It doesn't escape me that I may never be. My cycle may not miraculously return. The remaining embryo, Aeralyn's sibling/twin, waiting for us at our clinic may not survive being thawed. I may not have it in me to go through infertility treatment again.

And so here I am, caught in this place where I wanted to hang onto these special moments with a child who is possibly my one and only, yet knowing I needed to move forward to explore whether we can have a second child.

While it's difficult to enjoy the present while feeling restless about the future, I have managed to do just that. I fully and wholeheartedly breathe her in every. single. day. I put my cell phone away, our television is off during her awake hours, I try to complete the majority of my daily tasks while she's napping, and this allows me to just be present with her. I'm present. It's something I struggled to achieve pror to Aeralyn's birth. It's something I still struggle with now in other elements of my life. Somehow though, I have found present-mindedness, with her.

This poem is one I read years ago:

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It's one I bring to mind often when my days seem busy or my girl is standing in the kitchen reaching up to be held with a book in hand and I have a list a mile long that needs to be completed. Before long I find myself sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor with Aeralyn in my lap, food on the counters, and Old Mother Goose - nursery rhymes animatedly rolling from my mouth... because I never know when it will be the last time.

Her last time nursing is a moment I'm comfortable with. I've been weaning her ever so slowly since roughly eight months old. Eliminating feedings one at a time, and the last feeding, the one before bed literally being eliminated over the course of a month and a half getting progressively shorter each day. I breathed in the moment. My heart fluttered. My emotions came to my eyes but didn't spill over because I know the end of one journey means the beginning of the next.

Now a new journey begins, and that's the journey to growing our family. I hope to be present. Wish us luck...

The Birth of a Big Idea: The FFFS

When I wrote a blog post about a past miscarriage in the early days of my blogging career, I had no idea the response I would receive. CBC radio asked me to come on air and discuss my fertility and miscarriage and even added an article for their online content. CBC National picked up that online article and from there the views on my blog soared, the messages poured in and beautiful experiences presented themselves to me.

Out of my grief and experiences came a better gift: a purpose to help others. 

Out of my grief and experiences came a better gift: a purpose to help others. 

 

I was overwhelmed to say the least. To add even more excitement and awe to this incredible start to blogging, an old co-worker, Dani Friesen, reached out to me for a coffee meeting to discuss an idea she had. She was heartbroken to see many of her friends suffering with infertility and even more, she was appalled at the cost and financial devastation some couples were taking to try to conceive. She wanted to start a charity that raised funds for families to help pay for their fertility treatments. And she wanted my help.

I was honoured and confused; what did I know about charity work or fundraising? But Dani was confident I was a good fit and we began researching and planning immediately. I contacted Dr. Adrian Gamelin, the co-owner of Aurora IVF in Saskatoon to ask for her assistance. Her exact words: “we’ve been waiting for someone to do this.” She was on board to act as our medical consultant and help us decipher medical information. From there, Gamelin suggested we meet with Wendy Winiewski, a Global news anchor and mother who had her daughter via IVF. The three of us met, saw how well our personalities, skills and stories complimented each other and Family Fertility Fund was underway! Since then we’ve added one more valuable board member, Kristie Anne MacDonald who we know will be an immense help to FFFS and to all those who apply, reach out and/or work with.

Dani, myself, Wendy. Not pictured: Kristie Anne but you'll all see her soon enough!

Dani, myself, Wendy. Not pictured: Kristie Anne but you'll all see her soon enough!

 

It’s been hard. We obviously knew it would be challenging but hard work of getting a business off the ground aside, reading the applications from our applicants was heart wrenching and emotionally draining. We’ve done one round of funding where we gave $5,000 to one couple in December. Our criterion and selection method are based upon a grading process combined with an extensive application that reviews medical history, prognosis and financial statements. We ask for a fertility history as well as personal statements from both people on the application. We short list three couples who then receive a second medical evaluation form that is more thorough and in depth. That form is filled out by their physician and then sent to Gamelin who helps us decipher their diagnosis and prognosis. Her input is valuable but ultimately, the decision comes down to finances. What have they previously spent on treatment? What are their assets? Do they have any savings? Are they going to Mexico twice a year knowing their infertility diagnosis and quoted treatment costs? Have they made financial sacrifices? What’s their income to debt ratio? What percentage is their car payment out of their monthly income? Do they have student debt? Do they have a maxed line of credit from previous treatments? Do they spend frivolously?

As you can probably imagine, there is a lot that goes into the decision and it weighs heavily on us. On top of sifting through bank statements, budgets and medical jargon, we also catch a personal glimpse of who they are and how they’ve been impacted by their struggle from the story they share. Some even included pictures. When tasked with the fate of someone’s fertility, you can’t turn into a robot and let numbers and cents dictate your decision. There must be an element of humanity and compassion in the process.

The couple we chose for our fall funding met our expectations and medical and financial criterion. Without divulging their names, diagnosis or financial status, we wanted to share with you, many of you who have contributed donations and money to our organization already, an excerpt from their personal statement to show you how deserving and incredible these two people are:

From the wife, her first words were: “I am blessed. I really, truly am blessed with what and who I have in my life.” Despite her many fertility challenges and losses, she still has gratitude and finds the silver lining in a very dark cloud. She acknowledged her struggles and yet focuses on moving forward. She continued, “I still have hard days but I feel as though time really helps to heal. This year has been packed full of some of the most difficult moments I have ever faced. I truly feel that this year has tested my resiliency. I have learned that some things don’t always turn out the way you planned it or the way you think they should. I have also learned that things are bound to go wrong and can’t always be put back together the way they once were. But the biggest thing I have learned is that you can still come out on top if you are surrounded by the people who love you.”

Tough times are the biggest teachers for most people. They teach you strength or resiliency and sometimes, who to walk away from and who to embrace. They can also make you resentful and bitter. Hard times are just that, hard and infertility is such a hard beast; it’s a huge hovering menace that infiltrates every thought, move and decision. It takes over the lives of those it infects. To find a couple who could still embrace the good, acknowledge the bad and find strength to move forward was hard hitting for our selection committee.

Her husband’s story affected us even more. Upon finding out their first IVF cycle failed, he said, “ I was brought back down to reality when [wife] called me at work the next day to tell me that we did not have any embryos to be frozen. After hanging up with her, I had to leave the shop and have a moment to myself. I kept this a secret from [wife] knowing that she was at home having her own moment. I was more worried about how she felt. If there is one thing that came out of this horrible situation is that it brought me closer to my wife.”

