If you need to know what love is, feel free to ask my eight-year-old. He knows the answer.

A friend on Facebook, who has a small army of young, adorable children, recently posted a list of questions to ask your kids, typical stuff like “what’s your name, age, favourite food, etc.” The last question on the list was “What does love mean?”

I do not usually do these with my kids and when I do, I won’t post their responses, but for some reason, this time I did ask them the questions, privately, without the other three listening in. And for the most part, their answers were not surprising, I like to think that I know my kids fairly well (well, except for finding out that my twelve-year-old believes that my favourite thing to do is wash dishes, but I digress). Overall though, their answers were not shocking. Until that last question, that is. Ugh. My heart is pulverized by the sweet, tender, kind, loveliness of it all.

My oldest small and my youngest both answered ” That you care about other people” and “that you care” respectively. My second youngest son answered “kiss!” with a giggle. And my youngest son, well, he had some thoughts on the subject and I took them down while he dictated. He propped up his head with his fists under his cheek bones, thought for a few minutes, then looked at me with his deep blue eyes, took his time and slowly answered:

How does my eight-year-old know and understand the answer to this question so completely,  but the people in positions of power, who are threatening to destroy every ounce of progress made toward equality and human rights over the last century cannot connect the dots?

For me, being one who is prone to great, big feelings, able to go from feeling great big happiness to great big sadness in a matter of moments, I needed to hear this today. It gives me hope. It makes me think that maybe things really will be okay.

#BeKindAlways

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off.

 

Are you kidding me? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Every now and then, I get a wake up call that serves to show me that what I had always suspected is true. Sometimes it’s an accidental wake up. Other times, I go looking for it. And sometimes, it’s forced upon me after willfully hiding from it forever.

It’s no secret that I have a long-standing fear and avoidance relationship with having my picture taken. I can sometimes take one of myself, and if I do, I’m usually surrounded (read: protected) by my children, but generally, as soon as someone wants to take my picture, or there is a video recording being taped, my anxiety begins to rise and I start looking for a way OUT. I could spend an entire post psychoanalyzing WHY I’m photo-adverse, but that’s not the point of this post, so I’ll leave that for another angst-filled day.

No, the point of this post is to say “what the fuck, guys?!? Why didn’t any of you tell me that I have gotten THIS far out of control and that I’m walking around looking like a frumpy, middle-aged, worn down and tired out sack of shit?” But that was too long for the title, so I’m just putting it out there now.

Seeing myself on video, without the protective shield of my children was painful, embarrassing, uncomfortable and just plain, UGH. The fact that the video was for a school assignment made it just that much more UGH because I had to share it with other, SIGHTED people

But, you know me (or, if you don’t, you’ll quickly learn that) I’m not one to hold a grudge (ha!), so I’m just going to take it from here and start turning this ship around. No more complacency in my own gluttony and sloth. No more convincing myself that I can eat “just one slice/square/cookie/tub of ice cream.” I can’t. My willpower and self-control is not that highly evolved yet and it is time that I take ownership of that fact and stop being a victim of circumstance and emotions.

So, that said, I’m also a realist in a  lot of ways. I know that the best way for me to fail is to completely swear off sugar, white flour, junk food, pizza, and desserts forever. So I’m not doing that. I’m going to take a more mindful approach to food and what my purpose is in eating whatever it is that I’m about to stuff into  my gob. I have found that more often than not, if I stop and really think about what I’m eating, why I’m eating it and what effect eating it will have on my health, both physical and mental, I can easily resist the urge.

When I was younger, my weight struggles were about vanity and appearances. Now that I’m older, my weight issues are about health and mortality and being fully present for my family. You see, I have this goal to live to be at least 106-years-old and to share a beautiful, triple-layered chocolate cake frosted with pink vanilla buttercream with my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and I am painfully aware that it is going to to take more than a wish and a prayer to get there. It’s going to take mindful, willful, determined effort, and only I can make it happen.

I am a mindless eater. Awareness is half the battle. The other half of the battle will be choosing to switch my modus operandi from mindless to mindful and I’m calling today day one. And I may call tomorrow day one as well. And I may call every day from here on out day one, because as long as I’m trying, I’m not failing. As long as I’m trying, there is hope. As long as I’m trying, I will, eventually, figure out my way through even the hardest of obstacles.

Yes, for some of us, even stairs are an obstacle.

 

It’s not about bashing men, so just stop it.

