Posted in Good Eats

Back to Cooking

SOMETIMES.

This is true… sometimes.

Sometimes I love skipping into the kitchen with my apron on (actually I never remember to wear one… my clothes get very mad at me πŸ˜‰ ) and whipping up fantastic meals that taste pretty decent if I do say so myself!

Other times I drag my feet into the kitchen, look in all the cupboards and fridge and freezer, declare there is absolutely nothing worth eating/nothing I can muster the energy to cook (or so my tired perspective tells me) and I turn my attention to the pile of coupons on the counter.Β  Pick one guys – there will be no cooking done in this house tonight!

*Unless Josh is home and feels like taking over in the kitchen. And once in a while the oldest son will work his kitchen magic. They love cooking sometimes too :)*

Through the years I’ve gone back and forth between having a tried and true menu plan for the week/month, and just winging it with whatever ingredients need to be used up first.

There are times when life is so busy and my brain is full of anything but what’s for dinner. In these times a menu plan works great and I do a big shop for ingredients that we use up over the next few days/weeks. This is when I know exactly what we’re eating for each meal for quite some time ahead.

Then there are times when I’m sick of cooking the same old-same old and need to be a bit more creative with upcoming meals. So I buy a few standard staples, brace myself for having to go to the store a FEW times that week for any last-minute ingredients (I don’t like shopping much) and see where the mood takes me each day.

Since our move a few weeks ago, I’ve gone through a whole range of emotions when it comes to cooking.

At first I couldn’t wait to get back into a kitchen that didn’t need to be spotless for house showings at any time of day. I took out my old menu plans and visited the local grocery stores and started to restock the pantry, fridge, and freezer. This took some time, and it was so weird being in a different kitchen! But I calmed down after a while and feel much more comfortable in the new space.

Josh has been in there canning peaches and applesauce already too… I like when he goes in the kitchen πŸ™‚

After a little while of sticking to the menu plan I noticed the skipping had ceased and the dragging had started.

I knew it was time to let go of the old plan for a while and see what the days brought in the kitchen for a while.

This is when I use a different method – browse the flyers, buy whatever is on sale for meat and veggies that week, pitch it all in the fridge/freezer after it’s bought, see who feels like cooking that day, and leave the rest to chance. It’s freeing, and gets the creativity flowing in the kitchen.

I’m sure that after a little while of “free”, when the Christmas season is approaching, and life gets much busier again, the menu plans will resurface and I will love their predictability and consistency.

No matter what your kitchen style – be it planner or freelancer – there are a few ideas to help keep it simple in the kitchen…

  • Eat in as much as you can muster. This saves an amazing amount of money and it’s great for your health. Restaurant coupons might save you money but they won’t save your health. As much as we want it to be true… it’s just not… ah well… back to the kitchen!
  • Use the same ingredients as much as possible, but in completely different ways. This way you keep the grocery list simple, and decrease the amount of space needed in your home for all sorts of ingredients you rarely use. This will also reduce the amount of ingredients going in the garbage – good for the globe!
  • Keep the kitchen gadgets to a minimum. This keeps the kitchen clutter-free and leaves more room for creativity and kitchen helpers!
  • Eat what you love (and is pretty healthy). Don’t try to make yourself eat foods you don’t enjoy just because the latest craze says you can’t live without them. But do find healthy foods you like – I had to sort through alot of ever-changing media hype about certain foods, and go back to basics – healthy foods I love are carrots, celery, bananas, and applesauce. I eat these 4 things almost every day. Also throw in some berries in smoothies alot of mornings, and some broccoli or peas or corn or cucumber or lettuce or tomato or mix of a few at dinner, and I’m good to go! I try to remember what all my guys like, and give them foods they enjoy as well. Sometimes we all have to eat foods we don’t love because others in our family love them, but we also don’t hate the foods, so it’s all good. I like to eat less meat than my guys so I’ll take BBQ salmon instead of a burger/sausage, or hummus, etc. I also throw beans in with the meat in some recipes – to boost the protein without loading up on meat.
  • Cook what comes easy. For the life of me I can’t figure out the BBQ, or French toast, or pancakes, or soup. I wish I could master all these things, but I’ve tried folks, and I’ll leave these creations with someone else. It’s either than I burn, or it’s mushy, or I just don’t like cooking it at all. So I’ll pass those along to others who can manage them. Odd, I know, they all seem so simple, but turns out I definitely have my limitations in the kitchen!

There’s a few thoughts and tips to get me (and you) back to cooking – which I don’t always love, depending on the busyness of the season I’m in.

Enjoy πŸ™‚

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Posted in Life

Happy Thanksgiving :)

May you see the beauty in all the moments of your life this holiday weekend.

Be they happy moments, sad moments, hopeful moments, or mournful moments…

There is always good and there is always beauty to be found.

Blessings,

Anna 😊

Posted in $$$$$

Back to Budgeting

Budgeting… blah… that’s what most people say right?

Me… I’m like… budgeting… yay!

Guess I’m a little odd that way.

So if you’re like me, or curious about people like me – read on. There might just be a few things for you in this post. If not, no hard feelings – I’ll catch you next post!

Now… budgeting… yay!

Sorry – can’t help it πŸ™‚

In my efforts to get back to “normal”, I went through the budget after all the changes of the last few months – Josh’s salary, selling 2 houses in a buyer’s market (one being a rental house that provided income but needed alot of upcoming work), and buying one house in a seller’s market.

It looks pretty good. We have a few budget to-dos (some bigger than others) that we’ll need to follow through with in the coming months, but overall we should be just fine!

If we stick to a budget, that is. Same as always – the budget is what’s kept us on track financially and helped us get where we’re going.

That, and LOTS of learning about how to stay in the budget.

Lots of new habits πŸ™‚

But we’ve been doing them for so long, they are second nature now. And I’m excited to get back to it.

I’ve only had about a month here, and it’s been a doozy of a month for the most part, so I’m only just beginning to find my tried and true stores and adjust to new stores in my new city.

