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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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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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The One Trick that Changed Our Life

I have a secret. I love lists! It doesn’t matter whether it’s a shopping list, a to-do list, or some other random  list. I love to write things down!

I discovered a new way to use lists that brought our family closer together and helped accomplish even more every day. Plus it decreased our stress and increased our fun! What could be better than that?

Check out these two lists and how we use them:

 

Daily List

The daily list is a list of no more than 3 items (except rare cases when something out of the ordinary happens). One item is something we’ll finish that day. The other two items are things we hope to finish, but don’t need to.

Each evening, after supper, we talk about what we accomplished that day. Then the whole family makes plans for the next day. We use ‘Reminders’ on our apple devices so we can all access the list during the day. It’s important for everyone in the family to know what everyone else wants to do, that way we can work together instead of against each other!

Once we check off each item on the daily list, the rest of the day is free. We don’t add to the daily list except at the end of the day.

 

Weekly List

The weekly list is more flexible than the daily list. We add to it during the day and throughout the week. Anything that pops up, we just add it to the list. If the list gets to be 50 points long, that’s okay. This list isn’t about importance or how quickly something needs to be done. It’s about reminding us of things we wanted to do.

We use this list to help generate the daily list. I usually read this list once a day. It helps me decide what’s most important to do the next day. It also helps me see any patterns develop. For instance if I’m adding a lot of extra cleaning to the list, it lets me know the mess has gotten to me and it allows me to either shift my perspective, or do something about the mess before it overwhelms me.

 

How These Lists Transform

One of the greatest feelings is checking something off your to-do list. But that pales in comparison to finishing your to-do list! Because our daily list is so short, we finish it everyday. It feels ah-mazing!

Every life success amplifies the way we feel about ourselves and our life. Each small step makes the next step that much easier and more enjoyable.

But the real transformation is on the whole family. Our children learn to set their own goals.  Even Brom makes a goal each day (admittedly his goal is the same every day: Play more video games). Talking about our goals together, increases the connection between us in so many ways. They see what Ryan and I need to finish each day, so they either help us, or give us space so we can get it done quickly. We know what they want to do, so we help them with their goals. Once we’re done our items, we then have a lot of time in the day to do things together as a family, or spend special one-on-one time with the kiddos.

At the end of the day everyone feels more loved and respected and we all feel more peaceful.

This simple daily activity takes no more than 15 minutes each day, it’s impact on our day is immeasurable!

 

 

 

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5 Steps to Increased Life Satisfaction

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale (1755-1776)

 

I deeply admire the selflessness and courage of those who serve their country. I think that’s something we all agree on, even when we don’t agree with each other on other things. 

But would you give your children’s life to your country, what about your partner’s life?

Their lives aren’t ours to give, yet so often the choices we make in life aren’t for the well being of our families, but of our country. The saddest part is we don’t even realize what we’ve done!

Ryan and I both entered adulthood with a sense of scarcity. We felt we never had enough, always wanted, always went without. One of us might do okay for a while, but that’s when the other had to buy all the things. We were the perfect target for so many advertisements. When we had our first baby, we bought all the fear, we have the premium priced receipts to prove it! We wanted nothing subpar or dangerous for our perfect darling. We paid dearly for the crib that wouldn’t kill our baby with toxic fumes.

At the time, we believed it was best for our family. In reality, our family paid in more than just dollars for those choices. We paid in happiness and increased fear. We paid in time together and Christmases with no presents. Through our fears and our spending, and the fears and spending of so many other people like us, our country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew and grew.

The country got richer, stronger, while our sense of fear increased, and our ability to buy food wasn’t guaranteed. We felt poor, but the news told us the economy soared.

Time to Bloom

We thought it was just us. Turns out it wasn’t.

Over the past several years, we’ve talked to so many people, in person and online, going through something similar.

So many of us experience a quiet dissatisfaction with our lives. It’s nothing sturdy enough to identify, rather a susurrus we catch as we walk into a room or go out with friends. We don’t know if it’s longing, loneliness, or regret. All we know is what we expected when we were 19 is not what we got.

I’ve seen and felt this dissatisfaction. I’ve fallen victim to buying things I couldn’t afford, all in the name of hoping to (finally) be enough.

