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How To Live Like You’re Dying, Without Dying

Everyone says you need to ‘live like you’re dying’, they say it’s the best way to live. You can’t really understand life unless you’ve faced death. I’m here to say not only can you live without facing death, you can thrive!

Three years ago my doctor called and asked me to come to her office. I held it together the block between our home and the gas station. It’s one of those pay inside only stations. I couldn’t slip away unnoticed. When I walked inside, she took one look at me, came around the counter, wrapped her arms around me and asked what was wrong. This lady that barely knew me, held me while I sobbed. I knew I had cancer. My doctor would never ask me to drive all the way to her office, 45 min from home, for anything other than that kind of news.

The first month after diagnosis held fear, anger, and a belief that I needed help. The second month I realized I could do it. But the third month I decided to live.

No, not really like that. I always planned to live, but I also held the possibility of death. I shared that possibility with Ryan and our children. We cried. Things crumbled. It was hard. If I lived like I was dying, that meant hiding and giving up. Instead I decided to live like I was not only living, but alive!

Think about it.

You’re not just alive, breathing in and out, in and out. Starting each day the same, but actually ALIVE!

Alive can simply mean ‘not dead’, but it can also mean so much more! Vibrant, animated, engaged, connected. Being alive means experiencing life fully.

live like you're dying
alive in a broken world

Do you want to just live, or do you want to be alive?

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit  

Being alive means loving, and accepting love in return. 

To open ourselves to someone else can hurt. It leaves us vulnerable, exposed to possible rejection or worse, disgust. Can you imagine what it’d be like if you loved yourself fully and completely? If you loved yourself, and allowed yourself to be loved without casting doubt about your own worthiness?

You might notice the love handles, but they don’t matter. You know your heart and soul and finally see the magnificent person that you are. You see the way you talked gently to your friend even though you were tired. You saw the way you went out of your way to help that lost dog even though you didn’t have to. You saw your actions, heard your thoughts, and felt your emotions. You weigh and measure your whole self and realize you’re so much more than a number that needs to change. You are enough. And you love yourself enough.

 

It Can Hurt

Opening yourself to loving yourself can hurt so much. It means you face those darkest fears. You see that lonely child crying on the playground, you comfort her, and let her know it’ll be okay. You see your darkest fears, you face them, and you continuing living. That can be one of the hardest tings to do each day. I have so many fears. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of them, but they don’t hold the same power over me that they once did. I’ve grown to love myself, not because I’m afraid, but inspire of my fear, or maybe because of how I deal with my fear. It’s all mingled together. Everyone has anxiety sometimes. Everyone is worthy of love. And so are you.

 

In order to fully live, you need to love and accept love from yourself. Once you understand your faults don’t diminish your worth, then you’ll really be living!

 

 

 

 

 

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Keep Your Life Balanced Until the End of Summer

Summer’s flying by, faster and faster every moment. It seems like only yesterday I turned the furnace off and now it’s time to pull out the flannel jammies again. Alberta summers never last long enough, but it has been beautiful and full of so much fun! But this summer also pulled us in so many directions. As much fun as it was, we found ourselves off balance. As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, it’s important to remember there’s still a few more fun days left before routines shift back to lessons and winter boots.

Do you have a plan to make sure you keep your life balanced between now and the end of summer?

This week threatened to overwhelm me. My garden desperately needs my attention and my one bathroom hadn’t been cleaned in far longer than it should have been, not to mention all the things we wanted to do and foods we wanted to make. My balanced life quickly teetered as Ella and Agatha decided they wanted to start their math curriculum for the year and Agatha and Cordelia began their English work. Ella wants to learn how to sculpt cakes. And Brom wants homework. Any homework. Well, any homework – as long as it’s electronics, and a game, and features lego and superheros. Hmmm, after we talked that one through, turns out we have different definitions of homework! hahaha

The cooler weather and the never ending pile of stuff to do left me feeling so down about the end of summer. I needed to shift my thinking. Fast! First we watched a little Phineas and Ferb, then I made a plan to have the best day ever, each day, until the end of summer.

Today was the best day ever!

We stayed home. That’s it.

It was glorious! It was Balanced!

We changed all our plans, stayed home and had a water balloon fight in the backyard, made muffins, ate popsicles, and spent some time reading stories together.