Their story combined with their past struggles, life circumstances, financial status and medical history led us to choose them. It was a night to remember when the FFFS directors got together December 21 to deliver the best Christmas gift we could ever imagine giving: funding for their last chance to have a baby.

Delivering the $5,000 we raised from two online auctions and two events to Aurora IVF on behalf of our recipients

Delivering the $5,000 we raised from two online auctions and two events to Aurora IVF on behalf of our recipients

It was incredibly difficult to give bad news to eight other deserving couples. It broke our hearts to tell them they hadn’t been selected even though they all deserved a chance. Here we were, a group of women trying to help, and yet, breaking hearts along the way. It stung. But the joy, disbelief and tears we heard over our speaker phone conversation was enough to know that we were doing something good for our community and that we needed to continue. My husband Clayton, a farm boy with a tough exterior, filmed the conversation and even he had tears in his eyes witnessing such a magical moment. We all cried that night; tears of joy and happiness and tears for the others who were now back at square one with their treatment options.  I’m actually tearing up remembering it now. With more funding, we could help more people than one recipient each round. With more money, we hope to one day fund all the applicants who apply. With more money, we can help more babies join us earthside. This is why fundraising and charity is so important for us: We give a family hope. We give a family a chance. And hopefully, we will give a family their baby.

Take Control of Your Fertility

It seems so easy for some and so difficult for others. What can we do to help our bodies conceive? Photo cred: infertility blogger wakeupsurvivesleep.com

It seems so easy for some and so difficult for others. What can we do to help our bodies conceive? Photo cred: infertility blogger wakeupsurvivesleep.com

As an infertility blogger and advocate and director of an infertility based non-profit, I receive a lot of messages/e-mails in a day. The number one question I get asked is, “what can I do?” They want to get pregnant, have a beautiful full term baby and enjoy the newness of motherhood either again or for the first time. However, it’s not happening as they expected and they’re frustrated with a medical system that continually fails them. Unexplained infertility is on the rise. PCOS diagnoses is on the rise. It seems there are environmental factors at play preventing these women from conceiving that we can’t confidently identify yet. Knowledge is power so here are a few of the tips I suggest*:

*Note: I am not a doctor. I just know what has potential to help and I am sharing my own knowledge and advice based on my own experiences. Consult with your doctor or fertility physician before starting any of these.

 

SUPPLEMENTS and VITAMINS

  • Chasteberry (Vitex)

The go-to herb for women’s issues for centuries, chasteberry is believed to help with fertility hormones via the pituitary gland. It helps increase progesterone production and helps increase the luteinizing hormone hormone (the hormone that triggers ovulation to occur). It’s used to treat mild endometriosis. chasteberry has also proven effective in regulating menstruation. If you lack a proper cycle, take chasteberry. If you’re irregular, take chasteberry. If you need to stabilize your period after coming off of birth control, take chasteberry! It also helps reduce cysts growing in the uterus. DO not use if taking hormone supplements. It could interfere.

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  •  Evening Primrose Oil

Another great fertility aid, evening primrose oil (EPO) offers an array of help for fertility in women. For one, it helps improve overall uterine health and reduces inflammation and PMS symptoms. It also increases cervical mucous production- a vital key in helping sperm make their way home. Sperm need mucous to swim to the ovum. EPO is one of few plants that contain GLA: an omega 6 fatty acid, Gamma Linolenic Acid: a necessary acid required to make prostaglandin E. Prostaglandins are like messengers that tell the cells what to do and when. They are all over the body and therefore secretion is more immediate whereby it helps control the regulation of hormones. These same omega 6 fatty acids are believed to have a direct effect on the uterine cells. It helps the uterine muscle contract and relax, essentially toning and preparing itself for pregnancy. DO not use after ovulation. Natural Fertility Info suggests 1500-3000mg 1-2x a day for cycle days 1-14 if you are actively trying to conceive.

  • Red Raspberry Leaf

Raspberries are delicious but their leaves have immense benefit for the body as well. The leaves are rich in carotendoids, citric acid, vitamins A, B complex, C and E and fragrine; this contributes to its delightful capabilities as a uterine tonic, as an astringent to stop heaving menstrual bleeding, and an aid boost egg quality and nutritional deficiencies. A nutrient rich uterus is far more liable to conceive and carry a healthy baby. It’s also good for uterine trauma: if you’re recovering from a surgery red raspberry leafs healing and toning properties will help in the recovery.

Recommendations show drinking 1 cup, 1-3x a day HOWEVER because of its effect on the uterine muscles, if you have a history of miscarriages or a weak uterus and are wanting to conceive, start drinking this 3-6 months PRIOR to prepare your body and uterus for pregnancy. Similarly, do not drink after cycle day 14 if actively trying to conceive.

There are many other vitamins and supplements you can take such as nettle leaf, fish oil, dandelion and folate but I would be here all day with you explaining them. I chose these three because I believe they are the most effective and beneficial for immediate fertility health. Consult your physician to discuss which course of action is best for you and your diagnosis.

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NUTRITION

The food we put in our body is a big factor to our health, obviously! If you’re eating a lot of greasy, deep fried foods with little to no water and no nutrient dense meals each day, your body won’t give you a baby. We need a variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins combined with lots of water to give our body the optimal nutrition needed. If PCOS is your diagnosis, I strongly suggest seeing a nutritionist to discuss a change in your eating plan. No doubt that person will tell you to eliminate inflammatory foods such as diary, sugar and wheat. Inflammation wreaks havoc on the body. Eliminate the foods that cause you bloating, discomfort, swelling, sore joints etc. for optimal health. Also, eat for the seasons. This was impressed upon me by my homeopath and Carly Rae, a pelvis care specialist and they were both right. It is hard on our bodies to break down cold foods and it’s even harder in winter months. Our bodies work in overdrive to digest these cold foods. It’s suggested you focus on warming the body. In winter months, eat a lot of soups, stews and warming spices like cinnamon and turmeric. Drink golden milks and avoid raw foods (which are also hard on the body to digest). In summer months, eat foods that are in season and cooler. Follow the foods of the seasons and see if that impacts your nutritional health.

