Wedding Collage

Sixteen years ago, on July 17th, we went on our first date. I was 16; he was 19. By our second date, four days later, it was clear to us both that we were quickly falling for each other as we strolled through a west-end neighbourhood. Seven years later, on July 22nd, we exchanged our official vows in a landmark Toronto wedding location just down the street from where we first enjoyed getting to know each other, listening to each other’s stories, fascinated by our differences and wondering about common personality traits. Now, 16 years later, we celebrate nine years of marriage and 16 years of deep connection.

 

The story we share feels older than its 16 years. Our history reaches farther back, in a strange, transcendental way that feels comforting and familiar. Throughout that time, we have faced challenges sprinkled among the highlights, the pivotal moments that allowed us to grow closer together while growing up as individuals. I once wondered whether we have much in common. Now, I know that we grew into our own potential with each other’s help, supporting each other along the way, and never missing an opportunity to embark on adventures.

 

I debated with myself back and forth about whether I should publish the following list. My hesitation was twofold: the list contains personal information; I don’t want to make the impression that I am trying to educate anyone through what might sound like fail-proof success tips. Every person, couple, and marriage is different. Other couples’ circumstances may be very different from ours. This list is simply to highlight what has been working for us, based on our own opinions. I would love for you to share your own tips in the comments below.

  1. Remembering our roots.

Before we became a couple, we each had our own history. That history shaped me to be the person with whom my husband fell in love. We must never lose ourselves or sacrifice our personalities within a partnership. That’s why it’s important to continue…

  1. Growing individually, exploring personal interests, and taking care of ourselves by spending time alone.

In my teens, I spent my ‘alone’ time working on my fashion design portfolio (sketching and sewing), practising yoga, freelance writing for local newspapers, painting, taking vocal lessons, and reading as much fantasy fiction as I could. Pawel spent his time designing and building robots and reading Greek mythology (he also enjoyed reading robotics manuals, but don’t tell him I said that). We continue to cultivate our personal interests and they have evolved. These days, I continue to read, knit, write, and practise yoga. Pawel continues to work on electronics, create woodworking projects, and experiment with various other creative projects that are currently top-secret. Self-care is important to us and we each have our own way of nourishing ourselves. By doing so, we continue to cultivate our own self-education while becoming more interesting, better partners for each other.

  1. Sharing our passions and ideas with each other.

We respect our personal interests because they allow us to explore our creativity, working in parallel, bouncing ideas off each other. I am in awe of the ideas constantly simmering in Pawel’s brain. Mine are more abstract, philosophical, and we enjoy challenging each other to think spherically.

  1. Making time for each other.

As working parents, we noticed several years ago just how easy it is to allow the regular date night tradition to slide. Since then, we dedicate one night per week to a casual date at home. Usually, it’s nothing extravagant. We have a special dinner with the kids and then either watch a movie, work on a puzzle together, or simply sit and chat over drinks and snacks. Upholding this tradition reminds us that no matter what comes up, as it inevitably will, we both must make an effort.

  1. Celebrating small successes.

Life can be full of crap moments / days / weeks. If we lose sight of what is most important, it’s incredible how quickly we can tumble down a dark hole out of which it’s difficult to get out. So, we must continue to focus on gratitude toward the basics, celebrating the beautiful people and moments that are most important in our lives.

  1. Supporting each other.

Dark times are inevitable. Those are the times when I need my husband to be by my side, listening to me without judgment, simply acknowledging my challenges and holding compassionate space. Sometimes, my challenges seem incomprehensible to my husband. As an INTJ, he is cerebral, logical, and brutally honest. As an INFP, I am idealistic, sensitive and emotional. When it feels like we don’t speak the same language, I sometimes need to be specific about how I want to be treated, in what way I need him to support me. I refuse to be quiet about it. The silent treatment never serves anyone.

  1. Honestly telling each other when we feel that an idea is a bad one.

At other times, I need my logical husband to look at me and tell me honestly that my idea sucks. I have been known to act from an emotional space that sometimes gets me in trouble. At those times, he is my anchor, providing me with a different vantage point, keeping me grounded. There are times when his behaviour is less than ideal and I remind him to tone things down. The important factor here is to hold space for each other and be open to advice that might not naturally appeal to us.

