I Am Beautiful (and you are too)

Yesterday in a big gross cloud of anger, I posted this status:

My daughter came home from school in tears because a few girls called her fat in her swim suit. She loves swimming, and now she has anxiety over it. We talked about all the amazing things her body can do…run, swim, walk, get her to anywhere in the world she wants to go someday. More importantly, all the wonderful traits that make her who she is. Her wit, creative mind, kind sensitive soul, tender heart who loves others, her brilliant problem-solving brain. I’m still so angry about it, yet my anger isn’t at those girls. I’m angry that our society is so shallow. Girls are “more” if they dress a certain way into a single digit sized clothing. Exercise and eating healthy isn’t actually about health at all, it’s the newest fad diet to fit into those skinny jeans. There’s nothing healthy about that mind-set. It’s the unhealthy pursuit of an external ideal that will never be obtained. I’m angry that because a girl’s body type isn’t the standard of what society deems as “perfect”, that a girl feels shame. As she stood there with tears streaming down her face, I had a flashback to my own childhood in the locker room of the swimming pool. A difference of 30 years, yet the very same tears. So I laid awake last night wondering what I personally can do to break this cycle. All I came up with is to raise my daughter to love others. To love her body for all it can do. And I will remind her every damn day that she is a collection of amazing strengths that has nothing to do with her clothing size. I will be conscious of how my thoughts and actions will positively or negatively impact her self-esteem. And I will be so very proactive to build her up and build up those around me. “All we need is love”….well maybe that’s a bit naive, but what we DO need more of in this world along with love is empathy, understanding, and a lot more depth.

On behalf of my daughter, I received many messages of love, support, and relatable stories as a result. This issue is one we can all relate to, either because we have dealt with it as a parent or because we’ve been shamed by another who ridiculed some aspect of who we are.

When my daughter came home from school, I met her at the door with this little poster and then the kids and I went to jump on trampolines at the indoor trampoline park because nothing is more fun than bouncing into a big pit of foamy things.

Tessa is beautiful

After much (too much) thought, I realized something. I’ve repeated the “You are beautiful” mantra to my daughter yet I have an extremely hard time looking into the mirror and thinking that I am beautiful too.

Let me explain…I’ve been thinking about my beauty in an aesthetic sense. I’ve focussed on my outward appearance and I pick apart all the flaws I see on my body. Yet when I think about the beauty of my children, all I see is who they are as a whole. All of them. Their mind, soul, body, every little fibre of their being. I love it all to bits. I think every molecule of their being is beautiful.

Yet I’ve looked at my reflection with shallow eyes. Who I am has nothing to do with the shape of my body.

So today, and in the days ahead, I will look within and open my eyes to see beyond my outer.

How can I expect my daughter to believe she is beautiful if I secretly don’t believe that I am beautiful? I would never say that out loud, but I think it at times. We are what we think. Self-love is as important for us Moms as it is for our children.

I am beautiful. Perfectly imperfect.

Repeat.

And I hope when you look in the mirror today, you see someone who is ridiculously beautiful.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

More than a Mom

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned when I became a Mom, didn’t happen until many years as a Mom. And it’s this: I am more than a Mom.

Let me try to articulate the jumbled thoughts that have evolved with each passing year as my kids get older…

When my son was born, I dove head first into a world I knew little about. I had no idea that I would lay awake at night riddled with Mom guilt over all the things I could have done better. Those first years of motherhood, I believed I had joined a culture of supportive women where the price of admission was simply being a Mom. What I’ve learned through various experiences is that women can be very hard on other women as soon as they join that mommy culture.

I quickly learned that truth night 2 of being a Mom. I was 20 when my first son was born, although I don’t remember feeling “too young” for the role. Looking back at it now, I was very naive about so much. I have a very vivid memory of a nurse telling me so. I felt inadequate within 48 hrs. ha!

There’s always debates within the Mom world about Should’s and Shouldn’ts…

You should breast feed, practice attachment parenting, read up on all the newest parenting trends, put the kids in daycare, enrol them in 2 years of play school, etc. insert should here.

