I have released a free printable sample of my kids journal (a weeks worth) because it’s so important to me, that our kids have access to resources to help them process their feelings and emotions during this time.
Why I Choose Joy
This is not my first rodeo with social distancing. In June 2010, our daughter was diagnosed with Cancer and just like that, isolation became our new normal.
On Chemo, her immune system was compromised. We had 4 younger children and we all know how kids are incredible carriers and conductors of germs and viruses and basic filth. It’s like their super power. Anyhoo…..we basically holed up and all social life halted for the 2.5 years that she was in treatment.
There are differences between then and now. One, we’re all in this together. That’s HUGE. Do not underestimate how incredible it is to have others know what you’re going through. Two, back then we were fighting only for our daughter. Today we are fighting for our world. Again, knowing that you’re not the only one going through this situation is incredible for the mind, body and spirit.
2.5 years of isolation is a long time. It’s long enough for friends to move on. It’s long enough for you to lose so much of yourself in the monotony and loneliness that you’re unsure you if you will ever find yourself again.
I’m not some naive “Pollyanna” and my life is not in any way, all rainbows and roses. Social distancing and isolation can either destroy you or make you; and I fully believe that you have a say in how you respond and move forward.
I remember the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that I felt back then. I remember standing in my living room, trapped in my home, with no end insight. I remember feeling so incredibly powerless and out of control. my only option was to hold on tight and ride this journey, until it was finished. I felt like I had no control and no power. I felt like a victim of the whole situation. I was miserable, scared and lonely.
I remember the day that I decided that I would reclaim every bit of power that I could. The sun was shining. The warm air floated in through the window. Geli and the baby were both sleeping and the other kids were occupied. I pulled out my camera to find something good, something beautiful, something that was full of life. The situation had taken so much from me, from our family. We were surrounded by the hardship and struggles ; but I was determined to balance the scales and shift my focus.
I couldn’t change the immediate situation but I could choose to look for and see the good things that were happening in spite of, or even as a result of the hardship. That was the day that I was reborn. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I see it so clearly. It wasn’t an immediate change. It was a slow, gradual process but looking for the good. Searching for the light. Finding the joy even in the middle of the darkest times, was life changing for me.
There are studies about the practice of gratitude rewiring the brain. I didn’t know this at the time, I just knew that practicing gratitude was like air to my drowning soul.
It is a practice. It requires effort, at first; and then it becomes a part of you; a glorious, life giving, transformative part of your very being.
I’m not encouraging that you lie to yourself, or that you pretend that everything is perfect. BECAUSE IT’S NOT! These are tough times that we are living in. Acknowledging the difficulties and finding the joy are compatible.
What I am encouraging is a shift of mindset.
My kids and I are trapped in this house and fighting like idiots because they are anxious and uncertain; but I am so thankful that we have this time together and that we are healthy.
I didn’t get my complete order of food because of panic and hoarding and now I don’t have any orange juice or Mr. Noodles; but I am so thankful that we do have food to eat and that I have time to bake and make meals for my family.
I can’t go out and be with my friends right now; but I’m so thankful that we have technology that enables us to connect through the internet so I can still see and chat with them.
Even finding the beauty in little things, helps to shift your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have.
That tiny bud on the tree that’s just emerging shows us that everything moves according to seasons and where there is a winter time, that a spring will follow with new growth. That the desolation of winter is always followed by the glory of spring.
Food spilled on the floor by your children is so annoying but it also means that you have food for them to eat.
My windows might be dirty but the sunlight shining in, is glorious.
There is good. There is always good. Sometimes the good things are easy to find and sometimes you have search harder. What I know is that searching “the good” is life changing. I do find that if you can acknowledge what you see in a tangible way, it seems to imprint on your soul. Whether that’s making a list on a piece of paper or in a journal; taking a picture to save on your phone, sharing your photos or thoughts with a friend or posting on social media…..there is power in acknowledging the good. It encourages you and it encourages others.
This is why I choose Joy and why I encourage you to choose Joy, as well. There is so much benefit from a shift of focus and a bit of perspective, right now. We are all in this together.
I can’t believe that April is here already. This month has gone faster than I expected.
This weekend has been a busy one and I’m tired. Today I sat on my front deck, in the sun, listened to the silence and it was glorious.
I’ve enjoyed this month of gratitude. Being present and aware of what’s happening around me. Looking for the good even when things are tough. It’s been a good 31 days and I’m looking forward to continuing my gratitude practise but I probably won’t post daily about my gratitude.
Even though this month is up, I’ve really enjoyed posting. I used to post daily; back in my other life….when my big kids were little, and before the decade of trauma.
April is Autism Awareness Month. I recently saw something that referenced Autism Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation.