This is NOT a post bashing men by any stretch of the definition. I just finished reading an article, by Mark Manson, a fellow I started reading not so very long ago. His most recent article is an attempt to understand what has gone wrong for men and why, and it is a worthwhile, informative and entertaining read. Mark uses the right mix of humour and fact to get his point across to the reader. And the subject matter (the reality and meaning of being male in our society) is important for all of us to understand. It is as important to understand what has gone wrong for men as it is to understand the reality faced by women, children, the elderly, black, asian, Muslim, disabled/other-abled, LGBTQ communities, indigenous people, and every other ‘group.’

Read Mark Manson’s: What’s the problem with men? 
 
When I first became a mother, I was young and single and female. I did not know the first thing about the male psyche or experience that hadn’t been touted to me as ‘fact’ through the mainstream media. Since I was decidedly going to remain female, first hand knowledge was impossible, so instead I set about learning everything that I could about ‘boys’ so that I would be able to do my very best to raise my son to be more than just a ‘stereotypical guy’ who was only out for power and dominance at the expense of women and other less powerful segments of society.
 
My parenting goals now are different and focused less on gender similarities and differences and more geared toward encouraging all of my children, male or female, to be better people, kinder, more empathetic, inclusive, generous and thoughtful everyday. I want them to express their emotions, even the unpleasant ones in healthy ways, and to share their thoughts and ideas without the fear of being shut down. I want them to have the strength and confidence to encourage others to do the same, and, to always look within for validation and purpose rather than looking toward someone else, who is likely just lost, to lead their path through life.
So, that’s it for me today. I just wanted to share with ya’ll what has been occupying my mind while I procrastinate doing my homework. I hope that you give the article a read and share your thoughts – either here in the comments section or on the Twitter or Facebook pages. The older I get, the more I appreciate hearing all different points of view and ideas. The older I get, the more excited I am to learn new things about subjects that I was not that impressed with in my youth. It would seem that spending my childhood in school was likely wasted on me, although it did keep me off the streets. But honestly,  I am far more open to learning now than I ever was then. On the sunny side  though, I did learn how to read and write and do long division, so it’s not like it was a complete waste of time. 😂
~A.

It’s Bell ‘Let’s Talk’ Day and It’s Okay to Struggle.

For the people struggling with metal illness and mental health issues on a daily basis, today is about creating a safe space for conversations to happen, to take mental health issues out of the dark, taboo places and insinuate them into the general population. To create awareness. To create empathy and understanding. To educate and attempt to eradicate some of the stigma that plagues any illness that is not physical in nature.

And I have a theory.

I believe that we all struggle with mental illness and mental health. Every single one of us. Depression, anxiety, addictions, narcissism, social dysfunction, phobias, compulsions, delusions, we all have something. Some of us battle daily. Some of us battle once in our lifetime. Some of us are triggered seasonally. And some of us completely unaware that we are suffering from an actual illness and think we’re just fine, but can’t explain why we do, think or say the things that we do. Not understanding why some things just keep on happening ‘to us.’ Some of us struggle our whole lives and some of us struggle with mental illness and health during various phases of our lives. The point is, no one gets out unscathed. This effects us all.

And that is okay.

It is okay not to be ‘perfect’ and have it all together, all the time. It is okay to need a little (or a lot) of help. It is okay to need medication, therapy, comfort, and to retreat to regroup. It is okay to not be strong all of the time and really, sometimes we are the strongest when we are the most vulnerable.

I am very aware of my imperfections, issues and struggles 365 days a year. The older I get, the more issues I realize that I have. And that is okay. We are all imperfect. We are all in this together. If I see you struggling, I will offer whatever help that I can. Be it an ear to listen, advice, chocolate, or, if we’re really good friends, help hiding the body.

My door (virtual) is always open (I’d keep my actual door open, but last time I left the screen unlocked a racoon walked into my kitchen and stole the cat food, so I keep things pretty Fort Knox’d now). If you’re feeling like you’re the only one who yelled at her kids, didn’t do mothering perfectly, fed her family whatever was around, screwed up at work, ate too much or too little, are overwhelmed by all of the demands placed on you – for your time, you attention, your affection, for your YOU – you are not alone.

My door is open. So for this Bell Let’s Talk Day, and everyday until the next one, Let’s Talk. 

#BellLetsTalk

This is the year

So, in keeping with my modus operandi, this post was slated to be published on the last day of 2016 and it is now January 1, 2017. To state the obvious, it goes without saying that I failed to achieve my final writing goal of 2016. Procrastination rules supreme, you can take the girl out of lazy but you can’t take lazy out of the girl, and all that. Moving right along (because enough about me being a slug), I am placing a fair amount of pressure on myself to achieve certain goals in 2017. I’m not sure that I would or could call them resolutions, but they are very definitely (hashtag-less) goals. Despite my joking and propensity for self-deprecating humour, I actually did accomplish a fair amount in 2016. As always though, I am left feeling as though I let myself (and everyone else) down.