The other day I did a bit of shopping and as I looked at the totals on the receipts I realized just how good it felt to be back to budgeting. And to put back into practice all the things I’ve learned through the years to help me stay in the budget.

Take at look at just 3 receipts and see what a difference some resourceful budget-keeping can make…

  1. Spur of the moment trip to Shoppers because it was across the street from the library and I just needed a couple of things. I remembered ice cream and pizza were on sale from looking at the flyers last night, so I knew I could save at least a few bucks. These weren’t even amazing deals (except for the ice cream), and I forgot my Optimum Card, but I still saved $16.00. Just from looking at the flyer for about a minute tops. AND I gave a$1 donation (if the cashier asks I try to give – I always write Caleb’s name if they have a special something to write on that will get displayed in the store – today it was a leaf πŸ™‚ ) AND I had to buy a plastic bag for 5 cents because I didn’t come prepared! Even after all that, money was still saved.

2. Only needed Tostitos and chocolate milk at Food Basics (yes, this is just something I buy for my youngest. He never asks for any special foods except chocolate milk… and lately a Burger’s Priest combo… can’t blame him – they really ARE amazing burgers and fries and I don’t even like burgers most of the time!). I always browse through the reduced sections at grocery stores – I never buy anything that looks weird – usually I get the stuff that is best before either that day or the next, and throw it in the freezer as soon as I get home, and cook it from frozen in the crockpot when we’re ready to eat it) No harm done. Food Basics had some great deals on chicken thighs and drumsticks, so I snapped those up πŸ™‚ And the Tostitos we needed for dinner that night were on sale too – score! Saved about $12.75 on this 5-minute trip to Food Basics.

3. With the crazy heatwave the last few days, and insane decluttering the last few months, I was down at least a few t-shirts and needed to replenish my supply so I could make it from one laundry day to the next! And I do laundry twice a week! Yep, it was a DIRE situation since most of the t-shirts I did hang on to had gotten pretty trashed in all the work I’d been doing with packing up our old house and renovating right away in the new house. Ah well, one thing I seem to enjoy high turnover rates for is my wardrobe – I’d much rather have less clothes that I like and wear very often, then replenish when their time is done, than too many clothes that I don’t really like and never wear. There’s many reasons why I shop thrift, but basically I love the selection, I love the prices, and I love that it helps even just a little around the globe. And I clean whatever I bring home pretty immediately. My guys don’t share my love of all things thrift, but they do enjoy a good bargain, whether it’s new or used doesn’t matter much to them. And I do buy new things sometimes – SOMETIMES πŸ™‚ On this day, I had a $2 coupon from Value Village, and I also joined their Super Savers club (so easy, just went online, and now you don’t even need your card when you go to the store, just your phone #) which gives a discount, and I tried my best to just stick to getting a few t-shirts. I managed to find 3 that fit well enough, plus a PJ shirt (it was mixed in with the t-shirts – what could I possibly have done ? πŸ™‚ ), plus a red Canada shirt with moose on it for Josh (again, mixed in with the women’s t-shirts, and just to clarify it’s definitely a man’s shirt πŸ™‚ ). Saved $4 off the already low prices – these clothes new would have been at least $80, and that’s leaning on the conservative side. So I could go so far as to say I really saved $62 with a half hour of shopping thrift (not to mention the savings of time and gas required to get the variety of clothes I bought all at the same place).

Grand total of about $33 saved at the 3 quick stops (or about $90 if you count the full thrift savings) πŸ™‚

So this is a great start as I get back to budgeting… yay!

Sorry πŸ˜‰

Posted in Life

11 Photos, Two Trails, One Bike

It’s hard work to make new habits, isn’t it?

Sometimes you really have to carve them out of the solid mass that is an already-full day.

Even the habits that you know you’ll enjoy.

Or the habits you used to enjoy that have been forgotten or pushed aside for a while.

It’s just life most of the time. Nothing intentional, just life.

But then you get a glimpse of how that new habit or once-loved but forgotten habit could fit into your life, and you plow ahead at the first hint of having enough energy, or determination. Even if there never seems to be enough time. Or space. Or margin.

You just do it, and let the chips fall where they may.

And often find it’s not so hard, there was some pliability to the solid mass of your days, time is not as unavailable as it seems, and there was at least a tiny sliver of margin.

Most of all you find this hidden source of energy and determination. And it becomes contagious. It spreads. Other areas of your life are caught up in the wake of this one glimpse of a positive habit.

There will come days when the habit falls to the wayside again, but this time is not forgotten. And instead of guilt you feel another surge of determination. To not let the habit go again. To know it was hard work even just to try that once to fit it into your life. And to remember the feeling it brought when you saw it in your life. Or saw it again in your life.

So it is with me and bicycling. I honestly just love it. I always have.

I can remember being a young girl and exploring every inch of my neighbourhood. My bike meant freedom. It went where cars could not. It took me to hidden gems of places off the beaten path. It took me to friend’s houses and piano lessons and church and school. It took me on roads and trails and waterfront paths, and through marshes and city streets, and even across entire towns. I remember clearly how I loved the speed of a bike going down a big hill, sometimes I would take my hands off the handlebars, and always I’d feel the rush of wind across my face and through my hair. Freedom.

I’d forgotten about the bike for years. Forgotten how much I loved it. I had so many other avenues for freedom – travelling on planes and trains, university, new friends, my own car, new jobs – I was experiencing all kinds of things in my days. Then marriage and children, and a real slowing down in the pace of life while raising little ones. Then a great speeding up as the boys grew and became busy experiencing their own avenues for freedom. And I remembered the feeling, and I remembered my bike.

I’d ridden the bike with the boys towing behind in a bike trailer, I’d walked beside boys with training wheels and taught them bike safety. I’d taken the training wheels off and watched as they found their balance on our long paved driveway. I’d held the bike seat and ran with them as they pedalled. I’d let go only when they said it was OK. And they found their own freedom on the bike. They were now the ones biking to friend’s houses, exploring the city without parents, finding the hidden gems of places off the beaten path.

And I remembered that old habit of getting on my bike and seeing where the wheels took me. So I tried it. On my own. As soon as I mustered the energy and determination to try. No plan, no goal, just get on the bike and “push the pedals” as my friend Anne says πŸ™‚ It… was… glorious πŸ™‚

And I remembered more… yes… I always used to dream about biking across Canada one day. Now the boys were getting older I realized that day might actually be sooner rather than later. It’s most likely still a few years out, but it’s getting closer, and I’m getting older πŸ˜‰ So I started to set small goals. Bike for half an hour. Bike to this point. See how I feel.

And others joined me sometimes, and it was good to share the habit, the experiences it brought, and the connectedness of enjoying some of the same things in life.

So here I am, in this new place, trying to get back to “normal”, simple, and positive. Knowing familiar will come πŸ™‚

Last week I set out on my first bike ride here. I wanted to see if there were hidden trails to get to Elijah’s new school. He’s been talking about biking there. I knew the general direction, I brought my phone for Google maps help, and off I went. Through the woods, getting turned around, down many streets, getting lost a little more, but eventually making it to the school, having eliminated many possible paths along the way. But there is a way through the woods, and there is a way along the streets, and both have their positives and negatives. I’m excited to show them to Elijah soon.

Here’s some photos I took this morning on my 2nd venture out to the school… this time I timed it – not too long at all! And worth the ride!

Let’s play Where’s AnnaΒ for the last photo… you can spot me in the picture somewhere….

I also set out last week to a place I wanted to visit since moving here – The Arboretum. And oh my, it was worth the bike ride to get there, and then some. Even though I had to bike about 20 minutes on city streets, they are all so laid out with proper bike paths here (what a treat!) and no potholes (sorry Sudburians, but I’m in bicycle heaven here! Sidenote – two of Sudbury’s main roads are on the top 10 WORST roads in Ontario, so… ya… hard on the cyclists πŸ˜‰ ).

Here’s a few shots from the excursion to the Arboretum…

Even thought it’s hard to set out on the bike some days, it is getting easier to make this habit a constant in my life. I’m never sorry I went once the ride is over. I am never disappointed – there is always so much beauty, so much to see, even on the city streets.

There is always something good waiting down the road, or the path πŸ™‚

Maybe one day I’ll actually make it across Canada, but for now I’ll enjoy what’s right in front of me, and I’m excited about discovering the hidden gems scattered around my new city.

Posted in Life

Back to Simple

When life has looked like the above photo for as long as you can remember, and the to-do lists have closed in on every shred of margin you once had in your days, it’s hard to know where to start to piece back together a “normal” life.

And what is “normal” when you look around and everything is unfamiliar? Your house, your neighbours, your church, your city – none of it recognizable. Nothing familiar.

It can feel so intensely WEIRD some days.

I read somewhere that weird doesn’t have to mean bad, and that’s what got me started in the right direction in my head and my heart.

I don’t want to feel pain – who does? And sometimes unfamiliar is painful. It’s sad. It’s lonely. It’s WEIRD.

But I also read that life is just going to hurt sometimes, and again, that doesn’t have to mean it’s bad.

Another step in the right direction.

And all I have to do is take the next step. Venture a little further into this strange place we’ve landed.

Strange only because it’s not yet “normal” or “familiar”.

Strange doesn’t have to mean bad.

OK, good, let’s get this show on the road.

It’s going to hurt, it’s going to be weird, but it’s going to be OK.

Probably more than OK.

So as the lists start to disappear from my purse, my clipboard, my computer spreadsheets, my laptop sticky notes, my email, my cell phone, etc. etc. etc. I start to see a great emptiness.

And I realize I’ve forgotten what “normal” might have looked like before.

I think hard, try to remember…

Yes, things used to be pretty simple around the house. I used to have some good systems in place to keep things functioning pretty well for myself and my 3 busy guys.

And I worked really hard to find those systems and make them work for our family of four.

I used to have a functional kitchen that didn’t need to look like a magazine cover (not really!) for house showings. I used to be able to stock my fridge and freezer and pantry with all sorts of tasty things because there was no big move coming. I used to have a menu plan (to some extent) that allowed me to know at least a few of our upcoming meals ahead of time. I used to go to the grocery store every week or so. I used to look through the flyers and use my Flipp app and find the best deals and save us TONS of money!

Yes! It’s all coming back to me!

I used to clean only some things every week, and other things only when needed, because who needs to be cleaning when it’s not really necessary? Not me! And especially not after I’ve just come out of a season of trying to sell a house for almost 4 months! And trying to sell a rental house for almost 2 months too! Ack!

OK – settle down Anna, you’re in a better place now πŸ™‚ No more houses to sell just now πŸ™‚

I used to go for bike rides or walks to fill my tank with lovely things like nature and spending quiet time with God.

Sometimes I would just sit and think and dream and come up with all sorts of ideas for my family, for helping others, and for writing.

These things were so simple, yet they worked so well to fill up my days with good stuff.

And my days can look alot like that still, here, in this new place.

So I got to work again, finding ways to get back to simple, tried and true systems for the days ahead.

I sorted through my recipe binder. I updated my menu plans and monthly/weekly shopping lists. I found the nearest grocery stores. I plugged in the freezer. I started to place items on my pantry shelves. I cooked in bulk and froze the extras. All things to move back into a more simple routine around the kitchen.

I put some new systems in place – like the bathroom cleaning bucket I’d always meant to put together but never got around toΒ (took me like a minute – seriously). And kept some old systems – like turning on the dishwasher right before I head up to bed. Simple things but they make the routines run smoothly. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right? Maybe just give it an update or a spruce-up from time to time πŸ™‚

There’s lots of other little things in my simple routines and systems – I won’t bore you with the details.

But it’s good to get back to familiar things, even if it’s the details that kept the household functional for so long. Even if it’s putting dishwashing detergent in every night before bed and hearing the hum of the unfamiliar machine as I walk up the unfamiliar stairs to an unfamiliar room and an unfamiliar bed.

The unfamiliar will become familiar.

One day.

Simple as that πŸ™‚

Posted in Life

Back to Writing…

My fingers have been itching to get back to typing.

My thoughts have been organizing into blog posts and book chapters and family resource titles.

The words have been piling up, spilling over, and I’m starting to lose too many of them in the waiting.

Waiting to share them.

With you.

It’s been almost 2 months since ourΒ Canada 150 East Coast Road Trip of 2017 :).

I can try and begin to tell you what’s happened since then…

  • We’ve sold two houses in Northern Ontario and bought ourselves a house in Southern Ontario – there are long stories behind each of those transactions… maybe I’ll tell you about those another day…
  • Josh travelled south alone and started a new role as senior pastor on August 1st – me and the boys were still living in the north, trying to sell the second house
  • The house finally sold and we travelled south to pick a new house all together – fantastic!
  • The boys were amazing as we decluttered even further, packed what we wanted to keep, sold or donated what we wanted to let go of, and emptied out our home of 13 years
  • We enjoyed a week at family camp – Josh joined us for 3 days before heading out to load our belongings into a uhaul and drive them south
  • Our oldest took his G1 driving test and passed!
  • We said goodbye to friends and places in the north – joined Josh in southern Ontario August 27th
  • Our oldest started a pre-lifeguarding Bronze Cross crash course the same day we got the keys for our new house!
  • We got the keys for our new house on August 28th, unloaded the uhaul onto the main floor only, tore out definite allergy-causing carpets on upper and lower floors of house
  • We painted and started cleaning and tried to find a few belongings in boxes on August 29th
  • New carpet and linoleum installed August 30th, lots of boxes moved to different floors of the house, it begins to slightly look like it might possibly be a home in the near future
  • More unpacking, lots more unpacking, more cleaning, and the beginnings of settling in
  • Boys start at new schools Sept 5th with all the clothes, backpacks, and school supplies previously located in the unpacking!
  • Pictures go on walls, our mattress is delivered, rooms are almost clear of boxes Sept 8th
  • First BBQ and visit from family Sept 9th – who all live within 0.5 – 1.5 hours of driving now – YAY!
  • More settling in during the week, finalizing Sudbury house sale details, oldest lands a seasonal job at local farm, youngest tries out for school sports team
  • Sudbury house sale closes Sept 15th
  • Josh’s brother visits from the U.S. for the weekend, oldest takes a weekend 1st Aid course for further lifeguard prep
  • Tomorrow (Sept 16th) a special induction service for Josh at church – to welcome him officially into his new position as senior pastor

And there’s been LOTS more happening in the details – but I think that’s good for now πŸ™‚

I just needed to get to typing today – I have this rare treat of a couple of hours where nothing is pressing, nothing is planned, and it was a total surprise.

Feels good just to put my fingers on the keyboard and see this familiar WordPress screen in front of me as I type.

You’ll be hearing from me again soon – there’s ideas running rampant in my head and my heart.

Some are more of the same you’re used to hearing from me, some maybe a little different than you’re used to.

All still focused on Simply Live-ing.

Keeping things simple, focused, intentional, productive, positive, and forward-moving.

Back soon πŸ™‚

Posted in Life

Canada 150 East Coast Road Trip of 2017 :)

“12 days, 5 provinces, 5 states, 4780 kilometers and 1 happy family.”

That was my husband’s Facebook post a couple of days ago. I like it. Sums it up well. Couldn’t have said it better myself. But I’m going to share a little more with you about our time away… πŸ™‚

I texted my mum and sister just about every day to give them an update on the trip, and I’m glad I did because I can look back and see what stood out for me each day. And it made me feel like they were sort of with me – I do love to share experiences with loved ones πŸ™‚

One thing that I appreciated every day of our journey – the simplicity of the adventure. We weren’t sure about being available for the trip with moving this summer and selling houses and still looking for a house to buy. In the end, we had to make a choice – to put family first. To step out of the chaos that is life, and sometimes the chaos is louder and busier and crazier than “usual”, and make sure the priority list is still intact, and say THIS is more important than all the rest. I wondered if it was irresponsible to go, then I realized that making memories with loved ones is never irresponsible, and it is, in fact, what matters most.

We chose an east coast road trip because I’ve wanted to do a road trip for years, and seeing a chunk of Canada seemed very fitting for marking the year Canada turned 150. I thought, Let’s show the boys some of Canada – how big it is, how different the scenery can be, how varied the people and places of our country actually are within even a few hours of driving.

There was hardly time to plan – I had mapped out a tentative route just in case we actually got in the car and did this thing. 12 days seemed good to space out a drive of this distance, and we could ferry across the Bay of Fundy and drive back through the US. Two days before we left we decided to just go for it. We looked up places to stay – camping some nights in provincial & national parks, staying in Air BnBs when they were available on such short notice, and cheap bookings at hotels or motels the rest of the nights. Β We grabbed a few needed supplies, cleaned the house in case there were showings while we were away, packed the car with room to spare, and jumped into the adventure on July 5th…

Day 1 – We drove to Ottawa but stayed just across the Quebec river in Gatineau. We found an Air BnB apartment downtown. I hopped out of the car and onto my bike just before we arrived, and bicycled into Quebec πŸ™‚ This was after getting slightly lost on the insane bicycle routes in downtown Ottawa, but by the time I made it to the BnB the guys had already unpacked the car – so that was a bonus πŸ™‚ We walked around downtown and got some dinner.

Day 2 – We visited Parliament Hill, Rideau Canal, and the Canadian War Museum. All very important items on our to-do list for the trip (which was not a very long list). Parliament Hill because we were in our nation’s capital, Rideau Canal because it’s on the Unesco World Heritage List, and the musuem gave a great overview of Canada’s contributions in fighting for peace on a global scale. Heavy cost – both Josh and I had family members who served in the wars. For me it was my great-grandfather whose grave is found in a soldier’s field in Germany. For Josh it was his grandfather who was just about to head out on his first mission as a belly-gunner when the war ended – thank God. After all the inspiring history lessons of the day we enjoyed the spectacular views as we drove into Mont Tremblant National Park, Then we had to set up for our first night of camping in the rain. Ugh. The weather broke and Josh cooked a one-pot dinner on our camp stove. We ate by lantern light.

