Stating the Obvious.

I generally think I am a good mother, not a perfect mother, but definitely a good mother. I make time for my children. I worry about their happiness. I spend time with them doing what they love whether that is baking, reading or activities. I plan play dates, parties and vacations. But I realized something this weekend that I didn’t realize before. What makes them happiest is when I am happily with them, regardless of what we happen to be doing.

Today, I had promised them a trip to the theater to watch the newest animated movie. But I really wasn’t feeling well. I had pushed myself through the weekend but just couldn’t keep my promise this afternoon. I needed to rest. After intense negotiations and some disappointed faces, we agreed we would stay home and watch a movie instead.

Ironically, that’s when the best part of the weekend happened.

We cuddled in bed and watched Annie while they ate some Easter treats. They loved it. But they love movies and treats so that wasn’t a big surprise. But at bedtime, when I asked them what the favorite part of their weekend was, they both said it was the movie. I thought about this for a while. I don’t actually think it was the movie. Yes, it is a good movie but there is nothing in particular that makes it stand out in my mind over other children’s movies. Plus, we spent the weekend reading, hanging out with friends, painting Easter eggs and shopping. Generally, all fun stuff.

I think what made the movie special was that I cuddled with them and stayed focused the whole time. No phone. No computer. No distractions. We chatted throughout the movie. We laughed at the funny bits together and at the end, we talked about some of the most interesting parts. Usually when we watch movies, I set it up and I kind of half watch it. Later they try to talk to me about what happended without much success since I was never really paying attention.  I didn’t think it mattered since they were engrossed in the movie after all. But what I realized today is that it DOES matter. They notice. They don’t care what we are doing as long as they feel that I am their “partner in crime”. Me being there the whole time, without distractions, meant the world to them.

And truth be told, it was the best part of my weekend as well. I guess it really is about the quality of time not the quantity of time.

Sometimes the obvious lessons take the longest to learn.

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On Turning 40…

Here we go. Here is yet another post about turning 40. The Internet is inundated with them I know, but since I started this journey a little over a year ago in an attempt to better myself by this day, I felt I had to write something.

I haven’t written in awhile, mostly because I haven’t had anything to say. I never wanted my blog to be random thoughts or tidbits. It was supposed to help me change my life, one habit at a time and to help me be accountable. For the most part, it succeeded as such.

I now regularly drink more water and step on the scale less often. I am not glued to my cell phone. I try not to take the actions of others to heart. I haven’t lost my keys or wallet in a long time (my iPod is another story however, I just offered my children 2 dollars to find it for me).  Overall, my attempt to gain greater control over my life was largely successful. I still don’t make it to yoga and my inbox still has 3000 messages in it, but I wasn’t going to master all of my goals, and I knew that going in.

What I found through the process is that by de-cluttering my brain of these random thoughts and by taking control of certain aspects of my life, I found more time to do other things. Those things varied from reading more books, to organizing my drawers and making homemade Christmas presents but generally, I don’t feel like I am always trying to play catch-up anymore and that made the whole project worthwhile.

But now the year is over. I turned 40 today. Now what? Well, I don’t want to stop evolving and growing as a person so I have spent some time thinking about what I would like to focus on in the coming year. I have decided that my main goal is to be more present and grateful for the life I am so lucky to have. I like to think that I am generally living my life with gratitude, but I would like to work on this in the coming year. It is so easy to get caught up in the small stressors in life and to forget that in the long run, the little things don’t matter.

I thought about this as we drove home from a ski trip last week. The boys, now almost 7 and 9, were giggling in the back and my husband and I are were drinking hot tea from a thermos I had packed after having had a fun day on the slopes. There was this moment where I realized that we were at the “sweet spot”. For years I was trying to get somewhere. At first it was to graduate and finish my education. Then it was all about the struggle with infertility and having a family and finally it was to establish and run a successful practice. Now, I can look at my family, my clinic and my life and say that I have accomplished the things that matter most to me, at least for now.

I want to enjoy these things and be thankful for them. My boys are at the age where they are old enough to get their own breakfast and let mom and dad sleep in, but still young enough that they think we are pretty cool and fun to hang out with. That is not going to last forever and I want to enjoy these years before friends, girlfriends and sports become a more prominent fixture in their lives. These are the years where I am starting to realize that all the hard work was worth it and if I don’t start enjoying it, it will soon be in the past.

