May: A Month of Reading

The past month has been a month of transition for me. It is the final term of my undergrad career and rather than going to typical lectures and seminar classes I have started an internship. This practical portion of my course will be spent at what is my ultimate dream job: working on an acute mental health inpatient unit. Basically I’ll be working a typical Monday to Friday type schedule which means, for the first time in 4 years, I have absolutely no classes to attend! This also means, outside of regular working hours, I’m left with more time than I can ever remember having to do something I forgot I loved so much: Read.

To say I’ve been reading a lot during the month of May is an understatement. I’ve been devouring books, finishing one and jumping right into the next, constantly craving that feeling of being drawn into the words on the page. Also, because of my new work commute, I’m spending hours in the car and have started listening to audiobooks – something I’ve done with the kids for years but never thought to ‘read’ my own books this way. I will admit, it isn’t the same as reading the written word but I do enjoy it!

I’ve finally read a few books that have been on my To-Read list for ages and I’ve dabbled genres and read authors I swore I’d never read. Yesterday was a child-free day for me and although my to-do list was long, I spent nearly the entire day reading. Starting and finishing the book in one day, I even read while doing dishes! But now that I’m done that book, and the local library is closed on Sundays, I’m left with nothing to read today. A day without a book feels so empty…

So because I can’t read something new, I thought I’d share with you what I have been reading:

1. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

I read The Glass Castle in 2008 just after my son was born. It was an amazing story written by Walls about her childhood and upbringing. It was a book I just couldn’t put down – and this one was just the same! Written about Wall’s grandmother, it tells a story of her difficult life but in the face of all her struggles no one could get the better of Lily Casey Smith.

Both of Wall’s stories literally come alive as you move through them. They are easy to read but produce profound emotion. This book provided a lot of insight into the early years of Wall’s mother, Rose Mary, which answered some questions about her unconventional parenting detailed in The Glass Castle. If you’re not the type to normally enjoy biographies, I recommend giving this book a try. It’s relatively short and never boring or overdone.

2. Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Another book I couldn’t put down! It was tragic, touching, and a little depressing! I’ve worked with many people with Alzheimer’s Disease  and done significant research in this field for my degree but this book provided me with a perspective (albeit fictional) I’ve never experienced before. It was very insightful and made me think about many of the experiences I’ve had with individuals with Alzheimer’s and how I could maybe approach things differently in the future.

I have to admit, I hated the husband in the book! So many times I just wanted to shake him, or smack him! But then I’d stop and think who am I to judge, no one can understand his situation until they are in it themselves. By the end of the book I forced myself to understand him although I still didn’t agree with his choices/actions. I loved the writing style and the story.

3. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

The first book I’ve ever read by Nicholas Sparks and I actually listened instead of read. It made for a good story while driving but seemed too much like a typical romance novel – which isn’t my type of book. It drives me nuts when I read stories like this, when people can just fall in love so easily and everything is just meant to be…it was frustrating at times but got interesting nearer to the end only because Sparks switched things up a bit with an unpredictable twist. Although the unpredictable twist ended in the most predictable way….it wouldn’t have been something I likely would have finished had I of been reading a paper copy but since I was driving, with nothing better to listen to, I finished it and can now say I’ve read/listened to a Nicholas Sparks book.

 

4. Man’s Search For Meaning 

This is a brilliant book! I’ve always been interested in WWII – fiction or non-fiction. This is a powerful tale focusing not only on the authors experiences living in concentration camps but on the deeper meaning of those experiences. Frankl believed that we can choose how to cope with difficulties in our lives. This choice can allow us to find meaning in it and from there we are able to move forward with our lives. To hear that message from someone who lived through the devastation and hardship as he did makes this message even more powerful! I think everyone should read this book!

