Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My go-to list

You guys! Fall is here! It's really, really here!

I was thinking today about my go-to list, the things in my life where I don't have to make decisions, I just know what it is that I'll choose. Some people might call me predictable, but I'd rather call myself saved from decision exhaustion (when we waste a bunch of time trying to decide between too many options). There is a time and a place to try new things, but there are also those times when you need an easy answer.  I have no time for waffling in front of a barista, I just want my double americano. Do you have a list like this? No? Then you need one.

I thought I'd share a few things from my go-to list:

Coffee: The darkest roast available, preferably in the form of an americano
Tea: Earl Grey with milk
Wine: Chianti
Citrus fruit: Pink grapefruit
Vegetable: Brussel sprouts
Chocolate chip cookie recipe: Smitten Kitchen's Favourite Chococolate Chip Cookie
Comfort food: Macaroni and Cheese 
Easy dinner: Roast chicken

Happy place book I read again and again: The Mists of Avalon
Magazine: Bon Appetit 
Cookbook: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
Food blog for baking: Joy the Baker
Food blog for whole foods cooking: My New Roots
Blog that inspires my writing: Sweet Amandine
Blog for inspiration: Rachel W. Cole

Moisturizer: Coconut oil
Self-care: 90 minute massage
Journal: Moleskin (I currently have this colour)
Netflix obsession: Re-watching Grey's Anatomy
Way to spend a free Sunday: Farmer's market, brunch, park, nap, dinner at home.
Flowers: Daisies

Care to share your own list? What things do you instinctively reach for when it comes to making a decision?

Be well!

P. S. Do you follow me on Instagram? Come say hello!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It's Tuesday!

Hello lovelies! I was so busy writing about procrastination yesterday that I forgot to write up my Monday list. How was your weekend? We had a busy one, including me spending all day Saturday at a postpartum doula training (because there is always more to learn). On Sunday I took the girls on a movie date, during which I realized that we pretty much just go to the movies for the candy and popcorn.

Fall is officially here (high fives all around) and I'm already dreaming of all the fall-y things I can do this week. I might break the girlies out of school one day to go apple picking because our weekends are booked solid for the next few weeks, and it would be heartbreaking to miss out on all those apples, wouldn't it? And while I can't stand pumpkin spice lattes, I did pick up some pumpkin for baking something delicious (like this or these).

Here's my list for this week:

  • I'm making this for dinner tonight even though I'll be the only one in the house who will eat it.

  • I'm still sitting in front of a pile of gluten-free cookbooks, looking for inspiration.

  • My days are free this week and I'm enjoying some quiet time at home. I took a very long nap today (hooray for self-care) and I'm hoping to get a lot of writing done. I may or may not also wash the floors. 

  • I'm attending a midwifery student conference this weekend and I'm over the moon about it. I've felt so out of touch from school since taking the year off and I'm looking forward to taking part in some conversations about birthy things. I'm also participating on a panel about life as a student with mental health issues, which I think is a great opportunity for all of us to think about how to take care of ourselves as students and as future midwives. Plus I get to see some familiar faces I've missed!

So what about you? What's on your plate this week? Starting any new projects? Let us know in the comments! 

Be well.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Is fear holding you back? How to move foward anyway.

Have you heard Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast, Magic Lessons? In one episode she talks about procrastination being born out of fear.

What am I afraid of then? Because I am an extraordinary procrastinator.

I am also a very hard worker who has completed two degrees, a master's thesis, a good part of  a doctoral degree, and two years (and counting) of midwifery school. I also have clean laundry and food in my fridge (most of the time), so I pull through in spite of my tendency to put absolutely everything off until the last minute.

And I think this is part of the trouble with being a relatively high-functioning procrastinator: I almost always get everything done so everything seems fine. But the stress and guilt and anxiety it produces? Those are not fine. Ask Matty (no, wait, maybe don't) about how much trouble my procrastination causes. I'm legendary, really.

Something that has always bothered me about my own procrastination is that it happens even when I'm doing something I love. For example, I love midwifery school pretty bad. While the program certainly has its ups and downs, it is giving me the knowledge and skills to become a midwife one day, a pretty kick ass one if you don't mind me saying. So why oh why do I still procrastinate when I'm doing something I love? Anyone?

