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Balance: How Giving Up on it Set Me Free

 Balance: How Giving Up on it Set Me Free 

I don’t know if I believe in balance.

There. I’ve said it. I think balance is a cruel word that gets tossed around as we try and convince ourselves that we can do it all in the same day. Someone once told me ‘balance’ is about making choices and being at peace with them, and I’ve reflected on that ever since; on days when I feel like I’m struggling I try to step back and think about what my focuses for that day are and regroup around them, simplify things. I absolutely believe we can do it all– just not all at once. Different days may have different priorities, we just have to accept that there may be/ will be other things that don’t happen- they’ll happen some other time. In other words, I think the concept of balance is more of an outlook than an actual thing we can achieve.

Some days it feels like I can get everything done and I feel like a champion (aren’t those the best!?), and other days I feel like the biggest achievement is that the kids and I make it to the end of the day in one piece (a big, crazy, messy piece). Either way the same thing happens: I go into the day with a list of priorities- this may be a mental list or one I write down and includes things like time with the kids, house work, work, appointments that have to be made, yard work, etc- and inevitably there are usually things that get left for the next day or the next (or the next!)- or if it’s a particularly chaotic day, I throw out that list (unless there’s something that falls under ‘must happen today’), and re- write it for the next. It’s not always easy- some days it feels painful to give up and tell myself ‘it’s not going to happen today’- but I’m learning what’s more important than that to- do list is my outlook towards it. It’s how I think about things and move through the day, not how much I can get done in a day that matters (hands up who else is Type A like me and always tries to cram as much as possible into the day?). Sounds so simple right? But oooooh creating mental habits/ changing your perspective can be just as challenging as changing other habits!!! It takes time and baby steps, and patience, and, and, and…. moral of the story: we have to have patience with ourselves

As I sit here and talk about choices, figuring out priorities, and finding ‘balance’- whatever that means- I don’t think I could do so without talking about one of the things I’ve made a priority over the past year, something I’ve made time for regardless of whatever else is going on. This choice didn’t come out of thin air, I’ve had to carve out the time from other things, but ultimately I’m happy with the choice of how I spend this time. The interesting thing about a year is you have a very distinct start and end point to reflect on, and I’ve been doing that lately as I look back on the progress I’ve made. Some days I’m stressed out about the time it takes, overwhelmed with everything else I have to get done, but ultimately I feel so much better after having made time for it, happy with the choice I made. The choice I’m referring to is exercise, and the time I’ve taken for yoga and running (and swimming when I get the chance).

Balance: How Giving Up on it Set Me Free

It’s been a year since I started running- the longest that I have been committed to exercise in my adult life- and it is something I choose to make a priority (I share more about it in this post). For the most part I have gone on a run every week for a year; there is the odd week that I’ve missed one and  weeks I’ve managed to go for two if I felt like I needed it (even if I’m stressed about finding the time for other things that have to get done, I ultimately feel better/ handle my workload better if I’ve taken some time away to give my mind a break with the added bonus of feeling better physically from the exercise). And before you tell me you don’t know where you’d find the time for exercise, I’ll confess this to you: I don’t have a lot of time for exercise. And I know a lot of other people who feel the same. It may not be exercise for them, it might be something else that they’re struggling to fit into their schedules, but either way finding time for some things is harder than others. The trick is to find it, then the second hardest part is to create a habit/ add it to your routine and then stick with it. 

We all have other things to do, other things that take up our time, we all have our daily mix that fill our days. And in the end we look back on the day and hopefully feel good about what we got accomplished. Taking care of ourselves and our health is something we’re told to make a priority and rightfully so, but as with many things it’s often easier said than done. How many times do you tell yourself I’ll do it today and then brush it off: Oh well, I’ll do it tomorrow… It’s not hard to put stuff off that doesn’t really appeal to us, or that’s inconvenient/ uncomfortable- let’s face it, fitness isn’t usually something people do for fun (even though it can be), they do it to stay healthy. And we tend to lump health stuff under ‘boring’ and ‘have to but don’t want to’ instead of making it something to look forward to (see how a change in perspective might make that more appealing?). But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a priority- that finding some time to take care of yourself isn’t important enough to warrant a little bit of time each week. And that’s just it: even just a little bit of time is better than no time at all. And that’s what I’ve told myself this past year when I’ve wanted to make an excuse to get out of running: it’s just. a. few. minutes. (and for the record, I didn’t let weather become an excuse either, no matter how tempting/ easy it would have been). I don’t always want to, but ultimately I know how much better I feel, how much happier I am afterwards; it’s worth it and something I’m glad I’ve added to my routine, even if it’s at the expense of something else.

 Balance: How Giving Up on it Set Me Free

I’m still working on calming down about all the things I want to get done in a day, letting go and really thinking about what I consider a priority- in other words, I’m still making peace with imbalance (see what I did there? 😉 ). But one thing I’m glad I did, even though I’ve had to choose the time to make it happen this past year is to stop making excuses for getting in some exercise each week. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I have your life all figured out and how easy it is to make changes, to make time for these things. It’s rarely, if ever, that simple. But it is about re- thinking your priorities, re- thinking the choices you make and asking yourself ‘Is this making me a better or worse version of myself?’. We’re grown ups, so obviously things like bills and mortgages aren’t going to go away and make the choice to work less any easier (oh adulting…), but for the things on a simpler level, those things we have within our control, it’s amazing the difference a few different choices and a change of mind set can make. I’m not any less of a to- do list loving person than I was a year ago, but I’m chipping away at changing my outlook on things (instead of thinking ‘these are all the things I didn’t get done today’ turning it around and thinking about all that did get done), letting go, and not making excuses for things that should be more of a priority/ deserve more time. I’m responsible for two little people and keeping them happy and healthy, and at some point I have to make sure I’m doing the same for myself. It’s the choices I make and the perspective I have that creates the happiness and inner peace that I think ‘balance’ is supposed to bring- and it’s not a perfect one- size- fits- all solution- but just making the effort alone has been a big step forward for me. Exercise has been ‘my thing’ this past year that I’ve made a priority, now I want to know: what do you want to make more time for?