 

 

5. The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks

Yes, I read another of his books even though I didn’t particularly love the first one! I was curious for some reason and decided what the hey, why not give him another go. This book was different in that it wasn’t entirely predictable. Parts were but there were constant curveballs throwing me off and this is maybe what got me hooked. I literally read this entire book in one day. I wasn’t able to put it down and every time I tried I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I was addicted to it and just needed to know how it ended. Now that it is done, I don’t actually think it was an overly great story and I can’t understand why I was so hooked on it. I didn’t particularly like any of the characters nor did I feel connected to any of them. I didn’t connect with and couldn’t relate to the setting. I didn’t even really love the storyline. I credit the writer because somehow, some way he got me hooked and I couldn’t put it down.

Now I’m unsure of what to read next. What are you reading?

 

Proud Teen Parent

Have you seen these ads? 

I’m not a fan of these ads. When I was pregnant for the first time I was 17 making me a ‘teen parent.’ I hadn’t finished high school, I didn’t stay with her father, I didn’t have a good job, in fact, for  quite some time I had no job at all which ultimately led us to living in poverty for several years. I guess my past situation validates these ads but that is only half of the story. Maybe this is what irks me about these ads. Yes I was poor, yes I was alone but given the chance, I wouldn’t change a thing!

The experiences I had shaped me and changed me and led me to where I am today. I’m not rich but we don’t live in poverty any more. I am still raising my children alone but that is how I want to raise them. I did finish high school while completing a diploma program and am now on the verge of graduating from one of the top universities in Canada with a degree in a field I absolutely love. The problem I have with these ads is that they seem to be portraying teen pregnancy as an end to what could have been a good life; an act of closing doors and ruining your chances – which it can be but doesn’t have to be!

These ads also seem to be targeting those who are either already pregnant or at risk of becoming pregnant (i.e. participating in unprotected sex). All these ads seems to be doing is shaming. They provide no alternatives or strategies for prevention. They are laying the blame and responsibility of teen pregnancy on female teens but it isn’t a female teen problem, it is a societal problem! If I had of saw these ads while pregnant I would have been deeply bothered by them, especially the “Honestly Mom…” one. The condescending tone speaking to young mothers-to-be as though they are complete idiots is not going to motivate or inspire positive changes but rather seems like kicking someone when they are already knocked down.

The tagline “Think being a teen parent won’t cost you?” is again condescending. When I found out I was pregnant I knew it was going to cost me. I took extra shifts and got a second job so that I was able to save my money and could afford necessities such as a car seat, crib, diapers, etc. I knew it was going to cost me my social life. Most of my friends slowly trickled out of my life but with that came new friends. I couldn’t participate in all the same activities I enjoyed before pregnancy and parenthood but I found new activities to enjoy. Isn’t this true with parenting at any age though? Why does no one speak to a 30 year old married women who engages in unprotected sex? Becoming a parent is costly at any age. Becoming a parent has cost me my ‘typical’ young adult years but I’ve gained much more than I’ve lost. And then there’s the claim that parents should expect to spend “more than $10 000 a year to raise a child” I’d like to see where they get their stats from because that is absurd! To be quite honest there have been years where my household income was not even $10 000 but I seemed to manage to raise not one but two young children. I think spending $10 000 on a child in one year is ridiculous and I’m not the only one who thinks raising children doesn’t have to be that expensive. Read Babies Really Don’t Cost That Much from Feisty Red Hair‘s Katherine Martinko – another proud young mother of two who doesn’t spend 10 grand a year on her children – for more on why there is no need to spend thousands on your children.

The one that infuriates me the most: teen4n-1-webReally? This one makes my blood boil simply because I didn’t do any of those: didn’t finish high school, didn’t start my career, and didn’t get married before having children. I understand that financially someone might be better off having children after checking these accomplishments off their life to-do list first but this ad is nothing more than a strict Christian ‘abstinence only’ perspective and it saddens me to think our society has yet to move past this mentality. I know many families that have followed this ‘preferred’ path and are still living in poverty, marriages are unhappy and some end early, and children aren’t raised in a positive environment. Being married is NOT a guarantee of a prosperous life like this ad is insinuating.

These ads are attempting to tell young people that teen pregnancy is a costly mistake. For me and my unique situation, I am grateful and proud of my ‘mistake’ and couldn’t imagine my life any other way. I love being a young mother, am proud that I was once a teen mom, and feel no shame regardless of what New York’s Human Resources Administration claims.

