How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Put your Children in Nature School in Calgary

I am bringing one of my deepest passions to the blog today, and gosh, it makes me so happy to talk about this and what it has given us!  So let’s get started!

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Every Saturday morning for two hours, we engage with nature through an “Urban wild program” put on by a researcher and Royal Rhodes Student here in our city, sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation through their “Family Nature Club” program which provides resources & insurance for families to set up their own nature clubs (how incredible is that?)
There are story times, free play, guided activities, nature based arts and crafts and educational components, with Alex’ wonderful ecologist/biologist knowledge.  Each week, we submit a journal with reflections upon our experiences as a family.  For example, this was my submission 2 weeks ago.
Finwood Eco Park,2828 Finwood Road, Fords, New JerseyOctober 11, 2018 at 8-00 to 10-00AMSign up now atwww.finwoodecopark.com.jpg
Each week, we explore the incredible parks and provincial park areas that are dotted across our city with different units and activities.  The mornings are a combination of free play & exploration, story time, an arts or crafts activity, and a biology / ecology learning component.  Today was learning about wetland invertebrates and wildlife, with nets for the children to catch animals to examine and identify.
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Growing up a “wildling” who spent her days in the forests of southwestern Britain, I knew that I wanted my legacy to be giving my children a love and appreciation of nature, and a sense it will always be a home for them.  In any type of upheaval in my life, I always go back to the forest, and walk among the trees, asking them for their stable and grounded energy.
Standing, watching my daughter romp in creeks, throw rocks and construct stick structures in muddy mole piles gives me nothing short of true joy.  But today, the gift was given to us, the parents – particularly as we walked down this path dappled with sunlight, that was lightly fragranced with wild roses and featured the singsong of busy bees buzzing away.
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Pulled away from the program for 2 weeks due to death in our family, we have been scrabbling to keep ourselves above a chaotic tide of emotions, the business and administration of death and critical illness, while trying to balance work and my husband’s intense training with the fire department. Not to mention, rearranging all of our childcare so we could both show up at our jobs.  (When it rains, it pours.)
We were feeling maxed out in all senses of the word when we came to the urban wild program on Saturday, squeezing it in before our fathers’ celebration of life.
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There was something in the air at Pearce Park in Calgary, those 2 hours we spent in the park, much like the pollen floating softly in the air, had a gentle, restorative energy.
Both of us walked at an easy pace, as the air we took into our lungs was let out with big sighs – silent to the bystander, but a full-body experience for us.
As we stood in the dappled shade, watching our daughter wading with a net, we were able – for just a moment – to let the outside world go and enter the delightful world of chubby toes wriggling in the water and little fingers picking up smooth pebbles.
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So today, the urban wild program gave us, the parents the biggest gift.  As we sat at home having a cup of tea afterwards, our tuckered little ones gently snoring, we realized that nature has an unparalleled power to reconnect us, to ground us,  and to steady us in the chaotic tides of life.

Our little Urban Wild Nature Club also introduced us to some wonderful nature-based books for children.  Each Saturday, I joined the kids on the picnic blanket, equally enthralled with these books, which I intend to add to my daughters’ library!

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(page from the book Noisy Bird Sing Along, link below!)

My daughter for weeks now has been able to respond to the chickadees singing in the trees, thanks to the one week we had a morning read *and sing* along with a bird themed nature club.

 

Below are links to two of the books from the program.  Please note, I get a very small commission if you decide to purchase either of these books – which means the Great Maternity Leave can continue to grow and offer more posts 🙂

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Intrigued?
Have a look at the children & nature network of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Is there a club in your area?  If not, perhaps start one.  For yourselves and a few family friends.  Nature is a gift & it is waiting for us, waiting to open its welcoming arms and take us home.
Here are some of my favourite resources that inspire me to get out with my family in YYC and surrounding mountains and reconnect with nature.
Facebook:
 Calgary Outdoor Families Group.
Family Fun Calgary
Bloggers:
 Karen Ung of Play Outside Guide
YYC LINKS:
Common Digs Forest School – Preschool & Kindergarten in the Great Outdoors
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The 5 Things You Can Do to Cope with Stressful Life Events

  

I spent the final month before returning to work alternating between mixed emotions (Excited! Sad! Scared! Happy! Yes! No!) about going back to work.

I kept myself busy and constantly reminded myself to focus on the present moment and just enjoy my time with the kids.  What is the point of trying to anticipate what something will be like, before you get there?

My brain was a mix of

—–

Okay B!  1-2-3 Catch! *throws beach ball to daughter”

(omg how do I sort out childcare, what if one of them is sick? Will my bosses think I am not committed to work if I have to peace out and get sick kids home? How come I am the one getting my kids ready before I go to work? My husband should be doing that before he goes to work to (other feminist / equal parenting ranting, blablabla))

NO!  FOCUS!  You are playing catch!

(but what about dropoff at 8am how do I get ready for that with 2 kids)

NO!  THROW THE BALL TO YOUR DAUGHTER!

——

I was also confused by the greater sadness this time around, which is why I wrote this previous post where I deconstructed my sadness about going back to work. 

 

It turns out, that returning to work last week was really a minor event in the week that was the first week of May.

Just days after I arrived back in the office a few things happened:

-There was a massive fire in a city north of us.  My firefighter husband went to fight the fire, leaving me scrambling for childcare (I wound up booking a few days off work) and handling the nights / mornings / days solo as I adjusted back to commuting, etc.

