Learning How to Date…Again…

“Thankfully, relationships aren’t like baseball, where it’s three strikes and you’re out. The universe keeps pitching us new opportunities to redo, repair, and reinvent ourselves with another person.” ~ Dr. Stan Tatkin

I never enjoyed the dating experience as a teenager. It always felt awkward and uncomfortable to me. I think this is, in part, because I am an introvert: so making small talk with strangers is a challenge. I much prefer spending time with people who I know and love well and engaging in deep, intimate conversation. This is generally not a great fit for the superficial nature of the dating scene.

I met my ex-husband when I was nineteen years old; and we stayed together for twenty-one years. I was overjoyed at the thought of having found my special person so young and I loved the idea of staying with him ‘forever’. I never wanted to date again. Check!

For a variety of reasons, I found myself at the end of my relationship two years ago; and now here I am starting all over again.  After experiencing deep heart-break, it is hard to imagine re-entering the arena of love. The vulnerability required to play the game is truly intimidating. You have to bring your whole self to the dating experience; and this means taking a deep breath and jumping into the unknown.

To start the process, a friend of mine recommended that I look into the work of Dr. Stan Tatkin. His is a relationship expert and his work focusses on how to build secure, functioning relationships.  He draws on principles from neuroscience and attachment theory to first help you better understand yourself and then your potential partner. I am currently reading his new book, Wired for Dating. It is a great resource and I highly recommend it to anyone considering entering the dating scene.

The interview with Dr. Tatkin posted below, hosted on the podcast Relationship Alive with Neil Sattin, is a good capture of his work and overall approach:

I really appreciate Dr. Tatkin’s description of the various attachment types (anchor, wave or island). I found it to be very revealing and I now much better understand my own preferences and approach (I am a wave). Additionally, I like the traits that he describes of a secure functioning relationship. It provides me with a clear outline of what needs to be in place for a romantic partnership to succeed. I also love it because it is so relevant to parenting my daughter and nurturing a healthy relationship with her as she grows into adulthood.

Traits of a Secure, Functioning Relationship

Security: We protect each other.

Sensitivity: We are aware of each other’s needs.

Justice and Fairness: We quickly repair any hurts that occur.

Collaboration: We are in this together.

True Morality: What is good for me, is good for you.

Although I am still nervous about the journey ahead of me, I feel like I have some really good tools on hand now to help me enter into this experience with an open heart and mind. I will let you know how it goes!

Blossom & Grow: A Healing Garden

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.’ ~ Audrey Hepburn

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Two years ago, spring was very difficult for me. My heart was broken in a million pieces after the sudden end of my marriage; and I was very focused on just getting up every morning and putting one foot in front of the other.

It was at that time that I came back into contact with a dear friend of mine, Heidi. Heidi is a not only a lovely woman; she is a very talented horticulturalist and garden coach. What is a garden coach, you ask? Her vision is to reconnect people with their gardens. She is interested in building your confidence and knowledge, so you can ultimately learn to work intuitively in your own space.

When we started the project, I had been living in my home for thirteen years.  During that time, I had spent almost no time at all in my backyard.  My house was originally built in the 1950s and the yard itself was large and unruly. I had always mowed the grass but that was about all I could manage.  Just being in the space made me feel uncomfortable. I did not know where to start.  How do you revitalize a whole garden? As Heidi so wisely summarized it: “One bed at a time.”

Throughout the spring and summer, we worked together to transform each bed.  There was a lot of digging, hauling and hands in the soil.  Gardening is a really therapeutic activity, which leaves very little time for rumination: it brings you right into the moment and the task in front of you.  We brought in sea soil to nourish and new plants to brighten. Heidi has the unique ability to see the project as a whole. All I had to do was show up and do the work.

The back yard before we started work.

Heidi and I started this project in the spring of 2016 and, two years later, we are still going strong. Slowly but surely, my garden has taken on new shape, colour and form. Life is springing up in every nook and cranny. It has even become a family project; my mother and daughter often join us to help out with various projects.

We have spent many afternoons patiently cultivating my overgrown yard together and it is now on its way to being a beautiful, restful space.  Last year, I was able to realize a long held dream to plant a new fruit and vegetable garden.  It is really satisfying to grow your own food. This year, I am going to test out some new, natural pest control options and plant spacing.

