Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thankful Thursday

This week I am thankful for:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Taking Care of Me

Apparently it takes me multiple experiences to learn the same lesson: I need to take care of myself first.  I've been inching my way in the right direction for a while now but it's time to get even more focused. We all know that self-care is important but sometimes we trick ourselves into what that looks like or that we'll get to it "soon".  Maybe I'm conceited and prideful thinking I can do it all–I need a good dose of humble pie, over and over.

Being part of various communities from fostering to special needs to faith to work, there is a lot of pressure to do all you can to help those you love. You feel like you are doing a lot and then see that someone else is fostering three kids and you just have one. Someone else has more difficult struggles in parenting.  Someone else is helping out at Sunday School every week AND organizes a meal train AND leads a Bible Study. Someone else is working full time and their kids are still in activities. What? How can I keep up? Where is the line between being there for others and being the best that YOU can be? I know that comparison is the thief of joy but I do truly wonder how others do what they do. I know I need to reevaluate what works for our family frequently as our needs are constantly changing. I need to stop comparing what I can or cannot do.

The first time I struggled with the balance between doing and being was when I was diagnosed with Graves' Disease in 2009. I realized my body could not handle stress the way it once did. In 2016 we closed our photography business. I felt a lot of guilt over it as people would say "You have a gift, you should use it!" But, it wasn't fun any more and it was taking away from prime family time. With that, I have felt bad about not utilizing my photography services in a volunteer capacity either – again I heard, "use your gifts" which is something I hear so often in Christian circles. Sometimes you just need a break; I want to be a cheerful giver, not a resentful one.

Over the past few years we have experienced more stress in our home in parenting (our biological and foster children) and this has resulted in my body shutting down in the fall. I know I need a good night's sleep. I know I need ample exercise. I know I need healthy meals. I know I need child-free time.  However, when you're in a type of survival mode those things that you need to be your best self seem unattainable. You get some food and drink into your body and an inadequate amount of sleep each night, and just function. I now feel that I have a one-inch layer of insulation all over my body and it allows me to still do what I need to do but it does not feel like my body.

Over the winter I have spent time and energy reflecting and focusing. I went to counselling. I started running five days a week on my treadmill. When our Little One left our home last month, we decided to take a break as the next few months would be extra busy for us with the kids' sports and classes for Gary and I. Just because I could do something doesn't mean I should. Maybe that sounds selfish but it's what I need to be the best version of myself: strong, patient and loving. Irritable Louise is not pleasant.

Our family has always valued health and has been pretty good about eating homemade meals, getting enough sleep, and spending time in the great outdoors. I know that this can be improved upon and will be taking small steps to make it a greater priority. I want to wake up each morning and think "I feel great!" not "Well, time to make it through another day."

I'm starting a 12-week challenge next week; it involves an exercise and nutritional program. My goal is not to lose weight, it is to make my body leaner and stronger which I have done before. I want it to be a life-long change and not just a three month one. I love how strong my body is and what it can do. The older I get the harder it is for my body to bounce back from stress, poor eating and lack of sleep. I want to be able to hike the West Coast Trail with my kids in five years. I want to have patience for my family. I want to have the energy required to do life well. I have written about self-care before here and know that now I just need to take it up just a notch.

{Above is from 2015 when I was feeling so good!}

{This is my "before" photo of my arms from today. Lean and strong–here I come! I had to take photos in a bathing suit today for my "before" and if I'm feeling brave in 12 weeks, I'll share the before and after.}

Is this lesson, the importance of taking care of yourself, something that you have had to learn multiple times over your life as well? What do you do to be the best that you can be?


Monday, March 27, 2017

Fifteen Tips for First Time Cruisers

Gary and I never envisioned cruising as middle-aged adults as we anticipated trying it out once the kids moved out. However, various friends of ours went cruising with their kids and after looking into it we realized that there were family-friendly cruises that were affordable for our family of five.

Using a travel agent we booked an 8-night Easter Caribbean cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines.  Our decision was made based on affordability, family-friendliness, the number of ports and their locations, and finally the dates. Being that we had never travelled this way before we had a lot of questions. We asked friends and read online as much as we could and here are some pieces of advice I would offer you:

Fifteen Tips for First Time Cruisers

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Five Netflix Shows to Watch About Fostering

Being a foster parent, it's difficult to share about our journey. First off, we're not allowed to share details as it involves children in care. Secondly, we want others to consider becoming a foster family but want it to be clear that it's difficult yet so worth it. One of the ways I like to connect to pieces of our life is by watching documentaries, movies or series that can relate to what we are going through.

What are Netflix movies or series that relate to fostering?

1. The Fosters. I watched the entire series and thought it gave a great peek into fostering.  This show is also why I now call my kids "Love".

Monday, March 13, 2017

Friendship In Real Life: Food for the Soul

Friendship is an area of my life that has changed so much over the years. Understandably, my needs have changed; from needing a partner for skipping rope to someone to talk to about homework questions and boys to someone to go out dancing with to now really having the desire to be heard and challenged, the roles were all different. It does seem that these relationships were much easier ten years ago and whether I can attribute that to the rise of social media, my marriage, having three children, I'm not sure, but it takes a lot more effort now. My soul craves deep friendship. Yes, I have my husband and we work on a playful friendship as an important ingredient in our marriage but often life is heavy and we aren't feeling so...friendly. I crave female companionship with a larger dose of empathy and compassion. I have been blessed with wonderful friendships but I do need to be more intentional about fostering them.

Monday, March 06, 2017

How to Save Thousands of Dollars Each Year

How we spend our money indicates our priorities and for us the two main places that we choose to spend our money are the kids' education and family travel. We also set aside a specific amount to donate each month although I know this is an area we could improve on even more. I often hear people asking (politely) how we can afford vacations or private school and this is some advice I'd give on how to save thousands of dollars each year. We live almost solely on one teacher's salary so how do we stretch our dollar?

How to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year

Friday, March 03, 2017

An All-Inclusive Trip to St. Lucia for Gary and I...Maybe

Hi, friends! I recently entered a contest with Sunwing to win an all inclusive trip to St. Lucia for Gary and I. We made it through the first two rounds and now it is the third and final one with a 3/15 chance of winning (1/5 is pretty amazing). The vote is very simple, just click on this link and it will take you to our photo. Like the photo and verify with your Facebook account (this means it only works for those with Facebook but it is ensuring only one vote per person to keep things fair). Unfortunately this does not work with the Facebook app so you will have to use a computer or your browser on your phone.

I am so thankful for those that got us into this round; I was feeling the love! I hope you have a wonderful weekend.


Thursday, March 02, 2017

Thankful Thursday

Gratitude. I write these posts for several reasons; it's not that my life is all sunshine and rainbows–in fact, there are many frustrating things that happen daily. Every Thursday I take some time to focus on the week and the items that I am thankful for and it is very good for my mental health.

This week I am thankful for: