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.

 

 

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

What is Breast Reduction Surgery Like? What is the recovery like from Breast Reduction?

BREAST REDUCTION SURGERY AFTER BABIESWHAT IT WAS LIKERECOVERYAND MORE!3 days ago, I had a long-awaited breast reduction surgery.  It is hands down one of the best things that I have ever done and I am absolutely overjoyed with the results!

As surgery day approached, I did find myself googling what the surgery was like, and recovery would actually be like, and I questioned friends who had breast surgery.

In the spirit of allaying fears of surgery, I wanted to share with you what the recovery is actually like.  By contributing my story, I hope to reassure you that if you are considering the surgery, it is the best thing you’ll ever do and way, way less painful and much easier than you think it is.

The Fear of Surgery:

Undergoing a surgery with general anaesthetic is not an easy decision.  Regardless of how gritty, mentally strong, or courageous you are, the idea of being put to sleep and sliced open does awaken a primordial fear, and I definitely felt it when I was wheeled into the operating room. Watching everyone waiting to be wheeled into their surgeries on Thursday morning, you could tell that everybody gets nervous.  It’s soothing knowing you are not alone and the staff are so empathic and aware of it.

 

Being wheeled into the operating room did make me nervous, but the staff were so friendly and immediately put me at ease with introductions and a description of what the anaesthetic would feel like.

On the operating table, the iv was started which was probably the most uncomfortable part of the whole procedure, this was only because the iv was fresh out of the fridge and the cold liquid going into my hand made it ache.  It was just like running your hand under a cold tap for too long. That only lasted for about a minute, because once the anaesthetic started, I was out and off into a nice sleep.  I don’t remember anything.

I woke up in the recovery room quite dozy and relaxed, it did feel like a great nap.  I was gently eased into the environment by a lovely nurse putting a warm blanket on me and telling me I was in the recovery room and everything went great. I had been worried about being nauseous and I expressed these concerns to the anesthetist, so he was generous with administering anti nauseants.  They had also recommended wearing warm socks in surgery to keep my body warm, and I can confirm these did the trick! I wore my ski socks and wasn’t shaking or cold when I woke up.

The difference between expectations and reality is funny. I totally thought I’d wake up with blazing pain across my chest.  Reality? I felt nothing.  Seriously, nothing!

In a pleasant haze, I was wheeled back to the day surgery area (I stayed for 24 hours after surgery) and the nurses were diligent with administering pain meds, providing water and checking vitals.  They let me cautiously try some food to see if my stomach was up to digesting anything.  I was glad they encouraged me to take it slowly and carefully, as I was surprised by how ginger my stomach was – I did feel overly full just trying a bit of apple sauce, so I laid off and sipped on ginger ale instead.

You may be asking, how did the boobs feel?  I felt nothing in the first few hours after surgery!  I honestly was expecting to wake up feeling that hot knife burn of freshly cut skin, but I didn’t feel any of that thanks to pain meds.  I was in a comfortable front-fasten “granny bra” and the incisions had self-dissolving tape, with a layer of soft gauze on top.

Get used to sleeping upright!

I was very dozy after surgery, which is also influenced by the medicine, so the last three days have mostly been chilling in bed, drifting in and out of naps and getting up occasionally for a snack, to see the kids or make some tea.

The sitting up part is pretty important – you will be propped up with pillows and cannot lie down, or on your side. It will hurt too much if you try anyways, so you won’t 🙂

My husband bought a pillow from home which was fantastic . I highly recommend bringing a squishy pillow that you can manipulate to find a comfortable resting spot. I also couldn’t help but think that a travel neck pillow would work really well as well.  I’ve lived in my house coat or kimono the last few days which has been great, too. They recommend a button up shirt but tbh, fiddling with buttons and lifting my arms at the elbows was too sore. A housecoat tie has been way easier.

A big piece of recovering after surgery is staying in an upright position, even when you sleep.  It doesn’t make for the best night time sleeps, which is why you should really take some downtime the first 3-4 days after surgery, because you’ll want to sleep in the daytime.  Ironically on day three here, the source of most of my discomfort is my neck, which is seized up on one side from sleeping upright in awkward positions.  It’s bothering me quite a lot and giving me a headache! Make sure you do some gentle neck stretching after surgery and while you recoup, I wish someone had told me that!

I did have drains under either breast in the hospital, which they took out on the day of discharge. I was super nervous for this, because I remember having a drain removed after my emergency appendectomy a few years ago, and it was excruciating – I remember yelling as they pulled it out.  The nurse reassured me it was a painless and very quick removal and she was right.  She pulled the thin drain tube out and I didn’t even realize it was out. I was lying there, bracing myself, and there was nothing to brace for.

Appetite & Food:

I slowly got a bit of an appetite back about  8 hours after surgery, but not much of one, so I’ve focused on drinking lots of water, healthy fruits and vegetables and fibrous food.  The pain medication does constipate you, so I’ve been drinking 2L + a day along with restoralax. It’s been 3 days since surgery and I haven’t had a bowel movement yet which is not ideal, but this is the norm for me without even taking pain meds, lol. So definitely go with your own bowel movement benchmark for what constitutes constipation.

Other things I’ve been taking to help with healing are fish oil, vitamin c, collagen protein smoothies with lots of greens, and a good multivitamin and a fibre supplement.

What is the incision pain like?

I know that pain is very subjective and really depends on the person, so I’ll start with saying my pain tolerance is quite low.  For example, I completely tapped out at 3cm dilation in all three of my labours. I turned into a grey, puking mess and then it was epidural time, lol.  I’m not a pain hero and I don’t pretend to be. I don’t see the point in suffering and am in favour of pain meds. They offered me percocet in the hospital and aside from being curious having never taken it before, I was also like, why not?

The doctor will prescribe you a pain medication that will keep your pain very low, and you can certainly discuss opiate versus non-opiate painkillers.  I am currently on a medication that is an opiate, so it leaves me feeling a bit spaced out, very chilled out and pain-free.  I’ve never been on them before, so I started out just taking one and playing it very cautious, but two seems to make a real difference and give me a good stretch of no discomfort.

Right now, on the pain medication prescription, I do not feel any pain if I stay still. If I move, I feel discomfort on the incision spots that is very similar to a grazed knee.  I did accidentally move too much last night in my sleep and I woke up to hot burning, which was unpleasant but not worse than a bad cut.

In the interest of reporting for this blog, yesterday evening I did not take any pain meds in the evening to see how it naturally felt. I can say that the pain was probably up at like a 6/10, 10/10 being the worst I’ve experienced (labour!) The medicine does make a different and if you are prescribed it, just take it. Why suffer?  However, I believe that with breast reduction surgery, if you have high pain tolerance, you can get by simply taking tylenol or advil.

The pain of breast reduction surgery is more of a skin/ tissue pain.  It is a grazed / hot / cut / knife feeling.  Personally I find that kind of pain much more manageable than deeper muscle or joint pain.  It is very different for example, from the labour pain which I describe as a deep, aching, body turning inside out type of pain that overwhelms your senses, lol.

