Meal Planning

I’m determined to do a meal plan.  Nothing fancy but I waste way too much of my time and energy thinking about meals, looking at recipes no one will eat except me, and shopping.  I sometimes end up at the grocery store everyday as I only have thoughts of what to make one meal at a time.

This is such a waste and even thought I haven’t done time tracking, I know I could use my time more wisely to do things that I really would like to do but feel I have no time to do them.

Part of the spiral time waste for meals is having kids who are 7 and 5  and a husband who is a carnivore while I have been converting to a vegan diet over the last several months.  It makes for a lot of foods between us that no one will eat or only one person wants and trying to make healthy meals for everyone feels daunting.

My plan is to do a two week lose rotation.  For example Monday night could be pasta night which could be lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, or ravioli.  Tuesdays could be something Mexican like tacos or quesadillas, etc.  I plan to do that for two weeks (planning out which nights I will cook and which nights my husband will as he does cook sometimes).  His shift work goes in two week rotations so with this setup it should work and still feel flexible and enjoyable for everyone.  I will have some fall back go-to’s that are allowed when one person really doesn’t like a night’s meal.

My other plan as part of this is to make a pantry list and go shopping way less often.  I’m considering doing an online order that then just needs to be picked up.  I’m discovering that we don’t have as many options as others have such as groceries delivered but we do have the option of ordering on-line and then they bring out the order to your car when you arrive.  This would save time for the big pantry shops.  For little items or when I’m picky about produce I can do it myself.  I will let you know how it goes.

Out of the Loop

I had an extremely busy year last year (I work at a community college) and this year I have purposely pulled back from activities outside of my teaching, prepping and marking responsibilities.

I’m past chair on a committee that I had chaired last year but I’ve been pretty quiet, adding support when asked but not taking on anything.

I sit on the daycare board where my kids have before and after school care and I do volunteer a bit for the school parent council (our version of the PTA).

It has been much needed rest.  At my institution we teach in intensive blocks and the first 8 weeks of the college year were intense.  I’m now teaching courses that are basic and don’t change much year to year.

I find myself getting restless and thinking about what to take on.  I’m not sure what that will look like.  I’ve found as I’ve pulled back, I feel out of the loop although there is not too much going on that I’m missing out on.  I think I’m just getting restless for maybe changing things up but I don’t know if I have the energy to deal with all the office politics.

I’m not sure there is going to be a full point here.  I’ve realized that to figure out my future, I need to start getting some thoughts out of my head and here is a good place to start.

I would like to shift my career but I’m not sure how or what yet but here is the seed.  I have no idea what will grow!

There is an Outside World

As my oldest child is starting to navigate friendships and the playground world, I am struggling with ways that I can talk him through these experiences and to give him good skills that he can use.  I’ve mentioned it already but he is a sensitive kid and it breaks my heart to see him sad to feel left out or to not have a friend to play with during recess.  He is such a good kid, why can’t other kids see this?!

Now he often does play with other kids and has especially one really good friend and also plays with a few other kids fairly regularly.  On Friday we were talking at the end of the day before he fell asleep and I asked him how recess was going as I hadn’t asked in several days and it was one of the tough ones.

We talked about it and some things he could do different.  He could have played with a group of boys but they were playing tag that was too rough and he didn’t want to do that.  Part of our conversation was that it’s ok to spend sometime just passing a recess on his own if he really doesn’t want to do what the other kids are doing but that in order to make friends he needs to find some days that he does play with them, especially on days where the activity is not so rough.

I think part of why this is so much on my mind (and the topic of the last few posts!), is that I see so much of myself in him and know how lonely I felt through my school years that I hope to help him navigate it better.  But as I discovered that I sometimes don’t understand other adults, I’m not sure that I understand kids  either!

I think my focus will turn to strategies of also noticing the good things and really getting him to see that a day includes both things that may not be great, but that there are moments if we look for them!

When I ask how is day went, he never remembers it which used to really frustrate me.  I’ve now started asking him to reconstruct his day with me so he can remember the things that he has experienced.  And I have realized that this is also me.  I hardly have any memories from my childhood and I easily forget what I’ve done early that day or week.  I think it’s because we both have a very internal, cerebral approach where we both have intense inner worlds and aren’t really focused on the outer world.

