Thursday, October 1, 2015

But I never fail

I like to think of my blog as a dear diary to my kids; a place where they will one day come (if this type of space even still exists in a few years) to learn more about why their mom did the things she did, how she felt about decisions, what she struggled with, and how much she loved them (even when, I'm sure, it seems I'm crazy and not being the kind of parent they want me to be). Here's another life lesson from me to them:

I have spent my life pretty good at everything I have set my mind to.

I re-wrote that first sentence many times, but in the end I just decided to let it be what it is- I have spent my life pretty good at everything I have set my mind to.

The truth is that I haven't had a huge amount of failure. I fear failure. I run from the possibility of failure.

I was always excellent at school; I have always been a good writer and had a creative mind; I didn't like math but I wasn't bad at it; I could give a presentation on a moment's notice like no one's business; I got great grades in university and I loved my courses (it's getting nerdy, right?); I made friends; I had boyfriends; I moved to a new province by myself post-university and somehow managed to find my way; I've been able to pick and choose my job and pleasure/passion projects with ease. With the glaring exception of sports (which I do not play AT ALL because I know I won't be successful ever- seriously, walking is my sport), I have succeeded.

But then I had kids. And suddenly I wasn't so sure if I was good at anything at all anymore.

Parenthood presented me with failure after failure in a way that was so foreign to me that I felt like I was unable to function - the fear was so paralyzing. And it's safe to say I didn't handle it well.

The first thing I did, post-parenthood failure, was leave a career I was good at (teaching) for a career with a high, high failure rate (writing, and later television, and then back to writing).

When I made the decision to leave teaching and pursue my ridiculous pipe dream of working - MAKING MONEY - as a writer I was, once again, paralyzed by fear of failure.

Nonetheless, spurred on by my newfound feelings of failure thanks to parenthood, I set out to reinvent myself as a writer.

And guess what? I was a flop.

I started this blog, I wrote almost daily, I craved the keyboard- and nothing happened.
I pitched and pitched and pitched stories- and nothing happened.
I spent months looking at my inbox with anticipation, waiting for that "you are a genius writer and you deserve a book deal and your own magazine" email- and nothing happened.

I felt like an absolute failure. 

I kicked myself for leaving a career I was good at for something I was obviously so brutal at.

I cried. A LOT.

But then - as is often the case, isn't it? - I had nuggets and glimpses of possible success. A story picked up here, an editor's interest expressed there, my name in print just enough times to make me hang on to hope.

It took almost two years before I would consider myself even remotely successful.  Even once I had some success and name recognition, I found I still wasn't good enough. I still failed more than I succeeded. I got rejected and was told I wasn't good enough more than I was ever patted on the back.  Editors still turned me down (and often), (many) people expressed a dislike of my writing style, and I still (regularly) questioned if I was cut out for the writing life.

After years of struggling to prove myself and make my writing dreams happen, I allowed all the doubt and fear of (even more) failure to fill in the crevices and cracks of my heart until I started to hate the clacking of the keyboard and the ebs and flows of creativity. I dreaded trying to meet a deadline and I stopped pitching story ideas to editors completely.

I did what any sane 30-something mother of two would do and I all but stopped writing.

I pursued other passions. They were good passions that filled my heart and allowed me to be creative in a different way. I was on television. I found jobs that were light and fun. But after a while, I realized all those other pursuits were just fill-ins because I had abandoned what I really loved to do; I was hiding from the fear and the possibility of failing at  becoming a writer.

Fast forward to 2015.

It has taken a lot of soul searching to decide to go back to writing. I am approaching it in a different way this time- I am not making it my all or nothing and I am not hanging my hat on the possibility that I will write the next great children's book or viral magazine article. I am not assuming that an editor or agent will read my blog and send me an email that BEGS me to move to NYC with my family to become a full time author. I am not waiting with baited breath after I send out article pitches.

I am being more gentle with myself. I'm reminding myself that I love to writing and it's why I started on this road of certain failure in the first place. I am not counting hits on my blog or reading articles line by line to see how edited my printed piece is (they're always edited, for what it's worth). I am just writing and creating and letting myself get back into the headspace I need to be in.

