Families in Calgary, Family Activities, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nature and Forest Play, Outdoors Activities

Winter Activity Ideas for Families (and Christmas, too!)

When we first moved to Canada, we were amazed by the snow, and very quickly became acquainted with frost bite, frozen eyelashes and all sorts of other classic Canadiana childhood moments.  25 years later, we haven’t lost our love of this magical season.  

And 25 years later, I still hold to the philosophy that if you are going to live in a country where winter runs from October to May (we had snow in September this year) – well, you might as well learn to love it, right?

I bring to you a list of really fun things to do as a family in winter.

First, go on a Christmas decoration hunt!  Print off this PDF I made for you and have the kids cross off each item when they see it!  We grab hot chocolates (and peppermint mochas for the parents of course) and it’s a fun evening! 

Pick up some toboggans and google toboggan hills in your area.  In Calgary check out the brilliant toboggan ‘bowl’ in Mapleridge, just off Acadia Drive.  In Canmore, the toboggan hill at the Canmore Nordic Centre.  

Watch the Grinch (Jim Carrey version) and have popcorn doused in butter. Or, grab a bag of that DELICIOUS Boom-Chicka-Pop peppermint popcorn.  Don’t forget to put mint lindtor chocolates in the freezer.  A christmas classic! 

Play Christmas light bingo.  Grab a happy meal, and drive around locating different christmas lights and decorations.  

Try making Maple Taffy in the snow.

Build a Gingerbread House

Make Christmas ornaments with supplies from the loonie store – pipe cleaner christmas ornaments with beads strung on them, popsicle stick snowflakes with jewels stuck on, there are so many options!

Bake some cupcakes or cookies, have the kids decorate them and take them to an elderly neighbour. 

In Calgary, go skating on Bowness Lagoon (North), Olympic Oval (Central) or Spruce Meadows (South) – feeling ambitous?  Skate on Grotto pond just before Canmore. 

Make a bird feeder with a pinecone, honey and wild bird seeds.  Even better, in Calgary go to Fish Creek and find the chickadees.  Curious, friendly and very happy to flitter onto your arm. 

Print off 12 days of kindness cards and divvy among the family.  Each day, a family member does something kind, writes it on the back of their card, and puts it into a kindness jar.  It is a lovely ritual to read all of them out. 

 Make hot mulled wine, and go out for a winter walk with it in your coffee mug (not for the kids lol)

Have a winter time charcuterie picnic.  Ice wine, cheese, bread, crackers, meats and some nice dried fruits.  Don’t forget the blanket and snow pants 🙂

Fill squirt bottles with food colouring, and set up snow in a container for the kids to colour.  They can also ‘colour’ their snowmen. 

Make Poppycock and then try not to eat it all. 

Visit Santa at the shopping centre.  In Calgary, you can decorate a gingerbread cookie and watch a disney movie as well!

Write letters to Santa, go on a forest walk and hang them in the tree.  Replace them with Candy Canes so that the kids find them on the return walk.

Make Pinecone christmas ornaments with glitter glue and sequins, tie with a twine and hang in the tree. 

Go outside with a black cloth and look at snowflakes up close.

Sleep under the christmas tree!

Have a family photo shoot – in the winter!

Make an extravagant breakfast.  Waffles, pancakes, fruit – or perhaps german style with fresh bread, meats and cheeses. 

Take ALL of the pillows off the couches and make the best.pillow.fort.ever.  

Get walnuts and a nut cracker (for the older kids) and consume half your body weight in nuts by the end of the night. 

Make a frame out of twigs in the snow and make a scene using twigs, berries, pine cones, leaves, etc. 

Attend an event where carols are sung.  

Make smores on a fire pit or in your own living room.  Another option:  Roast Chestnuts.

Go to the library and pick up winter and christmas books. 

Mix up and sprinkle “Reindeer dust” on the snow on Christmas eve.

Dance to christmas songs

Watch Home Alone, of course!

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Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Organization, time management

How to Reduce the Sense of Overwhelm in Parenting and Feel Less Rushed for Time.

Today’s blog post is designed to help you become more in control of lifestyle design, and a major question that comes up in lifestyle design is: “How do I feel less overwhelmed?!”

The second you are armed with the knowledge below, you are much better able to:

-Design your lifestyle

-Maintain time boundaries and get better at yes versus no.

-Reduce anxiety and that rushed feeling

-Feel less like time is slipping pouring through your fingers

Time management is like a sail boat in the ocean navigating to a destination.

Time Management is truly about constantly noticing when the winds of life (and your own management of the sails) blow you off track.  You have to then decide to stop, reassess the situation, decide what worked and what didn’t, and then adjust the sails to get back on course to your goals.  Equally important is we HAVE to know the destination, we HAVE to know what kind of lifestyle we want, and you know what, it looks very different from person to person.  Some people like a busy booked up life.  Others hate that.  We’ll get into that today.

A key point with sailing across the ocean, is that it will take constantly watching and adjusting the sails.  Sometimes you’ll slack off with the sails, like overcommitting.  Other times a storm will blow in (big life events.)  You don’t just get to sit back and sail to your desired lifestyle.

Even the best practitioners of time management find themselves saying yes to things, getting anxious, feeling frantic and overscheduled, and having to course correct when they realize they are passing that same rushed energy onto the kids… I can speak to this myself.

So, before we go further, let’s just note that this post isn’t a silver bullet.  This post is going to give you better awareness so that you can catch yourself before you are too far gone and rushing like a panicked parent chicken with its babies. I know you have that visual in your mind if you’ve ever been to a farm.

When I give you this tool, you’ll still be adjusting, correcting and feeling satisfied, then falling off track, adjusting, and correcting again.  But much less so than before and your goals, your destination will arrive sooner.

The Spectrum of Life and Time Management

Think of time management as a spectrum.  We are all constantly moving back and forth between two different styles of time management along the spectrum. We are going about, living out our lives using different styles, but we DO have a gravitational pull, or a preference to operate within a particular zone of the spectrum.  It’s what we like, what we are familiar with, and what suits us. It’s easy, accessible and familiar.  

But remember, when there’s a spectrum, there is an opposite version of what you prefer to do.  And lots of people prefer that different approach.  Even in the work world, there is a clear preference for how we are supposed to operate on the spectrum and we try our best to fit into that, no matter what our preference is.  It may be easy, or it may totally drain us.   

Ready to learn the styles?

The Organizer

The organizer likes a life that is has a nice structure.  They like to operate on some kind of schedule, with order.  Their lives are planned, well thought out and intentional, and the words definite or deliberate come to mind.  Their conversations are functional and effective, often inspiring action or takaways, or improvements in some manner. They like to come to decisions and take action, preferring to move forward with that plan – they don’t ilke to adjust or throw out a plan and in conversation, prefer to have closure and make a decision for action, than keep things open-ended.  You won’t hear them say “hey, let’s go for coffee sometime!” – they’ll ask “Would you like to go for coffee next week?” They will have the date set, in their calendar and they’ll commit (and show up on time.)  They prefer to have the say in decisions and get going on taking action and moving forward, often offering their opinion and stance in a matter and asking others for theirs.  They inspire people to set goals, plan and bring structure into their lives.

What makes an organizer tired, stressed, anxious, frantic, frazzled, overwhelmed and feeling like their life is slipping by too fast? 

Constantly changing situations, emergencies and unexpected events, changes of plans,  not having an input in the planning stages, lack of structure, disorganization, lack of clarity, lack of decision being made. Too few activities and underbooking.

