Saturday, August 1, 2015

Our week

Hello lovelies, how has your week been? We were planning on going camping this week but plans change (as they do), and my body was particularly sore this week, so we stuck around close to home. A trip to the dollar store landed Shira these spectacular swimming goggles which she has worn to Starbucks, in the shower, and while doing summer homework (both girls are missing school terribly and have taken to doing homework on a daily basis). In Canada we don't start school again until September which means five weeks left to go still! Fortunately, there are still plenty of adventures to be had while wearing swimming goggles.

Toronto enjoyed a heat wave this week, which drained much of our energy and patience. Or at least mine and Hille's. We ate a lot of ice cream.

We rented our apartment three years ago and this is the first year the pears on our backyard tree seem edible. Last year they were tiny and withered looking, but this summer they look perfect for eating and baking. I'm don't love pears in fruit crisps (too mushy) so I'm thinking of making a muffin. Any ideas?

Raise your hand if you love agendas as much as I do. Seriously, I was giddy this morning when I noticed that the calendar had changed to August, making it time to buy my new agenda. I found this one from the Rifle Paper Company after indecisively going back and forth between a few options. It is a splurge that I look forward to every year. I usually go with a simple Moleskin, but this year I needed some colour. Plus the first page had a quotation from Van Gogh that I loved: Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.

Dinner tonight was roast chicken with Gwyneth Paltrow's Mexican chopped salad and green goddess dressing. Laugh as you will at Gwyneth, I love her cookbooks, especially this one that I have taken out of the library four different times now. Dinner preparation was made all the better by bourbon and ginger beer cocktails.

Tell me, what have you done with yourself this week?

Be well!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The question I will ask myself every morning

Hello, friends! It's stinking hot in Toronto and me and the girls are protesting. We are taking a stand against the heat the only way we know how: splash pads and air conditioned museums. Some of you may be delighting in these hot days but we suffer, and we don't suffer quietly. 

Despite the soaring temperatures and constant sweaty heads, I am feeling a burst of energy! (So much energy that this morning I have vacuumed the house, washed the kitchen floors by hand, and baked cookies. Someone stop me.) I've been feeling unsettled lately, but today things feel different. Another Day One, of sorts. I've been doing a lot of thinking these past few days, the good kind, even though I didn't always realize it at the time. My thoughts have been preoccupied with change, or more to the point, why it has been so difficult to make changes in my own life. There comes a point when you can only consider change so much and then you actually just need to do it. 

I struggle with the doing it part.

I want to be honest here, because this is why I'm here, and I hope that's why you're here, too. While so many very good things are happening in my life, I'm struggling. I feel like I'm sitting in the middle of this gift that is my life but I just can't seem to grab a hold of it with both hands. At the same time I'm feeling really self-involved (or one could call it self-obsessed) and it is beginning to irritate me. I'm irritating me. I'm all self-talk and no action. 

Have you ever been in this space? How have you pushed through to act on your goals?

So far I've just given in, crumbled under the permission I give myself to stay the same. I have told myself that this is hard and I just can't do it. But I can do it. I can do hard things

I'm embarrassed at how difficult it has been to make changes I want so very much. But no more. Change is hard. Doing hard things is hard. I'm coming to realize that I need to change my perspective, shake things up a bit, in order to make these first steps that I so desperately need. Today this means that I will use my new found energy to say yes to things that are good for me. Yes to being a nonsmoker. Yes to moving my body. Yes to forgiving myself for past decisions. Because if I can only say no to things, if all I can think is about the negative, things aren't going to go anywhere. Who wants to say no when saying yes is so much more fun?

If I am going to change, I have to just start moving forward. One foot in front of the other. Every day I am going to wake up and ask myself what I am going to do that day to make a positive change. Will I take a yoga class? Prepare some delicious food? Go to bed extra early that night? Just breathe? Maybe just one, maybe all of the above. I'll report back tomorrow.

If you woke up tomorrow and asked yourself what you were going to do that day to make a positive change, what would it be?

With love and encouragement.
Be well!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What I'm reading this summer

I don't mean to brag, but I've got lots of time to read right now. Don't get me wrong, life still feels a bit chaotic between being home with the girlies over the summer and teaching my course, but at the end of the day I can read. No papers to write about childbirth, reproductive organs, or labour support. No births to run out to. I can open an actual book and just read.

I wanted to share with you what I'm reading this summer, you know, in case you were looking for suggestions.

