Cold Teeth

I am a wildly enthusiastic and passionate downhill skier. I have been on skis every single winter since the tender age of three and there is absolutely nowhere that I am happier. You will know me on the hill because I am the one grinning from ear-to-ear and nearly dancing with delight on my skis as I barrel down the hill at top speed.

Cold Skiing-2When we awakened at 7:00 this morning, a quick check of the weather informed us that we were not only under a Wind Chill Warning but also a Blowing Snow Warning. Being the die-hard skiers that we are, however, it did nothing to deter us from our day on the slopes.

We bundled up in all our layers and braved that first blustery chairlift ride. As we neared the top of the lift and were hit smack in the face with the brutally cold wind, I wondered; ‘is this a bit too hard-core?’ However, as my skis found their first tracks on the beautiful snow I could feel the sheer bliss bubbling up and over and I knew, without a doubt, that I was in for the day.

I had a stunning day of exercise, fun, family and bliss. My only objection was that I couldn’t smile all the way down the hill…my teeth just got too cold!tooth guy

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Road Trip

images (9)At 3:10 this afternoon Michael and I packed the car and hit the road for a long weekend up north. We are taking advantage of the PA Day tomorrow and, despite the wind chill and blowing snow warnings, are hitting the slopes for a day of skiing tomorrow.

Simon is home with our exam-writer and our hockey player so I get to have a weekend with one kid…ONE KID! I am sitting by the fire with my mom and dad, my sister-in-law, Janine, and my little Michael. I have a glass of red wine on the go and a steak dinner to come.

My Radical Act today is to give over to the crackling fire and the warmth of a cozy evening with my family.

Oh, life is so good! 🙂

An Idea Worth Spreading

When I meditate I do not try to clear my mind of all thought. And I do not push away the intriguing wanderings of my subconscious. Instead, I embrace the thoughts, take a few minutes to explore them, and then settle into the theme for my meditation.

taglineAnd each morning, as I go through this ritual, I hear the echo of Microsoft’s old advertising campaign; ‘Where Do You Want To Go Today?’ It’s almost as if I have a travel brochure in my mind’s eye and every meditation takes me on a wonderful little journey into something that I am manifesting into my life. I think of it as a daily practice of free-form manifesting. I am intentionally creating my life morning by morning and meditation by meditation.

This morning I travelled to my blog. I saw it going viral. I saw the WordPress stats rising into the hundreds of thousands and the map of my readership spanning the entire globe. I saw my blog being published as a book and I saw myself being invited to speak all over the world about 365 Radical Acts. I also saw myself being invited to deliver a TED Talk.

TEDTalksTop100The TED Talk is one of my big, bold and magnificent dreams!

As I meditated, I could feel myself up on that stage. I saw the audience and I felt the energy and the rush of the moment. I felt the excitement and the butterflies in my stomach. And because I was completely relaxed and grounded in my meditation, I did not feel any pressure to come up with a talk…it just happened. My TED Talk took shape and my message was easily distilled as I sat on my couch with my eyes closed in the darkness and the quiet.

And what is my message?

My message is all about connection. Connection with self, with our bodies, with our families, with our friends, with our money, with our work, and with our purpose. And my experience of the past eighty three days is that it starts with noticing.

365 Radical Acts has encouraged me to open my eyes to the everyday ordinary. Now that I am mindfully noticing something in every day that is extraordinary, I am feeling a deeper connection to my life than I ever have. I am now stopping to really notice even the smallest things; the way the sun feels on my face coming through a winter window, the nurturing smell of home baking in the air, the smile of a stranger, the sheer bliss of a bedtime snuggle, the gift of my favourite foods, the miraculous impact of music, and the deep connection to my beloved parents.

The impact of 365 Radical Acts is that I am waking up to my life. And the daily process of taking note of the everyday extraordinary is connecting me in a way that I could never have imagined when I boldly launched this project eighty three days ago.

download (8)What if we all took a few moments in every day to notice the extraordinary ordinary? What if we were witnessing, on a daily basis, the miraculous aspects of our lives that make us all so incredibly special? What would the impact be if we all felt a deeper connection to self?

