The key to preventing bitterness

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Bitterness is easier to detect in others than it is in ourselves. You can just see and feel that someone is imprisoned by bitterness. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking.
But what about bitterness in our own hearts? We each need to be proactive with hurts and hang ups.
Those with chronic bitterness tend to be avoiders. They stuff hurt feelings and start collecting records of wrongs. They hold it in til they explode. They don’t speak directly to the source but talk to others (encouraging more imprisonment). But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Assertiveness is an effective tool for preventing bitterness. Assertiveness is not stuffing but speaking up appropriately to the individual (and to them alone). Assertiveness is kind. Assertiveness uses “I feel ___when” statements instead of “you always”. Assertiveness prevents chronic bitterness as one thing is addressed at a time.
I must mention that this message may not apply to every situation. Sometimes there are hurts that can’t be remedied by being assertive. But most of the time, it IS beyond helpful.
Ultimately love releases a life imprisoned by bitterness. And forgiveness is our parole officer. She checks in on us from time to to time as forgiveness is rarely a one-time event. But assertiveness is early intervention! Assertiveness can prevent a life from being imprisoned in the first place. And I have great news: no matter your age or background, assertiveness is a skill that can be learned and it gets easier over time with practice.
Love,
– R.

Thanksgiving: when you’re feeling anything but happy

Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving. More Americans will make it a priority to be with their family & friends tomorrow than any other holiday (yes, even Christmas!). The day before Thanksgiving can be filled with anxiety that has nothing to do with baking or traveling. There’s a type of anxiety that is present for those who have seen heartbreaking changes since last year’s gathering. Death. Job Loss. Divorce. Diagnosis. These are just a few examples of what has happened to too many families over the past year. Individuals and families have been rocked to the core. Things don’t look or feel like they did a year ago. People are holding their breath and hoping for the best for tomorrow.

Thanksgiving can sting more than any other holiday because the focus seems to be pretty much all about family. The message society gives is one of showing up at Thanksgiving as a happy, happy family. To prove this point, what is the greeting that is said at Thanksgiving? HAPPY THANKSGIVING! But we know that for so many, tomorrow does not evoke happy feelings. For several, sadness or anxiety seems more appropriate than “happy”.

If you or your family are struggling on Thanksgiving eve, remember that you aren’t alone. Remember to take it one hour, one moment at a time. Take deep breaths. Hold a hot beverage in your hands all.day.long if that’s soothing. Go for a walk. Leave the party early if you need to. Do whatever will help you. Thanksgiving is about family but remember this: you are a branch in the family tree! You need to stay healthy so that you can bear fruit, too. You matter just as much as anyone else.

Instead of wishing you a “Happy Thanksgiving”, my hope is that you are able to find little & big things to be grateful for in the midst of the sad. Don’t deny your sad. But don’t miss seeing the good, too. With this perspective, show up tomorrow in the best way that you know how while also taking good care of you.

Lots of love,

– R.

Forgiveness sets you free

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We all have wounds. Some hurts go deeper than others. If forgiveness is not present the wound will fester.

Forgiveness is rarely a one-time event. More often than not, it’s something we do over and over when we notice bitterness returning.

I am convinced that to grab hold of the best that this life has to offer, we need to let go. We must learn to be good forgivers.

The following quotes are helpful and healing reminders of the importance of practicing forgiveness.

To begin, here’s my favourite quote by Mother Teresa:

“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.”

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And lastly, the following is a quote from the Bible. Besides setting ourselves free from bitterness, Christians have another motivation for practicing forgiveness.

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Do you have a favourite quote on forgiveness? Add it here!

Forgiveness is a journey. We all need reminders to keep going down the path that leads to healing. If we keep the above truths before us, we can stop bitterness in its tracks. In doing so, we are able to witness the beauty that is forgiveness setting us FREE.

-R

Health risks of using baby powder

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Did you hear? A court ruled that Johnson & Johnson must pay a family 72 million in damages. A woman’s death (ovarian cancer) was linked to using baby powder & shower to shower for decades.

While pregnant, I remember being told that baby powder is no longer recommended because of the risk of respiratory problems.

Baby powder can cause breathing trouble and serious lung damage if a baby inhales the particles. And the particles are small enough that it’s hard to keep them out of the air during use. – Jennifer Lowry (Pediatrician).

I wasn’t aware that it can also cause health problems in adults (cancer).

Here’s more on the story: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/cancer/court-orders-johnson-johnson-payoff-talcum-powder-ovarian-cancer-case-n524456

How to get yourself out of a funk

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Saturday was a bad day for me. While we rarely fight, Derek and I had an argument first thing in the morning. Even though we resolved the insignificant conflict, I remained in a funk for the rest of the day. I’m not at all blaming my husband for this. It was a gloomy rainy day – I could blame the rain! But that wouldn’t be accurate either. It seemed to be everything and nothing that caused my mood to majorly drop. The entire day was a struggle. Sunday was better. Much better.  Here’s what seemed to help me our of a temporary major funk, I’m hoping it can help if you or a loved one find yourself in such a state:

  1. Journal. Writing out your thoughts and feelings can do wonders. It’s like a free therapy session! Also, as a social worker, I understand the importance of being able to identify when significant mood changes first began. Often, clients comes to their first appointment with no timeframe of when they started to go downhill. Writing in a journal can help you to process and cope as well as have a record should you need professional support.
  2. Exercise. For me, this was a walk in the pouring rain with my dog. I walked fast. I enjoyed seeing how much my dog was loving walking (despite the rain). I noticed ducks on the river not at all phased by rain. I may have felt gloomy on the inside but it was encouraging to see animals enjoying the rain. And the change of scenery + exercise was good for my mood as well.
  3. Read. I picked up a book that I had hoped to finish before baby arrived (and I didn’t!) and read a few pages. It was helpful to “escape” in a good book. To put aside feeling glum for several minutes.
  4. Get a break. For all of the above to happen, I needed a break from caretaking. My husband and I traded off caretaking for our daughter though out the day. I haven’t left her for more than 1 hour but if the funk continued into the next day, I may have had to get in the car and go somewhere for a couple of hours to see if that helped.
  5. Sleep. During my funk, I wanted to go and hide under the covers but I refused to go there. Sleep is necessary for survival but can work against us if we use it to escape. My advice would be to anyone in a funk to try and use sleep to recharge your batteries and not to as a way of hiding from the world. Also, remember that tomorrow’s a new day. Even if you don’t sleep great, things often seem better the next morning.

The above list if fairly biased re: what has been helpful for ME when experiencing low mood or being in a funk. I’d love to hear what you’d add to this list. Remember that just because you’re in a significant funk today doesn’t mean that it will be just as bad tomorrow. It could be MUCH better. Take good care of yourself. And if the funk lasts for 6 weeks or you experience any thoughts of suicide (no matter how fleeting), seek professional help. Funks can come and go. They can be very short lived. Or they can last awhile and turn into clinical depression. Taking good care of yourself as soon as you notice mood changes can sometimes turn what could have been ugly into a short lived episode. In your experience, what’s been helpful for you?

Preparing for baby: make Freezer Meals!

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There are lots of ways to prepare for welcoming a baby into your home. Attend childbirth or adoption classes. Decorate the nursery. Create a baby registry. But there’s one thing that’s often missed that pays huge dividends: making freezer meals. Far too few do this but those that do will tell you that they are so glad that they did! I’m 3 months into being a new mom and haven’t had to make a dinner meal yet unless I wanted to/had time to. This equals less stress + healthier eating + saving money (if we didn’t have freezer meals to pull from we’d be eating lots of take-out to survive those early weeks). If you are expecting a little one, here’s some tips in getting your freezer stash started:

1. Buy a separate freezer. The freezer part of your fridge will likely not cut it. If you can’t afford to have a chest freezer you can still make meals that will fit in your fridge freezer (just not as many).

2. Start early. I’d recommend start as soon as possible on freezing meals. I was shocked to learn that food that’s properly frozen/sealed can last for years in your freezer and still be safe to eat. For freshness sake, I’d recommend eating your frozen meals within 6 months of making them.

3. The easiest way to start building up your freezer stash is to make double of whatever you are cooking for dinner and freeze half of it. Even if dinner turned out to be only so-so, you’ll be glad you have a meal option later when baby is here!

4. Plan a freezer food party with some friends. It helps if one person is willing to organize it and others show up and help split the cost. For the freezer party that I went to, one girl organized all of the recipes and did the shopping (amazing!). We each did some of the food prep at home and then got together (i.e. I chopped 30 green peppers ahead of time). The husbands came along and chopped raw chicken while watching the football game. We ended up spending 5 hours together and made 5 different meals for the crock pot (we froze everything raw). In that one afternoon, I walked away with 30 crock pot dinners to freeze and use later. 30! Tip: stick with one type of meat for a bunch of different meals. And we couldn’t have made that many meals without the guys help!

5. Don’t make the mistake that I did and only make dinner meals. I really could have used frozen snacks in those early days with a newborn (such as muffins). Make a variety of foods in addition to having your dinners taken care of.

Final tip is to label everything: what the food is AND the date that it was made. I kept a paper list of everything so I could send my husband down to the basement with what needed to be eaten next (we ate items in order that they were made). Oh and freezer bags worked well for both seal/freshness and space saving as you could flatten the meals out and stack them on top of each other.

I’m sorry that I don’t have recipes to share right now. My friend was in charge of the recipes for our freezer party. If I can get my hands on those, I’ll share them!

I can promise you that if you decide to make meals to freeze before your little one arrives that you won’t regret it. Well, maybe you’d regret if it there was a power outage and you lost all your food. ha! But that’s not going to happen 🙂 Put away a freezer meal a week and you’ll be so glad that you did. Bon appetite!

Where to find organic baby care products in Canada

Healthy/organic/natural baby care products are hard to come by and especially hard to shop for in Canada. I love the Environmental Working Group’s website. You can go on there and see how certain products rank re: health concerns. A zero is the lowest score that a product can get which is the best, healthiest option. After I did hours or research on what are the best products out there AND what I can get my hands on in Canada, I thought I should share this in case it may be helpful for someone else. The following are items with a score of zero by the EWG as well as where it’s cheapest to find them (keep in mind that we don’t live near a big city):

Soap: Live Clean Baby Bar of Soap (Unscented). Available on Amazon.ca or Babies R Us.

Shampoo: Earth Mama Angel Baby Shampoo & Body Wash (Naturally scented or unscented). Available on Amazon.ca

Diaper Cream: Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm. Available on Amazon.ca

Wipes: WaterWipes. Available on Amazon.ca

And I’ll add these to the list as they make me feel better about what’s in the products that’s cleaning bottles, pacifiers, toys, etc.

Dish soap: Babyganics Foaming Dish & Bottle Soap. Available at Babies R Us.

Dishwasher detergent: Seventh Generation Auto Dish Powder, Free & Clean. Available on Amazon.ca

Hope this helps! I can report back later what I think of these products. I’m excited that there ARE safer options babies in Canada.