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! 
  

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?

 

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.*  

 

Bruce in the Winter

Have you ever done one of those things you’ve ALWAYS wanted to do; something that has been on your wish          list for ages; something you’ve dreamed about?
And then when it finally happens, it’s like magic!

If you’ve never heard of The Bruce, you should most definitely do a google search! It is Canada’s longest & oldest footpath. The main trail is approximately 900 km long (559 miles). There is also about 450 km of off-shoot trails to explore. The scenery is breathtaking – especially along the Niagara Escarpment which is one of only 16 UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves worldwide!

From Niagara to Tobermory!

From Niagara to Tobermory!

By now I’m sure you get it, its fantastic!

Back in the summer it was on my Summer To Do List to hike along the Bruce – it didn’t matter where, just ON the Bruce! It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do and ended up being all I expected and more!  But I wasn’t done with the Bruce. No, not at all! Now I had more plans for us: doing an end-to-end hike of one of the main sections, winter hiking, etc. This past week I got the opportunity to cross one of these off my wish list: Winter Hiking!

The weather was spectacular, the conditions a little icy but manageable, most importantly, the company was great! 

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A few amazing girlfriends from school met up with me in Ancaster, ON. The three of us are scattered around the area so this was kind of a middle point for us to meet. Even better than having them as great company, we also brought our four legged friends! Roxy & Sophie had never met but were instantly friends!

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What do you think of my hat?! I made it myself 🙂

They frolicked & explored, and even swam, while we gabbed and shared stories of our holidays. The kind of great friends who you can go without seeing for weeks, but can pick up right where you left off as if no time has passed at all! 

Hiking the Bruce is in no way an easy feat. We definitely felt a burn in our legs after climbing steep, icy inclines.

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This may not look steep but the picture was taken from halfway up the hill. Only the dogs & I made it up this one. Sliding on my rear end was the only way I managed to get down!

We decided to trek off the beaten path a little for some extra fun & adventure. We conquered hills and fallen trees, and ended up finding the BEST picnic spot!

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These old building ruins are considered to be haunted according to my girlfriends story

It was here, at the top of a steep climb, that the sun seemed to shine it’s brightest. We laid out a blanket and feasted!

 

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My favourite peanut butter wraps with a side of raw veggies, fruit, and the most delicious little donut holes from a local bakery for dessert!

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The last half of our loop was similar to the first, with a few more splashing areas for the dogs.

 

 

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…and a few more steep climbs for us. By the time we reached our starting point 4 hours had passed.

Time flies when your having fun! 

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The arrow might show the way but its our hearts are what take us where we need to go

 

 

 

Taking the Plunge

Be forewarned: I don’ eat protein bars or make shakes. I don’t count calories or weigh my food. I don’t know my BMI or even my weight. I am just your regular, everyday mother trying to live a healthy, active lifestyle and be the best possible version of myself I can be!

After having children my activity level has gone down a few notches. As they do, babies limit your free time but even more than that, they’ve introduced me to a new-ish feeling: guilt. When my kids were younger I was overwhelmed with guilt when I did take time to better myself. There was always this nagging voice listing the things I should be doing for them instead of crunches or running or taking that aerobics class at the gym – or even taking the time to shave my legs in the shower!

I continue to struggle with finding a balance between my own needs and their needs. Everything else (outside of myself) always seemed more important. After years at battle to find this balance, I have finally come to the conclusion: I am important too! 

It has become clear that when I’m happier, my kids are happier. When I’m feeling better about myself, I feel better about everything in my life. And when I’m active, I feel better about myself. Rather than having a vicious circle, I call this my positivity circle!

So, I’ve taken a plunge! I have officially started a 30 Day Challenge!

I’ve challenged myself to be as healthy & active as possible in the next 30 days – and hopefully thereafter as well!  There are some rules of course but I don’t like to think of them as rules – rules were meant for breaking! Instead of rules, I prefer choices. I am not following a premade plan that confines me and my diet, exercise,and overall life. Instead I am choosing to make changes in my daily life that will enable me to reach my overall life goals and be the best possible version of myself I can be.

These choices are as follows:

1. Healthy Eating
2. Active Lifestyle
3. Happy Thinking

All too often I get on a roll and feel fantastic and then I quit. I start exercising, see some results and then stop working at it. It is so frustrating knowing how great I could be, feel, and look if only I’d put in more effort. And then, when this type of thinking seeps in, I start to wallow in self-pity. And then I generally eat a lot of cookies. Suddenly my positivity circle turns into a negative vicious circle: feel bad about self, feel bad about other aspects of my life, be less active, feel worse. Then cranky Momma Bear enters the picture and it’s bad for everyone!

The point of the 30 Day Challenge is to keep me on track and focused. It isn’t about working really hard for 30 days and then going on a binge because “I made it.” No, it’s a lifestyle I’m trying to create, not a temporary fix. For now, this is my challenge, this is my focus, and these are my choices.

Of course there is more to each one of these but this is the gist of it. For further details, click each choice I’ve made. Maybe something will be similar with you, maybe you’d like to join me, maybe you’d like to encourage me (I need a cheering squad!!)

I encourage you to join me, make choices of your own to change your life and become the best possible you!

A Confession

When it comes to food, sometimes I have no control. None whatsoever. Buffets, pot lucks, all-you-can-eats – they scare me! I have a very strong Type A personality and so to not be in control is not a welcome feeling for me.

The Perfect Example: The annual End of Summer Family Pot Luck & Party.