-My sister in law and husband got evacuated from the fire and came down to see us in Calgary.

-While my husband was away, his sister was dealing with the evacuation, his parents had a medical emergency on their cruise in Mexico.  Long story short, his dad was transported back to Canada via air ambulance in poor health.

-My university became a housing centre for evacuees and I took a full day to work with them – lots of charged emotions among people.

 

***No big deal, right?

 

I kind of giggle now because what the hell was I so worried about with going back into work?

There were WAY bigger things that happened last week in our life.   It certainly put things into perspective.

You think an elephant in the room is big, but wait until 3 or 4 MAMMOTHS walk into the room beside it. Then you don’t even worry about the elephant.

 

So today’s post is just a little bit about how to cope with mega-stressful situations, because there’s a few tools in my toolkit here, since this is NOT my first rodeo with natural disasters, being a firefighting family and sick family members.


Five Ways to Cope When You Are Faced with Big Life Events

1.) Staunchly commit to a daily practice of something you enjoy.

My self-care practice is running.  Last night I barely had time to do anything but I committed to a 2km (15 minute) run. Just 15 minutes.  That’s what you’d spend cleaning the kitchen and unloading the dishwasher.

You know how on airplanes you get the whole talk about if the oxygen masks drop down, do yours first? When the shit hits the fan, put your self care right up there on the list.

This is easier said than done. We have been strongly conditioned to see self care as selfish and vain.  Even writing this I felt a twinge of guilt, the fear that someone would read this and think “how can she go for a run when her family needs her.”  As I struggle with this thinking, as I type this sentence letter by letter, I remember that after my run last night I came home in a good mood and while my husband was at the hospital, I was able to read my toddler a book, give her a cuddle and a bottle, and operate as I usually would. I can tell you right now, if I didn’ thave some kind of pressure release or self care practice last night, it would have looked like me giving her the bottle and plopping her in the crib with a short, business-like demeanour.

2.)Realize that self-care can be small actions & try a new one.

(That you wouldn’t normally do.)  In our day to day operations, we have our “self-care” things here and there. Maybe an occasional massage.  Treat at the coffee shop, etc.

However, stressful times aren’t exactly day to day operations.  The stress is much greater.  Therefore, self-care needs to amp up a bit as well.  During the week of stress, I ran every day, even if it was downgraded to a walk or just 1-2 km.

You may push back with “I don’t have the time, the last thing I can do right now is self care.”  But I would ask you this.  In order to have a great stress response – and use the fight or flight response in your body effectively, you have to give it opportunities to exit out of the fight or flight response and relax a bit, before going into the next one.

The fight or flight response in your body, emotional state, and mental state is amazing.  It allows you to operate at your best in truly difficult situations.  But it is only meant to fire off for short bursts of time.

If it is switched on for extended periods, it wears you down, compromises your immune system, mental state, emotional state, physical state.

To keep it running at its best, give it breaks. Even if it’s an hour massage, reading a magazine, watching a tv show, having a nap, or whatever activity floats your boat and distracts you.

3.) Begin to frame each stressor differently.

Think of them as using different “Muscles.”

I used to do a type of workout called CrossFit which is an absolutely bonkers workout that pushes you to muscle fatigue.  If we had a workout with squats, a core movement and an arm movement, it was easy to go into “I am overall all exhausted.”  The one thing that always got me through it was to think “ok, my legs are shattered after those 10 squats, BUT I am switching to pushups now, I am using different muscles now, fresh muscles.”

Through the workout, I’d remember that as I switched to each movement – that this particular muscle group had been given a brief break and were ready to go again.

You can do this with stressors.  Think as one stressor as using your legs.  One stressor as using your arm muscles.

 

Before I ran last night I was feeling high strung and more on edge than usual

(and my right eye was twitching.  Eye twitching is so incredibly annoying.)

I took note of which things were stressing me:

-My beautifully organized childcare plan for May falling apart.
 -Worrying that my bosses were questioning my dedication to my role with all of this time off.
 -Feeling emotionally tired out from dealing with upset evacuees all day (I am very sensitive to other people’s energies and read auras.

 

These are all things I will just straight up have to deal with in the next few days when we begin to sail into calmer waters and adjust the sails.

I decided that the childcare plan uses my “logistical brain muscles,” worrying about what my bosses will think about my dedication uses my “core value muscles” and feeling emotionally tired out uses my “empathy muscles.”

Each of these stressors places different demands on me in different areas.  By separating them out and thinking about how they use different facets, it made me feel less “globally overwhelmed” and not as drained as I move to a different task.

4.)  Turn to humour.

It could be the fact we carry British genes & we Brits love our black humour, but all of our lives, in stressful events both my brother and I always turned to hilarious youtube videos, reddit feeds, and other random things that made us laugh. Monty Python’s Life of Brian, “Always look on the bright side of life” singsong is a classic for us Brits.

During heightened stress, if I sit down to hit the Facebook or the Instagram, I also make a point to find some funny videos to watch.  There is something about having a good laugh, -for just one moment – that is therapeutic.  It releases as much steam as a good cry.  You feel so much better afterwards.  If anything, your sense of humour becomes enhanced in stressful times.  You are quicker and easier to laugh at something stupid when you are tired.  Maybe it’s because the body knows we need to laugh?

Laughter physiologically undoes the fight-or-flight response.  Did you know that?

In fact,

Philosopher John Morreall believes that the first human laughter may have begun as a g­esture of shared relief at the passing of danger.

