The Hardest Week of my Life – 2 Years Later

This week marks the 2 year anniversary of the hardest week of my life.  Even as I write that, I wonder – was it really the hardest?  Maybe not the most stressful in some ways, but yes, definitely the hardest.

In the span of 5 days I grieved the death of two family members.  My 95-year-old Nanny, whose decline was rapid but somewhat expected, and Dean’s dad – the most loving and wise father-in-law I could ever have asked for, and whose death was the greatest shock of our lives.  With his passing, we became the unfortunate recipients of ‘the dreaded call’ in the middle of the night.

nannyGrandpa

 

These days, those memories carry far less sting and heaviness than they have in the past.  Time has helped to heal my grief, although the sadness certainly lingers.  And today, I find myself marvelling at how life overlaps – simultaneously being in memory of people and past – while being in the middle of our busy, multifaceted life.

While I do personally believe that there is a ‘design’ to our lives, and that everything does happen for a reason (although we may not always grasp what that may be), I don’t have gratitude that we have lost loved people from our lives.  When I let myself drop into the memories fully, I feel deeply saddened by missing them.  I wish that my Nanny would still be living in her house in Placentia, Newfoundland when Dean, Ethan, Audra and I travel there for the first time as a family.  And I miss the frequent phone calls from Dean’s dad, his teasing ways, and his standard but heartfelt “Love you, sweetie” goodbye. I miss the yearly visits and great conversations.   I miss Dean’s dad.

Based on my own beliefs, I could draw comfort from knowing that they are in a loving and beautiful place – and I do.  I’m sure that losing someone you love would be an entirely different experience if there was no belief in the concept that our spirits live on.  But I am sad for us – for those of us who miss people who have left.  I am sad for my children – that they had such finite contact with these two prominent people; I am sad for my mom and her siblings and extended family, and I am sad for Dean’s mom.  Losing people leaves a hole that will never be replaced.

No, I don’t have gratitude that we no longer have those people in our lives.  But – I do have gratitude to know that we were able to weather that storm together as a family.  I do take comfort in seeing that other family members also miss their presence, and in doing so, bring us closer together.   I am strengthened by knowing that our kids have witnessed and experienced deep grief, and still found healthy ways to express themselves and grow through the pains.   I admire my extended family, and especially my husband, Dean and my mother-in-law, Diane for the fortitude and resiliency they have shown despite heartbreak.

If it were up to me, and I could bring loved ones back, I would do so.  I would choose to have Dean’s dad in our lives for many more years.  We weren’t ready for his passing, and even now – 2 years later – his presence is missed in our lives.

I wish he were here now to see Audra turn 11 years old tomorrow.  I wish our kids could share with him their enthusiasm over their 3-hour bike adventure today after school.  I wish he could tease Ethan about his long and shaggy hair, and tell Audra to slow down her desire to be a teenager.

I can imagine how our lives could be different if they were still alive.  The loss of my grandmother and father-in-law will forever be linked in my mind, simply because they occurred in such close proximity to each other and they were the hardest losses I have ever experienced.

Two years later sometimes feels like a lifetime has passed.  We have relocated across the country, started our lives over in Nova Scotia, and set our roots deeply into being here for good.  Life has its challenges still –  it is busy, sometimes bringing unexpected challenges, or unanticipated joys.  Life here -now and then – has been both joyful and heartbreaking.

Perhaps that is life, after all.  Good and bad, pain and joy, birth and death -all are natural parts of life.  I for one would rather embrace it all, remembering  each moment poignantly, and being grateful for the time we still have with those we love.

With deepest love and appreciation for everyone in our lives, both past and present – thank you. We love you forever.

 

 

 

My Parenting Panic Attack – again

My heart beats faster, my breathing doesn’t seem to quite come deep enough. There is a heaviness in my chest – like someone is stepping on me – I think it’s panic. Time is slipping through my fingers faster than I can take hold, and I don’t want to miss out. Are we doing this parenting thing okay? Will we look back and wish we had been different somehow?

The panicked feeling started last night after Dean, Audra and I watched a movie. When it ended, Audra kissed us and went to bed. There was no good-night hug from Ethan, who was staying the night at a friends house (as often seems to be the case on weekends nows) – and it didn’t cross my mind to send him a good-night text.

An hour later, the panicked feeling slowly crept its way into my heart. When was the last time I tucked my kids into bed? When did it become the norm that they kiss me goodnight in the living room and then drift off to sleep without me spending time in their rooms? How could I have let that treasured time slip away from our daily lives simply because I was curled up and cozy in the other room? As I head to bed, I peak in on Audra as she sleeps. Part of me wants to curl up next to her and take back that time. A do-over. But of course I can’t.