I also need to spend some time reconstructing and writing things down so that I will remember things afterwards.  I know we all forget with time but I really feel out of sight out of mind.  Once an experience is gone, it’s almost scary how easily it leaves my memory.

I think I need to research and find ways to be more aware of my days and document more as well so that I can help my son to do those things too.

Are we doing our Best?

I need to reread about highly sensitive people.  Today I’m tired and I’m sure that reduced my coping skills.  My daughter was wearing me down today with her constant chatter and demands to play with her.

My son (Big E) had a hockey birthday party to go to today.  He hasn’t skated since last winter but was game to go to this party.  It was with a few kids from his class.  It was at a larger multiplex arena I had not been inside before so we went early to scope it out as my husband was sleeping (he’s on night shift right now).

My son is also highly sensitive.  In the past he has had a hard time with some activities but he’d been to this same kid’s skating birthday last year so he was ok.  I dressed him up and made sure he made it out onto the ice ok.  He fell a few times but looked like he was having fun.  My daughter who was still challenging with her chatter and whining to go (arg whining drives me crazy).  We headed off to McDonald’s for some fries for her and so she could play a little.

When I arrived back he was already in the dressing room having taken off his skating gear and seemed sad.  There was still cake and the party room so we didn’t have a chance to chat right away.  And is it just me or is talking with other mom’s and dad’s often awkward and just feels like so much work.  I feel like I’m friendly enough but engaging other parent’s in small talk is not my idea of a good time.  At all.

Once home, my son finally told me that he was hit twice with a puck and had a tender bump above his knee.  Poor guy.  I gave him an ice pack and he seemed in good spirits.

We were all tired today.  I really, really dislike time change.  Whoever came up with that idea, did not have kids.  We were all tired and ready for bed today.

I’ve been reflecting and I know it’s my sensitivity showing. I just feel that interactions could be so much easier if we all had intentions to be friendly and kind.   Why does it feel so difficult?  Are we really doing our best?  That is always my default saying and my thought normally.  I think for the most part we are all trying to do our best to live good lives.  But after interactions like today and over the last couple of years, I really wonder, our we really doing our best?

When is a Fib a Lie

I’m struggling right now with my 7 year old who will tell stories of things that he is experiencing that I know are not true.  I think part of it is the desire for attention or to feel like a part of a funny or interesting story.  They are not meant to hurt anyone but I don’t know what to do with them.

I’ve tried telling him that I know what he is saying is not true.  The other day I was telling my husband a story about our 5 year old who came out of her room just as I was walking up the stairs to go to bed.  She turned and went into our spare bedroom and proceeded to turn towards the wall and kept trying to walk but was just bumping into the wall.  She was sleep walking which she does sporadically.

My son then proceeded to say he saw her too.  That he came out of his room and saw it.  He didn’t.  I steered her back to bed and he was fast asleep in his room that had the door closed.

This is the type of story.  I saw a raccoon once on our back fence. He says he saw it too.  He didn’t.  It was early morning and I was alone for at least another hour before he stirred out of bed.

These fibs are not hurting anyone and I think just an attempt to feel a part of funny or “cool” happenings.  I worry that if he is doing this with his friends that can also clearly see sometimes that these stories aren’t true that they will turn away as it can be so annoying.  When I do call him on it he will just keep insisting that his story is true.  Is this a normal part of development?

I haven’t really googled about this.  Sometimes I just want one answer not trying to sift through everyone’s opinions but is there really an answer that is trustworthy?  Parenting each child is so different that trying to figure out what works for one person and their child might be the exact wrong thing to do.  The older I get, I see that I really don’t know many of the things I so clearly thought I did in my 20’s and 30’s.  Raising children really highlights this too.

Stories

Stories can be amazing, truth-telling, gut-wrenching, real, connecting, sad, inspiring, funny, relatable, revealing, raw, vulnerable, strong.

Stories can also be fake, manipulative, cold, controlling, deceptive.

