In a Triad? Take This Survey!

If you are in a triad, or have been in the past, I would really love it if you would take the 15 minutes or so it’ll take you to fill out my survey.

I’m gathering data on the experiences of people in triad relationships. This is part of my (non-fiction) book research but I will likely use the data for other projects as well, such as articles, blog posts here, or other, future books. However, all individual responses will be kept confidential.

Click here to take the survey. Please share with anyone you know who might be interested in taking part!

Running: a Love Letter

Dear Running,

I’m writing to apologize, and to say that I’m so happy we’ve found that spark again.

I know it’s been a journey. And I’m glad you’ve stuck by me, even when it probably seemed like I was abandoning you. I like to think that you’re wiser than I am and that you always knew we’d reconcile. And I’m sorry to relate that there were times I contemplated removing you from my profiles and bios because keeping your name there as part of what identifies me felt like it was becoming a lie.

But all that time, deep down inside, I still really felt you were a part of me. Even if we weren’t spending time together; even if my attempts to keep a date with you led, seemingly inevitably and with increasing intensity, to debilitating anxiety that would keep me in the house, in the car, in bed. I knew that spending time with you was just the thing I needed to crush that anxiety, to launch me headlong into jubilance, actually.

There had been too many times that my runs had led me into areas washed away, damaged by the flooding. There were too many broken pathways, missing pieces of land, piles of driftwood and debris. I lost nothing in the flood aside from my favourite running path. It turns out, though, that that’s not nothing.

Life stress and changes and actual monumental transitions made getting out difficult. I was adjusting to being a step-parent of four; to a huge change in my anchor relationships; to a new home and to unfamiliar job situations.

I’m sorry. I’m not trying to make excuses. I’m writing to you because I want you to know how much I missed you — I know now. I felt before that I was missing you but I didn’t truly know how much until I came back to you.

I feel joy again when we’re together. I’m excited to explore new trails together. I’m excited to see how high we can climb; how fast we can run; how far we can take this. I remember now why I first fell in love.

I read once that if you write, you’re a writer. I love this sentiment and bought into it wholeheartedly; and I also applied it to running. If you run, you’re a runner. It doesn’t matter how far nor how fast, nor if you take walk breaks. But what about when you don’t run? What if you simply crave running every day; if you think all the time about starting again; if you manage to get out for a slow 3 km about once a month? Are you still a runner? What if you can remember the feeling of flying down the path, feet swift beneath you, your toes finally warming up a kilometre into the route; the endorphins finally pumping through your veins; the high after you get home, hair a mess, sweaty, red-faced? Are you still a runner if you’re not actually running?

I have decided that we were meant to be together. Even before I met you and made a commitment, to call myself a runner for life, I was a runner. I didn’t know it. I doubted my ability to run more than a block. Running seemed like hell (I’m sorry! I didn’t know you then!). Even when I came in last place in my one and only cross country race in junior high. Even when I took a two-year hiatus which I spent feeling guilty, almost all the time.

I am a runner. You never left me. And now I know that you’ll always be there for me. And that means a lot.

Excuse me now, I have a letter to write to Writing.

Love,

Lindsay

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Iceland As a Triad

Tips for travelling in threes – in Iceland and otherwise

We travelled to Iceland for eight days this April, just the three of us adults. Finding accommodations was complicated slightly by the fact that there were three of us, but for the most part didn’t pose any major issues.

Triad in Iceland

Andi, me and Justan in front of Svartifoss.

We stayed in a combination of Air BnB rentals, hostels and hotel rooms. This was partially because we drove around Iceland’s ring road, and stayed in cities, very small towns and in the countryside, so options were varied. If we had stayed in only private rentals, we likely could have booked the accommodations based on two-person occupancy and never had to address that there were three of us.

Going in, I felt the need to be upfront about there being three of us when contacting Air BnB hosts as well as hostels, given the likelihood that they would see or meet us. I didn’t want anyone to think that we were trying to deceive them.

The thing is, even if you try to be transparent and even exceedingly clear and say that you only need one bed — size double or larger (it’s king-sized all the way at home but when travelling on a budget, you squish in) — for the three of you, and no extra blankets, people still assume you need an extra bed and lay out the linens as such. There is no way short of getting completely awkward with a stranger over the internet (a stranger whose lack of English proficiency may present additional hurdles) to explain your relationship in the context of a vacation rental and avoid the extra cost for the third person.

Here are some tips specific to the different types of accommodation you might consider:

Air BnB

We were turned down by a couple of hosts based on there being three of us. One stated “the bed was specifically built, by hand, for two people.” Uh, what? What if the three of us weigh the same amount as a couple who wants to stay there? There was clearly not an understanding there of the situation.