Asking for Help:

I am a mom of three children four and under, including a 20lb baby, which is problematic.  After breast reduction surgery you definitely cannot pick things up or move with the same freedom.  You’ll want to move in a configuration that is not unlike a T-Rex when you are up and about.

A, You are sore , B You will risk all of that beautiful work your surgeon has just done.

Just because you want to feel useful and contribute to your family does not mean you should risk the $10,000 worth of surgery you just had.  You can afford to take a week off of parenting.  You’ve got the rest of your life to be a parent.

It’s time for a Pep Talk. I know I am struggling a bit with this, so it’s partially a pep talk for me, but I hope you find it useful too!:

Please note you just had reconstructive surgery.  Don’t deconstruct it.  I don’t care if your toddlers are melting down and you are slightly dying inside because you can hear your husband getting frustrated with them. Let him struggle.  You have your own work to do. Don’t throw a life ring and in the process put your own recovery on the back burner.  If you are with someone who needs, wants and relies on your help (plenty of couples have this dynamic when it comes to kids) this is your time to test out a different dynamic and really advocate for yourself and stepping back for a few days.  I am feeling pretty lucky that my confident husband has been a rock star with the kids and we have a totally shared responsibility with the kids, but it is still hard when I hear the usual toddler meltdowns and him getting frustrated as he tries to wrangle everyone, especially while I lie here sipping a smoothie.

My 12 month old is crawling, but he needs a lot of picking up, dressing, helping and I have basically planned for not being able to do that for at least 4-5 days.  My mother in law has come to stay and is for the most part taking care of him, while my husband wrangles the toddlers.

My four year old can mostly dress and manage herself but the issue comes with preparing meals – I can’t get up to the cupboards or lift my arms.  So as much as I thought “yeah, she’ll be ok to deal with” the reality is you do need help for small children as well, even if they are independent.

If you have toddlers or a baby, make sure you have help with you for the first five days at least, and that the help is staying with you.

My husband and mother in law have totally taken over parenting duties from me and I truly, truly appreciate it. I’ve set up camp in our bedroom.

The eternal joy of being a mom is that even if you are incapacitated, your children will still want to be all over you.  I’ve been knocked and bumped and that has been unpleasant so we’ve had to have a few chats and I do have a few defensive pillows around my fort in bed.  🙂   I felt terrible doing this but I have also locked the door if I am feeling sleepy so that I can have some sacred space.  The toddlers are particularly clingy as well because mum’s just gone through surgery and has a big owwie.  Rather than them backing off, your children will be curious kittens and ever so sweet in their desire to help you in every way, right down to the hello kitty bandaids proferred with a sweet little smile “for your owwie boobies mommy.”

I’m really having to work at not jumping in and helping. It’s amusing to observe the typical mom dialogue in my brain that is feeling a bit bad for lazing around in the bedroom. It really kicks up when I hear my husband dealing with melting down toddlers, but you know what? I deserve this, I deserve to heal and take this downtime.

I often play the game of “what would my husband do” to shift my mindset and disempower these unhelpful thoughts, it helps me gain some much-needed perspective. If he’d had a surgery, he’d take it easy and recouperate while I jumped into action and made sure he was taken care of. So, I will let him do this for me.

Don’t play the mummy martyr game.  REST and ENJOY the downtime.   Go to chapters, get a nice book, read some gossip mags.  Line up snacks on the bedside table, lock your door and let your help deal with the children.  Ask someone to bring you something.  Nap if you need to, get up only if you want to.

When You Are Feeling Ready to Get up and About:

If you feel like you are ready to do something, take the following approach:  You as a mom will push your body further than it should go, all in the name of “momming” so whatever you *think* you can do, reduce that by half.

Think you can go to stampede with your toddlers for 3 hours in a couple of days?  (I genuinely considered this, this morning) – NO.  Instead, attempt a 10-minute walk around the block.

By the way, 3 days after surgery I’ve been attempting getting up and pottering around the house but I find after 30 minutes I”m ready to go back to the room and snooze or chill.  Also, listen to your pain.  If it starts increasing, it’s time to retire to your place of recouping and take ‘er easy.  Pain is such a good internal barometer of whether we are doing too much.

I prepared dinner plates for the kids last night and kind of regretted it afterward, as my incisions were burning (this was also when I had decided not to take any painkillers as I wrote about above, so I was already uncomfortable at that point.)  Today, I’m not going to bother that again.  It was a good little warning for me not to push it.

 

Time Off of Work:

Talk to your surgeon and take into account your own pain tolerance, energy levels, work requirements and healing tendencies, and err on the generous side when it comes to taking time off of work. Personally, I have opted to take two weeks off from work, and I’m really glad I did, as I have a long commute, 15 minute walk and usually have to carry a few bags to and from the office.  I’ve been waiting 15 years for this surgery and it’s a huge, momentous event in my life, so I want to honour it and give my body the time that it needs to heal.  Everyone’s healing time can vary from person to person depending on their general health and even how much tissue they have taken out.  It’s an individual story and an individual journey. We can’t perfectly predict the body, we can only use general assumptions and categories which no one person ever fits perfectly into, so when you decide on time off, I’d say, give your body the time it needs.

I hope this write up is helpful to you, whether you are considering breast reduction surgery, are awaiting the big day, or are fresh out of surgery.  Connect with me in the comments and please, offer any healing tips below!  I am told that the self-dissolving tape will do a great job of healing the incisions but I am definitely open to any scar healing advice you may have!  And if you’ve had the surgery, tell me what your own healing was like? We are all so different! 🙂   I enjoy the diversity of stories and experiences.

xo

Carina

Essays, Happiness, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Physical Wellness, The Projects

Fixing my Body After 3 Babies – Pelvic Floor Physio, Mindsets and Empowerment.

On my last blog post, I began to talk about the journey I have taken on my third maternity leave to rebuild my body.  One of the first things that I did was take stock of my body.  I talked about free writing, or journalling, to understand not only your areas of discomfort and pain, but also to gain some insight into your dialogue around that pain.

When you let yourself feel your back pain, or your pelvic prolapse, what internal chatter begins?  What messaging is in there?   This is what a good free writing session, or a coach can help you access.

Taking stock of our bodies and acknowledging our discomfort is an important first step, and it takes courage.  It can be overwhelming and tiring realizing that in addition to a new baby, you have a body that needs nurturing, too.

What were some of my projects on this third mat leave?

  • -70 lbs of weight to lose that I had accumulated in three pregnancies.
  • -Chronic back pain and the question of a possible auto-immune disease and associated symptoms.
  • -Nerve pain in my foot.
  • -Multiple pelvic organ prolapse and abdominal separation.
  • -Huge breasts interfering with physical activity.

I felt overwhelmed by this list.  These were all big projects!

But you know what?  You need to hang out in this place of frustration and suffering for a bit.  Some need to hang out in it for a long time.  Some need to experience more intense symptoms or heightened suffering. By going through the above aches and pains, and really acknowledging them, you are given a gift.  That gift is the determination to find a new “why” and a new way of looking at the above issues, because the old way of looking at them, has not fixed any of them.

