As I have mentioned before (perhaps too many times), I love fresh beginnings: first day of the year, month, even week (I don’t usually work on Mondays, lucky me), and labour day. This year as the New Year approached, I once again focused my thoughts on what I wanted to accomplish but also on how I wanted to be. It became glaringly obvious that the “be” part is more important than the “do” part. Hmmm…of course, the 2 are intimately connected.

As I explored this thought more, I realized that instead of making a bunch of goals and resolutions, I wanted to have a theme for 2016 and then each month, focus on something of importance to me that I have let slide or never begun in earnest!  And so, my theme for 2016 is Discipline. I am aiming to lead a more disciplined life.

I do possess a reasonable amount of natural discipline, but over the years I have let this slide. Partially life necessitated that I become more flexible and less rigid in my habits. Co-habitating with my partner also became easier (for both of us), when I let up a little on my rigidness (?). However, I have let it slide a little too far. I indulge in bad food, drink, and not enough sleep far too often. I believe this contributes to poor mood, irritability, impatience, and overall I am generally less kind and patient than I would like to be.

And so…discipline. I am striving to be more disciplined in how I lead my daily life, with breaks on the weekends, so I can try to still be a little bit fun!

January’s goal was exercise. Before Christmas, I joined an online accountability group for exercise (and food, but I am choosing to ignore that for now). I finally became convinced that the only way to reliably get regular exercise was to get up very early and do it in the morning, at home, while everyone is still asleep. I had some success and I definitely noticed an improved mood and energy level. Success.

For January, I wanted to step it up a notch. My goal was to exercise at home, for 30 minutes each day, 5 days per week – taking weekends off. I am happy to say that I did success in meeting this goal for the month of January.

In February, I hope to continue my exercise habit, and add meditation. I have long dappled in meditation but I have never committed to a regular practice. To this end, I have signed up for Sharon Salzbergy’s 28 day Meditation Challenge. I am very excited and I really hope I can do this for 28 days in a row (update 07/05: I made it to day 8).

I am writing here for accountability to myself, publicly expressing my goals seems to help me meet them. I will keep you posted. I haven’t yet decided on March’s theme…it is up for discussion.

Update: well, March’s theme was “slow down” and what happened…we went on vacation and everything slowed down…less exercise, less discipline, less meeting of goals, and I didn’t even hit publish on this post! But re-reading it tonight has helped resolve to start again with my goals. It is summer – another New Beginning. And so I am starting again with exercise and being kind to myself. It is ok to “begin again”. I am convinced of this, because I have to do it so often.

First up for Summer: hit publish.

Second: go to be on time.

I know I can meet these goals🙂


Random Thoughts on the New Year

Interestingly, I wrote this almost one year ago for New Year 2015 and NEVER hit publish. I am starting early this year – giving myself a kick in the pants. I re-read it, which is always a bad idea, and so many things I hate about this writing, but I am sending it out anyway. Just to get myself going. Happy start of holidays.

Although I have been absent from this site for a long time, I have been writing a lot….in my head. As always, I energetically grasp at new beginnings. And so, I am aiming this year to write more outside of my head this year.

Beginning with these thoughts which have been swimming around inside my head for quite some time:

I am happy. But life is complicated….and there is nothing wrong with that. Highs and low go together.

I am very blessed. In every way: family, friends, spouse, job, location. Blessed indeed.

I am afraid. Of the other shoe dropping. Surely, I can’t remain this lucky for this long. Something bad must happen at some point. I have thoughts like this all the time.

It is the mid way point of my life. My husband turned 40 in September, and I will turn 40 this year. I don’t want to waste the (hopefully) second half of my life. We don’t know how much time we have. Ever.

I need to spend some time carefully considering how I want to spend my time. There are some big challenges happening at work and a great deal of pressure to take on new roles. Do I want to? Will it be worth it? What will I have to sacrifice to do it?

What are my personal goals this year? Is there anything I want to do that I would really regret not doing if I suddenly found out that there was no more time?