This happened back in August. I planned ahead, did a very intense workout first thing that morning – I thought that if I could feel my abs burning at the party I’d be less likely to splurge – and I even prepared a delicious spinach & veggie salad as my contribution. Everything was going accordingly until it came time for desserts.

Lets backtrack for a moment. I should explain a few things. I don’t have a diagnosable eating disorder and I don’t have problems with hunger/full cues. I know exactly when I’m hungry, when I’m not, and when I’m full. I also know exactly when I’ve had too much but am not going to stop going back for more! It definitely counts as Binge Eating!

Sometimes it’s emotional related and sometimes it’s simply because something tastes so darn good. I avoid buying the ingredients to bake cookies because I don’t trust myself with them in the house – especially when there is also ice cream because then I combine the two into an awesome ice cream sammie…drool!! When I was young I’d open a bag of chips and not stop until they were gone. I’d mindlessly eat until suddenly I’d realize the bag was empty. Immediately I’d feel guilt, shame, anger, fat, just to name a few. It was a lack of control plain & simple. It was an unhealthy habit that needed to go!

Back to the summer party… It was fantastic spending time with my extended family I hardly ever see! Even better, my Aunt & Uncle who were hosting the party live right near the beach so there were plenty of activities to partake in – which creates a diversion from all the chips & dips people brought! When it came time for dinner I was pleased with myself: a hamburger and the rest of my plate loaded with salad & veggies. That is what I call balance: a bit of what I want with a bit of what I need!

Of course my cousin brought her delicious chocolate chip cookies and although I did manage to stick to only one, that got my sweet tooth going. I don’t generally have a problem with sweets but when they are home-made they are just so darn good! I went back to the food table and grabbed a cupcake. Really that wouldn’t be a big deal, I’d say a cupcake isn’t a crime. In fact, I’d say a cupcake is essential to happy/healthy living for me! But two is too much. And three is criminal. I had three and I will admit it was tough to restrain myself from going back for a fourth :(

It is shocking for most people to hear this about me because of how I typically eat. I hardly go back for seconds, small meals fill me up, and I am quite petite. When I told my boyfriend I ate 3 cupcakes he flat-out didn’t believe me.  I didn’t bother telling him I’d gotten a TimBit to go with my coffee on the drive home!

I do think I’ve come a long way from the eat-the-whole-bag kind of chip eater I once was to who I am now. 9 times out of 10 I’m in control of my eating but every once in a while I slip up. It is a work in progress and I’m not giving up.

The BEST Monday

Who knew a Monday could be so fantastic?!! Especially the Monday we all (in this household) go back to school! A new term, a new year, a new week, new beginnings!

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A friend from my home town has started a fresh page in her life. She’s taken on a challenge to eat healthier, exercise more, and create change in her life. She isn’t a gym rat or body builder, she is just a regular, everyday mother of two (adorable!) kids who has decided to grab life by the horns and make it what she wants it to be! Her enthusiasm and passion has definitely motivated me this past week! She’s the reason I worked out today! She’s created a new blog too!! Today’s post: taking the lemons life throws at you and making lemonade! Sure, it’s been said by many before but she says it so well! I strongly urge you all to check out her blog, Change Starts Here, for a dose of motivation & inspiration!

But that’s not all the awesomeness that happened today!!

Was it ever a great day in the blogosphere! Yet another new beginning over at a blog I absolutely love: The Best Life. She has collaborated with others to start Project Optimism and I am so in! What better day of the week than a Monday to force yourself to be happy and optimistic! Jump on over to her blog and grab yourself a badge for your sidebar – join the movement and be happy!

There was even more awesomeness in my day….

The rest of the awesomeness of today will have to be shared in the form of bullet points – remember, I said school is back in and I’ve already got a ridiculously long To Do list to dive into!! So here’s a few last tid bits of why today was the best Monday:

  • Kids woke up without a fuss for their first day back to school and were ready so quickly we had enough time to walk to school! Of course we took our favourite pooch with us and she absolutely loved the romp through the woods her & I had on the way home. We took the long way and enjoyed the scenery!
  • NEW BOOKS! This one really excites me!! Partly because I found most of my textbooks used therefore easing the dent in my bank account but mostly because they’re NEW BOOKS! It is so exciting having new books (even if they’re textbooks!). I love opening the cover for the first time, it’s like entering a whole new world full of possibilities and opportunities and things to learn! Turning the pages for the first time is like nothing else.
  • A Social Psychology course I’m taking requires me to do at least one book report or up to three reports. The books sound brilliant and I’ve already ordered them all from the local library (take that over-priced University bookstore!). I even got one of the books in audio version for all the long drives I do! I love new books!
  • Yoga is back! That’s right, my daily yoga is back in full force! On top of my own yoga routine this morning I even enjoyed a yoga session with my daughter – who just can’t understand why I am not able to do inversions or put my knees behind my head! She is amazingly flexible and loves yoga. It is a great way for her to burn off some of her endless energy and thanks to YouTube we’ve got an endless amount of videos to follow along with!

The grand finale to my wonderful day was something I haven’t done in ages! It incorporated some of the things I love most in this world:

  • My kids
  • Movement and physical activity
  • No rules, no right or wrong way of doing it
  • No judgements or criticisms
  • An added element of Canadian-ism….

Take this song, press repeat, insert myself & my munchkins, and what do you get….dance party! It is absolutely impossible to NOT be in a fantastic mood after spending 17 blissful minutes bouncing & bopping to this fantastic song by an amazing Canadian artist!

Hope your Monday’s were just as swell as mine! Now I’m off to burying my nose in one of those new books and sip on a vanilla cinnamon herbal tea – seriously this day just keeps getting better & better!!