Thoughts and images begin to flash through my mind. A glimpse of Audra as she leaned over to kiss Dean goodnight, looking more and more like a young woman than a young child. The thought of the bag of new clothes and shoes we bought for Ethan tonight – all sized by the logic that if they are too big for me, they will probably fit him. A memory of Ethan chuckling as we hugged as he readjusted his arms to come over top of mine. These little moments are a daily reminder that he will soon be bending down to hug me. Conversations flit through my mind – of boys and girls, fitting in, growing up and all of the exciting and awkward times on the horizon.

 

My kids are growing up too fast.

Ethan and AudraMy minds swirls, drawing me down further – I panic that we don’t have many years left of family vacations, or that they will almost ready to leave home by the time we build our next home. I panic that they aren’t grasping these last fleeting years of childhood fully – that they are not getting enough outdoor time, and spend too much time on iPads and texting friends. I panic. Will they remember their childhood with as much joy as I do mine? Would they want to change things? Can we do things better?

In this downward spiral, I feel a deep sadness while I miss more simple times. I miss pudgy little hands in mine, the feel of their warm, sleepy bodies melting onto mine. I miss seeing the joy they found in simple things like rocks and sticks and bugs, jumping in mud puddles, making art and playing with playdough. I mourn, yet again, how fast life is passing by.

When I look in the mirror, I’m quite okay with the changes I see as I age. But when I look at my kids, I realize that their rate of change is an entirely different measuring stick. Where is the time going?!

With a deep breath, and conscious effort, I bring myself back to reality. I realize that I have let my mind go off on a crazy tangent. I feel these things, and yet, I also know that I am delusional. I am letting my mind filter memories with only one lens. I am only remembering the poignant, sweet memories – but leaving out the fatigue of being constantly wanted and needed. I am focusing on what has been lost – or parts of life that we have naturally grown out of – but not seeing all of what we are gaining.

I admit that I am afraid of some of the uncharted areas of life we are entering into. I know what it’s like to be a kid – but I’m not one right now, in today’s day and age. I remember my teen years as being full of awkwardness, fuelled by a desperate need to fit in, while simultaneously full of great memories, solid friendships, and the exhilarating and unparalleled excitement of growing up. I think of how hard those years must have been for my parents – and I sincerely hope that we parent through these coming years and still feel – most days- like we are thriving.

Quite unrealistically, I wish that we could keep the good and avoid the bad. But maybe the best we can do is to get through the years being as present as we can, as often as we can manage. I need to accept that there will be days that we won’t have this parenting thing down so well. There will be days that we will need to escape, go on autopilot, or just hope that tomorrow is a better day.

When I look at our life with a more balanced lens, I can admit that life now comes with more freedom, deeper conversations, and more adult experiences together. We can watch mature movies that teach life lessons, choose family outings that we all enjoy equally, share the home responsibilities amongst four people rather than two, and have fun doing things like skiing together, going to the beach and sitting down for family dinners most nights.

The truth is that I don’t want to go back in time (although quick visits would be nice). And I don’t want to rush through my days now, either. I just want to be able to look back on these times – and know that I didn’t miss out, and to have a deep knowingness that we truly did the best we could.

On days that my thoughts run away on me – like today – I need to remind myself that even when we are less-than-exemplary parents and imperfect role models – our kids know that they are loved beyond measure, accepted without question, and supported unconditionally to let their own inner light shine – whatever that may be.

I remind myself that life comes with many ups and downs, challenges and joys. Time is going to pass, regardless of how hard I wish for it to slow down. I am reminded – yet again – that perhaps the hardest job as a mom is that of constantly letting go and trusting in life, our kids, and ourselves.

And deep breaths. Many, many deep breaths.

Family beach time

Absurdly happy to be 40

Today is my 40th birthday. I am sipping a coffee by a fire, gazing out over the Atlantic ocean while my husband Dean plays guitar. It is simple, glorious and perfect.

I am absurdly happy to be turning 40. I am not quite sure why I don’t have the same hang ups other people have about age and numbers, but I don’t. I am 40. I feel ALIVE, adored, and deeply happy that I know myself inside and out. Even though there are days that I don’t feel this way, the deeper and wiser part of me knows that ALL IS WELL.

I have a husband who adores me, two children who are amazing human beings who fill my heart with the deepest gratitude possible, a family close by that I love to the depths of my heart, and friends all around the world. I feel healthy, strong, capable and confident. I am a woman who is comfortable in my own skin. Finally. I readily admit that after many years of working hard to find who that person is – hell yes, I am celebrating myself.

In my early 20s, I partied with friends, finished university, moved out west, and met the love of my life. We had lots of adventures, and took a few leaps. By my mid-twenties, we got married, I graduated chiropractic college, and became a mother, a doctor and a business owner all in one fell swoop. By the time I turned 30, I had two babies at home, a mountain of debt, a fledging practice, and a life that was so busy on all fronts that it was mostly a blur.