What are Tim’s goals? I can honestly say I don’t know what he wants out of the next year. We need to spend some time connecting on this topic (he loves having those kinds of conversations – NOT).

I am turning 40. 40!!! There are some things I need to let go of, once and for all.

And finally, even if I do nothing new this year, even if one year from now I write these same random thoughts, I am going to remind myself that that is just fine.

Because really, everything is already great just the way it is.

(But I do love New Year’s reflections, resolutions, and goals.)

Too Much of a Good Thing

I don’t know about you, but I seem to be overwhelmed by life right now. Like, dropping the ball on things, forgetting things, mind spinning all the time with the to-do list – overwhelmed. And yet, when I sit back, take a breath, and try to focus on the “now” I realize that it is all good. All the things I am scheduled to do, want to do, have to do, they are all wonderful! And yet, it doesn’t feel wonderful. It feels like too much racing from one thing to the next, never really experiencing what is going on. Actually, it feels like this:

I have recently discovered this blog and I find it really inspiring. Now, as Tim will tell you, I am very far from “BEING minimalist” BUT as I get older I am more and more realizing the wisdom of have less stuff and more time and experience. And so I am inspired by the idea of minimalism (especially the part of becoming, because it suggests a journey, a gradation).

In this blog post, the writer describes feeling like she was drowning, with her face just below the surface of the water. And she is drowning in goodness – in good things!

And this really resonates with me. This weekend alone, Tim and I are meeting friends for supper (after 3 months of trying to set a date), I am volunteering as the class supervisor for my daughter’s dance recital (LOVE this), we are going to said dance recital and the dress rehearsal (obviously), we are hosting a “practice party” for the all the kids doing their violin exam, my mom and step dad are visiting (thank goodness, since we need help!), we are participating in our street garage sale, and Ariel has 2 birthday parties. This is crazy! And it is going to be difficult to enjoy these things because there are SO many of them. And I don’t do well with chaos and rushing, and frankly, neither do the kids.

Next weekend looks much the same. And over the last few weeks I have been working mostly full-time with no weekdays off. I KNOW that most people do this all the time, but my life isn’t organized for that. And so we have no groceries, clean clothes, homework is not done, etc.

This feeling is not a good one. And I am especially bothered because of how wonderful all of these events are. And they are choices. That, coupled with reading that recent blog post, is inspiring me to attempt to pare down my life. I think I need to spend time alone and some time with Tim really thinking about our priorities. How do we want to spend our time? What is most important? And then figure out ways of protecting our time better, even if it means saying “no” to good things. Hopefully this will allow our lives, which really are blessed and wonderful, to really feel that way.

Happy weekend to all of you! I am off to practice mindfully being where I am this moment during this busy weekend.

A Curious Agonizing Decision

Our family is now complete. Tim had the definitive procedure (all went very, very well if you were wondering). The lead up to this procedure has been lengthy and thought-provoking and soul-searching. And I have often wondered, just why is it so hard to let go of having babies?

I have had numerous conversations with close friends on this issue. Some were very clear about when their family was complete. They either “just knew” that this was the right number of children or they didn’t feel “finished” but were deciding they were “finished” having children for any number of reasons. And they made these decisions so easily!

But then there was a group like me. The group that knows they should probably not have any more children. The families who lives are full to overflowing that adding one more child, would really have to change lifestyle, career, future plans, etc. I have been in this group for about 3 years. Since Kirby was about 6 months old I have been examining whether or not I wanted to have another baby. My family would be horrified to know this. In many ways, our current life teeters on the unmanageable. Tim is very busy and challenged at work, and my work has gradually becoming more and more involved in administrative and academic levels as well as my clinical role. The children are getting older and involved in more activities and interests of their own. Scheduling of on call duties, extracurricular activities, and childcare has become arduous. Not to mention keep track of school papers, making sure homework is done, eating vegetables once a week at least, and finding some plain old down time! Yes, this is reality of our lives and I know it is of so many families.

So why couldn’t I just let go and accept that we had reached out number? Three healthy children – so lucky, why couldn’t it be enough?

I know it is enough. My brain knows it is enough. Truthfully, it is probably one more child than we could really handle, but hey, we were always going to have more than one child and all of our lives have been enriched by #3. But it seems knowing that 3 children is a blessing and I should be content with that, was not enough for me to make the decision. I had to work through my extensive reasoning about why we should have another: we are happily married, financially stable, we could afford it, etc. But mainly: creating a baby is really the most magical thing you can do in life. It really is the amazing cliché of one of life’s miracles. And if it is a miracle, who am I to come up with practical reasons like needing a bigger car, to stop us from doing it again?! Yes, this is where my brain would go.

But then I would have so many other thoughts like, I am getting older, it would be harder to be pregnant, to be up with a baby. There are no guarantees another baby would be healthy. And what would it take away from our family if we added another member? Micah is turning 9! His childhood is almost over, he is no longer a little boy. He is a big boy now. And although I know I didn’t, I often feel like I missed it because I was so busy with the 2 other little people. I want to have time to know him as a big boy and to have time to just “be around” when adolescence arrives. I want us to go on family adventures – all 5 of us. Heck, I want all 5 of us to go to the movies! It is time to not leave Kirby behind with a sitter. I want to indulge Ariel in her love of ballet and take her to performances and be at her classes. And of course, I won’t even go down the path of talking about how much of my time I know devote to Suzuki violin. It has taken me a long time to realize that although my children do not “need” those things, I do. It is how I want to mother and how I want to live my life.

And so as difficult as it has been to make this decision, I know it is the right one. It is time to let go of the baby things and maternity clothes and move into the next phase of life. It is the right thing for me and for our family. I also know that the little emotional pang I feel when I see families with 4 children, or hear about someone having a 4th baby will likely never go away.

But I plan to practice gratitude for the 3 children I have and to think of all I get to experience with them as the years continue.

Irritable but Happy?

Oh my, how often I think about writing and how often I write seems to be inversely proportional. I am currently feeling simultaneously frustrated, happy, full of gratitude AND irritation. So I cannot sort out what to write about in this space. And so….this will be the opposite of a coherent post. But I decided it was better to just sit down and write rather than wait for just the right idea to form (although I have so many things swirling in my head).

I received a wonderful email today from a friend who has made several resolutions including one to stay better connected with friends. Since she is failing at all her others (her words) she figured she could at least try to keep this one. Her email came a perfect time. Just last night I commented to Tim how frustrated I was that I cannot seem to keep any commitments to myself! I committed to meditation everyday for February – failed after 4 days. I committed to eating more fruits and vegetables – constantly failing and continuing on same food path as always. I committed to more exercise – well….I won’t even go there. It is not that I feel I can’t do those things, it is more that I made commitments to myself and I just seem to let them go, like they don’t mean anything. I am all about “beginning again”, “being kind to yourself” and “just because you didn’t do ____ today, doesn’t mean you won’t tomorrow”. BUT, come on, I would just like to have some follow through on even ONE of those things…..

On the flip side, we have been much happier in my house. We are having a less busy winter and apparently that agrees with us. More spontaneous fun outings, more pajama days, and more time just hanging out. We are totally into the Olympics and really enjoying the fun of watching so many different amazing sporting events.

So all is well and everyone is healthy and I have nothing to complain about.

Perhaps tomorrow I will meditate and make a vegetarian supper….right?

Seasonal Thoughts – Belated

‘Tis the Season – Well, it WAS the season! I wrote this right before Christmas, but never posted it. I thought I would post it today anyway – over a month after the holidays….because, well, why not?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

I do love the holiday season, I really do. There is a long history of the women in my family loving Christmas. My Nanny, my mother’s mother, LOVED the holidays. And she did a miraculous job of providing a lovely holiday every year for her 5 children with challenges of little money and a difficult marital situation. My own mother continued this love of the holidays. We grew up with a beautifully decorated house, magical presents, wonderful food, and many, many loud and happy family gatherings.