And - the biggest of all - I'm coming to peace with the fact that I might fail.

Maybe I'll find out I'm not that good at writing after all, or maybe I'll find out I'm greater at writing than I ever dreamed, or (and this is most likely) I will discover that I am something in between.

But at least I'm back and trying to feed my true creative passion, one keystroke at a time.

If you're anything like me and you're struggling with finding that creative passion, set aside 20 minutes and watch this TED Talk from Elizabeth Gilbert. I must have watched this daily for two months after choosing to go back to writing this summer. Elizabeth talks about why it means to feel success and the biting sting of failure and how to find your elusive creative genius that lives within you - it might be just the medicine you need!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Apple Picking Adventures

September marks one of two family traditions that we have established over the years: apple picking.

Let's talk a bit about traditions, shall we?

I'm actually not big on them.

I feel like we live in an overindulgent era that makes every perceived holiday and tradition a "must do" (I see you and the parental peer pressure that comes with 'Elf on the Shelf' *shudders*)

Not every holiday needs its own marker and tradition. A "must do" for every event cheapens the excitement and anticipation of a much-loved yearly tradition. I want my boys to grow up with one or two special, annual family events that have true meaning to us, that we look forward to and talk about year round, and that we make time for year after year, no matter what we have going on.

Apple picking happens to be that tradition for us (the other is decorating our Christmas tree while drinking egg nog- I don't really know how it became a tradition, but the kids talk about getting to drink egg nog all year round, so we will go with it).

We are so lucky to live in an area of Canada that finds itself with an overflowing bounty of apples in September and October. Empire, Courtland, Honey Crisp, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, McIntosh- they are everywhere and plentiful and they are beyond delicious.

If you have never had an apple plucked straight from the branch that has lovingly grown it, you are missing out. I don't know that I can aptly describe the the crispness, the juiciness, the aroma you inhale as you bite into it. I'm not sure I can even explain what it feels like to hold that fresh apple in your hand-slightly dewy and perfect for picking- listening for the slight snap as you twist it and break it off its branch. I wish I could recount the excitement on my kids faces as they walk into the orchard, running up and down the rows, screaming in delight when they spot the perfect (way up top, I need daddy to pick me up) apple.

So I'll show you instead.

Mandatory mom & kids photo- if only they would stay still and someone would teach them how to actually smile for a photo! And if only I had kept my sunglasses on (so bright!).

Gotta get the good ones

And you certainly can't let your younger brother have all the fun!

Of course the corn maze may ACTUALLY be the best part!

Perfect size!

The perfect apple tree

And yet another perfect tree- they were everywhere!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why is full day kindergarten still a mess?

Every morning my 4 year old lies on the floor, crying, and begs me not to send him to school.

He's a kid that went to daycare and camps and Sunday School. He is used to me leaving him in a group setting with an adult (sometimes an adult that is still a stranger) in charge. He has never cried or begged me not to go.

But then he started Junior Kindergarten.

This isn't my first rodeo. I have an older son who has gone through JK, so I went through the mental checklist that I am sure most parents go through:

  • Introduce him to the teacher ahead of time (check, because his teacher was his brother's kindergarten teacher and she is amazing)
  • Make sure he knows some kids at the school (check)
  • Organize a bus buddy that makes him feel safe (check, his brother and another girl on the street)
  • Talk about school: what to expect, how to behave, how to make friends (check, check)
  • Pray and hope it goes well (triple check)
Except for us it did not go well.
It went the exact opposite of well.
He has spent the past weeks crying daily and begging me not to send him back to "that place".


"Because there are too many kids and it's not fun."
"Because I never know where to go or where my class is."
"Because I can't find my friends on the playground."

Because his classroom is overwhelmingly full of kids.

As a former teacher and a parent I LOVE the idea of full day kindergarten. I think it gives our youngest the ability to learn and develop skills that will help them flourish as they grow. I also agree that our kids need to learn to fail, learn to adapt and learn to handle new situations, even at a young age.

