Hands up who needs all the help they can get staying organized/ remembering all the things? Most days there’s a to- do list a mile long that’s never ending and usually something gets forgotten. Sound familiar? My survival skill is to make lists. And sometimes lists of lists. Usually that way I can at least keep track of everything even if it doesn’t all get done (and let’s face it, it pretty much never does 😉 ).
There’s always lots to remember and keep track of and with school around the corner there’s about to be more to remember. With Ari starting preschool in the Fall I’ll take all the help I can get when it comes to getting more organized and keep track of the to- dos. For the past few weeks I’ve been trying out Picniic, a family organizer app that helps you keep track of things like activities, meal planning/ groceries, and items on your to- do list, with notifications popping up on your phone as things come up. All members of the family can download the app and link to the same account so everyone can stay updated and see the same info, add to the calendar and grocery list, and keep track of upcoming special dates such as birthdays and anniversaries.
August is a busy month- it feels busier than usual this year- and staying organized/ keeping track of what’s coming up helps me keep calm when I look at what needs to get done each day. Especially on days that feel overwhelmingly busy, reminding myself to prioritize, focus on one thing at a time, and check things off as I go makes the day go smoother. Even if I don’t get through everything on the list by the end of the day, knowing I worked my way through and checked off the most important things first means that I stress less about what didn’t get done.
With kids it can be tough to get through everything that needs to get done in a day- and even to remember everything you’re trying to get done- and Picniic helps not only you, but everyone in the family stay organized. There have been days where I make a mental note of something and remember later that I needed to remember something, but can’t remember what it is that I needed to remember! With Picniic I can quickly make a note in my phone so I can come back to it later and remind myself; I can then make a note in the app’s calendar or create a new list/ add an item to an existing one to help me keep track.
Hands down my favourite/ most- used features of the app are the lists and calendar, but I’m looking forward to using the meal planning tool more as well. Picniic is quick to set up/ simple to use, and everything is in one place and easily accessible which I appreciate.
For families with young kids it’s a great tool to help us parents stay on the same page (even if your hubby doesn’t add to it, he can see what’s coming up on the calendar, etc) and with older kids I can see how this app would be a useful tool for everyone in the family: older kids can enter their own info/ see what’s on the family calendar, as well as add notes for upcoming activities, events, and due dates for school work. Picniic can be used on a phone, tablet, and computer, making it an accessible organization tool wherever you and members of the family are.
Here’s how the app appears on a phone & computer:
The app is also launching a new feature, Pia, today to help personalize the app for your family and make recommendations based on usage so families can get the most out of the app and it’s features (learn more about Pia below). If you’re trying to find simple ways to stay organized, definitely check out Picniic to help keep your family on top of everything.
Calendar- day/ week/ month options to keep track of upcoming events and important dates
To- Do & Lists- create to- do lists and lists by title/ category to stay organized
Shopping List- add recipe ingredients and items as you’re running low
Info Locker- include info for key contacts like doctors, medical info such as insurance provider, and household info like wifi network and password
Special Events- store important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries
Meal Planner- organize meals for the week ahead, including ingredients and recipes
Recipes- search online or add your own custom recipes
Family Locator- see where members of the family are near or far
Picniic is an app designed to help families be more organized. It acts as a personal assistant for use by the entire family on mobile, web, and tablet. Picniic has features including family member location tracking, assigned to- dos and chores, meal planners, information lockers for all your important records, and more. It’s easy for families to not be on the same page with information spread through multiple family members and locations, and slipping through the cracks. Picniic family assistant bridges this gap, and helps everyone stay connected.
Launching on August 8th, Picniic is introducing it’s latest feature, PIA, an intelligent persona similar to Siri. PIA will help families connect with Picniic further and making recommendations based on how they use the app. PIA will help families be proactive by reaching out with suggestions to keep them organized and prepared.
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.