  1. Cutting each other some slack.

… On the other hand, sometimes we need to go easy on ourselves and each other, letting mistakes slide. INFPs are good at living and letting other people live the way they will. Sometimes, we’re too good at it, to the point of ignoring certain faux pas. I don’t like to be the nagging wife. I don’t enjoy constantly reminding someone to do something. There are times when I ignore dirty dishes in the sink, realizing that Pawel may have gotten distracted with a creative project, or is simply feeling tired. Either I will do the dishes myself or they will get done, eventually. Sometimes, the best choice is to take no action.

  1. Remembering that disagreements are inevitable, and keeping an open mind.

There are times when we don’t see eye to eye on a certain subject. We argue about it and either reach a mutual decision, or we agree to disagree without holding grudges. The most important factor here is whether the point about which we disagree is truly crucial to our partnership. If it isn’t, we allow each other space to hold our own opinions with no harm to anyone.

    10.   Remembering that dull times are inevitable.

Some days are mundane. There is no excitement and nothing happens beyond work, laundry, food preparation, cleaning, bedtime routines, morning routines, etc. And that’s okay. Pawel has taught me to be grateful for the ordinary days, for the smooth routines that we have developed, focusing on our health and wellbeing and leaving excitement to another time.

11.  Celebrating the moments/days/weeks that are thrilling, exciting, and passionate.

We must never, ever overlook anything important! Whether it’s our children’s first independent steps, an award that one of us received, or a new blog post published. We do our best, together, to commemorate all those moments, no matter how small. Someday, they will be the memories to which we will return to brighten our days.

12.   Allowing space for adventure, creating new memories together.

My parents used to take me and my younger sister on adventure outings. We enjoyed driving in a general chosen direction without planning anything specific. Once, we ended up on a beach after dark. The full moon shining on the sun-warmed water of the Mediterranean Sea illuminated the sand and on it, a pile of my parents’ clothing. Before my sister and I realized what was happening, we saw our parents run into the water, wearing only their underwear! We had not planned to go to the beach and did not bring swimsuits with us. As an 11-year-old, I felt mortified to watch my parents run into the water, giggling like teenagers. My four-year-old sister followed suit, deciding that my parents were not allowed to have fun without her. I sat on the sand, shaking my head, looking left and right at the several other lone couples enjoying a romantic evening on the beach, secretly thinking that I, too, would have loved to splash in the warm moonlit sea. Today, this memory of my family is one of my fondest. Times have changed, but I loved seeing the moonlit joy on the faces of my parents and my sister. Now, in our 30s, Pawel and I are the ones creating fun adventures for our kids, some of which do not impress them but just might become fond ones in the future.

13.   Seeing each other through newlyweds’ eyes.

After sixteen years together, it’s easy for a partnership to become too familiar, based on friendship and lacking a spark of romance. In eastern philosophy, there is a lesson about learning to experience our world through the eyes of a newborn / beginner. Applied to marriage, I enjoy practising seeing my husband as though for the very first time, really looking at him, studying his forever smiling eyes and the fine lines around them that show his kindness beneath a hint of childlike mischief. I look at his hardworking hands, adorned with calluses and two rings: his wedding band and the symbolic iron ring worn by engineers in North America. I study him as though seeing him before me for the first time. I listen to his deep, soothing voice, smile at his silly sense of humour, and pretend that we are just now getting to know each other for the first time. The result is incredible as time and time again, I continue to fall in love in a new way.

I’m sure that I am missing entire categories in this list, and without giving away too many personal details, I’ll leave the list at this.

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Every couple is different. Each relationship is different. If there is anything you would like to add about your own important lessons for a successful marriage, please feel free to do so in the comments below.

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In childhood, I did my best to live by the rules, but I have been known to be bored easily and start to push boundaries. I continue to seek challenges, allowing myself to grow, to think outside the box. I’m learning to colour outside the lines, to bend the rules slightly without trying to hide my intentions from anyone but while reconnecting to an old favourite hobby. It’s a hobby that I buried away somewhere on a shelf far away in the library of my childhood.