Pain produces clarity and determination.  These are two things you need when you have an important goal (and a busy new mama life that can easily distract you.)

Back in my 20s, it used to be easy, accessing a “why.” I could literally pull them out of my back pocket and achieve my goals.  But life in my 20s was much less busy and simpler – in all senses of the word. Physically, emotionally and mentally.  Now I have multiple layers of emotion, I’m more complex and my life has many more layers to it, including 4 humans who demand my time, love and attention.  Self limiting thinking and beliefs have had time to settle in and grow deep roots, even if they are not helpful. That my friends, has been the work of my 30s.  Pulling up all of those deep roots and letting go of the ones that no longer serve.

This time around, after journalling about the excess weight and exploring my fears, and going down the “what if” tunnel in my free writing, I realized that my fears around being in the slightly obese category were related to being to keep up with my children and enjoying activity with them. I didn’t want to sit out on my children’s lives.  I could feel aching well up in my chest just going down that thinking road.  My back pain and weight activated this type of crappy messaging that made me feel sad, and disempowered and unmotivated. I was looking at each of these projects in a way that was deepening my stress.

I decided that I had to begin to separate my back pain from all of this internal messaging and fear projecting.  It was simply pain, indicating I needed to get imaging, and explore the issue further.  I let go of the fears around being able to help my kids and run my household from the equation, because that was getting me nowhere. They’d still come up but I’d acknowledge them and push them aside.  As soon as they took up less room, it gave my brain some freedom to access more powerful thoughts and beliefs.

I was able to connect with a new, and much more powerful “why” to lose weight:  Because I want the physical energy and ability to keep up with my toddlers and share their active life with them, and participate in the same activities.

When I got rid of the messaging of “I am afraid of this” I made room for “I want this” and coming from a place of desire, is much easier than coming from a place of avoidance.

Over the year I reframed pain and hot spots in my body.  I think of it as little flashing lights indicating areas of growth.  Each one of those projects I listed above has immeasurably improved my life and I’ve been able to stay motivated in each of them.

I began to look at pain not as something to be stomped out, but to be examined with curiosity and empathy and a way to open up new opportunities in my life.

Pelvic floor rehab opened the door to a passion for pilates and appreciation for low impact movement. It really enhanced my trail running, too.  My back pain led to more imaging, which is beginning to shine a light on some other issues I’ve struggled with, and may provide me with some great answers and has given me powerful motivation to manage nutrition.

We all have a laundry list of things to work on.  Rather than list them off and just set goals, we should examine how we think about it, and what it means to us.  When we are able to step back and see our own dialogues, and beliefs at work, we can decide whether they help us, or harm us (and need to be let go and replaced with more useful thoughts.) That is the key to true motivation and lasting change.

I am now 10 months out from creating this list of maternity leave projects, and here’s where I am at.

  • -70 lbs of weight to lose that I had accumulated in three pregnancies.
    • 40lb lost and 30lb to go
  • -Chronic back pain and the question of a possible auto-immune disease and associated symptoms.
    • The world “auto immune” led me to research nutritional and lifestyle approaches which have helped my pain (and weight) immensely.  Rheumatology appointment coming up.  
  • -Nerve pain in my foot.
    • Surgery booked to fix it. Simple as that.  Doesn’t need to be made more complex than it is, right? Even though our minds want to do otherwise. 
  • -Multiple pelvic organ prolapse and abdominal separation.
    • Huge improvement in diastasis recti (abdominal separation) with pilates, physio and hypopressives.  Symptoms of prolapse minimized and pessary installed for high impact activity – my lifestyle didn’t have to change! Learnt so much about pelvic floor health and came away with exercises that allow me to manage symptoms. Feel empowered and confident to manage this myself. 
  • -Huge breasts interfering with physical activity.
    • Had the courage to go ahead and pursue a referral, go to the appointments, advocate for myself and do the surgery.  Sitting here 2 days out of surgery with a new chest, a sense of freedom and way less pain. I am over the moon! 

 

 

Could I have achieved these things on mat leave with my old thinking patterns?  Maybe, but by constantly engaging in stressful, fear-based scenarios I think it would have done more harm than good. There is a major connection between chronic pain and illness, and our psyche.  I dont doubt for a moment that sub-optimal mindsets create sub-optimal conditions in the body.

By examining my old approaches and the dialogue activated by pain, and then shifting that dialogue by asking powerful questions, I was able to develop a new dialogue of curiosity, learning and growth and frame these projects in that way. I am no longer disempowered or “broken” after babies (yup, we’ve heard everyone say that at least once)

I am empowered and improved!

A great example is the prolapse situation.  I was truly freaked out one day on a run when it felt like my insides were going to fall out.  When I thought about my bladder, uterus and rectum all hanging low, all sorts of future projections and catastrophizing happened. All sorts of fearful dialogue and disempowering thoughts were running through my head.  There’s no fix.  This is permanent. You’re done.  You’re wearing a diaper and pads for the next while.  It will get worse, and so on.

With work and practice, I was able to move to a place of “hey, this is going to be such a cool learning experience about the pelvic floor.  I’m going to get a great core out of this *and* be able to advocate pelvic floor health post partum and potentially help others, and damn right I am going to improve my symptoms!”

I signed up for a pelvic floor assessment to take stock of the prolapse, condition of my pelvic floor and ab separation.  I then began taking hypopressive breathing classes, pelvic floor pilates and got a pessary fitted for higher impact activities at the pelvic floor clinic. 6 months later, all of my symptoms are under control.
In those six months I had to go to SO many appointments, pilates twice a week and have the discipline to do home exercises.  I had to book childcare and defend my monday and wednesday mornings when I would way rather have done other (more fun) things.

Had I held onto my old thinking patterns of fear, disempowerment and “what ifs,” I probably would have skipped classes, become demotivated and adopted negative thinking patterns.  I would have been working only from a limited resevoir of sheer willpower, rather than a genuinely motivated place. I wouldn’ t have stuck it out.

I truly knew nothing about my pelvic floor before this entire process, and it led me to being in awe of the human body, and I became so much more capable of managing my own symptoms.  I went from a frightened, disempowered patient waiting for help, to an empowered owner of my own health, working hand in hand with professionals as partners, rather than relying on them.

That in itself is a powerful shift in mindset and ownership of health.  I walked out of my doctor’s office initially with “help me!” written all over my face.

I now walk into my doctor’s office with “I’ve got this” written all over my face.

You are so worth you.  When you are ready, take stock of your body and all of the fun projects that you will be undertaking to nuture it, and return it to a place of vitality.  Be brave and dig deep.  Uncover the deeper fears and thinking patterns/beliefs that don’t serve you, and will disempower you.  Decide that you don’t have to hold on to them, that you can find more empowering beliefs, you can take ownership of your health, and see this as an enjoyable, satisfying journey back to health,

not because you have to, but because you want to. 

 

xo
Carina

 

Happiness, Lifestyle, Personal Development, The Projects

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Create a Vision Board on Pinterest – It May Change Your Life.

 

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Do you remember watching the Secret years ago, when it came out?  John Assaraf, one of the entrepreneurs talked about setting up a cork vision board and he’d pin magazine pictures, etc. to it.  Back in the 90s I had what was like the early predecessor of a pinterest board or vision board.  I had a black journal and in it I added pictures of Britney Spears, dream wedding rings, TONS of nail polish art and urban decay makeup swatches, my dream car, my wedding dress, all that usual teenage dream stuff.

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The strange thing is, I found it the other day and I was more than a bit taken aback by the photos of women I wanted to look like, and the engagement ring I had pinned all the way back then.  I have that wedding ring.  My husband chose it out independently.  My dream car in that book. I am driving it now.

At the time, when I added those magazine pictures at the age of 14 these were all just pipe dreams.  Yet, so many images from that book, I have in my life now.

This brings  me to today’s topic:  How Pinterest has been an absolute game changer for me in strategically and intentionally crafting my goals and lifestyle.

I started Pinterest about 3 years ago and have accumulated thousands of pins and hundreds of boards.  One of my most active ones and a regular practice to this day, is pinning images from the future that I would like, to a board I called “My Future Life.”

It is the most relaxing, enjoyable activity. I could have the worst day possible and aside from having a nice craft beer, lol, this is one of the single best tools to lighten my mood.  But, my pinterest habit has turned out to be more powerful than that.  My life is slowly becoming that board.  I am skeptical and I don’t like woo-woo. I shut down at the mention of feelings, emotions and heart chakras and dreams.  But there is most definitely something going on here.  So what is it?

Actively pinning images onto a vision board has profound effects in the brain, and your own awareness/energy flows.  The act of immersing yourself in visualizing a future life that excites you is good for the body, the mind, the emotions. It turns your attention to your goals and a place of deep motivation.

After an evening of pinning, imagining the future life you will have, it is implanted both in your conscious and subconscious. You can’t help but subconsciously and consciously make small decision that will get you closer to that vision.  I have one beautiful image of the hot tub at the  Willowstream Spa, up here in the castle of the Rocky Mountains – the Banff Springs Hotel.  It is VERY fancy, VERY expensive and something a bit outside of my lifestyle.  But, I pinned it to my board as a future goal, a future vision.  And I wrote under it “one day I will be doing my work from a laptop here with a glass of wine.”

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Pins from my future life 

 

 

I pinned that 3 years ago, and this past March, I found myself sitting in the hot tub at the Willowstream, sharing a day pass with a good friend and business mentor, having a business strategy summit.  The moment I realized it, an excited chill went down my spine.  This stuff works.

The beauty of that hot tub and spa never left me after I pinned to that board, and as I went along my in my day to day life it was there, sitting in my unconscious.  When an opportunity to go there came up (that required some shuffling of schedules) I didn’t even hesitate.  On the secret they talk about how events, people and things are attracted to you if you put the intention out there. Is it a coincidence of all people, my friend asked me to go to the Willowstream Spa with her to do some business coaching and strategizing?

The brain takes in a lot of data, both on the conscious and subconscious level.  It is estimated that it is crowded with more than 50,000 thoughts per day.  We are always thinking of random things we want to do , or see things that make us think “oh wow I want to do that!!” but they disappear just as quickly as the thought arrives, lost in the mass of brain activity. What if we took that thought, captured it on a pinterest board and came back to it once in a while, to keep it there, and present, floating on the surface?

 

Let yourself be absurd. Interior design. Exotic vacations. Laughing family winter pictures.  A hike that looks like it belongs on an outdoor magazine.  Pin it, and in the notes write down how it makes you feel, or something about that image.

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Underneath a hiking family I wrote “our best adventures will be outdoors” – my values and dreams wrapped into one image, and at that point my family was unborn. You can probably guess what we do these days.  I go back and review what I pinned and my weekends with the kids are anything but dull in the pursuit of these dreams.

So try it.  Pin it.  The activity of just pinning is so enjoyable, to let your mind dance among dream places, things and people.  And let your soul go to work on achieving it behind the scenes, because one day you will wake up and realize, holy shit.

I am here.

Building a Business, Creativity, Etsy, Life Hacks, side hustles, Technology, The Projects

Is It Possible to Start an Online Business With a Baby? YES! 15 Truths for Online Entrepreneur Success – With a Baby in Your Arms.

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I’ve taken online courses, I’ve studied online entrepreneurs, I’ve read books and listened to more than 200 hours of podcasts. Most importantly, I’ve started acting on these lessons and am entering the world of online business in 2016.

The foundation was slowly built over maternity leave, and continues to be developed.  But the revenue is beginning to trickle in.  The potential is there, and now I am going from building mode to testing and refining mode.  I’ve tested a few models and it’s time to sit down and clarify the goals, and intensify my focus.

Most online entrepreneurship classes hammer home the whole niche thing.  As a multi-passionate I really, really struggled with this question.  I did not find my niche.  I just started putting a few ideas and business products out there, to see a.) what I enjoyed and b.) what gained traction.  I actually think this is the best way.  Most entrepreneurs get stuck at the start line because they feel like they have to have this entire formula figured out. What is your niche? What problem are you solving? What are you going to charge to solve it?  And so it goes. 

The sweet spot is developing a product that catches hold with your audience, and catches hold with you.  A and B above.

A few products that I developed started returning a revenue.  But I realized in working on some of them, that I wasn’t passionate enough to invest most of my time and focus in that one area. So I redirected my focus to the few that made me come alive – where I had a deeper well to draw from.  The thing is, you won’t know this answer (and cannot possibly know this) till you try it out.

So jump into online business with the intent to discover one type of product you like, and one type of product you don’t like.  I mean it.  Your goal is to have one success and one failure, at least!  There really is nothing to lose other than the time you put into it.

1.) Building an online business is a lot of small tasks.  They can drive you crazy unless you think about them as steps that get you closer to your goal.  One day is going to be about getting mail chimp set up.  Another day is just sorting out some nice typography for your instagram.  One day is going to be setting up / learning about Facebook ads.  Another day may be organizing receipts in your inbox.  Another day may be buying more storage in iCloud.  Acknowledge and learn to enjoy the satisfaction in completing these tasks, even if they are overwhelming and there’s a steep learning curve.  There’s a lot of them, so get over it.  It’s quite satisfying crossing them off in a journal or on your note taking app.

2.) Remember, anything you do, is one step closer to your goal.  While others are quitting at 3 months in, you are just taking one step at a time and being strategic.  The tortoise wins the race.  Most successful online entrepreneurs will tell you they were working at it a while before things took off.  I’m a big fan of the blunt truth talker Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich – check out the infographic in his post showing his product development over six years!

You’ve got at least 40 years left on this earth. Don’t worry about it. Do it because you love it.  Don’t compare yourself to the entrepreneurs who have 70 hours a week, or even 20 to work on their projects and launches.  You are working very hard on a few precious hours per week.  Things will happen for you, but they will happen on your schedule.

4.) Ignorance is bliss, and it contributes to action.  Find some amazing people who are doing what you what to do.  Study how they do it, their webpage, their brand and learn from them.  But be cautious.  I do think that some over-confidence / ignorance is bliss.  Study others just enough to know how to do things well, but not too much.  As soon as you see how many people are doing what you are doi ng, you will become intimidated and discouraged.  When I started my successful Kickstarter campaign, I found two other campaigns I loved and made notes on their models. I focused only on a few successful ones and did not look at just how many children’s books are on Kickstarter.  I wouldn’t have started had I known how saturated Kickstarter is and how much better everyone else’s campaigns looked.  I’m so glad I ran a basic campaign (with much room to improve) and learnt from it, rather than never doing it because I was blocked by intimidation and the desire to do it perfectly. Block out the external noise and focus on what you need to do.

5.) Have a clear idea of what lifestyle you are working towards.  I use Pinterest to do some vision boarding. I have a board called “My goals // my life in progress” (yes, that’s my board right there!) and it is images of the lifestyle and rewards I want for myself and my family. Even as simple as pictures of someone standing in the window, sipping coffee – or a family photo of parents playing in the snow with the kids. I am constantly adding images to this board and it builds a powerful desire – deep within – to keep plugging away.

6.)  Make sure you enjoy your entrepreneurial journey and the project itself, as much as you’d enjoy the lifestyle that comes with it. Your project should be a “Hell yeah” project.  Actually, anything you do should be a “hell yeah or no” situation, as put forth by the fabulous writer Derek Sivers.  You cannot be an influencer in something you are not passionate about. People see straight through that. That’s why there is so much talk about #authenticity on the internet these days.

7.) You don’t necessarily have to take an online course. Most online entrepreneurs’ courses are simply repackaged and re-branded versions of content they have previously published. It is extra work to commit and dig through old content, but it is doable.  So really, we are talking about time vs. money.  If you want to spend less money, there’s more of a time investment on hunting down the information.  If you want to spend more money, you’ll cut some corners and avoid some mistakes other entrepreneurs made.  Eventually, both routes end up at the same destination.

8.)  That being said, the action of financially investing in a course and being part of a community is powerful.  Connecting with other students is a great framework if you are concerned about follow through and prefer team environments.  I also believe online courses are very helpful for those of us who are not skilled in the technical aspects of online business.  I’ve made wonderful connections in some entrepreneurs’ communities that I gained access through, as part of the course. The Smart Passive Income community, Kimra Luna’s #Freedomhackers and others.

9.)  Attend conferences and work outside of the house. Just get out there.  In the business world, networking, friendships, potential deals and closed deals happen outside of the office.  They don’t happen when you are sitting alone on a laptop in a room.  Get out there.  Attend a conference.  Yes, it’s $500 – $1000 to do, but trust me, that investment will pay itself off in a few years down the road with business that is generated as a result of the relationships you made at that conference, or as a result of the business improvements or renewed motivation you received from that event.  This one I have not done yet, and I have this conference on my bucket list.  I cannot wait to do this!  I’ve also added this one – Lewis Howes’ Summit of Greatness – to my pinterest board.

10.) Start saving receipts with the Wave app and creating a “receipts” category in your Gmail now.  There’s so many random little expenses with starting up online.  Cloud storage, random apps, Skype credits, Domain registration, etc.  It’s easy to forget about all of those expenses.

11.)  Don’t ever put too much weight on your total Instagram likes or comments.  80% of your Instagram activity will be hustlers.  Focus on the 5 or less people who you authentically connect on there.  And get unique with your hashtags.  What hashtags would you look for?  Don’t use the “most popular” hashtags.  It’s like dangling bait in the water – the sharks will come circling in.  I onced used #fitfam and #fitspiration and #postpartumweightloss – The Beach Body coaches that came running…..

12.)  Have your product researched and developed before you launch it.  If you arrive in the online business arena with a developed product, you will give less of a shit when the haters or non-supporters rear their ugly heads.  I had a hater a few weeks ago on Kickstarter.  A really unpleasant message that felt like a kick to the gut, initially.

If my children’s book wasn’t 90% complete, I would have taken his comments to heart.  The completion gave me immunity and the ability to pen back a professional letter addressing his trolling.  He wound up apologizing and pledging to the campaign.

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13.)  Be mindful of phone time. If you want a great check in, have your partner take a photo of you holding the phone up in front of your face.  Look at that picture.  This is what your kids may see.  It’s really hard, I know, especially when you are excited about your work and are desparate to work on it!  I’ve realized that I have to be in a separate room or working during the kids’ sleep hours.  They don’t need or deserve the back of my phone in front of their face.

14.)  You are going to get up early or stay up late to work on your business.  My formula has been:  Nap when the baby and toddler nap at mid day, and then wake up super early a few days a week.  A great day is a 5-5:30 start so that I have 1.5 hours to get stuff done with a nice cup of coffee.  It sounds insane but I love what I do enough that it’s not hard to get up.  Wait.  That’s a great question!  Do you like it enough to get up at 5:30 am (or stay up until 2am) working on it?  It is shocking how much you can get done with 1.5 hours, trust me.

15.)  Filter all social media and read selectively.  Follow inspirational or helpful feeds.  Your time is precious as an entrepreneur.  If you are going to take a precious 30 minutes for an iPhone break, fill it with good things that inspire.  Also, stop reading all of those pages, blog posts, social media posts that talk about motherhood and “being too busy” “losing balance” blabllablablabla. You can get stuck in the travails of early motherhood and circle around in that loop, or you can climb above it.   Those are all legit opinions, and motherhood IS hard –  but will they serve your goals if you decide to take those opinions on and make them your own?  Or spend your time steeping in those messages?

Probably not.  Start hunting out and reading about success stories.

Happiness, Learning, Life Hacks, Lifestyle, Personal Development, Physical Wellness, Productivity, Sleep, The Projects

What I’ve Learnt from 200+ Hours of the Tim Ferriss and School of Greatness Podcasts

Podcasts can be a new mum’s best friend.

They are intellectual stimulation and a sense of connection and engagement in what can be a lonely and isolating time.  Today I share the podcasts that changed my life and daily practices for the better.

I discovered podcasts on my second maternity leave, and fell in love with the Tim Ferriss and School of Greatness podcasts.

The range of interviewees and topics discussed was food for my brain, which had recently departed the world of adulting and intellectual conversation, and had entered the rather lonely world of maternity leave.  Podcasts were my intellectual stimulation and each one left me scrambling to record ideas, inspiration, quotes and notes.

One of my fondest memories from mat leave was walking (and then training for a 10k) with these podcasts going in my earbuds. I can’t list off specific guests (guess I’ll blame the brain fog) but I can certainly tell you that each podcast left me completely jazzed up.  No matter the topic, I came away feeling engaged.

Despite not remembering the names of more than a handful of guests, I have absorbed a lot of information, and my daily practices have shifted.  Some were intentional and planned out, others I believe have occurred in a strange process of osmosis.  Here are the 15 ways in which podcasts have changed me.  These are all practices that I aspire to and have worked on in the past year or so.

The 15 game-changers that I learnt and applied from the School of Greatness and Tim Ferriss Podcasts:

The biggest reward of meditation is not immediate.