I avoided contacting hosts who would have had us staying in a room in their home. That could have been fine, to be sure, especially given that Iceland is quite a liberal country — but we didn’t feel like sullying our vacation with awkwardness.

Instead, I searched for apartments that we could have entirely to ourselves. There has been an explosion of tourism in Iceland and there are scads of Air BnB rentals available, however book early if you want to get your favourites. We missed out on a couple extremely cute ones (BEHOLD!).

As it was, we rented three places from Air BnB, but one was more of a camping experience. The other two were in or near Reykjavik; the first a tiny home in someone’s

Our tiny house with loft bed!

Our tiny house with loft bed!

backyard, and the second a downtown apartment. At the first, we met the host, though Justan was up in the loft bed when he stopped by so we could have just said there were two of us (we would have felt bad, though). At the second, we never met the hosts, nor did we use the linens they left on the couch. Here we likely could have just said there were two of us and been okay with it — we didn’t make any extra work for them, in fact because they thought we needed another bed made up there was more effort put in than needed. It’s very difficult to determine these things in advance though.

Hotels

It is often not possible to book a hotel room for three and get one bed. Unless hotels have king rooms available and will allow you to bring a third person, it can be a risk to even inquire, because once you have disclosed the third person they will want to rent you a room with two doubles and may think you’re being sneaky if you refuse. We did get one room with a king when we stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico for a friend’s wedding, but on this trip we didn’t risk it, especially since by the time we booked the rooms, availability was limited. I booked rooms at two separate hotels — one boutique hotel in a city and one family-run hotel in the country — for two people.

We stayed first at the country hotel. Andi and I went in for check-in to pay the remainder of the fee, then went down to find our room, found the nearest exit, propped the door open and snuck Justan in. We couldn’t go out to do much there anyway and it was evening when we arrived, so Justan just stayed in the room and drank beer. We had a queen-sized bed here, which was perfect except that it was really two twins pushed together — seemingly a fairly common thing in Iceland. I slept (hardly) on the crack. In the morning, Andi and I went to the dining room to scout the free breakfast, found only staff that wouldn’t recognize us, and texted Justan to join us. We all ate without issue.

A few days later, we stayed at the boutique hotel. This was trickier as it was a very small hotel, with an entrance directly to the front desk and stairs on the left leading up to the rooms — no big lobby, no crowds of guests. We got lucky and no one was sitting at the desk any of the times we walked in with Justan. Here, we had two twin beds on separate walls with built-in night stands between them. Andi and I squished together on one and Justan slept on the other. Again, we were able to all eat breakfast in the morning without issue.

Hostels

We stayed in two hostels on our trip, one that belonged to Hostelling International, and one private hostel that was actually an old church. We tried to get a private room with a double or queen bed at the HI hostel, as they definitely had them

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Our room.

(unoccupied!), but because they didn’t understand what I was asking for, they wouldn’t let us. We instead got a room for four, with four twin beds. Again, Andi and I squished together (poor Justan). We had linens for three but only used two. We left the others folded and clean on the third bed.

 

At the private hostel, which slept ten, it was just the three of us. There were lots of beds to choose from and the host just gave us three sets of linens, so we were able to just use those on one double bed. This was ideal. We lucked out here! It was pricey though, for a hostel, but felt worth it since there was no one else there.

Hostels weren’t really that affordable because we couldn’t rent a double room, however it’s always nice to have the kitchen and be able to talk to other guests and the hosts. Both the hostels we stayed in were worth it, but they were some of the most expensive accommodations we stayed in on our trip.

Also, be advised that if you want to get the HI discount, you need a family membership or you each need one. I had thought since I had the membership and I was paying entirely for one room, I would get the discount, but nope — only for my single portion.

Camping

We didn’t truly camp on this trip, but it would be a great option in Iceland, specifically in the summer (although it doesn’t get dark at all starting around mid-May, and you might regret the absence of black-out blinds, which were included at every place we stayed!).

You could either rent or bring a tent and everything else, or rent the seemingly very popular Happy Camper vans, which we saw all over. I have to wonder how much gas those burn though. You gain a lot of elevation if you drive up in the north at all, so keep that in mind in the gas mileage context. Maybe the vans come with blackout blinds though! And bonus — no one to ask any questions about your sleeping arrangements.

We did stay at a sort of camping resort which we found through Air BnB, where we slept in an adorable hobbit pod. The pod was tiny and contained a table, bench and bed. The bed was the perfect size! I believe

The hobbit pod!

The hobbit pod!

it was a queen. There was a separate building with spartan kitchen facilities, including an outdoor wash station (brr!), as well as hot tubs and a wash house. A restaurant on site meant you could buy food if needed. This was a decent way to go and fairly affordable, in line with our other accommodations.