Now that I am the one making all the preparations, I have become so grateful for what my mother did each and every holiday. The decorating, the present buying, the preserving of the Santa magic, and on and on. It all seemed so effortless. It seemed like it all just came together. But I know differently now. Like all the work of the motherhood, holiday preparation is largely thankless. And often the mother prepares for everyone else and little is prepared for her. For the most part, I think we mothers feel so happy watching our family revel in the holiday magic that we have created, that we are not thinking about ourselves. I know for me, I used to love and look forward to receiving presents, but now I hardly think about that. I think much more about what I am giving and how excited the receiver will be. I guess that is a part of growing up. This is a good change. I have gratitude for this change.

But everyone once in a while, I think about how wonderful Christmas was for me as a child, and wish I could have that feeling again. I can’t. And that is OK. The new feelings are just as wonderful, although different. But still…

And I think about how Christmas is the perfect opportunity for all of us grown up daughters to say a special thank you to our mothers for all the magic of Christmases past.

And so I will: Thank you Mom. I hope you have (had) a wonderful holiday.

Unseasonable Thoughts


Tim and I have been having some relationship challenges. Not the “break up a family” kind of challenges, but the “we have been together a long time and have 2 demanding jobs, 3 kids and lots of responsibilities and not enough time for each other” type of challenges. And so we have been talking. Talking heatedly, talking lovingly, talking practically, and talking emotionally. It has been difficult (exhausting) to find the time to spend working on these challenges when life is so, so busy. But we both (thankfully) recognize that the health of our relationship is the key to our future happiness and the happiness of 3 other little people. And so we talk.

Sometimes our talk is very difficult for one or both of us to say and sometimes it is difficult for one of us to hear. We dredge up old hurts and issues. We also (again, thankfully) dredge up old joys and experiences. Like any married couple, we have grown both closer and apart. We have changed as people, we are not the same people who met 19 years ago and married 9 years ago. We make assumptions and presumptions about each other’s thoughts and actions based on history, not the present. And we take each other for granted.

This week I have made a wonderful (surprising) revelation:

We want the same things.
We are longing for a similar type of change.
We have the same goals but about different aspects of our life.

This may sound obvious, because we are married. We did CHOOSE each other. But both of us had been under the impression that we were going in different directions. We didn’t feel like we were sharing goals,plans, and dreams. All the talking has been worth it. We are heading in the right direction. And we can see a way to move forward in 2014 together – not just physically in the world, but spiritually and emotionally also.

And for this I am immensely grateful.

Trust Your Gut

This is something that is talked about in medicine but difficult to teach. I mean, how do you explain to a student that it is important to develop and listen to their “gut feelings”? And how do you know who has an accurate “gut” and who doesn’t? And can you “hone the skills” of the gut?

In general, I have found that I have been blessed with a pretty accurate “gut”. If I have that sick feeling in my stomach (I know, very accurate use of medical terms here..), I know that the s— is going to hit the fan. If I don’t have that feeling, things usually go fine, even if the monitors and situation suggest otherwise. I found myself trying to explain this to a resident I was working with last week.

We were doing a list of orthopedic procedures together and our first patient was a teenager with a developmental delay and obesity scheduled for an extensive foot surgery. In most situations, a popliteal nerve block would have been a good option for this patient. And I LOVE getting out the ultrasound machine and performing nerve blocks. LOVE it. And the resident was really keen to do that with me. But something was telling me not to in this patient. And then I heard that he had obstructive sleep apnea, which puts him at greater risk of respiratory side effects from pain medicine like morphine. One more reason to do a nerve block: less morphine use! So I talked to the patient and his family and I learned that the last time he had this surgery (he had his other foot operated on last year) he required oxygen because his breathing wasn’t “good enough”. And I thought, “Well, GUT, I cannot listen to you today, because it is clearly better for the patient to have a block!”. But then, I asked what he had received for pain management last time and they told me acetaminophen! Like no morphine or other opioid for pain! Wow – he is one stoic child.