Photo credit: Kristy Powers Photography

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August 22, 2017
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A Beautiful Mess: My Side of the Story

A few months ago, Will, my husband, opened up about his life living with health challenges. Chronic illness if you want to put a label on it. And since then I’ve had it suggested to me that I should share my half of the story as the spouse, partner, in the situation. What I go through, feel, struggle with, because my side of the story deserves to be heard as well, I was told. I’d always backed away from the idea, mostly because I felt it was Will’s story to tell, his struggles, and that having me share about my own struggles with these challenges he didn’t ask for would only add stress and anxiety and questions and hurt and pain to an already sensitive part of our lives.

But later this month I’ll be sharing about some of my own personal struggles on the #makeitREIGN Campaign blog, and I thought before I put the cart before the horse and share about the outcome of what I went through last year (after reaching emotional burnout) and the growth I- we- have experienced, I should first share about some of the struggles I live with as the emotional caretaker to a man who is fighting a battle he didn’t ask for. Not because I am looking for sympathy or anything like that. But because I want to be open and honest about something very real in our lives that we live with every day. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t fair, and it has forced Will and I to face things as individuals and as a couple that can either break or strengthen you. Somedays both.

My hope is that by sharing what is written below that others in my position won’t feel guilty- as I have- or struggle with their emotions as much on the tough days when the person they love most in the world is also the biggest source of stress as well. It’s a cruel parallel to draw, but it’s a real one and for anyone else out there loves someone who lives with these challenges, you know that you carry them too, but in a different way, as someone both on the outside and inside of the situation- sort of a cruel limbo. By adding my story to the conversation I know I am sharing a very real, raw part of myself; I could face scrutiny and judgement, but if one person or couple can relate and feel a connection with what I have to say, if it helps another couple stay strong knowing they are not alone, then it will all be worth it. And as one last thing before I begin, I had Will read this before I shared it. Out of respect to him and all that he goes through I would never share this if he wasn’t all right with it, and he encouraged me to do so: ‘Kat, this is you on paper’. Those who struggle with health challenges- any challenges- deserve to be heard, but those who love them and live with them do as well, because we’re walking right alongside them. We take on a lot of their struggles while adding our own unique ones to the mix, often with a muddy combination of emotions to accompany an already delicate life situation: affection, sympathy, helplessness, frustration, anger, exhaustion- and more. If you prefer to not to read what is a very uncensored and honest account of what this can look like, feel like, now is the time to stop reading. But I hope you won’t. Here goes…

I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to say, where to start. And the more I sit here and think about what it is I want to say, the more I realize I should just try to talk about how it feels.

How what feels? I guess that could be a good place to start. The what I’m referring to is the life of a family that lives with chronic illness in it’s midst. Like an uninvited guest at dinner who welcomes themselves in or a third party in a relationship meant for two people, illness- or insert what applies to you and your life situation- is another character in the script of life. A character that I want to erase, tear out the pages with them on- burn them even. But doing so is impossible. At least it is for me, because it would mean removing something much bigger, much greater, something- someone– I love from this existence. And that I think is a great place to start when it comes to talking about how this life feels. The life of someone who lives in the presence of chronic illness, who loves someone who lives with it themselves, a fate they didn’t choose but are faced with.

Our family has shared about this aspect of our life openly, not because it was easy and comfortable, but because there is a collective voice getting louder on topics previously labelled as ‘taboo’ and stigmatized and we want to help raise that volume from a whisper to a scream. To help destigmatize and break down the real- life barriers of challenges that more people struggle with than we previously realized. The topics we used to shy away from, deny because of our fears, of how we may be treated or viewed- and yes I say ‘we’ to include those who love, support, and live with someone who deals with chronic issues because it affects them too- we are shying away from the tough conversations less and less. But within these efforts are the voices of the people propelling them forward, and the daily challenges they live with are very real, and that is where I wanted to add my voice to the conversation.

I have previously shied away from telling my half of the story. My husband is the one living with the chronic health issues and he is the one who deserves to be heard, understood, respected. He is the one who faces each day with a strength and grace that elevates him above his challenges that go beyond the scope of what any person should ever have to cope with. The moment he wakes in the morning he is forced to face these demons, to fight against them to participate in ‘normal’ life- to work and support the family he loves, the family he would do anything for. He silently fights every. Single. Day. With an invisible foe that I have come to hate. An element within him- indeed a part of him- the man I love, that I want to strike from the record. Remove from my life, walk away from. But I can’t because to do so would be to lose him. To walk away from him. Yes, the pain, the other health issues. The frustrations and patience- draining moments that I would expel from our marriage in a heartbeat if given the chance. But not him. A life without him, without these uninvited challenges, infuriating ‘why us’ situations, could be a lot simpler. And some might even argue happier. But it would be a fraction of the life that I live now. Of the other side of the coin: the joys, memories, hopes for the future of a life we hope to continue to build together. That too, would also be gone. Erased with the bad would also be all the good. That is the emotional battle I face. And the man I met, fell in love with, married, created life with- he is good.

And let me say how underwhelming a word like ‘good’ is to describe him. Oh yes, he drives me crazy, we fight, we hurt each other’s feelings. We make a great big mess out of things plenty of the time. But it’s our mess. A mess I love above all else, a mess I fight for. And it is good because of him, because of us.

Now if I haven’t convinced you enough that I am whole- heartedly in love with this man and the challenges he didn’t ask for, I’m not sure how else I could prove it here. But I hope I’ve made enough of an argument to demonstrate my love for this man that the next few sentences won’t seem so heartless. Because I know that reading them, without any sense of my person, my voice, and connotation will also remove much of the humanity behind them. So forgive me, they may appear much colder on a screen, removed from the person who has felt them, lived them. But I am sharing them in the hopes that others in my position, those who love someone who struggles, faces challenges, and fights daily through a personal battle, also feel heard and recognized. Because we are not the heroes, but we fight the same battles alongside the person we love, often suffering with our own struggles and challenges, but putting them aside to draw out the greater good for our partner. To fight alongside them and celebrate their victories. Some may see it, acknowledge it, but it’s the little gestures, acts of love, and selflessness, where we give of ourselves when we have nothing left- this is where we choose to partake in the battle- a battle we could simply get up and walk away from. But don’t.