So for the next year, I want to be more present for those moments in the car. I may start a gratitude jar so that I can remember the highlights of this year but mostly I want to make sure that I appreciate the moments that will end up being my fondest memories in my old age.

Wishing you an abundance of good memories in the year ahead.

All I really want is…

The other week my husband was packing for his business trip. He was leaving for 2.5 weeks. As he packed in our bedroom, I hid reading a novel in my son’s bedroom, pretending to put him to sleep. My husband travels fairly often and I hate it. I have become used to it. I have figured out how to handle it and the kids are used to it too. But I still hate it so I don’t help him pack. It is my passive-aggressiveness way of letting him know that I think the whole thing sucks.

Eventually though, I made my way to the bedroom and told him I was going to the other room to sleep since he wasn’t done packing. He asked me to stay with him. As it got later, he began to get frustrated and I asked him why he had left packing to the night before his trip. He looked at me and said, “You are a rarity”. And I thought, “Yes, he finally sees how great I am”. But that was not the case. He then went on to say that most wives married to men at his level didn’t work and so they had time to pack their husband’s suitcases for them. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed.

But my husband isn’t a chauvinist. He doesn’t think women are lesser. He doesn’t think women shouldn’t work. He just doesn’t want me to work and truth be told, I kind of get it.  I know our lives would be easier if I didn’t work but I also know that I would be miserable.

We live in a time when women can have it all. But the problem with women being able to have it all is that we want it all. I want to work. I love my clinic. I get joy and fulfillment from my patients. I also love my children and I don’t want to miss a single bedtime or soccer game. And I want to make dinner and help my husband pack. And I want to run a half marathon and do hot yoga and make jam and maybe preserve some garlic. I really want it all.

But just because you can have it all, doesn’t mean you should. I am starting to realize that something is going to have to give. As my clinic continues to thrive and my children continue to grow, I am realizing that I need to lay down some boundaries. I am struggling with this. Giving up my clinic means giving up an enormous part of who I am. Not giving it up means that my family will have to make sacrifices that aren’t exactly necessary but that will enable me to continue to do what I love.

I am working through all of this, hoping that some divine intervention will point me in the right direction. I know it will take time and eventually, I will figure it all out. Until I do though, I think I will go and preserve that garlic.

It’s not me, it’s you.

I am a highly sensitive person. What some (especially my husband) might call “over-sensitive”. The actions of others often leave me feeling sad, upset, embarrassed, or humiliated, often over little things. Rationally, I know I am over-reacting, but that does not keep me from dwelling on whatever may have happened.

I am hoping that in the next few months, I can learn to get over this. I have made significant strides in this department. Now I dwell for days not weeks but still, there is room for improvement.

What I have realized as I have thought about this, is I rarely have a problem with the message being delivered-the problem is usually the delivery of that message.

I’ll give you an example. The other day, my husband and son were playing tennis at the tennis courts behind our house. The tennis courts are literally in my backyard, beyond the fence. I needed to ask him something so I walked around, onto the court. I then walked along the edge of the fence, trying to stay out of the way, made my way to my husband, had a quick chat and walked back. As I walked back, one of the players was really rude to me. What I didn’t know is that is that in tennis, you need to wait until play has stopped before crossing the court. Me trying to stay out of the way wasn’t good enough.

Here is my issue. I was wrong. I didn’t know. It was, most definitely, my bad. But did the guy have to be a jerk about it? Or could he have said, “Hey-just so you know for next time, this is the etiquette”. I would have been embarrassed, apologized and learned my lesson. Was it necessary to be condescending and rude?

Another time I was driving and hesitated for 5 seconds as I tried to figure out if I was going right or left. The truck behind me accelerated to pass and the driver stuck out his middle finger. Really? Again, my mistake, my hesitation but do we really have to be so mean?

And yet another time, I was at my brother’s wedding. We were in Calgary and my boys were 2 and 4. They were exhausted, off schedule and sleep deprived. They were being monsters. I turned to an older woman who has children older than mine and asked her how to keep them from being so rotten. She answered with “Well, I don’t label my children”. It was amazing how much arrogance, self-righteousness and judgment was conveyed in a single sentence.   She made me feel so terrible, so small, and like the worst mother on the planet.