I'm afraid of a lot of things. I'm afraid that the work will be hard and I won't be able to do it well. I'm afraid I won't be perfect. I'm afraid that I'll be judged. Or worse: that I'll fail completely. I'm afraid that I've given up so much to change careers and return to school and that it will all be for nothing. Deep, deep down I'm afraid I won't finish, just like I didn't finish my PhD (a fear that lingers even though the context is so very different). I'm afraid that I'm just faking at all this adult stuff and that I'll soon be found out by the whole wide world. 

Tim Urban writes that a procrastinator acts this way because "he has incredibly low confidence when it comes to this part of his life, allowing himself to become enslaved by a self-defeating, self-fulfilling prophecy." (And if you haven't read his post on why procrastinators procrastinators, you really should. It is insightful and hilarious.) I think we develop this low self-confidence because we're afraid. When we don't move forward on account of this fear, when we don't get started on necessary work or make the important first steps on something that is important to us, we end up confirming these fears--that we are going to fail all over again. 

Procrastination might be the best tool we have for looking after of ourselves. If we're afraid of something we need protection. If I don't start studying for that exam I won't have to realize that I'm not smart enough to learn the material. Or, and this is what's been on my mind lately, if I put off the hard work of pursuing my goals this year, I won't discover that I'm not strong enough to do it. My goals feel big and scary some days and putting them off protects me from not accomplishing them.

So how do we move forward when we're afraid?

We plan. We take small steps. We make choices that reflect what's really important to us. Every single day we decide to move forward, to change the story we have written for ourselves. 
When it comes to goals, we dream big and plan small, breaking down each step as clearly as possible. I am committed to finding a way to plan out the hard work that needs to be done to accomplish my goals, not just the big picture, day-dreamy blog posts I write, but actual step by step plans, filled with steps and deadlines and actions. I want to share these plans with you. 

But most importantly, I will forgive myself. I will give myself permission to fail. We can't move forward if we're so terrified of making mistakes. I hope you will give yourself permission, too. Is there a goal you want to accomplish? Do you have a project that is important to you that you've been too afraid to begin? Perfection is the enemy of the good. Let's all get started.

Be well!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

When things aren't hard

How are you lovelies? I realized recently that I almost never write about the girlies anymore and that just doesn't feel right. Do you want to know why? Because they've been a dream lately and we tend to focus so much on the hard stuff that we forget to stop and enjoy the times when things are easier. Smoother. More delightful. 

This summer wasn't easy for me. Maybe you could read between the lines of my scattered blog posts to see that I was often frustrated by my time home with the girlies. I was coming down from a really intense time in school and was feeling physically terrible, and Alyce had just finished a school year filled with challenges. We were all ready for the break of summer vacation and quickly fell into an easy rhythm of lazy days mixed up with adventures out in the city, but before long we were dealing with meltdowns (myself included) and constant fights between the girls. I began to dread my weeks home with them in spite of having missed them so damn much while I was in placement. I complained to Matty. I vented to my friends. It was a long summer.

But you know what? It doesn't feel so hard anymore. Returning to school, giving us all some time on our own each day, has made such a big difference. Alyce loves her new teacher, which is such a relief, and Shira is happy to play with her little kindergarten friends every day. I have enjoyed my quiet days to work and rest. All of a sudden the girlies aren't screaming at each other and meltdowns have been few and far between. Matty and I have found ourselves whispering happily to each other about the changes in our home, but I don't just want to whisper, I want to sing it from the rooftops!

We are often so quick to complain when things are hard, but let's not forget to enjoy when they're not. So I'm here to report that I'm currently enjoying the giggles and the sisterly secrets and the excited walks to school in the morning. And I hope you are, too. 

Be well!

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Monday!

Hello! It's Monday all over again.  Are you ready for me to start mooning about all this amazing fall weather? Consider yourself warned. 

I've officially taken the day off today, though that hasn't really stopped me from working around the house. But the pace has been just perfect, with a little cleaning and then a little resting. More resting than cleaning.

And then I made chocolate chip cookies. Because (ahem) Alyce really wanted them.

How was your week? Around here we've been busy getting back into the routine of school, a routine that has served this family very well. Morning have been smoother, bedtimes easier, and moods generally relaxed. And I forgot to mention that I cut off all my hair, a move inspired by a mess of long tangles that was trying my patience on a daily basis. I'm happy with the change. It always feels so good to do something different (says the woman who changes her furniture around on a monthly basis).