And no, not because I’m still on intimate terms with the extra 40 (or 50) pounds I’ve been in a complicated relationship with for the past five years. Not because I have STILL not written a novella, novel or even a really great blog post. Not because I remain a low-wage earner. Not even because my house is still in a state of renovation and disarray, with no end in sight. No. I am left, here at the end of 2016, feeling as though I have let myself down because I know better and yet consistently do not do better.

I know that I should exercise (walk, lift, yoga, whatever), and yet I do not. I know that I should give up chocolate, french fries, Diet Pepsi, chips, meat, refined white flour, sugar and sweeteners and yet I do not. I know that I should be going to bed earlier, getting more sleep, rising earlier and getting more done in a day, and yet, I do not. I know that I should be writing every single day  and pursuing other creative and artistic endeavours and yet, I do not. I know that I should be ever patient, calm and serene with my children, and yet, I am not. I know that I should get those paint cans shaken (again) and get to painting rooms where it makes sense to do so, and yet, I do not.

You see? I know better and yet I do mediocre. I make excuses for myself. I’ll tell myself that I have a  lot to do, I have a lot on my plate with running the house, raising the kids, being a wife and mother, with working more and more hours outside of the home. And of course it’s acceptable that I don’t make time for myself or time to pursue what makes my spirit sing, you can’t make what you don’t have. Of course it’s acceptable that I burn the candle at both ends so that nobody, myself included, has a chance of getting the best that I have to offer. Of course it’s acceptable to take on more and more and more and to not acknowledge how overwhelmed or unfulfilled or unhappy I may be as a result. Of course it is.

Not.

So this  year, this year of 2017, will be a kinder, gentler year for me. A more accepting and relaxed year. No, I’m not quitting my family, marriage or work (going from low to no-wage earner is not an option), but I am going to work on actually (rather than just thinking about) making myself more of a priority and giving myself the time, care and attention that I NEED in order to be happy, fulfilled, healthy, and truly able to do better in all areas and give more to all the people in my life. Because the more I deny myself, the more that I am denying the people around me, which is counter-intuitive to my ‘healer and helper’ nature (stop snickering! I am very nurturing when I’m not being pulled in twenty directions at once).

So, instead of a list of resolutions (a.k.a. promises that I have no real intention to keep), this year I’m going to say ‘yes’ more and ‘no’ less. To myself.

How about you? What are your plans for 2017? We all have the same 365 days, what we choose to do with them is what will make the difference between having a year that we enjoy and celebrate and having a year that we merely survive.

~A.

Miscellany with a side of stabbiness

Everyday, I update the little Christmas countdown board. When I forget, my 10 year-old is very good at making sure that a) I know it and b) I fix it. So, that’s covered.

The shopping is coming along. There’s already WAY TOO MUCH stuff in this house and Christmas isn’t going to lighten the load any. I quest to declutter is a losing battle right now. I’m feeling quite defeated, I must admit. But, on the upside, I have enough Lego now to build myself a new minivan when mine gives up the ghost.

My weight and my stress level are creeping back up, so I know that it’s time to do something about both those things. Likely tending to one will resolve the other, so really, I just knocked that list down by half. Go me!

Airmiles announced this week that Airmiles will no longer expire. Well, that’s just fucking great. Now that I redeemed almost all of them because I’d rather have shit I didn’t want or need that lose TEN YEARS of collecting effort. Not impressed. Less than a month before they are all set to expire, Airmiles ‘changes its’ mind.’ Um. fuck you very much, Airmiles, you asshole.

And, in more amusing news, last week, I was accused of English being my second language, by someone who, by my estimation, (based on her online writing) is functionally illiterate in English. Are you eff’ing kidding me? To be fair, her exact comment was: “Thanks for the long comment but you may not fluent in English? Read my post again.” Her badly written original question was looking for ways that she could improve her son’s French (“Can anyone give advice if I want my 11 year old son improves his French ?”). I gave her a few suggestions and at the end threw it out there that immersion isn’t for everyone, so not to stress too much if English is a better program for him. Vowed not to help stupid people again. Well, I will, because I can’t say no, but only the polite ones from now on.

Also, if Spellcheck tries, just one more time, to auto-correct “stabby” to “shabby” I am going to get all kinds of cranky. I am NOT shabby. Nor am I “stubby.” But I most definitely AM stabby.

if-the-next-words-out-of

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

~A.