What stories do we tell about our selves, to others and to ourself?  What stories do we hear from or about others?  Are they amazing and real?  Or are they deceptive and fake?

What are we basing our whole belief system on, how are we judging others?  Are the stories we hear real?

We can only know if we open our hearts and listen.  Our hearts know the real story if we listen closely.

 

Lessons of Health

A couple of years ago I was ready to face my health, my eating habits, and my inability to make positive changes.  While munching on chips or eating sweet desserts, I have read magazines, books, and articles about eating healthier.  I knew my eating habits were terrible.  I knew that I needed to actually make some changes to have a better quality of life and to prevent serious health issues.  One step I took was seeing a naturopath and to do food sensitivity testing.

Back story: I have had rheumatoid arthritis since I was about thirteen.  I was officially diagnosed when I was fifteen, after months of tests to rule out other possibilities.  Diet was never considered.  I grew up on a farm and had a very meat and potatoes diet which included home grown vegetables.  It seems like that should have been a good start.  I felt very alone and isolated and used to steal cookies and other foods, and once old enough I would buy treats to eat in secret in my room.  Hence a very unhealthy relationship with food was created in these years.

When I moved away from home at eighteen I was then free to eat unhealthy as much as I wanted.  I became vegetarian in my earlier twenties.  The basis of this diet was not vegetables but bread and cheese were often mainstays along with the unhealthy “treats” that I continued to use as emotional support over the years.

When I met my now husband, meat slowly made an appearance.  That was fifteen years ago.  I have had some success over the years where the treats were managed a little better but they have never gone away as my constant companion.

I have never been able to stick to a “diet”. My weight has been up and down with 20 to 30 pounds over a healthy weight in my 20’s to late 30″s.   I could control my overall intake of food but I had to have treats every day.  They are my coping mechanism.

At 38 I had a son and then at 40, a daughter.  My weight came down with breast feeding and just being busier.  I have about 8 or so pounds I could lose but overall now it’s not about weight, it has become about health.

I still can’t stick to a diet.  But back to the naturopath.  Almost three years ago the testing came back that I am sensitive to the protein casein in milk – which meant the yogurt and cheese that were the mainstays of my diet were actually causing inflammation in my body.  Ironically, I grew up on a dairy farm.

Over the last few years, I have struggled to keep dairy out of my diet – there are milk products in so many things!  When I can keep it to a bare minimum I feel so much better.  I’ve made strides at incorporating vegetables a bit more vegetables in my diet.  But I often derail and have some days were the main things I eat are not healthy and can often include dairy in them.

The other big hurdle AND was the starting thought of this post, has been trying to find good advice and guidelines to make sure that I’m getting what I need.  My arthritis has been in a “remission” since my 20’s but I do get some swelling when I overdo things, either from physical exertion and from overeating crap.

There is much debate about paleo and other diets that may be best for auto immune conditions. None of which I have been able to follow.

I would hate to think how much time I have wasted in my life reading magazines, books, and articles about diets.  What would the world look like if we took all the advice and selling of stuff we need to exercise and eat right.  The supplements, the products, the programs.

It makes me crazy and sad.  I’m 45 and I know that the best thing I can do for myself is to stop the insanity of reading, reading, searching and searching for I don’t know what.  The miracle that would fix me.

What I’ve found is I now have a full on desire to go vegan which is a challenge in feeding myself in a way that the rest of my family is not interested in.  I know though that I can incorporate this way of eating, I can feel the joy in it that nourishment can give me.  I have committed myself to step by baby step stopping the insanity of looking to others for the miracle answer to my health and trusting my instincts.

I feel tired in my bones some days from working, caring for young kids, and life but that in trusting myself I will improve my health.

Part of that is limiting in some way the outside messages and voices that I have been reading every day for years.  There is so, so much competing information, some of it good and a lot of it horrible and self serving of those looking to profit.

Honestly this feels so new and daunting.  I will use this space as a way to not just keep myself accountable but to share my learning journey towards a saner, healthier, and more compassionate life.