When I was about five years old, there was a small bookstore on a plaza near our home. I would go into the store just to browse books, to walk between the aisles, look at the shelves and sniff inconspicuously at the scent of freshly printed ink on crisp paper that filled the shop. I lingered near the colouring book section, gingerly reaching for a new book that I had not seen before and flipping through the pages it contained. My fingers itched to return home with the book and sit at a table with my freshly sharpened pencils. The thrill of creating something new was overwhelming. Sometimes, my mom would buy a book for me, providing me with hours of inspiration as I ventured into my imagination with each new page on which I worked diligently. My mom, in turn, received the opportunity to enjoy a few quiet hours while getting some work done at home.

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Colouring books for adults have been trending as of late, with pictures containing finer, more intricate details. It turns out that children are not the only ones who are calmed by the activity. I chose to pick up such a book recently in order to allow myself an opportunity to connect with my children. While they sit at the kitchen table and colour, I do the same. Recently, on a rainy Sunday, my eldest and I sat together, each working on our own colouring page. I chose a beautiful mandala design and intuitively picked at the soft pastel colouring pencils, allowing myself to be guided toward the colours that I was to use. Instead of colouring certain shapes the way I normally would have, some 27 years ago, I chose to draw hearts inside the lines. I’m quietly starting to rebel while staying within the confines of my comfort zone, following the rules I intuitively set for myself.

In fact, simply colouring inside the lines allows us to focus on one task at a time, working with colour harmony. At other times, doing something slightly radical, venturing outside the familiar, is therapeutic. I might choose to continue doing things the traditional way, but I’m slowly giving myself permission to experiment with the limitless possibilities.

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What calming hobbies did you enjoy in childhood? Would you consider returning to them to try them through an adult’s perspective?

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I often say I hold myself to my highest standards. To some, it might sound like I am disciplined in my approach to everything in life. For me, high standards mean living with certain rules, but making intuitive decisions.

It means that I’m:

Working to move away from rigidity, learning to soften. I create my own guidelines, and feel free to bend certain rules from time to time. Other rules are golden absolutes. Some days call for strict discipline. Other days invite me to be more playful and perhaps even somewhat rebellious.

Listening to my body, heart, and intuition, and following their lead. This is true with nutrition, exercise, and various other lifestyle choices (more on this below).

Enjoying dressing up. I particularly benefit from dressing up when it’s the last thing I feel like doing. When I think I look good, I tend to feel great.

Giving myself permission to lounge on the couch in my pajamas, reading a book. I never have a full day’s leisure to lounge, but I can always set aside an hour or so to do that. Often, it happens in the evenings, after the kids are in bed.

Giving myself permission to wear yoga leggings while running errands. I’m probably one of the very few yoga instructors who believe that yoga clothes should be saved exclusively for the yoga studio, a gym, or a festival. Yet, I feel most sexy and comfortable when I wear yoga clothes, so if I have just finished teaching or taking a class and need to run an errand, I’ll do so comfortably in my funkiest leggings.

Spending most Saturdays doing laundry, cleaning, cooking good food, etc. Then, I spend as much time as possible on Sundays doing what I want to do (in-between tending to my family, of course).

Reminding myself to be stern with the kids about making their beds, brushing their teeth, and tidying up. Then, I overlook the mess they make while we bake cupcakes in the kitchen.

Choosing to be serious and responsible when I need to be. At other times, I crank up an embarrassing song and have a wacky dance party in the living room. And sometimes, I dance on my own in my bedroom, wearing something scandalously inappropriate. I laugh loudly at myself. Then, I laugh some more.

Giving myself permission to cry if I’m having a lousy day. I don’t try to talk myself out of it. We all have lousy days when the last thing we want to hear is someone telling us to ‘snap out of it.’ When I feel overwhelmed or sad, I don’t want to snap out of it. I want to face it and deal with it. I acquiesce to whatever it is I’m feeling and I sit with it, honouring that feeling for what it is, breathing through the sometimes excruciating discomfort. Then, slowly, I watch myself get out of a funk while learning more about myself in the process, learning about what liberates me.

Sticking to a healthy, plant-based diet 80% of the time. I choose to eat intuitively, asking myself what foods serve me best at this time. Some days, I want to eat an extra square (or two) of dark chocolate and have a glass of wine. Some days, I enjoy cheese and crackers, and maybe even a slice of toast with generously spread Nutella. On other days, all I want to eat are vegan salads and to drink green smoothies.

