Monday, June 28, 2010

Picking up the Spoon

I've been thinking a lot about how I can foster my kid's independence and help prepare them for life. It's so easy to fall into the habit of taking care of your kids by doing everything for them. And frankly, sometimes letting them 'help' often takes more time and clean-up than it's worth. But's it's an important part of my job and I've got to change my attitude. My oldest is six and I know it's me that's holding him back from doing more for himself and his siblings. I really like how the book "Nature the Nurture" puts it:

A child's individual core nature finds meaning through responsibility. A child "means something" because he or she must act meaningfully.
A six-year-old child drops a spoon on the floor.
The mother bends down to pick it up.
The child thanks her and keeps eating.
What does the child learn about why he is alone in that moment? The child learns that he is alive to eat and to continue eating. Because his parent has picked up the spoon, the child is not alive in that moment to get out of his chair, bend down to the floor, clean up a mess in the world and return it to order. He has lost this opportunity to mean something, to be purposeful. He merely eats.
The mother has perhaps made meaning and purpose for herself, but doesn't give her child the opportunity to find purpose in this little moment.

K, it's a bit over the top, but I totally get it. In fact I was picking up the kids the other day and I saw a bunch of school kids exiting their gym after an assembly. Each of them was carrying a chair back to their classroom. This completely blew me away! I know, it doesn't take much to impress me. But all of this independence stuff was swimming around in my head and here these kids were carrying their own chairs to the gym. Don't wait for a custodian to wait on you -- if you want somewhere to sit, bring your own chair. Brilliant.

Friday, June 25, 2010

♥ Mark ♥

Mark McEwan is the bomb. Every time I watch his show "Heat", I feel like leaping into the TV, throwing on an apron and cooking up a frenzy with the rest of his staff, and I'm not even a chef.

He is such an inspirational leader -- someone who believes in his employees, has a vision and sets the bar high. I would LOVE to work for someone like this. I would never dread going to the office, I would just lose myself in my work, I'd feel like I was valued and that my efforts were making a difference. Is this possible without working for someone as great as Mark McEwan?

In my fantasy I am working really hard in his kitchen when he whizzes by, gently touches me on the shoulders and sincerely asks me it there's anything I need. I blush, show him my canapes, he nods approvingly, gives me a few pointers to make the process even more efficient and hurries on his way. I have renewed energy, I feel alive, I can't stop. THAT'S what I want out of life.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about my parent's relationship these days. They're coming up on their 38 year anniversary. I know most people would see it as an accomplishment to be proud of. Not me. My parents have a terrible relationship -- there's little if any love left. Yes, I know there are worse ones out there and yes I know that by the time you're in your 70s, what is there left to do with each other but bicker? I'm just sick of seeing my mom give and give of herself and get so little in return. My dad's been rejecting her for 40 years and still she clings to him like a dog to an abusive owner. I remember as a child he would threaten to leave her. In the midst of a heated argument he'd start packing his suitcase. A couple of times he even left for a few days. My mom would break down bawling, promise to change, beg him to stay. Just thinking about it now makes me really angry. I would have given anything to hear her say just once " GO! AND DON'T LET THE DOOR FUCKING HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT!"

I've read that a women's primary needs are to feel loved and cherished by her partner. Feeling rejection and abandoned are our deepest fears. It's worse for women who grew up witnessing their mother being rejected or also if they themselves did not feel loved by their fathers. Apparently that's what makes us feel like we are undeserving of love. Even when our partners try to display their love, some of us just won't let them. *Sigh* I'm going to write more about this later. It's definitely worth exploring. I can't undo my childhood. In fact I'm not comfortable with blaming my parents. In many ways they did an excellent job raising us considering how dysfunctional their own childhoods were. I'd like to focus on what I can do to get what I need without compromising who I am. I also want my kids to see that two adults can live together in a mutually fulfilling and loving relationship. I can't think of a better way to give them the FAITH they'll need in their own relationships!