 

The Pain of Being

Today I touched the pain of being.  I didn’t wake up this morning with that plan.  I was quite happy to be working from home, grinding my way through the nitty gritty of developing a course. I went for a walk and the sun was shining.  I grabbed a coffee and enjoyed some homemade baking back at my house.  Slowly tweaking my course into order.

I had a physio appointment after lunch to work on my neglected, seized up shoulder and neck muscles.  I’ve been making some slow progress and expected today to be a typical visit of heat, a couple of new exercises and dry needling.  It started that way.  In the second exercise my elbow joint locked into the most intense pain.

My physiotherapist jumped on it.  She had me lay down and slowly worked on my arm and elbow.  I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down my cheeks.  Rationally I knew I was ok and the intense pain was intermittent as I relaxed and let go of trying to move my arm.  They tears were coming from the depth of me and didn’t know the rational world was fixing the problem.

After a few minutes my elbow released and I could move my arm again.  Just like that the intense pain gone, a soreness and ache in my arm was all that remained.

But this pain had triggered a pain in the depths of my being that didn’t seem logical.  I drove home, tears streaming again.

There is a lot of history under those tears; rheumatoid arthritis from the age of 13, a feeling of isolation, unworthiness, and loneliness.   A deep understanding of touching pain that questions the will to live.

I have been doing work on this, sometimes half heartedly, sometimes dedicated, not always knowing if it will ever make a difference.  Not knowing if I will ever feel worthy, loved, surrounded.

I felt given up on for a moment at physio.  I have been working really hard lately to work on my physical health.  To do the exercises I need to do.  It felt like a huge blow to my progress.

In reality I am moving forward.  The changes are small but they are there.  I have done my exercises everyday.  I emotionally have been going through a hard time with my marriage the last few years and a conversation with my husband several days ago has shifted my emotional torment a little.

I have struggled with why bother for a long time.  Why bother has meant years of not putting effort into doing work for my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Now I have kids, four and seven, and it started with a need to do be there for them.

I also need to be there for myself.

That is the pain.  Am I there for myself?

When I touch the pain of my being, can I be kind and compassionate and not beat myself up for not being where I think I should be in my life.

I am here.  Right now.

So if you see me (and maybe not the physical me but the other souls who have touched their pain) could you remember to smile and see me, see them.

See them, not their pain.

The beautiful soul that really is there just underneath.

Understanding Life Through Death

When Breath Becomes Air. by Paul Kalanithi

I had heard a little bit about this book and knew it probably wouldn’t be an easy read, but I had some time as I was recovering from surgery.  I saw it on my local library’s express read and grabbed it without too much thought.

To say I was not prepared is an understatement.  I knew he died, all readers know as it is written in the description of the book.  I was not prepared for the connection I would make with his longing to understand living and death.  I was not prepared to see the honest glimpses of a neurosurgeon resident that were not in any way above me or better than my existence.  And in the end of it all to experience his experience of death as told by his wife in the epilogue.  I did not expect nor prepare for the grief I experienced for someone I didn’t know.

I expected the story of a neurosurgeon resident to be somehow not so relatable to my life.  Not that I feel a doctor’s life is more worthy than others but I figured there would still be a sense of achievement within Paul’s journey that would set our lives far apart.  But I did not get that sense at all in his story.  He actually starts out by saying he doesn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps into medicine but instead studies literature.

What really pulled me in was the honestness of a story told from his perspective, in his search for meaning and trying to understand death.  This search is ultimately what leads him to medicine.

It was only afterwords that I read the reviews that said this is a book that will stay with the reader for a long time.  It does.

His death is heartbreaking not because his life felt superior and should have been saved but because losing a soul is heartbreaking in itself.  It is heartbreaking for his family and friends and now for all the readers who mourn the loss of someone who was trying to find his meaning and path in this world that can be so joyful and so cruel.

We are all just trying to find our way, our meaning in this world that can be so joyful and cruel.  Why do some have to leave so soon.  We can’t answer that except to know that it’s not about fairness in the way we measure it.  I believe there must be a cosmic reason.  A soul contract that we made before we came that contains the wisdom of losing lives so early.  That we really don’t know how long we have for a reason.