Heidi with my mom, Suzanne, at the nursery.
My daughter and I digging the new beds.

There has been something magical about this experience; Heidi and I call it our “healing garden.” Moving and exerting the body. Immersing your hands deep in the fresh soil. Carefully tending to plants and bushes. Breathing in the fresh air and hearing the sounds of nature around you. It is very therapeutic. The ground itself contains powerful, nourishing energy.

Now that spring is on its way, I am really looking forward to getting  back out there and continuing our project together. My daughter is already talking about planting her own special bed with flowers that she chooses herself; and my mom is excited to plant her pots. I am so grateful for this shared experience. My garden has become a living expression of friendship, connection and love.

 

Clean Cosmetics

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I posted back in May about why I am passionate about using clean cosmetics. Being informed about what you put onto your skin is really important for your health. It is also important for the health of the environment. Products are not only absorbed into your skin (the body’s largest organ); they are eventually washed down the drain and into the ocean. So our choices affect both us and the ecosystem.

I have been a customer at The Green Kiss for the last few years. They are a local company in Victoria, B.C. with a commitment to sourcing the best natural cosmetic options on the market in Canada. I have been so impressed with their customer service and the quality of the products that they choose.

The ladies at Green Kiss most recently recommended that I try out the Josh Rosebrook product line. I LOVE it. Here are some of my favourites so far:

Vital Balm Cream: This multi-benefit moisturizer works to facilitate maximum cellular hydration and repair vital skin functions. With aloe vera, rich plant oils and Indian Senna Seed which is know as “botanical hyaluronic acid,” this balm works to hold moisture throughout the day. Skin is left plumped, softened, protected and also deeply repaired.

Nutrient Day Cream (Tinted – SPF 30): This rich and firming moisturizer works double duty to provide deep hydration and natural sun protection in one. Delivering a powerful combination of plant oils and herbal actives the Nutrient Day Cream repairs, protects and treats with highly effective antioxidants, fatty acids and phytonutrients.

Cacao Mask: Packed with antioxidants and active nutrients, this potent face mask is highly effective and perfect for any skin type. Cacao, known for aiding in collagen repair, works with plant and herbal infusions to also tone, firm and exfoliate the skin while keeping it hydrated.

Let me know if you give these products a try. I would be interested to hear your thoughts!

Clean Cosmetics

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A few years ago, my wise friend and acupuncturist, Anne Matthews, opened my eyes up to the importance of my skin. The largest and most absorbent organ of the human body, many of us unwittingly inundate our skin with toxins on a daily basis: due to lax rules in the cosmetic industry.  From shampoo, sunscreen and make-up, to baby soap, perfume and anti-aging face serums, there are more cancer-causing and hormone-disrupting ingredients in products on the market than you can ever imagine.

The cosmetics industry is not required to prove an ingredient is safe for human health before it is used in a consumer product. It is shocking, but true. Most people use these products without a second thought: believing that the government is regulating for safety. This is incorrect. The government does not require health studies or pre-market testing for cosmetic products before they are sold. On average, people apply 126 unique ingredients onto their skin daily.  These chemicals, whether absorbed through the skin, rinsed down the drain, or flushed down the toilet, are causing serious issues for human health: as well as seriously impacting our wildlife and water systems.

And so I asked myself, how can I make more informed choices for myself and my family? It has often been a confusing and daunting journey but I have been fortunate enough to discover some great resources over the years. I hope that they will be of use to you on your path to health and well-being:

Environmental Working Group: Skin Deep Cosmetics Database

EWG’s Skin Deep database gives you practical solutions to protect yourself and your family from everyday exposures to chemicals. They launched Skin Deep in 2004 to create online profiles for cosmetics and personal care products, highlighting their potential hazards and health concerns. The EWG’s scientific staff compare the ingredients on personal care product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases. Now in its eighth year, EWG’s Skin Deep database provides you with easy-to-navigate ratings for a wide range of products and ingredients on the market.