This week is a bit calmer than last and I'm eager to sit and work on some brainstorming projects. I've been reading a ton about different approaches to goal setting and I'm wanting to spend some actual time making up a plan. The other day I saw that someone described themselves as a "goal-setter" (I can't for the life of me remember where I read this) and I loved that title. If I am anything I am a goal-setter. It's more than just making lists, but about seeing my world as a place in which I can accomplish things that make my life better or bigger or even more delightful. This is what's on my brain this week.

Another week, another list:

  • I finally received my copy of Gretchen Rubin's book on habits from the library. I can't wait to finish it. My goals for the year are so intertwined with changing my habits. (But I guess aren't all goals about working alongside habits that work and against ones that don't?)

  •  I wrote my manifesto on eating, I've been reading my gluten-free cookbooks, and now it's time to think practically. There are recipes to be scribbled out, grocery lists to make, and defences against the lure of crusty bread to be established. It's a big week. I'm hoping to channel both creativity and stamina.

  • Not smoke. It's time to try this again. (And again, until it works.) I've been quiet here about my non-smoking success because frankly I haven't had any. I've tried a dozen times and always started smoking again by the end of the day. Aristotle tells us that "we are what we repeatedly do," so even if I haven't mastered this non-smoking business yet, I keep trying because each time I don't smoke it is a commitment to my goal. (I am clearly very committed.)

That's enough for this week. What about you? What is the most important task on your to-do list this week? What will you do to ensure that you complete it?

Be well!

P.S. I'm officially working as a postpartum doula with Toronto Family Doulas! Here is my introduction over on their blog.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Things that made me happy this week

Via Etsy

This week's things that made me happy list is sponsored by my new motivation to work my fucking ass off. And a few other things.

A guide to following your dreams. I love a good practical list.

This goal-setter is after my own heart. A great list to get you started thinking.

Looking for some new monthly health goals? You'll find 12 doable items right here.

Goals are dreams with deadlines.

And now for food: I would like this cookbook, please.

I'm going to bake these gluten-free muffins this week. I'll report back.

Finally, have you heard of Limetown? It's my newest podcast obsession.

Be well!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Taking Stock: September

Hello again! Are the leaves changing near you? These beautiful creatures have been populated our front walk lately and they're making me giddy with excitement for the fall. While the weather is stupid hot, there's no denying the changing colours and shorter days. I'm over the moon.

How is your week going? Are you crossing things off your list? Are you sneaking some time for yourself? I've been working a ton, packing school lunches, and reading, reading, reading. I've got three books on the go right now and an enormous pile of new books waiting for me. Such is the life of a woman on a break from school.

Here are a few other things I've been up to lately:
Making:  Scarves for the girlies, and yes, I'm still working on my first pair of socks.
Cooking: Gluten-free food.
Drinking: Americano with milk.
Wanting: Some new fabric to get started on my first quilt.
Looking: At the burst of fall colours peeking through the trees.
Wishing: For someone else to cook me dinner.
Enjoying: The quiet of my days again.
Waiting: For cooler days.
Liking: The return of some early fall produce.
Wondering: Who is going to put all this laundry away.
Loving: Watching Alyce ride her first two-wheeler bike.
Pondering: What it means to develop new habits.
Considering: Getting a massage.
Buying: Yarn.
Watching: Baseball with Matty.
Hoping: For the back-to-school season to bring some much needed routine to our house.
Marvelling: At how many hugs and kisses I receive from Shira on an hourly basis.
Cringing: At my sore body.
Needing: Some yoga.
Smelling: Apples and cinnamon.
Wearing: Jeans, for the first time in ages.
Following: My children around.
Noticing: How much Alyce is craving independence.
Knowing: That she's strong and capable.
Thinking: About taking morning walks before Matty leaves for work in the morning.
Admiring: Fall sweaters.
Sorting: Through everything.
Bookmarking: So many things. Finding inspiration all over the place lately.
Coveting: A new fall jacket.
Disliking: The fruit flies that are STILL living in my house.
Giggling: At Shira's tall tales.
Feeling: Motivated.
Snacking: Oranges.
Hearing: The quiet.
Do you want to take stock? I got the idea from Pip.

Monday, September 14, 2015

It's Monday!

Hello lovelies! It's Monday again and I'm grateful for it. I'm ready to start on some new projects (though not too many because I'm working a lot this week) and I'm looking forward to another week of school for the girlies. Last week was good, but it still felt like an blip in our otherwise all over the place summer. We need another week in to feel like things are really settling in.