In my early 30s, I opened my own practice, and struggled through many growing pains. We watched our children grow and thrive in the small town we had moved to, commuted many hours a week to our jobs near Toronto, all while feeling our roots growing deeper into Ontario soil. By my mid-to-late 30s, life was getting easier. We had somehow navigated many of life’s storms, juggling work and kids. (I think, as a matter of fact, that we were doing ‘life’ well… most days.) Our life was good, our marriage stronger than ever, our kids happy and healthy, my practice thriving. But my heart was incomplete. I wanted to be home. Nova Scotia. Family. Ocean.

And so in the last few years of my 30s, our life challenges were stepped up a notch as we faced perhaps our biggest hurdle yet: were we wiling to take our greatest leap yet – and start all over in Nova Scotia? Were we willing to brave that degree of uncertainty? Were we crazy to consider starting all over just as life was finally starting to get easier? Were we willing to uproot our kids and face their many mixed – and heated – emotions over leaving friends and the life they knew and loved o start over in a new place?

The resounding answer was YES. We were willing to do whatever it would take to follow our hearts. We would sell my practice, sell our home, and get rid of many of our possessions to move home to Nova Scotia. We would uproot our kids from their comfortable life and friends – and move across the country. We would start all over, come what may.

In our final months in Ontario, after a year of stress and uncertainty unlike any we had known, we somehow managed to find the strength to live through the devastating and unexpected loss of Dean’s dad. Perhaps pulling through that – at that particular point in our life, when we may have believed that we were as tapped out as we thought it was possible to be – we somehow still found the strength within ourselves, and with each other to keep moving forward. As we came through these challenges, I remember thinking: “Maybe we are all far stronger than we give ourselves credit for.”

In the 18 months that have followed, we have again faced challenges that sometimes surpassed the ‘limit’ I thought we had for handling stress and uncertainty. With our children finding their way in a new place, many legal battles under our belt (finally!), and my new, fledging practice thriving – we are happy in a way that I didn’t know was possible.

At the distinct risk of being corny – I am so grateful that I feel moved almost to tears. That heart-quaking, filled-up feeling of the deepest gratitude possible

And so, when I look back at how far we have come, the challenges that we have faced, and the fact that everything that matters is good – so good – today, as I turn 40, I am CELEBRATING!

HELL YES. I can’t wait to see what this next decade has in store for us.

Passing Years, Growing Kids and Mourning Moms

The other day, old memories bowled me over like a tidal wave when we had a family evening at one of our favourite places, Lawrencetown Beach.  While my senses were filled with the pounding waves and bright evening sun, I was not expecting the intense emotions that the visit brought.

As Audra and I walked down the beach, I was immediately brought back to a memory of being in that same place seven years earlier:  2008.  Our lives were different.  We lived in Ontario and our kids were still little – 3 & 5 years old.  I vividly recall that trip 7 years ago, when my heart longed to live in Nova Scotia, but yet our roots seemed to be going deeper into Ontario soil every passing year.

“Hey! Take a picture of me doing a handstand here!” I suggested remembering that in 2008, Dean took a picture of me in a handstand at Lawrencetown Beach, which then became a visual reminder to me of where I intended for us to live one day.

Knowing that I had posted it on Facebook way-back-when, I checked out the album, only to have time hit me hard.

It seemed that I was the only one who hadn’t changed. (much…)

Lawencetown 2008

Lawrencetown 2008

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Lawrencetown 2015

When I saw the pictures of our kids on that trip – so little and sweet, so dependent and full of childlike awe at everything – my mommy-heart mourned a little.  Time is passing too fast.  Where did seven years go?  How fast will these next ones pass?!

Ethan and Audra Ages 5 & 3

Ethan and Audra Ages 5 & 3

Ethan and Audra Ages 12 & 10

Ethan and Audra Ages 12 & 10

And then, while my heart was already mourning, I came upon this one from Lawrencetown in 2008:

Casey was never happier than when in the water – and she loved the ocean!

This particular memory was more poignant than I was ready for, as it had only been 2 weeks since we had faced the difficult decision to finally say our last goodbyes to our beloved dog.  In Casey’s last days, she was so slow that walks around our yard had become slow and halting – the true definition of pain-staking.  But what I truly mourned was what she was like in this memory – full of energy, life and joy.

Rocks we painted for when we bury Casey's ashes

Rocks we painted for when we bury Casey’s ashes

I had a good cry at Lawrencetown Beach last week (something I am quite certain I didn’t do at any other time there!) But yet it was glorious.  As I breathed in the ocean air with the sound of waves crashing in my ears, I wondered at the mystery of time.

How can seven years feel simultaneously like yesterday and a lifetime ago?  How can it be that in such a short time so much can change?  Kids grow up, people grow older, people (and dogs) leave our lives forever.  (I still hold true that if I had my choice of super-powers, I’d like to fly, and the ability to occasionally freeze time.)

I can’t ignore the sadness that still comes (about both of these trains of thought).  I can only focus on the two things I know to do:

1 – Be grateful for what I have, and the memories I’ve garnered along the way;

2 – Be as present in the moment as I can be.  After all, this moment RIGHT NOW is the only one I have any power over.

