Thursday, July 30, 2015

The question I will ask myself every morning

Hello, friends! It's stinking hot in Toronto and me and the girls are protesting. We are taking a stand against the heat the only way we know how: splash pads and air conditioned museums. Some of you may be delighting in these hot days but we suffer, and we don't suffer quietly. 

Despite the soaring temperatures and constant sweaty heads, I am feeling a burst of energy! (So much energy that this morning I have vacuumed the house, washed the kitchen floors by hand, and baked cookies. Someone stop me.) I've been feeling unsettled lately, but today things feel different. Another Day One, of sorts. I've been doing a lot of thinking these past few days, the good kind, even though I didn't always realize it at the time. My thoughts have been preoccupied with change, or more to the point, why it has been so difficult to make changes in my own life. There comes a point when you can only consider change so much and then you actually just need to do it. 

I struggle with the doing it part.

I want to be honest here, because this is why I'm here, and I hope that's why you're here, too. While so many very good things are happening in my life, I'm struggling. I feel like I'm sitting in the middle of this gift that is my life but I just can't seem to grab a hold of it with both hands. At the same time I'm feeling really self-involved (or one could call it self-obsessed) and it is beginning to irritate me. I'm irritating me. I'm all self-talk and no action. 

Have you ever been in this space? How have you pushed through to act on your goals?

So far I've just given in, crumbled under the permission I give myself to stay the same. I have told myself that this is hard and I just can't do it. But I can do it. I can do hard things

I'm embarrassed at how difficult it has been to make changes I want so very much. But no more. Change is hard. Doing hard things is hard. I'm coming to realize that I need to change my perspective, shake things up a bit, in order to make these first steps that I so desperately need. Today this means that I will use my new found energy to say yes to things that are good for me. Yes to being a nonsmoker. Yes to moving my body. Yes to forgiving myself for past decisions. Because if I can only say no to things, if all I can think is about the negative, things aren't going to go anywhere. Who wants to say no when saying yes is so much more fun?

If I am going to change, I have to just start moving forward. One foot in front of the other. Every day I am going to wake up and ask myself what I am going to do that day to make a positive change. Will I take a yoga class? Prepare some delicious food? Go to bed extra early that night? Just breathe? Maybe just one, maybe all of the above. I'll report back tomorrow.

If you woke up tomorrow and asked yourself what you were going to do that day to make a positive change, what would it be?

With love and encouragement.
Be well!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What I'm reading this summer

I don't mean to brag, but I've got lots of time to read right now. Don't get me wrong, life still feels a bit chaotic between being home with the girlies over the summer and teaching my course, but at the end of the day I can read. No papers to write about childbirth, reproductive organs, or labour support. No births to run out to. I can open an actual book and just read.

I wanted to share with you what I'm reading this summer, you know, in case you were looking for suggestions.

Stir by Jessica Fechtor

I've already completely devoured this book and I think you should, too. Jessica writes Sweet Amandine, a food blog I've loved for years. We've met online a few times so I'm going to call her my friend, mostly because I'm so proud and excited about her beautiful book. It's a memoir about the time in her life when her brain broke (I think the technical term is a brain aneurysm) and how she slowly healed with the help of food. Not just in the way you might think. She certainly needed to eat nourishing food to return to a state of health, but healing also came through all those wonderful things that are tied up so closely with the food we eat--memories, feelings, hopes, delight, and the anticipation that comes from creating with food to share with others. Jessica was fed in so many different ways in the years that followed her aneurysm. There were so many passages I wanted to highlight and pages I wanted to dog-ear, but sadly my copy was from the public library. This will be remedied shortly as I need to own this book. Did I mention it's also filled with recipes?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I chose this for the first meeting of our book club and then promptly forgot to read it. By the time we were set to get together for our first meeting I had read only 300 pages. Ordinarily reading that many pages would suggest that I'd finished a book, but no, not this one, because it pushes well beyond 700. But I'm not giving up! So far I'm enjoying the writing, though it's a bit sad (orphaned children will do that to you). I'll check back in once I'm actually done the book. Sometime in October.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeannette Winterson

I'm swooning over memoirs this summer and I'm excited to read this one. I remember back in university when a good friend bought me Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, and I fell hard for Jeannette Winterson, only promptly to forget about her until I saw her memoir on a list of books to read somewhere on the internet. (I can't for the life of me remember where. You're welcome.) I think I'm drawn to good memoirs for the kind of storytelling that makes me imagine that I could do things differently in my own life. Motivation, inspiration, sometimes a kick in the pants to wake up and see my life with new eyes, these are memoirs for me. 