There are days I feel heavy. Exhausted. Utterly burdened with the ‘for better or worse’ vows I took on our wedding day. I just want to walk away, quit and say f*ck it all. F*ck you and your problems. They’re yours, not mine and I can walk away. Buy a one- way ticket and step over those miserable uninvited challenges as I walk out and slam the door behind me. Aaaaaah how cleansing and satisfying it would be to shed that weight from my life. On the life that we built. In these moments the darkest thoughts and emotions are drawn out from me and I want to re- write this life script- or better yet toss the whole damn thing out the window- and start over. A clean start would feel so refreshing wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it? But would it? And then the guilt sets in. That horrible, stomach- in- your- throat feeling of ‘I’m such an awful person for thinking that’. He didn’t ask for this either but the difference is he can’t walk away from it. And just like that I spiral down into this bottomless pit of emotional ping pong: ‘you’re such a bitch’ followed by ‘but I’m so tired and don’t know if I can do this anymore’ followed by ‘he doesn’t deserve this’ followed by ‘but neither do I’… and it goes on and on until I’ve mentally tortured myself to the point of exhaustion and hating both of us: him for having these challenges and me for hating him for something he has no control over and having these cruel- beyond- words feelings.

That is the best way I can describe what living in the presence of chronic health challenges can be like. It can suck the joy and energy out of life in a slow- leak- you- can- never- find kind of way. It can feel like utter torture. Day- to- day things that others take for granted or don’t even think about can feel like momentous achievements. But there it is. There it is: you also learn to celebrate the little things. To find joy in the little things. And in a way- in a weird, contorted way of reaching optimism- isn’t that a gift of life: to enjoy it and appreciate it? When I say it can feel like a convoluted emotional roller coaster, you can see what I mean, right? How in the same breath we can be at breaking point and also then twist it around to try and find the positive?

I’d say that describes how we go about life: facing these challenges everyday but ultimately trying to look at the positive. We joke about making lemonade (you know the phrase when life hands you lemons…) and adding vodka on the hard days. We’ve learned to laugh and take turns bolstering the other- a growth in our relationship I’m really proud of. And our communication too; we’ve worked hard, fought hard, for what we have. I am by no means the collective voice for the partners who have loved ones living with chronic illness, health challenges, etc. But I am one more voice trying to share an honest and candid account in the hopes that others will feel less afraid to address how they feel, to open up and talk about it, to know they are not alone, and that their own struggles are real and valid, and ok. If one more person can feel less alone, if one more relationship can sustain these challenges because I opened myself up here honestly, then I regret no part of what I’ve written here. This took me a long time to work up the courage and emotional strength to write, not because I don’t think I should be allowed to feel frustrated, or challenged, or exhausted, or any other myriad of emotions, but because above all else, my heart hurts for the man I love and beyond fear of judgement or scrutiny, I don’t want him to hurt because I have shared what I have here.

So to him and to those reading this, know this: above all else, he is my world. I wish I could take his challenges away, to see him released of these burdens, to live how he deserves to. But I can’t. And that feeling is the cruelest, most frustrating emotion I battle with, why I ultimately lash out and make a mess of things, hurt him, crumble some days. The hardest pain we face is watching those we love suffer and that is my part of the battle. We fight it together, two imperfect people who just want to live a life they love and have built together. And that right there is the sentiment I want to end this with. The feeling I hope translates from the screen to you as you read this raw diary entry by a woman who loves with her whole heart a man she cannot help the way she wishes she could. But there is love. SO much love: unconditional, messy, imperfect love.

Photo credit: Ally Fotografy

To learn more about how you can help end stigmas around tough- to- talk- about topics and be a part of the positive change visit The Free Reign Life  and #makeitREIGNcampaign on Instagram. 

July 7, 2017
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To the Person Reading This, You Are Not Alone: Will’s Story

We share beautiful moments online captured in photos- the highlight reel as many call it- but much less often share the tough moments, the hard days. This blog is my outlet, so I like it to be a fun place, but I also want it to be real and honest. On some days when I post a light- hearted photo on social media, it’s because I need that outlet, that distraction. It’s not to be fake or to make things seem better than they are, it’s me trying to stay positive, lighten the day.

It’s not very often I sit down to write a post and struggle to find words, I’m a pretty open book and they usually come easy. But this post is different. It’s different from anything I have posted before because it’s not coming from me, it’s coming from Will. I’ve opened up about some of the personal struggles I faced in the past year (you can see those posts here and here), but I didn’t share the whole story- some of the things that happen behind the scenes with our family as a whole- because it wasn’t mine to tell. It was Will’s. And I respected his privacy because that’s what he wanted and deserved. But after the amazing experience and response I had after sharing about my own challenges, I thought it may have the same positive impact for Will and those who read his words, and I asked if he might be interested in sharing part of himself here.

At first he was hesitant, unsure if it was something he was comfortable with, and understandably so. But after talking things through, he ultimately decided that he’d give it a try; to open up and talk about some things aren’t easy to address. And to his credit, I think this is challenging for guys more than for women, they tend not to talk as openly about things they deal with, so I admire, respect, and appreciate his willingness to put this out into the world, in the hopes that others may read it- men and women- and be able to relate, and maybe even find comfort in it.