As for my folks, they certainly have mellowed in their age, there's not many things left to fight about I guess. But my dad still threatens to walk out now and then. Finally the other day my mom told him that she's tired of hearing it. She didn't tell him to Fuck Off like I wish she would. She just quietly said "please stop, I've had enough". Way to go Mom! xx

Monday, June 21, 2010


Nothing says 'I love you' more than a packed lunch. In a few weeks, two out five of us are going to need packed lunches during the work week and I'm starting to have major anxiety about it. But rather than get all deflated, I know that if I work it into my routine and make sure I have the right ingredients on hand, I'll have enough time to turn out healthy, tasty, varied and litter-less lunches for my wee ones. I might even make lunch for myself, instead of shoving a tablespoon of peanut butter down my throat with a couple saltines (no, I don't even spread the PB, I am THAT lazy).

I love it when someone makes my lunch for me. It's such a treat! Doesn't have to be fancy -- PB&J will do. What an incredibly sweet gesture. Oh, and it tastes SO much better than when I make it. I feel guilty that I never appreciated how many lunches my Mom made for me -- right up until I was 22. I even complained about sandwiches. GAWD, I would give anything for a one of my Mom's lunches. In fact on the rare days that I have the car, I try to make some kind of excuse to end up at my parent's house for lunch. As soon as Mom hears me pull up, she's in the kitchen whipping up my lunch. Ahhhhh. Just thinking about it is making me really hungry.

Not that I am a Frugalista, I've got to get in the habit of making my own lunch. I used to pay a Lunch Lady to do this for me. They were TO DIE FOR -- salads, mains and homemade desserts made from vegetarian local fresh organic ingredients -- all packaged in the cutest bento boxes. Check it out. Well, I can't afford $12 for lunch these days, so I will have to go on my own. I won't set myself up for failure. This will require a bit of planning. I know myself -- I'm all gangbusters at the start, braggin' about my AWESOME lunches and then I get PMS or get into a fight with my spouse and it's off the wagon. I accept that this might happen. But I will keep trying. It's bound to stick. I have no choice but to feed my children, what's one extra bologna sandwich anyway?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Field Games

My son came home from school today bursting with excitement -- it was his first time playing Field Games. OH YEAH! I used to LOVE those days.

First of all, there was no classroom work -- you got to be outside the entire afternoon and it wasn't even gym class. And then the games -- a whole circuit organized around the entire field. You didn't know what kind of race you'd be doing until you got there, but you knew that you'd get a chance to play them ALL. The big kids would explain the rules -- ahhhh, I remember being in awe of the older kids -- they never talked to us before and here they were asking me what my name was, helping me and cheering me on. Awesome. I remember I'd get so nervous waiting for my turn -- I'd look across to the opposing line-up and hope to gawd I'd be up against someone just as un-athletic as myself. Big sigh of relief, wait, oh no, the other team was ahead, now you'd be up against their ringer! Never mind, the challenge of carrying the soaking sponge to the pail without wasting a precious drop was all I had to focus on. And then race back, slide-tackle in the grass to the end of the line. I'd look across the field to see what looked like the most fun -- for me, it was always the dress-up relay. You'd get to put on the silliest clothes and just run. Man, was that fun. Who can forget the sound of the horn that would tell you to move to the next game? And that McDonald's orange drink -- BOOYEAH! Gimme some of that syrupy goodness.

Ahhh, I still love party games. Too bad most adult parties are just about making small talk. Maybe I'll mix it up a bit at my next soirée? Or maybe not. Getting to hear my son talk about how much fun he had today was the real treat.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Accepting Criticism

The other night I was feeding my toddler on the kitchen floor and I commented to my partner that I couldn't believe how much crap there was on the floor. I didn't even think before I said it -- I was at eye level and just couldn't get over how many crumbs there were everywhere. My husband is the sweeper in the family, I usually just brush the crumbs off the bottoms of my feet or wear my slippers, it doesn't get to me. My comment about the floors, innocuous as I thought it was, really pissed him off. It put him in a terrible mood, he snapped back at me -- it basically ruined the rest of the evening. It was not meant to be a criticism, but looking back on it now, I can definitely see how he took it this way. Why say anything? A good friend of mine just puts his head down and does his work. These kinds of stupid remarks add no value. Mind in gear before mouth in motion.