The Adapter

The adapter loves the variety of life and emergent twists and turns that life brings. Though they live in structure as well (everyone needs it to some extent) they are very open to, and enjoy adapting to new information, situations or opportunities. And they are definitely not as structured as their counterparts.  Their conversations are open and speak of possibilities.  Not every conversation has to result in an action or takeaway.  They like to explore whether in life or conversation.  They will make decisions but know those can change, they understand the “diaper blowout in the car,” or the “running late” situation, and it doesn’t bother them in the slightest, in fact, they’re usually running a bit behind but don’t think it’s a big deal either.  Life happens and there are too many variables that can throw deadlines and times off. 

They are less willing to commit to too many things because of their appreciation of life and change, and they may tend to take a diplomatic middle stance in conversations, preferring to be open ended rather than decisive.  They are happy to roll with decisions – whether it’s theirs or others’ – because they know both lead to great places.  They are less quick to offer their opinion or stance, mostly because of their easy-going nature and preference not to pick a position.  They inspire people to relax, embrace life and spontaneity.

What makes an adapter tired, stressed, anxious, frantic, frazzled, overwhelmed and feeling like their life is slipping by too fast? 

Being controlled, no variety, the same schedule and events day in and day out, the same routine, lack of flexibility, no alternative approaches to plans that are made, being pushed to make a decision or share their stance on a topic they are not passionate about, not having places in their life where they can just say “surprise me!”  Too many events and overbooking.

We must honour our natural strengths and preferences, and make sure that we allow space for them in some domain of our lives (ie, if you are an adapter and have to be an organizer at work, honour your adapter nature with your kids and go on fun adventures.) 

Life becomes much easier, less stressful and less draining when we are kind and recognize our inner nature.   Honour who you are, what your preference is and if you find yourself becoming grumpy, stressed, rebellious or drained, ask yourself

Where have I been operating that moves away from my natural preferences?   What other areas can I put time into that will let me operate in my natural preferences?

When I am over-booked, over-committed and too structured, it crushes my soul and doesn’t allow for spontaneity and adventures.  I can’t commit to things 2 months in advance.  Life changes.  Right now, as a kindergartener parent I’m already not loving the restrictions on our day and where we can go in the 3 hours before school starts. A few months ago with my return to work I found myself with NO alone time, no unscheduled time, and no spontaneous creative expression or relax time.  Over two months that compounded and made me incredibly unhappy and almost militant in my approach to the day “kids we have to go NOW, because we have to be THERE AND WE CAN’T BE LATE.” I was stressed out, frazzled with no openings in my calendar to just be. Operating with a tight schedule and back to back events or bookings, I felt my mindset shift.  Previously, a diaper blowout or hard time getting the toddlers in the car was not abig deal, it’s just life with kids.  In a tightly scheduled day?  HUGELY stressful and I was getting so aggravated and rushing the kids out the door. I was keeping up to strict timelines without the natural preference or desire to do the planning and organization approaches that are necessary in a strict schedule, and I began to lose my spontaneity in adventures with the kids.  I had let myself go too long, forcing myself to be in a state that drains me and I got stuck there.  I was forcing my kids to and from the car to all sorts of scheduled events. Your kids pick up when you are not your best self, trust me!

I’ve spoken to parents who sit on the opposite side of the spectrum from me, and what is a huge stressor for them?   They  do such a great job of working on planning and structuring the family’s schedule and they are dedicated to making sure their lives cover a spectrum of experiences.  Life with kids throws so many wrenches into a day (sickness) and those last minute changes are not fun for an organizer.  They can be frustrated with late arrivals, cancelled RSVPs to an event, or the seeming lack of commitment from people for a plan everyone said they were interested in, that they are now working hard on bringing to fruition.

Wherever you are on the spectrum (and you can be in between!) it’s important to 

1.) Honour your natural strengths and make sure you commit to things in a way that honours your preference (structured or spontaneous.)  This will keep you content and less anxious/stressed/frazzled/frustrated. 

2.) Work to overcome weaknesses, improve and grow by ‘testing out’ or at least understanding the opposite approach. Walk in their shoes to appreciate both sides and elasticize your mind.

With this knowledge you can now be more aware of when you are in an environment that pushes you to work in your less preferred areas, which may drain you and stress you out.  

When it comes to time management these distinctions above are important because time management is NOT a one size fits all “hack” or “timetable” or “approach.”  Time management looks VERY different depending on where you are on, on this spectrum. As yourself, given my preferences, what is a great month for me?  How many events? What are they? Is there flexibility or is it more planned? Do I have time to plan and organize somethng (organizer) or do I have time to maybe do a random roadtrip; or fun activity with the kids (adapter) 

3.) Give people who frustrated you the benefit of the doubt.  Endeavour to understand their mindset. Nobody is ever doing something to upset you, they are simply acting from their philosophy of life, and once you ask them about it, you’ll completely understand why they act the way they do.

You don’t have to join them, but you can understand them and communicate better 🙂  You can state your boundaries and your needs, and honour your true nature instead of fit yourself to society which is telling you to be, act, and do a certain way.   That my friends, is a less stressed, less anxious, more in control parent who is mindful and intentional about everything they do, and is not mourning the loss of time. 

Communication Skills, Happiness, Learning, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Personal Development, time management

A Tool for Parents Interested in Better Time Management and Lifestyle Design.

Takeaway: This article shows how to gain some awareness (and better choices) in your schedule by becoming more aware of your speech

Copy of Copy of Copy of saturdaymarch 23, 20194_00 pm

Have you ever been at a friends’ house for a playdate and you wind up observing the interactions between your friend and their partner, noticing the differences, or maybe similarities in how they talk to each other versus how you talk to your partner?

It’s easy to observe others talking, but with practice, we can turn this same observation on ourselves, and in here is massive personal growth and self development.  The technique of becoming an observer of your own speech is powerful when it comes to better time management and lifestyle design.

Read on, especially if you struggle with saying yes, or you find yourself frequently overcommitted or overbooked and frustrated that you don’t have the space to act on things that are of higher priority (or interest) in your life.

If you think about it, we walk around with many thoughts and ideas in our head.  More than 40,000 of them in a day, actually.

Out of all of those thoughts and ideas, which ones do we choose to put out there into the world?  Which ones remain our “inside voice” ‘and which ones become our “outside voice.”  When you think about it that way, you realize that speech is powerful.

Nobody knows what is going on inside of us until we speak.

Technically ,we don’t commit to anything in our outside world, or bring our future into existence until we speak.

When you think about next week, you’re just visualizing it.

When you talk about next week, you are designing next week by talking about things, committing to things, speaking next week into existence.

We design our life by speaking, and there are a few “speech acts” that commit us to our future.

Making a declaration (next Tuesday I am going to a playdate with X.)

Making an offer (would you like to go to the zoo next Wednesday with the kids?)

Making a request (I’d like us to get outside more next week.)

Making a promise (I’ll get that back to you by next Thursday.)

 

An example is today, we are getting outside with our kids for some fresh air. Thursday is designed.  When did it become a plan versus a thought in my mind?

Last week.  Last week I said to my husband,

Me: we need to get the kids out for fresh air (vague request.)

Husband:  I’m off on Thursday, we could go out in the morning (declaration.)

Me:  How about we go to the zoo? (offer)

Husband:  Great idea! (accept)

So I:  *Put it in the calendar.