Food is thy medicine
— Hippocrates

SEX

This is tough because we all know that conception sex when you’ve been struggling to conceive is ugly and lifeless. We wait til the ovulation test says GO and we mechanically get the job done. But Aimee Raupp, an infertility specialist in NY, suggests having sex three times a week, EVERY week. A lot, I know but hear me (or her!) out. Our bodies see sperm as invaders. It’s actually quite crazy how a baby is even conceived when the body does whatever it can to prevent the sperm from meeting the egg. There’s follicles along the fallopian tubes to trap them. There’s a current they must swim against. There’s two routes to choose with only one having the egg. The egg isn’t easily penetrable. Needless to say, it’s a treacherous journey. With constant sex though, we prime our bodies to be more hospitable to those sperms.

 

ORGASMS

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Again, this is tricky. You could be in the midst of your journey where you stiff star-fish and hubby gets the job done because you’re sick of trying or maybe you’re one of many women who can’t orgasm. But the studies are there and they’re screaming loudly that female orgasm helps conception. The contraction of the uterus during an orgasm helps move the sperm up faster, getting more of them to the egg for optimal penetration (during ovulation of course). Another study showed that when women had their orgasm 45 minutes after male ejaculation (45 minutes though? Does that actually happen?!-just sayin’) there was still significant sperm retention. The retention was even greater when the woman climaxed one minute before her partner (that sounds more like it!). Basically, get your freak on and get it on often and with lots of orgasms. Fellas, take note.

THINGS TO AVOID

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Take a look in your bath tub or medicine cabinet. Look in your make up drawer and under the kitchen skin. Check the ingredients in your products. The products we use affect our health. If your shampoo is loaded with parabens and phthalates, change them. If your cleaning product ingredient label are words you can’t pronounce, ditch them. The internet is riddled with homemade, effective cleaning solutions. More and more companies are exploding into the market that are all natural and safe. It only takes six seconds for a product applied on our skin to get into our blood stream. Many mainstream products are essentially poison. Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (and variations of it) are in many products, usually as the number one ingredient after water, (ingredient labels are labelled in order of highest to lowest concentration), and is what gives us “lather.” It’s a known skin irritant and there’s strong link to hormonal imbalances (not good for the woman with fertility/reproductive issues!) among other issues such as poor eye development in children. If you are unsure about the product you’re using, download the app Think Dirty or check with the EWG.org website. Ditch the chemicals and spend the extra time and money on finding products that enhance your health, not endanger it.

OPTIONAL PROCEDURES

Fertility massage or ATMAT  can help break down adhesions and promote better circulation

Fertility massage or ATMAT  can help break down adhesions and promote better circulation

To maximize fertility, there are a few other options to consider. Fertility acupuncture is available. Chiropractic techniques can help in aiding fertility. Massage for promoting circulation and fertility are viable and relaxing options too. If your period colour is a deep burgundy red, your circulation is poor. You should have periods that are an oxygenated bright red colour. If it’s not, see your doctor or a homeopath or naturopath. Homeopaths and Naturopaths offer a completely different approach as well. My homeopath helped me strength my uterine lining, oxygenate my blood and ensure my nutrition was on the right track. Yoga for fertility is also an option. There are a lot of videos and practitioners willing to do sequences to maximize uterine health. Arvigo Techniques Maya Abdomnal Therapy (ATMAT) is another modality to consider. It’s a massage technique designed to align the internal organs and the uterus in their proper place. It improves the flow of fluids and energy and releases physical and emotional congestion. Look for a provider near you. If you’re in the Saskatoon area, I highly recommend Carly Rae for this. Perhaps if your infertility is unexplained; I would suggest a reiki session. It's an energy modality that helps release emotional and physical blocks and channel positive, universal energy that can work wonders on the physical body.

I hope this blog post leaves you feeling educated, empowered and inspired to take different actions. There’s much we can do for our bodies if we only have the knowledge and wherewithal to do it. Some are financially feasible while others may require some saving on your part, especially if you don’t have benefits. Some changes are difficult (what do you mean give up ice cream and cheesy buns?) and some may seem simple (ok, I can have a cup a tea today). Whatever you decide to do with this information, make sure you consult with your doctor. If you have a diagnosis already, much of this information may be futile to you. If it’s unexplained, this could be very beneficial. However, knowledge is power. Take this power and take control of your fertility.

 

 

Make Your 2018 Amazing with These Great Reads

Are you one of those people who sets New Year Resolutions? Or are you someone who knows yourself well enough to avoid making such a preposterous 365 day promise? Maybe you prefer bite-size goals so you set 30 day goals or three month goals. I have been both but, this year, I’m saying to hell with it. No New Year Resolutions for me. Bye, Felicia! This year is going to be about daily intentions and habits that will lead to a better year and, of course, a better life.

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If there’s one thing I learned in 2017 it was to basically stop everything I had been doing: stop seeking, stop dieting, stop punishing myself, stop the negative self-talk and stop planning for things beyond my control. This was not an easy task for a stubborn control freak like me. When I thought I had stopped those things, I stopped myself again and stopped some more.

Because of those 2017 lessons, this new year is about being present. Mindful. Grateful. Peaceful. And while I have a few small goals in mind, like paying down more of my student loan, I am not committing to anything that will stress me out. All of my intentions revolve around cultivating peace and presence. My 2018 is about daily mindfulness and habits that will ultimately lead to a better life. For instance, a daily gratitude practice and eating healthy are important to me. But I'm keeping it relaxed so it doesn't become a chore or a bombardment to my days.

Similarly, the undesirable self-care acts are on my radar as well. Saving money and budgeting with intention and mindfulness aren’t fun but will result in a better future for our family. 

My friends reading this are probably floored. I am usually the girl with 14 resolutions that have failed by April. I’m starting one workout while thinking about the next. I’m weighing what diet will be most effective for losing 20lbs. I'm also the one with the stack of bedside books on the self-help/personal development; the one constantly trying to change, grow and be better than I was the day before. I always feel crappy so I am the friend who’s trying on a new diet as often as I buy shampoo. I’ve tried paleo and keto and Whole30 and gluten-free AND dairy-free. I still feel crappy, despite all the restrictions, so I’m done! No more dieting!

This year is about tuning in and listening to my body. After my recurrent miscarriages (four in three years) I disconnected from my body. I subconsciously shut off that link because of the grief, guilt, shame, resentment and anger. Now, I am rebuilding that relationship by getting quiet with myself, listening inwardly and fulfilling my needs. If I crave chocolate, I’ll have a piece and enjoy - nay! - savour every single nibble. Lately, my body wants peanuts. A few months ago it was steamed broccoli. If we stop dieting and just listen, I truly believe our bodies will tell us what it needs and very rarely will it say a Big Mac with supersized fries and a fountain Coke. But, if it does occasionally, go for it with zero regrets! Move your body because it’s a beautiful vessel capable of running, jumping and floating. I am called to swimming and yoga lately and it feels so much better to exercise because I like to than to do a cardio workout because it’s a part of my scheduled fitness program.