The past week has been filled with some great things. I love the daily walks to school and I love the quiet house upon my return. The cats are so pumped that the girlies are gone for six plus hours a day. Just look at Pomegranate. Doesn't he looked pumped?

I also enjoyed some time out in the city running some solo errands. There was a stop for a delightful Americano and the best gluten free muffin I've ever had (at Dark Horse on Queen West near Bathurst). These quiet moments were well-earned after a summer at home with children.

In honour of Rosh Hashanah this week, I baked. (Truth be told I bake in  honour of pretty much anything.) I decided to try two recipes from Joy the Baker, a blog I adore for both its recipes and the sweetness of her writing. I made chocolate pudding for the little ones at our dinner and apple crisp for the grown-ups. Matty had both because he is a kid at heart. The apple crisp was only mostly delicious because I used the wrong apples. I always have the wrong apples in my kitchen.

Here is my to-do list for the week:

  • Welcome my students to the new session of my course. Everything is starting back up this week and it's time to send some emails. Speaking of emails, I'm going to try creating an email schedule for my class this year to help keep me from forgetting to write important updates or weekly tips on the course work. I'm all over schedules this year. 
  •  I want to spend some time with vegetables. I've become such a lazy cook over the past few years and I never eat enough vegetables, which is ridiculous because I love vegetables. So I've armed myself with some new cookbooks from the library and I'm getting cooking. 

  •  We are having dinner with friends on the weekend and I am in charge of dessert (again). Any ideas? Something involving chocolate, obviously, and something gluten-free. 

  •  Walks! It's going to happen, friends. 

What is on your list for the week? Are you still working on existing projects, or starting something new?

Be well!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A new year

And we're here. First day of school came and went and was a success on all accounts. Pancakes were eaten, new dresses worn, and the day was enjoyed. Alyce was most excited to find out where she was going to sit in class (she chose the front row, just like her mama) and was more than a little devastated to find out that she wouldn't have any homework tonight (again, just like her mama would be). Shira cruised through the day give high fives to friends and teachers and then promptly suffered a meltdown after school because it is too hot and she was tired. 

I'm not returning to midwifery school this year and it makes my heart a bit sad. It's only a one year break, and the rational side of my brain is busy listing all the good reasons for my year off (namely to look after myself), but the other side of my brain, the side with all of the feelings, is blue. Most of my friends have returned to school this week too and they are busy learning all of the things I want to be learning. Adulting is hard sometimes, isn't it? It means that I just have to accept that my year off is necessary and go about my business of getting healthy. But it's difficult stepping back from something I love so much. 

I've been quiet here this week, in part because I've been spending the days sleeping after working too many overnight shifts, but also because I've been sitting with these feelings of sadness over not returning to school, mixed up with frustration that I haven't yet made any of the changes I've talked about since May. I'm still not feeling well, not getting exercise, not really making the eating changes I so desperately need, and most of all, not taking care of my stress. Not having made progress on all these goals makes missing the work of midwifery school this year even harder to take. I'm feeling all failure-like.

I think it's important not to get to run down by these (as of yet) unmet goals, but at the same time I want to listen and reflect on what it feels like to struggle. I want to learn from this process, to be open to loving myself even when I'm not my ideal self. 

So have I learned anything yet? I hope so. I'm coming to realize that left to my own devices I am pretty lazy about making hard changes. Being home with girlies all summer made me a bit lazy, though looking back it wasn't a great time to try, what with the constant demands of a seven and five year old declaring that they were bored every ten minutes. It was hard to give over the time to myself that I needed to work toward my goals. I'm realizing that I suck at putting my own priorities first (as so many parents do in the face of their childrens' needs and the demands of work) and that I might need to set up a more structured approach to my health-improvement project, to create some new boundaries. (I also suck at boundaries.)
Today is the first evening of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah. It seems fitting that I re-commit to my goals tonight, right here. This year, amidst all these practical ideals of mine, I need to give myself permission to be more selfish, carving out enough time to do the work I want to do. I hope that you can do the same for whatever you need from this year. It is my wish that you can find the time and space to give yourself over to whatever is important to you in the coming months.

Let's do this. Shana Tova (Happy New Year) everyone!

Be well.

Monday, September 7, 2015

It's Monday!

You guys, we made it! Today is the last day of summer vacation. High fives to all of you who have, like me, felt a bit overwhelmed by what felt like the longest summer vacation in the history of summers. I haven't written much about it here because I feel like the girls are getting older now and don't need all of their stories told here by me on the internet, but let's just say that there have been some behavioral issues that have made for some very long days together. The routine of school will be a very good thing!