You shouldn’t work full-time, go on vacations without the kids, allow them to play video games, be a stay-at-home Mom, etc. insert shouldn’t here.

Don’t should on me! We are all trying our very best to raise our children, and we all have very different ideas and values on the best way to do that. Us Moms need to support other Moms with empathy and understanding. Because this role is hard! We have enough Mom-guilt as is without another Mom throwing a should in our faces or pointing out our inadequacies. Let’s point out one another’s strengths and learn from other Moms.

I had a moment not long ago of greater understanding on what it means to be a Mom thanks to my own Mom’s influence. I have always looked at my Mom as….well….a Mom for obvious reasons; however, now that I’ve grown along with my children, I realize my Mom is a complex woman as we all are. She’s more than a Mom.

We grow right along with our children.

The idea that a woman’s wants/needs, body-image, ideas, need for autonomy, hunger for self-growth, desire for more knowledge, and wish for fun in her life should somehow magically melt away the moment a baby is placed in her arms is ridiculous.

Not that long ago, I had a conversation with an Older gentleman at the gym and I mentioned I had three kids. “You don’t look like you have kids” he replied. And while I didn’t take that as an insult, it did make me think about what it “looks” like to be a Mom.  Do we have a dress code? Is my awkward sway-dancing (which is a watered-down version of real dance done in a public place even though the music streaming in my ear holes makes me want to break out in full awkward dance) between sets un-Motherly? Is there a tone of subdued voice I should sport? Am I too advanced in Mom years to wear double pony tails while I workout? Is my ACDC shirt not very Mom-like? Perhaps the slippage of the F-bomb is definitely un-motherly (I’m working on that). I dunno.

What I’ve learned as I’ve aged is that my mind hasn’t aged at all. Yes I’ve grown in wisdom through life experiences, but in my mind I’m still youthful. I hope I will always feel that way. And I hope my daughter doesn’t look at me and believe her hopes and dreams have to be sacrificed the moment she becomes a Mom. That’s if she chooses to become a Mom. The fact us Moms make sacrifices, goes without saying. Of course we do, so do Dads.

Moms…I’m sure we’ve all been in venues where other Moms were harsh in their judgments of our choices. Hell, I’ve done it myself, much to my disappointment. It’s a flaw that I’m even more aware of as I raise my children to be independent, kind, understanding people. There is so much power in love, understanding and support. Let’s give one another a break. We are Women doing our best to be Moms. But we are still youthful women within, no matter what our age.

I’m pretty thankful that I’m surrounded by the support of some amazing (and hilarious, fun-loving) women. I wish I had photos of all the amazing women in my life, a project for this year!

IMG_6698 IMG_6966 IMG_7202  IMG_4933 web sekyd12-114 web Mini PoolIMG_7811 IMG_7824 IMG_7842 sekyd13-005 web sekyd13-007 webIMG_8582My family

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Be Amazing

Sometimes life force feeds me lessons, and lately 2 words have popped up around me.

Be Amazing

Be Amazing

So what does it mean to “Be Amazing”?

Here’s what it boils down to for me. Amazing lives within effort.

An Olympic athlete is amazing, and so is that person living with depression who doesn’t want to get out of bed every day, but they do anyway.

That buffed, toned picture of athleticism at the gym is amazing, but so is that man who walks laps of the walking track with the assistance of a cane because he’s recovering from the debilitating physical ailments due to a stroke.

That Pediatrician who volunteers time in a third world country is amazing, and so is that girl who fights her addictions everyday and stays clean not just for herself but for her children.

The recipient of a Pulitzer Prize is amazing, and so is that teenage girl who pours her heart into her diary rather than suppress her emotions.

That super Mom mega-volunteer at school who juggles it all with a smile is amazing, and so is the Mom who forgets bake sale because she works two jobs just to put food on the table.

That Dad who brings in a six figure salary and works endless hours is amazing, and so is the single Dad who cheers his heart out from the bleachers while watching his kids play hockey.