I’m done body shaming and judging my body in the mirror. In fact, I’ve come to appreciate and love my body. I no longer feel shame for what it cannot do or what it looks like. I am grateful for my perfect working limbs and my curves, muscle, cellulite! All of it! Most of all, I am loving the woman who stares back at me. I’ve worked hard through reading, self-reflection, journalling, counselling, learning and so much more to become the person I am falling in love with today. I see a woman who is kind, thoughtful, funny and resilient. She’s also stubborn, short-tempered and a little self-righteous at times. She loves yoga and running and dislikes broken promises and flaky people. She is finally confident in her skin now. 

I need not seek externally for everything I was seeking was waiting deep within. It’s within you too.

I’ve read so many incredible books that have helped lead me to this point. Fall and winter 2017 were spent reading books that actually intrigued me and interested me rather than reading to change something about myself. Oddly enough (or, perhaps, not oddly if you are a Universe energy-loving type like myself), the few books I picked have actually been life changing.

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I feel so liberated and amazing, gliding into 2018 with small pieces of inner peace, an abundance of gratitude and a mantra to be present and mindful. I feel lighter now that I’m not weighed down by unobtainable goals, self-loathing and a diet. I feel freer not being attached to a fitness regime. I feel happy not having any New Year Resolutions.

I see now that the present moment is all that matters. How I want to be tomorrow is determined by what I do today, not what I did when I was 16 or what my mom said when I was 7.

I never thought I’d get to this point and I hope some of you want to know how you can get to this point, too. Maybe you hate your body or you have an ego the size of the moon. Maybe you have anxiety over the future that paralyses you from good decision-making skills. Perhaps you have a relationship with food that needs examining. Who knows?! But, if you’re still here reading this, I want to give you a few books that have literally CHANGED MY LIFE. If you like to read, read these. If you need a change of mindset, read these. If you want awesomely amazing things to happen each day, read these. If you want to love your body and release the death grip on food, well, you get it, read these:

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1.       Mastering Your Mean Girl: The No-BS Guide to Silencing Your Inner Critic and Becoming Wildly Weathly, Fabulously Healthy and Bursting With Love by Melissa Ambrosini

We all have that inner voice, that inner bitch. You know the one; the one who tells you are fat, ugly and stupid. The one that tells you you’re not good enough for the promotion or the one who tells you to stay home because nobody likes you. We all have it. Some of us are just better at silencing it than others. In Mastering Your Mean Girl, Ambrosini gives you tangible tools to overcome your Ego/Mean Girl and change the way you think. It’s light, funny, loving and gives you simple tools to help you squash the negative self-talk for good!  For instance, she asks you to make a gratitude list. That’s an instant connection to happiness. How can you be upset or angry when you’re thinking of your kitten, your warm bed, your partner’s kisses or your kid’s giggles? She asks you to write a letter to yourself dated one year from now. They’re simple tasks with big results and stunning clarity.

 

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2.       The Goddess Revolution: Make Peace with Food, Love Your Body and Reclaim Your Life by Melissa Wells

Every woman who has ever thought she was fat, been on diets, counted calories, or loathed what she saw in the mirror NEEDS to read this book. Mel Wells teaches you to tune into your body, to really listen and to appreciate it for what it is at this exact moment. She shares her own personal story and struggles with an eating disorder and how she’s overcome it. Using testimonies and “fitspiration”, you’ll fall in love with your body a million times over and kick diets to the curb once and for all! Using logic and love, she teaches you how to change your thoughts and stop judging yourself. She helps you heal your body image. If you love your body you will ultimately want to treat it right, right? So instead of restricting calories and denying yourself delicious meals, focus on what makes your body feel good and then do more of that!

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3.       Thank and Grow Rich by Pam Grout

Just thinking about this book gives me goosebumps. Since reading this book in early November my life has actually changed. Or rather, my perception has changed so, therefore, my life has changed. Grout shows you how incredible it is to be a living, thinking, miraculous human and how each day is a perfect day to be overwhelmingly grateful to be alive. She gives you tools (which she calls Party Games) to find the gratitude in EVERYTHING. She gives thanks for everything and everyone. Since I started doing the same, I’ve seen an increase in my skin care company, requests to do workshops, more visitors to my blog, an appreciation for everything, and a bubble of happiness that sits in the centre of my chest, waiting to bubble over and out, omitting love and laughter everywhere. Sounds cheesy, I know, but wow, her words are incredibly powerful and waking up to the divine existence in ourselves is even more powerful. She encourages you to wake up every morning and, before even getting out of bed, proclaim something awesomely amazing is going to happen that day. It’s a beautiful habit to adopt. It's actually one that my best friend and I are doing. We text each other every morning and share three things we're grateful for. It sets a good tone and vibration to start our days. An attitude of gratitude, for the good and the bad, is truly magical!

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4.       Dying To Be Me by Anita Moorjani

This is a book that will blow your mind. Moorjani, a woman riddled with cancer, falls into a coma and has an incredible near-death experience that actually heals the cancer that is killing her. Not only is her story a medical miracle and completely unbelievable, yet awe-inspring, but the wisdom and love she finds on the other side of the veil is poetic, romantic and beautiful. One thought she shares that sticks with me is: what if Heaven is Earth? We all strive for a Heaven above but, up there, you can’t taste chocolate or feel a hug. Maybe Heaven is here and we’re meant to be expressions of heavenly love. Isn’t that wonderful? Her words also give me great comfort in dying. I can honestly say (being a healthy woman so hey, this could easily change in the face of death) that I’m not afraid to die. She actually brought me peace with this inevitable fact. Death may not be as bad as I thought it was. It’s not religious but it’s deeply spiritual and life-affirming. Love, she says, is the answer. Always.

I hope you enjoy these incredible books and they make impactful impressions upon you like they did for me! Please let me know if you've read any of the above OR if you have any further recommendations to add! Which magical books are on your nightstand this January?