For him, I hope he knows the impact that sharing can have, that every conversation we start is another voice added to the collective mix, and that it might be as helpful to him- cleansing even- as it hopefully will be to those who read this and struggle with similar things. This is about being honest and real online and in life, about trying to advocate that no matter what you face, no matter how overwhelming it can feel, you are not alone. This is Will’s story to share, and I cannot thank him enough for letting me help put it out into the world. Life is messy, it’s far from perfect, but it’s not without it’s beauty; sometimes you just have to fight a little harder for those beautiful moments or make them happen for yourself.  I’m proud to call this man my husband, and you’ll see why. Behind his cheeky smile is a man who loves his family unconditionally, puts himself last, and has a strength found from navigating some interesting challenges. We wrote this post together and I think it’s about as honest it gets. So here we go…

You can’t tell by looking at me, but I struggle daily with some health- related challenges that have affected me for more than a decade. I’m going to be 31 this year and have dealt with many of these things for half of my life. This isn’t about wanting attention, or wanting a pity party. As a guy, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to these things and open up about them, but I also know the overwhelming feeling of isolation all too well- that feeling that no- one else understands- and facing that alone is not healthy. 

I have lived with depression and anxiety since my mid teens, and have in recent years lived with chronic pain including myofacial disorder (this causes the body to feel pain unrelated from anything affecting it at the time- also known as referred pain- when you can experience pain for no apparent reason).  It can feel like a vicious circle sometimes: the pain can trigger the anxiety and bring on depression and vice versa, my body responds before I have time to stop it. Going through life with these things isn’t easy. It’s changed every aspect of me. It’s changed my outlook on life- it tends to now be more dark and pessimistic; it makes me feel angry for what I’ve been faced with- and I have to work against this to stay positive. But as much as it can be challenging, I’ve also a learnt a lot from what I’ve experienced.

I don’t talk a lot about it with people because I feel judged, like it’s used against me. As hard as some people try to understand, there’s no way for them to. And I think as a guy you get treated differently because we’re expected to be tough and strong- to ‘man up’ and not talk about it. Women tend to talk more, and get sympathy and compassion. Let’s be honest, guys don’t usually talk much anyways, especially when it comes to problems. And obviously you’re not going to get support if you don’t talk about it, and that’s where it can be challenging as a man living in pain. But that’s why it’s important to talk about it. 

Sometimes I feel like these issues have robbed me of who I should be. I feel like the real me is locked away and the key has been tossed. I’m not able to do as much as I want; I’m limited. Time is limited. Energy is limited. It’s hard to feel understood; getting love, support, and understanding is difficult because it’s something you can’t see. These things have made me more reclusive and anti social simply because it’s hard for people to understand. People often can’t tell I’m having a bad day; somedays it’s obvious by the look on my face, or maybe with how I carry myself. But on many days I hide it well- because I want to be strong for my family, and I hate thinking of this as my identity. But that doesn’t mean on those days I’m not suffering or in pain; it can make you feel isolated and alone. Like a prisoner trapped in your own body. I feel like I’ve lost sense of who I am, I don’t know who Will is anymore.

I live with these things everyday, which can get exhausting. It’s the same fight everyday just to keep my head above water and it can make it difficult to enjoy life the way I want to; many of the things I used to enjoy I can’t because of the pain.  This can make you become very reclusive. People don’t understand; it’s difficult to explain and people often can jump to conclusions. I feel like I’m constantly judged for things that go on behind the scenes, for things that people can’t see. And I think that’s why it’s important we talk about these things, so others facing their own challenges know they’re not alone. It’s always comforting to speak with others who do understand and are going through the same or similar- and it’s a source of comfort speaking to them and knowing they feel the same way, face the same challenges.

Through everything, I’ve really learnt the importance of having a positive attitude, but will also be the first to admit it’s damn hard some days. You definitely have the days when things get the better of you and you throw yourself a pity party. But on the good days when you have a positive attitude it definitely helps, and you can remind yourself of why you do the things you do, why it’s all worth it. The pain’s always going to be there, but I can choose to be miserable and stay in bed all day or choose to be positive, to get up and live life. Mind over matter really does make a difference.

If I could give any advice to others struggling with similar things, it’s this: Don’t let the pain stop you from living life. Going out and living it will actually make it better. And sometimes you really aren’t doing it for yourself; you’ll do it for a loved one, push yourself for a loved one, and afterwards you’re glad you did.

A lot of times it’s easier to do things for other people because it’s easy to say no to yourself, avoid things for yourself. I find it’s harder for me to let others down than to let myself down; I want to make my loved ones happy and that pushes me even on the tough days. If my wife and kids weren’t in my life, I wouldn’t be working as much as I am; family is a good motivator (even if they can make life crazy and wild sometimes) they’re the motivator and reason to keep going, to keep trying.

To those who don’t suffer but are trying to understand for a loved one: things that help are love, patience and understanding. I don’t choose to suffer the way that I do and I have no control over it. I do what I can to make things better where and when I can, to stay positive, but it’s rarely that simple. It can be frustrating for loved ones and I know they can lose their patience, but it helps when we feel loved and supported, even if they can’t understand what we’re going through.

To those who are suffering from chronic pain- or have another challenge they’re facing: Focus on the positive and you’ll find the positive. It helps. It can turn a shitty day into a good day. If you focus on the negative, all you’re going to find is the negative and I know that first hand. Know that you’re not alone and make an effort to connect with others who do understand, if only to help you keep your sanity intact.

For our family, we are working on finding things that work for us: improving communication within our marriage, speaking with counsellors, and setting realistic, flexible goals as things to look forward to and get us through the tough days have helped. Eating healthier and exercise have also made a difference. There is no formula, you have to find outlets that work for you, but they do exist. 

We hope sharing about this contributes to the conversation of tough topics in a positive way, to help break down the stigmas surrounding mental health and other challenges people face. Whether you are the person struggling with something or you know someone who is, we hope sharing about our journey helps in some way. Like the saying goes ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’- you never know by looking at someone what they may be facing in life, and sometimes something as simple as a smile or a hug can be the thing that turns someone’s day around. Life isn’t always happy and positive, sometimes you have to find your happy place, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean it’s not there. You just might have to work a little harder, but you’ll appreciate it that much more once you get there.