Day 3 – We woke up to rain falling on the tents and dismal skies. Packed up early with everything still wet 😦 This day of travel started out with a couple of unexpected stops… first at a convent/monastery of sorts just off the road. Josh saw it and was completely drawn to it. There was an enormous statue of Jesus we could see from the road. Josh asked at the gate if we could look inside, they let us go into the chapel area after first giving us capes and a lace head-covering for me. It was all very ornate yet simple, you could feel the sacredness of the people and what they’d built – all dedicated to living an undistracted life of faith and service to their community. When we stopped in they were putting together boxes of food for locals – MANY boxes – and this is something they do every week – and they’ve done it for decades. All they have they built on site. They were highly creative and completely focused on their mission. It was overwhelming for me after a few minutes, and I headed back to the car to rejoin the boys as Josh chatted with the nuns. Only Josh right? πŸ™‚ Only Josh. The other unexpected stop was at an outlet mall where we found some great deals on a few necessary items for the family. Then we drove to Mont Ste. Anne to another Air BnB place – the only place we’d stop for 2 nights in a row – a beautiful condo nestled in the mountains. We couldn’t believe the deals we got on some of these places on our trip – and this place was a GREAT deal. We bought groceries and settled in for a little while πŸ™‚

Day 4 – We visited Montmorency Falls and rode the cable car to the top. Looked around a bit before heading into Old Quebec. We made it to a few historic spots before the rain hit, and then we still carried on for a little longer. Such a beautiful place, so unique, so quaint, so much history. We took a wrong turn as we were walking back to the car, and down an alleyway I sawΒ Au Petit Hotel.Β IΒ recognized it as the place my Grade 8 class stayed on our grad trip – WAY back in the day. A treat to be able to show the guys that little piece of MY history.

Day 5 – We left the comfort of the condo and started making our way to New Brunswick. We stopped at a mall that had a ferris wheel, roller coaster, and huge arcade – we had some fun there before carrying on. 2nd night of camping at De La Republique Provincial Park near Edmunston in New Brunswick. Such a peaceful place! The rain held off and we enjoyed a roasted hot dog and smores dinner over the camp fire. Along the way during our trip Josiah made a fun video of back-flipping as we entered each province – Elijah was his videographer.

Day 6 – We drove to Fredericton area and stayed at Riverside Inn. Another jackpot in terms of inexpensive lodging. Beautiful view of the big river, nice room, laundry only $1, and such friendly people! We spontaneously turned off the highway at one point to visit the Hartland Covered Bridge National Historic Site. Pretty cool πŸ™‚ We went to see the new Spider-Man movie that night at the local mall. By this point we were about half way through the trip, everyone was starting to get a little wiped and edgey, and I gave the choice of heading back home to Sudbury before we ventured out any further. I wasn’t convinced that the sort of upcoming family time would be healthy in our current mental/emotional/physical states πŸ™‚ But the guys voted to keep going, and I voted to keep going, so I hoped for the best πŸ™‚ I’m so glad we made it through that day and stayed the course πŸ™‚

Day 7 – We stopped at an outlet mall in Moncton on our way to PEI! I was so excited to be heading across the Confederation Bridge. I hoped PEI was everything I had built it up to be in my mind – and IT WAS! We camped at the Cavendish site of the National Park – right in the heart of Green Gables country πŸ™‚ We weren’t sure about camping here – the winds were at about 70 knots (that’s INSANE for those like me who have no idea of knots and such πŸ˜‰ ) It was almost impossible to set up the tent – it took all of us holding a corner and spiking it down wherever we could and then reinforcing it with strong rope and spiking some more. We weren’t sure our tent would hold together through the night, but we just really wanted to try. So we did. At least there were no bugs πŸ˜‰ We were steps from the ocean, and the people were amazing. Friendliest bunch at the campsite. We chatted with everyone. No privacy but as long as I can step into the tent and block out the world for a few minutes, I’m good πŸ™‚ We all slept so well despite the crazy wind, which had died down overnight. Had my first Beaver Tail with fries for dinner since cooking over an open fire seemed a little ridiculous in that wind.

 

Day 8 – We hung around at the campsite just a little while longer. I ventured out for a long bike ride along the coast and into farmland – it was called the Homestead Trail and I LOVED it – the views were absolutely amazing. Biking into the wind at spots was exhausting but well worth it. When I got back to the campsite the guys had everything packed up and after a quick breakfast of fruit, PB & jam on buns, and hot chocolate – we were off to be tourists for a couple of hours. We visited Green Gables and it was crazy busy, but we still managed to get an idea of the place (for FREE with our Canada 150 Discovery Pass!) and it was really cool (at least I thought so πŸ˜‰ ) I read up on Lucy Maud Montgomery after that, and it turns out we had alot in common actually – she was a minister’s wife, a writer, she had 3 boys (the second being stillborn), and she suffered from bouts of anxiety/depression in her life. Her life really impacted me and I pondered alot on her for the next couple of days… we can all learn so much from one another… But back to the trip – we drove on to Graves Island Provincial Park in Nova Scotia and camped for the night. No winds here, and no bugs again! This gem of a spot is just off the highway, on an island as promised, with ocean views surrounding it. So quiet, not many campsites, so glad one was available for us when we booked the trip! Peaceful night.

Day 9 – We lingered at the site a little while, I ventured out on another bike ride along the trail around the edges of the park, saw lots of fishing boats on the water. Packed up all our camping gear (that was our last night of camping) and headed out on the road again. We drove through the beautiful scenery of the Unesco World Heritage Site of Old Town Lunenburg (BIG fishing boats and colourful old houses). Then on to our Air BnB for the night – a big old farmhouse near Yarmouth. We sort of crashed here and enjoyed a celebratory dinner of ribs and cake – the sale of our rental house closed that day and we had gotten Josiah’s final grades for school (and he did absolutely amazing πŸ™‚ ) Hard to settle in completely because we knew there was a very early morning coming so we could catch the ferry the next day. But here’s a very cool thing, a God thing – there was a verse printed out and attached to the window frame across from my bed. Can you guess what the verse was? My verse for the year –Β Be still and know that I am God. Yep, can’t even begin to try to make that a coincidence. I was SO THANKFUL for the reminder.