Choosing exercise that challenges me, gets my heart rate up, makes me sweat and my muscles shake. On other days, I choose to soften with restorative yoga.

Realizing that I have been ‘Type A’ under the surface and although I don’t enjoy this shadow side, I am learning to accept it, to recognize it, and to let go of the wish to be in control. I remind myself to let go and enjoy all the spheres that life offers me.

Recognizing myself as a whole person and learning to embrace all aspects of myself. There are certain aspects of myself that I am continuing to work on improving and changing altogether, with complete honesty and compassion.

What do high standards mean to you? What are you doing to uphold them? Where do you need to learn to soften?

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 A fun outing, complete with a tall ship cruise, in Toronto on Canada Day with our two boys.

Six years ago on July 1st, I sat on the sofa, watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice series while working on a cross stitch. The result was a 16” X 8” picture of nine plush animals seated on a wooden shelf, finally to be completed just before Christmas 2010. It’s now hanging in our son’s bedroom, above his dresser, with a special inscription from me.

I started working on the cross stitch project shortly after finding out the happy news that Pawel and I were expecting our first baby, due to make his appearance sometime around July 1st. And so, I sat on the couch, watching TV and stitching, wondering whether our boy will be a Canada Day baby, or perhaps he might favour the holiday south of the border, three days later. We both knew that he would pick a day on which we can celebrate him, refusing to share his day with any other occasion.

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Back from the hospital and rocking the fancy wrist bands. 

We always knew our baby was going to make his grand entrance into this world on his own terms, in his own time. Free-spirited and not one to casually follow rules, he keeps us on our toes constantly with his wonderful, complex, quirky personality. It continues to astound me how similar his character is to mine at that age. The same quiet mischievous sparkle shines just beneath the surface, and if you look long enough, you might see it in his big brown eyes.

Whoosh! Almost six months have flown since the start of 2015. If you’re like me, you might enjoy taking inventory at the start, the end of the year, its midway point, and on your birthday. The past Sunday’s Summer Solstice marks the year’s midway point, so here is a brief update on what we have been into:

Running

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I never thought I would enjoy running. Several years ago, I decided to embark on a training schedule akin to a typical 0 to 5K program. However, I quickly became bored, experienced joint issues, and probably came up with myriad other excuses that I can no longer recall. This summer, however, I found that I was becoming bored with my indoor HIIT cardio. I wanted to start moving out of doors, in the fresh air. I felt called to explore various routes in our neighbourhood. I have been spending the majority of my days in an office and have not had a chance to take daily walks with my kids to and from school. I miss being outside.

I’m still at the point of training that requires me to alternate running with walking, gradually increasing my running time, but I must say that I have fallen in love with running. Some days feel more challenging than others, but I am excited at the prospect of maybe, possibly, one day soon becoming a dedicated runner. Summer is a perfect time to reconnect to our passions and to try something new, like running. It’s still out of my comfort zone but continues to become increasingly familiar.

Reading

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Image courtesy of Starz.

At the recommendation of a good friend who knows all about my admiration of all-things Celtic (as in Ireland and Scotland, fairies, the Highlands, folk music, etc.), for Mother’s Day in May, Mr. Wanderlust gave me a box of the first four books of the Outlander series. I know the books may be dubbed literary candy, but I am shamelessly obsessed with the story and its characters. I am in awe of Diana Gabaldon’s brilliant character development and have joined the millions of readers who can’t get enough of the story of Jamie and Claire. I wrote recently that I do not watch television, making an exception for the rare good movie or short TV series. Having heard incredible reviews of the Outlander TV series, I borrowed the BluRay first half of the first season from my friend. Mr. Wanderlust was coaxed into watching the first two episodes of the show with me, after which he also was hooked. And now we both want to learn Gaelic. Maybe that’s a future project.

Writing

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Toasting marshmallows by the fire in the backyard. A summer favourite.

The memoir writing continues. Thank you to everyone who reached out to me last week with words of advice, as well as the reminder that there are others who second-guess their writing motives and plans. For now, I have decided to stop overthinking. I’m following my heart and curiously watching the story unfold from the tips of my fingers.