My TED Talk is an invitation to intentionally bear witness to the miracles that inhabit each and every day of our lives. Some of the miracles are glaringly obvious and some a little more elusive, but they are there. And each one of those miracles is just begging to be noticed. And if we are all noticing those daily miracles and connecting deep within ourselves, just imagine the impact on a global scale.

I think that is an idea worth spreading!images (8)

The Great Pumpkin

I would be hard-pressed to choose a favourite season. I live in the perfect climate for my tastes because I love the variety; the winter for its crisp, cold days and snow, spring for feeling of re-birth, warmth and my favourite flowers, and summer for the long days, the freedom and the fun. I am always a little sorry to see the summer come to an end and the days start to get shorter. However, the colourful leaves, the fresh air, and all the delights of fall are a rich reward.

pumpkin-patch-1Each year, when fall rolls around, I watch with delight as the beautiful orange orbs of the season grow in abundance in the farmers’ fields. And, I rub my hands in gleeful anticipation of the pumpkin feast to come; roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, raw pumpkin cheesecake and even roasted pumpkin soup.

After Halloween, when the novelty of these orange wonders wears off, I troll all the local pumpkin farmers to buy up their remaining stock at reduced prices. They look at me curiously and some shake their heads as I load pumpkin after pumpkin into the back of my van. I make no apologies for my quirky pumpkin obsession. I just smile warmly and thank them while images of roasted pumpkin seeds dance in my head all the way home.

Once the season is done and the last few sad pumpkins are rotting in the fields, I have to accept the fact that I will have to wait another year for my all-time favourite snack. But even though I can’t have the freshly roasted seeds, I can’t possibly give up pumpkin altogether, so the organic canned variety is a good substitute.

images (7)With the severely cold weather we have been having lately, I have been inspired to fill the house with the aroma of home baking. I have not done a whole lot of baking since I went GFCF almost four years ago because I do not like baking with rice flour. However, in the past few weeks, I have happily discovered that quinoa flour is a dream to bake with and I have become a bit of a quinoa queen!

My favourite quinoa cookbook ‘Quinoa 365’ has a delicious Pumpkin Bread recipe and I have adapted it so that it is not only GFCF but also free of refined sugar. It smells absolutely heavenly while it is baking and is moist and delicious. My kids love it and it has become a cold weather comfort food at tea time and in school lunches.

Now, if I could just figure out how to have fresh roasted pumpkin seeds all year long. Maybe I could ask the farmers…they already think I’m a bit nuts anyway! 🙂

Quinoa Pumpkin Bread

(Adapted from ‘Quinoa 365’ by Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming)

1 ½ C Quinoa Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
½ tsp. Cinnamon
½ tsp. Nutmeg
¼ tsp. Salt
1/3 C Coconut Milk
½ tbsp. White Vinegar
1 ½ C Pumpkin
1/3 C Coconut Nectar
1/3 C Xylitol
¼ C Applesauce
¼ C Coconut Oil (melted)
2 Large Eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease one 2 L loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
Combine the milk and vinegar in a small bowl.
In a food processor add the pumpkin, coconut nectar, Xylitol, applesauce, coconut oil and blend well.
Add half the flour mixture and half the milk and blend briefly. Scrape down the sides.
Add the other half of the flour mixture and milk and finish blending (not too long).
Bake for 55-60 minutes on the centre oven rack.

The Open Door

My Radical Act for today was hauling my body out of bed at 5:30 this morning while it was still pitch dark and my furnace had yet to kick-in for its morning blast.

6a01116862b939970c014e875a778a970d-800wiI have made a commitment to myself to meditate every weekday morning at 5:30. Some mornings, like this one, the getting out of bed is inexorably challenging. Once I get up and going I am okay. But those first few moments when my cozy flannel sheets feel especially welcoming, it takes the full commitment.