There you go.  An idea floating around in our heads that we both agreed on.  Then we designed our upcoming week with speech acts (a variety of them in this conversation.)

As you begin to think about this, and watch yourself in conversations this week, notice what your tendencies are.

Reactive Tendencies:

(your week is planned and you are left asking yourself, why do I have all this shit on my schedule that I don’t want to do?)

Do you make promises or offers to other people?

Do you tend to plan your week based on other people’s requests (that you’ve said “yes” to) or their declarations (letting them take the lead.) 

Proactive Tendencies:

You don’t make promises or offers.

(You declare your priorities and what you have capacity for and want to achieve in the upcoming week – yes that means putting it out there in speech 🙂 and you say No as well as Yes.)

You plan your week based on your own and your family’s requests (which brings me to an interesting point, do you KNOW what you need in your upcoming week and do you have the speech skills to not let other things get in the way? Can you say NO to other people’s stuff, so that you can protect and experience your own stuff?)

 

Questions for you to take away:

This week, I simply invite you (with this knew knowledge) to observe yourself and what your tendencies are.

How do they influence how your days and weeks unfold ?

If you are interested in designing a lifestyle and a future that works for you, how do your speech acts work for you in designing that?

How do they work against you?

 

 

Book Club, Essays, Life Hacks, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Organization, time management, Working Mom

How to Manage Your Time as a Working Mom – What My iCal Looks Like

Hello everyone!  At work this week I’ve been running a ton of presentations and doing a heck of a lot of coaching around time management, now that we are in the exciting month of September.

For many, this month marks a shift into a different pace and rhythm, especially those of you parents who have kiddos continuing (or starting!) school.  Doubly true for those of you who simultaneously work in industries that ramp up in the fall and winter!

As a higher education professional, that certainly applies to me!

First point, I want to say, is be gentle with yourself!  As you get into the rhythm of a new season, it’s going to take some adjustment over the month.  You’ll do too much, then you’ll go the other way and not enough and then you’ll find that “just right” rhythm. There’s a Scandinavian quote I love, “not too little, not too much, just enough.”  I believe you can’t find “just enough” until you try the other ends of the spectrum and your boundaries.   One person’s too much is another person’s just right.… right?

Personally, in my own time management life, I’m trying to figure out how to fit meal prep and a more effective morning routine into my life, but my ical and outlook schedules are pretty dialed in.  I’m also back at work after maternity leave and having to trust that my husband has the home front and home iCal under control while I am in sessions or workshops.  The hand off of child schedules during the daytime has been a wild (but awesome) adjustment for both of us, and we just keep the lines of communication open around our own personal strengths and weaknesses and where the other needs support.

Second point I want to make, is that we are all constantly working on time management, and then adjusting our schedules and rhythms as each new element comes in.  I am a time management expert and I have to work at it every day!

We NEVER discover a perfect system and then install it… we are ALWAYS adjusting and constantly responding to changes…  I’ll talk about this in the video.

On IGTV (Instagram TV) today I shared a behind the scenes video of how I manage my schedule as a working mother with a career, a few side hustles and 3 kids. I show you my iCal and my outlook, and the systems I use to stay on top of things.

I’ve also posted the video below, which is also saved to my channel on Youtube.  

 

FYI, I share lots of coaching, tips and insights on my Instagram account, so if you don’t already follow along, do check it out at https://www.instagram.com/great_maternity_leave_yyc/

I find it incredibly helpful to “see” what other peoples’ lives are like, and people’s work / home schedules are fascinating to me. I love studying them, but it’s often not something that people open up about and show (or even talk about in conversation.)  It’s kind of like finances in a way, so, that is exactly why I am sharing my own.

Let’s have these conversations!  They help us elevate our lives and manage the full days of parenthood.  Where do you excel? Where do you struggle? What has helped you?

If you are a working mother and are very curious about balancing multiple roles, I strongly recommend the book “I Know How She Does It” by Laura Vanderkam which has lots of ‘sample’ schedules of real working women she interviewed.  The paperback is $22 and the Kindle edition (I personally read this on Kindle so I can save and review the notes) is $16.

I Know How She Does it by Laura Vanderkam
One of my favourite books on maternity leave, it helped me with time management for working moms

Time management really is a passion of mine, I love how fluid it is and how it is an ever-shifting thing.  I have an entire category of the blog dedicated to it, so here are some additional articles that may be of interest.  I’ll also make a note to share my own notes on this book above!

EXTRA READING:  Other Time Management Articles on the GML

Why we should stop saying OMG I AM SO BUSY

Add This Approach to Your Time Management Practices

My Thoughts on the Whole “Too Busy / Too Overwhelmed” Dialogue In Society

 

Grounding, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Nature, Personal Development, Physical Wellness, Trail running

Advice for Trail Runners. The Diary of a New Trail Runner and Life Coach.

Trail running is amazing because it puts us into flow state, from which our greatest insights and ideas come. I love to coach in nature (I guess you could say I do “nature coaching” or “nature life coaching”) and for me, trail runs are like a ridiculous download from the deepest recesses of my mind.

Today I offer you a wonderful tool on how to leave your past in the past, and start moving towards your future mindfully.

Xo Carina

Ankylosing Spondylitis Journey, Essays, Free Life Coaching Guides, grief, Grounding, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Physical Wellness

Stop Repressing your Emotions. Start Feeling and Start Healing. My Ankylosing Spondylitis Remission Journey.

Recently Diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis_ (4)

 

Image: Stock Image, Colourbox.

This image right below, is of the Hoover Dam. An engineering marvel bordering Arizona and Nevada.  It is a powerful visual for today’s post.  Hold it in your mind, it will make sense in a few minutes.

preview_COLOURBOX16384159

Its concrete base is more than 600 ft thick.  Why?  The Hoover Dam holds back 45,000 lb of water pressure per square foot. Behind this massive concrete wall lies 247 square miles of water. That water is carefully controlled and flows through the dam.  A tiny, restricted flow of water generates enough energy in the plant’s turbines, to power the lives of 1.3 million people for a year.

Side note:  If you have attempted to keep bath water in the bath with a toddler, you will have an appreciation for the scale of this dam and water pressure, because with a toddler bath, you (the parent) with 5 or 6 feet of body, are trying to withstand approximately 100 gallons of water.  lol.  Anyways…

The water’s potential energy held behind that wall, is staggering.  It is there, bound up, waiting to be let through that dam.  The water that gets through, explodes with energy, transferring to kinetic energy, and eventually into electric energy for hundreds of thousands of homes.

If you remember back to your high school classes in physics, (assuming you actually attended those classes – I can’t say I did)  you may remember the first law of thermodynamics, the Law of Conservation of Energy: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.

I think about this all the time with parenthood – we all witness a huge range of energies & emotional states that  children move through.  They are incredibly dynamic.  Toddler kinetic energy (racing down the hall) can flash over to emotional energy in a heart beat! They will pick up any energy in the room like a sponge.  Even your baby does.  Trying to put your baby down quickly and easily when you are agitated and restless?  Yeah, good luck with that…

So, back to my point with energy only transfers. The human body experiences many forms of energy. Kinetic energy, chemical energy, thermal energy and electrical energy are all examples.   Energy is flowing within us and through us.   It leaves us, and comes to us.  It is a constant interplay between us and our environments.We’re in one giant circle of energy exchange.