I'm just going to assume that you've seen Brene Brown's TED talk that went viral a couple of years ago. Just in case you were hiding under a rock, you can find it here. Brown studies shame and wholeheartedness (the opposite of shame). I read this book two years ago but I need a reminder to let go of shame as I'm trying so hard to make big changes in my life. I feel such shame when I stumble around trying to create better habits and to live intentionally (it's all part of being exceedingly hard on myself). This book brings makes me feel all the feelings.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Just go read this book. She's sharp, thoughtful, and hilarious. I adore how she shares her own version of the writing process and how she doesn't put herself down to be funny. I've only read the first two chapters and it's already one of my all-time favourites. I'm convinced we would be best friends, which isn't creepy at all.

This book isn't pictured above because I started reading it on my trip to Vancouver and like a dork left it in my sister's room. It is such a great book I made them mail it back to me in Toronto so I can finish it. Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a young black woman in Maryland who unknowingly donated some of her cancerous cells before she died (they were taken without her consent). And why do we care about her cells? Because these cells, called HELA cells now, are still living and growing today, being used by researchers all over the world to develop vaccines and cure diseases. No biggie. Skloot introduces the world to the woman behind the cells and tells many people's stories in the process.

What are you reading this summer?

Be well!

Monday, July 27, 2015

It's Monday!

It's Monday again! Every week, just like that. I'll be the first to admit that I'd like to skip Monday this week. I have so much to do this week that I'd rather still be in last week, where I just drank iced tea, at ice cream, wandered between parks, and got a haircut. Nevertheless, Monday is here and there are to do lists to be made.

This week:
  • Grade roughly one billion papers (give or take).
  • I promised the girlies that I'd install some wall lamps next to their bunk beds. 
  • Did I mention the grading?
  • Doing everything possible to avoid the extreme Toronto heat this week. Tonight we are going to my mum's (with her central air conditioning) and I expect we will be parked at various splash pads over the next few days. 
  • Starting a new blogging course on Wednesday!
  • Planning for a few upcoming posts, including my thoughts on my goal to eat more nourishing food, and why it's so hard to make changes.
What does your week look like? If any of you have a pool and wanted to invite us over, I would not complain.

Be well!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Things that made me hapy this week

 F Scott Fitsgerald

This post on productivity is based on the author's experience writing a book, but I think it applies to almost any goal. Things like anticipating obstacles, surrounding yourself with people you can lean on, and working slow would benefit any project, health goals included.

I had a few people ask me about writing lately, like how I often I write and where I find the time. My secret is that I miss bedtimes with the girlies most nights. I sneak out of the house to the closest coffee shop and grade papers (for the class I teach) and write for my blog. And next week I'm starting a blogging course, so that will get me writing even more. Want to join me?
I liked this post about simplifying your schedule, particularly the section on making choices based on your personal values and saying no to the rest. For example, I value my close friends (including those I don't see often enough), so I say yes to spending time with them. I'm also trying to schedule in some time to look after myself, and that's becoming easier and easier because I've made it a priority. But that means turning down invitations for other things and that's just got to be okay. We can't do everything.

And now for food, because really that's why we all really read the internet:

Are you looking for some new cookbooks? Here is a list for you.

Iced oatmeal cookies. Enough said.

Pasta with peaches and fresh mozzarella. 

It's been well over a year since I've made my own challah for Shabbat. I'd like to start making it again now that I'm on sabbatical, and this is my favourite recipe.

Enjoy the last bit of your Sunday! 

Be well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Day One

From etsy.

It's Day One of quitting smoking. Again. Again.

I wrote yesterday about feeling pretty fed up with how I'm feeling lately. Fed up isn't quite the right word, it's more some combination of impatient/exasperated/at my wit's end all mixed up with feeling fed up. Is there a word for this? There should be.

What has been troubling me the most for some now is that I probably don't have to feel this way. While there are some things beyond my control at the end of the day, like my genetic predisposition to depression, anxiety, and probably to fibromyalgia, there are so many things I can do to change things. This is why in the midst of all these struggles, I'm also feeling motivated. Powerful, even. Because how lucky am I that I can feel like shit and do something to change it.

I have an appointment with my doctor today so we can talk about my blood work. I'm not a psychic, but I'm pretty sure I can divine what our conversation will look like: Danielle, your health stinks. But rather than fret about the state of my health, I am going to do something to change it. I'm going to return to my goals. The need to return again and again to my goals is the reason I'm writing all this down in the first place. Read, remember, reinvent. So I will get more sleep, eat nourshing food, breathe, and move my body. 

And not smoke. I wrote about my intention not to smoke a few weeks ago and I've started and stopped ten times since then. But today is a new Day One.