But looking back, I now realize that it wasn’t me. It was them. I am only human. I make mistakes. And as much as I would like to claim to know it all, I don’t. But the people who are rude and mean and treat others with disrespect have the real issues. Perhaps they have something going on. Perhaps there is some tragedy, some stress or pressing issue that makes them impatient, short and angry. Or perhaps they are just jerks by nature. In either case, it’s not about me. If I am feeling very generous, I may even give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are just having a bad day but I am hoping that from now on, I won’t let the actions of others affect me as much as they have in the past.

I try to remember this when it comes to my own choices as well. I try to choose my words carefully. Think about the impact of my words or actions. I try to emphasize this to my children. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. An apology can do damage control but it won’t reverse the impact of mean and callous behaviour. I always tell them to be kind in their delivery. The message will be much better received. Be empathetic. Think about others.

And in the end, when someone treats you with disrespect or is generally unkind, just remember, it’s not about you. It’s about them.

 

 

The One Thing I Wish I had Known When My Mother Was Alive…

This is always a particularly hard time of year for me. My mother passed away on July 7, 2004. This year is even more difficult as it marks 10 years since she left us. It is amazing how ten years can seem like an eternity and yet, at the same time, like a blink of an eye. So much has happened, and yet, so much has remained unchanged.

There are many things that I wish I had done differently when she was alive. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 and I try not to dwell on what I would change if I had a chance for a do-over.

But there is one thing that I wish I had been able to experience while she was alive and that is motherhood. I don’t think you truly understand what it is to have a child, to love a child, to sacrifice all that you are and all that you have for your child’s happiness, until you actually have a child. And I think once you understand it, once you feel it in your soul, you can better appreciate your own mother and the sacrifices she made for you.

As a kid, I was the “rebellious” one. I say rebellious but I really wasn’t. I was always at the top of my class, didn’t date until my 20’s, didn’t drink or do drugs, and had a decent group of friends. But I had a lot of drive and ambition and I don’t think my parents knew what to do with that.

My mother and I didn’t have a good relationship when I was younger either. Of course, as I look back, we were very similar so of course we butted heads. But in my mind, she didn’t treat me the same way she did my brother and sister. She didn’t take care of me the same way. She didn’t worry about me as much as she did them. And to me, this was all proof that she didn’t love me as much.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

What I mistook as ambivalence was actually trust in my abilities. What I mistook as a lack of love was in fact confidence that I would thrive without her constant guidance. I was fine and she knew it, so she didn’t bother worrying about me.

And there were times that she did worry about me but I never found out until after she had passed away. My mother was not a touchy-feely kind of woman. She didn’t hug. She didn’t cry and she rarely said, “I love you”. I remember on my wedding day, she looked me up and down, smiled and told me I looked nice while my father stood sobbing beside her. But after she died, several of her friends told me she had confided in them about her fears for me. She was worried that I wouldn’t conceive as I was struggling with infertility at the time and she told them that she was worried about what the MS was going to do to me. She never told me any of this. She just always said that she knew I was going to be fine.

It all makes sense to me now that I am a mother and I see my children. I see my two boys each with very different needs, different personalities and different ideas. I love them both equally and differently at the same time. My love is unconditional. It knows no bounds, no limits.

I wish I had understood all of this when she was alive. I would have appreciated her so much more. I would have let go of my resentment and accepted that she gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it, even though I didn’t realize it.

In the end, we had a good relationship. We grew closer in her final years. She knew I loved her and I know she loved me, probably more than I will ever truly understand. Of course she did – she was my mother.

My Dirty Little Secret.

As you know if you have been reading my posts, I am a Naturopathic Doctor. Generally speaking, I live the principles I preach. I get enough sleep. I exercise. I don’t smoke. For the most part, I eat really well. I keep my coffee consumption organic and minimal. And this is exactly what I preach to my patients. Focus on the big stuff. It’s not the little things that will drive you to illness. Focus on good food and good water. Sleep. Rest. Try to manage stress. These are the foundations of good health.

When it comes to supplements, I try to be realistic as well and tell my patients to focus on a few key items. Nobody should be taking a mouthful of supplements three times a day to maintain health. But the basics are essential-a good fish oil, a probiotic, some vitamin D and a few others based on individual needs.