Photo credit: Ally Fotografy

Special thanks to The Free Reign Life and Ally Fotografy for helping us share our story. To learn more about how you can help end stigmas around tough- to- talk- about topics and be a part of the positive change visit The Free Reign Life  and #makeitREIGNcampaign on Instagram. 

 

 

March 16, 2017
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Oh Kale Yeah! Healthy Family Expo 2017 + Giveaway

Posted in Events, Health by

 

I’ve shared quite a bit about our family’s journey with health and wellness, with much of our experience centring around diet and more recently, fitness. With two members of the family having food sensitivities and an overall effort to make healthy lifestyle choices, it isn’t always easy and convenient, but we’ve seen the difference these efforts make. Some of the things we had to do cold- turkey (Ari going gluten and dairy free) and others we’ve added in over time (juicing regularly, more home- made meals and snacks, growing our own organic food, exercise), but in either case, learning about the options available to us and speaking to others who could share form experience helped inform many of our choices.

Later this month (March 26), one of my favourite events will be returning-Healthy Family Expo– and with it an amazing array of vendors whose goal it is to help attendees incorporate healthy choices into their lives. Whether you are looking to incorporate eco- friendly options into your home, want to try some new additions to the family menu (kale anyone?), or scout out some new fitness ideas, you won’t be disappointed with the variety of vendors the organizers line up. I’ve been to every HFE since it began and can’t say enough good things about the event; it’s also family- friendly, making it perfect for parents who bring the kids along (kids 15 and under get in free). Want to check it out for yourself? See details below plus get a 2- for- 1 promo code for tickets. See you there!

About the Healthy Family Expo

The Healthy Family Expo is a fun-filled day for the whole family that introduces Metro Vancouver parents to small steps & simple solutions for healthy, active, eco-friendly living.

Date: Sunday, March 26

Time: 9am- 5pm

Location: Vancouver Convention Centre (East Building) – 999 Canada Place Way

Tickets: Kids 0- 15 Free | Adults 16+ $15 | VIP Adults $24.95

Click here to purchase tickets online- use promo code OHP241 to get 2- for- 1 tickets!

  • Adult Expo tickets are $15 each online, cash at the door, or available at London Drugs from March 1-26.
  • Kids under 16 get in FREE and ALL ATTRACTIONS are included with admission!

Highlights of the 4th annual Healthy Family Expo:

  • Meeting popular CBC Kids characters Daniel Tiger, Super WHY!, Bookaboo & Scout
  • Bobs & LoLo and Jessie Farrell concerts featuring songs celebrating the natural world
  • HUGE Active Kid Zone with rock wall, giant hamster ball race track, Tumblebus & TumbleTown, Springfree trampolines, Sportball & Pedalheads play areas and more
  • 200+ exhibitors with healthy food sampling & eco-friendly products & services
  • Whole Foods Market Zone, London Drugs Health Zone, and brand new Toyota Canada Outdoor Living Zone, West Coast Kids Healthy Baby Zone, and Green Living Zone
  • Science World fire show and ninja & tumbling demonstrations on stage
  • Vancouver Aquarium AquaVan interactive zone for kids
  • $15,000 Grand Prize Showcase including a 1-year lease on a Toyota Prius c
  • Baby feeding & changing lounge with complimentary diapers, wipes & comfy seating
  • Family Rest Stop courtesy of Love Child Organics and lots of stroller parking
  • First 500 adults through the door receive a gift bag full of healthy product samples
  • First 200 adults through the door receive an adult pass to Science World; an
  • Partial proceeds of ticket sales support Canucks Autism Network sports programs.

Springfree Trampoline is a new addition to this year’s Active Kid Zone at the Expo. It’s a smart active living choice that delivers fun for the whole family and you can test-drive one for yourself at the event on March 26th.  And guess what? There are 2 chances to win one for your family!  One lucky family will be taking home a Springfree Trampoline through the Expo’s early bird ticket draw, and another one as part of the Expo’s Grand Prize Showcase (visit the Healthy Family Expo website for terms & conditions for those giveaways). That’s a prize valued at over $3000!

 

To get involved in the fun:

  1. Join the Expo 2017 Facebook Event to RSVP to win thousands in prizes at their March 23rd pre-Expo Facebook Party from 8 to 10 pm
  2. Buy tickets early to qualify to win a Springfree Trampoline
  3. Grab 2-for-1 adult tickets online using limited time promo code OHP241 

And to kick off the pre-Expo celebrations, organizers are giving away a $200 Healthy Family Expo 2017 shopping spree that one lucky winner will get to spend on their choice of exhibitors at the event on March 26th! This online giveaway runs from March 6 – 22, 2017, and the winner must be a British Columbia resident aged 19+ able to attend the Healthy Family Expo at the Vancouver Convention Centre between 9 am & 5 pm on March 26 to pick up and use the prize that day.

Enter for your chance to win through Rafflecopter below.

The winner will be announced at the pre-Expo Facebook Party on March 23rd, 2017!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

March 4, 2017
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30 Days Without Coffee

Posted in Health by

Back in November & December I went off coffee for a month. Before you say it, I know what you’re thinking: Why would you do that to yourself?! You’re crazy!  I definitely heard that plenty of times over those four weeks, along with ‘so how’s that going for you?’. And as hard as it was to give up my morning cup of caffeine- or 2 or 3- I knew I had to give it a try. If you’re like me, your morning cup of coffee is like an extension of your arm- it’s a part of you, you can’t live without it. You start the day off with a cup of coffee and end it with a glass of wine, amiright? 😉

But I was noticing something felt off- I was anxious, high- strung, and getting stressed out way too easily (don’t get me wrong, I’m a type- A, so I tend to be like this, and like to stay busy, but I was starting to feel like it was getting the better of me). So I made myself an appointment with our family naturopath (the same lovely, amazing woman who has helped us so much with Ari’s health) and knew there was a good chance I’d be saying adios to coffee for a while. It’s no secret caffeine can cause or worsen anxiety, so I thought it would be pretty high on the list of things to go.