If I showed you my journal you would see the words "Day One!" written next to the dates of many, many pages. I have moments when I'm ashamed of how many first attempts I make, pleading with the universe to turn me into one of those people who decides to do something and then just does it. The first time. How I long for that kind discipline. But I am who I am, and that means that I need time to change. I need the motivation and the feelings to be just right for me in that moment. I can't be someone I'm not. And fighting who I am isn't going to help anyone, least of all myself. The difficulty I experience when it comes to making these kinds of change also makes a person who is understanding, compassionate, and loyal. I'll take that.

So maybe I've tried quitting smoking a hundred times since January, but maybe today is the day that it works. 

I believe in as many Day Ones as are necessary to live the life I want (and for this reason I will forever be in love with Mondays). Maybe you need ten first tries while I need seventeen. Let's give each other as many Day Ones as we need, shall we? 

Be well!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I'm going to be selfish

So do I write about the fun parts of the zoo today, that time we watched baboons lounging in the sun like nobody's business, or when the rhinos were playfully running in circles while we sat watching them eating our lunch? I could write about how Shira cautiously dipped her toes in the water at the splash pad while Alyce launched her whole self into a waterfall. I could write about so many things because they are all true.

But what I should write about, in an attempt to be honest with myself, is how all I wanted to do while we were at the zoo was go home. My body ached. I was exhausted. I couldn't enjoy my favourite animals or the cool, shady forests because I was hurting. I cut our trip a little short and headed home for a nap. I turned on a movie for the girlies and went straight to bed. I awoke two hours later to two children happily making me homemade jewelry and the house in a relative state of clean. Sometimes they are just awesome.

I've needed a nap almost every day this summer. My body aches all the time. I'm grumpy. Clearly things aren't going the way I had planned. But am I surprised? No. Change is hard and I'm a reluctant changer. I've been ignoring my goals in favour of doing nothing, because nothing is a lot easier. But these last two weeks have reminded me that I'm here to make a difference in my own health this year. I'm going to be selfish and focused and, hopefully, a woman who needs fewer naps.

I was sad today. My health stood in the way of having a great time with my children, made it hard for me to keep up with their excitement and desire to explore. It sucked. 

So here is me sending out high-fives to anyone else who wants to make changes in their world. We can do this.

Be well!


Monday, July 20, 2015

It's Monday!

It's that time again, when I get all excited about the fact that it's another new start to the week. Even when summer days make every day feel like a weekend, I am still drawn to the new start of a Monday. I can't be stopped!

This week is looking decidedly less busy than the last few, where it seemed we were going on adventures every other day. We spent time on a boat, visited parks and splash pads around the city, visited with old friends, and spent three lovely days at a friend's cottage near Southampton (you can see the evidence of our cottage days in the photos today). How blessed we are to have to have friends and family who invite us to spend time together.

But I'm grateful for a little break from all the fun because my body is paying the price. I'm very sore this week, worn down, and in need of some rest. So my to do list this week reflects this need for a pause:

  • Naps! I already had one today while the girlies watched a movie and destroyed the house slightly (it was worth it). 
  • I'm donating blood this week and taking the girlies with me. I started donating blood as soon as I was old enough and I want to inspire the girls to do so, too. Plus they're obsessed with the human body and I'm hoping they'll think it's pretty cool.
  • We are getting a yearly membership to the Toronto Zoo, so we will probably go and say hello to the animals this week. I was debating whether or not I would take them since my body is sore, but I also want some exercise, so we'll just move slowly.
  • Planning our menu for our first camping trip next week! Me and the girlies are spending three days and two nights at Killbear Provincial Park with some good friends. So far the list includes smores ingredients and wine.
  • I have ton of grading to do for the university class I teach. Essays and final exams galore. 
  • I want to write a calendar of upcoming blog posts. I've started posting more frequently (which makes me so happy), but I'd like to devise a schedule to do more regular posts.
  • Finally, I will do everything I can to avoid the heat. Ugh, July.

What does your week look like?  Are you tackling any projects? Are you planning on spending every free moment out in the sun? Are you busy looking forward to peach season as much as I am?