This was so extraordinary, I had to confirm this for myself, so I went to review the chart again to look at his post operative course. I learned that he did indeed need oxygen and also that he did receive some tiny doses of an opioid pain medication, but not on the day he needed oxygen. And so…what to do…

Trust your gut. Something about this patient just told me that if I did a nerve block I would regret it. And the last time he barely needed any pain medication, as amazing as that is! So I could justify my “no block” decision because I didn’t think that he would be adversely affected by not having it.

The resident with me respected my decision, but couldn’t understand it. He understood the pros and cons and respected that eventually the balanced was tipped by my gut feeling. But he didn’t understand. And we will never know if my concerns were warranted (my main concern was the patient’s ability to communicate his sensations accurately if his cast became too tight and endangered the blood supply to his leg and foot) because we didn’t do the block. But once I had finally made the decision, I felt better. I knew it was the right one. The surgery went well and he woke up comfortable, so I consider the anesthetic a success as well.

Hopefully someday the resident will understand will understand why I made this decision, because my gut feeling has saved me and quite a few patients from a lot of trouble….

Summer Air

As I travel this path of practicing mindfulness, I am often struck by how naturally being mindful comes to children. Of course, it comes more easily to some children then others.

About a month ago, I took my older 2 children to see a movie. Being the multitasking, ever-efficient person I am, this treat was paired with a trip to Costco (because the movie theatre and Costco are next to each other). The kids were very patient during our shopping trip on this hot day. As we were leaving, Aurora was riding in the cart and after I loaded the groceries into our car, I went to lift her out. I realized she had been very quiet for a quite some time (very unusual for my chatty girl). So I asked her if she was ok. Her reply:

“I’m fine Mummy. I am just feeling the summer air on my skin”.

There you have it. On a hot summer day, in a shopping cart, my daughter was feeling the summer air. So I stopped to feel it too. It was wonderful.

Overambitious and Energized September

September! As I have written before, I LOVE September. Even though I have not been on a typical “school schedule” for many years, it still feels the most like the “Fresh Start” opportunity of the year. This year is no exception. As September approaches every year, I feel energized and excited and I start planning things I want to do. I may have gone overboard this year. I won’t bore you with all the kids activities, those I have actually managed to keep to a manageable amount. But my plans for myself may be a tad overambitious.

My plans for this fall include the following:

1. 8 week online course on Whole Food cooking (so excited to become inspired again in the kitchen. That has fallen by the wayside this summer).
2. 8 week “real-time” course on Mindfulness for Healthcare workers. Tim is joining me on this one, so it is kind of like weekly dates for 8 weeks, right?
3. Exercise – I have signed up for a friend’s twice weekly morning “boot camp” type classes
4. Micah – we are going to do an 11 week program with him that focuses on learning to relax and worry less

Hmmm….I know that listing it like that should make me feel nervous, but I still just feel excited. My secret personal goal is to be kind with myself when I discover the reality that I cannot participate in each of the things as fully as I would like to. BUT it is better to try rather than nothing at all, right?

I am not totally insane this fall, though. Today my colleague asked me if I would like to learn to play bridge with her club. The answer to the question “Robyn, would you like to learn to _____” is pretty much always “yes”. But I did recognize that I simply could not add one more thing and I said “no thank you”. And I feel pretty proud of myself. Ha! I would like to learn to play bridge sometime, though.

Growing up, I was always involved in many things, there are just so many fun things to do and learn. And I would frequently get overwhelmed and stressed and tired. And my dad would say “Robyn, you have bitten off more than you can chew!”. Then I would pause, think, and reply “well, but I always manage to swallow the bite”.

And so Autumn 2013, here we go! Happy Autumn to you all – I hope you have many wonderful plans and dreams for the season.