Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nimans go Nassau

Yesterday, the Mister and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary quite epically: We began the day with waffles, omelets and fresh fruits, moseyed on over to the Caribbean waters for a dip, dried off under the sun while we read, boarded a bus driven by an ad-hoc philosopher and marriage counsellor, snorkeled a coral reef and a shipwreck, got all dolled up for a romantic dinner and ate cake brought to our room. It was one for the books.

With the help of our fearless parents rotating through our household minding the girls, we have been able to run away together, just Rich and I. I miss them, sometimes a lot, but I am so happy to be here. I am perpetually grateful, present, appreciative and pleased. The days are slow, but are going by quickly. I have been fitting in yoga and meditation practice on my own, and am on a continuous, week-long date with my love. I commonly forget which day it is, rarely have any idea what time it is, and have no obligations: someone makes my food, cleans my room, and is ready to answer to my every need. It is a true vacation.

We have seen some amazing things, had great talks, learned a lot, and have returned to a place where we need only consider each other. And that's good practice. Often in our lives at home, we come as afterthoughts. We are the foundation, the alpha, the beginning from whence everything else flows. Stripped down to its essence, I am seeing our relationship through fresh eyes as we go forward together into the next phase.

We waded into the sea in front of our hotel this morning and saw two sea turtles, bobbing about, curious as to what we were doing today. They were so close, I could have touched them. The staff here told me it is quite rare to see them come in so close to shore when they are not preparing to lay eggs (they are not this time of year). I am taking this as a sign to remind me how very blessed I am, and to be open to seeing the beauty that's all around me, as long as I look for it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Approaching limits

Operation: Back Strengthening is a go. I confronted the truth that I have not been challenging myself much in my yoga practice, so now I am working on really working those shoulder and back muscles. I set some goals, like performing arm balances and leaning into the hard stuff. My body's done some pretty amazing things, so maybe now it's time I enact a long-term maintenance plan in return. As with anything, I keep my yoga practice respectful of my limits, I just think now is a good time to approach and test those limits rather than shy from them. In case you were interested.

I like to laugh at myself, and I am well aware that I am gliding nicely towards the stereotype of the 30-ish white middle class woman who does yoga. It really means something to me, though, my practice. Beyond the benefits of it being a convenient at-home workout that tones and strengthens gently, it has become more for me. It has become a foundation for self-acceptance and self-love, for peace and calm, for finding the divine within myself and then seeing it everywhere else. 

I have been feeling pretty introspective, if that hasn't been clear. Quiet around this blog space, not picking up my camera as often. Slowing down my schedule, listening more. So that's where things lie with me right now. They are quiet, as I test my body's strength, listen to my inner voice, and find the answer to the question, 'what's next?"

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Put your back into it

Sometimes, when you pay attention, you can hear the universe laughing at you. As in, "Oh? You made life plans? You call yourself flexible? Well, let's just see." I've had this happen a lot, and when the sting wears off, I usually agree with how infinitesimally small I am and soldier onward. 

This week, the universe laughed in a ha-ha kind of way. I recently finished working on a story about the prevalence of spinal injuries among parents, how carrying, hoisting and lifting children improperly leaves us vulnerable to slipped discs, muscle strain, sore necks, a whole bevy of ailments. I took notes during my interviews, eagerly amassing all of this free information from field experts. I vowed to sit straighter, lift from my knees, et cetera et cetera. Fast forward to yesterday and not 20 minutes into the morning did I lift Summer improperly, and my whole left side seized up. 

I have been heat padding, doing gentle yoga, moving carefully and popping anti-inflammatories. Massage tomorrow night with the best massage therapist ever who squeezed me in, doctor's appointment this morning with three toddlers in tow. I couldn't bear to wear Summer on my back during the walk to and from school, so I let her walk to the beat of her own drum, so to speak. She loves the freedom. 