I love the idea of growth and movement in our understanding of Autism.
There is definitely a need to bring awareness. It is so important that we accept diversity and the very things that make people special and unique. It’s important to not try and force people to conform to our understanding of typical and acceptable behaviour. But moving beyond awareness and acceptance, when you can begin to appreciate the beauty that individuality brings to our world; when you can see people’s strengths and not just focus on their challenges, that when we really start to “see” people. That’s an incredible thing.
So, I’m going to continue posting. I dunno if it will be everyday but I’ll figure something out.
I sure do appreciate you coming along for the ride. Don’t hesitate to comment or ask a question, if you have one. There are no stupid questions.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this past month of gratitude and will continue to enjoy April’s posting.
I’m so very thankful for you!
Today, I was so grateful to be able to spend the day with an incredible group of people who are passionate about inclusion and equitable access to education.
I cannot believe that I only got 2 pictures throughout the whole day.
We started the day off listening to Shelley Moore. She was fabulous, hilarious, insightful and inspiring. We paused for lunch and spent some time chatting with others who are passionate about advocacy and inclusion.
After lunch there were some incredible breakout sessions; and I attended one about IEP’s and Language and another about Safety Plans. After that, there was a fabulous youth panel made up of neuro-diverse youth and it was fabulous to hear the insight of these incredible kids (mine being one of them.)
Being within a group of like minded people is amazing…..and it’s what I am so thankful for today.
What were you thankful for?
We are so blessed.
I got a message today that someone wanted to buy dinner for us. It was totally unexpected and such a blessing.
We LOVE sushi and our “dinner angels” blessed us with sushi delivered to our door. It was extravagant and made us feel SO VERY SPECIAL!
Today I am thankful for unexpected blessings, for not having to cook dinner, for not having to clean up dinner mess, for sushi and especially for our “dinner angels”. It was such a lovely blessing and we feel so very special!
I’m absolutely loving the sunshine whenever it peeks out at us.
I love the sun. I even love the snow. I just struggle with the rain. So to have had all the sunshine we have had recently had been such a blessing.
Today, in honour of spring, I painted my toenails a bright, cheery, turquoise. I’m SO thankful for these hints and reminders of that glorious thing we call summer.
I’m one of those people who don’t ever complain in the summer. Bring on the heat, the hotter, the better.
I can’t wait for those hot days! So, today I am so very thankful for Spring and the warmth and light it heralds.
What are you thankful for?
I had plans to post every day this month. I knew that Spring Break was the last two weeks of the month and figured that if a practise of gratitude was ever called for, it would be during these two weeks.
While we’ve done okay with the chaos and stress of life, there have definitely been moments and yesterday was probably the toughest day, so far.
It’s nothing crazy. Sometimes, one of my boys gets “stuck” in a certain mindset or fixated on a specific thing; and the other boy gets triggered by the fixation. It means that we get stuck in a loop of triggering and fixation. Trying to help 2 kids to regulate in different ways, for different reasons, while attempting to stay regulated myself, is difficult if not near impossible.
By the end of the day, I was going to try and post and then I looked at the time and it was 12:02am.
Immediately, my brain went into overdrive. I could post and back date it. Or maybe I could post twice but then that wouldn’t be posting every day.
I had about 20 seconds of panic before I said to myself,
“I don’t have to be perfect. It’s not a failure to miss posting for one day. You still have many things to be thankful for. Nothing is wrecked. You don’t owe anyone, anything. You are good enough. It’s okay to just let this one go.”
And so I did!
I rolled over, turned out the light and went to sleep.
In the past, I’d have fixated on this mistake, this error, this imperfection……but I want to live a life where I’m not trapped by perfection. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to try and do a good job or to try my best. I want to afford myself grace and mercy. I want to live a life where I’m not my enemy, instead I am my champion.
That may sound self-centered but I believe it has more to do with love. I want to love myself and to treat myself with respect. I try to live a life where I treat others with love, compassion, understanding, grace and mercy. I believe that I am worthy of those same things. But in the past, I’ve been too hard on myself. I’ve placed unreal expectations of perfection on myself and berated myself when I couldn’t live up to those expectations.
It’s amazing to see that although old mindsets are still there, that I’m spending less time stuck in them. That I’m able to move beyond self loathing and into grace.
Today I’m thankful for opportunities to grow, to have grace for myself. I’m thankful to see forward movement in an area that I was previous stuck in. So even though yesterday was a tougher day and it resulted in my not posting, I’m still thankful……SO very thankful for grace and mercy and kindness and compassion.
What are you thankful for today?
Pain, Coping and Recovery
Today is a special day. Five years ago today, my sweet Xandra decided to make a change in her life.
