December 2009


I know a book about a marriage and family breaking up shouldn’t be on one’s holiday reading list but Happens Every Day  isn’t maudlin and self-pitying at all.  Here’s a bit I liked about finding happiness and good pancakes:

You start to look at the tiniest things to make you feel better, alive.  Anything to give you a moment of happiness.  My friend Eve told me to look at the fallen leaf on the road and try to see even the smallest glimpse of beautiy….One Sunday morning the four of us were at brunch.  It was painful.  We were faking being a family…The place where we were having brunch was actually the town bar, but on Sundays a renegade brunch cook took over the kitchen that usually slung out frozen bar food.  He produced world-class eggs and pancakes.  His specialty was savory pancakes.  I ordered pancakes with asparagus, Gruyere, and ham.  They were served with maple syrup and two eggs on top.  It was a leap of culninary faith to order them…..I did what the waiter told me to and poured the syrup over the dish.  It was sublime.  Somthing about the sweet and savory and the sharp cheese and the runny yolks.  I called out, “Sweet lord these are incredible!”  And I started to laugh.  It was as if I was eating dulce de leche ice cream for the first time.  A bomb of involuntary happiness went off in my mouth.  Josiah didn’t seem to appreciate my enthusiasm, and the boys continued to throw hash browns on the floor and dump the salt on the table, but at that very moment my life was being saved.

At the end of the calendar year I get so many requests for money from charitable organizations.  And normally I’m pretty good about writing cheques, but this year, because I’ve been on maternity leave for half of it, I, without thinking, was in the mode of “no, sorry, I don’t have enough”. 

And then two things happened.  I read the Yoga Journal article on giving where Snatam Kaur Khalsa, the chanting chick who has a bunch of CDs out,  says she gives 10% of her income.  I always wonder, is that before or after tax?  Anyhoo she does it to keep the flow going in her life.  When she gives back, she allows more good stuff to come into her life. 

The other thing that happened is that I got an email from UNICEF.  And someone had pledged to match donations until the end of the year.  The email listed the good things that amounts as low as 30 cents can do for poor hungry kids around the globe.  And all donations were going to be doubled by this generous person.  And I was like, Corilee, wake up!

It’s scary to see how easily I can forget about my values.  Because I also believe that by giving I’m allowing good things to flow back.  And I thought I knew that it didn’t need to be *alot*.  Instead I was being all-or-nothing – like I have *nothing* to give because money is “tight”.  I fell so easily into scarcity thinking.  I so easily made the assumption that just because my income isn’t what it usually is that I need to hoard or my kids will look like the ones in the UNICEF email.  Which of course is crap. 

What, are we living in a motel and I didn’t notice?  There are people so much worse off. I happen to still have some savings, I know I’ll be back to my regular income soon enough, so what am I whining about?  And if I do run short,  that’s why God made lines of credit.  We are so OK.

But it is easier to have an abundance philosophy when money is not tight.  It takes a lot more courage and faith when it is. 

So I wrote some cheques and did the online giving for UNICEF and felt good.  Then I figured out what percentage of my income I’d given and felt lousy again.  Then I read about a 19 year old here in Halifax who is gathering up shoes to take to a town in Zambia this coming summer.  So I’m going to involve my son and go through our closets and provide a pile of shoes for a town in Zambia.  I wonder if we can send crocs or if they’ll send them back to us with a note that says, “no thanks” on them :-)  It hasn’t ocurred to Angus that some people in the world don’t have shoes. 

SoI’ve done something and I want to do more, but the most important thing I’ll work on is reminding myself that there is enough and I can safely give back and look forward to seeing good things continue to happen in my life.

I love winter solstice rituals because I’m not big on winter or the dark.  Recognizing and celebrating the shortest day of the year makes me feel like it’s ok, it may even be useful and it reminds me it will pass.  I like that “from the darkness into the light” imagery. 

I used to go to a winter solstice get-together at one of the big ol’ churches in Toronto.  Everyone sat in benches in a circle with a candle and called out things, people or issues they wanted to remember.  It was beautiful and moving.  I didn’t find anything similiar in Halifax when I moved here, although I understand one of the local studios did something this year.

