Saying Good-bye

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Losing someone is probably one of the more surreal experiences of human existence. With the recent loss of my uncle I have been even more reflective on the process of letting go and saying good bye.

It takes our brains a while just to process the very idea of someone no longer being in our lives. When I was initially told he was gone I spent the next few  hours just trying out the sound of the words, “he is dead”. It sounded so final and I was struggling with that very thought. It meant that I had to integrate this huge concept of him no longer being not only in my life, but living at all.

I was okay that day because it was still a concept. A foreign idea that needed time to really sink in. My main sadness was for his family and how they must be struggling.

The next day I was not okay. I knew he was dead and that there was no return. The idea that this is a natural part of our existence just seemed to make it all feel so much more confusing. I had a hard time wrapping my head around what was making me so sad.

At first I thought it was all of things he would miss out on. I thought I was grieving his loss. Instead I realized my grief was for the physical  loss I felt. The removal of him from my life, my cousins life, his wife’s life and all of the other lives he had touched. The hole that was left be his dying.

I started to really feel the hole that this loss made. He would never again be a part of any of my new experiences. I only had the past. Memories of him kept bubbling to the surface. Memories that had formed my understanding of him as a man and the place that he held in my life. I also saw how he was a part of my foundation and was intertwined with the very core of my being.

As I explored this hole I also started to feel grateful.  I could honour him by continuing to live in a way that was meaningful. He wasn’t as gone as I had thought because I had a part of him with me forever. I could nourish those parts and carry them on to my family and the people around me. I can share who he is by being me.

The hole now feels a little less gaping and more a space that I will hold and treasure. It is his place and I have no need to fill it.

Good bye is still painful and I know there are still many tears to fall but I am okay to move forward. I can support those around me now and be there as they find their own way.

Peter Beltgens  July 2, 1954 - February 19 2014

Peter Beltgens
July 2, 1954 – February 19 2014

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The Best Birthday Gift Ever

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I turned 36 today.

I had been dreading this day all month. Not because of the whole age thing, (although it is weird how 36 magically feels like 40 is tomorrow), but because life has been a struggle for us lately and I felt like I had very little to celebrate. I have ideas on where I SHOULD be in my life and well we sure aren’t there.

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That’s 36 candles

If you have been following my blog you know the last year has been filled with financial ups and downs and has now landed on a big, fat, massive, down. We keep plodding along  but it’s getting harder to find my inner Pollyanna when even my grocery budget is at an all time low.

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I find myself praying for help and guidance to whatever gods or divine entities might be listening and asking the universe for an endorsement. That’s what people do in the self actualizing books I read, they pray and the universe provides, (I think I’ve only read 2 but it seems to be a trend). I’m also guessing there wouldn’t be much of a story in praying and nothing happening…

When I made it across three lanes of traffic, exiting a gas station and zoomed straight over to a turning lane, I had a hard time not putting it through a divine lens… Was that the universe offering encouragement, I mean it was pretty miraculous. Or was that the most assistance I could hope for… minor traffic miracles.

I have a hard time with the whole divine intervention thing any way. I want to believe the universe has some best laid plans that also incorporate free will and my humanity but who knows. I guess at worst I look a little nutty talking to the air while I drive and at best some fat little six armed tree will help us out and things will get better quicker then with just us making it happen.

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Divine Unicorn Spirit Incarnate

Back to my birthday. This morning I awoke full of dread about the unfulfilled expectations I was sure I would experience because somehow I had decided that being broke and not having a ‘perfect’ life meant I would obviously not have a good day.

But I am truly grateful for how wrong I was.

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I don’t know if it was realizing that expectations are just that and that my actual life is what matters or if it was giving up all my brains crazy shit and just BEING. Maybe a bit of both…

Instead, I have been given I gift I don’t know if I would have received at any other time.

I feel wrapped in love and kind regard. I feel honoured by the words I have received and the gift of the moment people took to think of me today. I feel acknowledged and cherished. Knowing that so many people believe and care about me has replenished my belief too. Who I am to challenge the amazing people I have in my life and if they see some thing worth loving then it must truly be there. 

So even if that little tree doesn’t come to our rescue and even if nothing changes I will remember today and how I feel.

I guess my gift today was realizing that this time will pass just like other crappy times have too. But that who I am, how I am in this moment and the family and friends I have surrounded myself with are my actual life. That I have been blessed with more than I sometimes feel I deserve and to not honour and treasure what I have is a disservice to those gifts I have been given.

