New Year’s Doesn’t Matter

– New Year, New You
– Resolutions
– Promises
– Fresh starts
– New Month; New Year; NEW DECADE! What WILL you accomplish?
…..

Sick of all the same kind of posts yet?
This time of year (and especially this year, because 2020 – WOWZA) it can feel like the pressure is ON to somehow reinvent ourselves; become super duper mindful, become better than ever. People are dusting off their gym clothes, getting out their journals and food scales, promising themselves and their entire social media network that THIS.IS.THEIR.YEAR. Things are ’bout to get REAL for everyone. REAL, I tell ya.

But what if we just want to, you know, chill a bit?

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Divorcing “Should”

Various facebook blogs and articles as well as a good conversation with my sister a while ago has left me thinking about the word “should”. My sister, N, was talking about how she loves to come home from work and veg out with her computer and a healthy dinner but all the while is thinking about her Shoulds. “I should be doing yoga”, “I should hang those posters”, “I should be more productive.”

Of course, “should” has its place.
“I should make that doctor’s appointment today.”
“I should put the leftovers away so they don’t spoil.”
“I should call my friend back, she’s waiting for me.”

Dogs don’t “should”. They either do or they don’t. We can learn so much from our fur-babies!

I think, though, that in general we “should” ourselves too much. We don’t allow ourselves to sit in the joy of a moment because we’re always thinking about the “shoulds”.

Instead of allowing ourselves to watch Netflix all night we tell ourselves, “I should put that laundry away”. Maybe instead, we could think, “I’ve been solo parenting all day and I kicked out more “To Do” list items before lunch than usual. I am going to completely relax tonight so I’m rested for another full day tomorrow.”

Instead of really enjoying a third (or fourth, or…whatever’th) cup of coffee we think, “I really should drink more water”. While that might be true, why don’t we rephrase it to, “I’m going to have this bottle of water and then I’ll have another coffee”. Instead of saying, “I should go to bed early” we could say, “I might go to bed early”.

I’ve been experimenting with this concept since it first occurred to me a few months ago and I have found that it really takes a lot of pressure off and makes me feel less guilty for doing what I want to do or NOT doing what I had planned to do. As much as it’s just the swapping out of one word, it’s the whole mindset behind it that makes it powerful.

This is being published on a Monday. I love Mondays: a new week, a fresh start. This week I challenge you to catch yourself whenever you think or say the word “should” and replace it with something else to change the tone.  Leave “Should”. Walk out on it. Divorce it. BE GONE!

I’d love to hear back if you think it made any difference!

Take care of yourself!
<3 Mel

The Spiritual Closet

As a military wife, it’s important for me to believe that each part of our military family journey happens for a reason. It is important for me to think and believe and know way down in my soul that each posting, each promotion, each change (for the better or not), happens because we are meant to learn something from it. This concept didn’t come to me for a while. In fact, only in the past few years have I felt this way. Before that, and without this understanding, our lives felt so random. It felt that we were moved around and that things were changed willy-nilly; without purpose, without reason. It felt that no one was watching out for us. That the military, even the nation (in so far as the military is concerned), was first and foremost always first. That we were an afterthought. That THE greater good always and forever outweighed OUR greater good. Feeling this way made me feel neglected. Forgotten. Unimportant to the universe at large, really.

But now things have changed. Well, I should say that I have changed. I believe we are always where we are most meant to be. I believe that we move when and where we do so that we may cross paths with specific people at specific times so that either they or we (or both) can benefit from each other’s personalities, experiences, knowledge, and spirits.

I’ve become a different version of myself in the last 12 months. Mel 2.0? 3.0? How many versions of ourselves do we evolve through as we age and mature? I’m still me: still optimistic and family-oriented and cheerful and sarcastic and highly emotional. But…and here is the grand announcement so to speak…I’ve become…spiritual.

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My Pink Spectacles

If you’ve read my blogs before, you know that I’m the first to acknowledge the adversities of being a military family and, more specifically, a military spouse. Sometimes it seems like it’s just one thing after the next after the next. It can feel like the hits just keep on coming and we can’t stay afloat.