Stir by Jessica Fechtor

I've already completely devoured this book and I think you should, too. Jessica writes Sweet Amandine, a food blog I've loved for years. We've met online a few times so I'm going to call her my friend, mostly because I'm so proud and excited about her beautiful book. It's a memoir about the time in her life when her brain broke (I think the technical term is a brain aneurysm) and how she slowly healed with the help of food. Not just in the way you might think. She certainly needed to eat nourishing food to return to a state of health, but healing also came through all those wonderful things that are tied up so closely with the food we eat--memories, feelings, hopes, delight, and the anticipation that comes from creating with food to share with others. Jessica was fed in so many different ways in the years that followed her aneurysm. There were so many passages I wanted to highlight and pages I wanted to dog-ear, but sadly my copy was from the public library. This will be remedied shortly as I need to own this book. Did I mention it's also filled with recipes?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I chose this for the first meeting of our book club and then promptly forgot to read it. By the time we were set to get together for our first meeting I had read only 300 pages. Ordinarily reading that many pages would suggest that I'd finished a book, but no, not this one, because it pushes well beyond 700. But I'm not giving up! So far I'm enjoying the writing, though it's a bit sad (orphaned children will do that to you). I'll check back in once I'm actually done the book. Sometime in October.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeannette Winterson

I'm swooning over memoirs this summer and I'm excited to read this one. I remember back in university when a good friend bought me Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, and I fell hard for Jeannette Winterson, only promptly to forget about her until I saw her memoir on a list of books to read somewhere on the internet. (I can't for the life of me remember where. You're welcome.) I think I'm drawn to good memoirs for the kind of storytelling that makes me imagine that I could do things differently in my own life. Motivation, inspiration, sometimes a kick in the pants to wake up and see my life with new eyes, these are memoirs for me. 

I'm just going to assume that you've seen Brene Brown's TED talk that went viral a couple of years ago. Just in case you were hiding under a rock, you can find it here. Brown studies shame and wholeheartedness (the opposite of shame). I read this book two years ago but I need a reminder to let go of shame as I'm trying so hard to make big changes in my life. I feel such shame when I stumble around trying to create better habits and to live intentionally (it's all part of being exceedingly hard on myself). This book brings makes me feel all the feelings.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Just go read this book. She's sharp, thoughtful, and hilarious. I adore how she shares her own version of the writing process and how she doesn't put herself down to be funny. I've only read the first two chapters and it's already one of my all-time favourites. I'm convinced we would be best friends, which isn't creepy at all.

This book isn't pictured above because I started reading it on my trip to Vancouver and like a dork left it in my sister's room. It is such a great book I made them mail it back to me in Toronto so I can finish it. Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a young black woman in Maryland who unknowingly donated some of her cancerous cells before she died (they were taken without her consent). And why do we care about her cells? Because these cells, called HELA cells now, are still living and growing today, being used by researchers all over the world to develop vaccines and cure diseases. No biggie. Skloot introduces the world to the woman behind the cells and tells many people's stories in the process.

What are you reading this summer?

Be well!

Monday, July 27, 2015

It's Monday!

It's Monday again! Every week, just like that. I'll be the first to admit that I'd like to skip Monday this week. I have so much to do this week that I'd rather still be in last week, where I just drank iced tea, at ice cream, wandered between parks, and got a haircut. Nevertheless, Monday is here and there are to do lists to be made.

This week:
  • Grade roughly one billion papers (give or take).
  • I promised the girlies that I'd install some wall lamps next to their bunk beds. 
  • Did I mention the grading?
  • Doing everything possible to avoid the extreme Toronto heat this week. Tonight we are going to my mum's (with her central air conditioning) and I expect we will be parked at various splash pads over the next few days. 
  • Starting a new blogging course on Wednesday!
  • Planning for a few upcoming posts, including my thoughts on my goal to eat more nourishing food, and why it's so hard to make changes.
What does your week look like? If any of you have a pool and wanted to invite us over, I would not complain.

Be well!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Things that made me hapy this week

 F Scott Fitsgerald

This post on productivity is based on the author's experience writing a book, but I think it applies to almost any goal. Things like anticipating obstacles, surrounding yourself with people you can lean on, and working slow would benefit any project, health goals included.