What I don't agree with- and what I realize is causing my son and many others like him immense stress as he endeavours to acclimate to school- is extreme class size.

30- 35 kids in a kindergarten classroom is not just too much, it's practically unmanageable.

A happy first day of school picture (before we
went into the classroom)
We live in a suburban neighbourhood that was built for families. Too bad they didn't build enough schools or allocate enough space. Our kindergarten classrooms are bursting at the seams. Our phenomenal teachers are forced to control the crowd of chaos that ensues when an overstuffed classroom of 4 and 5 year olds is seen as the "norm".  The pen (which is what they call the kindergarten playground, sadly) is another place of chaotic crowd control.

It seems that schools didn't learn their lesson from the 2014-15 school year. It seems that capping class sizes still isn't a priority despite the fact that the over abundance of kids makes learning (and even playing, which is the basis of full day kindergarten, isn't it?) nearly impossible. It seems that doing what is best for our kids is not even a consideration.

Do our kids need to adapt to new situations? Sure! Do our kids need to learn to navigate stressful situations? Yes! Do our kids need to be overwhelmed to the point of tears on a daily basis and given less of an opportunity to learn to love school simply because it isn't a priority to make class sizes manageable and realistic? I don't think so.

How do you jam 30-35 four and five year olds into a classroom with one teacher and one ECE and expect them to learn anything? How do you cram that many kids in a room and expect them to feel anything other than stressed out and overwhelmed? Common sense says, you don't.

Our country is one of the most progressive and revered- and yet the way we approach our education system says that education isn't a priority and, even worse, our kids are not a priority. As I wipe away my son's tears and tell him it's ok to be nervous and he will figure out his way in that sea of kids,  it pains me to see us making the same mistakes when it comes to our public schools- not learning from them- and failing our youngest and most vulnerable over and over again.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Worst Canadian Cities for Fall Allergies (& How To Survive)

I recently began writing for a fantastic "mom" site - Momtastic - as their Canadian connection:)

I am thrilled to work with such a fantastic group of women and fantastically talented editors. I am even more excited to help bring a Canadian voice (you know our voice- and our spelling- is different right?) to an already flourishing American publication.

My first article deals with something that is near to my heart- fall allergies. We are in the thick of fall allergies at my house- especially my oldest son who living with a tissue box never more than an arms length away.  Hence, my obsession with combating fall allergies.

Without further ado, here's a sneak peak at my first article:

According to Best Health, Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, Windsor, Halifax, and Yellowknife are the worst Canadian cities for fall allergy sufferers. But why are allergies so bad in the fall?
The simple answer: ragweed pollen.
You can’t escape this allergen because it is literally everywhere during the fall. So, if you are anything like me and my kids, you spend most of this beautiful, beautiful season blowing your nose and wiping your watery eyes and looking for any kind of relief. But fall allergies do not have to be awful—in fact, there are ways to beat the fall allergy season (before it even begins, in some cases!). Find out how by reading the rest of my Momtastic post...
Don't let those beautiful fall leaves fool you- allergens abound!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

I Turned 35

It feels very wrong to put it out there, but I turned 35 this month.

For some reason, turning 35 years old has been hard. 

Maybe it's because 35 feels old to me- I mean (don't slap me) but it's only 5 more years until I am 40. 

Maybe it's because both of my kids are in school now and I am suffering from a bit of baby envy (despite the fact I have no desire to have another baby, especially at 35!).

Maybe it's because I have spent the last few years working in a young person's world that made me feel like I was way younger than I am. 

Maybe it's because 35 makes me feel like I need to stop shopping at Garage and Dynamite and start spending my money at Laura and Tristan (on sweaters and pleated slacks, of course). 

Whatever the reason, the turning of 35 has been hard.

Only made easier by a phenomenal cake creation care of Cocoa Lane Sweeterie, the massive hugs of my two favourite boys who love me no matter what, and the realization that I have to suck it the hell up because- whether I like it or not- I'm 35, and all the pouting and hiding in the world won't change that.

Here's to a fantastic, life changing year!