I can’t afford to let my life pass me by.  It’s easy to get busy, be distracted, or to numb out.  But I don’t want to miss out, even when memories hit me with such ferocity of emotion.

The funny thing about time is that one day – relatively soon – I’ll look back at these pictures of 2015 and feel like today was an eon in the past.

Me and Ethan 2015

Me and Ethan 2015

Me and Audra 2015

Me and Audra 2015

Family Hiking 2015

Family Hiking 2015

For the Love of an Old Dog

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I had an awful start to my day earlier this week, wondering if our dog Casey was finally reaching her last days.

Grey-nosed Casey

Grey-nosed Casey

Casey is our black lab.  She’s old and grey and in her 15th year.  She’s deaf and smelly and sleeps most of the time, but in our eyes, she’s been the best dog we could ever have hoped for.

Twice now we’ve encountered moments that made us wonder “Is this it?  Is her time up?”, and it’s been heart-rending.  The first was over two years ago when she lost the use of her two rear legs.  Fortunately she regained function and has been with us ever since.

The second time was a few mornings ago.   To put it in perspective, a 15 year old lab is like a 100 year old human.  We know she is winding down, and I will readily admit that I get anxious over losing her.  To know that there is heart break coming our way isn’t a pleasant feeling, but it is a reality when you love an old dog.

Casey and Dean travelling from ON to NS

Casey and Dean travelling from ON to NS

Months back, I had accepted that there was probably a 50/50 chance of Casey still being around to move across the country with us.  And as the moving date approached, I was nervous about how she would do with the 2000 km drive.  But she was a trooper and travelled like a champ, while I took great pleasure in knowing that she would end her days on Nova Scotia soil.

Ethan walking Casey along the Hubbards waterfront

Ethan walking Casey along the Hubbards waterfront

I relished our slow morning walks along the oceanside road in Hubbards where we stayed for our first month.  I enjoyed the fall days walking her around the beautiful gardens in our new back yard.  (The irony did not escape us that we finally have acres to romp in, but with a dog who no longer romps).

Through it all, however, we watched her slow decline.  Yes, she still eats with gusto, and loves to snoop outside, but her walks have gotten shorter – especially this past month since the snow arrived.  She slips and falls more often.  It takes a lot of effort for her to get up from lying down, and she rarely greets anyone with so much as a tail wag.  Actually, she rarely notices if people arrive at all, and often snores her way through visits in deaf oblivion.

I find myself wondering “Will I know when her time is up?” and “Is she suffering in ways that I can’t tell?”  I hope that when it happens it won’t be with any decision-making on my part, and that she passes quietly in her sleep.  (And selfishly, that I am not alone when she is discovered).

Casey smells – that’s one thing about owning a dog that I won’t miss.  For the past year she has been known to poop randomly in the house, occasionally in her sleep, and sometimes – infuriatingly –  in the house immediately upon coming in from a walk.  In the past few months, she’s even started peeing in the house.  Our window of time for her to hold her bladder has gone from all day (if needed) to 4 hours.  And there were some days last week that she even peed in the house when I was right there to let her out.  We now need to arrange dog-walkers if we will be out all day – or to arrange our days to include pit-stops at home in the midst of our travels.  The irony isn’t lost on me that as our kids’ dependancy on us (and bathroom / clean up roles) have decreased and given us more freedom – we’ve become tied down by taking care of Casey.

Dean has taken the past-midnight-shift to let her out, while I’m up by 6am to start the day with her.  Every morning now I walk down the stairs wondering if she will have made it through without peeing everywhere.  My morning routine of Amy-time has become one of mopping, walking, and cleaning.  I have a mini-celebration every day I come down to a clean floor.  But we’ve chalked it up to life with an old dog.  We see the signs of her decline, but also still see her healthy appetite and easy-going personality.  We haven’t seen signs of her being about to go, and we haven’t been ready to consider when that might be.

Until this week.

Thursday morning I came down and did a happy-dance that there was no mess to clean up.  I quickly strapped Casey’s leash on to head outside for a walk.  But she was extra slow in getting up – and then proceeded to pee immediately upon standing.  As I watched in sleepy confusion, she trembled and peed, then fell and began shaking on the floor, with little stones all through the mess.

Kidney stones?!  My dog just peed out over a dozen kidney stones?!  I know what kind of pain that causes in humans, and I felt nauseous. I helped her to her feet and got her outside – where she stumbled and fell several times, in obvious pain.  Once back inside, she laid back down rather than going to her food, while I cleaned up the mess and wondered what to do.

With my stomach in knots, and an ache in my heart, I got the kids ready for school.  I tried to hide my concern from them, but nothing passes Audra’s observant eyes.  I tried not to cry, but didn’t do so well keeping it together while I explained, yet again, about Casey being an old dog who wouldn’t be with us for too much longer.  I didn’t hide from them the fact that she had passed kidney stones and was in pain.