On mornings such as this one, I lean into the ancient wisdom of Rumi, the 13th century mystic and poet. One of Rumi’s poems sits on my night table in a frame and always reminds me that, once I settle into my meditation, adventures await in the rich tapestry of my mind. And, it reminds me that there is no better time to access that wonder than in the quiet hours of the morning.

Each morning that I lean into Rumi’s wisdom, I am captivated by the idea that secrets await beyond the open door. And that I will only hear them if I choose to dance between the two worlds, tune in, and listen deeply.

 
The Breeze at Dawn

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

–         Rumi

Both Sides of the Fence

I am a Suzy Homemaker. I am wildly fulfilled by keeping house. And I am truly jazzed by an efficient and well-run household. I love to put clean laundry away in drawers and know that everyone will have what they need the next day. I love to sit down to a family dinner that I have made and watch my family dig in and enjoy. I love to bake in the afternoon so that when my kids get home from school the smell of freshly baked goodness greets them warmly.cupcake-cartoon

I absolutely love nurturing my family.

It is Sunday afternoon and I am feeling on top of the world. While the boys played another two hours of shinny at the park this afternoon I baked a quinoa pumpkin bread and quinoa brownies. I have done three loads of laundry and have our rib dinner slowly cooking in the oven. And as I was folding the third, and final, load of laundry it struck me that I was feeling a keen sense of both satisfaction and fulfillment.

But it hasn’t always been that way.

I was a full-time stay-at-home mom for the first decade of my parenting journey. Before I had Max fifteen years ago, I was sure that I wanted to be an at-home mom. And I was sure it would be the fulfillment of all my Suzy Homemaker dreams. I was sure that baking, cooking, cleaning, laundry, child-rearing and the day-to-day running of the household would fulfill me deeply.

It never, ever occurred to me that it would be the hardest and most demanding job I could imagine.

download (6)It was emotionally crushing when my dreams did not live up to my reality. I didn’t feel fulfilled. I felt uncertain, I felt lonely and I felt undervalued by society. I can remember going to parties and meeting new people. Invariably the first question out of anyone’s mouth would be; ‘what do you do?’ As an at-home mom with self-esteem issues, that question was the death knell for any further conversation and I would slink away feeling marginalized and judged. And to make matters worse, there were other moms around me who seemed to be doing it so much better than I was. They were fulfilled and happy. They were the June Cleaver that I had aspired to be. And they didn’t even break a sweat doing it.

Looking back, I realize that I was struggling with the ‘Perfect Mom’ archetype. And while I was struggling with the archetype, I was marginalizing and judging myself. I was ashamed of my perceived failure. I didn’t feel proud of what I was doing because I thought it wasn’t enough. Actually, I thought I wasn’t enough.

I launched my coaching business six years ago when Zachary started Junior Kindergarten. The impetus was a financial one. As a single-income family for a decade, we needed another income to make life less financially stressful. And even though I was struggling with my at-home job, the idea of being back in the work force was off the Richter scale in terms of stress. I already had a full-time job running our household and caring for our kids and I knew none of that work would magically disappear just because I wasn’t there to do it. In addition, I didn’t want to miss school concerts, track meets, volunteering, field trips and class parties.

I had no idea how I was going to make it happen but I wanted it all. I wanted to be at home and at work. I wanted flexibility, life balance and I wanted deep fulfillment. And, I wanted abundant prosperity that flowed into my life resonantly and with ease. I wanted a life that aligned with my deepest core values.

Flash forward six years and I am living the life of my dreams. I am a leadership coach, a course architect, and a corporate facilitator. I have work that is fulfilling, lucrative, challenging, and fun. My work is, essentially, play. When I ride the GoTrain home from a workshop, sometimes I have to pinch myself to truly believe that this is my life. I get paid to connect with people. I get remunerated to hold space, reflect and challenge the wonderful people that land in my workshops. And, I get to do it on my own terms. I work with clients of my choosing and I work on my own schedule.