There were a few other things discussed, including diet, but going coffee- free for a one- month trial was the main factor we discussed (and just for the record, my Doctor kindly mentioned that alcohol is no friend if you face anxiety). I just wasn’t willing to face a month without both- there’s only so much sanity- testing you can try at once- especially when you have kids! ;). I was curious to see how it would impact me; coffee is a part of my morning ritual, and aside from that, I genuinely enjoy coffee, especially on those rare days I get to drink it hot. It’s how I’ve started my day for over a decade, so going a month without the stuff was an interesting idea that had me making pots of decaf after Will had his morning cup (luckily it was getting close to Christmas, so I added eggnog to make it taste better).

But really, do we drink coffee because we need to or because we tells ourselves that we can’t face the day without a cup? I know people who quit drinking coffee, and they not only function (hey, some days that feels like an achievement!), but they swear it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. I’m not out to bash coffee here (and spoiler alert, yes I went right back to it after the month was up, but more on that later), but this was definitely an interesting experience and I thought I’d share about it. I know I’m not the only one who faces anxiety, and finding ways to help doesn’t have to be complicated, you just have to be willing to give them a try. If you’re curious, trying a ‘coffee cleanse’ might be something that helps you too, so I made notes throughout the month of how I felt and the differences I began to notice. Even if you don’t nix coffee for a month, I hope this gives you something to think about when it comes to your own health and well being.

30 days without coffee

Day 1- Headache and so LETHARGIC/ no energy. Took a nap and noticed I’m definitely edgy. Surprised how much not having a cup of coffee in the morning affected me, even if it was just a psychological boost to get the day started.

Day 2- Second day with a headache. Energy not great, but feeling better than yesterday. Made myself decaf and realized how much I do genuinely like/ enjoy coffee. Had McDonalds for lunch as my ‘poor me’ reward for voluntarily opting to nix coffee for a month. 28 days to go… YIPPEE.

Day 3- First day without a headache. Energy a little better.

Day 7- A friend brought over an Sbux Peppermint Mocha and not going to lie, I had a few sips (soooo good!). I just couldn’t resist. Then I did the nice thing and gave it to Will, but I think stopping myself at just 3 sips still counts as will power, no?

Day 8- Officially one week since this thing started. Overall feeling good, but still missing coffee. Had a grown- up tantrum this morning getting ready to head out with the kids and straight up said to Will ‘I’m really missing coffee today’. Poor guy- I think I was nicer when I was pregnant. Picked up a large decaf from Timmies and pretended it was the real thing- pretty much tasted like it was, so I was happy. Good ol’ Canadian girl right here, you can’t beat a good cup from Timmy’s, even if it’s sans caffeine.

Day 10- Noticing that I’m not as anxious, don’t feel stressed out/ overwhelmed as easily. Still feeling low- energy and missing the real thing, but definitely noticing a difference.

Day 15- Grateful it’s close to the holidays and I can pour eggnog in my decaf. I know some aren’t too bad but the stuff I have tastes like flavoured water and just not the start to the morning I want, so I’m letting myself have this little thing to make it taste better.

Day 17- Absolutely can’t deny my anxiety has come waaaaay down. Things that used to get to me don’t bother me as much or as quickly. I’m letting things go and being a little more of the easy going person I like to be. The kids make it tough, not going to lie, but I can’t deny the difference I’m noticing.

Day 20- Counting down the days and getting curious to see what it will be like to have coffee again after not drinking it for a while. Decided that I’ll limit myself to one cup a day when this is over and make decaf on days when I notice my anxiety is bad. I’m sure quitting coffee altogether would be best, but I also want to be realistic about this.

Day 23- Thinking about Bailey’s and coffee as we chat about decorating the tree…

Day 25- Soooo close to the end. Overall, my energy is ok; it’s not great but I don’t feel as lethargic as I did the first week (admittedly I know other factors like what I’m eating have to do with this as well). Glad I’ve stuck this thing out, even though I’ve been tempted (thanks to Will for encouraging me to keep going, even when he was the target of my grumpiness so many times!).

Day 27- Broke down and had a few sips of gourmet coffee at an event. OK, so I’m not perfect. I wasn’t go to but couldn’t resist (some of the best coffee I’ve ever had and couldn’t turn it down). And being this close to the end, I’m going to tell myself I deserve it. 😉

Day 30- LAST DAY!!! Looking forward to my first cup of coffee tomorrow. It’s seriously funny how much I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be stopping at one cup, instead of going back for more like I used to, and see how that works out. If I find my anxiety comes back, I’ll probably make the choice to give up coffee. As much as I love it, it’s not worth me feeling edgy, or the harm that stress and anxiety can do to the body. It’ll be interesting, and I’m hoping I’ve got myself in check these past few weeks to follow through with the goal of limiting myself.

After this experience, I can see why caffeine is considered a drug. I absolutely, 100% missed coffee, craved it, and went through withdrawals. It was a weird experience at first. But it also showed me that I really don’t need a cup of coffee (as much as I enjoy it). Noticing the difference in myself over that 30 days was a good reality check on how we can impact ourselves by the diet choices we make- even with something as simple as a morning ritual that we let get excessive. I get it, some days we just need that extra boost, another cup of coffee, or whatever it is to make the day more manageable, and we shouldn’t be hard on ourselves for it. I’ll always be the first to admit that I couldn’t adult without my coffee and wine, and I don’t want to sound preachy. If you’re having a rough morning, absolutely pour another cup. My point is that if you notice it’s starting to do more harm than good, maybe you need to take a step back and think about it, like I had to do.

What I’ve done since… For the most part, I’ve stuck to the 1 cup a day rule. There have been a handful of times since when I’ve let myself have more if I’m feeling happy & calm. If it’s a morning where I’m feeling anxious or off, I’ll avoid coffee altogether and opt for decaf instead. I’ve done that several times and have found that I can calm myself down and face whatever the day throws at me much better without the caffeine jolt buzzing my nerves. When I started the 30 days, I talked to Will about how I hoped to moved forward during and after this little test, and that if I had to, I’d give up coffee altogether. He was and is encouraging and understanding; on days when I’ve told him I opted for decaf he cheers on the choice I made to help make the day better. And as insubstantial as a cup of coffee may seem, it’s just one of many choices we can make in a day to help feel and be our best selves. Coffee is still something I enjoy- it really is a little ritual for me- but I treat it differently than I did before.