Guest houses

We didn’t look into any, but we saw tons around the country, especially in small towns. It just seems potentially very awkward…

Couchsurfing

This was one option that I really wish had worked out. There was a really cool girl in Reykjavik who I wanted us to stay with. Couchsurfing is great for meeting locals and getting tips on where to go. It’s a very social way to travel! Plus, it’s free. I did pay to verify my account so I looked more legit, and I’ve filled in my profile and made an effort to connect with any of my friends on there and get any testimonials I can. I think, though, that in order to be successful, Justan and Andi should have been verified members with profiles as well. I don’t think I could have convinced them to do this, but for the small amount of effort, if you travel often, this could be very worth it. Definitely worth considering! If you like meeting new people, especially locals, this is a really great option.

Have you travelled as a triad? Where did you stay? Did you run into any issues?

Why I’m Loving DailyMile Again

I’ve used DailyMile to track my runs since I started running in 2009. I started with the Couch to 5K program (also available in a great app) and had DailyMile recommended to me by the same friends who had recommended that. For years, it was just a website. For the first year or two, I would log on when I got home, plot my run on the map and find out how far I had gone. The mystery! Now it sounds a bit absurd (oh how quickly we adapt), but at the time it was great. I was just thankful the map was so accurate.

Then, I got a newer phone. I searched for a DailyMile app to no avail. At least, by downloading another app (Runtastic), I could track my run on GPS. Now some might ask why I didn’t just switch to Runtastic completely at that point. The truth is, I didn’t want to give up my two years of run stats already stored in DailyMile. In large part because I tend to write gems like this by way of description:

OMG. I ran 5 km in 31 minutes!! I almost jumped up and down at the end but thought I would look silly. I only took one walk break the whole time, and it was halfway through when my little deer friends were there cheering me on and I had to slow down to say hi.

Sunset, fallen leaves, rough cobblestone, built a rock bridge and bounced across it to the cheers of a passing cyclist, saw several deer friends. Slow, but a beautiful run.

And this one:

Went for a 10 pm, 5k pasture run through long, wet grass. Anticipated the preponderance of steep hills and the mosquitoes, and the beautiful sunset. I thought it would be the birdsongs and the sunset that kept me going but it turned out my main motivation was the mosquito swarms that plagued me each time I slowed down. Spent long periods trudging through the knee-length, wet grass both to avoid stinging nettle and to ensure I wouldn’t roll an ankle. There were also a few perilous marsh, bog and creek crossings during which I tried to focus on the fact that my feet were already soaking so it wouldn’t really matter if I fell in – though it was difficult to focus with the mosquitoes attempting to eat me alive. I was rewarded in the end with two deer and a beaver, and mists rolling over the beaver pond. Ran part of the last quarter barefoot to get out of my wet shoes. Did I mention there wasn’t a flat portion of this run? It was all substantial hills.

So I stuck it out, using Runtastic to get my distance/time/pace and then logging it onto DailyMile on the computer when I got home. I did find a third-party app called Electric Miles that would let me log my runs into DailyMile from my phone, but many of the options were missing so I didn’t get the full description I often wanted.

Well, folks, all of this nonsense recently changed. I don’t know when DailyMile came out with their app, so I’m going to admit that I may have missed the boat on this for quite some time. But what matters is that it’s here now, and I love it! It seems that most of my friends who used DailyMile in the past gave up on it at some point as almost none of them post there now — I assume they’ve gone to RunKeeper or Nike or somewhere else — but I’m hoping some will come back, or maybe I can convince some new runners to connect with me there.

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I don’t know, but I think it’s fun how bright it is, and it makes me want to run more.

Keep in mind that I have not used other running apps and I’m also not seriously training for anything, so I understand that this likely does not have all the bells and whistles a lot of runners want. But for the fun-runner like me, who is motivated by an app that looks nice and has some fun inclusions, you might find that this little extra helps to get you out the door.

Here is why I love the DailyMile app:

The Overall Design and Platform

The app is simple and straightforward, but it does what I need it to. The look is really fun, though. Bright colours, and a honeycomb matrix of stats on your personal feed always make me happy when I log in. It’s the little things, I guess!

There are five options across the bottom, though one is training, which is a paid service, so I don’t use that. The first is Home, where you can view a feed that shows your friends’ runs as well as your own. This brings in a social aspect because you can comment on your friends’ activity and also rate it with a variety of icons. I do miss having more of my friends on DailyMile as I found the social aspect motivating. However, it’s easy to post your runs to Facebook and Twitter and get the feedback that way if you want it.IMG_5970

The second option is your own profile, and this is the tab I love. This is where the honeycomb matrix is, as well as a chronological list of all your workouts, mixed in with photos you have posted.

 

The third is the + button, where you can add a new activity, access the GPS for your run, or post a photo or note.