Honeybunny and I used to do something at home regularly and then we stopped after Angus came along.   But I felt the urge again yesterday.  We haven’t been consistent with all the elements except for 3 questions: 1) What are you grateful for from this past year?, 2) What do you want to let go of from this past year? and, 3) What intention are you setting for this coming year? 

It had been a busy afternoon and evening so last night we skipped all the possible soltice elements and just answered the questions for each other.  It would have been powerful just writing them down, but there’s something uber-powerful about saying stuff to another person and being heard. 

And it’s funny because HB and I talk all the time, but it’s not the same.  We talk in those clipped practical sentences that parents probably everywhere do.  “I have zero thoughts on dinner”,  “what’s up with that kid?” or, “when’s cocktail hour?”

It felt so good to be heard that I’m grateful for Leo and love him like crazy but am *really* looking forward to moving past the “all baby all the time” routines of having a nursing newborn in the house.  I’ve had quite enough. 

My intention is to find some balance in the coming year between my jobs, my passions and my family.  I know it will be absolutely impossible to find a thing called “balance”, but I at least intend to work on recognizing and addressing the imbalances to keep things from being completely out of wack. 

Then we had a good talk that turned into a useful discussion on strategies to use when Angus goes into zombie mode.  The times when he’s energetic and pushing boundaries and you try to stop him and he turns and looks at you with completely vacant eyes and then goes back to whatever he was doing that you were trying to stop.  At those times we try to get him to stop and listen but it’s an uphill battle for a five year old zombie and we agreed last night that maybe we need to lower our expecations. 

Do you remember the SNL skit “Lowered Expectations”, the dating service for less attractive people?  It’s kind of the parenting version of that.  Maybe we just need to hope that in this moment we can get him through zombie mode without hurting himself or much else and then enjoy him again when he makes it out the other side. 

Maybe we need to try distaction or involve him in something we’re doing so we make use of the energy in ways that don’t involve him breaking all his toys.  One day I’m sure we’ll know exactly what to do, or the secret to avoiding it.  But until we’re wise and all-knowing — lowered expectations. 

I keep telling HB that we d0n’t need to fix stuff with him *today*, we have 18 years of parenting this kid to get it right.  I’m trying to convince myself too.  It’s hard not to be focused on The Things My Kid is Doing That Makes Me Crazy.  When there are lots of things he’s gotten past because we were actually successful at talking him out of it, or he simply outgrew it. 

For example, he doesn’t eat toothpaste or dig in his nose half as much as 6 months ago.  We need to remember that too.  I’m convinced that trying to take the long view is the best way to remain calm.

I’ve been barfed on a lot recently too because Leo’s had a stomach bug.  But I never could have written about it quite this eloquently.

You know, the lousy thing about babies is that they keep your from getting all your stuff done.  The best thing about babies is that they’re an awesome excuse.  Before you even get out the whole sentence, “geez I just couldn’t get that done, the baby was fussy”.  The person is going “oh yeah of course no problem” because no one wants to be seen blaming a defenseless baby for the fact that you can’t get anything done. 

And then I chuckle inside and give Leo a kiss for getting me off the hook, again.

It’s been a common theme lately because my to-do list is long and there’s a lot going on and I’m often too tired to do much about it.  But I’ve realized that when I get overwhelmed and freaked out it’s a sign to Stop and Take Care of Myself.  Stopping work on the to-do list doesn’t seem like a logical way to deal with it does it?

But it’s always about my to-do list.  It gets all the blame.  If my to-do list wasn’t so freakishly long I’d be calm.  But I’ve finally come to realize that it’s me.  And if I’m feeling freaked I need to stop doing stuff and deal.  That means eat lunch, take a nap, do some yoga, get outside, take a bath, breath.  It does not mean work until midnight on my stuff or freak out at my family until they leave me alone so i can get more done. 

Because when I’m feeling overwhelmed and freaked I am not that productive.  When I’m tired and dragging my butt around everything seems 12 times harder.  So it’s best to deal with how I’m feeling because when i feel better it gets done much more effortlessly.  And sometimes with more creativity and fun. 