Knitting

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I am working on this delicious pair of watermelon-patterned socks, using Zauberwolle. Some knitters take a break from working with wool in the summer, but I’m not one of them. Besides, look at these colours! Do they not whisper ‘SUMMER’, in a giggly sing-song voice? Thus far, the summer weather in the Toronto area has been warm and breezy, and I happily spend my evenings with this yummy project.

Celtic Harp

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This picture is not recent, but we like it.

I’m currently learning to play Scotland the Brave. My favourite place to play in the summer is on our back patio. The wind carries the notes with it through the trees and I feel I can serenade along with the birds. Running and yoga at 5:30 a.m. provide me with the right jolt of energy, but reading, knitting and playing the Celtic harp allow me to slow down at 8 p.m.

Woodworking

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Double-dyed stabilized maple burl. We think it’s gorgeous.

Mr. Wanderlust has been at work on new goodies, to be revealed soon. He has also been experimenting with a laser etcher, which translates into wonderful possibilities.

Article Recommendation

I will leave you with this article: No Guilt Allowed! Why Parents Need Time for Themselves. As a working parent, I often find it challenging to be away from my children for long hours on weekdays. However, having also been a stay-at-home parent, I know how exhausting that role can be for an introvert. As an INFP, I cherish my quiet time, my alone time. With two very spirited young boys, that quiet time is often tough to come by. The noises at work tend of very different nature from the ones I hear at home. Both present their challenges and both leave me with the need to spend some time, every evening, alone, unwinding from the day that has passed. And that is why I make the time for reading, crafting, or playing a musical instrument. That’s why Pawel makes the time for woodworking. When we feel calmer, recharged and relaxed, we are better people, better parents.

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Your turn! What have you been reading, crafting, playing, learning, or exploring? Are you an introvert parent? How do you make time for yourself? 

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Over the past few weeks, I have heard and read many reviews of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Although I already have a minimalist wardrobe and did not need to dispose of clutter in my closet, the book has influenced me to change my method of folding t-shirts. The book has also reminded me to make an extra effort to put items in the correct place as soon as possible after I finish using them. Although that has always been my practice, I realized I did have various old documents on my desk that needed to be filed away.

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The KonMari method of folding t-shirts.

I was also drawn to the mindful attitude toward maintenance advocated by Kondo. I pick up each object mindfully at home, asking myself, “Does this bring me joy? Will I or do I use this item on a regular basis? Where should its place be in my home?” I have never been an impulsive shopper, but these questions, in turn, help me to dedicate my undivided attention to the decision-making process when standing in a store.

know I feel better, more focused and relaxed when my environment is tidy and well organized. The mere idea of a cluttered space makes my shoulders rise up to my ears and strains my breath. However, Pawel and I do share our home with our two very spirited young boys who have the remarkable ability to create, within a matter of minutes, a mess in any room that is akin to the aftermath of a raging tornado.

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Minimalist selection of footwear. I have three other pairs of shoes, not pictured.

When my older son was a newborn with terrible colic, one day, amid the fog of exhaustion, I looked about me at the living room carpet, with dust bunnies comprised of the hair of our two cats scattered about, and sighed in defiance. Although the mess made my stress level rise, I chose to ignore it in favour of a 30-minute nap and the resulting preservation of my sanity.

I do my best to keep a balance between working diligently to uphold my highest standards and choosing to ignore a less-than-perfect home from time to time. In fact, the two go hand-in-hand: when I feel calmer and able to overlook the mess of toys strewn around the living room, I am a better mother to my children and partner to Pawel, better able to uphold those high standards. Some days, I feel exhausted after an hour of nagging my children in agitation about tidying up their rooms. Inevitably, 15 minutes after they reluctantly put away their toys, the living room once again looks less than ideal. Interestingly, when I make a choice to be a bit softer in my approach, more willing to overlook the mess until bedtime, I have more energy to be a kind, fun mom.

These days, instead of nagging, I focus on tidying up my own space, taking pictures of old documents and shredding the original hard copies, or folding my t-shirts and camisoles in the space-saving and pretty way recommended by Marie Kondo.

