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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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?

Do You Wanna Be a Third?

I’ve wanted to be in a triad for a long time. Justan and I talked years ago, in 2001 or so, about how cool it would be to have a girlfriend and all three of us live together… but that was a crazy dream, right? Over the years I dated other girls and sometimes Justan dated them with me, but we never thought that three people could fall in love! Well, then one day three of us did fall in love. That changed things.

We then went on to be polyamorous in that we dated other people, for a few years. During this time we learned a lot. We learned a lot about treating people with compassion and respect, and about how some of our early language and perceptions in polyamory had made our other loves out to be more like objects and less like… well, people. Things like veto power, and hierarchical language.

By the time I started dating Andi, I was very conscious of the way I framed my own perceptions — of her rights to speak up, ask for what she needs and wants out of a relationship, and not be second place to anyone unless *she* wants to.

Here’s the thing. In the poly world we see a lot of what’s known as “unicorn hunting.” It’s when a straight couple go out searching for their perfect “third,” a magical addition to their relationship who is beautiful, usually kinky, bisexual and looking for an exciting, amazing couple to join into. It’s very common, especially on sites like OKCupid.

Do you notice that this woman (it’s almost always a woman) is commodified? Her value is in her sexual preferences, her willingness to join an existing relationship and the fact that she’s attractive. She is expected to be in awe of the stability and awesomeness of this existing relationship and feel honoured to join it.

It sort of takes the humanity out of the equation, doesn’t it?

But the people you love (even the people you don’t) *are* human. A partner isn’t some magic ingredient or missing puzzle piece that you add to your existing equation. They’re a person, with a soul, and needs, and context. They might steer you and also your other partner(s) in a different direction than you expected. They may do things or need things that cause you to question parts of your life — how you approach situations, how you react to things, your perspective on relationships or life in general. That’s what relationships do. These are the hazards, and rewards, of human interaction.

If you’re hung up on the triad idea or still thinking, “But my husband/wife and I have this amazing marriage and we really want to find an amazing lady to share that love with us!,” try thinking of it this way. When you were single, did you frame things like this? Did you think to yourself the following? “I am just such an amazing human being and I just really have my life together. I’ve sorted out what I want when it comes to kids, where I want to live, and marriage. I would really love to find a person to join me and experience how awesome I am.” Did you expect to find someone who would follow along with your plans, buy into your way of doing things, and feel privileged to be a part of your already awesome life?

Well, maybe you did. But that doesn’t work very well. It’s more likely that you had a life and your partner-to-be had a life and you combined them and discussed your beliefs and plans and compromised where you needed to, to build your awesome life together.

So why would it be any different when you start a triad?

I would love to see triads or anyone hoping to be part of a triad making a conscious effort to change their perspective and language around “adding another person.” This isn’t as much of an issue when three people get together all at the same time or very close in time. But when there is a longstanding relationship between two people and then those two people fall in love with another person, how about we work on not referring to this new member of the relationship as a “third”? Would you want to be a third? Do you want to be the add-on at the end of the sentence, the one who doesn’t get to choose their relationship structure or whether to have kids as part of the equation, because that was already decided by the “original couple”?

Think of your triad as a completely new relationship. You are three people coming into this relationship and you each have a back story and your own particular needs and preferences. Yes, two of you might have a history, and that is still valid. But it doesn’t take precedence over the triad relationship, or over either of the two new dyads that have been formed in this relationship. When we talk about someone “joining” a couple, it sounds as if it’s just a continuation of that couple’s story. This triad relationship is its own story. Give it the respect and honour it deserves by recognizing it as such.

Triad date

Our First Thanksgiving

YOU GUYS!

Today we hosted our first Thanksgiving as a family.

We have celebrated Thanksgiving together twice before this, but just at other family Fall in the Parklandmembers’ houses. In fact, I have never personally hosted a Thanksgiving.

We had a wedding on Saturday, out of town, so that threw off general Thanksgiving plans this year and we weren’t quite sure what we were going to do. Within the past couple of weeks wedecided, Hell, why not – let’s host on Thanksgiving Monday.

This is noteworthy not only because I’ve never hosted a Thanksgiving and because we haven’t yet hosted one as a family, but also because our families haven’t met (!). Justan’s mom couldn’t make it as she has moved out of province, but both my parents and Andi’s parents decided they would come – to our surprise. My dad hasn’t even been to this house since Justan and I moved in months ago and we weren’t sure if Andi’s parents would feel comfortable coming to meet the whole crowd.

A fall storm blows inWell, I’m happy to report it was a raging success! There was a small turkey fiasco (the roaster mysteriously shut off halfway through cooking), but Andi averted that crisis with the help of the barbecue. We all pitched in as a team with Andi and I each cooking about half of the meal (though I must say it’s worth noting that Andi rocked the turkey and stuffing), and Justan doing tons of cleaning and other prep.