And you know the really crazy thing?  When I feel good I’m more forgiving about whether i’m getting stuff done.  I’m better at saying, “oh well, it’ll get done sometime”.  Leo gets blamed much less often.

I liked Sally Kempton’s article on this topic in the last Yoga Journal.  It was about how taking the time  for our yoga practice gives you more time.  It doesn’t seem logical either right?  But her point is about how yoga takes us out of the “busy-ness” mind-set and slows us down enough to really focus and get things done.  Slowing down rather than racing around in a frenzied sprint, so that we can focus on the important things.  And forgive ourselves for the rest.

I was talking to a parent at my son’s school and they brought their son to school on friday when there was no school.  They’d seen that there was going to be no school, but they didn’t really connect it with *today*.  So they pulled up and wondered where everyone was.  Their son got to  join them at their financial advisor meeting.

I talked to someone else who had a birthday party for their daughter from 11-1:00.  And one of the kid’s who rsvp’d didn’t show, and the party happened and then at 1:00 this kid and his Mom come rushing in, he’s skipped out of hockey to be there, present in hand, except they showed up at the end time and not the start time.  She’d written it down wrong.

And then I had my own.  Yesterday I was in the Starbucks drive-thru line-up and it was long with much inching forward.  There was even a police van in the line-up, I guess they’re going high-end now.  And I’m getting close to the window and realize I haven’t ordered.  I knew I wanted an eggnog latte, but hadn’t actually stopped at the box to ask anyone.

And then I became convinced that everyone is losing it.  Or at least me and some other parents.  But I’m trying to keep it easy this year.  HoneyBunny and I made the painful decision that after being hardcore fresh tree people we were going to go fake.  We’ve been frequenting the family tree lot near our house, a nice bunch of folks who bring up trees from the valley for people to buy, but we decided we’ll see them for a wreath this year.  We’ve been there in -10c temeratures, pouring rain, you name it.  And we thought, nope, not this year.  We have a baby and lots going on, we’re going to do it easy.  More drinking of the eggnog and spirits time, less tree management time. 

So we went looking for the perfect fake tree.  We bought one put it up and then took it back.  And then we looked some more.  And then we bought a second one.  When we put it up I realized that self-shaping means, “get shaping the tree bitch”.  So there’s been plenty of time spent on tree management, but that’s ok because it’s not going to drop needles all over the floor even though someone says daily, “have you watered that damn tree today??”  Or it has better not.

For holiday coping strategies I was really happy to see the Nia Unplugged DVD.  I want to find a class like this.  It’s a dance/movement kind of workout but not like the frenetic jumping around 80’s aerobics style.  It’s more like african, low to ground, booty moving stuff.  It looks so fun.  And then they throw in some martial arts kicks and upper body punches with strong “huh” sounds, man, it would seriously tackle the tension in my shoulders.  It would seriously help get my ya-ya’s out.

The other day I did the Yoga Today free class that covered the 5 Tibetan Rites, which I’d read about but hadn’t really clicked with.  This time i made notes.  The next morning I woke up feeling cranky and stiff and generally unbalanced.  I didn’t have much time so I did the 5 Tibetans.  It took 15 minutes and wow, did that ever shift my energy.  I was ready to get a jump on Christmas stuff instead of going back to bed.

The next morning I woke up feeling lousy again and was too sore from doing the 5 Tibetans to do them again.  So I did the Vikasa podcast that I found through iTunes.  It was a nice gentle class,  the man who teaches it has a soft voice and Indian accent.  I usually do more energetic yoga, but this was such a perfect break.  I did it in my jammies with a coffee close by.  That ones a keeper.

But the other thing that will help get me through this season, even if there are more Starbucks mishaps, is that Leo slept through the night last night.  Right after his 5th month b-day, he pulled it off.  I’m so happy.  Of course I also spent the night after 2:00 a.m. checking the clock every hour or two wondering what was going on.  But did I care?  No way, i was lying in bed.  And it may not last, and that’s ok, but boy I may not need additional hits of Starbucks to get through December if he’s going to sleep like this.