I haven’t worn my sandals for several weeks now, and we’ve turned the heat on long ago.
Rather than living outdoors, we simply visit.
Need I say it? Fall is here, leading us quickly towards winter.
I haven’t put my gardens to bed yet, and I still have to pick up my winter veggies from the local farm. I haven’t washed and sorted through the hats and mittens yet, nor have we piled the wood into the shed. But we’re feeling the sense of urgency that comes with a chill in the air. This weekend better watch out!
Suppers have transitioned from greens to roots and we’ve trimmed our smoothie making habits way back. Lately we’re making hot chocolate, my famous recipe I’ve mastered over the years. Some days we even have it with breakfast.
But I’m not sad about this shift. Though I love the feel of the sun on my body, I equally love the sound of the wood stove’s fan and the smell of the chimney smoke while we play in the woods.
This life is always changing– one season gives way to the next, one year into another, one child into a grown man (18 next month!)…it doesn’t make sense the try to stop it, squeezing it so hard the juice spills over our hands. I’m reminded of this each time I dig my heels in shouting “I’m not ready yet!”
This morning I woke up determined to make this a better week, or at least, make Monday really great so that the natural decline in mom-awesomness (momsomeness?) that tends to coincide with the days of the week, would at least plateau by Friday rather than plummeting into abyss.
I was pleased as punch to see that Sparrow let us sleep until 8am, though slightly less impressed that it was Moonchild who finally leaned over and whisper yelled into my ear that he ‘couldn’t lay in bed anymore’.
So we got up.
And then we went outside because there is nothing like fresh air to spruce up my mood. Yes, mom, you were right.
I knew that the best way to bring a sense of calm to our home was to bring back our rhythm…some of the usual staples, and some new ideas. I took the opportunity to dig into my back pocket of tricks to pull out a Hay-child pleaser, anything stemming from a nature walk. So we foraged and identified various plants and their seeds which branched into creating our own ID cards….and on and on it flowed.
Though of course, Mother Nature had other plans for our walk. We tucked under the lean-to just in time to avoid being completely drenched.
Once we made it back inside, my shoes were soaked and our bellies were rumbling. A pot of tea and some warm applesauce quickly brought us back to life. The day wasn’t anything spectacular, but I kept on top of the dishes, made healthy meals, ran through a good four hours of lesson time, and folded the laundry. I even snuck in a few episodes of something for me while I worked.
Seven years ago, on Thanksgiving Monday, I drove home after holding my father’s hand. He took his last body-shaking breath, and just like that, he left his earthly body.
Grief is an unpredictable thing. It’s a bit like the ogre analogy from Shrek, the one about the onion? It seems the sadness can be healed, but underneath each layer is another with a story that’s been waiting for its turn to appear. Just when I think that I’ve got it mastered, osmosis kicks in and I’ll find myself with oniony tears stinging my eyes.
I spent this past Thanksgiving with my in-laws and most of that time with my father-in-law. It felt comforting to have conversation with people who are more grown up than I, and to be honest, I hadn’t given a lot of energy to this (un)anniversary, until I leaned in and hugged Pa (the name that has lovingly been given to my children’s grandfather) goodbye, catching a whiff of that Old Spicey scent.
Smells are like the powerhouse of memories…the times, all of the times my dad kissed me on the cheek and scrubbed my face with his whiskery beard…they all found me. Though, it’s a bit of a relief knowing that something as simple as a sniff can dig up some of the oldest memories because then I know he’s not entirely gone.
Sometimes I feel like I’m running from a bear… the ominous term my partner and I use to refer to the burden of stress.
We are all familiar with thebear; maybe it visits you in the thumping of your heart, or the cyclical thoughts that keep you awake at night. However it visits, the bear encompasses our fear of failure, of not being enough, of not doing enough, of not being respected.
The bear is anxiety and sadness and unhealed trauma. It keeps us from caring for ourselves and of course, from providing helpful care for each other. It’s very difficult to love someone else properly, while our own cup is empty. It’s the reason we can find ourselves leaching our needed energy from the people we love, draining them of their resources. It’s the reason we over-eat, drink, and drown our sorrows in Netflix and 2X4 screens only to turn around and see that the bear has doubled in size and strength. It’s a culture-wide issue.
Here is what I have learned…I can only minimize the bear, with self care.
For me, that typically follows a levelling up system that looks something like this….(Mamaslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?)
Once I’ve cared for my physical body, I can add in…
Daily spiritual needs… a few minutes to myself, something interesting to read or learn, a few minutes of intentional movement, fresh air
And then I can work on more detail and routine…
30 minutes of exercise, a course to expand my knowledge, meditation, an artistic project…Once I hit this level, I start to feel like I’m making progress.