 

Related Posts:

And then there was one…
Bad Mommy Moment

 

Making the Most of the Worst

No more papers, no more books! No more teachers snotty looks! 

Actually none of my teachers gave me snotty looks. And although one term has come to an end, another term has begun so technically I should be singing NEW papers, NEW books, NEW teachers…this term will be very different however. Goodbye campus and hello internship! Oh and it is my FINAL TERM (insert happy dance here)!! I do enjoy school and I love learning but I am looking forward to becoming an actual practitioner. From now until I am officially graduated I  have the opportunity to pretend to be a practitioner – thank goodness because I’m tired of lecture halls, seminar rooms, and campus life in general and ready to get some practical experience.

This post isn’t supposed to be about my boring academic adventure though, it’s a celebration because after a long absence, I’m back! It has been months since I’ve posted but today I’m reappearing and I can proudly say that today I am a stronger version of me than I was before.

My absence was partly due to an overwhelming course-load at school but mostly due to an unfortunate, frustrating, emotional roller coaster ride of an attempt at a custody agreement between myself and my son’s father. It has been, to date, the hardest experience of my life. The worst. Not only have I been struggling emotionally but the ordeal has even made me physically ill - it’s amazing how interconnected our bodies are! However, it has also been such a learning experience for me. Not only have I learned so much about our legal system in Ontario/Canada, I’ve learned a great deal about myself. I’ve learned so much about my strengths and my weaknesses (yes there are a few!). I’ve also learned about what I contribute to situations, how I sometimes unintentionally make them worse, how I sometimes try to over-control things, and how I often foolishly see good in people when good sometimes does not exist. Although this situation is far from over and no agreement has been made, I do believe/hope the worst is behind me. I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection on the entire experience and am realizing that through the many sleepless nights, the stress and worry, the frustration and tears, and the anger, I have grown and changed significantly. I see things, all things in life, through a different lens now. I believe the experience has made me a better person, a better mother, and also made me much more self-aware. Through all this, I feel even more motivated to continue along my path in life, to pursue my personal goals, and to provide the absolute best for my children because they deserve nothing less.

So there’s the happy ending to a downright awful situation, this almost sounds like a Project Optimism post! It isn’t a Monday but I’m counting it anyway, sometimes we have to bend the rules a little! 

PROJECT OPTIMISM is about having HOPE even when things appear impossible, it is about finding that silver lining regardless of how teeny tiny it may be, it’s about focusing on those little joys and letting them all add up and fill your cup.

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If you aren’t familiar with Project Optimism check out the uplifting posts by other’s, there’s an entire page of participating bloggers listed here  who are sure to help you turn your frowns upside down, even if just for a moment.

*If this isn’t quite enough optimism for you, be sure to sneak a peek at my past week’s posts. Find them all stored neat & tidy under Project Optimism in my drop down Category menu to the right.*  

Project Optimism: Looking Back to Get Ahead

Sometimes I get a little down and blue – and I highly doubt I’m the only one! Life throws us fastballs and curve balls, and I don’t even like baseball to begin with! Anyway, I find that sometimes I lose myself, lose my focus, lose my motivation, and hit a wall. I often find myself thinking like such a drama queen, thinking that things will never get better, never change, or I’ll never get to where I want to be.

Funny thing is, I know I’ve been in that place before, many, many times before! In times like this a little reflection on where I’ve come from helps me to reset and stop being such a drama queen. Here’s a little glimpse into my past, and what has gotten me to my present:

At the age of 21 I was the mother of two with no real direction in life. Aside from the day-to-day have-to’s, I really didn’t know where I was going. When my son was born, 2008, I finally realized enough was enough! It was time to make some serious changes in my life because what I now knew what that it wasn’t just my life anymore. Each and every one of my actions had (and will continue to have) a direct consequence and impact on someone else’s life. This was my motivation. I was finally strong enough to follow my heart and listen to my head.