But I did hide from them my deep-seated fear that this was it.  As they went out the door, Dean came downstairs to be surprised by my flying, tearful hug as I gulped out my dreaded fear that this might be Casey’s last day.

Audra's early morning cuddles with Casey this week

Audra’s early morning cuddles with Casey this week

Having a beloved pet brings with it a level of love that is not explainable with words.  Casey was our first baby, and has been with us through almost our entire lives together as a couple.   She has travelled across Canada with us. She ran circles around us as we hiked up the mountain in Kananaskis where we got engaged.  She has lived with us in 2 different apartments and 2 different houses in Ontario, before moving to Nova Scotia this past year.  She was there at the births of both of our children (literally, as we had them born at home), and I will forever remember her calm presence and how it helped me cope when I was in labour with Ethan.  She was Audra’s source of comfort even as a toddler, when she would cuddle in to Casey whenever she was frustrated about anything.  She has been the most athletic, gentle and loving dog we could ever ask for.  I don’t doubt that I will feel a huge void in my life when she goes.

But getting back to our story – Casey is still here with us a few days later.  It wasn’t quite her time to go – but I know it is coming soon.

When we had her at the vet, they agreed that she likely had a matter of months left, and supported our plan to keep her comfortable and with some quality of life for the remainder of her days.  They pointed out how rare it was for a 15-year-old lab to be medication-free (unfortunately, most dogs are like the majority of people in their 90’s who are often on multiple medications).  They pointed out the signs of what was good with her still – a great-sounding heart, a curious personality, a healthy appetite and healthy stools – as well as what was not so good:  namely that she was in a lot of pain due to a raging bladder infection and her deteriorating hips.

We readily agreed to a medicated solution for her.  While our personal approach to health for ourselves and our dog has always been ‘natural first’ – in this case, we knew that medications were the best and fastest way to help Casey regain some quality of life.  We happily paid for a course of antibiotics and pain medications, content that there was something yet to be done.

Her response to the medications was almost immediate, with her bladder control seeming to improve overnight, while she moved with greater ease by the next day.  She is even a little less smelly due to the medicated shampoo we got to help with her allergies and skin.

We are happy to see signs of her greater comfort and mobility (as well as no messes to clean up in the house).  However, while I am relieved that this wasn’t quite ‘it’ – I know her days are growing shorter.  I am both grateful and a little heart-achy when I look at her.  I still hope to one day find that she has passed quietly into her forever-sleep.  We have discussed this with our kids and they have plans for how they want to bury her and remember her.  Dean and I agree that we may never get another dog once she goes.  Who could replace Casey?  No other dog on earth in our minds.

At least not for a long, long time.

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To Blog or not to Blog? – Catching up after a writing drought

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I feel kind of like an athlete who has neglected to work out for months on end, complete with that weird, almost-insurmountable obstacle of taking the first step.  *Ugh*  Why is it that it can be so hard to get your butt to the gym, or outside for a jog after a span of time has passed?  Is it just me, or is it like drudging through sludge and every step weighs me down…?

That is, UNTIL I actually get moving.  Blood gets pumping, muscles start moving, and     each and every time – without exception – I feel great and wonder “What took me so long?!”

Anyone relate??

Well, I feel that exact same way about blogging.  I am embarrassed to say it has been over two months since I last sat down to write.  I haven’t had writer’s block, but my mind has been stuck in sludge when it comes to putting pen to paper.  It’s seems that the longer I wait between blogs, the more I think that whatever topic pops into my head isn’t quite worthy of being the one following such a drought.

Any writers in the crowd agree??

Two months is a long time to cover.  There have been many times that moments have been ‘blog-worthy’ – anything from challenges we are having with our kids, to simple moments that make my heart glow.

The extent of my reno-abilities - holding boards, sweeping, and painting!

The extent of my reno-abilities – holding boards, sweeping, and painting!

In the past two months, we have renovated our house in order to open my new practice.  I have learned that I despise – DESPISE! – painting ceilings, and that fire code regulations for a home-based business create a tonne of extra work.  I have seen my husband work 12-16 hour days to build me the practice space of my dreams, watching in awe and appreciation, while able to offer pretty minimal help from my limited skill set.

The Lifehouse is NOW OPEN!!

The Lifehouse is NOW OPEN!!

I have opened my doors to start providing care to families in my area and have met with local businesses, organizations, and individuals to form new collaborations to help this community thrive with great health.  I have been invited as a guest on TV, and been approached to be on the receiving end of many generous offers for help.  Some days there are so many things that happen that my head literally spins.

Click here to watch Dr. Amy’s Interview on Global TV!

Our leisurely family breakfast with no effort or clean up from adults!