5.) Be open with people about what you are going through.

As a supremely open person, I do have to remind myself that people have varying degrees of privacy.  But here’s what it is like to be open:  Talking about something a few times with someone else helps you process it and removes the power from that event.  It’s like draining the battery on your phone.  The longer you have your phone out, interacting with it, the faster the battery drains.   The more you have your heart out, sharing it with other people, the faster the emotional charge drains.

Soon you just look at the event and think “yeah, that sucked” but without the lip tremble, the tears in the eyes, or the tightness in the chest.

 

Another thing that helps with being open is it removes the situation where we have an “invisible background.”  Do you remember when I talked about worrying that my bosses would think I am not dedicated?  That is a great example.  It WOULD be a problem if they didn’t understand the background of my situation.  It would be a problem if I was not open with them.

 

If I had not shared what I am going through, for sure they would notice (and not in a positive way) having to adjust my hours to leave early, taking two days off, having to leave a meeting to answer my phone, being cooped up in my office at lunch.

But they know that background.  I made sure it was not invisible.

They know that when I look at my phone in a meeting, it is because I am keeping tabs on messages coming in updating me on how my father in laws surgery went in the hospital, when I am cooped up in my office at lunchtime, it is because I am talking to my husband in Fort McMurray.

When I take a day off, it’s because I couldn’t throw together childcare in a moments’ notice for an entire day for a baby and a toddler (and that’s what our family days off are for anyways.)

 

 

My friends know that I”ve been through some big ass life events in the last few years  and I did consistently get comments like “how do you get through all of this ok” “how do you stay so positive?”  “How do you cope with all of this.”  Aside from having a positive attitude (and I suspect a fairly positive “set point”) it really comes down to these five items.

 

I am also a positive realist.  Here’s the thing.  All of us have parents now who are approaching their 60s and 70s.  We are soon going to be initiated into that stage of life where our parents get cancer, get sick, have medical emergencies, possibly pass away.  I don’t mean to be fatalist, but these things are going to happen.  The first time they happen, it SUCKS.  It’s just an initiation by emotional fire.  The second time, the third time, you start gaining tools to cope and these five above are an example of those tools.  And each time you go through the fire, you become a bit stronger, a bit more skilled in self care, and a bit more resilient.

 

Shit is going to hit the fan in our lives, and sometimes several piles of shit hit the fan, like this week.  But we all get through it.  We all survive and come out of the other end a better person.  We manage to quell the fight or flight response with some extra self care after the fact to “come down” from the fight or flight response.

 

Big stuff is going to happen to us in our lives.  Do we want to go into crisis mode each and every time it happens and fall apart?  Or do we want to take the chance to develop some coping skills, become stronger and  be better prepared for the next time it is going to happen? Because it will.

 

Xo

 

Carina

 

 

 

 

 
 

Celebrating Mothers’ Day Without Your Mum

Well my lovelies, it has been a busy week!  It is mothers’ day here in Canada and I have finally had the chance to drink some wine, eat some dark chocolate, watch some tv and get cozy under a throw blanket. It is a delicious feeling. At the moment I have two purring cats slumped across my legs.  They are my original “babies” and I am happy to oblige with extra love and cuddles for them tonight.

Today was a simple mothers’ day as I am at home holding down the fort while my husband is out of town fighting a large wildfire that is happening up here in Canada.

I’ll tell you what though,  the simplicity of today was spectacular.  We started our morning by going down to a favourite cafe situated in a historical building in the middle of a provincial park. I drank coffee with friends, both new and old, while our children romped in the sunshine.

After a huge nap for all three of us (fresh air does that!) we joined a wonderful friend and her little ones for a walk in the rain.  Between toddlers melting down, pee accidents, the rain falling as we walked to the mall to get pizza, and fussy babies we were able to catch up and just laugh at the mayhem of two mamas alone with their children on mothers’ day.

Today could have been any average day, mothers’ day brings about a special mindfulness and form of gratitude.  It added something special to the air today.

I’ve done something different on this springtime day each year – but there is one thing that has remained the same in 2014, 2015 and 2016. I do the same thing each mothers’ day of each year. I write one particular facebook message that is special.  I write on my mum’s facebook wall. Just like many of you do, except there’s a slight difference:

 

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You see, my mum passed away in June 2013 after an 18 month fight against lung cancer and brain mets.

I only started this blog this year, and you know what? I think I have only been ready to write about such an personal topic without raw emotion taking over, in the last year or so.

But it’s a wonderful feeling knowing I can sit here, 3 years later and write this blog with happiness in my heart and the warmth of fond memories that are fun to share.  I was able to enjoy some wine and look through my Mum’s Facebook – at albums and pictures she tagged me in before getting to this post.

When my Mum passed I inherited all of her social media accounts and passwords, which was weird, because we truly live a “real life” and an “online life” – I felt like I had gotten the key to her diary or something like that.  I decided to keep her facebook up, as she was so extroverted, vivacious and loved sharing stories, adventures and updates. We decided t cremate and skip the whole solemn grave-in-the-dirt thing, so I look at Facebook as a modern version of a grave.  And it’s a well-decorated and upkept grave, with friends and family dropping by to visit, share memories and post pictures.  It’s lovely!