Be well.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Taking Stock: July

Making: Socks, very, very slowly.
Cooking: Toast and fruit. It's too hot to cook anything else.
Drinking: Litres of ice water.
Reading: Stir, The Goldfinch, and Lean In.
Wanting: Central air conditioning.
Looking: For inspiration.
Playing: Lots of crazy eights.
Wishing: For summer adventures.
Enjoying: Cool showers at the end of hot days.
Waiting: For Fall, already.
Liking: Quiet mornings before the girls wake up.
Wondering: If I'll ever get to a yoga class.
Loving:The sounds of lake Huron.
Pondering: How to get started on my first full quilt.
Considering: Habits and how we change them.
Buying: Not very much because we are in Operation Pay Down Debt!
Watching: Too busy reading and writing to watch anything.
Hoping: For change.
Marvelling: At Matty's ability to make the girls laugh every single time.
Cringing: At the weather report.
Needing:A hair cut.
Questioning: My ability to live in this climate.
Smelling: Not enough beautiful scents. I think I need more good smells in my life.
Wearing: A long cotton maxi dress, navy blue, and a green headband.
Following: The girls on our way to another splash pad.
Noticing: More grey hair.
Knowing: That Alyce loves me even when she screams that she hates me.
Thinking: About some extra work for the fall.
Admiring: The gardens.
Sorting: My schedule, to fit in some exercise.
Bookmarking: Salad recipes that don't just involve arugula, cherry tomatoes and cucumber (my go-to boring old salad).
Coveting: A new bag (my favourite one broke last months).
Disliking: Sunburns, despite my best efforts.
Giggling: At the girls watching Spongebob Squarepants. It's contagious.
Feeling: Slug-like, still.
Snacking: On the brownies I made for book club last week.
Helping: Someone, I hope.
Hearing: Avett Brothers on repeat.

Do you want to take stock? I got the idea from Pip.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

We have tomorrows for a reason

Just a little reminder, for you and for me.

The girls and I are off to the cottage for a few days, so I'll be back in this space later in the week. In the meantime, I'll be posting photos on instagram, if you want to join me over there. Have a great week!

Be well.

Monday, July 13, 2015

At the end of a long day

I'm struggling today, trying to figure out what to do with Alyce. She's been all kinds of crazy (for her), pushing my buttons, speaking meanly to me, speaking meanly about herself. I feel like no one told me things could be so hard already. Just wait until the teen years, every single person tells me, yada yada yada. But what about today? What about being seven years old and having so many feelings that don't just go away when you offer a hug? I thought hugs could fix everything.

This has so much to do with me, and not very much to do with Alyce. This is one of those times when I need to put my big girl pants on and be there for her, no matter what comes up.

We are cut from the same cloth, her and I, stubborn, fiery, and at the end of the day, deeply loyal. These emotions run deep and these conflicting feelings, of being so mad and loving so hard at the same time, can make for some trying days.

Today has been one of those days.

Do you know what no one ever talks about? How much it sucks when your kid pushes you away. I've been her everything for so many years now, and all of a sudden she retreats when she's mad instead of running over to me for solace. None of this is rocket science, I know.

Most human beings push others away when they're angry, push buttons when they're upset, push all those raw emotions to the side in favour of talking calmly about them. And I know Alyce is a human, but I don't, really. I still think of her as part of me, as this tiny creature who shares my personal space. Now she's growing her own space and I'm left wondering how to navigate all this new geography.

The day is coming to an end and we can all use a good night's sleep. Tomorrow we leave for the cottage for a few days and I know all the time playing with good friends will heal today's wounds. For both of us.

Be well!

It's Monday!

It's Monday! Let's get this week started.

Do you want an update on my sleep goals? It's been a rocky start. While I have managed to cool off my room to make it a more delightful place to sleep, my bedtime has not improved (except for one night, when I was in bed by ten and couldn't fall asleep until midnight). I even have an alarm set for my phone now, but so far I've just ignored it and kept on working/chatting/reading the night away. I've also brought my phone to bed with me a few times because, you guys, I'm addicted to reading blog posts in bed late at night. But I'll keep trying, because what else can we do but keep trying?

How was your weekend? Mine was filled with visiting friends and their new baby (the best), some shopping, paper grading, and splash pads. Speaking of splash pads, Matty and I had this moment today where we realized that we've entered a new stage of parenting, where all of a sudden the demands of very young children have transformed into a new independence. Like this morning at the splash pad, we lounged on a blanket under a tree and read our books while the girls splashed under sprinklers and ran around the playground. We were there for them when they needed us, but mostly we just enjoyed an hour together. These moments have been happening more and more and they are a treasure.

Our week is going to be a busy one, mostly because the girls and I are stealing away to a friend's cottage for three days and today we have plans to spend the afternoon at the Art Gallery of Ontario!

Here is my to do list for the week:

  • get some blood work done (it's my year of health after all!)
  • make some preparations for my fall teaching
  • put together a fun road trip bag to help entertain the kids while we drive the three hours to the cottage (I'm thinking some new markers, paper, stickers, books)
  • pack for the cottage!
  • email some friends I haven't seen in well over a year to organize a weekend away together
  • work on my sleep goals and not ignore my bedtime alarm (this might be hard at the cottage, but the other nights I am going to make getting enough sleep a priority).
What does your week look like? How are you keeping yourself entertained? What's on your list? I hope you have the best week.