The doctor suggested I rest my back until the spasms stop, and promptly laughed at her own advice, seeing the tornado of toddler tearing around her office that would be coming home with me. I am moving a little like a pregnant lady, but already feel better with some heat, stretching and Advil. Maybe I should take the doc up on her advice, and run away to a beach for a week though, without the kids, just to be on the safe side. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On boredom

I have a memory of a summer afternoon, likely between grades eight and nine or thereabouts, of being bored. Nothing to watch on TV, friends all on vacation or visiting relatives or otherwise busy. No money to do anything with, my siblings were otherwise occupied. I was wrapped up in my own melodrama of expectation, willing something exciting to happen, not yet understanding how precious a gift I had: time. Free time.

These days, I don't speak the language of boredom. If this blog wasn't evidence enough on its own, then a quick look through my camera's memory card will show you. The subject of many pictures is often blurred, moving too quickly even for a split-second shutter to capture. When I do find a moment, I refer to my mental lists: house things to do, writing tasks, yoga, corresponding, making food. Things I should be doing. I hardly remember what it is to feel boredom.

If ever I do, I am confidently armed. I carry the sword of curiosity and the shield of responsibility against the foe, boredom. No one else's job includes keeping me entertained, occupied, engaged. I am in a privileged position of living without fear of imminent threat or death, the world is certainly my oyster.

Because there is no excuse for boredom. No reason to throw up one's hands and declare there is nothing to do. And when despair, sadness, lethargy or depression darken curiosity's spark, I offer these words from poet Mary Oliver:

"I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you're in it all the same.
So why not get started immediately.
I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.
And to write music or poems about."

Good night.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Freaky Friday

I helped out in Abby's class Friday afternoon for their Halloween party, kicking off the spooky holiday. It was borderline Lord of the Flies. Hordes of kindergartners hopped up on sugar, the end of the week, dancing, singing karaoke to Let it Go, offending each other with smears of boogies wiped on shirts. It was crazy town. It was also a super funny way to rev up to trick-or-treating, and be thankful I only have four kids, and not 27.

Abby owned Halloween this year. She took command of her costume (zombie princess) and discussed what things would and would not scare her well in advance of trick-or-treating. I loved seeing her process the scary parts of Halloween and decide for herself what she could handle.

Hailey went as the Paperbag Princess, with Robin as her dragon. They loved wearing costumes, and following their big sister from house to house. I loved watching their faces, seeing them connect the dots that yes, they were getting candy and yes, it was theirs. They didn't last long, and we all went home and enjoyed a candy free-for-all, a major departure from our typically healthy eating style. 

Summer wore our Nemo costume, and surprised me by being really into trick-or-treating as well. She got it, and enjoyed hamming up the cuteness for the neighbours. That kid knows how to make people eat out of the palm of her hand. 

Rich and I went as Forrest Gump and Jenny. We watched the movie together a few days before and made a cute little date night of it. I ordered him a Bubba Gump shrimp hat from eBay and borrowed a superb dress and flower crown from my friend Simone's mom. We had so much fun at a killer Halloween party (pun intended) that was way beyond any I've ever attended before. 

I'm kind of glad Halloween is over, because while it is a super fun holiday that I love seeing my kids get way into, it's also kind of an empty holiday, you know? There is no goodness to it, no life lessons (other than don't eat all your treats in one night) and no real moral foundation to it. We had some talks about fear and how to handle scary things, but that's about the depth of it. Today, we took down our spooky decor, did some winterizing out back and returned to our regular scheduled programming.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


What do I always do when I find things beginning to whirl away from me, uncontrollably? I return to what I can control: the atmosphere of my home, the food we eat, the time I set aside for myself and the way I think. The way I feel tries really hard to obstruct the way I think. It is much more indulgent to let myself feel things and react accordingly. That must be what it is like to live like a caricature of an impassioned Italian couple, who can fight animatedly before embracing passionately, wearing their hearts on their sleeves, unapologetic. But, it's not me. 

I sometimes wonder if I am too repetitive in this space, always waxing about the need to simplify, setting priorities, eating nourishing food, trying to be patient. I'm sure if I poured through my journals, it would border on concerning. "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy," could easily be  written, "All yelling and no patience make me a guilty mama." But that refrain keeps repeating itself, a pattern woven through my daily thoughts, intentions and reflective writings. So each day, I pick up the pieces of the one before and start again at this set of goals I may never reach. Eat well, cuddle lots, be patient, do yoga, do what's right, show love always. 

