Merry Getting Ready for Christmas Ya’ll

Merry Getting Ready for Christmas Ya’ll

Hey Ya’ll
Yes, I say ya’ll and I live on the East Coast of Canada.
It’s definitely not the ya’ll capital of the world, but it works for me.

I know some of you will hate me for this, but Christmas is just over two months away. 
Yup, I LOVE Christmas.

I love the baking and the greenery and the love and warmth. I enjoy so much about the season; but what I love the most is how people connect. It’s the time of the year where people make more of an effort to show and tell people how they feel. The merriment, oh the merriment!
But here’s the thing friends…

I know some of you don’t look forward to Christmas with the same joy that I do.

And to be honest, I went through a phase where Christmas wasn’t all merriment to me. The season was filled with to-do’s and obligations and tiptoeing around wanting to make everyone happy. Focused on stuff. Things.

Through circumstances beyond my control (a car accident and pretty ugly concussion) I was forced to only do what mattered most. And then I realized, I can choose. Without accidents or concussions, I get to choose what my holiday season looks like…oh and you can too!!!
So now I plan ahead, I pick my priorities, and I prepare myself for the things that I can’t control.

I want to help you to do the same!
I know it seems a bit preemptive to be looking at this now, but the season will come before you know it.

Join me on October 29th for a fun evening of planning, brainstorming and preparing for your best Christmas. 4pm-7pm at the Many Hats Workspace – 397 Bedford Highway – 3rd Floor.

Cost is $30 taxes in (use the coupon: merryandbright before Friday for $5 off) and includes a light dinner, planning materials and tactical talks with yours truly!

Register here:

Having an Awesome Holiday Season [Workshop]

What I call “The Overwhelm”

Does it ever happen to you?
That you get so far behind, so far from your goal, that you feel like there is no point in even trying.
I am not so good on dealing with what I call “the overwhelm”
It freezes me up and I have a hard time looking at the steps that it will take.
I realized how debilitating in can be with a simple example of an ikea vanity.
We opened the box today on a the vanity for the kiddo’s bathroom and there were hundreds of little pieces. Ok maybe not hundreds. Maybe a hundred….maybe less. Another symptom of “the overwhelm” things look bigger than they really are, or worse than they really are.
But the thing was, when I started just looking at one step at a time, it didn’t seem so bad. Not easy by any means, but less overwhelming.
Not looking ahead, just taking it step by step.
So many times in life I get overwhelmed.
Even with this Blog. I LOVE writing. I love sharing, but I also have this little streak of being overwhelmed with perfection. That I can’t make it gloriously perfect. If I don’t have the perfect pictures for a post and don’t have time to make them, that I shouldn’t bother at all. Or maybe there are so many things I want to post about.
But then I just get overwhelmed and instead of doing a little bit, I do nothing at all.
I realize there are so many areas of my life that I do this.
Fitness, health, homeschooling.
I get so tempted to just not start because it seems like too much.
I may have posted about this before but it’s going back to the basics.
I am doing this 21-day refresh and I am super frustrated that I am not getting the results I want. BUT its the RIGHT thing, its a step in the RIGHT direction. I will not let the overwhelm tell me that it’s not worth it because I’m not skinny in two weeks.
Homeschooling. I think about my daughters education, her future, the fact that I am not actually a teacher. And I get THE OVERWHELM. But then I take one step. I do make a volcano, tell stories or explore a historic site and watch them LIGHT UP. I will still pray that I am able to teach well, but I will not let today overwhelm me with thoughts of college.
Our new house. We want to be living there so much! But there is SO MUCH to do to have it ready. About a thousand little things. But each one needs to be completed just one at a time.
One paint colour, one order made, one call.
With work, the social media, the emails, editing, scheduling, bookkeeping, oh gosh just the list gets me overwhelmed. BUT like anything else, it’s only going to get done little by little, step by step, item by item.
And I will fight the overwhelm by praying, by doing and not just getting stuck in the list of all the things.
Keep Calm + Float On!