It’s so easy to say “This was a terrible day/week/month/deployment/etc.” There really often are big stretches of time, hours or days, that feel that way. But as I was reminded recently, not always, but most often, we have a few bad moments in a day/week/month/deployment/etc that cloud the rest of the time and make it all feel terrible. It’s like when you get a work performance review. Most of us could receive nine amazingly complimentary comments and just one negative one, and what do we focus on the most? The one, of course.

 

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The Second Time Around…

A second blog in just a few days – lucky you!

I had a fantastic coffee date this morning with a close friend whom I have really  missed while I was on holidays. It was wonderful to catch up, have our three-year-olds play quietly together, and snuggle her brand new baby. We got to talking about a topic that is currently a big deal to me and we agreed that it wasn’t something commonly discussed, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the issue.

Today’s topic is having a second child and Mommy Guilt.

 

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Get it?

Wow…for someone who always has a lot on my mind I sure don’t write a lot! It’s been almost a whole year since my last blog. Could that be right? Yeesh!

I’ve just come back from staying with my parents for five weeks in my hometown three provinces away. We missed our pets but otherwise it felt so good to be close to family. My parents were down the hall, my sister was five minutes away, my brother and family five minutes away and one of my best friends in the whole world and her squeezable twin one year old boys were just a short two hour drive. It was heaven! We chatted, we swam, we went to the park, the splash pad, out for meals, in for meals, over to my brothers’ to play with the cousins. It felt like, well, home. Until this past April we thought we going to be posted (moved) to just an hour away from home so being there this summer was both extremely satisfying but also a crude reminder that we had to leave there eventually and come back to Smalltown which now feels about twice as far away as it did before we left.

 

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Updating my OS (*update in progress*)

Whoa – it’s been almost 4 months since I’ve written! It isn’t that I have nothing to say (just ask anyone who knows me) but I often struggle with putting together a piece that is interesting, cathartic, and appropriate for all to read.

So here is tonight’s stream of consciousness…

I am an introspective person and I am constantly looking inward to examine my own thoughts, motives, and actions. This can often lead to unnecessary emotional pain (ask my Hubby how often I compare others’ actions to my own to see if I caused a situation or could have made it better or different. Do all women do this? And do all men just deal with a situation then move on and away from it? I often seem so trapped by thinking and talking myself in circles!). 
I am certain, though, that this also makes me a better person. I know a lot of people who are stagnant with themselves. That is to say that they are content. That’s alright, I guess. But if you think about it, my iPhone (and all devices) need constant upgrading. We get new vehicles every so often because we need change it up. Our address books need updating. We update our wardrobes. So why is it that we think the first version of ourselves, “Me 1.0” if you will, is alright as is? Don’t we need constant updates, too?

 

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I’m a Tigress

Originally written a few years ago, this post has been edited to add that this belly has now grown two amazing children, that I’ve learned how to handle longer curly hair, and that I now also DO rock skinny jeans AND leggings like you would…not…believe. I am also no longer part of that company but do still highly recommend it and am forever grateful for the lessons it taught me.
🙂 Mel (2018)

Puberty.
Remember that lovely period of adolescence? So awesome. We all had such a lovely time, of this I’m sure. Mine consisted of braces, frizzy hair including bangs and eventually straightening balm for said bangs, boobs, slightly oversized eyebrows, and the beginning of what seemed like never-ending self-consciousness.

This self doubt, which lasted until my mid to late twenties, was brought on by the keen awareness that I was not thin. That sole realization was THE cause of my yo-yo-ing confidence or lack thereof. Oh, there were other factors…I never had a boyfriend in high school, I was in the band (which was FUN, damnit!) and more, I’m sure, but they all linked back to that one kernel of truth. Please, let us not deny this. It is an empirical fact: I’m not skinny. I always wanted to be. I absolutely believed that if I was just THIN I would have a boyfriend. If I was THIN I would feel better about myself. If I was THIN I wouldn’t be so afraid of just admitting to my long time crush that I was calling because I thought he was funny and cute and not because I needed help with the math homework that I had actually finished two hours ago.

I have always had a small but dependable group of close friends and a phenomenal, supportive family who have never made me feel anything but perfect. But somehow the silent Reflection in the bathroom mirror had more to say than all of those people.

When I met Hubby and he actually LIKED me, I began to feel a tiny bit better about myself. I know, I know, I shouldn’t need a man’s approval to make me feel better. But I’m not talking about “should”, I’m just talking about DID. I began to stare back at that Reflection. I gave a little stink eye when she tried to put me down.