Be well!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Things that made me happy this week


It's the weekend! I hope you're enjoying every minute of it. I am spending most of my weekend avoiding the sun and heat (who needs the sunshine when the shade is so dreamy?), while visiting with friends and chasing the girlies around the house.  And I'm already looking forward to pancakes in the morning!

Things that made me happy around the internet this week:

Permission to be gentle with yourself, especially for us anxious list-makers.

If you're too tired, just go to bed already. (This was written for me.)

These cookies. Oh, Joy, you do it to me every time.


Because we should all have a good blueberry scone recipe.

Inspiration for a summer craft project for the girlies. Friendship bracelets are the best.

A review for a book I'm dying to read. Congratulations, Jessica!

On writing.

Be well!

How many things have you crossed off your life list?

Four years ago I wrote a Life List, 100 things I wanted to do in my life. I would encourage everyone to write a list like this because it is so great to return to my list again and again and see what's changed. In four years I've crossed twelve items off my list and I'm working on a few others as we speak (I'm looking at you, number two). I like to also think about what I'd change on my list. 

In list, in process

Number one on my list is to have more children. I wrote this list around the time of Shira's first birthday and she was so easy and lovely and snuggly. I might have still been drunk on that magical baby smell, whose to say. I still want to have more children (on late nights talking over a glass of wine, Matty and I still talk dreamily of having five kids), but my feelings are starting to change a bit. I'm thinking more realistically about what it would mean to have more children while either in midwifery school or as a new midwife (one day!), and it just doesn't feel doable. I've got two pretty great children and now I've got my start as a student midwife, and I just can't do it all. My desire for more children is still there so it's not coming off my list. It might just be one of those things that always stays a possibility.

I've pretty much given up on #64, finding a way to make beans so delicious that Matty will eat them. I added this to my list originally because it's a real struggle in our house to find food that we can eat together as a family. Adding beans and legumes to our dinner table would expand our dinner options (and would reduce our food budget), but I think it's a lost cause. I even added black beans to brownies once and he refused. Sometimes you just need to admit defeat.

My list, this summer

I thought I'd revist my list this week for some inspiration for the summer ahead of us. I probably won't take any vacation with Matty (#9) this summer, or run a 10K (#45), but there are some exceedingly doable experiences I could cross off my list. I'm going to start with making my own ice cream (#81), developing a yoga practice (#67), walking somewhere every day (#30), and hosting a fabulous dinner party (#57) (who wants to join me?).

Have you ever wanted to write a life list? This is where I originally found my encouragement to make m own. Do you already have one? What can you cross off this summer?

Here's my original list, if you want some inspiration:

100 things I want to do in my life. In no particular order. 