January 12, 2017
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On Letting Go & Loving Yourself {+ Giveaway}

When it rains for 2 months straight it makes it interesting when trying to organize an outdoor photoshoot. And of course living here it rains a lot this time of year. So that means sometimes you just need to go for it and shoot in the rain which makes for some crazy hair and plenty of laughs trying to get the shots you want. Thankfully Akane (the photographer I’ve been working with on a few posts) is pretty much up for anything and we ended the shoot with some hot chocolate to warm up. And as you’ll see in the photos, we just tried to laugh through the rain and make the most of the beautiful location. The photos for this post were important to me and I’m glad a little rain didn’t stop us.
But enough about the photoshoot adventure, I’m really excited for this post for a few reasons. The first is that yoga and fitness came back into my life in a big way this year; I had a big reminder in the Summer that I can’t forget to take care of myself and it was the kick in the butt I needed to get back into shape. I’m no star athlete, but I feel better mentally and physically knowing that I’ve made time to exercise in the week. I’m calmer, happier, and it feels good to be taking steps towards a healthier life overall. I’ve made it a priority, had to move some things around, but ultimately it hasn’t been as challenging as I thought it would to fit into my routine. Sometimes it’s just a few minutes of yoga at the end of the day, but it makes a difference. The second reason I’m really excited for this post is that comes with a GIVEAWAY (the last one of the year!) for you, the readers who have supported the blog and me, your love and support means more than you’ll ever know. I thought what better way to go into the holiday season than with a gift for you? I’ve teamed up with some pretty amazing brands- Try On Love, Kristina Benson Art, Free Reign, Mint & Birch, and Built for This Baby– to help you treat yourself, and to serve as a reminder that you can’t forget to LOVE YOURSELF as well as everyone else you care for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was organizing this post, I wanted to work with brands that would help me share my message about not forgetting to make time for yourself, to LOVE yourself, whenever and however you get the time to do so. I know it can be tough, so that’s why I’m hoping this post will help you feel loved and serve as a reminder that what you do is important, you are amazing, and just trying counts for something. We all have challenges and bad days, but we can still find a few minutes for ourselves and it’s so important to do so, so we can be the best version for everyone we love and for ourselves.
So why did I choose the brands I did for this giveaway? With the tee I’m wearing from Try on Love, you probably don’t need any more explanation. This shop is all about being a gentle reminder to love. To love yourself and others, it really does make a difference in the world. What better message could you hope for? Each piece has a small quartz gemstone- the universal gemstone of love- sewn in as a special touch, and I felt these pieces spoke to the message I’ve been sharing about these past few months. Love is such a powerful force, and one that can help people when they’re hurting the most; you never know when a simple gesture can make the difference in someone’s day. Kristina Benson, the talented lady behind the leggings, has combined her passion of art and fitness to create wearable art that becomes a part of your personal journey. The ones I’m wearing are the Surrender leggings. I didn’t realize there was a special meaning behind them until I spoke more with Kristina about them and how this design represented letting go and being at peace. Without knowing it, I had made my selection based on where I was emotionally: trying to let go of some things and move on, to be at peace with things I had been struggling with. All of her designs have a story behind them and they’re as beautiful as they are comfortable to wear.
And if that water bottle from Free Reign looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same one I received on my yoga retreat this Fall (see here and here for more). The founder, Melanie, suffers from chronic pain and is helping to spread the word about not suffering in silence, to have compassion, and to be open about your journey. This lady, her message, and her products have a special place in my heart for very personal reasons and I’m so grateful to have met her. Individuals like this are the positive change we so need in this world and she helped me earlier this year as I worked through some very personal challenges. Mint & Birch is another brand I’ve loved for a long time, and Jessica’s beautiful pieces are all handmade by this talented mama. This bar necklace is a custom piece that says Live Laugh Love in Latin. When she asked me what I wanted, I knew I wanted something I would wear everyday as a reminder for what’s important to me, to represent the journey I’d been on this year. She hand- stamps her pieces, making each one unique and one of a kind, and I love that she pours her heart into her work.
And finally, Built for This Baby is a program I’m excited to share about, helping women to find their inner strength through pregnancy, birth, and beyond. I attended one of Georgia’s workshops this Fall and learnt so much about how my well being and emotional state was much more than what was going on outside of myself- nutrition, sleep, and self care all play in a role- and she reminded me of that. It can be hard, but we can’t forget about ourselves; we have to be advocates for ourselves as well as those we care for. Through yoga, conversation, and guidance from this woman of many talents, I reflected on my journey through motherhood and how it has impacted me, how it affects all women differently. You don’t have to be a new mom to appreciate this program and I am grateful programs like this exist to help us feel connected with ourselves and others as we embrace all that life throws at us, especially when it can feel like we’re losing ourselves trying to keep up with everything.
So now you can see why I fell in love with each of these amazing collaborators and the people behind them. There are so many individuals working to do good in this world, to help us move through life the best way we can, and to be ok when things don’t go smoothly. It’s a journey we’re all on together, and you can’t forget about yourself along the way. This has been a big learning curve for me this year, and I feel like it’s one many others are going through as well. Feeling loved, recognized, and having your feelings acknowledged can make such a difference when you feel overwhelmed. I hope to carry into 2017 with this new- found wisdom and build on what this year started and that you’ll enjoy some exciting things with me and the blog in the new year. This isn’t the last post of the year, but it’s one close to my heart, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did putting it together.
So what’s up for grabs for one of you lucky readers?
– LOVE tee from Try on Love
– water bottle from Free Reign
– $40 towards a cuff bracelet from Mint & Birch
– 1- on- 1 nutritional consultation with Georgia of Built for this Baby
– plus all readers can enjoy 25% off a pair of leggings from Kristina Benson Art with code LEGGINGS 2538
Enter below and enjoy making time for YOU in 2017! Thank you to everyone who has supported TPB so far including you, my readers, and the amazing brands I’ve been able to work with.
OXOX KP
Instagram: @akanekondophoto
Instagram: @tryonlove
Instagram: @kristinabensonart
Instagram: @thefreereignlife
Facebook: Free Reign
Instagram: @mintandbirch
Facebook: Mint and Birch
Instagram: @builtforthisbaby
December 6, 2016
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What to Pack for a Yoga Getaway