The problem is not kids these days. It’s us.

one-bookone-penone-childand-one

As much as we want to blame the internet, the kids, the teachers, the schools, the media, none of those things are the problem. This is not a fun message to send or receive. The problem with kids these days is us. Children watch the adults around them (and their parents more specifically) and what they observe shapes the foundation for their views on the world. These observations help to develop how they, themselves react and behave towards others over the course of their day. And let’s face it, the majority of their day is spent at school.

Many parents and adults are polite, considerate, lovely people. They are not the problem (clearly). Many other parents and adults are loud, rude, angry, confrontational and reactive. They are the problem (clearly).

Today, the common thought by professionals in the education and helping professions is that children need to learn how to “self-regulate” and that being a successful “self-regulator” will resolve much of the behaviour and acting out that many schools are forced to deal with everyday, all day, with a greater number of students than ever (at least so it appears based on anecdotal evidence). Behaviours that are often serving as a barrier to accessing a solid education by all students, not merely the ones acting out.

Self-regulation is an excellent idea. It is a great theory. It fails in practice. Why? Because until the PARENTS are able to self-regulate and behave in polite and civilized ways, children do not stand a chance. Until the PARENTS begin to support educators and the importance of being educated, their children will continue to act out.

Children’s behaviour is NOT a school board’s responsibility. Children’s behaviour is the parents’ responsibility and if the parents need support, then THAT is where to school board can provide assistance. Educators and school staff are not there to RAISE children. Schools exist to educate and support children and help to guide them toward successful and productive citizenship. Schools are NOT daycares, babysitters or nannies.

This goal of educating and guiding children cannot be met when parents abdicate their parental responsibilities once their child(ren) pass through the doors of their first school. I have had parents say to me ” meh, it’s their [the school’s] problem to deal with, he’s with them all day. He’s perfectly fine at home. What do they expect ME to do about it if he’s not listening to them (replace ‘listening’ with any of these: hitting, acting out, swearing, fighting, refusing to work, spitting, running away, bullying, etc)?”

My opinions on raising children, school, and parenting are not popular and I accept that. I did not become a mother in order to have a bunch of new friends, or create my own clique, or to be popular with tiny people. I became a mother to raise good humans and pass down some of the skills and knowledge that I had gathered in my lifetime (turns out some those skills were somewhat less developed than I thought!) and sometimes that means that I am about the most unpopular person in the house, possibly the planet (just ask my kids!).  I am the primary caregiver in our family, and as such it is one of my jobs to set and enforce the majority of the routines, rules and consequences. I do not make excuses for my children’s behaviour when they make poor choices. They must take responsibility for their choices and they are held to a higher standard than “I don’t know” or “well, everyone else…” I do not let things that are wrong slide. We talk it out and problem solve what they could do differently next time. They do not get away with blaming others for their choices. Because they always have more than one choice. We all do.

I am not writing this from a place of infallible, perfect parenting. I am not the perfect parent. My kids are not perfect. One thing that I am though, is constantly aware, constantly watching, listening and seeking better ways of doing things, handling situations, and guiding my children (and the children with whom I work) toward making conscious choices rather than following the crowd, acting on impulse or simply being reactive.

And you know what? Sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, great, when it doesn’t, we try again.

One thing that every parent needs to know (in my unpopular opinion), is that it is the PARENT’S job to parent, that as a parent that you, and you alone are your child’s first and most important teacher. With that responsibility comes the requirement to work WITH educators and other helping professionals to ensure that your child is giving and receiving all of the effort and cooperation possible to ensure a successful result. When parents are combative to or confrontational toward the very people they are depending on to raise their children, it only serves to escalate the problems the child, and therefore the school and the rest of the children, must deal with.

This quick post has grown slightly longer than I expected. In the end, here is my wish list for all of us:

  1. Demonstrate the behaviour we want our kids to copy;
  2. Instill a love of learning and a sincere belief in the importance of being educated in all areas of life (i.e. history is not pointless and French is not dumb);
  3. Bring back social etiquette and manners – across the board;
  4. Place the responsibility of parenting back on the parents and provide support where needed and when necessary;
  5. Allow children to be children and to make mistakes without rushing in to ‘rescue’ them from all natural consequences of their choices;
  6. Learn, teach and share problem solving and dispute resolution skills with children from a young age (but it’s never too late to start);
  7. Spend less time on ‘devices’ and more time interacting, in REAL LIFE with our families – no more technological babysitters and distractions;
  8. Realize that not everything is personal or requires your response. If I say that I don’t like the colour blue, and your shirt is blue, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like you, it means that I don’t like blue. Period.
  9. Stop jumping to conclusions or attributing the worst possible meaning to everything. Give people the benefit of the doubt first.
  10. If you’re talking, you’re not listening. If you’re not listening, you’re not learning. If you’re not learning, you are standing still (and possibly moving backwards). Talk less, listen more.