Our kids have been both wonderful and nerve-wracking.  One day they are the epitome of helpful kids and the next are making me tear my hair out.  One weekend they delivered me coffee in bed, and made a spectacular breakfast – and yet on my birthday morning couldn’t pull it together without tears and fighting.  *sigh*

Our life is good, but crazy.  Amongst our year of transition, we have had to cope with a dog whose bladder control is fading, and who has decided she doesn’t like walking on cold surfaces anymore. (Quite an inconvenient combination in the winter months!)  Audra has discovered a love of all things organized, and has spent hours on end watching YouTube videos and then cleaning her room.  (Trust me, it is spotless and spectacular).  Ethan’s room is a disaster – although he doesn’t agree or care.  He gets lost in Minecraft building, especially since his recent proposition to earn money to pay for his own web-server – which allows him to build and play online with friends.  It is creative and pretty cool – but also stretches my limits for how much electronic time I think he should have.  More often than I care to admit these past busy months, our kids have been left to their own devices.

But with living and working from home, we get to have family dinners every night, and we no longer spend hours every week driving to work.  We see family often – and sometimes daily.  Our nieces and nephew know us, and fill our hearts with joy.

5 of 7 cousins sporting "nanny" hats

5 of 7 cousins sporting “nanny” hats

In many ways we gave up a lot to move home.  We had a good life in Ontario, and with every passing year, our life became more comfortable and predictable.  But here we are instead: Starting Over.

I guess you could say we are ‘all in.’

The way I see it, if life is indeed a game, I want to play full out.  Safe is nice – but boring.  Some days our life is great, exciting and joyful – and others it’s stressful and frustrating.  It’s real, messy, and beautiful.

But it’s ours – and we’re in it together – and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Skating at my sisters with the kids

Skating at my sisters with the kids

Succumb to Stress? Or Persevere? How I went from Overwhelm to Gratitude.

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Succumb to stress, or persevere?  Those are the choices I have been facing.  And if I were to be honest, I’d have to say that last week, stress had me beat.  I was depressed, overwhelmed and unmotivated.  I felt like there was such a weight on me that every little effort felt gargantuan.

Maybe I can admit these things more readily than most people, but only because I had eleven years in practice of being on the listening end of all of the challenges people face.  And trust me, EVERYBODY has their own sh**.  I have seen first hand that most people experience episodes of anxiety, depression and overwhelm.  Truth be told, I am no different.

Keeping my mental state in a healthy place has been a full-time job this past, crazy year.  And because I usually consider myself to be a very positive, resourceful and productive person, the contrast when I feel overwhelmed is staggering.  It makes me desperately seek that good-feeling place again.

In the four months since we moved to Nova Scotia, we have faced ongoing challenges that are out of our control and that directly affect my ability to open my new practice.  These road blocks have been drawing out for so many months that it feels like it may never end.  Being take-charge kind of people, it has left us feeling helpless at times to know that our lives are in hands other than our own.

Last week, try as I might,  I lost the battle to stress more often than not.  This week, however, I feel stronger.  Succumb to stress?  I can’t.  I’ve got too much I want to do.

After more frustrations last night and another night of poor sleep, I woke up determined to have a good day.  Filling up my inner reserve of Amy-strength was my first and only priority.  And as life has it, I was sent many signs of all of the things that are good, proof of the supports I have around me, and many un-asked for voices to help quell my doubts.

When I look at my morning, I see many signs of a universe full of everything I need and want.  

As a matter of fact, this whole morning felt like it was designed to fill me up with feelings of contentment, gratitude or grounding.  My only job was to go with the flow.

  • The ‘signs’ began with Ethan and Audra waking early, getting ready without any prompting, getting along wonderfully, and exuding happiness.
  • Then, as I checked messages, I had a lovely one from a friend in my Ontario practice.  Let’s just say I ‘felt the love’ as I started my day and it helped set the tone wonderfully. (Thanks Sandra!)
  • As Ethan and Audra ran for the bus yelling “Love ya Mom!” and “Have a great day!”, my weekly call with friends and colleagues Dr. Karen and Dr. Andrea began.  It was a great combination of hearing exciting things going on in their lives/practices, as well as a great avenue to vent for ten minutes.  Exactly what I needed.
  • With my call ending at 8:50, I made a last minute decision to head to Crossfit Exertion for a workout (mostly because my workout there yesterday was so much fun that it was the best part of my day – as well as a blissful hour’s break from mental expenditure)  I learned some new movements, and overall, I felt strong – again, exactly what I needed.
  • From there I headed to my chiropractor, Dr. Andrew, in lovely St. Margaret’s Bay.  As I told him on my way out the door: “I am happy to say that I am much better leaving than I was coming in!”
  • Not sure of my plans, I stopped to call my mom and dad, wondering if dad was close by at the cottage they are building in the area.  After some great conversation with both of my parents, I felt further supported, and even more ‘vented’.
  • I decided in that moment to turn the truck around, turned up the tunes to some loud, heart-pumpin’ music and drove, taking in the sweeping views of the ocean.  While my heart soared a little higher, I felt a deep sense of peace settle into my being.
  • I ended my journey at Queensland Beach, where waves were crashing on the shore,  thundering in my ears, and the fresh sea air filled my lungs.  With deep breaths, I let it fill me up.