Meditation is a practice that is performed in the present moment, and connects you with exactly that.  However, its most rewarding application is not the practice itself.  It is the ability to apply the results of a regular practice to times of stress and chaos.

Meditation takes many forms.  If it hasn’t stuck with you, try out different styles.  Lie in the sun and visualize the rays penetrating through the skin’s layers.  Listen to a relaxing song without vocals.  Pull up a youtube video and listen to it with earphones on.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MR57rug8NsM   Download the headspace or flowy app.

START AND END EACH DAY WITH AN INTENTIONAL RITUAL THAT CAPSTONES THE DAY.

Here is my daily greens juice, blasted in the vitamix blender then drained through a mesh sieve.  https://www.vitamix.com/Recipes/Ginger-Greens-Juice/C-Series/Variable-Speed/Classic-64-Ounce here is my go-to. Minus celery. I don’t like celery.

Other capstones I’ll employ in the morning:  Running.  A great cup of coffee.  Loud music in the car.   In the evening:  Foam rolling hip flexors (strangely relaxing) and licorice root or adaptogen teas.

 

FILTER YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA TO THAT WHICH ALIGNS WITH WHO YOU ARE, AND WHO YOU ASPIRE TO BE.

Filter out the noise that distracts you from your goals, and leaves you scrolling aimlessly, looking for something that catches your attention.

Spend a day reducing the accounts you follow to 30% of what you once did.  Pick only those that a.) are your family or friends b.) represent a life or mindset you are working toward.

STOP READING YOUR EMAIL FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.

Today, I slipped up.  I opened my email to a hate message from a troll type on kickstarter.  It was rude, insulting and discouraging.  That is how I started my day today.  No Bueno.

In the first hour of your day, you are rebooting your brain and setting your energy for the day.  Fill it with good things and good energy.

LEARNING IS A LIFELONG PURSUIT.

 

Be curious.  Google.  (But then look into proper research.)  All of the interviewees followed paths of curiosity, whether it made sense at the time or not.

YOU MUST ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO 1.) REFLECT UPON, 2.) ENJOY IN THE MOMENT, AND 3.) LOOK FORWARD TO IN THE FUTURE. SANDWICH YOUR DAY BETWEEN GREAT MEMORIES AND INSPIRING GOALS.

My mum was one of the happiest, most engaged human beings I had the pleasure of knowing.  Her biggest rule was always have something you are looking forward to.  Listening to these two podcasts, every.single.guest lights up while they are talking about a project.  You can hear it in their voice, even if you can’t see them.

TREAT SLEEP WITH THE SAME PRIORITY THAT YOU GIVE AN IMPORTANT BUSINESS MEETING IN YOUR CALENDAR, IF NOT MORE.

WHILE WE’RE ON THAT TOPIC, GO TO BED EARLY AND GET UP EARLY.

BE PICKY ABOUT WHO YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH. REALIZE IT IS A CHOICE.

Surround yourself with game changers, inspirations, teachers, mentors and happy people.  If you are part of their lives, their stories will become your stories, and vice versa.

FOR ACCESS TO CREATIVITY, ENTER THE STATE OF FLOW ONCE PER DAY.

The flow state lights up the brain and promotes creativity.

KEEP A JOURNAL FOR THOUGHTS WORTH SAVING, BUT ALSO TO PUT ASIDE UNHELPFUL THOUGHTS WHILE COMPLETING A TASK.

SOME OF YOUR BEST IDEAS WILL COME WHEN YOU ARE DRIVING OR IN THE SHOWER.

SHIFT YOUR MINDSET AROUND HEALTH; BECOME THE CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER OF YOUR HEALTH AND BODY.

Your Doctor is a consultant in your health.  They can offer great advice and services – but it is up to you to do the day to day work.  Treat yourself (within reason) as a science experiment.  Try out different things. Find the unique combination of health practices that work for you.

CREATE A DAILY GRATITUDE PRACTICE.  INSTAGRAM PICTURE AND HASHTAG, JOURNAL ENTRY, FACEBOOK STATUS UPDATE – THE FORMAT DOESN’T MATTER.  THE REFLECTION DOES.

READ THE BOOKS THESE PEOPLE RECOMMEND (YES, THEIR OWN TOO) AND KEEP LISTENING TO PODCASTS!

Great books I’ve read as a result of these podcasts:

The Power of Habit

The Upside of Stress

I Know how She Does It

Outliers

The Myth of Stress

Finding Ultra

Happiness, Learning, Life Hacks, Personal Development, The Projects

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Sign up for a Course on Happiness!

Good morning great maternity leavers! So in the spirit of growth, learning and always working at things, I am signed up for a course on happiness! I am taking Happiness Basics, a course designed by the Red Deer Primary Care Network and being piloted on the University of Campus. We had our first 90 minute class yesterday.  I’ve had a rough time lately with feeling really down, like in a total funk for 2 months down.  So I’m working hard at addressing this with all of the tools in my toolkit.  It’s safe to say this is a priority right now.
Happiness:
We’re all experts on what makes people happy, right? (we could all list the major things.)
I know I can!  But I was curious about actually signing up, sitting in a class, and engaging with others in discussion and activities.  How would this be different from just consulting one of my gazillion books on happiness?
We live in a society that loves to learn.  However, there is more to learning than just intellectual (logical) intake of information.   To truly master something there are few more steps:
We must practice it and take it out of the mind, into our body space and emotional space.
It is then, that we  become whatever we are studying.
learn
In the classroom, I am learning about happiness by reading, writing and discussing.
But what does it mean to become happy?
 What would it look like for happiness to move from my intellect (brain) into my body and emotions, so that I truly embody it? 
It would mean that my self talk becomes more positive, my mood space feels lighter.  It would mean that my posture and body move upward, and outward, and I walk with my old poise and confidence. I am not as fatigued.  I feel in control of my thoughts.    It means walking with lightness and a smile, but also being grounded in my steps; not rushed.
What does happiness feel like in your body?  Ask yourself that right now. 
I wonder, how do we help a bunch of concepts and thoughts in our brain literally float down from the brain, into our neural networks, and get distributed into our muscles and body.   How does a reading on happiness, turn into a thought.  How does a thought travel into our body and shift our posture, or our chronic pain, or our moodspace?
PRACTICE.
And this is precisely why this happiness course has lots of homework.
You cannot become something if you do not practice it.
How do you practice happiness? 
This week, we looked at the research that shows there are 10 positive emotions directly associated with happiness.

Frederickson (2009) identifies the ten most common positive emotions as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.


 
We sat down and described an example in our lives where we have experienced each of these ten emotions.  Just sitting down and taking the time to remember those moments, reconnect with the emotions in those moments, was in itself the most amazing mood boosting exercise.
 
For example, the emotion of amusement:  I couldn’t help but laugh remembering back to the time I saw a person at a bus stop getting attacked by a tiny, very angry little bird.  It took me right back to that emotion.  The writing exercise let me go back there and feel it. 
After stepping back into memories ten times and letting myself feel those ten emotions again, I can tell you I was in a much, much better state than when I first walked into the classroom.
 