Then on a day filled with determination, I discovered there’s a different way.

It’s a way I want my children to learn now. A way I want to share with others.

It’s both extremely simple, and so complex all at once.

  1. Rethink what you spend money on. Do you really need it? Is it something that’ll bring you happiness today and next week/year? Will it make it easier to experience life? So many times we hear, “Spend money on experiences, not things.” It’s true. The more life we experience, the better we feel! Maybe that means you buy that coffee, and sit in the coffee shop with a friend. Maybe it means you don’t buy that Dooney & Bourke, but instead take your children to the fair.
  2. Be vulnerable. It’s easy to throw shame at the people around us when we’re anxious or afraid, but if we open up and calmly tell others what we’re worried about, often the result is a deeper connection that brings us closer together instead of driving us apart. You’ve done something that hurt your partner. You could ignore the hurt. You can let your partner know they’re too sensitive. You could find ways to point out how it’s really your partner’s fault. Or you could walk over, let your partner know you see they’re upset and you want to make things right. You can listen and understand why your partner’s upset. Really listen to understand, not to respond, but to connect. You can open yourself to your partner and share in the vulnerability so you’ll both be stronger together.
  3. Feel your fear. Examine it. Don’t push it away. Then do what you’re afraid of and see what happens. (This does not mean putting yourself in dangerous situations, it means making a phone call, asking favours, admitting you don’t know something or trying something new). It’s applying for a job you want, even though it scares you to hand in your resume.
  4. Understand there’s a difference between humility and invisibility. It’s okay to be aware of what you’re good at. It’s even okay to tell others. Being humble is not about hiding your own value, but rather about how you rate your value compared to others. “I’ve worked really hard to learn how to do this. I’m really happy with how it turned out and think I did a great job. It’s professional quality.” vs “My work is so much better than Jim’s. I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am and am so happy with how mine is coming along.” One builds you up and allows the other person to decide for themselves what they think. The other statement tears down another person in order to make yourself look better.
  5. Be a leader. Leaders build others up. It doesn’t matter if you’re the boss, a parent, or a friend. Building others up is always better than tearing someone down. In the long run, the results will always be better. This step is the hardest to maintain, especially if you’re used to snarking or had low self esteem. I grew up believing there wasn’t enough love in the world. The only way I could be loved, is if I was the only one receiving love. If someone else received attention, that meant I wasn’t good enough. I constantly tore others down so I could feel a little more worthy. It’s really hard to change that pattern.

 

It’s time to take a stand and do what’s right for you and your family. It’s okay to feel the fear, and not act on it. It’s okay to live in the house you have and be happy with it. It’s okay to have a house with no garden. It’s even okay to not own a house at all. The government makes money every time we buy or sell something, the government wants us to spend money, lots of money. It’s time we all make decisions based on what’s actually best for our families instead of decisions based on the latests commercial or magazine article that tells us we’re not good enough!

 

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Embarrassment, Failure, Growth

Recently, I submitted some of my artwork to the Strathcona County Art Gallery@501. I hoped people would like my work. I hoped the county would buy my art to display. I hoped for a lot of things, but beneath, and on top of, that hope something else whispered to me.

Something whispered that I wasn’t good enough. Something whispered that people would laugh at my work.

I felt embarrassed by my submissions. I told myself the gallery accepted all submissions. I didn’t even need to be good and they’d still display my work. People would see my work. They’d see it for what it really was.

I saw derision.

In my head I picture people telling my they like my work just to be nice. In my head I see other people thinking my work is childish. They’re only saying nice things about my work to be – well – nice.

In my head I hear a lot of things.  In my head I hear all the reasons I should keep my art hidden at home. In my head I hear all the reasons I shouldn’t talk to real artists. In my head I am not good enough. In my head I do not deserve to have my art on display. In my head my art is not valuable to others. In my head I doubt myself. A lot.

I submitted my work anyway.

Even though I never received a phone call saying my art was selected, I attended the unveiling reception at the gallery. I talked to other artists. I praised other artist’s work. It was so hard to go. I felt rather sick while I drove to the gallery. I wanted to leave before they made the announcements. I wanted to leave as soon as the announcements were done and I knew my work wasn’t selected.