Day 10 – We woke up early and made it in plenty of time for the CAT ferry across the Bay of Fundy to Portland, Maine. None of us have sea legs, so it turns out 😦 But we made it through the 5.5 hour crossing. We slept, watched the on-board movies, played games, walked around the ship (ugh – I get seasick just thinking about it!) Just before leaving port on the Canadian side there were so many sea lions and herons to see – it was amazing! After the ferry we waited for an hour just off the ship to get through customs. Then we drove for 3 hours to our hotel in the Hartford, Conneticut area. We had a hard time finding a place to eat dinner (we were all not feeling quite well and were sick of fast food) but we settled on Wendy’s near the hotel. As we checked into the hotel we knew there might be issues because management had JUST changed and the hotel was in rough shape. It was a Travelodge, so we thought it would be fine, but it wasn’t. Nothing worked as promised except our beds. I won’t go into it all too much, but we did ask for a refund on our stay, and they didn’t hesitate to give it to us. Folks, it really was THAT bad. So it was quite a day, but we seemed to make it through OK, and I was happy to realize we’d come to a point in the trip that it didn’t really matter what was going on around us, our family could stay tight and keep going through alot. And that is SO GOOD to know as we move into a season of so much change ahead.

Day 11 – We were happy to pack up from the hotel and drive out once again. At this point the trip was mostly about heading back home and taking in what we could along the way. We had been trying to find a place for Josiah to do a little cliff-jumping and hadn’t had any luck with the places we tried. But we tried again this day – heading to a State park that boasted a good spot. And legal too! Just as we walked down the trail to the river to jump, we noticed a crew putting up No Swimming signs. Apparently someone had actually died and another had gotten injured recently. Oh my. We drove through some beautiful scenery of mountains and rivers, stopped at an outlet mall (good places for food courts and stretching your legs a little) and continued on to Utica, New York. We had found a deal on a motel there. It was not what we expected, but it was nice enough and clean, so we stayed. Did some laundry, hit the grocery story, and we settled in for the night.

Day 12 – We drove to the BIG outlet mall in Buffalo – and met my sister there! She had just been at Darien Lake with her family, and we just happened to be at the same mall, on the same day, at the same time – SO COOL! It was a quick visit but I got hugs from my niece and nephew, so it was all good πŸ™‚ Then crossed the border back into Canada and stayed at a motel in Niagara Falls. Greatest deal we got yet, and a nice place with an outdoor pool we enjoyed πŸ™‚ The guys headed down to the falls that night for a ferris wheel ride and some ice cream. I stayed behind – I think I needed to regroup because we were heading home the next day. Needed to wrap my head around the trip ending – it had been so amazing, so much more than I expected, and I didn’t want it to end, but I was OK with it ending because we’d accomplished everything AND MORE that I’d hoped for. Such a successful trip. I was so glad we actually did it. Actually got in the car and just started driving and waited to see what the road brought us. Amazing.

Day 13 – (I just now realized it was actually 13 days!) We headed home! One last stop at Grundy Provincial Park for Josiah to FINALLY get to some cliff jumping – funny how we drove all that way and the only good option was less than an hour from home πŸ™‚ Grundy seemed like a nice place, the weather was beautiful for jumping into the water, Josiah gave us a good show (our family plus some others who were camping there), and Josh managed to overcome his fear and jump off the highest cliff (they call it Kong). We rolled back into Sudbury just before dinnertime. Unpacked the car. Grabbed our last fast-food dinner. Got reacquainted with our house and all that is happening in our “real” lives. Lots to do. Back to it.

SO GLAD we’ll always have the memories of the Canada 150 East Coast Road Trip of 2017.

And now… goofy driving pictures for your viewing pleasure… πŸ™‚

Posted in Life

The Shore Is Nowhere In Sight

I watched this documentary on Netflix the other day…

LOSING SIGHT OF SHORE – “follows the extraordinary journey of four brave women known as the Coxless Crew that set out to row the Pacific Ocean from America to Australia unsupported. As they row over 8,000 miles during their nine months at sea, they face extreme mental and physical challenges they must overcome in order to go down in history. This is a story of perseverance, friendship, and the power of the human spirit. Everyone has a Pacific to cross.”

I’m not sure I’d use the word “courage” to describe our jump into the ocean of uprooting from our home of 13 & 1/2 years and moving to a city about 5 hours from the shore we’ve known for over a decade.

And I know our personal ocean is quite calm compared to others, and there is far less pain in our Pacific than others will experience in their own ocean crossings.

But here we are, smack dab in the middle of our ocean, riding the waves and facing the storms, and appreciating the calm days as best we can.

And on days like today, when the waves are relentless, I find it helps to write it all down and share it with you πŸ™‚

Our shore disappeared from sight a few months ago. We had been staring at this particular ocean for a few months, wondering if it was time to set sail, to leave our shore of home, community, church, friends, and familiar sights and sounds. After much soul-searching and praying and chatting, we decided to step into the boat and start the journey to a new ministry, new schools, new focus, new community, new friends, and new every-days.

The ocean crossing has been so calm some days – with blue skies, whales breaching, birds soaring, and a view that extends far into the horizon. We can see so clearly on those days, we can almost see our destination across the water.

Then more waves, storm clouds roll in, rain pelts down heavy on us, the wind blows us this way and that, making it necessary to constantly correct course.

I am always reminded of my Word for 2017

Still

And theΒ Oceans song that goes along with it

And the quote “I can trust the waves for I know the One who made the ocean”

We’ve been out on the ocean for a few months – embarking in our hearts before we removed ourselves physically from the safety of shore.