David Suzuki Foundation: Dirty Dozen Cosmetic Chemicals List 

U.S. researchers report that one in eight of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors. Many products include plasticizers (chemicals that keep concrete soft), degreasers (used to get grime off auto parts), and surfactants (they reduce surface tension in water, like in paint and inks).  The David Suzuki Foundation provides an accessible list of the “dirty dozen” ingredients to keep an eye out for; they also provide more comprehensive data on these ingredients for those who would like all of the facts.

“There is Lead in Your Lipstick” by Gillian Deacon   

As a breast cancer survivor, author Gill Deacon takes the issue of toxins in bodycare products to heart. Her book is a friendly, informative and meticulously researched guide to more considered options for personal care, showing how to navigate misleading labels and greenwash, and ultimately arrive at safer choices, for a healthier family and a healthier world. You can get copy of her free wallet-size toxins guide here.

And now for some of my favourite natural cosmetic products so far…drum roll please…

Routine Natural Deodorant: I have tried LOTS of natural deodorants over the years and most have not worked for me. Routine is the only one that never fails. It smells great and it works all day. Routine Deodorant is free from aluminum zirconium, aluminum chlorohydrate, parabens, triclosan and propylene glycol. My favourite one is “Like a Boss.”

Make-up: I am still exploring the world of natural make-up. So far, I can give two thumbs up to the following products and companies.

  1. Tartiest lash paint mascara: Most natural mascaras tends to run down my face half way through the day. This product not only gives me great volume but it also lasts really well. Tarte is a leader in healthy, eco-chic beauty, offering cruelty-free cosmetics infused with ingredients like superfruit and plant extracts, vitamins, minerals, essential oils and other naturally-derived ingredients.
  2. 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Foundation PowderThe powder is lightweight, while providing great coverage. I like the peach bisque colour for my skin tone. This product is natural and 100% cruelty-free, free of artificial colors, artificial fragrances, synthetic chemical preservatives and all other toxins.
  3. Sappho Cosmetics: Founded by Emmy nominated makeup artist JoAnn Fowler, and developed with experts in the field of green chemistry, Sappho New Paradigm offers formulations created with the finest of certified organic ingredients and infused with phyto nutrients. I have been using their Lisa liquid foundation, as well as their Luv the Cheeks blush and Bronze Goddess bronzer.

Face Cosmetics: 

  1. VIVA Organics: I recently discovered the VIVA product line; and I have been really happy with the quality and value for money.  I am currently using their Antioxidant Serum, the Facial Toner and the Bio-Brightening C Serum. They are all great.
  2. Caudalie: For treating sun spot damage, I like to use the Caudalie Radiance Serum; and for the occasional acne break-outs (once a month or so) I apply an Instant Detox Mask.
  3. REN Clean Skincare: For overall radiance, I like to use the REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask, once a week.

I could type on and on but I will stop here. My enthusiasm for natural products for the home and body is growing by the day. If there is interest, I am happy to write more about soap, shampoo, sunscreen and home cleaning recommendations in a future post.

Tell me – are you paying attention to the products you use on your body? And if so, please share your favourites with me!

 

Something to Inspire

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The World Needs More Love Letters is a not-for-profit organization that uses the power of social media to write and mail letters to strangers all over the world.  They let anyone nominate someone in need of a love letter bundle.  In a world fueled by technology and isolation, this is a beautiful and meaningful exercise in human love and connection.  I am going to go out and buy some lovely stationary today.

http://www.moreloveletters.com/the-letter-requests/

Magical Thinking

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Art by Emily Balivet

When I was a child, I loved running around barefoot in nature; it made me feel deeply connected to the earth. I believed in fairies and unicorns. I dreamed of true love, myths and fairy tales.  I was confident in myself and connected to the strong beat of my own heart. I loved to sing and write and draw; and I did these activities voraciously and without inhibition.

As I moved through the school system, I was often teased for being too sensitive, naive and trusting. I was laughed at for believing in magic and mystery. And eventually, I came to devalue my gifts of creativity, communication and insight. Being a highly adaptive person, I soon learned to camouflage myself and assimilate with the group of the day. I lost touch with my core sense of being; and for most of my adolescence and early adulthood, I was very skilled at being just like the people around me.