So thank you all, for being a part of my life and for being the inspiration and strength I can pull from when my own well is running low.

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PS I have a tonne of recipes I’m working on so now that I got this pity party over with I should be able to shift gears and get back to writing about my other true love, food! I gotta say there is some serious creativity that takes place in broke ass meal prep 🙂

PPS If this is your first time checking out my site I also have a Facebook page where I post nightly meal ideas. Come on over and say hi!! www.facebook.com/myweeklydish

You are How You Eat

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Taking care of myself and my family has become more and more important.

I feel the years creeping up and I want to be an active part of my kids lives for as long as I am able. Now I am no where near ‘old’ but I have no delusions that anyone else is responsible and if I want to be healthy it’s up to me.

I also know that my kids health habits will be based in what we teach them and that is another responsibility I don’t want to screw up.

Being active, enjoying the outdoors and connecting to our natural environment all rank high on how we already make this happen.

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We also eat in a way that I believe is healthy meaning, real delicious food.

Overall we avoid heavily processed foods, make veggies the focus of most meals and I try to make what I can from scratch. This isn’t always realistic so when I am buying pre-made foods, like bread or pasta, the focus is on the highest quality with the fewest number of ingredients.

I also immediately back away from anything that has light, diet, low- fat or any other glowing sign that it is packed with sugar, filler or other things that just aren’t food in my eyes.

When the rest of my life is in balance what I’ve talked about is more then enough for me to generally feel great and maintain a healthy weight. But with returning to work, two kids, stress and financial worries my balance has kinda tanked and my overall health isn’t where I’d like.20140111-213034.jpg

Some of those things are just beyond control but there a few changes I can make and that I think will make a big difference in getting back to the way I want to feel.

And since it is the New Year what better time. Now we are not talking huge changes because honestly I am mostly happy with the way we eat. But I think it’s time for a refresh and a few updates. Call it version 2.0.

And while I want to lose a few pounds and then maintain a healthy body weight this is not just about the shape I am in. My focus is on overall well being not on having a skinny bod, in fact I like having an ass and plan on keeping it. 

So here are the changes I have in the works for the New Year. Some I’ve already been experimenting with and some will be a slower shift but all are goals I think are realistic and will become another part of the way I define health.

1)  Drink Mostly Water or Herbal Teas

Growing up when I went to my mom for something to eat she would always say drink some water first. I thought she was just trying to save money or being momish but she was right.We often mistake thirst for hunger, and although food is a source of moisture it’s really no match to a tall drink of water.  We need 6-8 glasses a day and I can definitely say I fall short. 

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Like a lot of people I forget my water bottle, drink caffeine to stay awake and sometimes partake in a tasty glass of wine. But I’m missing out on probably one of the easiest health changes I can make. Water helps us digest our food, eliminate waste, and lubricates our insides. Our blood depends on us staying hydrated to flow nicely and all of our organs use it in some way.

Being dehydrated can also make us groggy and sleepy, which my children are already doing, so really a little effort around this one will be well worth it.

2) No Seconds at Supper Time

I am brutal for going back for seconds. We eat well and the food I make tastes good so I want to eat it. I also for some reason think that because my husband was born with a hyperactive metabolism and is physically active, I somehow can eat the same amount or should be allowed to. Truth is I can, but  it has the unfortunate side effect of me eating twice what I probably need and my bum being a little more ample then I like. I don’t know if it’s jealousy or what but it’s slightly ridiculous so I am cutting back to one plate and then having a glass of water until my body can check in if it’s full or not.

Licking

3) Tune in to when I am full

Recently I became aware of the actual sensations of feeling full. I’ve been working on tuning in to my body so while i’ve been eating I have tried to really listen and pay attention to what is going on.

What I realized is I associate a certain level of fullness with a comforting, happy feeling. It’s like this lovely warmth that radiates out from my tummy. What I have also realized is that this sensation is often followed by eating more then I needed and then the “oh god what was I thinking” feeling of discomfort and over fullness.

Wow, my mind was kind of blown, I was so disconnected that my body had a built in message to tell me when I’d had enough and here I was only just noticing it. So this week I tried an experiment of enjoying the warmth in my belly and the happy feeling but then stopping once it was there. It was amazing, I stuck to my one plate plan and left the table feeling happy and satiated.

4) Eat at least 3 Vegetarian meals a week

What!!! Actually I have already been doing this and it was a lot easier then I thought. Even my hubby who would never make this change on his own has been okay with it. I have a few reasons for this one.