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My collection of Dharma Wanderlust jewelry.

When I start to feel upset about something in my home being out of its place, I catch myself ready to flare out at my family and remind myself of the words from Audrey Hepburn’s favourite poem:

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.” 

If you have read Marie Kondo’s book, I would love to read about your impressions and whether the book has had a positive effect on the way you manage your living and/or work space. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

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“You’ve been rearranging furniture again.”

My parents simply stated this fact while allowing their eyes to quickly drift from one piece of furniture to the other, acknowledging the changes. They considered the spot where our living room sofa was newly positioned, to the right of the piano, and I waited with bated breath. At nine years of age, I never felt the need to explain my motives to them, though I hungered for my parents’ approval of my designs.

“I myself used to rearrange furniture in my room as a boy. I would get bored and wanted to try something new, so I would work on making my surroundings look better,” Papa said calmly with just a mere hint of a smile. I sighed in silent relief.

Since my childhood years, I have been preoccupied with bettering my surroundings, trying to make my home a little cozier, more comfortable. The inspiration arises within me suddenly, and not only when I sit quietly at home. There are always meals to be prepared, laundry to be folded, tears or noses to be wiped. I feel the need to make an effort to sit quietly at home more often.

Yesterday, while out for a walk at lunchtime, I saw somewhere in my periphery that familiar spark of inspiration.

As soon as Pawel and I walked through the front door of our home upon returning from work, we kissed and hugged our children, asked them about their day. Then, without changing out of the dressier clothes we wore at work, we began to move sofas, to the delight of the boys who, it turned out, are just as thrilled as I am about the idea of something new taking place in our home. Pawel, it appeared, did not share my enthusiasm, but he chose to trust my idea.

Two hours later, after the boys were tucked quietly into their beds, I sat in our newly arranged living room, sipping herbal tea, gazing at the flicker of the lavender-scented candle on the coffee table in front of me, listening to a podcast and cross stitching. The rearrangement of furniture in my home awakened within me a renewed appreciation for my comfortable place of retreat. It also allowed me to carve out some time at the end of the day to relax with an activity I enjoy.

We didn’t feel the need to spend money on new furniture or home décor items, but the new design and placement of the living room sofa, a blooming Peace Lily plant to its left by the wide window, bring a sense of novelty to the space. The hearth has been tended once again. We feel a little happier in our home.

Do you enjoy re-decorating your home? Do you tend to purchase new items, or try to use what you already have?

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

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“Pick the day. Enjoy it – to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come… The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present, and I don’t want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future.” – Audrey Hepburn

Sometimes, we just need a nap. A long nap. A very, very long nap. Here’s a story about a tired holiday weekend, and the lessons of which I have been reminded.

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I was looking forward to the Easter long weekend and the many plans to spend three beautiful days with our family. On Thursday night, after a four-day work week that felt longer than the usual five-day week, I felt blissfully tired and headed to bed earlier. I was fully expecting to wake up at 5 a.m. to start the day with a gentle yoga practice and a meditation session while welcoming the sunrise. Instead, on Friday morning, I hit the snooze button on my alarm clock several times before realizing I felt utterly exhausted. I turned off the alarm clock and chose, instead, to pay off the big sleep debt I accumulated earlier in the week while staying up for a few nights to take care of our younger child who was sick with a stomach bug.

I woke up at 9:30 (very unusual for me) to see the sun streaming in through the window. Yet, my brain felt foggy even after I drank an extra cup of strong coffee with almond milk. Had I overslept? Too much of a good thing isn’t helpful, either. The day was glorious and the sun felt warm. We shed our jackets and went for a walk around the neighbourhood, wearing only our sweaters! However, the walk wasn’t as relaxing as we had hoped it would be. Our younger son, having just gotten over the stomach bug, was now fighting a sinus cold. Exhausted and ready for a nap, he felt uncomfortable and kept whining, finally laying down on the sidewalk and refusing to walk any farther. I wasn’t the only one dealing with brain fog. The fuzziness continued into Saturday and Sunday during a roadtrip to visit our family. By this point, the weather went from sunny 14C on Friday to snow and 2C on Sunday. Once again, I slept in until 9:30 and woke up feeling not only tired but also with a sore throat. By this point, our youngest child had a runny nose, and I knew I was headed toward the same outcome. Suffice it to say that I was not a lively conversationalist during Easter brunch at my in-laws’.