I had a few people ask me about writing lately, like how I often I write and where I find the time. My secret is that I miss bedtimes with the girlies most nights. I sneak out of the house to the closest coffee shop and grade papers (for the class I teach) and write for my blog. And next week I'm starting a blogging course, so that will get me writing even more. Want to join me?
I liked this post about simplifying your schedule, particularly the section on making choices based on your personal values and saying no to the rest. For example, I value my close friends (including those I don't see often enough), so I say yes to spending time with them. I'm also trying to schedule in some time to look after myself, and that's becoming easier and easier because I've made it a priority. But that means turning down invitations for other things and that's just got to be okay. We can't do everything.

And now for food, because really that's why we all really read the internet:

Are you looking for some new cookbooks? Here is a list for you.

Iced oatmeal cookies. Enough said.

Pasta with peaches and fresh mozzarella. 

It's been well over a year since I've made my own challah for Shabbat. I'd like to start making it again now that I'm on sabbatical, and this is my favourite recipe.

Enjoy the last bit of your Sunday! 

Be well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Day One

From etsy.

It's Day One of quitting smoking. Again. Again.

I wrote yesterday about feeling pretty fed up with how I'm feeling lately. Fed up isn't quite the right word, it's more some combination of impatient/exasperated/at my wit's end all mixed up with feeling fed up. Is there a word for this? There should be.

What has been troubling me the most for some now is that I probably don't have to feel this way. While there are some things beyond my control at the end of the day, like my genetic predisposition to depression, anxiety, and probably to fibromyalgia, there are so many things I can do to change things. This is why in the midst of all these struggles, I'm also feeling motivated. Powerful, even. Because how lucky am I that I can feel like shit and do something to change it.

I have an appointment with my doctor today so we can talk about my blood work. I'm not a psychic, but I'm pretty sure I can divine what our conversation will look like: Danielle, your health stinks. But rather than fret about the state of my health, I am going to do something to change it. I'm going to return to my goals. The need to return again and again to my goals is the reason I'm writing all this down in the first place. Read, remember, reinvent. So I will get more sleep, eat nourshing food, breathe, and move my body. 

And not smoke. I wrote about my intention not to smoke a few weeks ago and I've started and stopped ten times since then. But today is a new Day One.

If I showed you my journal you would see the words "Day One!" written next to the dates of many, many pages. I have moments when I'm ashamed of how many first attempts I make, pleading with the universe to turn me into one of those people who decides to do something and then just does it. The first time. How I long for that kind discipline. But I am who I am, and that means that I need time to change. I need the motivation and the feelings to be just right for me in that moment. I can't be someone I'm not. And fighting who I am isn't going to help anyone, least of all myself. The difficulty I experience when it comes to making these kinds of change also makes a person who is understanding, compassionate, and loyal. I'll take that.

So maybe I've tried quitting smoking a hundred times since January, but maybe today is the day that it works. 

I believe in as many Day Ones as are necessary to live the life I want (and for this reason I will forever be in love with Mondays). Maybe you need ten first tries while I need seventeen. Let's give each other as many Day Ones as we need, shall we? 

Be well!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I'm going to be selfish

So do I write about the fun parts of the zoo today, that time we watched baboons lounging in the sun like nobody's business, or when the rhinos were playfully running in circles while we sat watching them eating our lunch? I could write about how Shira cautiously dipped her toes in the water at the splash pad while Alyce launched her whole self into a waterfall. I could write about so many things because they are all true.

But what I should write about, in an attempt to be honest with myself, is how all I wanted to do while we were at the zoo was go home. My body ached. I was exhausted. I couldn't enjoy my favourite animals or the cool, shady forests because I was hurting. I cut our trip a little short and headed home for a nap. I turned on a movie for the girlies and went straight to bed. I awoke two hours later to two children happily making me homemade jewelry and the house in a relative state of clean. Sometimes they are just awesome.

I've needed a nap almost every day this summer. My body aches all the time. I'm grumpy. Clearly things aren't going the way I had planned. But am I surprised? No. Change is hard and I'm a reluctant changer. I've been ignoring my goals in favour of doing nothing, because nothing is a lot easier. But these last two weeks have reminded me that I'm here to make a difference in my own health this year. I'm going to be selfish and focused and, hopefully, a woman who needs fewer naps.

I was sad today. My health stood in the way of having a great time with my children, made it hard for me to keep up with their excitement and desire to explore. It sucked. 

So here is me sending out high-fives to anyone else who wants to make changes in their world. We can do this.

Be well!