 

 

Excuse Me While I Disconnect

I am addicted to my phone. I’m the first to admit it and the first to get defensive when someone calls me out on it. My husband is the same. And a phone addiction does not bode well for marriage or family life. He would get mad at me for using mine and I’d get mad at him for his. We were at a stalemate. We both knew we had no right to complain about the other because we were both equally terrible; him for his games (I curse you Clash of Clans!) and Flipboard, me for social media and working outside of work hours. It was out of control. Plus, we were becoming increasingly concerned over how our bad habits were affecting our daughter. She’d repeat herself over and over because we weren’t listening and had recently started saying, “look up from your phone!” RED FLAG, right?

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Science is showing there’s huge issues with cell phone use and, specifically, social media. It’s time we start listening and doing something about it, especially if you have little kids who are always watching. The notifications we receive trigger the release of dopamine, the pleasure juice, in our brains. That little sound or symbol announcing someone has reacted to us in some way keeps us hooked to it, the same way people become addicted to drugs or sex: the pleasure dopamine releases keeps us coming back for more. Dopamine is created in many areas of the brain and is linked to many brain functions such as thinking, sleeping, mood, attention and reward. We’re a society addicted to instant gratification and our phones are the perfect tool to obtain it. We’ve become addicted to social media and its likes and shares. We’ve become addicted to gaming. We’re addicted to the “know”: if you need to know something -- anytime, anywhere -- Google it. I’m addicted to social media and the “know”, plus the habit of constantly looking at my phone mindlessly. It was becoming a serious problem for me but there aren’t steps or help available yet for internet/phone/social media addiction. I had to do something though so, after some careful research, my husband and I agreed to both implement some changes.

I have to believe there are many more people in this same boat: addicted to social media and the “pings” of likes and messages or hooked on games or obsessed with watching stocks or watching YouTube videos. So here’s what we did to start:

 

1.       Make folders on your phone. Organize your apps. Put them into the folders. Push them to the second ‘page’ of your phone. Dopamine loves colour and we now associate certain colours with certain apps (blue, anyone?) so keep your main page void of triggering and brain excitable colours.

The main page of my phone. Limited colour, no "fun" apps. 

The main page of my phone. Limited colour, no "fun" apps. 

The second page has all my folders and apps

The second page has all my folders and apps

2.       Delete the apps you really don’t need. Do you really need four recipe apps? For me this was Facebook, games and my Kindle.

3.       Turn off notifications. Don’t let those “pings” get to you!

4.       If you do a lot of work from your phone, download Hootsuite or another similar app to schedule posts. Take an hour to get them ready and scheduled and walk away! The app will do the rest.

5.       Start with a simple rule to get into the flow of change. For us, it was no electronics in our bedroom. This meant no more computers, phones or TV allowed. It also meant investing in an alarm clock.

These few rules were easy to get into. Logging into Facebook from my web browser felt more like a pain than it was worth so my social media time cut back significantly and immediately. I had thought turning on the Night Shift display on my phone wouldn’t trigger my brain as much so I was constantly using my Kindle before bed. But I quickly learned that the disease I thought I had from my constant, unexplainable exhaustion was in fact from using my device before bed. What a relief to know I wasn’t dying!

Those five rules still apply but we’ve now gone deeper since. We’ve now decided no phones AT ALL after 7 pm. They get left in the kitchen and we walk away. Of course, if the phone rings we will answer it but it rarely happens for us these days! Once we are ready for bed, phones go on silent. I thought it would be a hard transition but the benefits are outweighing the discomfort. Here’s how:

1.       I never realized how addicted I was to my phone until I didn’t have it beside me. Now, when I’m in bed and I pause while reading or journaling, I will AUTOMATICALLY reach for my phone without thinking! How crazy is that!? Think of how many times I was picking up my phone unconsciously with it always so close! However, knowing this makes me fight harder to get over this and be more conscious when I do have my phone nearby.

2.       My quality of sleep has improved 1000%. Like I mentioned before, I was beginning to think there was something seriously wrong with me because I was so exhausted all the time. I was lethargic and foggy, moody and irritable a lot of the time but especially in the mornings. I changed my diet, bed time, number of hours I was sleeping, pillows, you name it only to discover it was using my phone right up until bedtime that was keeping me from a restful sleep. I sleep like a peaceful baby now and sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night blown away I have so many more hours to sleep because I will feel so rested already by 2am or so.

3.       My circadian rhythm is re-balanced. Similar to above, my body is more in tune with its natural rhythms and cycles now. Before we would stay up later than necessary only to find that second wind that would keep us up even later and in turn, we’d sleep in later than we wanted. We now go to sleep when our bodies demand it, usually around 9:30 and are up at 6am with no troubles. We wake up refreshed, energized and ready for the day! Also, a 6am wake up sets a really good tone for our day. We are usually up before our daughter so that means we can get some quiet, uninterrupted things done. For me, that’s typically a yoga session and a hot cup of coffee. For my husband, it’s stretching and a long, hot shower. We make a healthy breakfast now instead of mad dashing to the kitchen to throw smoothies together before running out the door as we did previous to our phone disconnection.

4.       My marriage is improved. Can you say pillow talk?! Lots and lots of pillow talk! My husband and I communicate so much more now that sometimes I look at him and think, “I’m still learning so much about you and its been over a decade together.” I feel like I’m falling in love with pieces of him all over again and learning new pieces that have since fallen into place in him. We actually talk now in the bedroom versus us getting into bed and picking up our phones. There’s no showing each other videos or articles, music with headphones or social media. It’s just chats and whatever else is supposed to happen in a marital bed! Our bedroom is more intimate and cozy now; something that wasn’t at its full potential with phones and TV in the way.

5.       Our family time is more meaningful and plentiful. We spend more time together as a family. We bake goodies, play board games, snuggle under the blankets with the occasional movie or TV show and we talk more. We’re currently teaching our daughter about gratitude and spending time each night to share what we are feeling grateful for that day. I don’t know if our more mindful presence is the contributing factor but our daughter is also a better listener and helper. I don’t have to ask twice for her to clean her room anymore!

Just one of our new family evening hobbies: baking! She's always so excited to lick the beaters!

Just one of our new family evening hobbies: baking! She's always so excited to lick the beaters!

6.       I’m more conscious of the time I do spend on my phone. I run my business, a non-profit and my blog from my phone so it’s easy to be a slave to it. I was so scared of losing business or readers or opportunities if I wasn’t available 24/7 that I kept my phone near me at all times. Now I know that I can operate on normal business hours and the messages and emails can wait until “open” the next morning. When I do want to surf because, let’s face it, social media and the internet can be really fun and informative, I set an alarm on my phone and will give myself an allotted block of time for it. Otherwise it’s easy to start scrolling only to look up and see that an hour or two has passed. It sucks you in! An alarm keeps me in check and knowing I have only 20 minutes makes me more apt to read articles that interest me (like mindbodygreen.com) than to scroll Facebook.  