WorkLifeBalancerocksThe incredible gift of my professional life is the balance between home and work. I am not only a wildly fulfilled professional woman but also an equally fulfilled Suzy Homemaker. On days when I am not delivering workshops or meeting with clients I get to work from home. And while I am running my business from home, I also get to bake, cook, clean, take kids to appointments, take part in school activities, keep laundry moving along and run the enormousness of the household day-to-day.

And…I am really good at it!

Now, I get to embrace Suzy Homemaker. I get to applaud her for her talents and her gifts. I get to put clean laundry in my kids’ drawers and feel the satisfaction of a job well done. I get to celebrate the smell of pumpkin bread wafting through the air when they get home from a cold afternoon of shinny in the park. I get to stand proudly in my role as primary holder of the family system.

I never gave myself the recognition I deserved when I was at home full-time. I didn’t see the value in my role. The grass was so much greener on the other side that I struggled to be where I was. Now that I am living both sides of the fence, I can see the incredible gifts equally on each one. And from both sides, I stand with deepest awe and respect for all those moms out there who are home full-time and those who are out in the work force full-time. Because no matter which way you slice it, it’s a hard job.

So now, as I straddle the fence and stand knee-deep in the lush green grass, I can celebrate the dream, the reality and the deep fulfillment of this incredible life that I have created along the way!Green-Grass-Wallpapers

Katie and the Boys

Years ago when I dreamed of being a mom I used to imagine a happy, healthy, fit and fun brood of kids. I would not only envision my own kids but also a house full of friends who always felt welcome in my home. I would dream about being the mom who didn’t just nurture her own kids but all the kids who crossed her threshold.

Car_ride_2_tnbAt 4:00 this afternoon I drove around the neighbourhood collecting kids. Tonight it is our turn to host sleepover friends for Michael and Zachary and it all kicked-off at 4:00. I decided that the best way to start the sleepover was at the local outdoor skating rink for some shinny. I solicited Max’s participation and he agreed with alacrity and brought along his two best buddies to join in on the fun.

So, at 4:00 this afternoon I had seven boys in my van. Seven loud, boisterous, healthy and fun boys. And as I drove to the skating rink I was amused, as always, to observe the interaction of the boys; the good-natured teasing, the often rough physicality and the crude humour.

As a teenager, I always loved hanging out with boys. I found them to be a breath of fresh air from the intensity of my girlfriends. I loved the way guys could cut through the bullshit and just call a spade a spade. And, I was in awe at how they handled conflict; punch each other one minute and go out for a beer together the next. No grudges, no stony silent treatments, no head games.

Having three sons means that my life is pretty much all-boys-all-the-time. The odd time we will have a girl over for a playdate but 98% of the time I am surrounded by boys.

And, truly, I love it!

images (6)After a two-hour shinny game this afternoon I watched the boys pile off the rink with rosy cheeks, smiles on their faces and with the distinctive swagger of guy-time. They had played a great game and were bursting with the rush of the competition, the physicality, and the fun. And as I watched them all tumble back into my van I felt a delicious feeling of happiness as I basked in their enormous male energy.

photo (3)Two hours of shinny in the cold winter afternoon also meant that they were starving hungry so I took them all home and fed them a big spaghetti and meatballs dinner. And as I watched them stuffing much-needed sustenance into their bellies with smiles on their faces and jokes on their lips, it hit me that my dream of a brood of happy kids was at that very moment sitting around my dining room table.

I basked in the laughter, the teasing and the gusto with which they attacked their food. And as I caught Simon’s eye I know that he was feeling the same thing. Our house was full-to-bursting with love, laughter and fun. The dream is alive and it is more wonderful than I ever imagined.

And, on this cold winter Saturday night I am quite simply brimming with appreciation for the magnificent boys who keep my life humming along so delightfully!img_a1605112aa1