Though we haven’t gotten a good handle on it yet, there are other forms of energy flowing in our body, too.  This energy is described in Eastern Medicine as Qi, but in the west we don’t really have a proper name for it yet other than the very loosey goosey description of someone’s “vibe.”

We have good days and bad days, on days and off days.  We feel the vibes of other people and we can’t help but raise to their level, or sink to their level, depending on where they are.  When our babies or children are in a different energy state from us, we are left trying to stay grounded while helping them move through their various states of being.

If you are super fascinated by energy states of children, I truly recommend Carol Tuttle’s book which describes different energy dispositions and how to work with them in children.   It has been hugely influential in my life and parenting.

Here we, are trying our best to manage our children’s energy and how we react to it, thinking we are the knowledgeable ones… BUT… children have something very, very important to teach us.  Children live in the present moment, and healthily process emotions.  They let themselves experience everything in full technicolour.  Then, as quickly as an emotion arrives, it passes.  Maybe 5 minutes later, maybe 2 weeks later.  It moves on.

Granted, we don’t want to go into full toddler style technicolour ranges of emotion and energy.  We are adults and self-regulation is important in environments like oh, say, our jobs? Extended family dinners?

BUT you know what we adults do? We repress our emotions and deny them. We are like the wall of the hoover dam, except we are not 600+ feet thick concrete.  We’re made of tissue, and bone, and organic materials that are constantly shifting and changing. I fully believe whatever emotions are being held back, the pressure of those is felt in our bodily structures.

We swallow emotions down and instead of letting them go through us and out of us. We push them deep into our subconscious and consequently, into our bodies.  They eventually show up, becuase energy changes state.  Perhaps bad dreams, or unconscious behaviours, or even chronic pain and illness.

In my own healing journey toward vitality and away from chronic pain and depressive symptoms and nightmares, I’ve come to understand that many of my own emotions have been repressed over the years, for various reasons.   From family, social and cultural pressure to have a stiff upper lip, to simply needing to get sh*t done in crisis situations and saving the emotions for later.

And here, is the main point of this article.  It turns out that having small children can be one of the most liberating things for your body, mind, spirit and soul, because they get our emotions back into free-flow mode.

Full disclosure, pre-kids, I used to see being emotional and crying as a trait of weakness and extremely undesirable. If I went to a movie with a friend or family, I’d inwardly roll my eyes if they were sobbing, and judge them – yet I’d be picking at my lip or fighting my own battle not to cry, staring at the back of people’s heads and trying to disconnect from the movie.

I took pride in being logical, un-emotional, stoic, etc.  I was simply modelling what I saw around me.  And you know what, for a long time it did truly serve me.  Locking down and getting stuff done and facing challenges was something I had to do for almost all of my teens and twenties.  It’s what I had to do then, and I honour it. That’s why we keep beliefs around, right?  At some point they were useful.

In 2013 I took care of my mum with stage IV lung cancer and I was pregnant at the same time. It was an honour to be in that role. I was locked down, efficient, stoic as F**** while so many people around me fell apart from grief.  I am careful not to judge it as a good thing or a bad thing – I have no regrets about how I handled my cancer caregiver role, however, keeping things on lock down did catch up with me, because those beliefs became more deeply embedded and my emotional range deeply decreased.  

When old beliefs begin impacting your current quality of life, it is time to say:

“you know what?  You served me once upon a time but you are not serving me anymore.  In fact, you are keeping me from moving forward and getting where I want to go in my life. It is time for you to go!” 

After the ultimate application of my ability to remain stoic and unemotional, I was thrown into motherhood, where my old beliefs about repressing emotion began to really backfire.  When my daughter was 3 months old, I was struggling to feel anything.  Joy, happiness, connection.  I realized that I had to get things flowing again, and feel something.  I began counseling, reading, keeping a dream journal and some deep somatic work. 

In order to let the good stuff flow, I learnt that I had to let the sad stuff flow, too.  The earliest hints of this were in my dreams which were really quite tortured and tragic.  Emotion was showing up in my dreams and my chronic pain was intense. 

From 2013 to 2018 I embarked on a journey to create non-self-judgemental space in my life let my emotions flow.  It was terrifying.  It was really hard, too. 

I believe that for any “logical” person, letting yourself finally connect with your emotional states and acknowledge that you are an emotional being, is the ultimate act of courage. Nobody wants to feel the hard stuff.  It’s why people get addicted to things.  We want to avoid it.  But in order to get to the other side (happiness and the good feels) you have to be brave enough to go through the hard feels.  

One of the practices I took on, was to cry in public. This was one of the most intense forms of self-regulation and repression that I used to do as a child and it was one of my most stubbornly held beliefs.  I knew this was a stubborn belief, because the thought of crying in public or around friends instantly made me recoil. 

 It was a hugely difficult practice at first to let myself cry publicly, but after some months of work, I did it! One of the first times I was able to truly let myself be and allow emotions to flow, was on an overnight flight to London Heathrow with my daughter who was 6 months old at that point.  The moment that plane flew over the twinkling Calgary skyline, I lost it. My mum and I had so many special memories of flying on that exact Air Canada flight back over to the UK to see our family (and when she lived there, me flying out to see her.) I was tired, and snuggling a baby and just feeling very, very lonely at that point of my life. I let myself sob.  It let it out, and let it go.  When people asked if I was okay, I said “not really.” I opened up.  That first time crying in front of a plane of concerned strangers was huge, and slowly I was able to do it in scarier situations – in front of my husband and friends.  

I would have NEVER done that pre-baby. Not. In. A. Million. Years.  Honestly, not even for $1000. Even 5 years later after tons of work, I find it hard to be emotional. I don’t think you can just simply decide to let deeply held beliefs go.  It’s a journey and you will move forward and sometimes backward. 

Rewinding back to 2013.  Once I had let myself experience tears,  there was plenty of room for the good stuff. Over the next five years, I was able to truly access joy again.  The water pressure against the dam released as I let some water (emotions) through the turbines.

By letting water flow through the dam’s power plant and turbines, energy is created. I found that analogy so true to my own life.  By letting emotions finally flow through, the trickle of water became a huge flow.  That emotional energy hit the turbines and converted to a different form.  The energy of growth, happiness and engagement. It released more energy to continue working toward the life I wanted, and more energy to access the good emotions.   

I can also say that it (has) helped relieve some of my chronic pain, though this has been something that has really come along in the last year (2017-2018)

  I truly think that when you have emotional pressure pushing against that wall (by the way that concrete wall is your own fear of emotions and “lockdown” mode)  some of that pressure has to transfer to parts of your body.  Headaches, back pain, maybe inflammation and illness or a bad digestive system?  Depends on you.

Energy is neither created nor destroyed, simply transferred elsewhere in different forms, right?  

In 2018 as I write this with far more emotional range, a gentler, kinder and more accepting attitude toward emotion, I can say that my pain is less, in all senses of the word.  I am more willing and able to express myself, embrace vulnerability and with those things has come a beautiful life, greater happiness and the confidence and faith to embrace highest visions for the life of myself and my family.   I am a better friend, wife, mother for being gentle not only with others in their emotional times, but also myself, and I wouldn’t take that back for the world.

I hope the dam visual lands with you, and that perhaps this causes some reflection on your own emotions, energy management, and the gift that your children have given you.

 

xo

 

Carina

 

Baby Gear, Families in Calgary, Happiness, Kids Activities, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nature, Nature and Forest Play, Outdoors Activities

Hiking Heart Creek Trail with Toddlers – Toddler-Friendly Hikes in Calgary and Canmore.