Keep Calm + Float On!

The kids call it a swirlpool. Do you remember doing that when you were a kid? Going round and round in a pool until you created a current then trying to swim against it or letting it pull you around the pool.

That’s our life these days. Literally (Grammy & Grampy created a “hillbilly hottub” which works perfectly for creating “swirlpools” so the kids rock that almost daily) but also figuratively…

I am trying my best to not say “my anxiety” because I don’t want to claim it. It is the anxiety that I feel, in this swirlpool of life…it has created a current of swirling anxious feelings that seem to be pretty tough to fight against at the moment.

A few years ago when we were away in Mexico I remember seeing the signs clearly telling you to not fight the current. When you get caught, you’re supposed to swim sideways out of the current or when its just too much or you get too tired, just let it take you, THEN swim sideways out of the current.

Don’t try to fight what is happening. It’s a crappy situation. You’re getting pulled away from shore, into the deep. You’ve lost your footing. Lost control. But the harder you fight the more tired you get. That’s when you drown.

It might seem like letting go is giving up. But sometimes, just realizing where you are, and letting that just be, is the safest thing that you can do.

Finn’s surgery, a last minute home sale with mere days to pack and move in with our in laws, stress related to lawyerly and financial things, building our new home, starting homeschooling and running a business… these are all actual stressful things, and trying to pretend that they aren’t or fight that they are happening is a big time waste of time. So I am going to ride it, knowing that soon these situations will let go and I can swim my way to shore.
I’ll see you on the other side. I’m going to try to keep calm and float on.
The Adventure of Looking Back

The Adventure of Looking Back

Well it is way too early to be up on vacation in Banff  but I am WIDE awake. And this story needed to come out of my heart. I have said it before and I will say it again, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. I don’t always know the reason at the time, but it’s not something that I take lightly. It’s a perspective that helps me through the tough circumstances of life. I’m not saying I ALWAYS remember in the moment, but it’s pretty amazing when I look back.

Today we hiked a mountain (a blog post will be coming soon) but then in the evening we went into the town of Banff and I was hit with nostalgia like a tonne of bricks.

I moved to Banff when I was nineteen. My cousin Dave worked at the Banff Springs Hotel and I was in a relationship that was making it difficult for me to live my values. Problem was I was head over heals and no matter how much I tried, when I was close, I kept going back to it…so I moved across the country to live with my best friend. (The story of how we became so close with ten years between us is one for the books as well, but not the focus of this post, rabbit trails are something I always have to work against lol!) We lived in a basement apartment just off otter street. It was my first time living away from home and I learned SO much about myself.

Banff is where I learned that my faith had to be completely my own. That I had to be able to hear and feel what was right for me (all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial). I wasn’t perfect (who ever is) but I grew in a huge way. I had to read, and pray and decide things on my own without asking my friends who had grown up in church about their opinions. I had to hear and feel for myself.

I LEARNED TO LAUGH AT MYSELF. To not take things so seriously or be offended by everything. I could joke and take jokes. Let me tell you, this would become a VERY VERY valuable tool in my life when I met Alex. Actually it is helpful pretty much all of the time…. But I am fairly certain we never would have made it this far if I didn’t learn this! (If you have met Alex you will know that his teasing and “humour” can be unrelenting!)

I learned to stand up for myself and what it meant like to have a true friend, one that you could trust with your heart, and what it looked like to be in a friendship where both people looked at the others as equals and put the other person first. I couldn’t have asked for a better friend or roommate than my amazing cousin. I still want to grow to be more like him. I don’t know if I have ever met someone more caring and giving. The seed of confidence and what it is like to be truly cared for is something that changed the way that I looked at friendships, and helped me guard my heart as the years went on. Gosh I miss you Dave!!!!