How did you spend your last week of summer? We ate (more) ice cream, enjoyed a day at the Toronto Islands, and visited with my mum in her very air conditioned house (this heat wave can leave anytime now).

For me this week is about resetting. I can feel my shoulders relaxing and my motivation rising. I'm busy right now, working regularly as a doula and preparing to teach the next session of my university course, but it will become all the more manageable starting tomorrow. I know I've said it before and I know I'll say it again, but as much as I fight it sometimes with my procrastinating habits, I need routine in my life. I'm so excited to develop some new structure in my world again.

My to do list this week:

  • It's a tradition in our house to have oatmeal chocolate chip pancakes on the first day of school, so I'll need to make the necessary preparations for those tonight (I use these oatmeal pancakes as inspiration). 
  • I have a coffee date with some friends IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY. (Sorry, I got excited there).
  • I'm really looking forward to blogging more regularly about all the new goals, practices, and habits I'm working on, and so I'm working this week on some planning and trying to develop an editorial calendar.
  • Rosh Hashanah is coming up in a week and there is so much to be done in preparation! We will be celebrating with some good friends and I am responsible for challah, salad, and dessert. I'll be making our dessert gluten-free, so I'll be spending some time looking for new recipes. It's traditional to eat apples on Rosh Hashanah and I'm thinking of making an apple crisp instead of the usual apple cake. And since the children don't enjoy apple desserts, there will also be brownies of some description. 
  • Walking three days this week. In my fancy new shoes. It was my goal to walk always in the morning, because I love starting my day with exercise, but since I'm working a few overnight shifts this week that doesn't work out well. So an afternoon walk it is.

  •  Reflecting on how I want to structure my days in such a way that will support some of these habits I'm working on.

Do you have any suggestions about how to add structure to your days? What routines do you rely on?  

Be well!

P.S. Happy first day of school to all my student midwife friends starting back tomorrow. I'll miss you all! 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Goals in a messy life

Since it's Septemeber, let's talk about monthly goals, shall we?

Goals keep me intentional in a time when my life is feeling a bit messy.

I thought I'd try working on some smaller monthly goals because, as you know, September is the ultimate fresh start. I have some pretty enormous goals for the coming year, but I think I could use the help of smaller monthly goals to help me get there. Why do I love working with goals so much? Because developing and reflecting on goals helps me to live intentionally, something that helps me to order the rest of my messy world (both physical and emotional messes). 

But a little bit of mess is okay.

This week Beth at Revolution from Home wrote a really useful post on living a messy life and I've been sitting with her ideas ever since. I think we sometimes feel so overwhelmed by the chaos of life and that trick ourselves into thinking that if we put everything in order, then all our other goals will fall into place. But I'm coming to realize that we need to live with some of the messy instead of trying to banish it away all the time. Beth writes:

Maybe we’ve been misled when it comes to the “messier” aspects of life (and I don’t mean our junk drawers). Maybe messy isn’t a reflection of our shortcomings at all. Maybe the real source of our struggle stems from the belief that life is supposed to be tidy.

So I'm reflecting on my goals this month and deciding to work on them right now, even if not everything feels perfectly ordered.

Since first outlining my goals earlier this summer I've been finding myself thinking that I'll start accomplishing my goals once I've cleaned out all the closets and planned all them meals and crossed everything off the to do lists. No. It's okay that I don't have it all figured out. I can still move forward with one foot in the chaos. So while my goals keep me feeling focused and intentional about my days (a good thing), for me this month is about chasing my goals in spite of imperfection.

Five goals for September

This month I will feed myself good food, move my body in the (hopefully) cooler morning air, and devour as many books as I can get my hands on.

  • One month without gluten, to see how it makes me body feel
  • Morning walks before the girlies wake up, three days a week.
  • Reflect on what it means to thrive.

  • Read as much as I want while the girls are at school.
  • Get back into a routine of reading to the girls before bed, a habit that was lost earlier this year, and one I think we all dearly miss.

I'm really excited to work on these smaller goals, not to lose sight of my larger project, but to accumulate some smaller victories. Do you have any September goals or resolutions? Let's do this together please!

Be well!

 P.S. Some posts you might also like:

Day one

How many things have you crossed off your life list?

How to quit smoking in only 753 days*

11 tips for being an ordinary parent