IMG_5972On the far right is Training, where you can look at your workout stats by week or month; duration or distance; and activity type. I love going here to see how many kilometres I’ve run this week or this month and compare it to past weeks and months.

Another small, silly thing that I love about the app is the design of that honeycomb matrix. Each hexagon displays a different stat or condition. In one, your most recent photo is displayed; another your otal number of kilometres (or miles) for the week; there is one for your “streak”; one for how many calories you’ve burned this week; and one for your average pace. There are also spots for encouragement icons you have received, the current weather, your elevation gain this week, how many total activities you’ve done this week, your average mood and your number of reps if you’ve logged any weight training. I love that in the spot for number of activities, there are little balls that correspond to the total. So each time you add an activity, this hexagon fills up more. And these balls bounce around when you shake your phone! The happy face in the mood spot also rocks back and forth when you shake it. Again, it’s the little things.

The Photos

I love being able to add a photo to each run, or add photos at any time, as I can visit my photo feed and see how the weather has changed during my runs over the past few months. It’s easy to forget that just two months ago I was running in the snow, and it’s neat to look back at all the places I’ve run since then.

Tracking Different Activities

There are options for tracking runs, cycling, walking, yoga, reps during weight training, swimming and more, so you can keep track of your cross training as well as your runs.

The Social Aspect

Seeing my friends’ runs right there in my feed keeps me inspired. I’d love to see more of my friends there again, though!

Which running app do you use, if you use one? Want to join me on DailyMile?

Birds are My Spirit Guides!

Yes, this is exciting!

Fine, it’s by my own choosing. I was finding myself looking up birds that I saw, especially if they kept popping up in my life, if I felt a special affinity with them, or they were uncommon and I spotted them unexpectedly. I mean really, I do the same thing with animals (if I see a moose or fox or something else a bit elusive). However I get to see birds more often, so I’m looking them up more often!

So naturally (haha) I decided that the birds I see are actually spirit messengers.

(No killjoy comments please about the lack of rationality here; I don’t care, let me have my bird spirit guides.)

And thus begins a new feature on my blog! Guess what it’s called?!

That’s right – Bird Spirit Guides! The idea is, with animals and common birds, you can generally find a site somewhere online that will outline the key characteristics of the creature and then interpret how this might relate to your life. Flickers, for instance, represent a new cycle in life, among other things. Meanwhile, you can’t really find resources regarding the symbolism of less common birds. That’s where I come in!

First up, we have the brown creeper.

He looked like this. But this photo is not mine; it’s from All About Birds. You should visit their site and learn all about birds.

I was sitting at the playground with our dayhome kids, watching them play from a nearby bench, when I saw this funny, little tiny guy land on a poplar tree. He landed near the bottom and slowly inspected his way up the tree, eventually ending up at the top. From where I was sitting, he was on the side of the tree so that I could see him in silhouette, which meant I could see his long, thin, slightly-curved, needle-like beak well.

Of course I texted my mom and asked her what it was and she knew, because that’s kind of a thing in our family. Well, she said either some sort of nuthatch (I can’t remember which one now) or brown creeper, but a Google image search quickly clarified it for me.

She seemed pretty excited and envious that I had seen it and said she had never seen one. I had no idea I had spotted something sort of rare until she said that! I looked into it and apparently they’re not rare, but they’re not commonly seen because they blend into the bark of the tree so well. Lucky me!

Can I just say, this little guy was adorable?!

All right, all right, on to the message. As interpreted by me via naturalist descriptions of our little brown creeper. What qualifies me to make this interpretation? Absolutely nothing.

Spiritual Message of the Brown Creeper

A brown creeper’s visit or appearance in your life is a loud reminder to stop and notice the hidden beauty and blessings around us. The most commonly noted characteristic of this tiny bird is its ability to hide in plain sight. What, or who, around you is hiding in plain sight? It could be the answer to a question you have been agonizing over, or the solution to a problem that has been plaguing you. The brown creeper is not, in fact, rare — but it is rarely seen. Spotting one could simply be a reminder to notice and appreciate life’s common but rarely acknowledged pleasures. Stop and take some time to think about the little things that are a part of your daily life that really make your day better. It could be a cup of coffee, your child’s incessant chatter (which is exhausting but you’ll surely miss one day), or the view out your kitchen window.

Another important trait of the brown creeper is that it is always moving upward — it can’t move backward/down the trunk of the tree. An excellent reminder to just keep taking steps forward, the brown creeper also reminds us probe carefully for opportunity as we go – – he finds insect eggs and other treats that are often missed by quicker, less fastidious birds because he carefully probes the bark as he moves up. Take your time, notice your surroundings and the synchronicities happening around you, and seize opportunities as they arise. And keep moving upward! Once you feel you’ve risen as far as you can, like the brown creeper, move on to the next tree.