I’ve done really well with recovery from grief and negotiating life with two small children without my Mum – who was truly my best friend.  I went through some bumps early in the process. Grief hit me hard with the simultaneous birth of my first child and loss of my mum. I went on SSRIs and worked with a psychologist to get through the intensity of it all, as well as some PTSD symptoms.  But I did well.  I confidently manage the life-long journey that is losing a parent early, and embrace the 5% of days that suck, they’re as important to me as the 95% of great days. I honour them, let them happen and let the tears flow.  Then the next day, I get up, give thanks for everything in this precious life and continue on with a smile on my face.

When it comes to my Mum, I have no doubt our souls spent many life times together before this one, having an absolute blast in each one.  I believe we travel in soul groups through each life time.  You know who I’m talking about.  That friend or family member that you have this incredible bond with, that cannot be described on paper, or in a blog post.  It’s just there.  You know them.  You get them.

This is why, when my mum was in her final days, she didn’t need to talk about any big stuff or conclude any business. We didn’t really have any ” big chats.” We just did things like snort with laughter over what coffin we’d pick out and watch my husband paint blue sparkly nail polish on her toes and play a twisted version of beer pong, but with her 25 different pills and her pill box.

She was confident in the knowledge that our connection transcended the physical and that she’d still be around in a different form, helping me along.  Her spiritual beliefs were leaps and bounds ahead of mine, but I Like to think I’ve caught up at this point, and it’s not only because of all the weird shit that happens, that reminds me she is around, and that it is not possibly a coincidence.

We joked a lot about her not doing any “creepy haunting ghost stuff” and just to do nice things like flicker the lights (which she does, with her himalayan salt lamp that is in our kids’ room) or send butterflies, or cute animals, or play Coldplay music.

This is what makes life in motherhood easier without my Mum.  The eternal connection that transcends our current physical existence.

Every time I get stuck with parenting, I look up to the sky and out loud say “what would Cathy do.” or “Mum I need your advice!” I absolutely swear to you, each time, I get either an idea that pops into my head, or the issue sorts itself out without intervention needed.

The last time this happened, earlier this week, I was well and truly out of ideas on how to try and stop my daughter from ripping off her diaper and engaging in a poop time spectacular in her crib (GROSS.) We tried everything and she’d houdini out her diaper – no  tight pair of pants, shorts or backward onesie would stop her.

I finally said “agh, Mum, I need your advice on this one!”  Only a few hours later, I walked into the bathroom to get a bandaid, and there was a roll of medical tape sitting on the counter.  I totally forgot about the super strong tape that I’d owned for about 10 years.

Bam.  There it was.  Problem solved.  The tape appearing and the idea to tape down the diaper tabs.  Lo and behold, it solved the problem.

This is a daily occurrence in my household and the more I trust, and the more I ask, the more quickly the answers come through.  Who knows, perhaps it is the creative mind, the sheer coincidence that an answer or object came at the time I needed it – but I choose to think it is my mama helping out.

The first thing that makes it easier to experience motherhood without my mum is allowing her to answer my questions. I put my questions out there, and wait / stay open for the answer to arrive.

My god parents have been a beautiful presence in my life from my earliest fetus stage 🙂 and what eases the grief of loss, is knowing that other people knew that person too, that other people were witness to life with my Mum. When you tell a story, or share a memory, there is such deep comfort in the knowledge that the listener knows exactly what you are talking about.  They were there for that moment, or can understand it.  They get what you are talking about.

I read once that one of the greatest gifts of having a partner in life, is that they bear witness to your existence on this earth, and what you grace the earth with. 

I love that.  And I think that one of the greatest gifts when you lose a parent, is having people in your life who were witness to the life that you had with your parent.

My god mother, beyond the most reassuring, gentle talks,  gave me a series of books that have helped me continue to grow in my spirituality and gave me deep comfort as I tried to understand mortality in the wake of my mothers’ death.

I was baptized Church of England (Anglican) and went to Catholic School growing up, but was never particularly interested in religion.  My mum took us to Christmas eve mass once.  Half way through she leaned over and asked, whispering “I know this is the worst thing to say, but I’m bored, are you?”  My 10 year old brother and I giggled and nodded, and we snuck out… and then discussed the mortal sin we’d just committed over dairy queen in the car and promised to just be “good, happy, kind people” growing up 🙂

Despite my lack of religious structure, I developed deep spiritual beliefs over the years.  In my 20s I began to explore spirituality. I read books by Deepak Chopra, Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama and Eckhart Tolle.  Each of these authors’ ideas span across (and apply to) every single religion. I truly believe each religion encompasses the same principles and each religion imparts the same messages – the only difference is the stories feature different characters, names and settings.  One story takes place in a desert, another in a forest.  One story takes place with a young mother, another with an old fisherman.

The spirituality I carry with me today transcends religion, yet encompasses them all.  For example, kindness.  Kindness appears in every religion.  It is featured in many stores, with many different characters, and names, and places and circumstances.  But it is a universal lesson that appears in all religions.

I’ve always believed books are given to you when you need them.  And when my god mother gave me a series of books by Dr. Brian Weiss, (Many Lives, Many Masters was the first I read) I was astounded.  I now realize the stage in my spiritual development that I needed in 2013, was a stage that would help me understand our mortality and life beyond our earthly shells.  These books were a great introduction, and exactly what I needed to begin questioning and understanding the journey of the soul through different lifetimes.

In the weeks leading up to receiving these books, and following my final night at the hospice, I had begun  to question the meaning and purpose of my mortal existence.  Going to a job each day, cooking meals, chatting with friends and family felt like going through the paces.  I knew it was grief, but I also knew that on a deeper level, there was a need to explore the meaning of my life and find something deeper than just going through the motions of eat, sleep, work, love, play.