Banff is where I got my first job in hospitality. I started hostessing at the Rundle Lounge, and moved into portering, serving, bartending, working banquets and being a little “cook” making appetizers and Fondues at the Grapes Wine Bar. I learned so many skills working at the Banff Springs hotel and met the most amazing people. The Rundle Lounge staff was small (unlike some restaurants where there were probably ten times as many people) and so we were pretty close. Even some who had been there a long time were amazing at welcoming those of us who were joining in or transient. Tosha – I am amazed at how you could love so well knowing so many would leave. That is a lesson that I need to constantly remember! Margarita – you taught me to take risks. Jer – well you are the one that taught me to laugh at myself. And realize how good it was to laugh so much in general!

It’s crazy how such a short time can make such an impact in your life!

I just remembered this thing that my friend Jer said to me in passing one day. “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” It’s amazing to look back and see what impact people have had in your life!

But outside of the nostalgia, here’s a couple of quick everything happens for a reason WOW remembrances.

When I got to Banff the start date for my job was pushed back, and I wanted to find some work in the meantime that would maybe let me continue part time when I started my job at the Banff Springs. Through the church I was going to I met Evie, who helped me to get connected with the Banff Camera Shop. Because I worked there I was able to get staff deals and switched to a newer camera, and got better lenses. Because I worked there, I was able to pursue my passion for photography, it was a step that pushed me closer to the end result of me becoming a photographer.

I (re) met Alex just weeks after I got home from Banff. After living in an outdoor adventure town his desire to be outside, working at an outdoor store and his interest in photography meant that I was drawn to him quickly.

It’s not for me to guess what would have happened if I didn’t live here, if I didn’t meet the people that I did. But I can look back and say that so many parts of being here have made me who I am today and I am so thankful to have been here, to be back here and to have the memories that I do (and to be making more now!)

So if you are wondering why things are happening in your life right now, I don’t have the answer, but in my own life I have come to learn there is a purpose in so much that we can’t always see at the time!

You’re Not Worth It – How You Treat Yourself Matters

You’re Not Worth It – How You Treat Yourself Matters

Photograph by Maurice Crosby

You’re not worth it; or at least that is the message that we are telling ourselves. Either straight up by beating ourselves up over everything, or subtly by not making ourselves a priority and not taking care of ourselves. Not thinking we’re worth it, or that we matter, keeps us stuck thinking that the life we have is all we deserve and that we are where we are and that is it.

Listen, for a long time I was the queen of not believing I was worth it.

From relationships where I allowed myself to feel small, and “friendships” where I was a doormat of convenience to never ever doing things for myself. I remember feeling guilty for buying a specialty coffee (not the boozy kind , the amazing Caramel Light Frappichinio kind), because who did I think I was? spending that much on something for myself because I just WANTED it? There was no need, just a want, and why would I deserve that.

If I wrote it all out in great detail this would make a super long story, and I just tried to say I would try to write it in point form, but I really don’t think that that would do this story justice. So grab a special coffee (you’re worth it!) and get set for a long read. Or you can browse the photos of last year’s Awesome Life Retreat and take my word for it, you really should come. It is going to be awesome, and you are worth it!

Enter the longest hardest couple of years of my life. At a whopping thirty three years old you may think “just wait” because tough times are coming. I am sure that tough times, unfortunate circumstances and a whole bunch of cruddy things will happen in my life after this point. I don’t expect my life to be easy breezy from now on. However, learning that I matter, changing my perspective, and leaning more on the Lord than ever, has made me realize that no matter what comes my way, it’s going to be ok.

It’s not how I felt. When my identity of doing “all the things” was stripped away I felt completely useless. All of my worth was tied up in what I could ACCOMPLISH. How much I could DO. And no matter how much I did, there was always MORE to do. I set the bar so high that I would always fall short. And if I was only worth what I got DONE then I was never going to be worth enough. I was never going to arrive.

To be honest with postpartum after Finn was born I fought back by trying to do more. To be the super mom that worked full time, breastfed, was home with her kids and made Pinterest Parties (which I actually still love!) and over deliver, plan all the social events, cook all the food and do all of the errands. I wouldn’t really let anyone help, because they would be taking away opportunities for me to gain worth.