Every Spring as the weather is getting warmer I start to get everything organized for the heat of the Summer- water shoes and sandals, hats, beach essentials, swim suits… and sunscreen. And each year I try to find a natural option that isn’t loaded with chemicals while keeping my family from turning into lobsters (no olive skin/ 5 minutes to bronzed over here, we fair- skinned folks have to build up a tan over a looooong time). There seem to be some general things to look out for, some questionable, and some that you want for sun protection. As I did the research for this post I tried to simplify the information and make recommendations based on what I found* (I’ve also included the sources that I referred to at the end of the post so you can do some research for yourself if you wish). It’s sometimes hard to find quality options in grocery stores, so all of the options below are ones that you can easily find online (you can also find them in natural/ health food stores). See some of the good and bad things to look for in sunscreens and a few suggestions to try this Summer below- just add sun!
For more natural sunscreen options available online check out Well.ca and Amazon– if you’re unsure about some of the products you find, Google search them by name and you should be able to find their ingredients listed along with information about how they really measure up (that’s how I discovered one of my old go- tos wasn’t as good as I thought).
One other thing I learned while researching the sunscreens to include in this post: if you like sunscreens in spray form (ie in an aerosol/ pressurized can), look closely at the ingredients, as they may not be cause for concern when applied to the skin, but inhaling them has it’s own set of concerns (this article was informative on this topic). This opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms, so I didn’t include any aerosol suggestions, just a cream that you can spray on without it becoming a mist).
* Please note that these recommendations are based on research and information I found online. I am not making medical or scientific recommendations, and as with any skincare product if in doubt, apply a small amount to a test area prior to use.
Who has a Thomas fan at home? My two- especially Ari- love the blue engine and his friends and it’s always one of the top TV requests in our home. I remember watching Thomas as a kid and I love that he’s still around and as popular as ever. Our house has become littered with wooden train sets and countless trains, and Ari has even requested a Thomas themed birthday party this year. She doesn’t know it yet, but we’re taking her to meet Thomas later this month in Squamish and I’ve got the chance for your family to win a 4- pack of tickets so your little Thomas fan can too!
Thomas makes annual appearances at West Coast Railway Heritage Park every year and he’ll be back again from May 20- 22. Not only do you get to meet the blue engine himself, your family can also enjoy a variety of activities.
20 minute train ride with Thomas the Tank Engine
Photos with Thomas at the station
Meet Sir Topham Hatt
Magician and musician performances
Play on Thomas train tables
Thomas theme mini-golf
Sand Castle Building
Thomas craft tables
Model Railway Display
Scroll to the end of the post for more info, to purchase tickets, and to enter to win a family 4 pack of tickets!
We’re heading into gardening season on the West Coast and I’m already looking forward to the warm months to come spent outside digging in the dirt. For the past few years we’ve planted edible gardens and last year was the first full season of us planting our two raised box gardens full; everything from kale to peas. Will and I both enjoy gardening and the output from all our hard work, and we’ve enjoyed teaching Ari about gardening and plants the past two Summers. Gardening is definitely a labour of love, but you can enjoy it on as big or as small of a scale as you like. I joke that our back yard is my favourite room of the house in Spring and Summer and soaking up the Vitamin D in our backyard is one of my favourite ways to unwind.
With Ari turning four this year, we’re looking forward to her helping even more in the garden, even if it’s only simple tasks, it’s something she loves and a great opportunity to teach her about growing food and nature. Our goal is to grow organic food and make the most of homegrown eats through the Spring and Summer, while also teaching our kids a love and appreciation for the outdoors and letting them be a part of the process. You don’t need a lot of space to enjoy gardening- pots, containers, and vertical gardens are all great small- space options- and there are methods to make the most of even small garden plots. Even if gardening isn’t a passion- maybe it’s something you just want to dapple in- or want to teach your kids about how plants grow, I thought I’d round- up some reading material to kickstart gardening season.
I’m sharing 5 books below to help build your gardening library, including a few titles for kids, so everyone in the family can enjoy their time digging in the dirt. All titles available from Raincoast Books.
What Will Grow?
This book for kids teaches about a variety of different seeds and what they grow into- everything from peas and tomatoes to oak trees and sunflowers. It’s perfect to teach kids about how plants grow from seeds and that they can transform into many things: flowers, trees, fruits, or vegetables. A great intro to gardening for young readers that includes info about seed growth and simple tips to start your own garden, plus four pull- out pages that kids will love. The pages are full of bright illustrations with planting tips for all of the seeds featured at the back of the book, along with the stages of growth from seed to full- grown plant.
By Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt
What happens in the dirt that we don’t see? Lots of things! This kids’ book shows the hidden world of nature below the garden surface plus all the activity that happens above ground through the four seasons. Everything from worms and other bugs, to the animals and creatures that call the garden home. This a great book to teach kids about all of the critters that are a part of the garden world throughout the year and shows how it changes through the seasons- from prepping the garden for planting, to the final harvest of the year. At the end of the book is a list of suggested further reading for little gardeners along with an ‘about the animals’ section to teach kids about the creatures featured throughout the book.
By Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
The Little Veggie Patch Co. DIY Garden Projects
This book is loaded with ideas for garden projects, ranging from simple ideas for kids to all- out garden DIYs. Whether you’re looking for garden space ideas- want to build your own vertical garden, repurpose items to help plants grow, or want to attract garden- friendly bugs to your yard?- or get your kids involved, this book has over 250 pages loaded with ideas, all accompanied by easy to follow step- by- step instructions and photos to help you complete your project. I’ve already got a few bookmarked to try with the kids and I’ve seen a few DIYs I’d like to try making for our box gardens as well. I like that this book can help you from start to finish of setting up and growing a garden, plus has simple ideas to get the kids involved.
By Mat Pember and Dillon Seitchik- Reardon
Tiny Garden, Huge Harvest
Don’t have a lot of room but still want to grow some yummy things with your green thumb? This book provides tips for small plot and container gardening with step- by- step instructions for designing, planting, and harvesting. It shows that you don’t need a lot of space, you just need to make the most of it. It includes tips for different garden options- vertical, tiered, pot/ container gardening, as well as what kind of garden you’re thinking of: do you want to be able to harvest and eat what you grow, or simply enjoy the act of gardening? It also has information about gardening techniques and what to do with the food you grow, including garden planning, four- season gardening, succession planting, and how to preserve harvested edibles. At the back of the book is a handy index with information on a variety of edible varieties including some popular herbs. Added bonus: this is a little book loaded with info- it’s about the size of a postcard, making it perfect to tuck into your bag when you head to store to buy gardening supplies and want a quick reference guide.
By Caleb Warnock
Herbs + Flowers
Maybe something on a simpler scale is what you’re looking for? This little book is a great guide for growing more than 32 kinds of herbs and edible flowers (have you seen how pretty a salad looks garnished with fresh flowers?) and has beautiful illustrations of all the plants featured. Each variety is outlined with key information including how it tastes, when to plant and pick, and serving suggestions (ie fresh dill is nice eaten raw or cooked and pairs well with cucumber, lime, lemon, and red peppers, among other tasty combinations). It also includes substitution suggestions, so you can try out different options if a certain plant doesn’t grow well for you (I’ve tried growing basil from a seed unsuccessfully, so have opted to buy a small plant in the past, but other ideas according to the book include mint, lemon balm, and oregano). Another great reference book to tuck into your bag to take to the store when you stock up, and a simple/ enjoyable read no matter what your skill/ expertise level.
By Pip McCormac, illustrated by Louise O’Reilly
All of the books listed above are available through Raincoast Books.
By now I think it’s well known I love a good DIY, and Easter is no different. I wanted to try doing naturally dyed eggs at home, plus a few other simple ideas for decorating eggs: chalk paint and glitter- covered eggs. I thought a variety would be fun plus Ari loved the chance to help decorate them. The chalk paint and glitter eggs are quick and simple to make, but I’ve provided info on how we did the natural dye eggs since there was a little more involved with them.