I stayed anyway. I was uncomfortable. But I stayed. I chatted. I looked at a lot of art. Particularly the art that was purchased. I wanted to see what the selection committee saw. I wanted to learn. I wanted to open my eyes a little wider.

I was sad my work wasn’t selected for purchase. I was sad my work didn’t win the people’s choice award. But in my sadness I was also happy I tried. In my sadness I see hope. I see growth. I see a chance to learn more and do better next year.

I don’t know if I’ll feel anymore worthy next year, but sometimes it isn’t about feeling worthy, it’s about proving worth just by showing up.

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Toy Story Trouble

Over the past few months we’ve been getting rid of stuff and really looking at what we use and don’t use, so we can make our home more joyful. We want to be able to use the space (and the stuff) we have without needing to put a ton of effort into cleaning in order to do so.

While Ryan and I’ve been going through our stuff and the general household stuff, w e’ve also been encouraging the kiddos to also get rid of their old toys they don’t use anymore, or the ones they forgot they even had.

Things were going pretty well, until we watched Toy Story 3.

Brom was so taken with the idea of toys being sad that their children didn’t want them anymore that he cried for hours anytime he thought about his toys being given away. It was heartbreaking to watch. We spent so much time this week cuddling and talking about how hard it is to say goodbye. We talked about the movie and how the toys felt, and also how the children felt. We talked about the actions the parents in the movie took and how that impacted the children and toys. It took time. A lot of time. He was heart broken.

We took all of his toys he’d decided to donate out of the box and sent them back to the playroom. He cried some more. We talked some more. We cuddled some more.

Then just as suddenly he brought all the toys back, put them int he box, and said he was ready to give them to someone else who’d continue to love his toys as much as he does. He knows his toys will be happy because someone loves them.

As a parent it was an amazing thing to watch. To hold space for him while he was sad, to walk this journey with him. Not trying to change his mind or make him feel better, but just being with him while he was sad.

It can be so difficult when our children do something different than what we want. It’s absolutely painful to see our children sad. But those are both experiences that are so powerful and important not only to our children, but to us and our relationship with them as well.

My heart swelled with so much love and pride when Brom gently placed his toys in a box, told them he loved them, and wished them well in their next home.

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Pride and Accomplishment

The past week’s brought so much to us! We weren’t sure what to expect when we stopped using our second vehicle, but we wanted to try.

We’ve now walked or biked to almost everything this week. I did use the other van to run to Costco when we had unexpected, but very welcome, company, and Ryan uses it to get to work. Otherwise we’ve left ourselves to the mercy of the weather everywhere we’ve been.

It’s been amazing! I know it’s only been a short time, but we’ve put more thought into our outings because of the effort involved. We’ve also used them as a way to connect with our children while we go about our day.

And we discovered Agatha needed a new bike. Poor girl. Turns out we live downhill from everything in our town. Hahahaha Coming home is nice and easy, but leaving home always requires a bit more effort. Agatha’s back tire was a little wobbly, the bike was a little short, and there were no gears. That ride uphill was a lot of work for her!

I hopped onto kijiji and found a nice bike for a good price, and even better it was just around the corner (and up a steep hill lol). I rode my bike, Agatha used a scooter and together we went to check out the bike. On the way home, she rode the bike, I carried the scooter in a backpack, and she fell in love with gears. 🙂

Today she practiced riding her new bike around our neighbourhood, tomorrow we’ll take it out for a longer ride to see how she does.

While she was checking out her new bike, Cordelia decided  learn how to ride a bike. So she did.

The first time she tried, she fell after about half a meter. She looked back at me with a look of such discouragement on her face. I knew the wrong response would end her efforts immediately.

I looked at her, beamed, and said, “That was awesome! Look how much farther you went today compared to any other day. All by yourself!” Then I high fived her. She beamed the biggest smile and demanded I help her do it again. And again!

We moved to the top of a small hill, I steadied the bike, let her get her feet ready, then gave her a little push and let go. She peddled and made it to the bottom of the hill. We all cheered her on, including random people out for a walk. High fives all around. Within a couple minutes she was off down the path, wings spread wide. Ready to soar!

There is nothing more amazing than a smile of pure pride on the face of a child after accomplishing a huge task like that!