One last note on the brown creeper: they escape their predators by keeping very still; because they blend with the tree, they are almost invisible when they are not moving. I will take this message to say that if you feel you are in danger, lay low. There is no need to puff up, make noise or flee. Just be still, calm and comfortable in your surroundings (and confident in your own skin), and the danger will pass.

Compiled with facts found on:

There are more bird spirit guides to come!

Dear Mom Piggy-Backing Her Child Across the 14th St. Bridge

To the woman carrying her small child on her back, without the assistance of a carrier, across the 14th St. Bridge in northwest Calgary last Wednesday:

Thank you.

Thank you for sharing your love with your child, and also with rush house traffic on busy 14th St NW. You were dressed so stylishly, in a long, patterned silk skirt, funky leather boots, angular glasses and bluntly chopped hair. I know it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover but if I had seen you at a coffee shop or in a bookstore or walking in the +15, I wouldn’t have guessed you’d be the type to shamelessly piggyback your kid along a busy street during rush hour. I would have thought you’d be pushing an expensive stroller (who cares if your child is four? All the other 4-year-olds get a ride), driving your Lexus home to West Hillhurst with a Britax convertible booster seat secured in the back seat, or at the very least, letting her walk on her own, no matter how long it took to get across that bridge.

Every parent has been there at some point. A child, whether they’re a toddler, preschooler, or years older, gets too tired. They start to get whiny. Their feet hurt, their legs hurt, they’re hungry, they can’t go any further.  Of course, it would appear that your trip was longer than most of us would attempt with a young kid. I’m guessing you had walked at least 6-8 blocks already based on where you were. You might have just been out for a stroll but it looked like you had each spent the day doing your own thing, and the nearest buildings were a few blocks from the other side of the bridge. You had another couple of blocks to go, at least, until any streets with houses on them.

I walked behind you all the way across the bridge, gaining on you until I was only a few metres behind you but then turning off onto a pathway once we reached the mouth of the bridge. You carried your little one graciously,  not complaining, not even looking uncomfortable, even as they slipped a little lower every few steps, didn’t hold on or do their part to hold themself up. They were in play clothes, a bright pink jacket, snow boots. They just kept… slipping a little lower… slouching down, until they were hanging, ankles/calves tucked in at your elbows, and you would slow down, give a big bounce and shrug and hike them back up again, and keep going. All the way across the bridge you kept going. You didn’t say anything to your child and you didn’t stop to rest.

I tried to figure out what to say to you. A flash of solidarity of some sort? Maybe a fist pump. Or a little smile and “Been there.” With a wink? Nah, it all seemed contrived.

So in the end I just made eye contact with you, smiled, and went on my way.

Seeing your moment with your child made me feel so happy and hopeful, though, and I wanted you to know. You were just being a parent. Doing what needed to be done, without complaining. Not because you’re a martyr, but because your child was tired and they needed help and you really didn’t mind. And I like to think that you really treasured that time, too, and that a few years from now you’ll look back and be glad that you carried them when they needed to be carried.

Me carrying Neko on my back while hiking, years ago. And I'm glad I did.

Me carrying Neko on my back while hiking, years ago. And I’m glad I did.

Comfort Zone Stretches

The other day, Neko and I went for a walk by the (manmade) lake near our house. When we got to the point where the path was about to veer away from the lake, I asked her if she’d like to continue on the path and around the hill, or climb the hill and walk back along the top. She said she’d rather climb the hill but when I said, “Okay, we’ll go a bit further on the path and when it turns, we’ll go up the hill,” she gestured to the steep bank to our left and responded, “No, let’s climb the hill right here. It’s harder.”

She wanted to take the harder way because it would be hard work and therefore would be “better for us” in the long run. I told her it’s obvious that she’s my kid.

“Do you know what a comfort zone is?” I asked her.

“Not really… sort of,” she said.

I explained: “It’s basically all the things you’re comfortable doing. Things you do often or that you’ve done and you know aren’t hard for you and would do again.”

Your comfort zone does NOT include things that scare you or make you uncomfortable, unless you can do those things with relative ease despite your discomfort. For instance, if public speaking makes you nervous but you can do it when needed without a level of stress that disturbs your daily existence, then I’d say it’s within your comfort zone — you could do it if someone called you up and asked you to.

Circle in the sand

Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone.

What I wanted to explain to Neko is a lesson they taught me on my Outward Bound mountaineering trip that really stuck with me: When you do things that scare you or make you uncomfortable, you stretch your comfort zone to include those things, and now your comfort zone is larger. By regularly doing things that scare you or make you uncomfortable, you can make your comfort zone very large, which theoretically means that your life is generally more fulfilling, a little easier and less stressful (because you’re doing the hard things on your own terms and rendering them less difficult for the future), and hopefully a little happier.