7.       I’m already detaching from my phone. When I’m in public or with friends, I keep my phone put away now. This has allowed me to have nice conversations with strangers, witness beautiful things happening around me and be a more active listener for my friends and family. I’m actually annoyed now when I’m with people who are constantly texting/on their phone in my presence. Be respectful of your friendship/relationship and be present. In that moment, that connection is all that matters and it’s more meaningful than anything you’re seeking through text/social media/internet. BE PRESENT.

All of these changes began about a month ago so the transformation is quick and incredible. I can only imagine how life will be in a few more weeks or even months as we become even more present and mindful. If any of our addictive habits with our phones/electronics resonates with you, I urge you to adopt a couple of our rules and try it yourself. It really is a huge benefit to yourself and everyone around you.

 

Cold coffee + late nights - The reality of working from home.

I am a jewelry designer, an entrepreneur and a business owner - and I work from home. I am so fortunate - and I know that, but there is a common misconception that working from home is the best ever.... I often hear something along the lines of :  "That's soooo great! How nice you can stay at home with Asher (my one year old son, aka the cutest little mofo in the world) and work when you want to! ". Yes - I am lucky, and it is great...  but I most certainly do not get to work when I want to. I am an entrepreneur and business owner - and I am also a stay at home mama. That means I work when I can, which is not always when I want to. I manufacture and fill orders when Asher naps, I return emails and draft Instagram posts at 5:30 a.m. when he wakes me up for the day, and I update inventory and order supplies late at night while the rest of my house is asleep. Of course, like anything, there are pros and cons to working from home. Pros? I don't have to scrape car windows in the freezing cold everyday and I likely don't even have to leave the house at all in minus 40 weather if I don't want to (huge pro!). I don't have to pack a lunch, punch a timecard, or answer to a boss. If I am caught up, ahead of schedule and don't have any pressing to-do's I can take a random mid-week day off. Cons? Sometimes there are days that go by when the only interaction I have with other adults, besides my partner, is when my parents call to FaceTime with Asher. I drink way too much cold coffee and I'm running out of podcast episodes of True Crime Garage. I'm on my phone much more than I want to be and the struggle is that I run my business through it. 

I won't bore you with my daily routine because it changes every single day. I go from "jewelry designer boss babe" to changing dirty diapers and cleaning up a floor full of toys in seconds. I tag jewels and make phone calls while Asher eats lunch in his highchair. I lug him to the post office weekly to ship orders, he comes with me on drop-offs, retailer visits and generally every errand I need to run. He bangs on the window and waves when he sees the mailman and the DHL and Canada Post delivery drivers know his nap schedule #dontringthedoorbell. I do not have set work hours, which can be super amazing, and also very challenging. It means I have to be consistent and super organized, which is not my forte, so I make many lists in order to maintain order in both my business and my day-to-day momming. It took me a few weeks and some sleep training to get somewhat consistent in my morning routine and, because I get the bulk of my hands-on work (aka manufacturing, tagging and packing orders) done while Asher naps in the morning, I need to be very intentional with my time. No one is more surprised than me at how much I can get done in 1.5 to 2 hours - except for today when he refused to nap at all and I got nothing done.

Over the past few months of working from home I have learned a few things that make a huge difference in my productivity and, as anyone who works from home knows, it is very tempting to stay in your cozy pj's,  but the days I actually do are very few and far between.

Here are few of my personal top tips for working from home: 

LEAVE those pj's in the bedroom! Shower and get dressed like you would if you were leaving the house. Leggings and a sweater totally count, makeup is optional. 

SEPARATE your workspace from your main living space -- this is KEY to eliminating distractions! Maybe it's an office in the spare room, a studio space in the backyard or a desk in the corner area of your basement (that's me!) - wherever works for you and your home. 

MAKE your work space somewhere you want to spend your time. I used to settle in on the couch, throw on Netflix and #makemakemake. Now that doesn't work and my workspace is a desk (and surrounding area downstairs in our less-than-cozy basement) so I added some cute décor + prints to the shelves of jewelry supplies and spools of chain, I burn a soy candle or diffuse essential oils while I work, and I listen to podcasts on speaker because I can.

POUR your coffee in an insulated mug to eliminate having to leave and reheat it when it inevitably gets cold. Better yet, move your coffeemaker to your workspace. #brilliant

KEEP snacks close. Wandering to the kitchen leads down a rabbithole of distractions.

DON'T multitask. A very wise person once told me - multitasking makes you stupid. She's right. Don't start loads of laundry because you will have to stop working and switch them. Don't put anything in the oven because you will go back to work, forget and burn it. 

INVEST in a good old fashioned day planner, one that has room for notes, lists and your week at a glance. Yes, I know our iPhones can do that, but I personally find it more functional to use a day planner. I like old fashioned pen-to-paper and the feeling of victory that comes from physically crossing something off a list.

FIND a system that works for you, whatever your line of work. Now, step back and look for ways to improve it further. Time is money, honey, and the more efficient your system the more you will get done. There are always ways to streamline and save time and energy.

SCHEDULE to get out of the house. Meetings, errands, a coffee break. This is VERY important - it's easy to stay inside for days on end and it isn't healthy. 

POUR yourself a glass of wine Friday afternoon - because you can drink at work when you work from home ;) 

 

xo, 

Megan

 

 

 

 

 

The Curse of Woman

I recently attended my first women’s retreat just outside Saskatoon, SK. It was a wonderful getaway filled with crafting, laughing and connecting. I have never spent that kind of time with a large group of women before and I was blown away by the similarities between all of us despite all our many differences: when asked “who are you?” 17 out of the 19 women started with “I’m a mother of (number of children), (name) is (age) and (name) is almost (age).” The second similarity I found was this: every single one of them could name 4+ flaws about themselves but yet, they struggled to name one positive thing that made them special. The third similarity I discovered was that they all loved so deeply but were almost cursed by it because they felt either taken advantage of, felt guilty for taking personal time or felt it wasn’t reciprocated the way they wanted. The fourth, and maybe saddest, similarity was each women’s confusion when asked what made her happy.

MIND BLOWN.

I started calling these similarities "the curse of woman". Over 98% of us identified ourselves as mothers first. We all felt lost trying to find a special quality and we were quick to berate ourselves. Most of us saw our loving nature as both special and flawed. Few of us could remember what made us happy.