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Our plans for a lively, fun weekend didn’t work out the way we had hoped they would. I’m still dealing with sleep debt and had a difficult time getting up on Monday to prepare for the new work week. I haven’t stepped on my yoga mat in the past four days, and now I have come down with a cold.

But I’m not writing this to whine.

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Despite the exhaustion, despite the strange (and somewhat depressing) weather patterns, despite the busy pace, I am grateful. I am grateful for another weekend spent with our loved ones. I am grateful for good food. For strong coffee. For cuddles with my favourite people. For warm hospitality. For Easter chocolate. I am grateful for a small window of time, thanks to my parents’ offer to babysit, when Pawel and I were able to head out on Saturday night to the book store once the kids were quietly snuggled in bed together. I am grateful for the ever-growing stack of books by my bedside. I am grateful for hot tea to soothe a sore throat. I am grateful for the beautiful warm, sunny days and the promise of spring. I’m also grateful for snow and rain, because chilly grey days remind us to slow down and take better care of ourselves. I am grateful for events that don’t work out as planned. I am grateful for the reminder to make the most of every day, to enjoy it all to the maximum, even when gratitude is the last sense I want to cultivate.

Here’s to a fantastic week! Let’s make the most of it, every day!

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What I have been reading:

What Compassion Looks Like: The Lesson of the Flowers  – a brilliant article by Karen Maezen-Miller. I keep picking up her book, Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, whenever I need advice. I first read this book when my firstborn was only two months old. My copy of the book is dog-eared and underlined.

When I Married My Mother  by Jo Maeder. A memoir of a woman caring for her aging, ill mother.

Insight Yoga by Sarah Powers. This book has been on my ‘To Read’ list for the past few years, since I attended an incredible workshop led by Sarah Powers. I’m happy to have finally acquired it.

Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. I read and loved Rubin’s The Happiness Project  and had to get my hands on her latest publication. By the way, I still have Happier at Home: The Days are Long but the Years are Short on my ‘To Read’ list. I think I will pick it up after I finish Better than Before.

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It started with a typical Saturday afternoon, during a weekly house cleaning session. One moment, I was wiping dust off the floor-to-ceiling book shelves in the basement, which serves double duty as a playroom, and the next, I found myself starting to pick up toys with which our children no longer play, putting them into an empty cardboard box. The children were playing upstairs at the time, but upon hearing me make noise in the basement, they came downstairs to inquire.

“Boys, you have many toys with which you don’t play anymore. Correct?”

They both nodded.

“I’m wondering whether we can share these toys with children who might make better use of them.” I watched their faces for a sign of understanding.

They nodded again and agreed with me when I explained that this meant we would collect toys that are no longer needed or wanted in order to give them away. I clarified that we would never have the toys returned to us.

The boys readily started to pick up one toy after another, considered whether they need it, and then added it to the box, which filled very quickly.

The children got to keep their favourite toys (mostly Lego) and are now able to easily find the toys they need when they need them. Not surprisingly, they realized they don’t need very many toys at all, and since they naturally gravitate toward Lego and other building blocks that encourage the use of imagination and creativity, I have a suspicion they will not be easily bored anytime soon.

This impromptu de-cluttering session led to a change of perspective. For the remainder of that day, whenever I stepped into another room in our house, I asked myself whether we need all the material items we managed to acquire over the past 7.5 years after moving into our current home. Pawel and I have never had a fear of letting go of material objects. Neither are we serious collectors of random tchotchkes. Yet, there seemed to be too much stuff that we do not need. I grew tired of seeing busy kitchen counters. I spoke with Pawel and explained to him that I wanted to edit our home and throw out, sell, or give away various pieces that we do not need to keep and/or do not enjoy. To my relief, he told me he’s on board.

I will continue to write more about our project to ‘edit ruthlessly,’ inspired by the Ted talk by Graham Hill. I will also share photographs of our home as it looks now, after our most recent de-cluttering session.