She told us that she wanted to talk to us. We knew she’d been struggling for years with depression and anxiety.
It’s hard not to when your sister was diagnosed with cancer, your baby brother was born, your brothers have autism and you’re unsure how to deal with it all. You don’t know if you should bear the weight of everything because your mom and dad are overwhelmed. You don’t want to burden them any more, but you still have needs.
Xani told us that she’d been cutting for a year. That she’d been using this self-harm as a way to cope and alleviate the emotional/mental stress that she had been feeling. She showed us her arms and her legs. She wanted help to stop cutting and knew she couldn’t do it alone.
I was in shock.
She was so badly wounded. Her physical body was a outward representation of how wounded and how much pain she felt internally.
As a mom, it’s a horrible place to be in. To try to hold it together and be loving and compassionate and understanding.
To offer unconditional love and acceptance to the hurting person in front of you, while at the same time feeling absolute helplessness to know how to move forward.
Wondering how to get your child help, to give your child help.
Feeling terrifying rage at the person who mutilated and hurt your child, all the while knowing that it was YOUR child who did this to themselves. Knowing that they must have felt unimaginable emotional and mental pain to have even considered this as an option.
The dichotomy of emotions was huge.
I’d love to say that we had a well thought out game plan. That we rocked her recovery. But the the truth is……this was Xani’s journey.
She determined that she didn’t like where she at and that something needed to change. She reached out for help. She was open about the pain she had been and was currently experiencing. She recognized and identified the harmful things she was doing to cope with and escape her pain. She chose to walk away from those harmful coping mechanisms. Did she struggle on her road to recovery. Absolutely! But she reached out for relationship and community when she felt tempted to cut. When she felt the pain and stress rising up internally – instead of hiding and coping on her own, she reached out. She brought her feelings out into the open and allowed us to walk with her.
We……..we were there. We were available….to love, to accept, to champion, to talk, to just BE there.
Today, I’m SO VERY thankful.
I’m thankful for so many things. I’m thankful for this incredible woman that I have the honour to call my daughter. I’m thankful for courage and her strength and her vulnerability. I’m thankful to be on this side of this journey. I’m thankful for the perspective that this journey gave me. I’m thankful for the opportunity to love and accept. I’m thankful for the knowledge that we as people experience pain and look for ways to treat the pain and cope; often how we “cope” is in unhealthy ways….but that doesn’t make us bad or unloveable or unworthy; it just makes us human.
We are all worthy of love and acceptance; not in spite of who we are, but because of who we are.
ps. I have Xani’s permission to share about her journey. But I’ve also shared my perspective of it because this is my life, my journey and my perspective.
I love knitting.
There’s something so rhythmic and therapeutic about knitting. When you hit a groove and it’s just stitch after stitch, creating something. When you see the project grow and take shape. It’s an incredible feeling.
My grandma taught me how to knit when I was 9,10,11……somewhere in there. I remember watching her knit and thinking it seemed so complicated and then she taught me how to knit and helped me knit my very own Condo Sweater. It looked similar to this….and was the perfect pink/peach shade.
I was SO proud to knit my own sweater, especially because it was a popular style back then.
I knit off and on over the years but really started to pick it back up about 10 years ago.
It’s definitely a therapeutic experience for me, now.
So today, I’m so thankful that my grandma taught me to knit so many years ago and I’m thankful that I have ways to de-stress and relax.
What are you thankful for today?
I’m so excited to be thinking about this years garden.
We live in the city and don’t have a huge backyard. On top of that, we have a 14 ft. trampoline and a 16 ft. pool. Once we get both of those crammed in, there isn’t a huge amount of space, but there’s enough for some container gardening.
In past summers, I’ve been able to grow and harvest over 200 lbs of veggies from my small backyard. I think that’s pretty impressive considering the size of our yard. I do a lot of “growing up” as opposed to sprawling.
I love eating what we grow, but I think I love the whole process, even more. I love growing food and flowers from seeds. I love growing plants together to enhance their yield. I love going out each morning and watering the plants while sipping my coffee. I love watching the bees come buzzing about to fertilize my plants. I love the smell of the dirt. I love watching my garden start out so barren and stark, become a huge green fertile space, overflowing with flowers and greens and veggies.
Our yard looks pretty rough right now, but I can’t wait for summer. The planning and prep that we put in now is so worth it.
It’s like life. If you put in the effort and energy to plan good things, to dig out the harmful things that choke out life, to plant good seeds. Nurture them and you will see a harvest. Do nothing and the weeds take over and don’t allow for good things to be produced.
I’m so very thankful to be starting work on our garden and to be able to continue to work on my own life. So I can reap and harvest good things.
What are you thankful for?