Because I had just spent 30 exquisite yet heartbreaking days helping a 56 year old wrap up her life right in front of me.

Many Lives, Many Masters gave me some of those answers, and most of all gave me peace of mind by helping me explore my purpose here.

The second think that makes it easier to be a Mum when you have lost your own Mum, is taking some time to explore your spiritual beliefs and expose yourself to different thinkers & leaders.  Doing this let me make meaning of her life and my own. 

According to developmental psychology, when we enter our 30s, it is natural (and expected) that we = begin to explore spirituality and seek deeper meaning in our lives.

This is no doubt further accelerated by being witness to, and part of , the miracle of childbirth.  What a beautiful time to read some books by spiritual leaders and thinkers, and create our own understanding (that works for us) about what it means to be human, and the little human we are cradling will bring to our lives.

In many of these spiritual development books, there was a theme that came up again and again.  That we are eternal beings walking around in human bodies.  That like the earth, we are made up of cells that have a life and death cycle. We each come to this earth in an explosion of cell multiplication.  Our souls inhabit these bodies, tasked with undertaking learning and evolution – whatever form that may.  In whatever time we are assigned.  But have you ever noticed, that as a human, we can’t wrap our minds around time?

How many times this week have you looked at your children and asked “Where on earth is it going?”   How many times have you pulled up an old video on your iPhone and struggled to comprehend this small child in front of you, and the oily newborn eyes gazing at you from your iphone video you took in the hospital?

When you miss your mother, something comes up time and time again. You find yourself sharing stories, sharing memories and bringing your her up, as if she was just over for a visit yesterday.  Just like you do with your babies.  Sharing stories, memories and bringing their baby photos up.  Like it was yesterday.  Like they are still a newborn.

You catch yourself talking about her again and silently admonish yourself.  You catch yourself talking about your baby and showing old photos again and silently remind yourself not to.

Yet, there is importance in this.

Listen to yourself. What are the themes, the patterns that keep coming up in the stories about the parent you lost?

With my mum, I am constantly talking about her free spirit, her absolute love of travel, and exploration.  Her desire to enjoy learning all there was to learn about this world.

Her enthusiasm and zest for life was absolutely unbounded.  She was so damn happy.  Even when she wasn’t.  Does that make sense?  

Every day, every experience, right down to going to the grocery store, involved enthusiasm and excitement for what the day would bring.  If things went to shit, she’d fall apart in laughter.  If unexpected moments happened, she’d seize them with confidence and aplomb.  Even the simplest moments were full of gratitude.

Just looking at her posts on Facebook tonight, I was struck by one photo she posted of a bouquet of flowers she took to chemo with her one day.  Beautiful red roses.  I forgot about that day until I saw the photo.

That day, she would grab the nurses’ hands and tell them to stop rushing, to pause with her and take a smell of the roses. I remember it so well. That was Cathy.

Do you sense the themes?   They come up again and again in the stories of Cathy. That time we were in Dubai in the desert and blew a tire.  That time she accidentally dropped a huge watermelon at Lake Bonavista Safeway and exploded into a fit of uncontrollable laughter as it rolled across the floor.  That time we let off fireworks off her tiny balcony into the English channel as the police looked for the perpetrators, or lit paper lanterns into the British night sky and people reported UFOs in the paper the next day.

Our mortal selves miss the physical presence of someone – there is no doubt.  My mortal chest still aches – but the beauty of legacy is that it never goes away.  Legacy doesn’t live in our chest cavity.  It lives in our soul and penetrates much deeper than our hearts. It brings warmth to our very bones, to the depths of our beings.

Being able to uphold my mothers’ legacy through my own actions,words and thoughts, is almost as great as hanging out with her in person.  It brings so much more meaning to my life.

Each day is a conscious commitment to enjoying life, living in the moment and letting myself be enthused about the simplest things, like a good cup of coffee or a romp in the sunshine with my children, which is exactly what we did this morning. Cathy lives on through her legacy, in my time with my children.  Some days I don’t even know I am doing it, until I catch my husband watching me with that look on his face, and he smiles.

The third thing that has made it easier to get over the death of my mother and embrace my own motherhood is defining – and continuing – my mum’s legacy, and passing it onto my own children through my own words and actions. 

Every year, when I lovingly write “happy mummy’s day!” on Facebook, it is written with a little less sadness and a much bigger smile. I spend a bit longer perusing old photo albums, laughing at ridiculous things she posted on her wall, and feel less guilty about talking about her again to my friends.

Every year, my children get to know the brilliant woman that was Cathy, and understand that she is still here in spirit and in legacy, my daughter even refers to her as the “happy ghost.”

And each year, as I journey further into motherhood, I feel more confident, knowing that she’s by my side, boosting me up and giving me advice and support in all of the sneaky little ways that only she would do –  that our mortal minds can’t begin to comprehend.

Happy mothers’ day.  You are never alone.

xo

 

Carina

 

 

The First Week Back at Work after Maternity Leave – How I Got Through the Sadness

 

This week is a HUGE week for me this week.  I’ve wavered back and forth, wondering if I should go into the week casual, and not put too much significance in it… or whether I should honour the significance of it and treat it as a big deal.

 

MATERNITY LEAVE IS OVER.