As much as it may be repetitive for you to read, remember: I do this for me. These are my records, my scrapbooks. These are the pages I will always return to when I feel a wave of nostalgia, or to reference what I did and thought the last time I found myself dealing with trouble. I love looking back at time with just Abby, or Hailey and Robin as cherubic babies, or the harried weeks after Summer was born. Each new reading gives me new clues, more clarity as I ask myself the questions, "What should I do now?" and "How did I get here?"

Deep thoughts for a rainy Tuesday afternoon. 

I am trying. Always, I am trying. To be more patient when Summer breaks a plate I really loved. (So long, Beatrix Potter). To stop myself from yelling when there is so much noise around me I can hardly think and no one is listening. To stop reading articles on Jian Ghomeshi when my time would be better used doing yoga or preparing supper ahead of time. To sit and read books over and over with Summer, because she loves it. To lead Hailey and Robin through basic yoga postures named after animals when they clearly need to get some energy out. To let Abby read her own bedtime story aloud, even though it takes longer, because her beaming pride at the story's end is electric. To bite my tongue and accept rich as he is, because he is amazing, and I don't always need to be right. 

We are preparing for Halloween, excitedly. Tomorrow is pumpkin carving and painting. We've done a trial run of the costumes and face paint at a children's Halloween party over the weekend. We still have to get candy to hand out and draw straws to see which one of us stays home to give it out while the other takes the kids out. Abby has been talking over all the scary things she saw last year to build up her courage of what she might encounter this year. 

Rich and I are excited, too. For the first year in many, we get to go out after the more wholesome trick-or-treating fun to a party at a friend's place. Stay tuned for our very Rich-and-Sarah costumes. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fighting Fear

Hi. Hugs. Long, lingering ones with extra squeezes. At least that's how I've been greeting people this week. Though a week has passed, this particular time span is measured differently, to me. 

Last Tuesday was my birthday and we celebrated with a family meal of chip truck poutine and chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake. It was serene and fun and so, so filled of love. I looked back over the next few days and thought if that had been the last we saw of anyone who had been there, it would have been a great send-off. Because the next few days were a lot of looking back, thinking what if, reevaluating.  

The shooting in Ottawa last week was jarring. My reactions have been all over the map. Immediately, we shut out TV and Internet, checked to make sure Rich was OK, and then made work out of staying calm and cultivating love. That was work for me, but the deliberate choice to keep fear out was my saving grace. Setting that intention helped me over the next few days to handle the overwhelming barrage of news reports. I needed, at times, to take it in, see it, read it, understand what my husband's colleagues went through. I watched and read in private and cried. But when it was go time, when the girls woke up and looked to me, I tried to show calmness, cuddles and patience. I thought that was he best antidote to fear.

The little girls have been missing their daddy's presence, but we've kept busy and stuck to routines as best as we could. Abby, my big girl, has been a shrewd observer. She has picked up on my tension, and has asked a lot of questions I have tried my best to answer without feeding her fears. She has been acting out, testing limits, having breakdowns and showing all kinds of signs that she is off-kilter. I sympathize. I've been short too, yelling at the end of the day, shushing little voices that all talk to me at once. We're all a little off, and any noble efforts to be calm and steady are fallible. Abby sees the fault lines and zeroes in. I hope we can be a family again soon, and begin to put our pieces back together as our city does the same.

I usually process things by writing about them, and this week a lot of that has been private. Superfluous thoughts like reminding myself to be graceful and appreciative of help offered from family members. Setting daily intentions. Figuring out if I am scared or worried or angry or whatever else pops up. It has all been a great exercise in keeping things simple. This week, housecleaning is falling by the wayside and I am not interested in committing to much beyond dinner preparation. The efforts to be a good mama, a good role model, and a supportive wife have been more difficult than usual. But that's my defense against the Parliamentary attack this week: making an effort to be my best self in spite of pervasive fear. I have five reasons to make that choice an easy one.

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