I’ve been eyeing up the naturally dyed Easter eggs that I’ve seen others share about and finally thought I’d try making them this year with Ari at home. I’ll admit that it takes a little while to make the natural dyes and you’ll want to put down some paper to avoid spills/ stains, but it’s fun to try and Ari had a blast. For some other fun Easter ideas scroll to the end of this post to see the Easter party I teamed up on with Creative Wife & Joyful Worker (where you’ll find her DIY for making those gold foil eggs) and Discovering Parenthood.
NATURAL DYE EGGS
Making the dye for all 4 colours of eggs starts with the same mixture of ingredients + whatever additive is needed to create the colour.
For the dye base:
4 cups water
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp salt
For pink eggs- 4 cups roughly chopped beets
For yellow eggs- 4 tbsp ground tumeric
For green eggs-6 cups spinach, chopped + 1 tbsp ground tumeric
For blue eggs- 4 cups red cabbage, chopped
Combine water, vinegar, and salt in a large pot, followed by the dye ingredient for the colour you want to make.
Bring to a boil, then simmer for half an hour uncovered.
Strain the dye liquid from the solid ingredient (for the tumeric used for the yellow and green dye you can use cheesecloth to help strain). Transfer to a large canning jar or other container to cool. Repeat until you have all of the dyes for the colours you want to make (I added some of the tumeric dye for yellow eggs to the green dye mixture because I didn’t think the green dye from the spinach would turn out. I’m glad I added it because the eggs turned out really green).
Once the liquid has cooled, submerge your eggs and leave over night in the fridge.
Tip: I’d suggest using hard boiled eggs, since they sink and will absorb the dye equally over the whole shell surface. We tried using artificial white eggs plus hard boiled brown and white eggs to see how they would turn out. The artificial eggs didn’t absorb the dye as well and came out more pastel (which is still pretty, just might not be the result you want), plus I found it was easy to wipe the dye off of them after we took them out of the jars, so the coverage wasn’t as nice/ even. I like the artificial eggs more for the other two styles of eggs I made- chalk paint and glitter- covered.
CHALK PAINT EGGS
Eggs (we used the artificial eggs left over from the natural dye batch and I liked how they worked for this)
Chalk paint in various colours
Using a sponge brush, paint one half of each egg (either top or bottom) and allow to dry in an egg carton. Flip and repeat.
Apply a second coat if needed (I found the second coat gave nice coverage)
Eggs (we added glitter to some of the chalk paint eggs, but I love the idea of doing this with plain white eggs as well)
Liquid glue or mod podge
Using a sponge brush, coat one half of the egg in glue and sprinkle glitter over top and allow to dry in an egg carton. Flip and repeat.
Tap loose glitter to remove. If you want to avoid glitter getting everywhere, add a second coat of glue or mod podge over top to seal the glitter.
Like I said, I love the chance to make a mess and get a little crafty. I guess it’s about that time to start adding some Spring and Easter decor around the house and these eggs are perfect for that (but I’d maybe just stick with the artificial eggs if they’re going to be used for more than a day or two 😉 ). They’re pretty displayed in glass jars and vases or scattered on your table for Easter dinner. See the photos below for some ideas of how to style an Easter table/ party and the links to the other Easter projects included in the Easter collab with Creative Wife and Joyful Worker and Discovering Parenthood.
For other fun Easter ideas see these posts from our Easter collab:
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.