Heart Creek Trail with 2 toddlers and a baby 🙂 

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Today my husband and I rolled out of the house with our two toddlers (4 and 3) and baby (1) to finally go do Heart Creek Trail.  We haven’t done any hikes yet this summer, but we’ve heard about this trail on lots of family outdoors groups.

We find that with hiking, we HAVE to commit, get up and go.  It really takes commitment – no changing minds.  It honestly takes a bit of dedication, because so many things can happen in the 2 hours between the kids up at 6:30 and getting rolling at 8:30. Meltdowns, complications, distractions or just the weakening of our own willpower to get in the car and drive for an hour and a half! 🙂

One thing that I am constantly fighting in order to get to the mountains, is the urge to leave the house in a somewhat not-disastrous-state. It’s quite a state after morning wild animal feedings 🙂

I work so hard not to feel it but my house IS messier than the average house and I full disclosure, I am still working to shake off  shame about it (which is hard to do when you do get judged and it reactivates your shame.) I constantly feel the need to clean it before we go.  Which is silly, because even if I do clean it, my ‘clean’ is still messy to other people, so what’s the point? lol.

I had been succumbing to the urge to clean earlier in the summer and finding that I was using my best energy and best time of day to clean and “organize” – basically, more often than not, it would wind up resulting in us not getting out!  So stupid when it’s not even a value of mine, I’m just doing it because of long-held shame and fear of judgement.

So, for the second half of summer, I’m pretty much leaving the house a disaster, saying fuck that and going to the mountains!  This is a belief that is no longer serving me.

We try to get everyone up, snacks packed, everyone changed, stuff thrown in a bag and coffees ready for us. Almost always, somewhere along the line we usually forget a coat, or a pair of extra pants, or someone’s water bottle, but if it means getting up and out, we can roll with that 🙂

Now, with out out of the way, onto the fun part – Heart Creek Trail, it is toddler approved (4,3,1)

Heart Creek is ideal for age 3+

Under 3’s will get tuckered so have a mode of carrying if they do!

I am pretty adventurous with my BoB Stroller and Double Chariot Stroller, however, I’ll say that Heart Creek is *not* doable with a stroller.

However, there are lots of natural features to keep the toddlers going!  You start off with a very slight toddler-friendly ascent up a hill (top left photo), over rooty, rocky trail for about 10 minutes before the trail opens to a nice meadow and view of Heart Mountain.  From there on in, you follow the creek, where there are fun bridges criss-crossing the creek, a toddler-friendly crossing where they step over slabs of rock, and trail mostly consisting of loose and compacted river rocks and pebbles.

Despite the bear in area signs, it was a busy trail on a Sunday in July, but not overly busy.

We turned around at the climbing area (75% of the way) as our parent spidey senses were tingling and we sensed the kids were getting tired. It wound up being a good judgment call.  Always turn around before meltdowns, and leave something more to look forward to the next time.  That’s kind of our approach to hiking now.

I think in our earlier parent days we were adamant about completing the whole hike or trail and we’d always wind up carrying someone back to the car or dealing with meltdowns.

We’ve learned to let that mindset go and simply go for the experiences on the trail, rather than where the trail leads to, or the “accomplishment” inherent in a hike.  It takes a bit of work to pull back and turn around before you are ready to, but it makes for a better experience for everyone!

 


Tips to keep your toddlers going on a hike:


-Snacks


-Point out cool features (lots of mushrooms on your right, on the first part of the hike – keep your eye out for the cute pink ones!)


-Don’t see at it as getting to a destination – look at it as a chance to explore and play in different features along the trail. We loved the little creek crossings on the rocks as well as the bridges.

-Make nature bracelets so they can pick things along the way! Still have to write a post about this, but essentially, make a bracelet out of duct tape, with the sticky side up.  As your kids hike, they can add little things to their bracelets like leaves, moss, twigs and the occasional wildflower. 

-Scale it.  Remember they are little people in little bodies.  We really had to work on getting out of our “goal of completing a hike because we drove an hour there” mindset and focus on the experiences along the way on the trail.  Ironically, this is a really nice analogy for life. 🙂

If you enjoy reading about trails on blogs, here are some blogs about Heart Creek Trail written by other wonderful bloggers!  These are always what inspire me to get out there!

Other blogs on Heart Creek Trail & Area

I love the Hiking with Barry blog, he’s a lovely guy and sold me my XC skis last year! Here’s his blog on Heart Creek Trail 

Tanya scrambled up Heart Mountain (sans kids you can make it a great scramble / summit hike!)

Here’s the standard All Trails Heart Creek Trail Map

With or without kids, if you complete Heart Creek and still want more, why not do Bow Valley Nuclear Bunker after lunch and explore the man made cave inside?  (take a flashlight, it’s pretty cool and starts from the same area as Heart Creek!) 

Creativity, Essays, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nutrition, Physical Wellness

Organic Stores are a Better Deal Than Big Box Stores in Some Ways. You Just Have to Think Differently.

I’ve subscribed to Ramit Sethi for a while now and have been following his work.  I like his honesty and punchy emails. Today’s email was “10 extravagances people pay for.”  He had asked his readers to submit their answers to this question with an explanation.

There was one in particular I LOVED that made me stop and go hmmm!  That’s right! It caused a little shift in the way I see things.  I had this realization about 10 minutes ago and decided to share it.  It’s just a more flexible way of approaching our decisions as consumers.

You see, I prefer smaller, local stores with organic produce and lifestyle items, I love Community Natural Foods, Bite Groceria and Sunnyside Natural Market.  I don’t do full grocery shops there, our budget is a reality for us – but I always stop in if I am in the area, and do buy supplements, leafy greens, specialty items and the occasional 50% off lunch from there.  I really enjoy those stores.

Reading Sethi’s email today I had an “ah hah” moment.

So often we just think of our consumer choices in terms of money, money, money.  The number at the bottom of a bill.  Money dominates our thinking and it can cause scarcity thinking.  As soon as you start focusing exclusively on minimizing the money going out, and the cheapest deal possible, it’s sort of a race to the bottom in many ways.

We have to be careful to hit the right balance between living within our means + stretching ‘strategically’ versus racing to the bottom and developing a scarcity mindset.  We have to be careful to keep our brains flexible and come at things from different angles.  We need to remember when we make a decision, it’s not just about the object but it can also be about the experience.

There IS something to be said about looking at where we spend our money with a wider perspective than the numbers game.  Sethi nailed this point on the head.

Which response got me started on all of this thinking?  This one:

In response to the question “what are your extravagances?”

“I spend money on the shopping experience itself, because experiences, not stuff, make us happy.  My mom loves to brag about how her grapefruits were so much cheaper than mine – but I bought mine at the fancy market, with the lovely music, while she bagged her own groceries amidst screaming children.” 

I laughed reading this.  It is very true!  I hold nothing against screaming children.  But it totally gets you thinking differently and approaching a weekly chore from a completely different angle.

I digress….