1.  Have more children
2.  Become a midwife.
3.  Master pie crusts
4.  Spend one year in Israel
5.  Learn to knit sweaters for my girls
6.  Write my grandmother’s story
7.  Go sailing
8.  Create a workable household budget
9.  Take a vacation with just my husband. Anywhere. Before the children are in college.
10. Write a blog
11. Plan a weekend away with my best girlfriends
12. Build a Habitat for Humanity house
13.   Attend a film festival
14.  Dance again
15. Take a cooking class
16. Complete the fast on Yom Kippur
17.  Make a quilt for Alyce and Shira to share on the couch
18. Visit a haunted house
19. Get a dog
20. Go to Greece with my mum
21.  Learn a group sport
22. Take Alyce to her first dance class
23. Visit the Museum of Natural History in NYC
24. Learn Hebrew
25. Bake my own bread every week
26.  Learn how to take a great photo with a great camera
27. Take a first-aid class for kids
28. Get a bicycle
29. Help my girls prepare for their Bat Mitzvahs
30. Walk somewhere every day
31. Live in NYC
32. Keep a small garden alive for an entire season
33. Get that root canal done that I’ve been avoiding
34. Find a babysitter and go on long date with Matt
35. Learn how to can things like jam and tomato sauce
36. Take a sewing class
37.  Attend a fabulous party
38. Rent a house on the beach with lots of friends and children
39.  Join a CSA
40. Attend a writing retreat
41.Visit a good nutritionist
42. Eat French food in France
43. Attend the Final Four with Matt
44. Paint some furniture red
45. Run a 10K
46. Learn Talmud
47. Have a picnic once a week between May and August
48. Eat Italian food in Italy
49. Attend a regular yoga class
50. Create a birthday list so that I never miss the birthday of someone I love
51. Fly a kite
52. Sew a dress for all the girls in our house (myself included)
53. Explore castles and churches in England with Nicola
54. Learn to make tortellini from scratch
55. Find a the perfect pair of boots
56. Take my children to the ocean
57. Host a fabulous dinner party
58. Learn to speak French again
59. Plant a garden filled with tulips
60. Volunteer my time with mothers-to-be and mothers who need some extra help
61. Attend a concert in Central Park
62. Take a wine tour in France
63. Paint a mural
64. Find a way to make beans so delicious that Matt will eat them
65. Teach Alyce and Shira how to ride a bike
66. Build a tree house
67. Develop a yoga practice
68. Learn to cook with hot peppers
69. Spend time on a farm
70. Take a road trip with just Alyce
71. Take a road trip with just Shira
72. Take a road trip with just Matt
73. See Regina Spektor play live
74. Hang my pots from the kitchen ceiling
75. Find the perfect breakfast tea
76. Write a poem
78. Visit Amsterdam
79. Prepare for my own Bat Mitzvah
80. Read Harry Potter to my girls
81. Make ice cream
82. Swim in the Mediterranean
83. Overcome my fear of spiders
84. Then visit a rainforest
85. Write a letter to everyone who is important to me and tell them how much I love them
86. Learn to play chess
87. Volunteer at a museum
88. Make a Sunday brunch ritual
89. Read ten biographies
90. Organize my recipes
91. Take a drama class
92. Spend an entire day at a spa
93. Find the perfect black dress and pearls
94. Go apple picking
95. Win a costume contest
96. Climb a tree
97. Save for rainy day
98. Spend an entire day in bed
99. Stand in a waterfall
100. Say thank you everyday

Be well!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

On building the new

Via Shutterbean

Summer is really and truly here. The day's rhythm had come to feel both restful and chaotic. We don't have the same deadlines to meet (wake up, eat something, no really Shira eat something, get dressed, no you can't wear a turtleneck in June, come on we'll be late, no really, come on, oh wait we forgot sunscreen, come on it's almost time for school!!), yet the endless packing up of swimsuits, picnic blankets, and snacks feels like it's taking over our lives. So be it, life, let's go for another picnic. I'll take it over the rush of school any day (well, at least until September).

It's this really strange time for me right now. I'm busy with the girls and teaching, but I also have all this time ahead of me, already earmarked for big personal change. I'm about to embark on this year of doing things differently in hopes of feeling well and happier, and it's hard for me not to feel a bit overwhelmed by all the work to be done.

I get defeated sometimes before I begin, dwelling on the bad habits I've developed over the past seven years, and I wonder if I'm looking at it all wrong. I can't do anything about the not-so-nourishing food I've been eating, or the exercise I haven't done, or all the time spent wandering around wondering why I don't feel well. But I can look ahead to a time when things might be different.

 "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." It's exhausting worrying about the past. Doesn't it sound so much more appealing to think instead about all the new choices we can make? A little more manageable? A lot more realistic? I think so.

How do you get started making change? Are you an all-or-nothing, take charge kind of change-maker? Is it easy for you to wipe the slate clean and move ahead with new habits, or do you dwell on the past?

Let's build the new, shall we?

Be well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

It's Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday! We went away for a few days and I missed Monday, and since I love Mondays so much (I really do) I'd thought I'd bring a little of that love to Tuesday. How is your summer going so far? We have started crossing things off our summer adventure list, including this house boat trip we took with my mother for a couple of days. The amount of fun had by the girls was ridiculous.

Let me tell you about Alyce, the fisherwoman: it was her first time fishing and she was ready to catch fish. I mean she asked every five minutes if it was time to start fishing. We don't fish ever, so the foreign excitement of it all was almost too much for her to handle. We found a good place, anchored the boat, pulled out the fishing rods, and she got to it. But her little face fell when she realized that it takes for freaking ever to catch a fish. She declared sadly that fishing wasn't very exciting after all (moments after I took the photo above). Can't you almost feel her disappointment? Poor kid! But the good news is that she caught at least three sunfish before our trip was over, and she "almost nearly caught a really big one," she will tell you. 

Shira liked fishing less, because she really didn't think the worms liked being dead. Fair enough.

So here we are, at the beginning (sort of) of a new week! I wouldn't say that I'm relaxed after our trip, because seriously, who sleeps well on a boat with two young children? I should also formally apologize to my stepfather, who had the pleasure of listening to my snoring all night. Ahem.