The woman who eats clean and ensures her family eats clean too is amazing, and so is the woman who goes to bed early so she doesn’t binge on the couch.

There is amazing in everyone.

Amazing is doing more than the body feels is comfortable.

Amazing is fighting our demons.

Amazing is being different in a world that pushes conformity.

Amazing is accepting that which we don’t understand and celebrating differences.

Amazing is forgiving when every cell in our body wants to hold onto anger.

Amazing is loving others and putting other’s needs before our own.

Amazing lives within action and it lives within thoughts as well.

Amazing is trying when fear tells us not to because we’ll fail.

And yes amazing just might be getting out of bed when we want to live in the comfort of darkness.

And a little Amazing (put on repeat) will grow into a ridiculous amount of Amazing.

So what’s your amazing? Be that today.

May your day be ridiculously amazing (just like you),

Christine

A Few Rules for Happiness

We laid Grandma to rest this week. It was an emotional week as we said good-bye to an amazing woman of strength and faith.  At her funeral, my Cousins and Aunts paid tribute with stories and memories. The central theme was that she left an incredible legacy.

This week I’ve really been thinking about the legacy she’s left and what it all means. There was a specific trait I greatly admired about Grandma, which also lives within my Aunt Elda.

Happiness

As the winter blues settle into my heart, this idea of true happiness is one I’ve decided to focus on with Grandma and Aunt Elda as my guide. Both of these amazing woman have been through hardship I will never experience. Grandma was a child who lived through the depression. I am a child of privilege in that I’ve always lived with a fully stocked fridge, a warm home to call my own, and I never had a living need that I wasn’t able to obtain. My children are also privileged in this regard. So how do I live in gratitude when I’ve never had to worry about the necessities of life? Food, clothing, a warm home.

Bare with me as I muddle through hours of thought on this topic. My sister-in-law Mel takes care of my Aunt Elda as she recovers from health issues. She told me that since Aunt Elda has joined the wing, the mood of the other residents has improved. Her positivity and uplifting spirit has spread to those around her.

Rules for Happiness I learned from my Grandma and Aunt Elda

Focus on the Good

Even though they have both lived through times of extreme adversity, they never dwell(ed) on it. Live in the present with a grateful heart. Focus on the good, and leave the bad where it belongs, in the past.

Give, Give, Give

Give of your talents, time, support, and encouragement. Always give more than you take. When you focus on uplifting others, your heart can’t help but be uplifted as well.

Faith

Both my Aunt Elda and my Grandma lived for God. Their faith was unwavering. They gave their troubles and burdens to prayer and left it in God’s hands.

Acceptance without Conditions

No judgments, just unconditional love without conditions. One shouldn’t have to worry about conditions placed on love. When you know your friends and family love you no matter what…through the good, the bad, and the ugly, you have the freedom to be authentic. If you expect this gift from your loved ones, one needs to love without condition too! It goes both ways.

Encourage

Live to encourage others. Always look for the good. If you feel something positive about another person, tell them! With encouragement comes the gift of courage to another, and that’s priceless.

Live Simply

This is a big one for me, I get loaded down with clutter sometimes. “Stuff” means little, fill your home with love and purge anything that doesn’t bring your heart peace and love.

Music

This one brings me happiness daily. Crank the music that makes you feel something. Even the music that allows you to process the trials in life. It’s therapeutic.

This song is playing in the background while I write this, haunting and beautiful all at the same time:

Read

Yes read! Read to broaden your mind, your dreams, your vocabulary. Read to escape. Read to feel. Read to move on. Read to laugh. Just read.

Focus on Family

There is nothing more important in life than family. Make it your focus. Focus on strengthening your relationships which transcends beyond the everyday small talk. Share, communicate, eat meals together. Focus on quality time, even if it’s a few minutes over a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. Focus on family traditions and build new ones.

Ask Questions and then Listen

The art of conversation is lost in this digital age. We communicate through text, facebook, messages, email. One thing I’ve always appreciated about these incredible women in my family, is they asked questions about my life. They held my gaze as we talked, and they truly listened. They are/were genuinely invested. When they asked “how are you?” they sincerely wanted to know details.