The grocery shop is an experience.  It is more than dollar signs and groceries and just purchasing objects.  It’s an investment of your time and effort.  By racing to the bottom and going as cheap as you can, sometimes you’re not necessarily saving as much as you think.
The cheap store.  Stressful. Crowded. Further away.  Low-quality foods.  So, you’ve just spent an extra $10 return on gas, come home stressed out, spent longer because you bagged your own groceries, bought lower quality items and made an economic decision to support stores who are in the race to the bottom, more stuff for as cheap as possible (which has given rise to the factory farm situation btw!)  You throw stuff into the massive shopping cart indiscriminately and the subtle psychology of the clearance deals and pricing makes and bright yellow signs makes you spend way more than you planned to spend because “it was an amazing deal!”
The organic store.  Much more expensive, yes.  What if it is closer?  Less gas and time? High quality nutritionally dense foods you don’t need to eat in as high volume.  And the experience of a health food store? You come out smothered in nice lotions, essential oils, with a free Alive magazine.  It smells like incense and you come out all chilled out, relaxed and inspired to live healthy. You have a nice conversation with someone perusing the same vitamins shelf. You are more particular about what you choose and put more thought into your shop, because you know it’s expensive af and your cart is teensy.
Interesting, right?
The point of this article IS NOT to argue that one store is better than the other, I use both.  The point of this article is to say that nothing is as black and white, cut-and-dried as we think, and sometimes the race to the bottom, as much as we can get for as cheap as possible, is not the greatest option.  Sometimes it’s good to think about experiences and to cultivate good experiences.
What if we applied that thinking to everything we do in our day?
What if we decided to make a chore an enjoyable experience? What if we took the dishes and dropped a few scents of rosemary oil into the sink afterwards and breathed it in? What if we go to buy cat food from the pet store, take the kids and have fun snuggling bunnies?  What if we cultivate experiences in the ordinary every day things?
Whoever this respondent was, they are on to something.
To keep learning, growing and expanding is to continuously engage in these kinds of thinking exercises.
In addition to doing sudoku, or luminosity, what if we started the practice of thinking outside of the box when we evaluate our consumer decisions?  What if we start coming at it with the perspective of how much are we experiencing in addition to how much are we spending? 
Thoughts to ponder over morning coffee.
Thanks Ramit, for the brain food this morning.

 

 

Essays, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nutrition, Physical Wellness, Spirituality

How to Handle Food Saboteurs and People Who Don’t Support Your Lifestyle Change

I’ve been on a pretty major health / lifestyle overhaul the past few years and it has been the most fascinating (and challenging) growth experience.

Last summer, I rejoined Weight Watchers. I’ve had success on it before and it’s a short, beautiful walk from my house.  The ritual of the weekly weigh in, the outstanding food tracking app and the algorithm that balances macros makes it a great fit for me. I am not a details person.  I’ve tried super dialed in macro diets and tracking with my fitness pal but it’s not for me.

It also lets me do my style of eating within it.  I try to eat gluten and dairy free within it, favouring lean meats, fruits, vegetables and nuts / seeds.  The WW algorithm favours these foods, which makes it a great match.

The highest weight I have ever been was last summer.  At 5’10 and pregnant, I topped the scales at 237lb, 70 lb above my normal BMI range.  After delivering, my weight stabilized at 220.  Though I was still on the cusp of overweight / obsese.  I wasn’t alarmed, and I refused to hate my body.  I’m not in that place anymore. It’s a gift of the 30s 😉 but I’ll tell you what, I really felt the discomfort in my joints.  That’s the first time in my life where I went past the overweight category into obese and holy shit, I was really, really sore and tired and inflamed.

I can very clearly remember the distinction between that weight and out of shape weight.  I’m thankful for the experience because I knew I suffered there. It was uncomfortable and in suffering we find our deepest whys and motivations.  When you suffer, you lock in your motivation on a physical, mental and emotional level.  It’s why nobody ever truly transforms until they have their “aha moment” or as Chad Fowler said to Tim Ferriss, the “Harajuku Moment.”

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My weight journey over 3 pregnancies between 2013 and 2018

Between the sickness of pregnancy and the short breaks between each pregnancy, I decided to just take enjoyment in food and I don’t really have any regrets about the journey to that place.  I figure there’s a time in life for gains, a time in life for losses. A time for suffering, a time for vibrancy.  There is just no way you can stay on a perfect linear trajectory.  Nature has seasons and cycles, so do humans.

very.single.rice.krispie treat I ate at good earth cafe, every afternoon was glorious.  No fuckin regrets at all.  Those little rice krispies fed my soul and gave me a small window of relief when I’d been puking all morning.  Every sip of the litres of OJ I went through while I was pregnant with my first? Divine, I tell you!

So, coming into the Fall of 2017 and Mat Leave 3, I knew that it would be about hunkering down and getting the hell out of obese / overweight.

And off to Weight Watchers I went.

I chose to attend the weekly meetings.  For the longest time, I didn’t want to because I find the demographic different and the tools they share a bit basic.  But it’s humbling.

An obstacle to learning that I often carry with me, is that I can research and learn myself, and I already know (and probably on a deeper level) a lot of the science they share, so sometimes I have difficulty granting authority to the leader.  It’s good to identify your obstacles to learning, because once you know them, you can quiet that voice, eat some humble pie and listen.  Everyone has barriers and obstacles to learning. My full time job is helping university students, who are some of the best learners around, overcome a laundry list of them.

At meetings, I remind myself that I am in the same body fat percentage as everyone else and it means I am NOT an expert!  Yes you have knowledge but clearly you are not applying it, so let’s get back to those basics, I tell myself.  I needed to relearn a few things, – mindful eating, portion sizing and eating square meals instead of grazing. I had to retrain my taste buds and sensitize them to sugar by depriving them for a while, and establish the habits and routines of multi vitamin and fish oil supplements, and water intake.

As much as I hate the 5lb awards and clapping and rah rah, I love the part of the meeting where we get into real talk – it’s the trials and tribulations discussion.  It’s like a live version of a talk show and the conversation goes deep.  I love the stories and feedback and advice everyone shares.  It’s inspiring, insightful and the different perspectives serve to break down your learning obstacles.

One of the most common topics that has come up over the last 6 months of meetings has been food saboteurs.

Weight Watchers has an internal instagram account called Connect, and today I got into a discussion about it with a fellow member who is having a hard time with the blatant and active resistance to change that her family is putting up, and their attempts to get her to return to previous habits.  I’ve been so lucky in that I haven’t had any actively disempowering behaviour or doubters, everyone has been so amazing, supportive and empowering in person.  But her story led me down the rabbit hole of thinking about how to approach this from a coaching perspective.

It made me think about some stuff I’ve been reading lately in Tony Robbins’ Book, Awaken the Giant Within, (it’s a classic of his and a big book, but a life changer!!!) It’s probably my #1 life changing book now, The Power of Habit is in a close #2 spot.

(Links to paperbacks below.  Please feel free to use these links to hop over to Amazon if you need to do a shop there.  Literally by shopping on Amazon by going through these links, you are supporting this blog.) 

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In Robbins’ book he teaches us that everything boils down to our innate human nature –  that we all just want to feel love and belonging, and we want to avoid pain. At the most primordial part of our brain, it is about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.  Those are the dual forces that influence everything we do, think and say.

I realized that this insight applies to all people in our lives who surprise us by not being as supportive as we thought they’d be, when we are undergoing major upward growth and change.

And so, I present to you, my take on this situation, on the people who are *not* empowering you. Who are trying to pull you back… who are actively, or maybe passively disempowering you.  The doubters, the haters *gasp* the food saboteurs and more.

❤️

At the deepest level they act from a very primordial place in their brains.  Everything stems from love and our need for love. The need for belonging and love is a basic human need.