As I started counseling I was told time and again that I couldn’t continue to do all of the things, or I wouldn’t get better. I am a woman of willpower (or at least used to be lol!) so decided that no one was going to tell me I couldn’t do it. Anxiety hit me like a five hundred foot wave, crashing over me and leaving me floundering, spinning and not being able to do anything. My insides were kicking and screaming, my body was reacting to the stress with tightness in my chest, breakouts in my skin and constant tummy troubles. I would freeze, crawl into bed and just cry, and honestly turned off all feeling except when it came to my kids (and I am so thankful for that) After 11 months of trying to handle this on my own I finally I “gave in” and started medication and talked about making changes to how we functioned. It was designed to make me slow down, spend time on myself… for someone whose self worth was wrapped up in doing and accomplishing… well this was just not going to work.

Then enter the accident. Yah, that thing again. But honestly it was a pretty pivotal moment for me and when I was in the midst of it I couldn’t process it, let alone talk about it…and now I can’t really stop.

I was fully encapsulated by the sea, wave after wave crashing on me and I was left to the mercy of the world that surrounded me. If I was staying afloat by what I could do… I was now sinking…and fast.

The anxiety that had crashed in waves just held me down. The darkness of how I felt was drowning me, pushing me further into the dark. It felt easier to give up than to fight. But it wasn’t. My littles kept pulling me up for air. Without knowing it, being gifted with so much love and sweetness, they would hug me, rub my back, laugh or just snuggle. They would dance, play and show me that there was still air up there, worth coming up for. I get sad a little when I think about how little I had to give them at that time, but then I remember that what I have learned will allow me to give more for the rest of my life.

And this is what I had to learn.

How much I could DO wasn’t how my worth was measured. I mattered just because I matter. My family loved me not because I provided, but because I was worth loving. That even if we ate burnt rice and boiled over every pot on the stove, my kids would still think I was the best mamma ever. My real friends cared for me even if I didn’t plan every event like it was the next coronation. And most of all that God created me, and loved me, no matter what. Period. Full stop.

I am still learning it. I am still working through it. And the next little part can be point form.

I met Dr. Adrianna Wilson, she is a freaking amazing woman and I am so thankful that she has come into my life. Her ACT Group and one on one sessions are a big part of my learning, and an integral part of the puzzle that took me to the Making things Happen conference.

I was at an ACT Booster where we were talking about “Drawing your Future”  (Based on the Ted Talk here)

I am an artist in many ways but drawing off the cuff is definitely not my biggest skill. However I drew a picture and it was pretty clear. I no longer wanted to feel like I was being measured by what I did, I didn’t want to feel chained to my computer and I wanted to be happier. My camera was still in the picture, and my kids, I was out in the sun and felt strong. Yup, I had a picture of what I wanted. A great first step. But HOW. How do I get there?

After the group I had a couple of hours before I would be picking up my kids, so I sat at a coffee shop and journaled and prayed. I felt pretty uneasy. I mean if now I knew what I wanted my life to look like, how would I be ok just being where I was. Was it practical? Was it realistic? What about my business? What about our bills?

And then I ran into the ladies from Elegant Productions, a beautiful boutique wedding planning company I have had the amazing pleasure of working with. We chatted quickly about how we had all just had (or were having) our last weddings of the season and how it was going to feel so great to have a break. I asked if they were planning a big vacation or taking any time off, and they mentioned that they were going to a thing called Making Things Happen. I asked Katie what it was all about and she said “kind of a retreat for creatives where you learn how to do the things you want to do and make your life what you want…or something like that”. Heh? really? Isn’t that what I was just working on? Thinking and praying about?

So I asked if I could join them. By that time the next day I had invested almost $3000 on something that I didn’t really know what it was. I just felt a tugging, some intuition, something telling me that I needed to do this. Did we have the money just sitting around? Nope. But I was learning this process of believing that I mattered, that I was worth it, and that changes were coming.