2009 was a big year for us! I did something I never thought I’d be able to do, I ended the awful relationship I was in. It was extremely hard but I finally felt free! I also started college! This was very exciting for me since I had never been a real keener for school before, heck I wasn’t even a high school graduate at this point! But the courses I did have met the requirements of the program and so began my academic adventure!

During my time at college I learned a great deal about myself and my vision for my future. I faced many walls and challenges – and often felt like I couldn’t do it! But I kept on trucking and took each experience as a new lesson learned. At the same time as going to college full time, I also took some high school courses on the side. I was determined to graduate from high school before college – and I did! June 2010 was the first time I had graduated from anything since elementary school! I then graduated from college at the top of my class in May 2011. Rather than graduation being an ending for me, I knew that was just the beginning.

Turned out my academic adventure would also include attending University. Similar to college, there have been many obstacles in my way. The cost of daycare and increased cost of living in the city has almost been enough to break my bank! Even more frustrating are the courses that are required for my degree but are only offered at night. In a new city, no family, no friends, and no support network, this was clearly impossible. I have since learned that if you want something badly enough – and you’re paying for it! – nothing is impossible.

My time at university is wrapping up. Once again I’m astonished at myself. I set a goal and I’ve almost complete it regardless of what stood in my way. This is how I know that whatever challenges I face from here on out won’t matter because I can (and will!) persevere!

Some days I feel like I can take on anything, some days defeat me but it all makes up who I am
and shapes who I will become.

success

Spread some joy and share your optimism with others by getting in on Project Optimism!! There is so much joy-sharing going on there’s a page full of it! The Best Life has posted an entire page of fabulous blogs all getting in on the action, sharing some of their joys, turning their frowns upside down, and seeing the bright side of their Mondays! Join in the fun, it’s easy:

  1. Write about something that makes you feel optimistic. Whatever it is, write from your heart.
  2. Post on MONDAYS. Include “Project Optimism” in your title.
  3. Grab a badge by going to your dashboard and clicking the “IMAGE” widget. Adjust pic size 200h x 200w. The image URL: (http://mylifeisthebestlife.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/project-optimism.jpg)
  4. Link over here and invite friends to join in.
  5. Encourage the person who linked up before you. Kindness is contagious!

Happy Monday :)  

project-optimism

*If this isn’t quite enough optimism for you, be sure to check out that page I mentioned which is full of others joy or sneak a peek at my past week’s posts. Find them all stored neat & tidy under Project Optimism in my drop down Category menu to the right.*  

SNOW DAY!

It’s been one of those weeks where I need a pause button; everything needs to stop while I keep working on getting caught up! I’m in need of a sick day – without being sick!

I woke up this morning and nearly screamed THANK YOU to mother nature! A beautiful overnight dumping of snow has left the town we live in basically closed down. At 6:00 am the list of closures and delays was long, and it included the kid’s school but unfortunately not mine. Of course it isn’t as common for universities to close campus due to the weather, and either way, with the kids out of school, I wouldn’t be attending classes today anyway.

I clearly remember the excitement and thrill that comes along with snow days. Waking up to a blanket of snow, sometimes not even being able to open the back door of the farmhouse I grew up in! There were endless activities to do on a snow day living in the country. Unfortunately they always seem to start with chores. As my Dad saw it, 5 kids who couldn’t be at school were 10 extra hands to help out in the barn. Regardless, snow days were still exciting. There was this feeling that we were completely disconnected from the world – plus we had no internet, satellite, or cable – like everything outside of our farm was standing still, life simply stopped for the day. As long as the pigs still got fed there were never any priorities that took us out and about on snow day.

It seems so different nowadays. Even with long lists of closures and cancellations things never seem to stop, people are warned to “be careful” on their commute rather than to stay home. By 7:00 am I was decided that with or without university cancellations it was to be a real snow day at our house today. We would be pushing that pause button! By 7:15 the university announced campus was closed and all classes were cancelled – another big thank you :)

So now that it’s official, what to do on our snow day? As I mentioned, I had a LOT of catching up to do! But before anything else, there was reason to celebrate so I started my morning with one of these delicious little treats – and I haven’t slowed down since :)

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Maple Mocha from the 100 Days of Real Food blog – click the picture to be taken to my favourite blog of all time!