What are your plans for the week? Mine include grading papers, a doctor's appointment, and prepping for my first book club meeting! We are reading The Goldfinch. Someone should have told the person* who chose this book that it is roughly one million pages long and maybe choose a shorter book? But I'm excited to get together with some great people and chat about whether or not we actually finished the book. Over wine.

Be well.
 *I chose it.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

How to stop procrastinating and get to sleep already

Do you get to bed at a reasonable (for you) hour? Do you wash your face and floss your teeth before tucking yourself into bed? Do you make your room as dark as possible and hide your phone in another room? Yes? Then you're my sleep hero.

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my goals for the year to get better at sleeping. Feeling dead exhausted all of the days was one of the first signs for me that something was wrong with my body. I would sleep at night and wake up feeling like I'd run a marathon. I would fall asleep sitting up (I still do). And when things are at their most rotten for me physically, it's all I can do to not to nap three times in one day. Part of this comes from my depression, some from fibromyalgia, and some from having two young kids, working part-time, and going to midwifery school. It's not a recipe for feeling rested.

But I'm not asking for miracles here.

In related news: why I've chosen to become a midwife if I'm so interested in feeling rested? Fair enough, it isn't a career path known for its ample opportunities to sleep. As a student midwife I was often up for twenty four hours before signing off to get some rest, but it wasn't so much the all-nighters that were hard, but the more regular schedule of getting only a little rest at a time. Having slept three hours then getting paged to head to a birth, only to head out for a day of client visits afterwards. But the reality is that I'm made to be a midwife and there isn't anything else I'd rather do. As for the years of irregular sleep that I've got coming to me, well, I will just need to adjust. But at least I can do everything I can to take care of my sleep, even if unconventionally.

This year! This year I can sleep however much I need. My goal is to set the stage for myself to get a good's night sleep every night.  Goals need to be specific and realistic, so here it is: I will make getting a good sleep a priority by getting at least eight hours of sleep each night. Nine would be even better. Since Shira often still wakes up around six in the morning, this means getting to bed each night by ten o'clock, and even if she isn't up that early I love, love, love having some time to myself in the morning. So now I have a new bedtime. 

Exceptions include the following: if anyone invites me out dancing.

With my ten o'clock bedtime by my side, here is a breakdown of how I will accomplish my sleep goals:
Stop procrastinating and go to bed

Do you do this, or is it just me? I think it all started when I gave birth. The days were filled with the needs of the girls, but the evening? THAT WAS MINE. That's when I could flop down on the couch with Matty and do pretty much anything I wanted that didn't involve illicit drugs (breastfeeding and all). I began to savour each minute of those evening hours and I started staying up long after I was tired so that I could keep enjoying every minute. As hard a crush as I have on a good sleep, squeezing in an extra episode or chapter was so enticing. I actually fall asleep in mid-sentence sometimes because I push my limits so far some nights. What a dork.

Set an alarm on my phone

It's set to go off each night at ten. The important next step is to actually go to bed when it starts ringing and not just hit snooze.

Say good night to the world

I think my iphone addiction often stands in the way of my getting to sleep at night. I usually go to bed with my phone and read things that I've been looking forward to all day long (like this or this).This has bad habit written all over it. To reach my goal of eight hours of sleep each night I need to keep my phone out of the bedroom. I'm no longer on call anymore so I have no need to keep it in arm's reach.

Develop a bedtime routine

Write the next day's to-do list. Shower. Brush my teeth. Moisturize my sad, dry skin. And peek in on the girls because sleeping children are delightfully sweet. Then go to bed.

Maybe don't drink a coffee at 8 pm

I do this all the time. What am I thinking? This habit stems in part from the necessity of studying or working every night after dinner, but I need to get more creative and step away from the coffee. I love tea (just not as much as coffee), so maybe I could come look forward to a cup of rooibos Earl Grey tea each night.

Embrace the cold

We finally have an air conditioner in our bedroom and I need to turn it on more. I fall asleep so much better when the room is cold and if my goal is to get a better sleep, why not help myself out as much as possible? My resource-saving instincts are to only turn in on during a heat wave, but cooling the room off just before heading to bed sounds like a good compromise.

I think this is a doable breakdown of new habits that will get me on my way to sleeping longer and better. I can't control some things, like the way my fibromyalgia gets in the way of me feeling rested some mornings, but I can control my bedtime. If you're interested in getting a better sleep, you might like these tips.

Do you have any suggestions for me? What is your bedtime routine?

Be well!
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Friday, July 3, 2015


I love writing lists. I write them all day long, in journals, on my phone, on random pieces of paper, on blogs. I make lists of life goals, lists of resolutions, lists of things about my day, of food to cook. But this list of health goals has been harder to compile. Writing them down, breaking them down into manageable pieces, that's taking some work. They need to be concrete in order for them to work. I can't just write Eat better and stop smoking and be done with it. It that were possible I would have felt better years ago. I'm really good at making declarations. But declarations aren't making me feel good.