 

On Monday I returned to work, full time, after an amazing year off with my second born.  Here in Canada, we are blessed with a years’ leave.

 

My first maternity leave I as quite excited to return to work. I absolutely love what I do for work and the people I work with.  That sentiment did not change.  I was excited to return this week.

 

However, things shifted a bit between my first and second maternity leaves.

My first, I was not feeling particularly sad.  I was excited for the opportunity to get into a nice motherhood / working professional balance.

My second, I came home after the first day of work and cried. And cried, and cried.

 

I know, in my heart, that I love my job, my career and wanted to go back.  I know that being full time at home is not optimal for me.  Yet, this time I was so much more sad and full of emotion.

I think I have grown leaps and bounds in terms of comfort with expressing emotion. I don’t hide it any more. I just honour it and let it be. I am not petrified of crying like I used to be.  It’s just water on my cheeks.  Not the end of the world.  And I’ve learnt after 3 years of multiple joys and tragedies, that if you don’t let yourself experience emotion for what it is, it gets trapped inside of you in all sorts of strange ways. Perhaps in the body as pain or ailments.  Perhaps in the mind as depression, or anxiety.  I’ve learnt to just let it be.

 

So, after wiping up the snot, crying into my husbands’ shoulder and coming to work two days in a row with puffy eyes, I decided to do a bit of analysis.  After all, I am a life coach and I can do this stuff on myself!

 

I think this may be a very useful thing for some of you who are going through, or are about to go through the same thing.

 

The first thing I needed to do was understand my sadness, to pinpoint exactly what I was going through.  And that is the point of my post today.  Pinpoint your sadness and give it the attention it needs.

 

I sat down with a piece of paper, to put some words to the tears.  Here is what I figured out.

 

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5 items.

Lists are supposed to make things easier, simpler, but how do you reduce the complexities of emotion down into a list?

Well, I think it’s a decent start.  What was interesting about doing this, is that each item on my list is just so subjective.  It’s all based on my perceptions of reality, the unique viewpoint I bring to it.

 

Let’s take number 1.  Getting wrapped up in 5/7 days away from my kids.  2/7 days on the weekend.

That sentence has been on loop repeat in my mind and gosh, it makes me feel crappy.  I hate that it’s there, over and over and over whispering in my ear.

 

I know right now that full time work is what I need to do, and if you are in a tough situation you either CHANGE IT or ACCEPT IT.

 

 

So, what can I do to help myself accept the fact I am away 5/7 days working?

 

There is something we do in life coaching called “grounding our assessments.”

Yes, the reality is I am away 5/7 days.  But my assessment is that “5 days is too many to be away from home.”

 

There are a few things you want to do to tackle each assessment that is NOT HELPING YOU.

 

  • Figure out if it is serving you in any helpful way
  • Dig into the details of it (deconstruct)
  • What discounts this assessment (reconstruct)

 

 

So.  1.  Is this helping me in any way, thinking like this?  Shit no. It makes me feel like crap.  I want to be done with it.  How do you get rid of an unhelpful assessment?  Deconstruct and reconstruct.

 

Deconstructing it means asking myself, what does 5 days mean?

Well, a work day for me is 8:30-5:30 including commute.

Thing is, I’m home 7-8:30 and 5:30-8:00.  My kids are there.  That means in a day I can be home with them for 5 hours of quality time.

What?

Wait a minute.

That’s almost as much time as what I spend at work. Huh.

 

That got me thinking and reconsidering this little assessment or “dragon” I am fighting.

 

Another helpful thing is to think of reasons that your assessment might not be the truth.  Reasons it may not be accurate.

 

One of my favourite ones has to do with the nature of going back to work and being in the Monday-Friday mindset.

 

AT LUNCHTIME ON THURSDAY, YOU ARE ONLY HALFWAY THROUGH A WEEK.

 

Let that settle in.

 

Interesting, isn’t it?

 

I have this mindset that my week is “shot” being at work Monday to Friday, yet at (what feels like) the end of the work week, technically, the week is only 50% over.

 

So here I am, sitting here, hung up and making myself sad about the fact that between 9 and 5 I am at work, Monday to Friday.

Yet at lunchtime on Thursday the week is only HALF done. I have an entire weekend, and mornings, and evenings to fill my family time with quality experiences.

 

Getting my brain into this positive flow of thinking led me onto other things, like…

 

If I get a break by being at work, doing something I enjoy, I’m not totally tapped out by 5:30 by the kids.

Honest to god, on mat leave I was ready to crack the wine, oh wait, I did often crack open the wine, at 5:30 every night.

At work, I am so excited and ready to come home to my kids each evening that 5:30-8:00, formerly a window reserved for tv time, some half assed reading of bed time stories and playtime in the park, is “super engaged/motivated/excited mother Carina who is ready and willing to have quality time.

 

 

 

So there you go, take a shitty thought that doesn’t serve you, that you do not want, and deconstruct it. Then reconstruct it with positive mantras, helpful thinking and silver linings.

 

I’d love to hear what mindsets helped you get through that first week back and extinguish the thoughts that didn’t help you.

 

Xo

 

Carina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memes for the Firefighters’ Wife

IMG_3543It is strangely quiet and peaceful in my household after the dark days of two children teething.  With the gallant return to posting tonight, I thought I would offer up some humour for the firefighter // emergency services wifeys with a young baby at home.