Laundry was so far behind drawers were empty and matching socks were a rare find. The floors were in desperate need of a scrub, bathrooms were in disarray, my kitchen was begging for some TLC, and the laundry room had become a dumping zone with piles of outgrown clothes towering taller than the kids! All the things I never seem to get to, until now!

Of course it wouldn’t be a snow day without baking! That was always one of the best parts of a snow day, walking through the bitter cold, entering the house only to be met with the smells of banana bread. We won’t be doing banana bread but my mouth has been watering for some sweet little treats I spotted on a bliss-filled blog earlier this week and then there’s this recipe for apple peanut butter bars that already has my house smelling delicious – what is better than being trapped inside on a snow day with the house smelling like baked apples & cinnamon?! Generally, once we start baking we usually get on a roll so we’ve already planned to re-stock our frozen waffle supply while we’re at it (that recipe also comes from 100 Days of Real Food!).

…now that I’ve had a productive morning I will feel no shame in spending the rest of my day caught up in highly competitive games of Uno, Monopoly Junior, and possibly some Ker-Plunk! At the moment the kids are making themselves a mini homemade pool table so while I’ve got some peace, I just might put my feet up and watch the snow fall.

Thanks again Mother Nature :)

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The view the local radio station provided on Twitter this morning – definitely a stay in kind of day! (photo: KIX 106)

Project Optimism: Time

Have you ever felt like there’s just not enough time in a day? I’m sure we all have – and if you haven’t please tell me your secret!

Most of my days are over far too quickly. I haven’t ever enough time to do everything I need to do from school work to house cleaning to showering regularly! And then there’s the things I want to do, I never seem to find the time to squeeze all this in! The books I want to read to the kids, the fitness routine that never seems to fit into my schedule, or the wonderful places I long to travel to. Nope, just never enough time!

Seems like the perfect solution to most my life’s problems is right there – more time! But would more time actually make me happy?

Really, when you stop and think about it, no one has more or less, we all have the same amount of time. This was a jaw dropping revelation for me – actually it was more of a “duh, why didn’t I think of that?” moment!

We all have the same amount of time. 24 hours in each day and how we spend that time is our choosing! I understand each person has their own unique obligations and responsibilities that tend to shape how they spend their time but when it all boils down, we all have the same amount of time.

I keep repeating this fact, mostly to drill it into my own head! I’ve got the same amount of time as everyone else, how I choose to spend my time makes up my days and determines what gets done and what doesn’t.

With two busy kids I’ve got the pleasure of raising on my own, hockey & gymnastics practices, midterms already upon me, difficult seminar courses with copious amounts of required reading, and all those other things I want to do, time isn’t really difficult to fill. This is me recognizing that there’s always the perfect amount of time in each and every day and that I’ve got the ability to fill it how I so choose.

Which brings me to my next point, how I choose to spend my time. All too often I get caught up in the “have to’s” and “need to’s” and let’s not forget the, “gotta get done’s.” So many times all those “want to’s” are completely forgotten and pushed aside. If I pay attention to them I feel guilty, selfish, and like a bad mother. Why do the dishes have to be done before I enjoy a delicious, warm cup of tea? The world will not end even though I often think it will. Now I don’t think we should all run off and do whatever we want to do without any regard for our obligations and responsibilities. What I think is that for me personally (and for many MANY others/mothers I know!) there is never enough focus on what we want to do and far too much focus on what we need to do. I say let us find some balance!

This past weekend, with the kids off visiting at their Dad’s, I decided to get away. I loaded up the car with some of my favourite people and escaped to a wintry resort for a weekend of falling snowboarding! It was AMAZING! A full 48 hours of doing what I wanted to do! I put midterms and papers out of my mind, forgot about the piles of laundry at home, dumped my dog off on my fabulous father and off I went. Now here’s Monday and I’m sore recharged and ready to conquer this week!