We’ve been so busy all summer that we forgot to relax and enjoy the peace and joy our own home offers. In order to make the most of summer, I took a look at what I needed to shift to bring balance back to our life. We’ve spent so much time with plans and away from home we decided the fastest way to balance our life was to let go of needing to do anything.  If we want to go to the splash park, we will. If we want to go to a play, we will. If we want to stay up all night and watch shooting stars, we will. That’s the glorious thing about not making plans. We have the freedom to chose each day what will keep us balanced!

balanced

Balanced Summer Fun

  1. It’s okay to change directions if the direction you’re going brings stress instead of joy.
  2. If you’ve been home too many days in a row, go out. Leave the to-do list and the pile of laundry. They’ll keep. Have a picnic, go to a splash park, do something different.
  3. If you’ve been out everyday, take a break and stay home. You don’t need to have an adventure everyday to have happy fulfilled children. It’s okay to stay home and let them figure out what to do on their own.
  4. If a messy house overwhelms you, pick 3 things that really bug you and deal with those 3, and only those 3. Give yourself permission to let it go for a few days.
  5. Find time to spend with just you and your significant other. Maybe that’s after the children are sleeping, maybe it’s while they’re playing with friends. Maybe you’re really lucky and you have a babysitter and an evening free. However you do it, make time away from errands and chores for each other.

Here’s to a balanced summer!

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes Success Looks Like Failure

We live in a perfect world. A world that rewards perfect and only perfect.

The world’s filled with beautiful ideas, shared in awe by others while the ‘Pinterest fails’ are shared in mockery and mirth. As adults, we often belittle ourselves and, in some cases, others, when we make mistakes. So often we hear words like, “I could never do that, I’m not a [fill in the blank].” As adults we’ve learned that unless we’re perfect, we shouldn’t even try. We became square pegs in square holes.

Take a moment for that to sink in.

When we limit ourselves to what we’re already good at, we are merely square pegs.

For a long time I was a square peg, unhappily sitting in a square hole. Fear of mistakes crippled me and held me in place. My self worth hinged on being good and right all the time. If you’ve never lived in that kind of world, let me tell you, it’s a miserable place to be! When I saw my children showing signs of living in a perfection based world, I knew something drastic needed to change.

How can we teach our children they can learn anything, be anything, do anything if we constantly send the message that we need to be perfect the first time we try something? How will our children learn that practice makes perfect, if they see us never try anything new? But also, how will they learn that not being perfect is okay, if we never point out our own mistakes?

I made a cake this week. It’s not the first cake I’ve made, but it was the first time I’ve tried this technique. It turned out great! (For a first try). Everyone gushed over it (well except that one person that sneered and said, “it’s okay.” But we won’t talk about him anymore! lol).

As I made the cake, Ella and Agatha gushed over how awesome the cake was and how amazing they thought I was. Nothing feels better than knowing your children admire you!

My cake wasn’t perfect. Not even close! It looked like a zombie garden gnome (a la Harry Potter). Not pretty! The fondant ripped in a few places, and the entire thing looked a little creepy. I’d go so far as to say it’d be worthy of a ‘Pinterest Fail’ post. Except, I’m ridiculously proud of this cake. No. It isn’t perfect, I’m very aware of the differences between mine and the professional’s cake. But I tried.

I tried something new and I think it turned out really good, for someone that doesn’t do this every day, or even every month.

I’m not a cake decorator, a baker, or a chef in anyway (sometimes I despise anything to do with cooking), but it makes my children happy to have fun parties and fun cakes. It makes them feel loved and so I do it. Even though it takes all my will power to place that cake, with all it’s faults, in front of other people, I do it.

Today it’s cakes, a different day it was wire sculptures. Sometimes it’s words. I try. I work. I make mistakes, a lot of mistakes. Sometimes it looks like failure. Sometimes it feels like failure.

I tried something and it didn’t go the way I envisioned. I compare myself to others. I compare myself to the person I wish I was. That person that knows what to say and how to say it. The one that makes gorgeous cakes and throws elaborate parties, while also looking amazing. I see the dissonance between who I am and who I wish to be. Sometimes the distance seems so vast, and then I see how far I’ve come.

It may look like failure to some, but to me, it’s a huge success.