Because really, sometimes I just want to drink wine and create memes with a generator app and chuckle away, before realizing oh sh*t it’s midnight and I have wasted precious sleep time.  Emergency services wifeys, and all you #firewifeys please enjoy.  This is for you.  All of these memes are created based on my service as a #firewife, lol.

Thank you for what you do!

Ps this is just HALF of them. There are many more where this came from.

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Protecting your Fortress – Life Coaching Techniques to Help New Moms Retain Self-Identity and Confidence

  

As I write this post I have a large, imposing fortress sitting on a hill top in my mind.  And inside that fortress I am sitting, blissfully happen, ALONE and not BEING TOUCHED OR CRAWLED ON BY ANYONE.
Can you tell I’m PMS-ing a bit today?  My poor, sweet husband wanted a cuddle last night. I wanted TO NOT BE TOUCHED BY ANYONE OR ANYTHING including the cats.  I was done.

Which brings me to today’s topic.  It’s really about defending your fortress.  Your last bastion of solitude from what I call the slow creep.

As mamas, the slow creep is something we have to be super mindful of.  Each part of the slow creep seems innocent in itself.  But x365 days of mat leave, making choices over and over again, each one you make sets a precedent – and enough times, will set a pattern.  

 

It leads to us feeling guilty and checking our i phone at the gym or not leaving until everything seems peaceful and perfect at the house.

(The slow creep is “I’m just going to pause my workout to answer this question / solve this problem I just got texted about.”)

It leads to us choosing the “easier” option – not going out, not bothering to dress up, skipping the makeup that day, eating cereal instead of a balanced meal. 

(The slow creep is “I’m going to change back into my runners to walk with the stroller later, there’s no point in bothering with a different outfit.”)

It leads to us not even being able to go to the bathroom or shower alone.

(The slow creep is answering a question from someone from behind the door.)

It leads to us doing the bulk of housework or chores.  

(The slow creep is “ugh, I just want this done NOW so I’m just going to do it myself.” )

It leads to us slowly losing our self confidence.

(The slow creep is that one morning where you think “I haven’t done that in __years/months since I had my baby, I won’t be any good now!”)

It leads to us slowly losing a sense of our own self-identity.

(The slow creep is that one night where you don’t bother going out with some girlfriends because you just don’t feel like it.)

 

Sounds pretty sinister, right?  

The problem with the slow creep is that it is each seemingly innocent moment that we are not always conscious of.  Those have a huge compounding effect over the duration of a year, and set precedents, set patterns.

One day you are in the bathroom.  Your 2 year old is being especially cute and you let her in, just once to watch you do your hair and makeup. *This is the slow creep.

One day you are in the bathroom.  Your husband opens the door and your baby comes crawling in, hanging on to your leg while you are trying to pee.  *This is the slow creep.

One day you are in the bathroom, your husband has a question and asks you through the door. You answer.  *This is the slow creep.

Each time is innocent enough to say “yes” or let it happen right?  But now three humans can do it.  And you are just one person.

A precedent has been established.  

You are now accessible whilst in the bathroom, to three people.  

This is an example RIGHT out of my book.  Last week I realized, of all things, I at least deserve to take FIVE MINUTES to complete basic bodily functions in privacy.  I got annoyed at myself because I had fully let it happen each time somebody wanted something from me.  I didn’t defend my fortress from the slow creep.

I cracked down. I reinforced my moment to myself physically with the lock on the door and in words, with a request:  “This is one time I need to not be interrupted. I give a lot of myself all day to all of you, and this is a time you will have to be without me”  (ok, the words I used for my two year old were a lot simpler than that!)

 

THE CHILDREN EXAMPLE

It’s the weekend.  Or maybe a week day if your husband does shift work.  He’s not working. One of your two children has a playdate.

You decide to take both, you might as well since you are going out. *This is the slow creep.

What precedent / pattern / routine are you setting up if you always offer / settle for taking and managing both kids and your husband gets the downtime?

This is one I also have to work on.  If my husband has specifically requested some downtime, no problem, I will take both.  But I don’t want to set up the precedent that both kids all the time is my responsibility.  I frequently have to remind myself of what we have agreed is 100% equal in our books and what would / would not lead to a pattern of resentment settling in

For me, I would feel great resentment if it became a pattern – if he was kid-free all the time, by my own doing –  by settling for just taking both kids “because I might as well.”

(-please note this is in our own family’s situation, other people may have a different balance point that works for them.)

 

Have a think about it.  Has there been anything that slowly, innocently enough, has seemed to have faded away.  What is important to you, that you should put in your fortress and defend with words and actions from the slow creep?  What does the slow creep mean to you?

 

How to Get the Most out of Your Prenatal or Post-Partum Massage

Why you should read this:  Receive far greater benefits at your next massage and shift from passive recipient to (somewhat) active participant.   I talk about going beyond the surface level benefits of massage: muscle & mental relaxation and how to access deeper benefits like addressing injury and emotions.

Reading time:  Less than 3 minutes

I just sat down in my local coffee shop after a wonderful massage at our local pre & post natal health clinic.  Having a massage is a regular practice on maternity leave.  (Note I didn’t use the words indulgence or treat.)   With the word practice comes a kind of sacred space, or commitment.  It is a mindful way to acknowledge what we need, and need regularly.  I don’t know about you – but I need massage regularly. I book it into my calendar as a standing monthly appointment.

The RMT I keep returning to has this inexplicable energy to her.  Her massages are consistently the best I’ve received.