For now, let me leave you with a few of our reasons for choosing to de-clutter our home:

  1. Having fewer possessions that need to be maintained and cleaned / dusted on a regular basis allows us to spend less time cleaning our home and leaves more time for family fun.
  2. Getting rid of old stuff simply feels good. We like to think of it as a home detox. We have more empty space in our home, which feels refreshing. I used to feel the need to fill every empty spot, but that is no longer the case. I want to live in rooms that feel comfortable but appear more spacious.
  3. We don’t like to feel that our possessions own us.
  4. Editing our possessions helps us to appreciate the items that we do have and use on a regular basis. We don’t need 10 different pots and pans in the kitchen, but we appreciate the two large pots we use for cooking soup every week (one to reheat and bring to work in a thermos for our lunches and the other to enjoy for dinner, at home).
  5. It’s easier to find something in an uncluttered home. We know where every item is located.
  6. Our style has changed in the past few years and our design philosophy has evolved.
  7. I was inspired by the numerous minimalist bloggers who have emerged in the recent years. I enjoy reading about families who have drastically reduced the size of their belongings and moved to live in small apartments or tiny homes. I have always preferred to live in a smaller home, so I’m intrigued by the tiny home trend.

How do you feel about minimalism? How would you describe your own lifestyle when it comes to collecting possessions? Perhaps you also have recently gone through a substantial de-cluttering session. I would love to read your story.

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We needed to take some time to adjust to a new change in our household. After a blogging hiatus, we’re back and ready to share more of our adventures and ideas with you. To our loyal readers, thank you for your continuing support. And if you’re new to our site, welcome! We hope you will enjoy its content and will share it with your friends.

My older son and I were sitting at a local coffee and doughnut shop yesterday in the evening after dinner, enjoying a mini escape from the house, a mom-and-son date. While I waited for my mint tea to chill, I watched my son and answered his questions about the various signs he kept noticing in the small shop, advertising sandwich combos, a new roast, and free WiFi (“What is WiFi, Mommy?”). He was sipping his hot chocolate, slowly at first, until he started to take bigger slurps and finally finished it before reaching for his double chocolate doughnut. Like me, my son has a sweet tooth. I have often wondered whether in our family, we all have a sweet tooth gene that continues to be passed on from generation to generation. When I started to introduce my son to ‘real’ foods as a baby, I offered him pureed beans alongside pureed yams. Guess which one he relished, seated in his high chair with a smile full of sweet-tasting orange-coloured happiness. The other vegetable was promptly spat out, as soon as the BPA-free teaspoon touched his lips.

As a student of Mindfulness, I have a profound interest in how we can utilize Mindfulness practices to change negative habits into lasting positive ones. Particularly, I have been applying the practice to my personal eating patterns by observing my emotions and thoughts during stressful/challenging times, noticing the foods I crave during those times: anything made with sugar.

I am also a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s work, the author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. Her new book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, to be released on March 17th, explores the science behind habit-forming behaviour. Visiting Rubin’s website, I came across this quiz and as I read the post, I had to pause to listen to the ‘ding ding ding’ sound coming closer toward me from a distance.

It turns out that some people are natural moderators while others are abstainers. As much as I don’t enjoy labels, what this means is that for some people, like me, it’s easier to give up sugar cold-turkey and after struggling through the initial 14 days or so, to abstain from sugar altogether. Others more easily take the approach that ‘life is too short to miss out on treats,’ and are able to stop eating dessert after the first two bites. Rubin mentions yet another fascinating fact, that moderators often try – unsuccessfully – to turn into abstainers, and abstainers – again, unsuccessfully – attempt to become moderators.

This information provides a different perspective for my practice. It also leads me to wonder whether, perhaps, Mindfulness practices that relate to food consumption come more easily to people who are naturally better at moderating. On the other hand, a daily seated or walking mindfulness meditation practice might come more easily to a person who takes the ‘all or nothing’ attitude. I would assume that people who are able to effectively abstain from consuming certain foods would also be naturally better than others at repeating the same behaviour every day. I might be wrong, but to learn more, I will just have to read Rubin’s new book and continue practising.

What are your thoughts? Would you say you tend to choose the ‘all or nothing’ or the ‘you only live once, so let’s enjoy the treat’ approach? Please feel free to comment.

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