On the flip side however, I think we both need to learn how to accept criticism better. It's unrealistic to think that we won't criticize each other -- we spend a great deal of time together and know each others strengths and weaknesses very well. When I criticize my partner it's not because I don't love him. Maybe I'm tired and frustrated, maybe it's a bad habit or maybe I'm justified in my comments.

The book "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff in Love" advises to just make allowances for criticism -- like the rain. You know that the rain will come at some point. You wouldn't get mad at the rain, so you just accept it and put up your umbrella.

The other thing about criticism is that it feeds on defensiveness. When my partner reacts, I felt like my criticism has been justified and I feel the urge to dish out more. Let it go. It not only eases the pain, but it diffuses further criticism.

Man, all this self-help stuff ... easy to talk about, not so easy to live. I'll have to write about something lighter soon. In the meantime, I'm sure the next criticism is around the corner ... let's see how I take it! (I'll even post it in the comments).

More on empathy

I've got to return a great parenting book that I borrowed, Siblings Without Rivalry, so I'll pull out some of the best parts in my next few posts.

Empathy is the ultimate challenge for me. For some people, the Rare Gems (RGs) I like to call them (which was incidentally the name of my secret girls club when I was 10 until my girl friend's brother started calling us the 'Retarded Girls') ... back on track ... my precious RGs are naturally empathetic. They can feel another person's burden, they feel before acting, they're just in tune with the whole picture. WOW! I'm at the opposite of the spectrum -- too caught up in my own emotions and perception. It's really too bad because I think a little empathy would go very far in improving my relationships.

Everyone needs to feel listened to, especially when it comes to expressing negative emotions. Anytime I've read stuff on making sure that your home is a place where your family are free to express their feelings, I'm never sure what is meant by that. Of course we express our feelings -- there's tons of emotionalism around here! Then again, sometimes my partner and I just want to shut the kids up -- "just ignore it", "don't be ridiculous", "stop being so sensitive". Here's a good example from the book:
older child tells parent "you're always with the baby". Instead of defending your position by saying "No, didn't I just read to you?", it's better to put the feelings into words "You don't like my spending so much time with him." Here's another one:
child complains to parent "he does it on purpose -- he only burps when I'm around" Instead of saying "big deal", try "You feel he does it just to irritate you."

JESUS! I can't do this! I'm not a shrink. OMG -- neither of us speak this way. It's painful to even type this out. But I can see how powerful it is. Listen and feel. It doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with your child's emotions. Simply showing them that you understand is enough. I'm going to try this, especially with my middle child.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

We need to talk

According to the book 'how to improve your marriage without talking about it', one of the worse things couples do is talk about their problems. The hurt and disappointment women express make men feel like big failures. Woman want to talk about their problems to feel better. The disconnection they are feeling makes them feel anxious, isolated and afraid. So a man's feeling of shame keeps him from seeing her fear and her fear keeps her from seeing his shame. I get this completely. My partner turtles from conflict and gets very defensive when I want to talk about the relationship. Talking turns into more arguing and the resentment builds.

So if talking is out, how can I fix things? Unfortunately this is where I think this book falls short -- the authors suggest empathy -- seeing the world through your partner's eyes without losing perspective on your own position. Bleh! Not easy, especially when you are upset. For women, this means tuning in to his dread of shame rather than focusing on your own resentment. And for men, tuning into her anxiety rather than your urge to withdraw.

Once you've empathized, making a connection should be a lot easier since the act of empathy actually lowers your own fear or discomfort. To connect with your man, the book suggests making a physical gesture to show that you're there with him (e.g. holding his hand) and k -- this is the ridiculous part ... being available to do something with him that he's good at which will replace his sense of failure with a sense of accomplishment and mastery. Like what? Sex? Let's play some Guitar Hero? How 'bout a few rounds of golf (in the middle of the night, no doubt)? Wait, we don't need prophylactics in our night table drawer, a Sodoku pad will do just fine! This advice is right up there with acting dumb to attract a man. I shouldn't laugh, it's not empathetic of me :-). I can definitely see how talking does not work for us. I'm willing to try anything.

Men can make the connection with their partners by simply being there for them and not trying to be Mr. Fix-It. Thankfully, my partner's learned to turn off his engineering brain when it comes to matters of the heart. I'm also very out-spoken and am quick to let him know when he is needed and when he's offering solutions instead of just listening. I'll explore this concept of a woman's fears in a later post. It's a good exercise to dig deep and get in touch with what's most important to you.