Our boat is slowly but surely taking us across the water, we are rowing as best we can, there have been breaks in the crossing along the way – moments of laughter, amused incredulity at our situation, utmost trust that God is, in fact, in control.

But there have been dark days, stormy days, andΒ doldrum days.

Days when there’s nothing else to do but sit on the water and wait.

Or days when the horizon disappears in the waves.

Or days when the clouds touch the water and I can’t tell what’s up from down.

Today the sky is gray, today I know there are waves coming. What I don’t know is how big they will be, if they will be storm waves or fun waves, and how much they will toss our boat around as we ride them.

Like all the other days on the ocean so far, this one will end, and we will be that much further from shore, and that much closer to our destination.

The awaiting shore is still so unfamiliar to me, I can’t even describe our new neighbourhood, or the schools the boys will attend, or the closest grocery store – because not even those things are solid ground to land on yet.

But I do know there are friends waiting, waving at us even across the expanse still to travel. There are family members scanning the horizon, keeping a close eye out for any sight of us.

And that helps in the crossing and the wave-riding, still far from shore, still unsure how many course-corrections there are yet to make, still hoping today will be calm waters, swift currents, blue skies and whale sightings.

I wish you well as you cross your Pacific, whatever it may be, whatever waves may come today – may you end today much farther ahead in your journey than where you began.

πŸ™‚

Posted in Life

Just a Little More on Introversion…

I was going to do another couple of posts on Introversion, but there is just so much I want to share with all you introverts and extroverts out there in hopes of understanding one another a little better. I decided to sum it up with a few graphics, some key points, and a heap of encouragement to dig a little deeper into this topic if it’s of interest to you. It’s worth it for sure πŸ™‚

Let’s get on with the show… SOLITUDE is key for introverts.

We simply need a break, need to be left alone. And sometimes it’s our own thought whirlwinds we need a break from. Sometimes it’s the noise of the world in general. Sometimes it’s all the responsibilities that crowd out any semblance of peace and calm. Sometimes we need 5 minutes. Sometimes it’s 5 hours or even 5 days (I’ve yet to take THAT long of a break – I think that would drive even me a little loopy). And because we’re all at different points on the introvert/extrovert scale, our time requirements and circumstances for solitude will all be different. So cool how none are the same, eh? No fitting into molds here. Not a chance.

Solitude doesn’t necessarily mean a chair on the dock by the lake in the middle of nowhere. It can mean a 20-min Netflix show. It can mean a few minutes with a good book. It can mean a glance out the window. A bike ride, a walk, a movie, a sewing project, a daydream, an idea, playing a few songs on a musical instrument, or listening to a few of your favourite songs. It’s a break from what is draining you, a chance to reconnect with that inner side, a grounding moment.

Now, we can’t stay locked away in our heads or in our homes or in our quiet places for too long. At some point we’ll need to step back into the “noise” of our lives. I love some noise as long as I know there will also be quiet. Again, this can be mental noise or social noise, and mental quiet or social quiet.

When it’s time to step out, remember you can be yourself. If extrovert qualities are needed for the occasion, you can pretend for a while even. I’ve picked up some small talk pointers and learned alot about social interaction with crowds and people much “louder” than myself from being married to Josh for 17 & 1/2 years. He’s a pretty big extrovert, big personality, fills a room without saying a word, loves it when people are hanging on his every word, has a million stories to tell, can shmooze with the best of them, etc. It’s actually one of the things I think is great about him, as long as I’m not expected to BE him. And that was HUGE for me to learn – I can be myself, can socialize with him in my own ways, leave much earlier than him, and it’s all just fine. Really. I’m still good, he’s still good. We are just very different. And I like it that way, as long as we can accept each other for who we are – plain and simple. For the most part I am fascinated by Josh and all his extrovert ways. He’s quite entertaining to say the least πŸ™‚

And that about sums up the main concepts I wanted to share with you – there’s SO MUCH more to learn about the topic if you’re interested. There’s a heap of information out there now – I guess the introverts have started to share more now that social media gives them the space they need between themselves and their audiences πŸ™‚

If you have an introvert loved one in your life, this is very important to remember…

 

 

Posted in Life

More on Introversion…

When I speak I have no idea whose talking. When I write I hear my voice.

I typed this out many years ago in an email to a Mom’s Moments contributor. It’s how I feel often. Don’t get me wrong… I enjoy people, being around people, talking to people, doing activities with people… but when I put my fingers to the keyboard and start typing out words… that’s when the magic happens for me.

I’ll add another statement to the above gem…

My keyboard is like my microphone, my stereo system, and my volume increase button.

When I have something to share, when I hope to encourage others with an idea, or when I learn about something that excites me – this blog is where it goes first, sometimes after a few conversations with select individuals πŸ™‚

Learning about introversion has been very exciting for me, very freeing, and I’m hoping will be very encouraging to readers who are introverts themselves or have loved ones who are introverts.

The next 3 blog posts will be about introversion… what it means to be an introvert, what we need to be our best selves, and healthy ways we can interact with the extroverts in our lives.

Yes, let’s get on with the 1st post… More About Introversion… yes πŸ™‚

I highly recommend the booksΒ The Awakened Introvert by Arnie KozakΒ andΒ Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I truly gained alot of knowledge and encouragement about introversion from these books.Β Quiet is available in pdf form here.

And there’s a wonderful blog I started following calledΒ Introvert Spring.Β Michaela is a very encouraging, gentle soul whose words are suited especially for introverts and those who have loved ones who are introverts.

I already shared a little about what it means to be an introvertΒ so now I’d like to touch on what it might look like to be a suffering introvert, and how we might be adding to our own pain without even knowing it…

A couple of years ago I had a bout with anxiety & depression. This is so common in our world today, and there are many ways we can get to that point. For me it was a mixture of grieving, miscommunication with loved ones, pushing myself too hard and too fast out of my comfort zones, big lack of self-care, and a build-up of sleep deprivation. I was basically a ticking time bomb of confusion and emotion. Everything was on the surface, I’d forgotten how to tap into the inner strength of introversion, and I’d forgotten alot of who I was underneath it all. My foundation had crumbled quite a bit and it was a long process of tearing down what I had built on shifty ground, finding the solid ground again, and rebuilding on the rocks in my life. I never lost my faith, it was nothing like that, there were just so many other noises in my life that I couldn’t hear the still, small voice of the One who loved me most. I can’t tell you how good it was to reconnect with Him, the first and firmest Rock of my foundation.