It leaves me with the realization that I focus way too much on the things that don’t matter in the end.  That the world supports me in doing this.  Our systems are messed up.

I focus way too often on losing the last 10 pounds, having clear skin, and owning the “right” stuff.  Consumerism is constantly knocking on my door, your door.  To buy more, upgrade, that all the latest goods will make our lives better.

They don’t.

Kindness, compassion, working to the good of our friends and family.  Lifting spirits, supporting each other in our journeys, understanding that we are usually trying our best from we we are.  That some start with very little in life.  Not just from a materialistic perspective but with a good family, friends and supportive community.  What would the world look like if we all had a good start?

And if we didn’t have a good start in life.  Can we support each other or at the very least give the benefit of knowing that everyone is doing there best in the moment.  Sometimes those moments we see aren’t our best and acknowledging that it doesn’t mean we are stuck there.  We can be better, love better, and treat each better.

It was a disconcerting experience grieving for someone I didn’t even know but I’m so glad I read that book.  It has stirred in me a commitment to being more conscious of my life.  To appreciate the struggle as a part of the beauty of life.

That there is more for me in my life journey.  It is all so uncertain right now what that is but I’m trusting a universe that would bring us Paul Kalanithi who so bravely bared his soul so that we could see ourselves reflected in the infinite universe.

Seeing the Good

As my kids get older I’m beginning to experience the challenge of guiding not only their behaviour but their character.  It’s like most things in parenting where I hear about it and can empathize with the challenges but once I’m in the thick of it, I REALLY get it.  What do I leave for my son to figure out on his own, what do I gently guide, and what do I take a strong stance on?

It’s even more challenging when I see parts of me in his personality and character.

I feel like there is a chance for me to help guide him in ways that I never received.  Hoping that I can ease some angst by helping him to cope better with some of the character traits that are more challenging.

Yesterday I was messaged by his teacher that he was complaining of a tummy ache.  This ailment magically appears when he doesn’t want to do something.  He pulled it out earlier in the morning hoping to not go to school (he had just eaten breakfast and was perfectly fine).  To school he went.  But after food, fresh air, water and time, by the early afternoon he was still “not feeling good”.

If work was busy for me I probably would have asked that he tough it out.  I was working from home and there is that niggling of doubt, maybe he really isn’t feeling well.  Off to school I went.  Of course he was fine.  He did complain of a tummy ache and sore throat but nothing crazy.

Home we came and he played and rested while I did manage a bit of work.  Later in the evening his teacher again messaged me to share some thoughts from the last couple of days (we have such a caring teacher to have taken her time to reach out later in the day).  My son was working on a Father’s Day gift where they are to write what is awesome about their dads.

He was struggling with this so the teacher had tried to give him some prompts to get him started and he told her that his dad is either at work, watching TV, or home after he is in bed.  Some of this is true but not all of it.  His dad is a shift worker and does watch too much TV but he also reads to our son at bedtime when he’s home, will take him sometimes to do fun things like mini golf and also had put together the trampoline we bought a few weeks ago.  And many other things as well.

Which brings me to my son’s view of the world.  He is quick to see the negative, the unfair, and to not see the good.  He turned seven six weeks ago and I know that empathy and the ability to see things differently are just developing.

But this is also ME.

Knowing that my son was sad and couldn’t see the good fills me with sadness.  I know for too long, much too long I didn’t realize this about my self.  I feel gratitude on many things but I also am first at seeing the negative, the unfair, and the exclusion from life.

My wish is that he can develop the ability to also see clearly the good in his life.  Not in a pollyanna way but in a way that is more balanced.  That when asked what is good about life, about his dad, and him that he can see the good things.  That even though life has things that aren’t great, that a part of living is not changing them but changing our reaction.  And all in a way that he can understand and not feel like he is doing anything wrong or that there is anything wrong with him.

Such is life: learning to make better choices and that we can change how we view our worlds.  It won’t happen overnight.  My wish is that I can help him make small changes now so that hopefully it becomes more automatic for him.  That he can spend much more of his early years seeing the good.

Realizing that it is a lesson that we will be learning together.