Today I was in a chatty mood (usually I’m semi conscious and drooling) and our conversation got onto her Reiki training and energy work.  She’s an intuitive. An energy person.  I love these people.  They have an extra level of consciousness and awareness to them.  Ah hah, I thought.  That’s why she’s so good. 

We began a deep discussion of her body work and energy training, and how people can truly benefit from massage.

What I learnt today is that you can be an active participant in massage, not just a passive (SUPER passive and drooly I may add!) recipient.  

EMOTIONS HAVE THEIR OWN STORAGE BOXES IN OUR BODIES

Yoga instructors and massage therapists both know that the body stores emotions, memories and experiences.  Have you ever been in a yoga class where one movement has set the brain off in a chatter?    Where a hip opener for some reason wanted to make you cry?  It’s because we all have collections of emotions, and each one of them has a storage area in our body.

Think of a closet jam packed with clothes.  Lots of little boxes crammed with scarves, handbags, piles of sweaters, etc.   Body work allows us to get into that closet, declutter and organize so we can easily access the things that benefit us and not get overwhelmed in the chaos.  That closet is our bodies, jam packed with piles of sweaters (perhaps sadness) and belts (perhaps resentment.)  What if we took everything out, took a good look at it, decided what to keep and what to toss, and then organized things?

This is exactly what body work can be if you silently participate in it.  Massage or Yoga can help you can access areas of your body, get it chattering so that you can assess what is happening, acknowledge what emotions are sitting in that that area of the body, and then make the decision to toss or keep.  

 

A SOMATIC COACHING TECHNIQUE FOR YOU

As an ontological coach I am trained in working with three different domains:  The mind, the body, and emotion.  In professional coaching we call our work in body domains”Somatics.” I want to incorporate a professional coaching technique here so that next time you get a massage or go to yoga, you can use this technique and become aware of what exactly you are storing in your body – then you can make the decision to let it go (if it is not helping you) or keep it (if it is serving you right now.)

As you get your massage just remain an observer of your thoughts.  When the therapist accesses an uncomfortable place, watch what thoughts come up.  What are they related to? is there a common pattern?

I’ve been experiencing a lot of headaches lately.  As the therapist got into the base of my skull and traps, my brain started chattering as I thought about blog post ideas and what business to-dos I have on my plate.That’s a lot of thoughts around “to dos” and “business.”

Then I thought about what the head traditionally represents.  Thought.  Thinking.  Analyzing.  Planning.  Yes.  I’ve been doing a ton of that lately.  When we overuse a part of our body, it fatigues, gets tired and sore.  Why wouldn’t I get a headache? Duh  

I once had a coaching client who had ridiculously strong legs but was suffering from shin splints and all sorts of injuries which she’d never encountered.  What do strong legs symbolize?  Strength, being grounded, being stable.  It turns out that the events in her life required her to constantly be strong, be grounded, and be stable amidst chaos around her. The domain of the legs.  And it showed up in the cells.

Another client.  So strong with upper body workouts, crazy strong shoulders.  Headaches as well from her traps.  What do the shoulders make you think about? What do we use them for? They carry weight.   The weight of the world perhaps?  This client certainly did. She was carrying a heavy weight of responsibility in her life and those emotions were stored in her shoulders.

Language that comes through the mouth is easy to understand; language that comes through the body is harder to understand, because it is so subtle and in a different language (tension, pain, twitching.)  We have to give it space to come through (the hardest thing to do, right?!  I’d rather just reach for an advil and call it a day.)  We have to sit with the discomfort and then understand its language by connecting it with what is going in our lives.

WHAT TO DO DURING YOUR APPOINTMENT

I will try  my damned best to write this without getting too woo-woo on you.  It’s not my style, either so bear with me.

As soon as you know you have accessed a place that has a lot of mental chatter, a place that has aches and pains, undertake a visualization exercise.

As the massage therapist was working on my head, and I explained to her that I’d had a lot of thoughts on my mind, she suggested a visualization.  As her hands moved up my temples she said to imagine the top of my head opening, like a lid opening on a kettle, and the steam coming out (the steam representing all of those thoughts and all of that mental energy.)

An alternative would be to imagine that there is a dark smudge on your skin where the massage therapist’s hands are.  As they move their hands over the sore spot, imagine that smudge being cleared away.  The key is to go with a natural image you get in your mind.

I’ve heard of other techniques that involve replacing a glowing red light with a blue or white light. That one didn’t resonate with me because it wasn’t my style.

You are doing this all in silence in the treatment room, or the yoga studio.

At yoga, hip openers kill me, I’ve cried before.  Clearly I hold grief in my hips.  The people that audibly moan when the teacher announces it’s a hip day – guess what, they totally have a crazy ass closet of  jumbled stuff in that hip space.  I can tell you that because I’m one of them.  Pigeon pose is the worst.  I’ve started thinking about all that crappy burning and bad energy and emotions flowing down my leg that is extended out behind me and out through my big toe into the mat.

Yup, it’s going into woo-woo territory.  lol.

 

But let me tell you this, I’m sitting here at my laptop with a clear head, thoughts flowing nicely and a lot of focus. My headache is gone and I’m feeling much less anxious.  My massage was only 30 minutes.  Usually I can only get to this place after a 60 minute massage or 90 minute yoga practice.

Try this technique out some time.  

This is your private little secret, because it all happens in your mind. Nobody has to know.  

What have you got to lose? 

 

You, my dear, are officially encouraged to go get a massage. 🙂