I honestly had no idea what to expect when I headed to North Carolina just a couple of weeks later. But it was NOT what I was expecting. It was so very much more. I think I had an expectation of how to be more productive, how to find the perfect balance and how to do it all successfully. Nope. It was more about stripping it all away and looking for what matters MOST.

Lara Casey, Amber, Gina, these beautiful souls touched my heart and encouraged me in ways that I didn’t expect. Lara prayed for me, my marriage and spoke such truth that it totally turned around my family.

While I was there, I realized that it was big in my heart to help others find this knowledge, either through sharing my experience or connecting people with what they need to get there.

I know that not everyone has the money to invest in going to the Making Things Happen workshop. And I know that not everyone can even afford the Awesome Life Retreat. But my heart was to offer something similar for the people in my world, that would help them to live the life that they truly want. To give an opportunity to get away, reflect and figure out what matters most to them.

So yes, it is a LONG story on how I got to be here and how I ended up hosting this retreat and why my heart is so much for it.

Tomorrow I will be posting about all of the amazing people who supplied and took part in the Awesome Life Retreat 2016 and who is being a part of the this year’s amazing retreat!

Find out More about the Awesome Life Retreat

Click Here
What my Heart had to Say about Food on a Crummy Day

What my Heart had to Say about Food on a Crummy Day

Note: I wrote this post last week ad then didn’t share because I still get nervous sharing the real stuff. But this morning I was cranky as a bear. Addy decided to let a metal bucket swing from our stairs to make a “trap” and it made some nice gouges and scratches in our TV, Finn had a little accident so our day started an hour earlier than usual and didn’t allow for my pre-craziness personal quiet time. My new necklace (that I got last night!) was used as a rope for Finn to pull himself out of the tub, and of course it broke, and a litre and a half of maple syrup spilled in the fridge after one of the door shelves broke. I am pretty sure I will be finding maple syrup in and on things for a good loonnnnnggggg time. It was one of THOSE mornings, but though I was frustrated, I didn’t spiral in my thoughts like I did last week (see below) I am believing that this is progress!

Here’s the original post:

I didn’t have the best of days today. I honestly kind of felt like crying from the moment I got up this morning. I don’t know if many of you mammas know the feeling of losing your sanity a little bit at a time due to lack of sleep, and the truth of having toddlers…but it’s legit.

All day today I felt like something more was going on.

I have learned to listen to myself pretty well, and when I am not in a good mental state things tend to spiral downward pretty quickly. Not being able to find my keys turns into : “Why can’t I find my keys? Why am I always losing things? If I could only get my house more organized. I am obviously a failure as a housewife, and now I may be late for Addy’s field trip, so I am a bad mom too. I wasn’t eating sugar this week, but if I don’t take yogurt in the car I will not eat breakfast. So now I am failing at that too. No wonder I am still fat.”

(note: I am not saying this so you will tell me that I am not fat, in fact, I’m asking that you don’t. I am healthy and getting stronger, but I am clinically actually obese class 1…so though I am still beautiful and valuable…my body is currently fat. I share because I want to be honest about what goes on for me sometimes, because so many feel like they are the only one that this happens to!)

The day goes on with not being able to get into my office, spilling lunch on myself and finding out I had a cavity…and a handful of other things that in and of themselves are not really a big deal. And to be honest, I know really are NOT a big deal. If any of these things happened to my kids I would say:

“Everyone loses things sometimes, and spills happen but we’ll wash your scarf when we get home…” etc. Oh what having kids does for perspective.

But because I am me, and I am big into feedback these days, I wanted to not only NOTICE that I was feeling this way, but wondering WHY. Why do I associate a mistake with complete failure, why do I think that anything less than perfection is worthless, but only when it comes to me?

A big realization today was about food. It’s always been a thing for me.