The book gets into some other ways to bring back the love -- fix your partner in your heart four times a day, hug six times a day for six seconds, hold positive thoughts about your relationship, etc. These sound easy, but who does them? I hate it when love is forced. I've tried to touch my partner six times a day and it lasted three days. If you have to remind yourself to do it, then you're not feeling it! We've just never been this way. But maybe I wasn't giving it a fair chance. Didn't I just say that I'd try anything?

This post is not particularly up-lifting. I'm leary of this book's advice working for my relationship. What I can take away though, is a better understanding of my partner's fear of inadequacy and how I trigger that. If I make him feel successful as a lover, protector and provider and he does his part to be sensitive to my own fears we will always have an emotional connection. That makes a lot of sense.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


This morning, the guy who was restocking shelves at the grocery store asked me how my day was going. When I replied that it was great and asked him the same, he answered me with a wink and a smile "better now, thanks!" I didn't even realize what he had said until I walked away. In fact it put me in an even better mood and I thought about it all the way home. WTF? Not even an hour before, my partner told me that I looked hot and here I was gushing over what the lettuce trimmer said to me. What is wrong with me??!!

My partner's sweetness is what should excite me. Yet I feel that it's not the same as when a stranger flirts. The husband is obligated to say nice things to me. It still means something, but it's somehow lost is lustre. I know my partner feels the same way -- he's over the moon when someone flirts with him. And I quite enjoy watching his giddy excitement too (as long as his head doesn't swell too much). We all want to know that we still have it. Marriage just plain kills the excitement that newness and unfamiliarity spark. Sounds like my relationship needs a little flirting. I just know it's going to feel forced and awkward if I try. In fact just thinking about it fills me with dread. But I do like that tingle and flirting with strangers is just a little creepy. In fact I don't even want to go back to the grocery store now.

I think part of my reaction comes from feeling good about how I look. I haven't felt desirable in a long time. It sounds completely vain to want other people's attention. I'll just be grateful that it occasionally surprises me and that I can count on it being there when I need it from the one that matters the most to me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Take Action

In my quest for inner peace, I find that I am a lot more aware of things that make me unhappy. This is wonderful because my new awareness forces me to deal with the situation rather than let it continue to piss me off.

As Eckhart Tolle says in the Power of Now, "Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your 'here and now' intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally."

I find it's easier for me to remember these gems when I can relate them to a recent personal example. In this case, it would be my bathrooms. Neither my partner nor I are good with staying on top of bathroom cleaning. The toilets are gross -- disgustingly gross. Their grossness grates on my nerves. I hate them, I hate using them, I hate myself for being so lazy and I even start resenting my partner for not cleaning them. The longer I let the cleaning go, the more my anger builds up.

Then it finally dawned on me, I was wasting a tremendous amount of time making the toilets my enemy. Rather than stressing about what I should be doing, I decided to just clean them. So I did. And it felt good. It felt good to not be angry about it. Now, every Friday I clean all four bathrooms. I don't wait for my spouse to do it. I don't even tell him that I'm going to do it or make him notice that they are done. I just roll up my sleeves and do it. I get to them before they get to me.

A friend of mine approaches life like this. Focus your energy on what you are doing rather than stressing about what needs to be done. Stress is wishing you were 'there' instead of 'here'. Taking action is empowering. I don't like being miserable and sorry for myself.

Taking no action can be just as empowering too. The key is acceptance, once again. If my choice is to do nothing, then I should accept my inactivity and laziness fully. Enjoy it -- be as lazy as you can. My problem is that I can't -- my mind says that I am wasting time. The innerconflict prevents me from enjoying the moment. This is silly though, because it's impossible to stay lazy forever -- shit needs to get done. Obviously, this is something I can work on. I look forward to the challenge of staying present. But I digress, my toilet battle was a good lesson in empowering myself with action rather than making myself the victim with complaining. Victory!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Live to eat or eat to live?