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First, we’re broke and I save a lot of money by not buying meat. Generally I would spend 7-15 dollars a meal on meat alone. This means I save at least 20 bucks a week or close to 100 a month. That’s almost a whole week of groceries again.

Second, it’s healthier. When you eat a plant based meal it’s generally lower in fat (see next point), higher in nutrients, fibre and healthy fats.

Finally, it’s more environmentally responsible. We all have to do what we feel is right and for me animal farming is just not sustainable on the level we currently consume meat. The amount of land, feed, processing and waste created by our meat consumption is astounding. I was doing some mental math one night and realized that in a city of one million 20 000 chickens were potentially killed and processed every night. That’s not counting pork, beef or any other meat sources. Can you even fathom that?

Actually that’s not the final reason. Finally, finally is that we have decided to only purchase meat that is locally raised and butchered and this costs more. To counter the big nasty factory farms that treat animals in deplorable ways we have decided to support our local farmers that treat their animals with respect, feed them properly and we end up with a finished product that I don’t have to worry was dipped in bleach. I’m not trying to get preachy but we as a society need to be more responsible for the choices we make in what we purchase. Our dollars impact how the billions of animals we  chose to eat are treated.

5) Eat a Little Less Cheese

Switching to more vegetarian meals was pretty easy but for some reason it meant that I added cheese instead. Well actually I know why. No meat, no problem, just put cheese on something and everyone will be happy. It’s true and it probably was a great transition food for us. Now that we’re all a little more used to not eating meat with every meal reducing the dairy goodness is doable.

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I’m even a little excited to branch out more and may even try one or two vegan meals. Let me be clear, cheese is not evil. I buy locally made white cheddar and it is tasty and an important part of my meal plans but covering mac and cheese in more cheese becomes a little heavy handed and unnecessary.

5) Move my body

This isn’t exactly food related but since I returned from my maternity leave I spend a lot more time parked on my butt. I sit a lot, like all day, and it’s killing me. I recently found out I have a pretty bad back (deteriorating disks) and I have always known my posture was crap. Sitting is just making it worse. I have found some exercises I can do in my office to work on both my back and posture and I am taking a quick break every hour or so to do them. I also plan on trying to walk at least once during the day. How I work with clients is pretty flexible so I am going to encourage some walking and talking:)

I also plan on creating an exercise routine that can be done at home. I don’t have a lot of time but I do have an elliptical trainer, resistance bands, a yoga mat, and a Wii. Really there are a lot of options and my body needs me to make it a priority. I’ll keep ya’ll posted.

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7) Cutting back on white, refined sugar

I am switching whenever possible to sugar cane, maple syrup, agave or other options. These have less impact on our blood sugar, reducing the up and down spikes that white sugar creates and our body is better suited to dealing with these types of sweeteners. Also there is a lot of processing involved in making white sugar and since my goal has been to move away from processing it only makes sense to move to more natural sources.

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So that’s it, nothing crazy…well to me. I’m not making it so I have to take out another mortgage to buy groceries and I think my meal plans and recipes will still be accessible to everyone.

If you are ready to make some of your own changes in your diets and lifestyle I suggest finding small changes that don’t require a whole life overhaul, (unless that’s what you want, then go for it!!!).

Small changes can have big impacts. Consider them gateway changes, opening the door for more shifts in a healthier direction. I started years ago making small shifts and now like to think that my family and I eat in a way that is healthy, sustainable and budget friendly.

For inspiration I recommend In Defence of Food, by Michael Pollan and The Undiet, by Meghan Telpner. Both are great reads if you are sick of dieting or trying to follow food trends that just can’t be sustained over time. These books promote looking at food in a whole new way and at it’s core is the super simple idea that real food is best. 

Let me know what you all think and if you have any plans on making changes this year:)

If you are looking for inspiration I share what we had for supper each night on my Facebook page too www.facebook.com/myweeklydish

Liking Christmas Ain’t Easy

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I’m trying to like Christmas and sort of succeeding.

Not because I’m scroogy or morally superior but because I’m struggling to find anything redeeming about the Holiday craziness.

Malls are insane with people trying to buy the right thing, showing they care the right amount. Money flying around like we all somehow won the lottery or that credit card companies don’t bill for December.Chidley Sean01

The grocery store feels like a barely contained mob ready to stampede if stock on cranberries or hams get dangerously low.

Even my mailbox can’t keep up with the ridiculous amount of flyers telling me all the amazing deals and how I could spend even more money while saving so much, (except trees, definitely not saving any trees).

I find myself drawn in, struggling to find the perfect present for my kids. One that captures our love and the joy of Christmas but that comes with a cheap price tag cause we’re still broke. I wander the aisles wondering if I’m causing permanent damage if I buy a singing purse for my daughter and Batman for my son. Or if our budget and the recognition that I’m being pretentious will just let me buy the damn things cause they’re on sale and the kids will like them.Chidley Sean05

So I can’t be smug and self righteous. I thought about it. I thought about only buying local or making all my gifts out of burlap and driftwood. About donating to charities instead of buying family presents and shopping at craft fairs.

But the truth is I can’t afford to only shop local (although I try with my groceries) and anything I make will be crap. No one can successfully craft at 10 pm with two small children and still make something that doesn’t look like burlap glued to a piece of driftwood. I’m just not ready for the charity idea and not every one wants a floral tea pot cosy, although they do make fun hats.Chidley Sean07

and now what… You can’t just whine they say…

I agree. So here’s what I am doing to try to make my holiday about something more and yet not something I can’t achieve.

If it comes with a should or a feeling of obligation I am saying screw it and not doing it. I’m not baking a mountain of cookies or making wreaths out of collected branches and I’m not finding some delightful craft my kids can do that will be cherished forever. If I have time I may make a few treats and I may draw some Christmasy pictures but not because I have to and only if I want to.

If it costs too much I’m not buying it. I have set a very limited budget for gifts and I’m not going over it. I will find ways to stick within that and I will not feel guilty if it means that my kids only get one gift this year from mom and dad. They have grandparents, they will survive.

I am not sending out Christmas cards. Maybe one day it will happen but at this point you all wouldn’t be getting them until the summer anyway.

I am not attempting to make the perfect Christmas with things.
 “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
Why do we still think that if we buy the right thing or do Christmas right we will create the perfect memories? What if looking back on our life we realize too late what made Christmas and the holidays magic? I will be finding ways to create memories not piles of stuff. I will wake my kids up so they can play in the snow, I will share stories about little people making toys and I will sing songs about reindeers loudly and off key.Chidley Sean24

I am going to find joy in the time I have. I work all week so to have a few extra days off is a gift. I will spend it with my kids and husband, family and friends. laughing, drinking and eating. I will not waste it on cleaning or shopping or being away from the people I love.

I am going to have a clean house for one hour. I will however take immense pleasure in cleaning enough to have people over and loving the hour before it becomes a disaster again. I will gracefully allow it to return to it’s natural state and not worry if someone has to step over toys to come into my house.

I am going to make a fantastic dinner and feed the people I love. My husband and I started our own Christmas Eve tradition of making a meal inspired by another culture. It is a chance for me to treat my family to some delicious food, try some new cooking and just get together and stuff our faces. This year we’re going for a Greek theme and I am actually looking forward to the chance to share a post about that one! I am doing this instead of buying presents for the family and I can’t think of a gift I’d rather give.

I am going to let everyone else do Christmas however they need to. I will not put expectations on anyone else and I will not stress if our Christmases look different. If someone else can make burlap and driftwood into something beautiful I will ooh and aaah and if they send me a card I will be terribly impressed with their organization.Chidley Sean27

I hope you all find a way to make the holidays special and that you don’t need years of counselling to deal with the stress.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

As you can see we did decide to get Santa photos and I had to share. Apparently my daughter is not a fan yet:)

I’m not writing about food today

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I’m not writing about food today, I can’t even think about it. My stomach is nauseous and as I contemplate the recipe for supper tonight I keep hitting an absolute wall of apathy.

It’s the sense of futility that’s floating around in my head. The feeling that I can try as hard as possible, that we can try as hard as possible and that it still may not go in the direction we need it to.

The sense of wonder at why I even bother, why write, why dream, why hope.

Life hasn’t been bad but it’s had its struggles and some days I just get plain old tired.

For most of my adult life I have had the odd notion that if we just put in enough effort and were good enough people that somehow the universe would recognize this and we would be rewarded with a good life. That the universal balance would be tipped in our favour and that we wouldn’t have to struggle quite so hard. I have remained the eternal optimist in the face of it all and truly believed that something better was coming.

But this time I’m really struggling to find the silver lining. I think I had dared to dream just a little too much.