They fear that with your change, your love for them and relationship with them will change.  Ironically, by clinging to the past and trying to pull you backward to remain with them, with their ‘version’ of you, they are only reinforcing their own fears, beause backward momentum cannot compete with forward momentum once you’re on a path of evolution.

In the meantime, many more are embracing the new, evolved you.  Some of them are even inspired and raise up to your new vibration + way of perceiving and showing up in the world.

But …the parade gets rained on, beause that damn 20% are taking up the 80% of your thoughts, and often they are the closest people.  The ones that are supposed to love you the most, right?  Well, they do. It’s a funny kind of love.

Either passively or actively these types will fight your growth (food sabotage anyone?) to bring you back to their vibration – where they are, and where they see you as being. It is the only way they know how to be, and show up, and treat themselves (and treat you.)  

They mistakenly think it is the only place you’ll continue to love them from, and once you leave, your love leaves too. Remember, the old you, the old lifestyle had different expressions of love. We all have fairly stable love languages – mine is gifting – but in my new lifestyle the gift of a big meal out isn’t in line with my new values, and it often derails my goals – but it’s what gets offered by my family with genuine love. 

I often think about this now, because I a genuinely not a foodie and don’t like eating out, yet for birthdays and special occasions, restaurants always get suggested first.  It’s frustrating, and I try to divert and choose a different, healthy restaurant option more in line with my new lifestyle, but there’s definitely pushback, especially if you don’t want cake! But I can understand that they are just being who they are, it’s me who has changed and I have to gently advocate for my needs and new boundaries and also give insight as to why.  If you explain why, you may still face the pushing, and they’ll try and argue around your logic and then you just have to go to a simple, respectful “no, it’s not for me.”  

There’s also another subtle fear – the nonsupporters (they may not even be aware of these fears) are scared you’ll leave with your new improved life and at the same time, your success is precipitating some uncomfortable reflection on their own lives.  It’s a wonderful process that is happening within them, but they’ll probably be a bit mad and want to shoot the messenger (you and your shiny new life!)

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide to how much time you want to spend with people on their different levels (if they don’t want to be on yours,) and with a new, “level up” in your life, you may need to put some work into protecting this lovely place you are in and preventing a backslide. It’s not all shiny and rainbows and unicorns in a new healthy lifestyle.  You are still learning to let go of your urges, bad habits and self-limiting beliefs. I actually think it’s a reason why it bothers us so much when someone tries to reactivate our old habits.  You can feel that hot fire of anger.  It’s because you are fighting hard and “don’t they know how hard I am working?!”

It’s not your job to raise them up to your level, or stoop down to theirs, either.  You do you and they do them. All you can do is set a great example through your own actions, by you, for you.  You have chosen a different place to be.  Hold to it.  For sure, encourage them and let them climb up if they want to ascend to your level, but know they may not and would rather that you be with them, and love them, by climbing down from that crazy precipice above them.   

We are all different souls having a human journey in the larger, cosmic “level up” process.  Some are just not ready for level 10 in this lifetime, but you are. You know it.

We can defend ourselves with vigilance, but also with how much time we set aside for these people. the beauty of our day is we have hours, in the form of connection, that we can selectively hand out to our loved ones.  If your loved one absolutely cannot join you in your place and you have to join them in theirs, set the boundary, preserve yourself, say no to the cake and leave before the deserts and emotional conversations and familial patterns that trigger old habits.

And finally, don’t forget – direct your attention to the empowerers in your life.  if there’s many, wonderful nurture those relationships and do the same for them.  If there aren’t, open yourself up to new people and experiences who are being bought to you seemingly by coincidence.

There’s others evolving upward and climbing up to that new precipice with you – they are waving enthusiastically and saying hello to you right now from across the way 🙂

There is something magical when we vibe off of others and join in upward expansion and elevation of our lives. Look for, and welcome in the empowerers, especially the new ones that have arrived as part of your journey.

Rise up together, accelerate and choose this new, healthier life with new friends who will share your adventure and celebrate it with you.

And watch the pride, happiness and love flow.

xo.

 

Breast Reduction, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Personal Development, Physical Wellness, The Projects

Growing up With Big Ol Boobs and My Decision to Have Breast Reduction Surgery.

Three days ago I had one of the most important surgeries of my life!  A long-awaited breast reduction surgery.  Before I get into what the surgery was like, in my next post, I wanted to share the background on my “why.”

Having breast reduction surgery isn’t the end point of a long, tumultous journey with big breasts.

It is actually a mid-point stage in what has really been a bigger story about shifting my beliefs about who I am and what I am capable of.  

Thursday’s surgery was about the removal of breast tissue, yes, but it was also about the removal of the final self-limiting beliefs I had about my body and what I am capable of.

So let’s begin…

The relationship with my body & breasts

As I’m sure many of you do, I’ve had a long and interesting relationship with my breasts.  I clearly, clearly remember the day my Mum bought me a camisole top / training bra when I was in primary school in the UK.

I was only 8 years old, but already I was becoming quite “chesty” as my teacher had politely described.  I remember the day my mum bought the camisole home, genuinely excited for her growing girl.  As I sit here typing, I remember my fingers jabbing under the camisole, scratching the itchy skin, irritated by the lace. I remember crying in our driveway one day after school, clawing at it and being generally miserable.

I definitely remember the school summer sports day, two weeks later.  I don’t remember where I placed in the egg and spoon race, but I remember running with the egg and spoon in one hand, the other arm strategically placed against my bouncing chest.

I wasn’t only trying to relieve the discomfort of the bouncing, and the scratching of the lace. My arm across my chest was a symbol of early attempts to shield myself from the attention of others.  I was beginning to learn at that young age, that others were paying attention to my body.  My teacher, who called me chesty, the boys who called me big beluga, my female classmates giggling on the school ground about their bodies and the commensurate attention from the boys.

As a big breasted woman, all of this happened quite early for me, but I can’t help but think this is the norm in 2018.  With unprecedented exposure to chemicals that disrupt hormonal patterns, girls are hitting puberty much earlier.  They are experiencing all of these things, that used to be exclusively the domain of junior high.

I entered the teen years, where I was initiated into the typical teenage experience of ups and downs of body image and a rapidly changing body.  It was a confusing time.  I felt like the body I was inheriting was mismatched to the body in my mind.  I was aghast at photos and reflections in the mirror.  I felt like the way people saw me was very different from how I saw myself.  It was in junior high school, that the volume of other people’s judgements of my body increased.  Not only that, but I started listening to those judgements.

In grade eight, I tried out for the senior volleyball team.  I knew after months of hard work doing drills, that my technical skills were up there with the senior team.  I had the drive and the discipline.  To my total surprise, I didn’t make the team along with all of my friends I had practiced with.  Chatting with the coach afterward on what drills I could do to improve, the coach mentioned that it would be good for me to work on losing some weight.  It was confusing to me.  Weren’t my skills up there with the others?  Why was the shape of my body an issue?   What does this have to do with my volleyball game?

This initiation into the world of external judgement continued off of the volleyball court.  I knew I was a hard worker when it came to sports. I had a lot of grit, but I found myself constantly being chosen last in gym class for teams.  People assumed based on my body appearance that I wouldn’t be any good.

I’d like to say that at that age, I had the awareness and confidence to not lose my way and to fight against those assumptions, but I bowed to them. All of a sudden I lost my inner compass.  The external world began to shape my beliefs. I started pretending I was sick on gym days and avoided PE like the plague, even though inside I lit up with excitement at the thought of a competition.  The fear of judgement and the belief I wasn’t good overtook the competitive spark inside of me.