Most importantly, completing steps on my personal self-care checklist as though they are tasks to be ticked will give me the same sort of emptiness that comes from a household chore to-do list unless I complete them with the right intention….that I, too, deserve to be cared for, and that these few moments will help me step into the real me. Before I know it, the bear is just large enough to drive me, but small enough for me to know peace.
Wildflower requested a fall celebration. Her description entailed food that was ‘just harvested’ and apple pie, fall decor, and all of us sharing a meal together around the table. That used to happen a lot more than it does now that Big Brother has a life all his own.
But tonight, the timing was just right, so together we all pitched in and began our meal prep at 3pm. With Big Bro on Sparrow watch, Moonchild on table decorating, and Wildflower making apple crumble, we made magic happen. I roasted a chicken with rosemary, fresh garden onions, and apple cider, cut corn off the cob to be served warm with butter, made ham and raisin sauce, and even snuck outside to dig up some new potatoes.
On the way back, Moonchild helped me salvage some of the garden’s carrots. He was excited to see how large they had become.
A little roasted pumpkin turned into a crustless pie and we were only waiting for Papa Bear’s arrival home…
Needless to say, it was a lot of work. I know I could have said ‘no’ the way I often do, but sometimes I say yes to the work for a chance of memory making. The photos displayed here are nothing but a few semi-decent phone snaps to give you a glimpse into the experience we enjoyed, but mostly the moments were preserved in our hearts and minds, and of course, with our bellies. Tonight the work was worth the win.
It’s early in the morning. The kind of early I spent my entire childhood and young adult years dreading. I drag myself out of my warm, cocooned nest and thump down the stairs, in spirit, since doing so in actual reality would likely wake the littles.
I stumble into the front room and roll out my yoga mat. Its familiar click onto the floor reminds me of a simpler time when my eyes were less tired and my hair less grey. Even if I just lay here, I think to myself, I’m further ahead than I have been. And with these words, I provide myself the comfort that comes from a lack of self-imposed pressure. I’ll just fold into child’s pose and see where this goes. Before I know it, my body is remembering the sequences of movement that provided my peace and guidance years ago…when I had time to make for self care.
All of my expertise in this area stems from a consecutive 2 days of daily exercise, meditation, and fresh air, and 9+ years of neglecting myself. I have ample experience in being too busy, in forgetting my value, something that can easily occur while providing care around the clock for others.
It is true that there are times when life gets in the way. In my case, young children mean that care for myself comes only when there is time. When our babies are very young, often the care of myself means making time to eat and to sleep while they do. The problem I’ve always run into is that this doesn’t help my spirit to thrive. Often, I spend those first 2 years in survival mode, despite the cultural belief that by 3 months, 6months, 12 months, everything should be back to normal.
Although Sparrow’s timely step towards that two-year-old mark has played a role in my ability to carve out a small piece of time for my own care, it has been a deeper understanding of self-worth that has truly lit my fire within for growth. When I remind myself that I am valuable, that I am worth a few minutes, that I am more important than the laundry being folded (though those menial tasks are valuable to me and my wellness), I begin to feel successful.
This isn’t to say that I feel that I am worthless. I have a good life. I’m a good person. I like myself a healthy amount. I’m not saying that I feel as though I lack value, but I realized that my actions were telling me this. Too many times I’d wait until I finished cleaning the kitchen before I’d take a simple bathroom break. I felt I didn’t ‘need’ new clothes because there was always something more ‘important’ for us to spend our money on. Always. I had convinced myself that I couldn’t relax until all of the work was done, so I never relaxed. I’m worthy of a break.
So Hey You! Person reading this blog of mine.
Thanks. It feels nice to know my thoughts aren’t being ignored
You are valuable and deserving of good things. Cut yourself some slack
We’ve been harvesting and drying plants…canning pickles…and enjoying the coolness of the outdoors sans mosquitos. Yesterday, we even sported our toques while visiting Papa Bear at work in the orchard.
One might imagine us picking apples, riding the wagon, and munching on donuts, but really, how we spend the majority of our time orcharding (it’s a verb right?) is…
Scaling the dirt pile.
Over and over and over again, they climb and slide
As a grown-up, it can be difficult to carve out time for things that feel frivolous. I’m no different than anyone else this way.
I can see that this type of ‘fun’ is going to be messy. It’s going to involve more work on my part to keep our vehicle clean, to shower dirty kids upon our arrival home, only to clean out the shower AND the washing machine, likely making a mud ball with the leftover dirt.