If that many women felt that way in that small room, there must be more of us.

Think of how many people you know whose entire existence revolves around motherhood. I’d bet she feels guilty for doing things for herself. I’d also bet that she gives and gives and gives and has a cup that seems to always be dry. I bet she’s exhausted but happy to dote on her children. I bet she doesn’t spend much time away from them. She probably feels guilty for leaving them with Dad or Grandma or a babysitter. I bet she doesn’t know what makes her happy anymore because she’s been trying to help her kids find theirs. I bet she feels happy that they are happy but utterly lost when she takes a small, fleeting moment to contemplate her own. This is the curse of woman.

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As mothers we have the most important role in life. It’s our job to keep them alive, fed, clothed, hydrated, healthy and clean. We ensure they use their manners, do their homework and try at least one sport a year. We kiss them, cuddle them, tickle them and sometimes want to throttle them. We are trying to teach them how to be functional members of society while also fostering their innocent wildness so they become the unique individuals they are destined to be. We are the teacher, the moderator, the voice of reason, the judge, the boss, the discipliner, the nurturer, the driver, the coach, the rememberer, the confidant. It is exhausting. But want to know what’s more exhausting? Trying to do all that on the fumes of the person you used to be. This mom guilt over self-care needs to end now. We are no good to anybody if we haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in months or haven’t had a shower in a week. You need energy and vitality and, even more than those, you need a life you don't want to escape from. 

I don’t berate mothers for putting their role as mothers first. It’s important and special and wonderful. For some women, it becomes more than a role. Motherhood is their life. Motherhood is their identity and reason for living. That’s a beautiful sentiment and belief. BUT, is she also making time for herself, as a women, as an individual or even as a wife? Is she setting a good example for her kids if she’s frazzled and unkempt and not doing anything outside of motherhood to benefit herself?

You can't fill another's cup if your own isn't overflowing with energy, love and self-respect. Honour your body. Love yourself. Mothers need it most. 

You can't fill another's cup if your own isn't overflowing with energy, love and self-respect. Honour your body. Love yourself. Mothers need it most. 

Also, the flaws! Goodness, the flaws these women see in themselves is bonkers! When asked what made them special, many floundered and couldn’t come up with anything to say confidently or with surety. But when asked what their Darkness was, they had lists.

WHY?

Is it human nature to do this? Is it societal influence that’s molded us into belittling ourselves? Has some collective unconscious shift happened that makes us focus on our Darkness instead of our Light?

It seems we all do it. And those that don’t get judged as conceited or arrogant or self-absorbed. It’s a lose-lose, really.

When prompted to acknowledge their special attributes, many said their ability to love. Is the influence from motherhood or the Divine Feminine running through our blood that makes so many of us love so fiercely? We love our partner and our children and our families and friends and pets so hard that sometimes we look at the actions we’ve taken in the name of love and wonder, was it worth it? Was giving my all in that unreciprocated friendship worth all that time? Or did it benefit me to lose half of myself in that man? Did dedicating myself so fully to motherhood for so long leave me bereft of pieces of the person I use to be?

Which leads to the last similarity: few women could confidently list what makes them happy. It’s understandable when you’re so busy raising children; Who has time to focus on what makes them happy? Even when we know, we feel guilty for indulging in it. It’s a common story for moms who spend so many of their hours dedicated to their family. We spend a lot of time putting others first. Actually, it may be fair to say we spend all of our time putting others first. What is happiness on a personal level when you’re wanting your kids to be happy and maybe also your husband, pet, co-workers, boss, friends and/or neighbours?!

These curses all tie together.

Woman + baby + societal influence (or some other factor) = a Mother with no time to herself, guilt over the time spent on herself if she takes it but she’s not actually sure what makes her happy because she’s so busy and involved with others and because of that, she’s lost her personal happiness and a small bit of the person she was Pre-Mom life

 

 Does that resonate with you? It sure does for me!

I used to feel guilty for wanting alone time. I used to feel guilty for spending money on myself. I feel like motherhood has given me so many blessings but has taken a lot from me. My freedom is gone, my carefree lifestyle is gone. My independence is gone. I obviously wouldn’t trade it for the world but there’s this dark side to motherhood we rarely discuss openly, let alone on a public forum like this! I’ve spent so much time focusing on my husband and his business, my daughter and her upbringing, our new house and maintenance, my business and its success that sometimes when I stop and reflect, I’ll think, “Kelsey, are you still in there? What can I do today to love you?” Lately, I've been committing to small steps that lead towards my best life. I'm cooking for pleasure more. I read more books and do yoga in the living room where my daughter can see me. Sometimes I just like to scroll social media and watch Instagram stories. The guilt will attempt to weasel its way in but I can quickly squash it because I know that it’s important that I make time for myself now. Self-care is more than escaping the chaos. Self-care is doing little actions that have big benefits, specifically long term. My dream life requires a lot of work so self-care is a priority. So my mornings consist of exercise, yoga, journalling, working on my business, planning blog posts, cleaning my house and/or snuggles with my daughter. My family knows when I’ve been putting my self-care on the back burner; it shows. So I also make conscious efforts to spend time with myself. From bubble baths to daytime naps to having a hot cup of coffee before the rest of the house wakes, I am loving myself by filling my cup as best as I can. My advice, despite my lack of expertise: take more bubble baths. Find a monthly women’s circle. Massage your own feet. Read ten pages of a book each night before bed. Walk in the forest.  Show your kids how amazing life is. Make time for yourself. It’s allowed. Hell, it’s welcomed! There should be zero guilt when you are teaching your kids the importance of loving yourself. Lead by example and the kids will thrive in their own journeys towards self-fulfillment, self-love, success and self-care.

Little eyes are always watching, absorbing and processing. They mimic. Let them mimic love. Photo cred: Ellen Elizabeth Photography

Little eyes are always watching, absorbing and processing. They mimic. Let them mimic love. Photo cred: Ellen Elizabeth Photography

So it’s time to break the curse of woman. It’s time to love yourself like you are your most sacred, most beautiful best friend in the entire world. You need to love her like she deserves to be loved. You need to be able to confidently and loudly say, “THIS is why I’m special. And this is too. And that too. I am all kinds of unique and awesomeness.” The time has also come to accept our Darkness. You can’t have Light without Dark, nor Dark without Light. We are imperfect beings. We always will be. Trying to shine Light and illuminate every single little flaw will only drive you crazy with self-loathing and be a waste of your time. So own your flaws. The people who love you know them and accept you for them regardless. More often than not, your good qualities will far outweigh the bad. If they don’t, well, that’s another post! It’s also time to welcome acts of self-care into your world. Motherhood is hard; motherhood is harder when you’re running on empty. Ignore the guilt that tries to encroach upon you and see the benefits to everyone around you when you fill your cup. Your filled cup is what paves the way for an incredibly full and vibrant life for many around you, especially your children. Self-care shows them the importance of doing the crappy little jobs that lead to big rewards later (like saving 10% of each pay cheque or getting up at 6 am everyday)! It teaches them the value of honouring your body. It's teaching by example how incredible life can be when you work towards the things you want and desire. It's so much more than bubble baths and chocolate -- although, both are wonderful!