In the coaching world, we call this the development of self-limiting beliefs.  This is when we have a story about ourselves, and a set of beliefs, that limit what we think we are capable of.  They can be triggered by one event, or message.  Or they can be triggered by a series of events.

Once these messages have been reinforced a few times, they become a narrative, or a story that we really hold to and believe.  They become part of our story about ourselves, even if that story is not based on reliable evidence.

I began to believe that my active life wasn’t about what I could physically do. It was about what I physically looked like.  THAT was the determinant of what I could show up and do in my active life.  Fat girls aren’t athletes.  Fat girls don’t do sports. Fat girls aren’t good at athletics. Fat girls don’t belong on the PE field.

That belief was first installed in grade school, then again with the volleyball situation in junior high.  Then, again with phys ed classes when I was consistently chosen last.

I hate to say it, but the influences also came from my own family, society and culture.  My dad had taken to calling me “round like a donut” and commenting on my boobs.

As junior high progressed, I went from trying out for teams, to pretending I was sick when we had gym units. I remember faking a sprained ankle, dark eye shadow and everything to mimic bruising, so that I didn’t have to particpate in a sports day.

All the while, the bouncing of my large breasts was a factor, but also my Mum’s messaging of “we’re just not built to run.” Big breasts mean you can’t do sports.

When messaging comes from all directions, it truly becomes entrenched and I think this is why so many of us came out of the 1990s with body image issues.  I loved reading the magazines of the 1990s.  Teen, YM, Seventeen.  Do you remember seeing big boobs on the cover of those? Definitely not. Do you even remember articles about sports and female athletes – not really, I remember quizzes like “does he like you” and the ads for maybelline lip chaps, and my beloved Backstreet Boys!

All of this led to the foreclosure of my athletic identity.  15 years of mindset conditioning, starting with those first moments of a child, where everybody was talking about my breasts.

Entering high school, I opted out of physical education and participating in sports.  Instead, I moved into sports medicine instead, where I could help others participating in sports and be in the background.  I always admired the athletes I worked with, they seemed to be my tribe.  Even in University, I gravitated towards my Kinesiology major friends.  I didn’t join them in their sports, but deep, deep inside of me, I was drawn to their active lifestyles.

The stresses and lifestyle choices of University led to weight gain and my breasts continued to grow.  The weight gain was a gift, because it led to my highest weight ever, and I decided to join Weight Watchers in 2007.  During that year, I lost 40 lb and fell in love with running.  Yes, I had to wear two bras – an underwire, then a sports bra on top, then a tight top to reduce the bounce, but I did it.

Slowly, other things happened. By chance, I was introduced to the world of CrossFit in 2010 where I was totally accepted and I realized that athletes come in all shapes and sizes.  I loved it.  It was a sport where I could compete on my own level, on my own benchmarks, with myself.  It was a very empowering community and all around me I was surrounded by strong women of all shapes and sizes.  Boob size had no bearing on athletic ability.  Wait a minute, that’s not what I had told myself all my life? My belief systems began to loosen their grip.

I was introduced to the world of whole foods and paleo diets, and understood how to eat functionally, rather than emotionally.  2015 onwards I continued down the lifestyle transformation path. (big boobs still in tow, of course.)  Oh, the boobs. I hit them on my cleans, and they were sore after workouts with many pushups, but I pushed through it, and the back pain that came with them.  I remember even using Rogue bands during one workout to keep them from bouncing under my sweater.

The final piece of all of this was the dismantling of my long-held beliefs and narrative.  By being a part of the Crossfit community, the grip of these narratives had been loosened by showing me how faulty my beliefs had been.  On those rubber mats, and in conversations afterward with these completely badass female athletes, I had begun to realize that they didn’t’ believe the same things as me.  They also believed different things about me. They didn’t look at my body and make assumptions about my abilities.  In such a physical environment surrounded by insane bodies – the CrossFit gym – I learnt that how my body looked did.not.matter!

The last five years has been profound and completed the process of transformation.

I took my two-year professional coaching certification.  The process led us deep into our own lives, understanding and breaking apart our own self-limiting beliefs, and connecting with who we really were at our core.

(You must undergo this process yourself if you are to be a partner and guide to others in their own process.  Most accredited coaching programs will have you begin here before you even learn the science and practice of coaching.) 

It all clicked. I had that ah hah moment.  That moment of insight. All of the above clicked.

All those years ago,  I had adopted external messaging that wasn’t even my own, and I had let it shape my lifestyle and beliefs about who I was.  My big boobs and curvy body had activated a self-reinforcing negative feedback loop.

I had foreclosed on an athletic, active identity.  Though I had clawed my way back to it in my 20s, it was really my 30s that I realized I can do whatever I want and fuckin right I am athletic.

What does that look like now?  I am a very, very active mum of 3 little ones.  I’m known among my friends as the sporty one.  I love trail running.  I jumped out of a helicopter at the top of a mountain and ran 21km down it pregnant. I mountain bike with firefighters.  Hell, I think there’s an ultra runner in there. I have always wanted to run a 25 km ultra in the mountains.  I wrote it down in 2010 as a BHAG (a big, hairy audacious goal that is unlikely, but inspiring.) Now, in 2018 I know that I’m going to do it.  It’s coming up next.  I’m excited.

So, you may ask, where do the boobs come into all of this?  Carina, isn’t the point of this absurdly long-winded blog to talk about breast reduction surgery?

You bet.  All of the above leads to my why.

Why did I decide to remove most of my breasts last Thursday?

Because I don’t hate them anymore.  They don’t have the power they once did.  They didn’t ruin my life.  Because they are simply a set of tissues to remove to reduce some back pain.  Because the life I see for myself is one that is extremely active, with high impact activities that will be eased by less bouncing 🙂 Because I’d simply like to wear less than 3 bras.  That is all.  As I write this it’s practical.  Straight forward.  Its not filled with angst or emotion or hidden motives.  And that’s why I knew I was ready to remove them.

I couldn’t have done surgery in my 20s.

Why? I couldn’t have done it from a place of hating my breasts.

 

I believe I always have been, and am, an athlete.  I have realized that I have potential that I haven’t even tapped in the world of trail running, because I never considered it.

I used to be bound by limits to my abilities, limits that were set by other people, because they looked at my body and those big breasts and told me so.  People told me “you aren’t built for athletic stuff.” and then I told me “you aren’t built for athletic stuff.”

 

I have left that place of hating my breasts. I no longer think  they block and control and influence everything in my life. I have moved from believing that stopped me from doing things, to appreciating them and knowing that they simply got caught up in the crazy world that is external judgement.  They are a part of my body, yes, but I – and the rest of the world – attributed so much significance to them that played with my head and my belief in my abilities.

At 7:30 in the morning on Thursday, I laid under a warm blanket, preparing to be wheeled into the operating room and thanked my breasts.  They’ve been part of me, and part of this fascinating journey.  I went into surgery honouring them, and being at peace with them.

They didn’t do anything wrong.  They didn’t cause my athletic foreclosure, they didn’t prevent me from pursuing an active life.  They were simply caught up in the crossfire of a society that attaches so many meanings to boobies.

The real work, the real weight lifted from my chest was letting go of those limiting beliefs about my ability.

The final removal of this breast tissue is just icing on the cake. Is it profound? Oh hell yes, in the three days since surgery it has already completely changed my posture, back pain and will surely change my running and activity life.