Posted in Fitness, Health, Yoga by
Sometimes you just to need to stop. Step back. Breath. And last month I was given the chance to do just that. Thanks to my friend Janette of Ava to Zoe, a group of us ladies got away for 2 blissful nights at Nectar Yoga B & B on Bowen Island. We enjoyed some yoga & meditation, sipped some wine, and enjoyed slowing down and coming off of our busy routines. I shared about our time at Nectar in this post and today I wanted to share about some the other details from the trip. Not only did Janette organize the whole thing, she spoiled us with some amazing swag bags loaded with everything we’d need for our time away- including the clothes we’d wear while we got our yoga on.
She did such an amazing job bringing together everything we’d need that I thought it would be good to share about it for anyone else thinking about planning a yoga getaway with the girls. I’ve also given some extra info about the items she picked out for the getaway throughout the post, so if you see something you like you can check out the amazing brands behind the item.
So what to bring when you’re planning a well- deserved yoga getaway? Here’s what I’d suggest based on our 2 days away.
Yoga Getaway Packing List
yoga apparel
think: comfortable/ doesn’t restrict movement
hat & warm clothes
if planning a getaway in the cooler months, or pack according to the season
dress clothes & heels
in case you want a night out
wine 
no explanation needed!
water bottle 
to stay hydrated after enjoying that wine… and yoga of course
hair ties/ hair bands 
seems simple enough, but having your hair falling all over your face while doing downward facing dog can be annoying
bag to carry yoga gear in 
many places will supply you with mats, blocks, etc, but it’s good to know if these are supplied- especially if you’re organizing your own retreat
yoga gear 
if needed, see above
healthy snacks
and some not so healthy, because what’s a girls trip without treats?
toiletries
maybe splurge on some nice soap & lotion to give yourself some TLC after your yoga session
candles, movies & magazines
basically, whatever else you’d like to bring to treat yourself and set the mood for a few days of R &R
don’t forget things like your pjs, a good pair of athletic shoes, and anything else you might need depending on time of year & where you’re going (ie a bathing suit for Summer)

 

Thanks to RYU, we each received two tops and a pair of pants, so we’d be all set when we arrived and have less to pack  (but let’s be honest, I just filled that extra space in my bags with more shoes 😉 ). When you learn about the mantra this brand has towards it’s apparel and those who wear it, you can see why it was a perfect fit for a trip like this. In an email we received from the brand that they send out to the athletes who wear their clothes, they speak of the ‘beautiful tough’ and that despite the challenges we face, to always look for the beauty in life. Not just with the aesthetics, but through things like actions, thoughts, and deeds. I loved this idea of the ‘beautiful tough’ and as the time on Bowen unfolded, I could see how each of us had our own challenges we were facing, but how we were pushing through them, each showing strength in our own way.

 

When it came time to enjoy the yoga sessions with Andria at Nectar, having pieces that were comfortable and moved with us was much appreciated. When you’re stretching and moving your body into different positions, having clothes that work with you rather than restrict you can make a big difference. Janette really thought of everything we would need and made sure we stayed hydrated with beautiful water bottles from Free Reign (the story behind this brand and it’s owner Melanie is an inspiring one), hair accessories from Goody, zipper pouches from From the Seeds for things like lipgloss and other girlie items, and wine (yes to wine!!!) from Evolve Cellars. If you know me, you know I love my wine, and the Pinot Blanc & Pinot Noir we got to enjoy were the perfect ending to our days on Bowen. And I just have to mention how perfect I thought the name was- ‘Evolve’- to come along on our trip that included reflection and moving forward in new directions.
Janette pulled everything together in beautiful tote bags from Oh My Dear Loves (which feature original artwork by the owner all created by hand either through screen printing or linocut stamps), and it was like kids on Christmas morning as we opened our bags of goodies. There were also items from Karma & Soul (love my beanie!), a yoga care kit from Sage, and a hand- poured candle from Free Reign. We seriously got spoiled and all appreciated how much time and effort Janette put into organizing everything.

 

 

Life can get busy. Crazy. Chaotic. It’s important that we find time to slow it down and reset. Time is finite and memories are priceless, so let’s make our time here as good as we can. Thanks Janette for pulling together this crazy group of gals and to Heyde & Kristy for being the ladies I shared this time with (and bonus thanks to Kristy for capturing the beautiful photos!). If you want more info about the brands Janette included in our yoga getaway bags, see below for a full list.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this getaway so special:
Photo credit: Kristy Powers

Nectar Yoga B & B
Facebook: Nectar Yoga B&B Bowen Island
Twitter: @NectarYogaBnB
Instagram: @nectaryogabnb

Ryu Apparel
Facebook: RYU Apparel Inc.
Instagram: @ryu_apparel
Twitter: @RYU_apparel

Karma & Soul
Facebook: Karma & Soul
Instagram: @karmaandsoul
Twitter: @karmaandsoul

Free Reign
Facebook: FREE REIGN
Instagram: @thefreereignlife

Oh My Dear Loves
Facebook: Ohmydearloves
Instagram: @ohmydearloves
Twitter: @ohmydearloves


From the Seeds
Instagram: @fromtheseeds
Facebook: From the Seeds

Evolve Cellars
Facebook: Evolve Cellars
Instagram: @evolvecellars

Sage
Facebook: Sage Wellness
Instagram: @sajewellness

Goody
Facebook: GOODY
Twitter: @goodyhair

November 23, 2016
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