Will and I have driven Ford vehicles for years. Between the 2 of us we’ve owned 4 since we’ve been driving and have joked that our driveway looks like a mini Ford dealership. The first vehicle I bought and paid off was a Ford Ranger and the day I sold it to buy my current vehicle- a Ford Escape- was a little heartbreaking. When we decided to jump at the chance to preemptively buy a more family- friendly vehicle, I had to say bye- bye to my baby. I loved that little truck, and have never given up on the idea that I might own another one again…
And then I got the chance to test out an F- 150 this Summer. I literally jumped for joy (see Instagram for that photo). I got to try it out for daily use (how much room for car seats and all our stuff? how difficult would it be to park?) and drive it to beautiful Bowen Island for a girls weekend getaway (how much stuff could we pack into this thing?!). I’m not usually the one to offer to drive, but this baby practically purred and it was such a pleasure to drive I was excited to get behind the wheel as much as I could.
For all of you that follow the blog on Instagram and saw my blog post about my girls weekend getaway, you have probably seen photos of the F- 150 I got to enjoy driving for a week. Ford Canada trusted me with this beauty to use and abuse for 7 days and it was really hard to give it back. Really. Seriously. Hard. We’ve discussed what our next vehicle will be if we decide to have a 3rd kid and/ or want to buy something that will suit our lifestyle as our kids get older- think camping, hunting, road tripping, etc- and this was a great chance to see if an F- 150 would suit our needs. Our Escape is great, but we know that we would eventually like a bigger vehicle and we both love the idea of an F- 150.
Having the chance to drive this truck for a week gave me enough time to get comfortable driving it and testing out all the features. At first I was a little nervous driving such a big vehicle, but within minutes of driving it I felt right at home. This truck was a bit of an ego- boost for me- I loved driving it and it was such a smooth, quiet ride. Sitting up high is a fun way to drive and it makes parking easy- you can see all around the vehicle, and if you need it, there is back- up assistance. This had been another thing I was curious about and while I think it takes a bit of practice, this truck wasn’t so challenging to park that I had to take up 2 stalls (at least not after a few tries! 😉 ). I prefer to back into a stall and the benefit of a truck is you can see the back end when you reverse, so I was more comfortable parking this way. And of course, for those of you who prefer, you can use the back up assist for extra help. See below for photos and vehicle features!
What I loved:
The fuel economy(!!!)
This was one of my big questions I had about moving up to a truck: what would it be like on gas? And I was really impressed with the answer I got. I expected to have to fill it up after only a few days of driving (I’ve heard horror stories about how some trucks are on gas) but I didn’t have to until I returned it after 7 days of driving, including a 120 km round- trip drive to Bowen Island. And the low- tank indicator hadn’t even come on yet. Thank you Ford for the 3.5L EcoBoost engine!
This baby was spacious! Whether it was us with the kids, or the 5 gals heading to Bowen, there was always plenty of room to spare. And the seats were so comfortable. Ford has really thought of everything when it comes to driving in comfort and it didn’t hurt that this truck was gorgeous inside and out (the twin panel moon roof made for some beautiful Summer driving). When I would get in and push- start the engine, the driver’s seat would slide into my preferred position and we were off!
It’s hard to narrow down everything I loved about this truck, because I really loved it all- from grille to tailgate- and it was such a pleasure to drive. The other things I appreciated were the touch screen that managed everything from my phone, music, GPS, and back- up assistance, (the list goes on), the heated/ cooled leather seats that were as comfortable as recliners to sit in, and the spacious cab and box- you can fold up the rear seats for extra room or store items under them, which is great for families looking for a practical option. This truck also had manners- when you opened the doors, the side rails would automatically come out so you could step up into the cab, and would automatically withdraw when the door closed. I know this is a novel thing to mention, but I appreciated features like this- especially with two little ones to pack in and out!
When the time comes to buy another vehicle, an F- 150 is definitely at the top of our list and this experience helped us see what owning a truck like this would be like and answered our questions regarding things like fuel economy, space, and features we would appreciate in our next vehicle. Whether for function or pleasure, there’s a reason F- 150s are such a popular choice. For more vehicle features that come standard on the Ford F- 150 Limited, see below.