I spent a lot of time thinking about Oprah. Yes, seriously. Why? Because she is not a skinny lady either. Yet she is beautiful, respected, loved and admired. She is smart and honest and when I found someone whom I admired that wasn’t a size 4, it made a little difference. I stared harder at the Reflection. I “hushed” her when she dared to open her mouth.

There was one final piece of my puzzle of acceptance. I became a teacher of a wonderful Grade 4/5 class. That group and I gelled together and to this day I still think about those kids all the time. But where I felt I was most influential wasn’t in their spelling lists or time tables (which they eventually rocked, by the way), but was in spending recesses and after schools with the girls. Those 10 and 11 year old girls were just entering that lovely phase of puberty, and yet already they were preoccupied with dating boys and wearing bras and co-ed parties. Their mothers dyed  the girls’ hair and taught them how to wear makeup.

They were 10 years old. I hope I’m not offending anyone when I simply state that in my own humble opinion, 10 is too young for those things.

I examined who these girls’ role models were: their mothers, older makeup-wearing-bra-wearing-boy-kissing-co-ed-sleepover-girls in the school, and tall, thin, celebrities.
I realized part way through the year why I was there. Those kids made no secret of telling me that they liked me, I was a great teacher, and my favourite (and I quote): “You’re like a big sister and a best friend but also, you’re a TEACHER”. Please do not misunderstand, it was not their compliments I was after (although they were flattering), nor was I in search of any 10 year old gal pals. And while I truly appreciated their comments I also had no problem doling out the discipline when necessary. I knew and respected our relationship as student/teacher. I realized, though, that other than me, most of them didn’t have any non-blond, non-thin, non-make-up-pushing women in their lives. What I hope they learned that year, more than any curriculum I taught them, is that it IS possible to have short, brown, curly hair and freckles and curves AND be successful, smart, and…..here it is: Beautiful.

Now I know plenty of women who ARE tall and blond and beautiful and there is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING wrong with that providing that is what you actually and naturally look like. What I have a problem with is people thinking that is the ONLY way to look in order to be happy and feel good about yourself. And I do have  a problem with women looking absolutely nothing like that but making every attempt to change everything about their God-given beauty to look like a Barbie doll.

I said earlier that that experience was the last piece of my puzzle of acceptance. It didn’t occur to me until a year ago that simply accepting myself wasn’t actually good enough. I needed to L-O-V-E myself. And to be frank, I didn’t realize that’s what I needed until I actually started to do it. Now, I’m no ego-maniac spending all day in front of reflective surfaces and stopping to show my good side when I realize I’m actually in the background of someone taking a self-portrait with their iPhone on a sunny day. What I mean is that I am just completely happy with who I am. I’m happy with how my brain works (good with words bad with numbers), how my hair curls (a shorter cut helps keep it in control and reduces the risk of requiring a pick comb to pull of whatever is going on up on top),

how my belly sags (I grew a CHILD in there for Pete’s sake – I earned that!), and how my hips curve (I might not attempt skinny jeans any time soon but I wear a trouser pant like nobody’s business). I got here because one year ago I started my own business with a company that positively reeks of self-love (get your mind out of the gutter) and more-than-just-acceptance. The people with whom I work have indirectly taught me that having stripes makes me a tigress; that you can un-learn what you believed were truths about yourself but were, in fact, nothing more than misinterpretations; that you can be powerful, successful, beautiful, and heel-clickingly-happy with who you are.

They say that every person is a result of the 5 people with whom you spend the most time. When I started spending my time with people who built me up instead of tearing me down, who not only discredited the Reflection in the mirror but who ripped that mirror right off the wall and replaced it with a new one that was void of that old girl inside, and who are so full of love and light and metaphorical sparkles, it would be almost impossible NOT to feel this good.

This blog has been bouncing around in my brain for a few days but I didn’t know how to get it started and didn’t want to risk coming off as cocky. Because believe me, I will forever be a work in progress. But I just watched that video on YouTube about the boy who was called Pork Chop (if you haven’t seen it please do) and it pushed me into thinking that if by writing this one person somewhere can silence their Reflection for even a moment then it will be worth the risk.