I decided yesterday that I am done with gourmet cooking. A few years ago, I embarked on a culinary challenge -- to cook only exotic and tantalizing meals that were bursting with flavour. Mediocrity was no longer an option. And it was a success -- I've scoured recipe books and websites, watched hours and hours of Food TV and have cooked a wide assortment of meals any foodie would be proud of serving. But lately, I find the pressure to keep turning out new meals does not fit with our busy lives. More ingredients to shop for and prep, more time to marinate and braise and more fucking dishes. Who am I doing this for? The kids couldn't care less. In fact, it's always a battle trying to get them to try yet another new dish. I've proved that I can cook. I can improvise, cook for a crowd, and invent delicious recipes. Yes, I am a good cook.

I finally realize why my mother's cooking was so plain. Time. There are other things I want to be doing with my time right now. I'm not ditching my principals -- meals will still be healthy, cheap, and tasty. I'm just done with trying to strive for perfection. I broke the news to my partner last night and he was disappointed. But he agreed that there's a time and place for everything. Gourmet meals will now be the exception rather than the norm. We might even start appreciating them more. It's a lifestyle choice.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Greatest Love of All

I feel foolish that it's taken me this long to figure out how important love is. You'd have to be pretty dense to not see humanities' obsession with love. I guess I've always viewed it as one of life's accomplishments -- fall in love, get married, have kids -- check, check, check. Once you've heard him say "I love you", it's understood. Only needy people need to hear it again and again. Doesn't it lose it's specialness if spoken all the time? Knowing that you are loved and feeling loved are two completely different things. I think it's not uncommon for many people to hear things like "Of course I love you! I wouldn't be here if I didn't". That may be true, but what I think most people are saying when they ask "Do you love me?" is "I feel distance between us" or "I'm feeling a low moment right now and I want to hear you say that you love me as I am." or "I'm sorry that I messed up and I need to know that you still love me." or "I'm tired of all the fighting and I want us to be more loving to each other." Those three little words are indeed powerful and should be spoken to eachother. What better way to make an instant connection?

Being loving to one another is a complete attitude change for most of us. Here are some examples off the top of my head:
being respectful of each other's feelings
cutting each other some slack
not expecting perfection -- not expecting anything for that matter
being forgiving
speaking kindly
not reacting
letting go
showing affection
doing your fair share
not blaming, shaming or complaining all the time
being supportive
showing empathy
... and the list goes on and on ...

Sadly, a lot of couples who are in love do none of these on a daily basis. Yet this is what we all need.

So what about single people? I can't help but think of a friend of mine whom I feel has given up the hope of finding someone. Is she doomed? Love yourself. Maybe Whitney's got something there (other than a bad coke habit, ouch). And since I truly believe that nothing lasts and it's foolish to make your happiness someone else's responsibility, this applies to us married folk as well.

Here we are back at acceptance once again! I love myself exactly as I am, this very moment. Yes I do.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about how important it is to "feel the love" when it comes to my relationships. Well, it just dawned on me that it's equally important to feel loved, especially with kids.

Feeling loved and accepted for who you are makes you feel optimistic and secure. It allows you to cope with the world. When I feel loved, I can relate better to people and difficult situations. I also find it easier to bounce back from set-backs. Love is empowering.

I'm starting look at my daughter's misbehaviour as a cry for help rather than being purposefully manipulative. Often, when I stop what I'm doing, look her in the eye and listen, I can feel an instant connection. When we've spent time doing something together, I know the rest of the day will be easy for us.

Connection is key. I know how good it feels to feel loved and I know how important it is for my children to feel loved. Time to start abundantly communicating my unconditional love throughout the day. Love is where it's at.

“If you think you can do it, or you think you can't do it, You are right.” (Henry Ford)

A friend of mine who recently started running told me the other day that I was an inspiration to her. Wow! It was nice to hear. She then went on to say that she figured that if I could do it, anyone could. Um, er, thanks? Gotta love those back-handed compliments.

But rather than get all sulky, I'm going to turn it around. She's right -- anyone can do what I've done. In fact 9207 other runners did just that last weekend (7 of whom were 75+ years old). It was not difficult. Once I decided I wanted to run the distance, I just ran it. It was that simple. Maybe it's the race euphoria talking; I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to. I just proved it. This optimism is refreshing. I really like the feeling.