I had started to imagine the possibility of the life I have always wanted. A bigger house where the dog isn’t always a tripping hazard. A yard where I could plant a garden and the kids could run around. A kitchen where I could actually have more then one person in there and people could hang out in the room I feel should be the most welcoming.

Most of all I had started to imagine the freedom that a little bit of extra money brings. The loosening of shoulders, the easier nights sleep and the ability to buy a coffee without second guessing yourself.

And all of that is once again just out of my reach. Purse strings are being re-tightened and for the first time I’ve lost a little hope it will get better.

I know we’ll make it through this. I know I’m okay and that my family is still blessed beyond belief but before there was wonderful hope and drive and a future to day dream a little about. Today is well shit.

So I apologize for wallowing for a moment and I imagine I’ll move on soon enough but I am going to sit here for a little bit and grieve the loss of my hopes at least for a little longer.

Maybe it’s the grey sky…

I Just Wanted to Say Thanks

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The Canadian version of Thanksgiving doesn’t quite have the same spectacle that it does to our Southern neighbours. Yes, we have our turkeys and pies, plus a few good football games. But there are no pilgrims, large rocks or bowls and the best history I can find is that explorers had a heck of a time not dying while wandering around Canada so they ate a lot and were thankful. (I could be very wrong so please don’t quote me).

We do have our own traditions though and one is that during supper someone always asks those at the table to say what they are thankful for. Unfortunately, this is usually after stuffing myself into oblivion and even though I have lots to say  it never quite makes it out. I give the usual response of family or friends and if its been an especially good year maybe a new job or a something like that. It would seem too long winded and take too much work to say what’s really rattling around in my head.

But I really do want to share what I’m thankful for and since I’m lacking in a spectacular Thanksgiving recipe this seems like the perfect chance.

What I am so very grateful for is the second chances and sometimes third or fourth ones that the people around me freely give.

I’ll give my most recent example. This last week I was sick, Not bed ridden, the plague has arisen sick, but definitely sniffly and miserable. It seemed to linger on and on and with two small children I just couldn’t get the sleep I needed to kick it. Finally my body gave up and I took a day off just to catch up. I slept most of the day and still passed out at 9. I woke up in the morning feeling kinda icky but more alert than I have in a week.

With this alertness came a kind of saddening reality. That whole past week I had been absolutely short tempered with my lovely son. He has entered the “why” phase of childhood and my cold addled self just couldn’t answer his increasingly frustrating whys, (no I’m not going to pretend they’re not exhausting). So instead I was a little yelly and a little impatient and really the poor kid got the short end of the stick.

So today after picking him up from daycare and on the drive home I apologized. I explained that mommy realized she’d been angry this week and that I was terribly sorry for not listening better and for being upset a lot. He dropped his little head and agreed that I had been cranky and that he was sad about it. My heart broke and I thanked him for being so wonderful and told him that mommy would try to remember not to  be a jerk.

And that was it, we moved on and he was back to his exuberant little self, full of  new and wondering “whys”, except this time I harnessed all my energy and answered every last one, even if it was with “hmmmm, maybe dadddy knows”.

So that’s what I’m truly thankful for, the opportunities to fix mistakes, apologize and carry on. The space to be human and hope that even when I hurt those around me I can repair the damage done. Knowing that I can never take advantage of these chances because then maybe then they wouldn’t be given so freely.

Because the gods know I’m far from perfect and this will not be my last apology but most likely one of many that I will have to make.

So if you happen to be at the table with me when I say “I’m thankful for friends and family”, then see me shove more pie in my mouth, know that there is a lot more behind those words and that I am grateful for the chances you all give me throughout the year.

Happy Thanksgiving all and may your long weekend be filled with pie and love!

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Finding Myself

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I’m not writing a post about recipes or meal planning, but it’s food for thought… or maybe feeding my soul so I think it’s allowed. Today I had a reminder of how much has changed since my husband started working away a year ago. He called to talk about stretching his stay another week and I didn’t panic. When he first left two weeks was overwhelming, now a month is long but doable.
More then that is different too. When he first went to work our relationship was on rocky ground and honestly, if he hadn’t gone we might not be still together. On my own, there was no choice but to look in the mirror and face some harsh realities.
I am a hundred times stronger then I thought, and a way bigger a**hole then ever imagined. It’s been humbling and rewarding and as much as I miss my hubbers more then anything everyday he is gone this has been such a gift to me and to our relationship that I wouldn’t trade it at all.
Here are some of the biggest shifts and learnings I’ve had.
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