Stop and reflect: October

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One day you’re waiting for the sky to fall. The next you’re dazzled by the beauty of it all.  – Bruce Cockburn

The start of October 2017 was full of tragedy. The world felt very dark. As the month went on, more cracks of light started shining through. Here’s some short reflections from the month:

Music: Switchfoot was my go-to (in particular, their Beautiful Letdown Album was my anthem for the month).

Reading: Rob Bell’s “What Is the Bible?”, Steven Curtis Chapman’s Autobiography & Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection.”

Writing: examples of some of my thoughts shared on Instagram & Facebook that received meaningful feedback:

October 5th – on loneliness being the worst type of poverty
October 8th – a confession and encouragement
October 12th – on getting to know our literal neighbours
October 13th – on allowing people to change
October 19th – forgetting about numbers and helping one person at a time
October 29th – what the heart knows by heart, heals the heart

Travel: we took advantage of good weather days and did a couple day trips. The picture above was from visiting Brockville for the first time.

Theme: Today will soon be GONE (Switchfoot) & am I living scared or brave? The latter has been a new thought that arrived at the end of the month. Going to chew on that some more.

Tip: If you’re hungry for community, be willing to put yourself out there. Example: ask someone new to go out for coffee.  You just never know when it will be the start of something beautiful.

What was October like for you? Would love to hear your reflections. Ready or not, November is here. Together, we can face it and maybe even have some fun.

The real reason why having a child is both the hardest & the best thing

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Prior to having a child, I enjoyed hearing from others what having a child is like. I wanted  insight into the biggest decision a person can make (that will rock their world as they know it). The most common answer that I received was, “It’s the hardest thing that you will ever do but it’s also the best thing that you will ever do.” Hmm. This response was so vague. It left me confused. Why exactly is it the hardest thing? And why is it also the best thing? I didn’t receive specific answers from anyone.  It was like there was a code amongst parents to remain vague and not go into detail re:  why it’s so hard.  I did have one person say, “If people knew just how hard it is they would never have kids!” Again, wasn’t helpful.

Now that I’m 10 months into mothering, I’m trying to give an answer as to why being a parent is both the hardest and the best thing. At first, I’d tell you that it’s the hardest thing because you just can’t fully understand how painful the extreme lack of sleep is or how annoying your child’s cry can be (and how they cry for a million reasons you’ll never fully understand). Also, no breaks. Did I mention no breaks? I just sat down to write this post and now I hear her crying…she’s awake from her nap. Parenting never ends. With everything else, you can turn it off/walk away/take a break. Being a mom is 24/7.

But the more I ponder the question “Why is it the hardest and also the best?” I’m forced to dig deeper than just the day-to-day of childcare. For me, I think raising a child is the hardest thing that a person can do because it requires you to model by example what you want your child to do, who you want them to be.

“It was clear from the data that we cannot give our children what we don’t have. Where we are in our journey of living and loving with our whole hearts is a much stronger indicator of parenting success than anything we can learn from how-to books.” – Brene Brown

Truth is, pregnancy and childbirth are hard. Sleep deprivation is hard. Being on 24/7 is hard. But that’s just the hard stuff. The hard AND the best is this: your child gives you the opportunity to be the best version of yourself. An authentic and vulnerable person. A person who sets appropriate & healthy boundaries. A person who loves others with actions and not just words. A person who loves self.  A person who lives with their whole heart.

“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a Wholehearted life: loving ourselves.” – Brene Brown

Here’s the truth behind “having a child is both the hardest and the best”…a child gives you a choice: continue living on autopilot, doing the same old, or stop and consider if who you are is exactly who you’d want your child to be. Raising a child is not, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Raising a child is, “monkey see – monkey do.” That, my friends, is hard. But this can also be the best thing that you ever do.

How I spend my time

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

Time. Time has taken on new meaning now that I’m a mom. Oh how I value my down time. I don’t seem to have very much of that anymore! The introvert in me could spend all day reading and writing. I love solitude. A cup of coffee. A walk alone. Driving in the car with the radio off and having my thoughts keep me company. Yes, I’m one of those people!