When I was talking with my dad the other day he mentioned feeling guilt that we struggle with our weight, wondering if he fed us too much balogna, but that the effects would have worn off by now. And that is totally true. The balogna didn’t make me struggle with food (I actually had some the other day and it was fabulous) but the thing is, somewhere along the way I really did learn that some food was “bad” and I felt shame about eating it. I remember being a kid and buying “junk food” at the store on the way home from my school and hiding it in the closet and eating it a little bit at a time. Maybe it was because my parents were often dieting, or that I ate more than my friends, or the time a family member scolded my brother for eating smarties. It could be the marketing of things that surrounded me, or things that classmates whispered behind my back. I really don’t know what brought it together, and it’s likely a combination of many MANY things.  I am not blaming anyone, I am a grown adult who now realizes that I have stories about food (and many other thing)  (Mom and dad if you’re reading this, I love you to pieces! And look, I turned out pretty awesome and I’m strong and healthy and overall getting happier and healthier by the day… so high fives to you guys!)

Fast forward to now, I have NEVER struggled with my weight like I have in the last couple of years. Stress, anxiety, fight or flight and more medications than I had ingested in the rest of my life combined left my body in a constant state of “what the heck is happening!”. Things that I had always done to lose weight were not working, and it was stressing me out, and that was making things worse. So then I kind of gave up. It wasn’t worth it to me.

So I let the pendulum swing the other way. I would just have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I was going through enough. If I wanted ice cream, I was going to eat ice cream. And to be honest, I still feel like there are much worse vices that I could have leaned into.

Rewind to last month, in Florida. I was working out, feeling great, eating balanced and having fun with my kids. And then my headaches started to come back. Doing high impact workouts hurt my neck and head, so I slowed those down, I got tired, my eyes hurt. And so, I turned back to the treats. Until I was pregnant I didn’t even like sweets. I would have opted for another piece of pizza instead of birthday cake….well not anymore. Somewhere along the lines I had become a full blown sugar addict.

I was feeling convicted about it. Like I was relying on a substance for happiness, instead of dealing with what was making me sad. Maybe a less dangerous one than cocaine (though I hear sugar is more addictive, but I’m still gonna keep away.).

This week I cut out sweets and refined sugar, and caffeine. There has been a little sugar in a couple of things that I have eaten, but in general have been eating really well. I have been praying more about what has been going on and haven’t eaten at all to “fill the void” though I can tell you, I have wanted to, and that is eye opening in and of itself!

I want treats to be something that I enjoy to celebrate something with people I care about. Not just things to pick me up when I feel tired, cranky or bored.

However, in order to get to that place, I had to get off the all-the-sugar-all-day-every-day wagon. And that has been a tough one for sure. It has been a pretty good week, other than my day one meltdown with the kids and a couple of killer headaches and energy slumps.

But today, this was the day when I realized that when I tell myself that I can’t have something at all, it reiterates to myself that it is BAD, and then I am obviously BAD for wanting it, bad for having enjoyed it.

We could debate on whether sugar is bad. Sure, studies show… but also generations grew up on homemade sweets made with real sugar and they were less obese. So I think that for me, as I am learning with all the things in my life…it comes down to balance.

I am going to finish off this week by staying off the sugar and caffeine and then I am going to thoughtfully and carefully consider how I want to integrate it in my life. I don’t want to be ruled by it, but I don’t want my life to consist of daily rules of what I can and can’t have.
The bible says not to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear, and I definitely want less worry in my life.

Here’s my thoughts. I want exercise more (because I have learned when I start my day that way, it really does feel better!)  and take joy in making tasty food and truly enjoying treats when I have them. I want to  fill my life with the things that bring joy and simplify my closet and surroundings so that they fill up less of my mind space.

Sound like a plan?
Let’s get after it.

PS I am guessing that I am not the only one who has stories about food, and I also know that many people will likely read and think that I am a wackadoodle, because food is just food to you, but thanks for reading anyway.