Sounds like Summer

Not much says summer time like an outdoor concert. Niagara-on-the-Lake, the sleepiest town in the whole Niagara Region, was an amazing venue. The sun was shining, there were hoards of fans, plenty of cold beer, and great music – what’s not to love?! 

  

And when it comes to summer concerts, I don’t think anyone could kick off the season better than Mumford and Sons! The British folky rock band has a little of everything that I love: banjo, acoustic and electric guitar, keyboard/piano, rhythms you can’t help but dance and sway to, and hypnotic lyrics. If you haven’t heard of them by now you must be living under a rock and you simply must look them up! 

I was lucky enough to go with a great group of friends from work; colleagues who have become family! Thankfully the weather was beautiful although because of the recent rain rubber boots were a fan favourite when it came to footwear! 

   
 The entire band was bang on last night and I highly recommend checking them out if you ever have a chance! 
  

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

 

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
Image

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!

Happy Monday: Project Optimism

As I typed that title I realized, I actually mean it! In general I hate Mondays. I am definitely one of ‘those’ people who complains and groans and uses the day of the week as an excuse for the entire day’s failures. Today had it’s fill of failures.

It all started during those cold, quiet, still hours of the morning. I, freezing cold and wishing I was still in bed, jumped into the shower hoping the warmth would somehow wash away the usual Monday blues before the day even really started. I very quickly realized I was not alone in the shower – an 8 legged friend decided to join me! I hate spiders! Rather than scream or panic I decided to make him a deal. I told him (literally) that if he didn’t move I’d spare his life and share my shower and in approximately 12 minutes we’d each go our separate ways and hopefully never mingle again. I ended up spending the entire 12 minutes staring at him – my eyes still sting from the suds! What a way to start a Monday…

It really didn’t get much better from there what with the overnight dumping of snow turned freezing rain, kids who hate Mondays as much as I do, and absolutely no empty parking spots at school – does no one stay home when the roads are slick?! Slipping and sliding my way to my first class started out fun, but alas, the fun always ends once someone gets hurt. Falling didn’t hurt my butt nearly as much as it hurt my ego, but hurt nonetheless.

By now it’s nearing noon and I’m in full blown I hate Mondays mode. Here is when I grab a coffee and open my lap top searching for a little break from it all, an escape. Here is when I realize that not only is it Monday, but it is MONDAY! It’s Project Optimism day! Sorry moody Mondays, but with there’s a new Monday in town and I like him!

Funny how random people out there somewhere in the internet can basically say, “Let’s all be optimistic on Mondays” and that can change my day! Rather than wallow in a pitiful Monday I grabbed it by the horns and steered in the direction of my choosing! I even shared in the Project Optimism love myself, turning my closed doors into life lessons.

I kept this attitude up and by the time my school day was done and my munchkins and I were home I was in a completely different mind set – and it spread! One kid offered to do the dishes all by herself (I looked the other way and ignored crusty porridge left on the breakfast bowls!) while the other gave me a hand making what ended up being a delicious dinner – chicken breast with steamed kale & green collards with garlic, peppers, and onions! And then to top it all off we made (for the first time ever) cauliflower crusted garlic & cheese breadsticks!!! How can Monday not be great with all that combo?!

It just goes to show that there is truth in the age old saying, “A smile is contagious.”

Photo from, “20 Days Toward Happiness and Health”
http://draggarwal.org/2012/06/

If you’re interested in spreading OPTIMISM, here’s what you need to do:
  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 to The Best Life, and invite friends to join in.
  5. Encourage the person who linked up before you, because that’s what it’s all about. Kindness is contagious!
Project Optimism

Project Optimism

project-optimism

I absolutely love the entire premise behind Project Optimism. This comes at such a perfect time for me what with my new-found quest for Happy Living, kudos to The Best Life and her partners for creating this joy sharing project!

I do think of myself as a fairly glass-half-full type person. I try to see the bright side and try to spread happiness wherever I go. To toot my own horn, I think I’m really good at it when it comes to other people’s lives! Is it just me or is it actually easier to see what everyone else has got going for them and what they’ve got to be thankful for? Not that I think everyone else has got everything going for them and I don’t, that’s not it at all. In my past internships I’ve had to work with some pretty amazing people who’ve been dealt some pretty crappy cards: patients who’ve acquired a traumatic brain injury, amputee patients, those with serious mental health issues, etc. In working with these people I’ve discovered that I’m skilled in facilitating optimism – but do I internalize it myself, in my own life contexts? Not so much.

To be quite frank, sometimes it is hard! Sometimes I just haven’t got it in me; the good is too hard to see through a layer of crap thrown at me; sometimes I’m just not feeling it, plain & simple! Sometimes I want to be miserable and lay in my pj’s with hot tea and snap at anyone/everyone who tries to cheer me up. Sometimes I don’t want cheer! 

When these Debbie Downer days are upon me I find it hopeless to try to force myself to see the silver-lining. Instead I try to take a step back and refocus; regroup my thoughts; rearrange my perspective. I find it helpful to analysis the good rather than dwell on the bad. Acknowledging the small stuff enables me to be hopeful for what is to come.

So here it is, the things that – within the past week – made me feel warm & fuzzy on the inside, made me tick, inspired me, challenged me, or just simply made me smile:

  • When a random stranger chases me out of the lecture hall, nearly tackling me to the floor, only to return my iPhone – which I hadn’t even realized fell out of my pocket! Thank you kind stranger! 
  • A hike that is good for the mind, body, and soul – and the dog!
  • Not just one bottle of red found on the shelf, but two!
  • A Friday night spent with one of those above mentioned bottles and a new ball of gorgeous blue-y/green-y yarn – my new hat is nearly done and is adorable & cozy! 
  • Booking my first trip away in over a year and a half: a snowboarding birthday getaway for the man in my life with two of our closest friends! Snowboarding, cross-country skiing, a loft, hot tub…..how could I not be optimistic when I’ve got this to look forward to! 
  • Dance parties with my kids to great Canadian singers!
  • Facebook posts that go like this:

Brother: Name that tune sister – “We all wanna be big, big stars”
Sister: “But we don’t know why”
Me: “And we don’t know how”

  • The tune was Mr. Jones by the Counting Crows – one of mine & my sisters favourite bands and just one more reason why I love my crazy family!
  • Being called into a kid’s bedroom after bedtime, feeling frustrated & annoyed, “why won’t they just shut up & go to sleep?!” is exactly what’s going through my head until I hear this, “I just wanted one more hug goodnight.” And then through the wall the other kid (not to be left out) requests an extra kiss. No Debbie Downer can survive moments like this!

Happy Monday everyone! Find something that makes you happy, take your good & make it better, share & spread your joy, join the optimism party – it’s what all the cool kids are doing today!!