Standard Features on the Ford F- 150 Limited
Pro Trailer Backup Assist with Hook- Up Light Simply turn a knob to indicate how much you need to turn the trailer and the system will steer the truck to turn the traler to the desired amount 8″ LCD Productivity Screen All the information you need right in front of you including furl usage and towing data with a customizable home screen Seasonal Comfort Stay comfortable no matter what time of the year with heated/ cooled front seats, dual- zone electronic automatic temperature control, and a heated steering wheel Safety First Collision warning with brake control if sensors detect a potential collision with the car ahead of you. Adaptive cruise control detects traffic slowing and decelerates in response using sensors in the grille Seeing is Believing Class exclusive 360 degree camera with split- view display stitches images together from 4 cameras (in the grille and tailgate, and under each side mirror) so you can see all sides of the truck Voice- Activated Sync 3 Make a call with the push of a button and the sound of your voice Voice- Activated Navigation System Hands- free, voice activated technology helps you find your destination while keeping your hands on the wheel Blind Spot Information System Sensors detect traffic in driver’s blind spot and provides a visual warning Power & Efficiency 3.5L Ecoboost engine delivers 6% higher city and 11% higher highway fuel efficiency over previous model for an efficient and durable driving experience Reverse Sensing System Provides audible alerts to help you avoid obstacles while backing up Twin Panel Moonroof Extends over the front and back seat to allow for beautiful overhead views and fresh air with the push of a button Fully Flat Load Floor Flip up the rear seats in SuperCrew models for extra space
A big thank you to Ford Canada for giving me the chance to drive this beautiful truck!
It’s that time of year when we start to spend more time inside and have to get creative with keeping the kids busy. It’s not always easy (is it ever???) keeping them entertained when the weather isn’t so great and everyone is getting restless. Who else can relate? Crafts, reading, games, and puzzles are some of our favourite indoor activities and I try to have a variety on hand to keep Ari occupied on days when we’re stuck inside.
I had the pleasure of working with Raincoast Books earlier this year (see here, here, and here for other posts with them) and they have organized a great line- up of fun books & activities to make the cooler months when we get cozy inside a little more entertaining. I’m sharing about 2 of their games/ activities from their most recent #PlayTestShare collection plus get to give a lucky reader 2 games/ activities of their choice (see below to enter!). Check out the 2 we got to try and get some fun ideas to keep your kids entertained this Fall!
Herve Tullet’s Zazazoom! A Game of Imagination
This 3- in- 1 open- ended game helps kids improve memory skills and use their imaginations. One part matching, one part dominoes, and one part memory, take your pick based on your child’s interests and abilities with Matching Game, Road Builder, and Pattern Grower. This popular children’s author (titles include Press Here, Mix It Up, and Let’s Play!) has created a fun set of games that encourage creativity and constructive thinking.
I love that you can pick the game(s) suited to your child’s interests and how each one encourages kids to use their imagination and creativity a little differently. We’re big fans of Herve Tulle in our house (see this post) and this set of games is perfect to accompany his books. I like that each game posed a different challenge and Ari and her friends really had fun playing them (I think Road Builder was the biggest hit).
Punch Out & Play Book
Loaded with 10 puzzles and 13 classic games including Memory, Go Fish, and Dominoes, this book is full of fun for kids of all ages. With art and designs by Laura Ljungkvist, the book comes with punch- out envelopes to easily store all of the games and puzzles your kids punch out.
This book is loaded with activities and kids will probably want to help punch out all the pieces (the 3 girls definitely did!). I’ve seen ideas on Pinterest for busy bags and this book reminded me of them- simple ideas to keep kids entertained with the added bonus of them using their brains at the same time. This would be perfect to bring on a plane if you travel with your kids and need to keep them entertained for a long period of time, or pack a few of the envelopes in the car on days when you run errands with the kids. With 23 games and puzzles, you can switch up the selection at home and in the car so your kids don’t get bored playing with the same one all the time.
To see all of the games/ activities included in Raincoast Books most recent #PlayTestShare selection, click here. And for more ways to enter, visit my friend Tamara’s post on her blog Discovering Parenthood! Click here to see her #PlayTestShare post with Raincoast Books.