I want my children to see these moments of failure as success too. I pointed out the differences between the way my cake looked and the way I wish it looked. Together we watched the video I used as inspiration. We talked about the differences between what she did and what I did. We took maybe 3 minutes to really pick apart the problems with my cake, then I changed course and talked about how wonderful I thought my cake was. No, it wasn’t perfect, but it was still a great try and I was able to see where my mistakes were, which meant I could learn from it.

Success!

Now that you’ve seen my cake, this is the video I used as inspiration:

 

 

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Anne of Green Gables Birthday

When I was young, I loved to read. So much so that I spent most waking moments reading. But I have a confession to make.

 I never read Anne of Green Gables.

I didn’t need to.

I had the movies. That was enough for me. Few movies brought me the sense of peace and longing that Anne of Green Gables did.

Then, about a year ago, we ran out of bedtime stories. I opened our storage room, rummaged around in a few boxes, and found some old books my parents brought me from my childhood. Among those books was a battered old copy of Anne of Green Gables.

We quickly read all the way through once. Twice. Then a third time. A brilliant spark of love and imagination leapt into Agatha. Every moment of our day revolved around Anne. Agatha wanted to know more about eastern Canada, specifically Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. She wanted to know more about the time period. She had to have an Anne doll.

The doll arrived several months ago providing hours and hours of imaginative play. You see, Agatha is my Anne girl. If ever there was a child with a flair for the dramatic, it’s her! Watching Agatha play with her Anne doll, exploring a world of make-believe and adventure brought back so many happy memories and made so many more.

When it came time to plan her birthday party, she had to have an Anne of Green Gables party.

A quick search brought up so many party ideas – the only problem? They were all for weddings. Not quite what I wanted for my newly 9 ear old!

Since google didn’t provide any inspiration, I decided to take mine right from the book. Shortly after Anne arrives at Green Gables, she’s invited to a picnic. I decided to make this picnic the backdrop for our party (with a bit of creative licence to keep a pile of children happy).

 

I love this theme so much partly because decorations are so easy! Anne loves flowers and all things feminine. I picked up a big bouquet from the store, divided the blooms and greens between several different vases and glass jars, then I snipped some blooms and more greens from my garden to fill everything in. Ribbons and bows around the home added that little something extra.Since the majority of the party was outside, I didn’t bother with any other decorations.

 

 

We stuck to simple dishes that’d be easy to bring to a picnic and also likely to find at Green Gables. Potato salad, sausage and veggie fry-up, cole slaw, veggies, and fresh picked gooseberries were on the menu. Of course we had to have raspberry cordial (we were sure not to confuse it with currant wine!) and apple cider for those that don’t like raspberries. Oh, and a favourite from childhood: matrimonial cake (date squares), just as good as I remember them!

I wanted to do something a little different for the birthday cake. I knew it needed to be very simple, but I still wanted that WOW factor. Pavlova was the perfect ending for the birthday celebration! The airy dessert showcased the fresh berries beautifully. I had one on the counter on display during the party, complete with berries and cream, but I kept the others waiting in the cool oven until it was time to serve. The one on display wasn’t expected to hold up (and it didn’t) but it still tasted great!

Party games included a 3-legged race – we allowed smaller children to run without tying them together – a chance to walk the ridgepole of the house (we had deck boards spread between two rocks that everyone had a chance to balance on – no risk of breaking necks or legs). The last activity took the longest, but may have been the most fun.

Everyone had the chance to make their own ice cream using ice and salt to freeze the cream. Before the party, we measured all the ingredients into individual serving sizes for each child, placed those into larger bags, and put them all in the fridge. We had a large stash of ice in the freezer and salt in the pantry. When it was time for the activity, it was easy to add the salt and ice to the large bags. Bigger children helped smaller children, once smaller children were sitting enjoying their ice cream, the older children were ready for their turn. We quickly learned that it was vitally important to rinse the outside of the ice cream bag in cold water before serving! Those first few bites were mighty salty! hahaha

Agatha chose the items for the favour bags. She wanted everyone to have a copy of the Lady of Shallot or The Wreck of the Hesperus (her two favourite poems), we also added a few fake flowers and a small jar of homemade apple butter. Simple, but perfectly themed.

Here’s to Agatha, the sweetest 9 year old I know!