Empathy

To live with empathy for the needs of others is to live in love and connection.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. –Leo Buscaglia

Community

Community resonates within the casserole you take to someone in need, lending a hand when someone falls, helping with the harvest, paying it forward to a stranger, a note of encouragement, a coffee delivery, volunteering your time. Coming together for a common interest to bring a little more love to this world.

Sincere Appreciation

What do you appreciate about those you love? Now go tell them, show them how much you appreciate them. The very way they show you how they appreciate you can be given back through action in return. I read the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. If you haven’t read it, read it. It has changed the way I understand others. We all show love in different ways. In his book, Gary Chapman breaks it down into 5 love languages.

Words of Affirmation

Act of Service

Receiving Gifts

Quality Time

Physical Touch

Now the way you show love to others, may not be recognized as love because they show love in a different way. If you understand how your loved ones perceive and show love, you can then communicate love in their love language and vice versa. We are selfish creatures thinking about ourselves, and wonder why others don’t get us. We are just talking different languages is all.

Drop Expectations

When you expect something from another person, you will always be let down. If we were to drop the expectations we place on others, wouldn’t that be freeing?! Gone are the guilt trips, and feelings of being let down.

Stay Active!

Get outside! Travel, walk, play, visit, participate, join clubs.

Just. Stay. Active.

An active mind, body, and heart keeps you young!

Laugh

Laughter is healing. Laugh everyday. Make others laugh. Share your embarrassing stories! It can feel vulnerable to share your embarrassing life moments, but it allows others the freedom to do the same. Awkward life moments are funny. They just are.

Oh and Jim Gaffigan…

I know I will add to this list as time goes on. If I can take even a little wisdom from these women, my life will be richer and happier for it.

I’ll leave you with one more song, just because Music is so good for the soul.

Aunt Elda
Aunt Elda
Grandma
Grandma

From my happy heart to yours,

Christine

The Best Era of Our Lives

I’ve been thinking about how to live in gratitude lately, and I’ve changed how I think about it.

Living in gratitude has been this elusive state I’ve tried to live within, but there’s always something that throws me off and I think
“well I can’t be grateful for this  ___insert hard life stuff here___
Little by little over time I realize I’m not living with a grateful heart at all.

Today, I was watching Krysta Scoggins’ music video for “I Miss You”…

Watching the story within that video made me realize that we never know in life when we are living in “the best time of our lives” until something changes. Then we look back and think “if only I knew then to enjoy that time and not let it pass so quickly. I wish I had been aware of how blessed I was then”  However, we don’t fully comprehend that until something hard happens and a shift/change in life occurs. Then we start living in a new normal with new blessings to discover down the road. Living in gratitude doesn’t mean life is perfect. Life is shaped by blessings and trials and it’s the trials that make us appreciate the good times.

So I got to thinking, that every time I grumble or moan about some area of my life that’s hard to deal with, instead I’m going to remember that this full-of-life busy home family life, this healthy body that allows me to run and train, this fun chapter of good times with friends…the very stage of my life that is happening Right Now just may be the best era of my life.

If I live in the best era of my life for all of my life, won’t that be something…

From my grateful heart to yours,

Christine

I Invited the Past to my Supper Table

I’ve started re-reading “Women Food and God” by Geneen Roth. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.

As I was thinking about the chapter I just read, I had a pretty major ah-ha moment.  When I was growing up on the farm, we often ate our meals around the harvest schedule (and often off the tail-gate of the truck in the field). For some reason, I remember rushing to eat…often. I was also told I should eat every bite on my plate and if I did, I was praised.

Even today, my mind believes I should eat quickly and to finish every single bite. This isn’t working for me!  Because I’m eating too quickly, my mind can’t catch up to my stomach signalling when I’m full.  I’m learning…again…to eat slowly and with intention.