Going back further in my life, there was always this sense that something was wrong with me, that I was lacking in many ways, that I couldn’t possibly hope to be like others in the world who were healthy, happy, strong, wise, contributing members of society. Recently I’ve come to realize that for most of my life I’ve been comparing myself constantly to people who are completely different from me – no wonder I was always coming up short.

My brother once wrote that we should only compare ourselves to Christ. He was so young when he wrote that. And so wise. He would sometimes post deep thoughts on the fridge for the rest of us to read, and I’m really glad he felt comfortable enough to share that side of himself, to let us into that part of his world. I’m really proud of my little bro.

I had alot of negative self-talk going on in my head – it would consistently drown out any positive talk others were offering in my direction. The negative talk would slap the outstretched hand of the positive talk and not let it anywhere near me. This only added to the anxiety and depression. I don’t remember how it started – the turnaround from negative to positive self-talk, but I do remember one day just knowing I was pretty cool. In fact, I was awesome. I think it started when I heard the still, small voice. It rang true and it rang the loudest in my heart and soul and mind, and I liked it, and I wanted more of it. From then on, when positive talk was offered to me, I didn’t immediately turn away from it – rather I looked it in the eye, and opened myself up to the possibility that it might just be true. Then it was like a snowball – positive upon positive with me at the centre – tumbling down the hill in unknown directions, smashing any obstacles in our way, actually having a jolly good time together – me and this new positive mindset.

And in social situations – I started understanding I wasn’t ill-equipped but instead I was selective – about people, conversations, settings, time, etc. All these little quirks I’d been compiling into a negative mental list and beating myself up about were just normal for who I am, how I function in the world, indicators of how I could be at my best if only I’d see them in a positive light. I tended to shine in one-on-one conversations or small groups, I loved talking about the deeper issues, and my sense of humour was more subtle.

As I began to see myself in a more positive light, I also started learning how to care for my introverted self. I am learning not to berate myself for needing time alone, even from my husband and 2 sons whom I love more than I can say. And I’m learning to tell them my needs, and not cave when they protest because they want more from me. I know they want more because they love me. I also know that when there’s no more to give there’s no use in me trying to give – empty is empty. The best thing I can do is fill up so there’s more to give – very practical, isn’t it? The tricky part is finding a good balance in all the demands of a usually-noisy world so that there is usually some to give to the people in my life I want to give it to most.

 

So… if you’re feeling tired, confused, stressed, or overwhelmed – please know you are not alone. Often you just need a good dose of time away from social obligations. If after a while you find this just isn’t cutting it, you should see a health-care professional for advice. In my own life, I had gotten so empty for a time that I needed some medical help, and it was a struggle to learn this was OK and not another way I was defective or weak. If it’s a biological or genetic issue, help may continue for quite some time, and that’s OK too.

Introversion is simply a personality tendency, and it can sometimes explain symptoms similar to depression – for me it was changes in appetite, sleep patterns, weight gain, fatigue, confusion, indecisiveness, memory difficulties, and feelings of low self-worth and value. Some of these things have been in my life since I can remember, but it was the sleep deprivation and increases in other symptoms that finally got to me. And there were a few causes working together to bring on my bout with anxiety and depression, it was not a single cause on its own.

Introversion Β is not an answer to major symptoms or symptoms beyond the ones mentioned here – in that case I would greatly encourage you in the most positive way to ask the advice of a professional. I know people that would not be in my life today had they not gone for the help they needed. Thank God for the help they received.

One last thing that can really bring unhappiness to an introvert is having a misalignment between your goals and your personality – not being true to who you are can cause great stress and frustration. I remember repeating a statement over and over in the time leading up to my “burnout” Β –Β I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t know what my roles are at this point in my life. I don’t know where my place is in this community. I was so confused and always measuring myself up to what other people were doing and coming up short. I’d completely lost focus on who I was, what I wanted /liked to do, and how to go about living out my passions and dreams in my current situation. And when I tried an idea or tried fitting into a group and it failed, I was knocked down yet another notch, and felt even more like a failure. It was a pretty negative cycle to be stuck in.

Finally I tuned out everything that others wanted me to be, and everything I was supposed to be, and once again I listened for the still and small voice that spoke loudest into my life. He told me He loved me just as I was, that He made me just the way He wanted, and I had alot to offer in my community circles. I was to remember that in this season of life, I would gain the most satisfaction and pleasure from simply finding my roles first in the smallest community that was my own home.Β Β I was needed, wanted, and invited into so much just by being a wife and mother. This was the first set of roles to solidify in my heart, everything else was extra at this point in my life. And soon enough, that would change, the seasons of life are always going to be shifting. But for now, it was so important to be present in the current season of family life.

And once that was solid, I could begin to dream and imagine what else I’d like to put into my life, where else I’d like to contribute. I went back to the beginning, remembered my hobbies and interests growing up, focused in on what I’d added through the years that I truly enjoyed, and began to see the colours on the canvas on my life. It was beautiful! Simple things like bicycling, sewing, watching my sons in their activities, baking, reading, listening to music, watching the trees in the wind, and going to the movies brought some colour. More complex things like international mission work, continuing education, simple living, global stewardship, local service ideas, and encouraging children to help others brought still more colour. Some parts of the canvas remain blank, and I look forward to seeing which colours will fill those spaces. Most likely in other seasons of life.

For today… I think that’s all I’ve got to share… it’s quite enough I think! πŸ™‚ I’ve given you lots of food for thought.

Enjoy your day – whether it be a welcome (or not so welcome πŸ˜‰ ) draining out in connecting with others, or charging up in solitude… which is the focus of the next Introvert post… coming soon πŸ™‚