But this kind of fun is free and freeing for both them and myself. When I quiet the voice inside me, the one that drives me to tick the next box on my list, when I really connect with the outdoors, with my kids, with the moment, I quickly feel a calm sense of power rise up inside of me. I remember what’s important…not an endless nagging voice telling me I forgot to add the potatoes to the slow cooker, but things like…
“I was reading a great book at the beginning of this week…where did I put that, and how did my life become so chaotic that I forgot about it?”
“Nothing else matters more than this moment”.
You know…things that get pushed aside in the Making of Hays.
I’ve been trying to put a little extra into our mornings lately.
Anyone who knows me well, knows how resistant I’ve been to becoming a ‘morning person’. For some, they put off their minivan purchase until trying everything shy of strapping the eldest to the roof racks, but for me, waking up early is my last cling to my pre-motherhood days.
But, like so many areas of my life, I’m working on it.
I was lucky enough to convince our first two children to sleep in, but currently there are weeks at a time where my total consecutive hours of sleep, land somewhere between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours. I feel this in my body and my mind, and I can fully understand how sleep deprivation could be used as a form of torture. No amount of ‘you’ll miss this later’ will ever smooth the raw edges left by sleep-debt, and I can assure you, that of all the things I will miss after our children flee the nest, lack of hours in dreamland will not be one of them.
In spite of all of this, my latest mission has been to start the day off on the right foot. If you have read this post here, you’ll know how deeply I miss those morning moments before the house rises, when I can sort out the tangled web in my mind. Since this is no longer a possibility, in this age of toddlerus-sprintus, I just….get up. My eyes pop open the minute his little toes touch down, and mine are right behind his.
Typically, we make our way to the kitchen where we put the kettle on and begin a morning project. Fall fills my soul with an urge to create, nest, and nurture, whether or not I have to corresponding energy, so we’ve been really working on our breakfast game.
As each child rises, I’m mindful of how I greet them. I could grumble and launch into a lecture; I could look at them with discontent. But Granny says some version of “it means a great deal to a child if, when they walk into a room, they are not looked upon with disappointment, even if we are well-intentioned in the long run.” And she’s brilliant, so I’m working on it.
Ultimately, we are all more eager to listen and even comply when we feel respected, so I say good morning with love and what I hope looks like genuine happiness, even if I wish I were sleeping.
One last thing I’ve learned through this 3rd and final bout of sleeplessness, is that how we start our day is important. It’s the edge from which we jump into the next many, many, many, many, hours of the day, and if our children wake up feeling special and loved, and if I wake up giving that to them, it’s easier to pass around some positive energy, rather than spending the day trying to reclaim it.
It’s interesting, how we often don’t realize the need for a change until one is thrown upon us….
This post began as a quaint account of our day, until I realized there was something else nagging at me to be shared….
You see, I’ve been reading a lot about being imperfect, which is fitting, since we are all created this way, so you may be able to relate.
I’ve realized how many things I avoid tackling, for fear of what they may not become, and I can’t help but wonder how many of us stopped creating, around the time we began to grow breasts or speak with a crackle in our voice? If you didn’t stop, perhaps you became increasingly self-critical.
I’ve wondered how many times I’ve confused striving to be better with being perfect enough to avoid pain and hardship, and I’ve wondered how many times I’ve missed out on a truly joyful experience or an opportunity for growth because of it.
I’ve thought about all of the times that I found myself lashing out, or perhaps weeping alone because I simply wasn’t good enough.
Until I began to question what enough might look like.
And so I began the quest of seeking out role models. If I wasn’t good enough, then I must be able to find someone else who was. Only then, I found myself to be incredibly lonely, since it seems that no one met the very specific criteria I had chiselled out for myself.
Could it be that this person does not exist?
This is a question I honestly asked myself, and I have to admit that this step took me about four years of self-discovery to answer.
And then I thought long and hard about all of the people I have put up on pedestals, only to be hurt and disappointed upon realizing that they, too, are not perfect.
Where am I now you ask?
I’ve made the discovery that most of my successes are modelled after traits of people I admire. I’ve realized that mentors have been the most valuable teaching tool for me, a most wonderful treatment. Let’s be clear that no mentor will possess all of the skills or traits I’m looking for, and I’ve reached a point where I am okay with this.
Because there are so many lessons to be learned from so many people, I’ve taken to looking at myself as the end result of a recipe, with each trait I admire as one of the ingredients. Sometimes, I add the baking soda at the wrong time, or I stir too much, and my recipe falls flat, but I’m working on the ingredient of self-love , and that’s the jar that’s always the most difficult to locate.
Mother of four, partner to one, lover of all things uniquely beautiful, follower of the peaceful parenting movement, inspired enough to think outside the box, hopeful enough that you might stick around