All of that power.  All of that strength.  All of that awe-inspiring beauty.

Queensland Beach

Being by the ocean, my ages-old mantra returned to me: “All the wisdom, strength and power of the universe rests inside of me.”

That’s what I couldn’t feel last week when life had me beat.  

Today, I let myself feel it.

And that has made all the difference.

Does Every Kid Decide to Run Away Some Time?

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Audra decided to run away today.  It completely thwarted my plans for this morning.

It all began as such a lovely morning.  After a cozy sleep in (7:45!), I went for a bundled up walk in our beautiful-but-frosty yard with our dog, Casey, only to be pleasantly surprised by Audra coming to join me.  She had bundled up her two favourite stuffies (Mimzey and Ms. Bunny Winkie) to join us.  Outside in the cool sunshine with my dog and my girl.  What a wonderfully simple moment.

As I began planning the day, I thought: what a great idea it would be to take Audra to the market and craft show!  I love outings with my girl.  I pictured us browsing leisurely along, maybe stopping for a hot chocolate or a treat.  I envisioned her happy face as she chose what she wanted to spend her $5 on.  I’d have to say, that as our kids have gotten older, having these one-on-one times has become more and more special to all of us, and  I was happily looking forward to my morning date with Audra. And so was she.

Back inside, as I sipped my coffee downstairs, I could hear the kids playing lego together.  Ahh, I reflected contentedly, no TV, no electronics, kids getting along, life is good.

But as the way that things sometimes unfold, my peaceful morning was about to change.  I won’t say it was too good to be true – but maybe it it just was not destined to be long-lived.  Upstairs, the sounds of happy play were beginning to morph.  Bickering and bossing began to escalate.  Voices became louder – I’ll let them work it out, I thought.

And then the yelling began, signalling some parenting intervention was soon to be required.  *Sigh.*  I debated ignoring them for longer: Maybe they would sort it out on their own….  Unfortunately, that just didn’t happen.  Oh well, I thought, it was a lovely 45 minutes.

As things played out, the kids just weren’t getting along any longer, and I opted to separate them.  But as our feisty girl can have the tendency to do, she became more angry as her response to getting in trouble.  My simple fix of separation became the beginning of some serious head-butting.  While Ethan contentedly moved on to other activities in his room, Audra seethed.  Sometimes her emotions run so hot that she doesn’t know how to cope with their intensity.  And in this instance, she decided to completely defy my instructions to put the lego away, opting instead to play with it (citing that she thought she would feel better and not be so angry by doing so).  Apparently, the idea of consequences was lost on her this morning.

To escalate things further, she became further enraged when I discovered her playing with the confiscated lego – and implemented further consequences of not having a friend over later on should this type of behaviour continue.  She stormed off, tears streaming down her face, as I shook my head in bewilderment.

After giving her some time to cool off, I peeked in her room, only to find her angrily packing her every belonging into a large suitcase.  I didn’t know whether to be concerned for the palpable anger emanating from her nine-year-old body (let’s just say that if looks could kill, I’d be worried) – or to be amused.  Doesn’t every kid want to run away at one point?

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As an adult, I know that she won’t go anywhere, so it is amusing.  BUT – as I put myself into her young shoes, my perspective changes.

I recall running away once – and while I don’t remember what triggered the decision, when I revisit that particular memory, I can still feel the anger and frustration that I felt as a young child.  If I recall correctly, I ran down the street and sat on the curb.  I could see our house (Did I bring a bag of food, maybe? Or other prized belongings?  I think I must have.)  As I sat there on the curb, I wondered how much I would be missed.  And in that moment, life was hard.

In this instance, I told Audra that I would be heart broken if I didn’t get to see her every day, but that I understood that she was angry.  (Dean later asked her where she was going to go – to which she replied: the backyard.) However, I also pointed out that the trigger for her anger was that she didn’t like the consequences I had given her for her earlier behaviour.  I suggested that she determine if there was another way to deal with her emotions, and said I was going to give her some time to cool off.

A little while later, Ethan came down at her request, delivering a note:

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(She calls me Molly, amongst other nicknames)

As the morning played out, she had one last emotional outburst, when I told her that our morning outing wouldn’t be happening.  Much as I wanted to go out – how could I reward her behaviour?  I think it’s one of the challenges of being of mom: sometimes we suffer the consequences, too.

“Can’t we just begin the day over?” she implored.  “Yes” I said, “But the consequences will still apply:  We won’t be going out this morning.”  “Can’t I have a second chance?” she asked.  “Of course,” I said, “Maybe by this afternoon things can change.”

Now, a few hours later, all is once again quiet in our home.  The kids are playing upstairs, and the sun is still shining outside.  I feel a little antsy to get out, but my original plans were simply not to be.  And while Audra’s suitcase is still packed, she seems to have come to terms with the morning and is back to being her usual self.