No, I need a plan. Today I'll start with listing the four goals that are going to shape my coming year (five goals, if you count quitting smoking, but I've already written about that here. In related news: I'd love a cigarette). I have this gift of a year ahead of me, wherein I can devote a lot of time to making some real changes. For so long now I've wanted to feel vibrant again, like I'm not dragging my sorry body and mind all over the place. I know I have it in me, I just know it. Do you ever have that feeling?

I've come up with these goals in consultation with my family doctor, my naturopathic doctor, and of course, with Matty, who hears my thoughts on these things pretty much all of the time. He's been around to hear me grieve the loss of my energy and health for years now and he's such a patient listener. He's making his own health changes right now, so I've got myself some in-house inspiration. 

My goals are both straightforward and overwhelming to me at the same time. But I'm not looking for perfection here, just progress. Change isn't static but by nature takes different shapes and follows different paths. There isn't one right way to achieve a goal. Right? Right.

I want to sleep more.

I want to eat nourishing food.

I want to relax and manage my stress.

I want to move my body and feel stronger. 


I adore sleeping, but I also love staying up writing or watching old episodes of Grey's Anatomy. I am in desperate need of some regular sleep, something this year off from midwifery school, and the fact that my children are now old enough to sleep through the night, will allow for. It's my goal to sleep a minimum of eight hours each night. I want to develop a simple routine for bedtime. Most of all I want to be able to say good night at the end of each day feeling like it is okay to turn everything off. Sleep is delicious and I need to stop fighting it.


This goal is both exceedingly simple and the most difficult for me. I love to eat and cook so much, but it's time to face the reality that how I eat might be negatively impacting my health. I've been working with my naturopath to develop and food strategy that might, if I follow it, reduce many of my symptoms. My goal is to eat for energy and health, and not only for the pleasure of a bowl of chocolate covered almonds. I dread food changes because they are hard, so writing about the process of these changes, the good and the bad, will be helpful for me.


This one is simple, though not easy. I suffer from anxiety and some pretty low moods sometimes, and then I stop breathing. I get upset and I take out these feelings on my body by allowing only the minimum amount of oxygen necessary for continued life, and not one breath more. When I walked into my last appointment with my family doctor and my naturopath, they both prescribed mindfulness meditation before I could even get two words in. And so it has been decided. I will breathe once more!


I've been slug-like for a while now. Sometimes I'm a slug because my mood is low, sometimes because my body hurts too much to do any kind of activity. Sometimes just because I'm a lazy human. It's in my nature to want to excitedly declare "I'm going to run a marathon next year!" (because I'm an eager slug). No, I'm not. I can barely walk for an hour sometimes without being close to tears at how much my legs hurt. So I'm going to start slowly. Could I ask you a favour? Could you remind me of this from time to time? Go slowly, Danielle. And for the love of all things, please remember to breathe.


In the coming days I'll post more about each goal, breaking each down into more manageable parts. Then I will share with you a little more about the process and what I'm learning. I'm doing this to give myself a space to take my goals seriously, and I hope maybe you'll get something out of it, too. I'd love to hear more about your goals and what you do to make them work, or how you also struggle with the work of making change.

Discipline is remembering what you want. I'm sharing these goals, personal and vulnerable parts of myself, because I need to keep remembering.

You guys! Let's do this.

Be well.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

An ode to cool summer days

I have a love/hate relationship with the summer. I love the nights, the one thousand shades of green, the lake, the iced coffee. What I don't love? The heat. That overwhelming feeling of discomfort I get when I'm exposed in full sunlight for more than fifteen minutes. I'll duck now while you throw things at me for complaining about the sun.

Today I wanted to share with you my goals for the next twelve months, my new year's resolutions so to speak. In July. But I'm going to leave that for tomorrow because I'd rather just tell you that I spent the day with my family, feeling blessed for what felt like a gift of a day at a beautiful Toronto park, Edwards Gardens, (if you are looking for some good Toronto walks you'll find some good ideas here, which is how we discovered our walk this morning), where I was able to walk around without blazing hot sun. Everyone in our little family was thrilled for the cool day while we explored flowers, dragonflies, and streams. We might be the odd ones out, but I'll take the mocking. Give me a summer day that tops out at twenty degrees and I'll give you four happy people.

It's Canada Day here and I hope you spent it well, doing important things like eating outside and lazing around with your day off work (for most of us, anyway). We certainly did.

Be well!