The longer you wait to leave your comfort zone, the scarier it gets to leave.

In contrast, if you never do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, then your comfort zone, and in effect your world, stays very small. You don’t have many options from day to day — you’ll talk to the same people, do the same things, eat the same food, read the same types of books and watch the same types of movies. You likely won’t travel or if you do, it will be to safe destinations that don’t offer much in the way of authentic experience.

When I searched online for illustrations of the “comfort zone,” I found a lot of memes that suggest that no exciting changes, no magic, nothing truly amazing ever happens within your comfort zone. That is not what I’m saying and I categorically disagree. Your comfort zone includes your home, family, hobbies and the things you love including music, culture, art and so on. These things do make us happy and fulfill us. However, it can be limiting to never stretch your comfort zone. If an opportunity or interest comes up that intrigues us or could lead to an exciting new direction, but we are so used to staying in our comfort zone that we aren’t willing to step out on that ledge and try the new thing, then we are being limited from something that could potentially bring us great joy. Appreciate your comfort zone (it’s a good place to retreat to when mental health issues rear their heads), but push its boundaries when possible.

Sometimes scary things actually are the most fun.

Sometimes scary things actually are the most fun.

So what I explained to Neko is that by doing the hard things, the scary things, we make our comfort zone larger. Maybe you used to hate doing things alone, and now you can happily go to dinner or a movie all by yourself and really enjoy your own company. Maybe the thought of taking a flight to another continent used to really scare you, but after backpacking alone for a while, you’ve found that you would feel equally at home in a tent in the outback or a hostel in Paris, and the thought of taking a train across China isn’t daunting at all.

Do something new that scares you!

Do something new that scares you!

Do something today to expand your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be as big as travelling the world, or even giving a speech or going to dinner alone. It could be trying a type of cheese that you’ve never even heard of before, or talking to a stranger on the bus, or reading an article that features a viewpoint that makes you feel uncomfortable and actually letting your mind give that perspective a chance.

When your comfort zone expands, your world expands. By being uncomfortable for a short time, you can be more comfortable in general for the rest of your life, and watch your options for having fun and feeling good increase greatly. I dare you to test it this week! (And then after you test it you should comment below and let me know how it went.)

Book Recommendation For Remembrance Day: The Enemy

With Remembrance Day this Wednesday, I’d like to recommend a book for any parents out there looking for a story to give a bit of context to a soldier’s experience in a way a child can understand.

The Enemy (a book about peace) by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch is a charming and deceivingly simple picture book about a soldier’s feelings toward his enemy and how we must differentiate ourselves from our enemy in order to participate in war. The main character spends the duration of the book in a trench, wondering about the enemy, who is camped out in the trench across the field. He describes the enemy as inhuman, not possessing the emotion nor the capacity for love that he himself possesses. He describes how the enemy would kill him in cold blood if given the chance.

By the end of the book, we learn, of course, that the enemy is just like our hero, and likely thinking exactly the same things about him. As simple as it is, I found this book very touching and I love how it addresses the underlying humanity of war.

I got our copy from the Calgary Public Library, but given that Remembrance Day is in two days, you may not be able to get it from the library or bookstore in time. In that case, try this reading. The sound is not awesome but I think it will still be enjoyable for kids.

Hey Guys! Did You Know…? 6 am Is An Actual Time!

I have a confession to make. Andi and I are trying this new thing, with the aim of changing our lives — being more productive, having more energy and generally feeling like we have forward momentum.

The new thing is … getting up every day at 6 am.

Everyone who is reading this and has ever met me just stopped reading right there because they know I’m lying.

I have never in my life gotten up before 7:30 am. Not when I had 8 am German class in college. Not when I had a newborn, or a toddler. Not when I was on a fitness craze in my twenties. Not for any job, ever. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten up before 7:30 am; two of them were for television appearances and three were for international flights.

But it’s true. As completely as outlandish as this is, we really are getting up at 6 am each day.

HOW COULD THIS BE?!

If you’ve ever witnessed the pathetic, whining mess that is Lindsay in the morning, it seems impossible. I’m just not even willing to entertain the possibility of getting up even five minutes earlier than I absolutely must.

I have one person to blame, and her name is Renee.

Renee is completely lovely, and she accomplishes a lot. She is a good friend of Andi’s. She homeschools three kids, is an incredibly talented (and versatile) musician, runs a business out of her home (teaching Suzuki music lessons) and manages several rental properties with her husband. Basically, she’s inspiring. And she never has that harried, desperate vibe of someone who has way too much on their plate. She’s calm. She seems happy.