As a mom to a baby, I struggle finding the balance between 1) getting things done and 2) recharging my batteries. And to be honest, I can waste too much time on facebook when I could have spent that time reading or writing (even blogging!).

I’m challenged by the following thought, “how will I decide to spend my time so that when the day is done I’m left feeling proud instead of discouraged?” It’s not so much a question of, “do I have enough time today to get things done” but rather, “how will I spend the time that I do have in front of me?” I’m on a journey to be better at how I spend my time (whatever I decide is the goal re: how to spend my time for that particular day). To be intentional instead of on autopilot (i.e I’ll just scroll through facebook….and 30 minutes goes by).

Time. We all have limited amounts of it. But we all get to start over each day and decide anew how we will use it.

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?

How to make the most of your maternity leave

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Our baby is 10 weeks old, it’s hard to believe that if we lived in the States I would have been back to work for 1 month now (average maternity leave in the US is 6 wks). Yikes. My heart seriously goes out to everyone with short maternity leaves. We are spoiled rotten in Canada to get 1 year off and even then many of my friends really struggle to go back to work.

The thought hit me a couple of weeks ago that I’m so very blessed to get a year off with my baby. It’s truly a gift. My philosophy in life is that we are blessed to be a blessing (it does us no good to hoard). With that in mind, I want to make the most of my time while off on maternity leave. I want to give back and be a blessing to others as a result. I gave myself the first 6 weeks as “survival” weeks. Nothing expected or required of me. Just keep baby alive. I then decided that if women in the States were returning to work after 6 weeks, I had better start doing something. It was time to challenge myself to make the most of maternity leave.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s still very hard to do much of anything while taking care of a young baby. She doesn’t have a regular schedule by any stretch. But by 6 weeks, I figured I could start adding little things to my week that may enhance my life and bless others. At 10 weeks, I’m still figuring this out. I haven’t arrived and will have to do an updated post at the end of my maternity leave. But for now…here’s what I’ve been attempting:

1) Make time for my spiritual health each day. Instead of reading a children’s book to our baby, I’ll read a very short devotional (Our Daily Bread). It’s starting the process of reading to our child and making time for my batteries to be re-charged. Every so often, I’ve also watched a Christian or motivational on youtube while feeding her and been encouraged.

2) Encourage one person per week. This is the minimum. This can look like going to visit someone with our baby, writing someone a card, sending someone a “thinking of you” text that’s meaningful.

3) Journal. I have a personal journal in addition to blogging. Between the two, I hope to capture this time and to grow personally as a result. Some days I don’t get to write at all, other days I jot down a thought really quickly, and other days I have the time to write. I feel it’s important to write both as a means of remembering, processing, sharing, and growth.

I’d love other ideas in regards to how to make the most of maternity leave. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Time saving tips

Who doesn’t like to save time? We live in such a fast-paced world; a little time saved here and there can really add up. Most importantly, taking some short-cuts can reduce daily stress levels. Here are a few of my time saving tips:

1. Fill up at the gas station before work instead of after work. If I do this before work, there are no lines. I go straight to a pump!  After work — I always have to wait and it can be stressful trying to find a line when drivers are all over the place.

2. Do your grocery shopping on a week night. This only works if it’s after 6pm (I guess a lot of people grab groceries after work before heading home?). Saturdays are the WORST to grocery shop. Everyone leaves their grocery shopping til Saturday it seems. Friday nights are surprisingly empty. Who wants to grocery shop on a Friday night?! Well, if you want to beat the crowds it can be a date night activity 🙂

3. Cook two meals at one time. If you know that tonight’s dinner is going to require spending a lot of time @ the stove top see if there’s another meal that you can prep while tonight’s dinner is cooking. This could look like tonight’s dinner +: prepping veggies for tomorrow’s salad, baking something in the oven (while food is cooking on the stove top), having a crockpot meal put together so all you have to do is plug it in in the morning.

Have you tried any of these before?  Do you have some of your own time saving tips? I’d LOVE to hear them!