All in all we served 16 people, including all eight of us from our family, Andi’s parents, my parents, and Andi’s cousin and her kids and au pair. We had turkey, stuffing, two kinds of potatoes, three kinds of salad, yams, buns, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, pie, cheesecake, coffee, ice cream and of course lots of wine.

Our dads and Andi’s cousin even talked politics and were amiable about it.

Now all our families have met except Justan’s mom & brother and Andi’s parents!

We are pretty proud and thankful tonight. That is a huge load of stress off of us. And yes, it was all delicious.

It's tough to get even a half-decent photo of this crew, but you get the idea.

It’s tough to get even a half-decent photo of this crew, but you get the idea.

Our Invisible World

When did you realize that it can happen to you?

Bad things do happen to good people. All the time. But until it happens to you, it’s not a very real or pressing possibility.

My sister Lisa holding me, at home on the ranch, 1982 or so.

My sister Lisa holding me, at home on the ranch, 1982 or so.

Most people start off life thinking that nothing bad can happen to them or their families. It’s not conscious thought, usually. We realize something could happen, but in our day-to-day lives we operate on the belief that terrible, unexpected things happen to other people. Those other people are not us. We feel terrible for those other people and try to help however we can, but we don’t expect to find ourselves in their shoes.

Sadly, for many of us, there comes a time when we experience a tragedy that teaches us that it can, in fact, happen to us. The unexpected death of a loved one, either by illness, accident, or act of violence, changes our world forever to a place where anything could happen at any time. We become morbid, both in our fears but also in our humour.

Others in our shoes understand this morbidity. They understand why it’s okay to joke about death like this; because we’ve been through the dark fog of grief and we know how absolutely crucial it is to laugh in the face of death or risk slipping under the surface at any time. People who have never lived through a family tragedy might find our attitude toward death unnerving, unhealthy or disturbing. We generally learn who gets our dark jokes and who shoots us a worried glance when we make one.

This doesn’t necessarily translate into a life of worry and fear, although it does for some. For the rest of us, it simply means knowing that death can come suddenly, unexpectedly, and being prepared for our loved ones to die at almost any moment or thinking often about our own potentially impending death. For many of us, this comes with a strange peace, knowing that every day is precious.

There is a strange, uncomfortable feeling of kinship when we learn of someone else’s loss, whether it’s someone we know or something we see on the news; specifically if the incident is similar to how we lost our own loved one. When I pass a car accident or hear about a serious accident on the news, I immediately think of the family. Deaths in vehicles are so common, I’m sure most of us knew someone who Path to the campfiredied in a car accident. My sister ran a yield sign when she was 19, was struck by a car and died instantly.

When we hear someone has died suddenly, we know that their family is passing into the world where we’ve been living for so long. We regret not only their death, but that the surviving loved ones are joining us here in this place.

We are familiar with grief, while there are others our age who don’t know this place yet. When we find ourselves grieving again because of a new tragedy or loss, grief feels familiar. Stifling, and terrible, but almost comfortable, like a big, grey blanket that is actually far too heavy. It’s not as scary, though, as that first time, when we might have thought there was something wrong with us, or that we weren’t doing it “right,” or that perhaps we were losing our minds. Each time we have to journey through grief now, we know that there is no normal course to take. Grief winds and dips and takes you to unexpected places that might not seem right, like laughing after the burial, or suddenly experiencing bouts of sleeplessness months later, or not being able to focus at work long after we feel like we should have been fine.

Our old grief, also, is strangely comforting. After a while the harsh edges get worn off and when we find ourselves crying unexpectedly at a stoplight because something random on the radio reminds us of the one we lost, we welcome the ache, because it’s the piece that we have left.

I also think we look at statistics and risk differently. Yes, we know that heart disease is the leading killer of adults in North America, and we know that there is a chance of someone we know dying as a victim of violence. But we also know that statistics mean nothing to us personally at the end of the day. We can’t know the time or cause of the death of anyone we love before it happens. So, for the most part, we make decisions based on risk but we don’t dwell on those risks. We love the ones who are special to us, knowing that our time is precious.

If you’re here in this place, fist bumps and solidarity. I almost wish I could pick you all out of a crowd when I see you in person, whether as a stranger or a friend. If you’re not here, please don’t let this frighten you. It’s an inescapable fact that we’ll all experience tragedy at some point in life, some of us far more than others. One day, when you unexpectedly find yourself here, know that there are many, many of us who are already here and that you don’t have to walk the road alone. And find yourself someone who is already here, so that if you need to make a morbid joke you don’t have to deal with the weird looks.Winter Solstice Sunset