So, recently, Andi asked her how she does it. Yeah, yeah, that’s apparently a dirty phrase… “How does she do it?” I’ve read plenty of articles online proclaiming “You just do it because you have to!!” Well, fair enough. But I don’t think that does justice to people who manage to accomplish a lot. They actually do have strategies, and habits for being efficient, happy, accomplished. They do things like set goals, make time for themselves, give back, and honestly I’m not too sure what else because I’m still aspiring to be one of them. I do believe there is value in asking “How do you do it?,” if we ask in the right way. Taking the best life tips of someone we admire and wish to emulate is just good sense.

So when Renee told us that the key to her life balance is getting up at 6 am, consistently, we were willing to listen, even though we were extremely resistant to the idea.

We spent an afternoon talking with her about our goals and challenges, and the conversation just kept coming back to the 6 am idea.

“How do we balance making enough money at our current jobs, with moving in the direction of our bigger goals?”

(Getting up at 6 am will give you more time in the day and allow you to strategize and therefore be more efficient in moving toward your goals.)

“How do we find time to work out?”

(Work out at 6 am.)

And so on. Waking up at 6 am was the answer to every question!

We left that day, about three weeks ago, convinced. The next morning, we were going to attempt to get up at 6 am. Well, we did. And with the exception of our business trip to Vegas (seriously) and a couple weekend mornings when we’ve let ourselves sleep in (usually until 8 or 9), we have been doing it every day since.

It goes like this.

The guru who prescribes this, Robin Sharma (though he says you should get up at 5 am — but who does that?! Come on, there has to be a line.), outlines a 20-20-20 formula for general success. He says that you should spend the first 20 minutes of your day exercising. The next 20 minutes are spent learning, ideally about something that pertains to one of your current goals. This can be through reading a book or article, or listening to a podcast or audiobook. Technically you could even do the workout and listen to a podcast or audiobook at the same time. The final 20 minutes are spent writing. I think you’re supposed to write about your dreams and goals. Frankly I’m still getting the hang of all this and we’ve been more focused on the getting out of bed and doing something part than adhering strictly to any plan. It doesn’t seem like it would be helpful to try to do everything perfectly right off the bat and then beat ourselves up for doing it not-quite-right.

So, we made a morning movement plan. Andi has been doing yoga or strength training each morning, and even a bit of hooping. I decided right off the bat that if I was going to get my ass out of bed at 6 am, it would need to be for something enticing. For me, that is getting outside. I knew the fresh, cold air would wake me up, and I always love to get outside (and it’s something I don’t always do often enough). It worked! Each morning the thought of going outside gets me out of bed. It seems unlikely — what’s appealing about stepping out into the freezing cold darkness before anyone else in the neighbourhood is up and about? I’m not sure. This is so not like me, and I can’t explain it. But I will tell you that most morning at 6 am, if the sky is clear, I can see a very bright planet right beneath a very bright star in the eastern sky. That’s something I hadn’t even known was there. And now I’m running in the morning instead of walking, and it makes me feel great. When I get back to the house I’m awake, feeling optimistic (a welcome change from my usual morning anxiety), and ready for step two: learning.

This is another thing we have to look forward to. We each pick out a podcast the night before, and we each have a list of podcasts that are engaging and get us thinking first thing in the morning. This American Life, Radiolab, 99% Invisible — these are some of our favourites. I am now reading in the morning — my library book on building a writer platform. This gets me inspired for the day. I’ve also put a couple of audiobooks on hold at the library and I’m excited to try those in the morning.

Last comes writing. We don’t necessarily write for 20 minutes (nor at the same time). Sometimes we scrimp on this. This was actually the greatest struggle for me for the first couple of weeks at least. What do you write about at 6:40 in the morning? My hopes and dreams? At that time of day I don’t even know what to eat for breakfast, let alone what I want out of life! Renee said that what matters is to just write, even if it’s a list of all the reasons you want to go back to bed. I have tried writing my goals for the day (not a to do list, but the positive things I hoped to accomplish); reasons the day would be great; gratitude lists; and pages of complaints. Renee told us it would get better with time, and it has. With each passing day, the morning process gets more clear and feels more productive.

I’ve now started the Artists Way 12-week program which includes daily Morning Pages (three pages of free writing in longhand), so I’ve been doing that for my writing component.