It isn’t more time that solves my problems but instead how I choose to spend my time. A little “me” time makes me better able to handle the sometimes overwhelming amounts of responsibilities I’ve got on my plate. How do you manage to stay sane and get everything done?

project-optimismSpread some joy and share your optimism with others by getting in on Project Optimism!! There is so much joy-sharing going on there’s a page full of it! The Best Life has posted an entire page of fabulous blogs all getting in on the action, sharing some of their joys, turning their frowns upside down, and seeing the bright side of their Mondays! Join in the fun, it’s easy:

  1. Write about something that makes you feel optimistic. Whatever it is, write from your heart.
  2. Post on MONDAYS. Include “Project Optimism” in your title.
  3. Grab a badge by going to your dashboard and clicking the “IMAGE” widget. Adjust pic size 200h x 200w. The image URL: (http://mylifeisthebestlife.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/project-optimism.jpg)
  4. Link over here and invite friends to join in.
  5. Encourage the person who linked up before you. Kindness is contagious!

Happy Monday :) 

*If this isn’t quite enough optimism for you, be sure to check out that page I mentioned which is full of others joy or sneak a peek at my past week’s posts. Find them all stored neat & tidy under Project Optimism in my drop down Category menu to the right.*  

 

Dream Day

If I could be anywhere, doing anything today, my day would likely look like this:

  • Cozy blankets and fluffy pillows surround me while sitting in a window seat surrounded by books. Likely be re-reading an old favourite – one of those fantastic stories that you become a part of, that take your breath away, make you laugh with the characters and cry when they cry, and long for more once you’ve flipped the final page

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Maybe a nook like this one found at blog.styleestate.com

  • Of course I’d be sipping on my favourite tea: Vanilla Cinnamon herbal tea with a splash of honey just for fun!
  • When the reading was done I’d love to sit and listen to recorded episode after episode of CBC Radio’s Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean! I can never, ever get enough of his story telling! Vinyl Cafe is now available as Podcasts which is so great! I sometimes can’t listen in on Sunday’s when it is aired on the radio but now can have it on my iPhone whenever I want it!
  • Part of me thinks I’d stay in my PJ’s all day, but another side of me is more realistic than that. I do love structure and productivity. I feel icky when I spend the entire day in my PJ’s. Rather than PJ’s all day I’ll settle for some comfy yoga pants and my coziest hand-knitted sweater.
  • Lunch would be my newest addiction: kale! Steamed with some peppers and onions, some hot pepper flakes and loads of garlic. Throw some salmon on top and you’ve got my favourite meal. Of course I won’t have to make it, it’s my dream day after all!
  • I really couldn’t sit still for an entire day regardless of how appealing that sounds, realistically I’ve got far too much energy for that! There would have to be some type of physical activity going on. Perhaps a beautiful hike on the Bruce Trail with my 4-legged friend (like we’ve done before!). 
  • I’m a very social person at heart so this dream day wouldn’t really be complete if there weren’t other people involved. Maybe a good old fashioned family hockey game on my parents backyard rink (that we’ve been making for nearly 20 years now!). There’s home-made nets my brother welded together about 15 years ago and always a pot of hot chocolate ready when we’re finished (thanks Mom!). 
  • After skating, all 23 of us (that’s my immediate family!) would squeeze around the table in my parents kitchen. We’d devour a giant bowl of my own home-made chili, enjoy a few beers, and laugh about this & that until it was time to put the kids to bed. I’d end my dream day sleeping in my old bedroom, squeezed into the single bed with one munchkin on either side of me. One snoring (like she always does!) and the other with his fingers wrapped around strands of my hair so tightly I can’t move without acquiring a bald patch. Those are the best sleeps!

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Us playing hockey in January 2013. It is always best under the lights!

Don’t get me wrong, my reality really isn’t all that bad. Sure I don’t get to spend hours escaping to fictional worlds and I don’t even have a window seat! I don’t get to see my family as much as I’d like but when we are together it’s like no time has passed at all. I’m thankful for my reality, but love to dream every now and then! What would your dream day look like? 

Happy Friday!