But here’s my dirty little secret. I am a Naturopathic Doctor and I don’t take my supplements regularly. Sure I start taking a few for a couple of weeks and then I add more and then it becomes too much so I stop -until the cycle begins again.

You see, being a naturopath means that I have a ton of supplements. I have expired products that I experiment on myself (please don’t do this on yourself-it is generally frowned upon!). I get samples from companies claiming they have the newest and best products on the market. I go to trade shows and get a million freebies. This means that I have 3 full cupboards full of supplements that I don’t take. It’s overwhelming. This is why I don’t prescribe oodles and oodles of supplements to my patients.

Of course, it helps that I have been healthy and feel pretty good. Sure I get a few colds but I have two germ ridden children who love to share. Other than that, my energy is great. I sleep well. My digestion works. So I don’t really have a motivating factor to take my supplements except for one-I preach prevention not cure.   You know the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? I am supposed to be living that.

Plus, of course, as I turn forty in the next little while, I want to preserve my health. I have been lucky. The MS hasn’t gotten the best of me but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be vigilant.

So here it goes, my next habit will be to practice what I preach. Take a fish oil, take a probiotic and take some vitamin D. The last one I am pretty good about-no Canadian gets through Winter unscathed without some bottled sunshine, at least not in my practice.

I have the pill box set up. I have reminders programmed into my phone. It’s simple. I just have to do it. Once I get the hang of these, I will probably add more. Some curcumin, a multi B complex, maybe some magnesium. I could probably use an antioxidant as well, and extra B12.

And so it begins.

 

 

When Good People Do Bad Things…

When I was younger, my life was simple. I had a two dimensional view of the world. There was wrong and there was right. There was good and there was bad. It was easy. Swearing was bad. Alcohol was bad. Praying was good. Obeying your parents was good.  

Bad people did bad things and good people did good things. 

Where did I fit into all of this? Well, I didn’t drink alcohol. I did well in school. For the most part, I listened to my parents and I didn’t swear.

I was definitely “good”.

But as I got older, my views changed. I discovered that a glass of Merlot had its merits. As for swearing, well just refer to my post on potty-mouth mommy and it will be obvious where I stand in terms of that particular vice. I have made many choices that some might consider questionable and continue to do so despite the knowledge that perhaps, I may be veering away from my understanding of the “good” side.

My understanding of right and wrong has transformed into black, white and many shades of grey.

The woman I was in my 20’s with her rigid view of people and life would balk at the choices I make today.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a strong moral compass. I teach my children to be kind, loving, patient and tolerant and do my best to model this behavior. I am honest and loyal, sometimes to a fault. But I have made, and will continue to make, mistakes. I have always been my toughest critic, but now I want to give myself a break for not always living up to the standards I uphold for myself and for those around me. I want to be less judgmental, and more accepting of the flaws that we all have.

And as I continue to grow older, my views on right and wrong continue to evolve.   In practice, I meet patients with amazing stories. These people are faced with adversities and challenges, and they do their best to deal with whatever life throws at them, in the best way they can. Do I always agree with them? No. Do I always think they have made the right choice? Absolutely not.

I hear stories from family and friends and where the old me would have been quick to judge, quick to decide which side of right or wrong that person belonged to, the new me now seeks to understand the motivation behind the actions, and to understand the intention of the doer. By shifting my focus this way, I have come to appreciate the complexities of people and life in a way I never really did before.

And of course, I look at my own life. The lines between good and bad, right and wrong have blurred so much, that I would be a hypocrite to judge another. As I embarked on this journey to become the better person I want to be this year, I have been acutely aware of my shortcomings, and the shortcomings of the people around me. And this is what I have learned.

Good people do bad things for good reasons. Good people do bad things for bad reasons. But good people are still good people.

We all struggle. We all falter. But I have learned in the past several years, that we are all just trying to do our best with the curveballs, challenges and disappointments life throws at us.

It’s not about right and wrong, good or bad. It’s about having a heart, having a conscious and making peace with the factors that drive us to make our decisions without needing to label them or ourselves.

So as I continue this journey, I hope to continue to be more understanding of the people around me, and I hope that in turn, they will do the same for me.