At the end of the exercise we were assigned to intentionally engage in one of the ten emotions that week.  Once a day. So I chose Amusement. My strategy is going to be to watch one hilarious video a day that makes me laugh.
This is the importance of homework.  
When you sit in a class or read a book and experience a positive emotion once – for sure, you feel better.  But the brain will enjoy it momentarily – and  get back to daily life and routines.  What if you make the brain experience it every.single.day.?
It will have to start sitting up and paying attention, building neural networks and start firing more of the feel good chemical messengers to facilitate those thoughts.
I’m excited to engage in such a feel-good form of homework and it will be interesting to watch how happiness is embodied this week, through practice.  I plan to help facilitate this process by reading a bit more about the brain and laughter, to deepen my knowledge and immersion – as well as and boost my motivation.
In the spirit of amusement, I would LOVE if you share with me your favourite youtube video, clip, cartoon, whatever that you think is hilarious. I know you have a good stash out there 😉
Building a Business, Happiness, Technology, The Projects

My Half-Baked Plan to Try out a Kickstarter Campaign

It’s making me giggle writing this blog post. This latest bucket list project feels a bit absurd.  I’m so in over my head.

In my personal life (definitely not work life), I have a tendency to favor action over research and just jump into things, and learn as I go.  Which is funny, because I used to over-research, take 20 different classes and struggle to execute, paralyzed by an exacting standard. I guess I’ve gone through a 180.

I’d argue it’s an unexpected gift that came from becoming a parent, and the resultant focus on  just get shit done – I don’t have time anymore to luxuriously peruse, project plan, build and then roll out projects casually.  The energy around projects whilst a parent is DECIDE.  EXECUTE.  ADJUST.  BE PREPARED TO FAIL.  There’s lots of fails as a parent, so fails have lost their “scary edge.”

Looking back over the years of bucket list items and personal goals, I’d rather be in a place of taking action, making mistakes and learning – than being caught up in over-planning, over-researching and over-thinking. I’ve been there. I know what it is like to be held captive by your own perfectionist standards, procrastination and fear to fail.

So this led me to launching a half-baked project – I got into Kickstarter without even knowing what I was getting into. I just thought it would be fun to try out getting some funding for a childrens’ book I am working on.

Don’t get me wrong, the children’s book is WELL-DONE.  It’s almost done actually.  We are in the final stages of imaging.  It’s a children’s book where a little girl gets to explore five magical fantasy landscapes featuring mystical animals and beings with magical powers.  There are some gorgeous values and character strengths woven into the story, which encourages each child to take their imagination onward with them, the rest of their lives.  Kintara is a world each child can return to if they close their eyes.  The magic passed on from the queens of each world is magic each child already has inside of them. Each image is derived from a recurring dream I’ve had since childhood.

 

(Here is one of the worlds in “development” stage)

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I’m literally just trying out the Kickstarter part for the “funds” component of this project – it’s a cherry on top of something that would go ahead anyways. So the nice part is that I have a bit of “gentle irreverence” as to the success of the campaign.

 

My project, The Gates of Kintara Children’s Book & App was launched this week.  

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Exciting, no?  As I read more on Kickstarter campaigning, I realized holy shit, there’s a lot I didn’t know about when I launched this.  But sometimes ignorance is bliss.  Had I read about all of the tips, tricks and “successful Kickstarter campaign checklists” out there on the web, I may have become overwhelmed and not even launched.

 

I really, really like drawing diagrams – I think in my past life, I was a sports coach, so let me put one up here for you.

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I think people can have success by preparing and launching with a great, sound plan.  But there’s also hard-won success, but just getting started, making mistakes, floundering and then adjusting as you go.

YOU CAN GET TO SUCCESS BY PREPARATION AND NOT MAKING MISTAKES.

YOU CAN GET TO SUCCESS BY UNDER PREPARATION AND FAILURES.

It’s just that one feels much more comfortable than the other.

There are SO MANY PEOPLE who want you to buy their courses, take their webinars and let them teach you how to prepare and do things right.   Everyone wants to do this route instead, it’s easier, so there is demand. People pay good money for these courses, and people make a good living “coaching” people on how to prepare and be successful.

The thing is though, you can be successful by making mistakes.  It is a hell of a lot less comfortable, it’s a longer road, but your knowledge is going to be hard won.

 

See?  There’s two routes below.

Route A takes longer (the pink route, it’s filled with time, mistakes, barriers and deep learning.  That’s the route I am taking with my Kickstarter.)

Route B is much faster (the red route.)  You work with a coach, take a course, learn from others’ mistakes, shortcut many of those mistakes, spend less time getting to your goal.  It’s a lot smarter on a lot of levels.

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Actually, looking at this, now I begin to wonder, why AM I taking Route A?  I think it’s simply because I like learning and am using this Kickstarter as a learning experience.  I don’t see challenges or failure as a bad thing.

———

I follow a lot of entrepreneur / business / coaching groups on linked in, Facebook and the web.  There are amazing groups out there.  I am a particular fan of Kimra Luna’s Freedom Hackers group.

I do still believe that the single biggest thing everyone struggles with is the action part.  People take endless courses. They are afraid to fail.  They try to make their plans bulletproof.  I could have easily spent 6 months reading up on Kickstarter.

———-

So here I am, realizing how much I did not know when I launched my Kickstarter, wondering why the hell I did this half-baked plan.  But I’m also excited for the brilliant learning experience and opportunity to really JUMP into it and learn fast.

I’m already making all of the mistakes that all of the courses say they will prevent you from making.

 

————–

And that’s okay.  I’m learning. Fast. It’s fun.

 

 

Grounding, Happiness, The Projects

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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Organization, The Projects, Uncategorized

The Basic Gear You Will Need for Your Baby (A Somewhat Minimalist and Gender Neutral List)

This blog post came about as a side-project. After I read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I went to town on everything we own in our house including everything I had accumulated over a year with a baby.

When our 2nd baby came along, I had been able to pare down everything and keep the most important things, which are on this list.  It made a huge difference in the feeling of overwhelm and reduced our clutter.

I followed both Lucie’s List and Pregnant Chicken, which were awesome. I can’t recommend them enough.  Add yourself to their mailing list.   They were fantastic to learn from.

I pretty much bought everything they recommended because I had no idea what I was getting myself into with my first baby.

What motivates me to provide a gender neutral / minimalist list?  

I HATE accumulating too much stuff.  And it happens really  quickly with kids. Clutter and “stuff” stresses me out. My goal is always to own items that I use at least once a week.  

I found the process of acquiring baby gear SO OVERWHELMING. There’s an entirely new vocab.  I bawled my eyes out twice. Picking out a stroller and picking out a car seat.

It wasn’t fun for me, even when it was just pinning on Pinterest.

People loved telling me what I would need and every time, I would answer with “What the hell is that?”  – Clueless.

There is no possible way to guess what you’ll need until you’ve gone through it, so this list is written with the knowledge of hindsight and is really written in a “advice for dummies” way because I was a dummy myself and had no f*cking idea what a jumperoo or a swaddler was.

Most of these items are gender neutral (read: Can be used by multiple children!)