Maybe we’ll have another chat once she decides to unpack her things.  Maybe the whole day will have a second chance.

“The World is NOT Hollow!!” – Observations of a nine-year-old

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“The world is NOT hollow!,”  Audra yells as we are driving today, taking me completely off guard.

“What do you mean?” I ask, perplexed.  “Where did that thought come from??”

“The song on the radio just said that the world is hollow.” she states in a tone of complete disagreement.

“Well… what is it full of?“, I ask with curiosity.

“LOVE.”  she answers promptly.

“Beauty.”

“Amazing things.”

“And nature makes me feel ALIVE.” she finishes with emphasis.

I continue our drive, pondering her thoughts, while taking in the beautiful colours of the fall leaves.

“Yes.  I completely agree,” I answer, as a deep breath of contentment fills my lungs.

YES.

Audra

My Imposed Sabbatical and Trusting Life

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In my ‘new life’, I am on sabbatical.  I can’t say it’s entirely of my own choosing, as there are factors at play that are out of my control.  We are essentially at the whim of ‘the system’, jumping through many hoops, and waiting (somewhat) patiently to be given the green light to move forward with our plans to open up my new practice.

Although I knew that there would be a period of time between leaving my life in Ontario, and creating a new one here in Nova Scotia, the imposed sabbatical has shown me that I like to be in control far more than I was aware of.  I may be a thinker, but I am also a do-er.  Apparently I like to be the one calling the shots (yes, friends, you can laugh here – I am aware that I like to be the leader).  But I wasn’t aware of how hard it can be to let go and trust.  Giving into that – trusting that things will all work out – is giving up a whole different kind of control.  And that one’s been an eye opener for me.  Despite evidence to the contrary, and the fact that everything is turning out exactly as I wish it to be – albeit more slowly –  isn’t always enough to keep me in a state of trust.

I want to lean into this, and trust wholeheartedly that everything is turning out exactly as it should.  The truth is that  I have to constantly quell the voices of fear and doubt.  I have to accept that there are some things that are not in my control.  And that oftentimes, life moves along at a speed that is different than what I want.  (Funny how life’s challenges show you sides of yourself that you were not fully aware of.)

It’s been over two months since we left our life in Ontario to move home to Nova Scotia.  And in the quirky way that time flows, it simultaneously feels like light years in the past, and just yesterday that I left.  One of the hardest things I ever did was to walk away from the hundreds of families I had come to know and love in my chiropractic practice there.  While I am happy to know that they were left in very capable hands, it doesn’t change the fact that I miss them.  Facebook pictures of babies and kids only go so far.  The ten years of history and connection I had with the people there were deep and very real – and if I were fully honest, I’d have to say that when the fears or doubts come up – they are about whether I will be able to create the same level of connection and community here that I did there.  Realistically I know I can and I will.  But the doubts still creep in.

It’s a lot like when Ethan laments the friendships he left in our little town of Beeton.  While he plays with kids at school, and generally is happy, we know it will take a while to forge new connections like those he had with the kids he knew for over five years.  It would be nice if we could just jump right in – but time can’t be rushed – in his case, or in mine.  I have to take the advice we give to him – to be himself and know that the friendships will come.  From my perspective as an adult, I know that he has yet to make the friends that will likely stay with him for a lifetime.

So, in the light of listening to the same wisdom – I have to trust that I will be able to build a new practice full of people and families who I will come to know and love – just like I did in Ontario  (Is it possible for it to be more?!… I don’t know.)

What I am missing is the opportunity to build relationships with people, to remind them that they are designed to be extra-ordinary, and to help them through the hands-on power of chiropractic, and guidance in creating a lifestyle around them and their families that will allow them to truly thrive.  I miss feeling like I am making a difference.  In my current bubble, my influence is small, my ability to reach and inspire people is unknown.  I feel like I am hibernating.

It is scary starting over.

The funny thing is that now I have the family support around me that I never had in Ontario – the one thing that I could’t create there is inherently part of our lives here.  Family and friends have been instrumental in holding me up or helping out when I’ve most needed it.

What I miss is knowing that I play an important role in families’ lives.  I miss the people that we left in Ontario. I miss knowing that I make a difference in my community.

On the good days, I am excited for what is yet to come, for the relationships that I am yet to build, and the connections that are yet to be created.

I guess what it comes down to is perspective.  (Isn’t it always?) I can’t force life to move faster, just because I am impatient to start building a new practice here.  I can either moan and complain – or suck it up, and keep taking action to prepare.  I can treat this sabbatical like my time to process and heal – like a snake shedding its skin – so that when the time comes, I am ready to fully embrace my new life here.

It is, after all, where we are finally putting our roots down.  It is where my heart has always been.  Maybe what I need to remind myself of is this:  we had a great life and great friends in Ontario, and I created an amazing practice there.  But there is a deeper question here – perhaps what I should be asking myself is this:

What am I capable of now that I am in the place where my heart has always been?