Want to have some fun indoors this Fall? Enter below for your chance to win any 2 of the 9 games/ activities from the most recent #PlayTestShare selection!
Who’s on the hunt for ideas to keep the kids busy now that Summer vacation is in full swing?
If you’re wanting to do a day trip or a mini getaway, Whistler is a great destination and from July 8th- 10th the Whistler Children’s Festival organized by Arts Whistler is returning for it’s 33rd year. Take the family and enjoy everything this great event has to offer including creative workshops for kids 3+, a variety of great performances, and free activities such as face painting and crafts. If you’ve been before I’d love to hear what the highlights were for your family! See below for complete event details.
When: July 8- 10th, 2016
Friday Kick- Off Dance Party from 5- 8pm
Saturday & Sunday from 10am- 4pm
Where: Whistler Olympic Plaza, right in the heart of Whistler Village
What: free activities, creative workshops, and performances
Admission: $15 for children 3- 15 years; kids 2 and under and adults 16+ are free
Register your kids ages 3+ in one (or more!) of the fun workshops at the WCF including
– Backwoods Birdhouses
– CircusWest: Balance & Aerial Hoop
– Dynamic Drumming
– Energizing Dance
– Up- up and Awake Yoga
Click here to view all of the workshops at the WCF and to register.
Admission to the WCF also gets you access to these fun & free activities!
– Patio Stones
– Face painting
– Balloon Creations with Jazz the Balloon Man
– Hula Hoop Zone
– Trash- a- saurus
– Yarn Bomb Tents
… and more!
Click here to view the full list of free activities.
A variety of live performances will take place over the 3- day festival, including
– The School of Moves
– The Purple Pirate
– The Kerplunks
– The African Village Experience
… and more!
Click here to view the full list of performances and show times
About the Whistler Children’s Festival
Celebrating its 33rd anniversary this year, the Whistler Children’s Festival is Whistler’s longest-running community festival and the only child-focused summer festival in the region. The Festival has grown with Whistler’s community to provide a dynamic, unique cultural experience for both residents and visiting families. The ultimate goal of the Festival is to foster youth engagement through experiential learning, and this goal is accomplished each year through an offering of live performances, free activities, and a diverse offering of hands-on creative workshops.
This year, the main stage at Whistler Olympic Plaza will feature performance groups, on-site roving performers, dozens of paid workshops led by local professionals, and tons of free activities. The Festival will also feature the RBC Emerging Artists Stage, showcasing young talents from the Sea to Sky Corridor. Arts Whistler has a long-standing mission to support emerging artists through a variety of annual programs, events, and festivals, and the Whistler Children’s Festival has been an incubator of emerging performers and artists who have gone on to continue their creative work in many other areas.
What are you hoping to do and see at the Whistler Arts Festival? Visit the WCF Facebook event page to invite friends and family and share what you get up to at WCF 2016 on social media with #ArtsWhistler #WCF2016
Follow Arts Whistler for event info and other activities/ events:
Arts Whistler has been the premier arts advocacy organization in Whistler since 1982, supporting local artists and organizations to develop arts programs, and promoting Whistler as a unique destination for cultural tourism. A respected community stakeholder and non-profit organization, Arts Whistler leverages strategic government and business partnerships to increase community engagement and opportunities through year-round festivals, events, and arts programs. Annual signature events include ArtWalk, Whistler Children’s Festival, Bizarre Bazaar, Art on the Lake, Whistler Street Entertainment, and the Performance Series.
Arts Whistler operates out of the Maury Young Arts Centre which is open daily with free admission. The Maury Young Arts Centre features The Gallery, which hosts rotating exhibitions by local artists and The Gift Shop, showcasing handmade creations by local artisans. It also features a 238-seat theatre, a soundproof boardroom and other meeting spaces, and the Youth Centre. The Maury Young Arts Centre truly is Whistler’s hub for arts and culture, right in the heart of Whistler Village.