The time for the Woman to rise has come. It’s time we rise up to meet our full potential and embrace the dirty, messy, glorious, wonderfulness that is Her. Mothers are the most special creatures on Earth; they deserve the bubble baths and girl's nights out and make-out sessions and sleep-ins and yoga memberships. So rise, Woman. Be the divine, loving, happy woman who shines so brightly, others want to know her and are inspired by her. Be your best self. Do it for your family, your community and more importantly, do it for yourself.

 

 

Everyone knows a Weinstein...

Let me just preface this by saying that I am (unfortunately) only one person, and my views are mine and mine alone. That being said, we are a blog centered on women’s lifestyle etc. and this is something we’ve been seeing all over the news, social media and pretty well every other screen we own.

The Harvey Weinstein scandal that recently shook up Hollywood is causing a metaphorical waterfall of sexual harassment accusations all across North America, chiefly pointed towards the entertainment industry but slowly moving towards other industries.

Honestly?

Good.

Girls, if I asked you how many times in the past week alone you’ve altered how you live your life because of this fear we have instilled in us, what would you say?

Did you walk to your car in the grocery store parking lot with your keys in between your fingers?

Do you walk with only one headphone in to hear if you’re not alone?

Changed your route home to a busier street?

When you start to think about how often we do something with the motivation of fighting back it’s absolutely mind boggling. 

We see people like Weinstein all over damn near every industry in the world, people who build their careers upon this confidence that they’re untouchable. Sexual harassment in the workplace has been ignored, even at times expected, for far too long. This is a man whose net worth is roughly 250 million. 250 million dollars. So, to put it in perspective, someone who has built a skyscraper of a career out of alienating female employees makes enough money that he could pay off my student loans 12,500 times. That’s a lot of culinary degrees.

And yes, I did the math.

What has come from this little news blip is that we’re seeing all of these women come out to say that they’ve been sexually harassed, abused, or worse, because we’ve been working with this thought that sexual abuse survivors are attention-seekers and overdramatic. What’s happening is people who have felt they have never had a voice, or maybe had their voice taken from them, are now getting the microphone. 

This is important to me, and I hope to many other people, because with the power of a few women standing up and saying “this is not okay anymore”, we’re hearing a cheer from the bleachers. Other victims can see someone brave enough change the expected result to a result they deserve, and it feels powerful. 

I know I preach an idyllic society and some may call me a wishful hippie. They’re right, but for entirely different reasons. I want to see this trend of feminism, of women fighting back, and of abusers being called on their vile behaviour grow. You should never be afraid to walk home from the pub because it’s dark. You shouldn’t be nervous to take too long putting your groceries in the car. 

Did you know the grocery store is, statistically, the most likely place to be assaulted as a woman? 

Of course you did, you’ve known that since you were little. Since you were young enough to look up self-defense moves in books (an age before computers — throwback, I know) and maybe look at signing up for a class at the YWCA.

This is just my experience and I’m generalizing, but I don’t know any female-identifying person that hasn’t felt like this once in their life. Once this month. Once this week.                         

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As demonstrated by the media outpour we’re going through right now, which I like to call “Hell Yeah, Call Them On Their Bullshit”, people aren’t feeling this fear just when they’re out at night or shopping. This happens in workplaces, in homes and everywhere around you. No one should be afraid to say something because of this thought that you won’t be believed. Because it could damage your career, or your life in some way, if you came forward.

We make light of victims coming out to tell their stories, saying that now it’s a “trend”, or maybe they’re just looking for the press. This isn’t a light matter, this is someone having the bravery to step forward. It’s something that commands respect, if nothing else. 

This is funny to me, I was coming at this blog-writing idea thinking that I was going to try to be some comic relief in a very serious world. Be the girl who works in legal weed and has some crazy, funny baggage. 

Not so much, hey?

I can wax philosophical about opening your mind to new experiences and the effects of illness on a young psyche etc. etc. but this is the important stuff to me. This matters. 

What drove me to write this blog post (at 2am, lit up by the light of my laptop, fuming to myself and my cat) was because I recently had plastic surgery on my chest due to previous cancer treatment. It’s a whole thing. However, I find myself laying here feeling sorry for myself because, as a single white female (knife emoji) I’m wondering how I’m ever going to be attractive to someone, or god forbid get married (the ultimate end goal for young women, amirite?), when I look like Frankenstein’s monster. Then it occurred to me…

Why do I care? 

I’ve been raised in a society that has measured my worth by my waistline and my intelligence by how I dress. We’re no one’s property but our own and that’s something I’m coming to learn as I look toward my late 20s; I learn this by watching these women in the news calling out their abusers, holding them accountable to what they did and how they changed the way that woman looked in the mirror and woke up in the morning.

I’m hoping that this becomes the new normal. Hoping more than anything, because I don’t want to have a daughter some day that experiences some of the things I know happen in this world. In this city, for that matter. I walked six blocks at 1:00 a.m. a few Saturdays ago, after going for a drink with some friends. In that six blocks I was called fat twice, a slut once and told to get in some guy’s truck. They laugh with their friends and think nothing of it but, holy hell, the toll that takes on someone’s self-esteem. Now I know there’s going to be that one person saying “Well, how short was your dress?” “You shouldn’t have been alone that late at night.” or, my favourite, “They’re boys, they’re just having fun.”. 

Here’s an idea: 

How about instead of teaching people to dress more conservatively, take the long route home or to stop being so sensitive, how about we teach people not to be assholes to each other.

Real simple stuff.

To finish this much-heavier-than-I-expected rant, allow me to say:

Things like this happen to every person, of every gender, and life circumstance. They shouldn’t, but they do. So, when they’re ready, let them tell their story. 

And maybe it’ll change one day. 

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Julie XOXO