And that, my friends, is my (consistently) unpopular two-cents on the subject.

~A.

Can I take a 50% completion rate as a win? Pretty please?

I have a list. On that list there are 36 things that I MUST do this week. Please note, that today is THURSDAY. This means that I have, essentially, one day left to finish my list (and probably save the world, as yes, my list is that important).

As of this precise moment in time, I have completed 18 items on my list. Using my superior fourth grade math skills, that means that I have completed roughly 50% of my list. Or, in layman terms, for those of you not as math-savvy as I clearly am, by completing 18 items on my list of 36 means that I’m well and truly fecked and destined fail to reach my goal of completion.

ad36fa3ba2ba37be25a14ecb7bcd75cf

So, on that happy note, I’ll sign off for now, dry the tears that now stain my list, and see what I can pull off in the next 30’ish hours (I must admit though that cleaning the kitty litter will likely not make the cut, but meh, it’s not like I use it). Honestly, this week has been a bit of a write-off. Between Trump being elected and all that means for both sides of the border, and my own habitual failures at life, things are looking pretty bloody bleak at the moment.

There’s still time for me to save the world with my super hero-esque like list completion, but please don’t bet the farm it. I think I feel a migraine coming on.

~A.

Working on keeping things in perspective

And rather than write a novel about it (because I know that sometimes I’m a wordy one) I decided to create one, single, succinct image that sums up my present frame of mind quite nicely.

Things-that-dont-matter

 

Life is throwing me curve balls, fast balls, slow balls, hard balls, soft balls, and hairy balls on a daily basis right now. Sanity is hanging around, but merely by a thread. So I needed to come up with something to remind me to not be excessively stupid right now. And this is it.

Onward to Tuesday now. Any bets on what ball will be thrown at me tomorrow?

Mid-way through November and still she rambles

I’ve been blogging up a storm. I just haven’t been finishing or publishing the posts. I’ve been getting lost in my own head perhaps. So today, it’s just a mini-post, mostly pictures with just a pinch of commentary. Nothing heavy. The sun is shining and it’s 8C. In November. In Canada. There’s no way that I’m going to be wearing my complainy-ranting bitch hat today. No sir. Not me. Imma gonna be happy today. I’ll have more than enough time to be miserable once winter shows up. 😉

A couple of snapshots from around here right now:

Borrowed from my most favourite place in town. Because I'm always looking to increase my happiness factor and decrease life-sucking bullshit quota.

Borrowed from my most favourite place in town. Because I’m always looking to increase my happiness factor and decrease my life-sucking bullshit quota.

My first lavender plant is still going strong. Every day I tell myself to clip some to dry or use and then I just marvel at how much bigger it is instead. But today may be the day I snip some. Any suggests how to make the best use of it? It smells divine. I may have too much. If you want some, bring your scissors 🙂

All of the YES to this one. Walmart finally got something right. And I got me some Juice Newton and Heart to keep me happy and calm while my kids do battle in the back of the van. Bliss is mine - and it only cost 5 bucks!

All of the YES to this one. Walmart finally got something right. And I got me some Juice Newton and Heart to keep me happy and calm while my kids do battle in the back of the van. Bliss is mine – and it only cost 5 bucks!

Do you even see this cat? She's totally trying to psych me out - pretending to be asleep, all the while cutting her eyes at me, just daring me to trip over her on the stairs. Honestly, Lucy Liu, the stairs are a terrible place to have a pretend nap.

Do you even see this cat? She’s totally trying to psych me out – pretending to be asleep, all the while cutting her eyes at me, just daring me to trip over her on the stairs. Honestly, Lucy Liu, the stairs are a terrible place to have a pretend nap.

My Cape Cod crow. He's usually inside by now, but I went to bring him in and noticed that he's enjoying a nice autumn snack of leaves. Apparently, my crow is vegan. Who have thunk it? Must be why he's so robust. Either way though, he'll be coming in soon, I don't want to press my luck keeping him alive under two and three foot snow drifts. His type is more beach bum than ski bunny, methinks.

This is my Cape Cod crow. He’s usually inside by now, but I went to bring him in and noticed that he’s enjoying a nice autumn snack of leaves. Apparently, my crow is vegan. Who have thunk it? Must be why he’s so robust. Either way though, he’ll be coming in soon, I don’t want to press my luck keeping him alive under two and three-foot snow drifts. His type is more beach bum than ski bunny, methinks.

And that’s my beautiful November day thus far. If we could just get about three more months of this type of winter, that would be aces.