I’m not writing this post to place blame on my hard-working Mom for my eating habits! I’m writing this post because today I realized I do the same thing to my own kids! I rush their meals because I’m done so quickly. I could be making meal time an opportunity to visit and become more connected as a family, yet I’m rushing the process from eating to clean up.  I also encourage my kids to eat everything on their plates, rather than asking that they eat until they are full. Hmmmm, in the words of my Dad “Holy Doodle”.  I’m going to change this.

And because no post is complete without some sort of visual, here’s my kids serenading me while I cooked supper…

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Just another life lesson that sneaks up and bites me in the nose…

From my heart to yours,

Christine

How My Little Girl Taught me a Lesson in Love

I found this ‘lil gem in the bottom of my daughter’s backpack.

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It says…

I like Me (by Tessa)

I like my mouth, it helps me to eat.

I also like my eyes, it helps me to see.

I like my legs, it helps me swim.

I like my hands, it helps me fish.

I like my knees, it helps me move.

I teared up while reading it because I adore how she thinks. She’s loving her sweet little self for all the ways her body allows her to do the things she loves.

It also reminds me of the importance of being the example of a woman who loves herself because I am the woman she sees every day and looks up to. I want…no I need her to carry on this positive mind-set as she grows up.

A while back, I asked my facebook friends a question on my status: Would it concern you if you gave your child a compliment and they returned your compliment with a flippant self-deprecatory remark?

Of course it would concern me, I would be shocked my son or daughter didn’t understand what a remarkable human being they are! Yet, in thinking about it, the reason I asked that questions is because I do that often when someone pays me a compliment. More often than not, I will respond with some sort of remark that depreciates the compliment they just gave me. To be the example of self-love for my children, I need to reply in the very way that I would expect them to reply. Think about it, how do you handle compliments? Our children are always learning from our actions.

Raising my kids with healthy self-esteems starts with me! I need to prove through my actions that I love myself. I need to respect and appreciate my body for all the activities I have the freedom to do because I have my health. It’s not about aesthetics, the outside, the packaging. My focus can not be on that, I have to show through my actions why this way of life is so important to the quality of my life. It’s about showing love to the body I’ve been given, it’s not a “diet” or a number on a scale or a size of clothing.

I want to teach my children these simple truths and to do that, I need to back up my words with actions:

  • Regular exercise and eating healthy, natural, whole foods full of colour & nutrients are ways you show love and respect to your body. It’s like putting premium fuel into your car. Living a healthy lifestyle is the key to vitality! We are only given one body, treat it well.
  • Happiness is found through purpose. You need a purpose that enriches and fuels your heart with passion. Where there is passion, there is happiness.
  • Life is all about balance! If you seek a life of balance between work/play, friends/family, solitude/companionship, indulgence/moderation…you will find inner peace. Embrace the Yin/Yang! There will always be times in your life when you are pulled too much in one direction. No big deal, just redirect yourself.
  • Focus on how you feel. If you are making positive life changes to better yourself or your circumstances so that you grow and move forward, don’t be discouraged if the results aren’t coming as fast as you would like them. Soak up how these positive changes make you feel. There is great success when you feel pride. That makes you successful with every positive step you take.
  • Surround yourself with good people who lift you up, support you, and make you laugh! To attract quality people and authentic friendships to your life, you have to be that exact friend to others. Positive out, positive in (positive out comes first). Just be authentic, then you will get to know people who are the same level of “weird” as you are. 😉
  • Lighten up! We are designed to laugh, love, share, support, encourage, learn, move! Focus on the good stuff, the happy stuff, the stuff that makes your heart skip a beat with joy. Because life is supposed to be fun! Look at kids for example, they are happy little people! Somewhere along the line, we adults take life too seriously. I hope to always be young at heart. 🙂

So the next time someone pays you a compliment, simply say Thank You. Take that compliment as it was intended, to lift you up and to remind you that you are one incredible human being who is well-loved. Spread the love, lift up another with sincere appreciation. Let’s show our kids what it is to love ourselves a ridiculous amount (just as much as our friends & family love us) because when you truly love yourself, you value yourself far too much to make silly choices. And THAT’S what I want for my children.

From my heart to yours,

Christine