We spend so much time advocating that we need to stop being unkind to others, bullying others, and start accepting others.
When will we spend even a fraction of that time advocating that we need to stop being unkind and bullying yourself? Start accepting – no, loving – yourself?

Look in the mirror. If you don’t like the way that Reflection is looking back at you, please, tell her from me, to shut the f**k up. She doesn’t belong.

You are a phenomenal woman.
Believe that.
And if you can rock a skinny jean – my God, DO IT!

Take care
🙂 Mel

mcdonaldselfie
Mel 2018 – Figured out the curly hair!

Disgusted, Worried, Inspired

Last night I was watching “Toddlers and Tiaras”, a reality show on TLC where Moms put their young girls in beauty pageants. The girls ranged in age from 3 (THREE!) to 10 in this episode, and each girl was outfitted with some or all of the following: makeup, fake hair, fake teeth, contact lenses, costumes, fake eyelashes. They had to parade around the stage, waving and blowing kisses. Several of the kids complained to their Moms that they didn’t want this or that but their Moms made them, emphasizing that they’d never win without the teeth, contacts, etc.

I watched it with the fascination and disgust that one watches a car accident on the side of the highway. With each moment that passed, each little girl whose beautiful, natural features were made over, covered, altered, my heart felt heavier and heavier. I was near tears and it wasn’t from the growing feeling of nausea in my stomach.

What were they doing? What is the world doing? Three years old with a wig and fake eyelashes? A beautiful 10 year old girl told to wear green contacts because her brown eyes weren’t good enough? Not pretty enough? For once I am struggling to articulate exactly how I feel about this because I am so shocked that I can hardly form coherent thoughts.

It would be easy to pretend that this is all on TV, all separate from us, or even, something only “Americans” would do. But really we know the difference, don’t we? Look around at the girls you see walking down the street. Look how they carry themselves, what they’re wearing, how they talk. Three year olds want to be 15. Fifteen year olds want to be 22. And it isn’t with the innocence that we all tried on our Mommies high heels and lipstick when we were little girls. It is a genuine belief that they aren’t good enough the way they are.

A few years ago I was substitute teaching at a school and a girl in Grade 5 told me her Mom had to use two whole boxes of hair dye on her because one wasn’t enough. In case you aren’t sure, in Grade 5 a child is no more than 11 years old. I told her I had never dyed my hair and her reply was, “Wow, That must be hard”. I told her that I thought each of us was born with the colour hair that looks most beautiful on us. She had no reply, but the look on her face clearly told me that such a statement had never been said to her before. Her own mother thought her 11 year old daughter would look prettier as a brunette. What message is that sending?

I am not a skinny woman. I have hips, boobs, a full hour-glass figure. I’m a curvy Mama. Do I sometimes wish to be thinner? Yes, to be honest, I do. But I have absolutely no desire to be so drastically different from what I am now that I look different altogether.  That’s just not me. Never has been, never will be, and I’ve made peace with that. I am a teacher and last year I taught 9 and 10 year olds. We had a deep mutual affection for each other and a beautiful, healthy teacher/student relationship, particularly the girls and I. As a teacher, I feel that it is my job to be who I am and look the way I do to show those girls that you can be smart, beautiful, funny, loving, successful, and happy however you look, whatever you weigh, and whatever your dress size. I made a point to explicitly tell them as much any chance I had. Most of their mothers didn’t tell them, so if I didn’t I wondered who would. Maybe no one. Ever.

I feel so passionately about this.

As teachers, Aunts, sisters, neighbours, friends, cousins, Moms and as WOMEN, we have a job to do.

So stop facebooking about your weight, your weight-loss, your diet. Stop losing sleep over the boston cream donut you indulged in with your Timmies this morning. Don’t eat differently in front of your new date to seem feminine and dainty. Be healthy, be happy, be yourself. Make peace with your huge hips, or lack of boobs, your big nose or your small feet. Love yourself the way you are today. Wear what fits and what is comfortable – tear out the tags if you have to. Look in the mirror and smile. (When was the last time you did that?) Love yourself. Love yourself harder than you ever have before. Then spread that love, that healthy self-esteem, that appreciation and respect for yourself to every girl and women you know.

And if they don’t get this message? Then what?
They need it.
And so do you.

Mel