So why do we like this so much? Why do we keep doing it? Every day I wonder whom I’ve become, and how I’m doing it. But I am, we are, and we are dedicated to it. We haven’t even had to struggle with it (aside from the first couple of days for me)! Here are the things that we’ve noticed keep us going:

  • We really do have more energy for the rest of the day. Yes, some days I’m tired, or sleepy, especially in the afternoon. But even when I’m sleepy, I’m more energized overall. I’m not dopey or unmotivated like I was before. If I’m sleepy, I can have a 20 minute nap — and feel completely justified!
  • We are eating better. We eat a healthy breakfast around 9:30 am (until then we might have a banana or piece of toast if needed, and a cup of tea or coffee), then a small lunch, and a reasonable supper. We usually don’t get around to an evening snack because bedtime comes too quickly. Big change from last winter’s habit of nightly nachos! I do need to start remembering to have a spoonful of almond butter or something before bed, to take the edge off at 6 am.
  • We’re moving more efficiently toward our goals. We are finding time and inspiration for the things we want to accomplish. We’re getting clear on what we want our future to look like.
  • There is a definite ripple effect as Renee promised. We don’t really have to think too hard about where to go next because the ideas and goals are just sort of coming naturally.
  • Suddenly we like mornings and we look forward to getting up! This is nuts to me.
  • My morning anxiety is mostly gone. It used to keep me in bed for up to an hour after I’d initially wake up then often plague me until lunch. I rarely have anxiety in the mornings now.

Are you a night owl who has learned to love mornings? Why and how did you do it?

Random Acts of Kind Weirdness

#sexyghostOn Halloween night, I was thinking about random acts of weirdness and how they can brighten someone’s day. Of course what got me thinking about this was when I realized that using just my #sexyghost costume, I could really either freak people out or make them laugh by simply standing very still — say, under a streetlight, or in a dark corner of our yard. How much fun would it be to wear the costume around dusk and stand in the woods just off a bike path somewhere? I mean, as long as I didn’t get beat up.

This got me thinking of other random acts of weirdness — something that used to be one of my favourite hobbies. My best friend and I used to do things like rollerskate around the neighbourhood in angel wings (we were 18, not 8), and we had grand plans of setting up a fake Christmas tree in the park in the middle of May. I also like to buy flowers and hand them out to strangers, paint rocks and leave them in unexpected places, or create treasure hunts in the library for strangers. I miss doing these things!

Later that night (because we really got WILD on Halloween, y’all), I was reading The Artist’s Way and thinking about what I might want to do on my artist’s dates. Wait — dressing as a ghost (read: draping myself in a sheet) and standing very still beside a bike path could count as an artist’s date, right? I mean, that sounds super inspiring to me! Were there other random weird acts that I could list as ideas for artist’s dates? I got myself to the googles and started searching for ideas.

Well, guys, it turns out that’s sort of a tricky thing to search. What are we looking for here? Random acts of kindness? “Ways to make strangers smile“? “Weird things to do in public“?

Okay first of all, I’m all for Random Acts of Kindness. But could we come up with some more interesting or inspiring ideas? Paying for the person behind you at the coffee shop is awesome. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be on every list! Some of the ideas are downright abysmal. Compliment someone? Be courteous in traffic? Thank someone for a job well done? We need to read an article about random acts of kindness to think of these things? THIS IS WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE WORLD, PEOPLE!

The half that weren’t exceedingly obvious, cost money. Yes, buying things for people is nice (no-brainer). Gah.

“Weird things to do in public,” it turns out, gets you a list of slightly mean and completely inane activities obviously written by a 14-year-old (I can say this with confidence because it reads like a list I would have written, or probably did write, at 14). Not helpful. The 14-year-old is the only one laughing, not any of the strangers who witness their antics.

Wow, this is long-winded, but MY POINT is that I’m soliciting you fine, creative folk for ideas. I have five requirements, of which any idea must meet at least four; and I also have some examples to get you started on the right track. These can be for one person to do alone, or two or more people to do together.

Suggested activities must meet four of these five criteria:

  1. Will make someone smile;
  2. Is artful in some way;
  3. Is unexpected;
  4. Doesn’t cost anything or could potentially be done for free;
  5. Inspires childlike joy.

The best examples I can find online are Improv Everywhere (they really capture the spirit I have in mind and I’ve always loved their antics), and my favourite homeschooling blog, A Magical Childhood — specifically her “10 Ways to Make Today Magical” posts (not exactly what I’m looking for, but many of her ideas could be adapted to meet the criteria and be done as an artist’s date; plus I think that her activities are whimsical and perfect to teach kids a sense of art, kindness and fun all at once, which is amazing).

Examples (things I’ve tried and ideas from my own list):

  • brush the snow off all your neighbours’ cars (meets four criteria if playing in the snow fills you with glee)
  • leave treasures in the woods, around downtown, around a library (I like these painted stones)
  • guerilla gardening
  • write love letters
  • draw treasure maps and hide them
  • hand out flowers to strangers
  • wear funny hats and help people bag their groceries (my friend and I actually tried this. I stand behind the idea but I have to say, only one person accepted our help. We were wearing bunny ears!)

Hit me up with your best, most inspiring, most fun, artful ideas you guys! What have you done or always wanted to do?