 

Blanket #1

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Aiden & Anais Cotton Muslin Lightweight Swaddle Blankets

Swaddling is a word, and a magical art all in one.  That I did not learn until discharge day at the hospital.  Then the Aiden & Anais Swaddlers alllllllll made sense.

The cotton muslin gets silky soft the more you wash it, and these patterns do not fade.  Gender neutral too.  These wraps are wonderful to wrap up those go-go-gadget arms and legs, as well as cover the car seat, cover the stroller, cover your boobs for a feed – all sorts of things. They are nice and large.  There’s a reason people always buy these. They are just so multifunctional!

They’ll fit your baby from newborn up to 9 months.  I also used these blankets to lie on the ground for diaper changes (no need for a diaper pad) cover the stroller, cover the car seat, on planes, as a feeding / pumping cover by tying around my neck, and as head support in the car seat.  I STILL use them here and there.  These come in a pack of four, which I’d recommend – it lets you keep one in the car, one in the bedroom, one in the stroller and an extra put away.

aden + anais Classic Swaddle 4-Pack Twinkle

Blanket #2:

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This is a very large light fleece blanket that has travelled the world with us.  It’s been brilliant as a blanket for my kids and myself on planes, for picnics and beach time, and also as a make-do-tent on planes, by clipping it in the fold up seat tray.  It’s my  go-to for the stroller in cooler weather or as a blanket on cold nights.  It hasn’t pilled or lost its softness despite a gazillion washes.

Babies can get way too hot in fleece blankets, which are generally too thick and warm, but they loove snuggly blankets.  So this one is perfect.

Bonus is the fact that it is $2.99 at Ikea.  Seriously, best $3 I’ve ever spent. I’ll keep using this for myself.  Great couch throw.  Gender neutral colours also.

Ikea Link:

Krakris Throw Blanket Ikea

THAT’S IT.  NO MORE BLANKETS. YOU ARE DONE.

But sorry friend, you’ll get like 100000x blankets.  And stuffed toys.

People loooove buying you stuffed toys.

 

CLOTHES

You may have seen on Pinterest the “capsule wardrobe” concept.  Essentially, you pare down your wardrobe to a few high quality neutral items, which are mixed and matched with accessories.

This is a technique that greatly reduces clutter and simplifies life. If you apply this technique to your baby’s clothes it is a game changer!

LONG OR SHORT SLEEVED ONESIES

Invest in long sleeved body suits in neutral colours.  White, tan, grey, black. Whatever your preference. Buying them in four-packs is economical, working out to $5 each.  I have been impressed with Carters’ as a brand.

“>Carter’s 4 Pack Long Sleeve Baby Onesies – White

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It’s a little boring, isn’t it? Just buying super plain clothes.  But here’s where it gets fun. My life was changed when I bought a few Hug Me Sew Bibs from Etsy.

DROOL BIBS / DROOL SCARVES

I tried out a few brands and these are the best quality.

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These are cotton (fleece on the underside) bibs that you put on your little drooler.  They catch all of the drool, save you from doing an obscene amount of laundry, and all of a sudden you are accessorizing that simple onesie with a variety of adorable bibs that are way cheaper to buy than a bunch of clothing.

Hug Me Sew Drool Bibs

PANTS / LEGGINGS

Here’s a sample of a 2 pack you can buy in neutrals for a boy.  I tend to recommend Amazon for everything as I’ve found their prices cheaper.  You can get great deals in stores though, so if you love shopping (me) stop in when you are out and about – otherwise, Amazon will almost always be a better deal.  I also tend to recommend Carters or Baby Gap because they seem to hold together and resist fading better than other brands.

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Carters Baby Boys 2-Pack Pants Grey & Navy

WINTER BABIES

If you plan on going outside for walks in winter (I did a ton and am so glad, it kept me sane,)  just go for a “bunting bag.” I know, wtf, all this strange language right?  You learn a whole new vocab with a baby.

And again, go for one bigger so they last longer in it.  Make sure it has ears.  It is outrageously adorable and enjoyable looking at a baby bear in a stroller.’

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Carters Baby Bunting

ACCESSORIES

Babies  don’t need shoes until they walk, but they do need some kind of foot covering.  Especially if you are Canadian and will spend any time shuffling babies around in the cold weather.  The other thing I learnt is no matter what you put on those feet, the little mastermind creatures somehow get EVERYTHING off.

That is why I love Padraig knitted booties.  Yes, they are expensive.  I balked at the price and didn’t buy a pair till my 2nd born.  But here’s the thing. You buy a pair in the 6-12 month size and they are going to last your kid an ENTIRE year.

It doesn’t matter that they are too big when they are little…  it’s not like they are walking, and if they are in the car seat, or strorller, they are covered with a blanket anyways.

Hand crafted & stitched, you are supporting local business and you can throw them in the wash. Win, win and win.

Padraig Knitted Baby Booties

MISCELLANEOUS

I had no idea how tiny and blocked baby noses become.  If they get a cold, it’s actually quite stressful VERY STRESSFUL watching them struggle to breathe.  New parent trauma I’m telling you. lol.

I’m going to horrify you with this recommendation but a snot sucker is the best & fascinatingly disgusting thing you could possibly put in your medicine cabinet.  It’s absolutely disgusting yes, but it does the trick.

Especially if you “pre spray” your babies’ nasal cavities or drop some slightly saline water in there (which they’ll hate by the way.)

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After trying at least 5 different brands, I finally got the best one and man, does it work a thousand times better than any other.  Don’t go for the shitty $6.99 turkey baster style snot sucks in shoppers. GET THIS ONE:

Nose Frieda Snot Sucker.

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Baby Bottles & Pump (So many brands.  Personal preference. They all do the same thing)

Other useful additions to the medicine cabinet:

Gripe Water

Camilia Homeopathic teething drops

Baby / infant ibuprofen and acetominophen

A baby bottle cleaning brush * I just gone one, 2 kids later and wonder on a daily basis WHY THE HELL I did not get this sooner.

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Other miscellaneous items:

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A portable travel crib (lots of brands.  Personal preference = Phil & Teds travel crib)

A stroller (needs its own blog post. My favourite of 4 brands is still the Bob Stroller.)

A portable high chair – not necessary until 4 months.

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A car seat

A baby carrier (so many brands.  Personal preference = baby bjorn carrier one)

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A baby swing / “baby bouncer” **This is key to being able to cook and drink coffee.

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Toys

Each baby had different preferences with toys, so the requirement for this section was that both kids had to L-O-V-E both. These toys progress really nicely in age from 0-4 months, then 4-8 months, then 9 months plus.  These three items were a life saver for being able to prepare dinner and generally function as a human being!

Yes these start to take up a bit of room but these three toys provided endless entertainment when all other toys’ novelty wore off.

Also, if you are going for minimalist for the love of god don’t let people buy you stuffed animals.  They add up VERY quickly and babies never seem to want to play with them.

Activity Arch 0-4 months

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Exersaucer 4-8 months

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“Jumperoo” 8 Months+ *

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*my toddler still tries to climb in this.