Now that I have tipped over the edge of forty, and survived my marriage falling apart, I have spent the last year taking stock of the remains: and I discovered that under the ashes is me. The authentic, real me. She is a little cramped and sore from hiding all of these years; but there is love and hope shining brightly in her heart, and she still believes in magic. As Glennon Doyle Melton so eloquently describes it: “You have been offered the gift of crisis…the Greek root of the word crisis is ‘to sift’, as in, to shake out the excesses and leave only what’s important. That’s what crises do. They shake things up until we are forced to hold on to only what matters most. The rest falls away.”

During this difficult time of transformation and change, I have tried to approach my journey with curiosity and an open heart. As a result, I have discovered a range of healing tools that defy reason and logic; and they have reconnected me with the magical thinking of childhood. These little practices serve as a touchstone. They connect me to universal energy and flow. They give me hope and comfort; and through them, I have learned that everything does not always have to “make sense”. It can just feel right and give joy. And so, I trust my intuition, and I keep on exploring. I let myself play and laugh and believe.

Here are some of my favourites to date:

Crystals: For thousands of years, ancient civilizations have utilized the power of crystals to release mental, physical and spiritual blockages: facilitating the free flow of energy throughout the body. Mined from deep within the earth, these stones are believed to contain unique properties and support energetic healing and well-being. I like to wear them (necklaces, earrings, bracelets) and I also like to place them throughout my home and office. Some of my favourites are: moonstone; aventurine; carnelian; sunstone; citrine and labradorite.

Aromatherapy: This practice uses natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance well-being. There are literally hundreds of scents and combinations, which provide many different therapeutic benefits. Some of my personal favourites are rose, geranium and lavender. They can be enjoyed in a number of ways. I like to use them in a diffuser in my home and in the bath at night.

Oracle Cards: Oracle cards provide insight and guidance for any situation. There are many different kinds of cards, with varying themes and intentions. I often like to use angel cards if I have a specific question or I am looking for a nudge in the right direction. I also enjoy having a set of cards on hand that simply provide positive daily affirmations and inspiration.

Spirit Animals: Many cultures believe that spirit animals are sent to give specific messages. I always take note when animals unexpectedly show up in my life. For example, when I first had my daughter, I suddenly started to see hummingbirds all of the time; they still continue to visit me in quite often. I have had owls and hawks fly in front of my car (in the middle of the city); and the other day a crane unexpectedly landed right beside me at the pond. I love this beautiful set of animal spirit cards by The Wild Unknown; it touches upon about the spiritual meaning behind them many of them.

Angel numbers and feathersAngel numbers are a series of repeating numbers — like 333 or 1212 — that appear in your everyday life, on a clock, on a billboard, or even in a magazine. But unlike regular numbers, many believe that these numbers are specific signs provided to us by our guardian angels. Coming across a feather in your path, or finding a feather in an unexpected place is also thought to be a message from the angels.

Sage BurningBurning sage is one of the oldest and purest methods of cleansing a person, group of people or space. The Latin for sage, ‘Salvia,’ stems from the word ‘to heal.’ The other qualities of sage when burned, such as giving wisdom, clarity and increasing spiritual awareness, are also indicated in the name. The ritual burning of herbs and herbal resins is common to many cultures in the world. From the ancient Celtic druids who used sage as a sacred herb alongside Oak Moss for burning as well as medicinal purposes, to the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon whose Palo Santo (sacred wood) sage burning ceremonies are still practiced to this day.

How about you? Are you open to magical thinking? If so, I would love to hear about your favourite practices.

 

In Awe of the Body

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about how tired I have felt lately. To be honest with you (and myself),  I have actually been tired for years. Literally. No matter how many hours of sleep I fit in, good food I eat, or vitamins I take, I am tired: deep down to the bone exhausted.

This does not stop me from continuing to be a striving overachiever. My daughter has coined me the “zoom zoom mommy”, as I rarely sit down or stop moving due to the endless “to do” list of: grocery shopping; laundry; meal planning; general cleaning; chores; working and care-giving…”Hmmm,” I recently thought, “Maybe this is why I am tired all of the time?” Ya figure?

I have been consuming a lot of Dr. Libby Weaver’s work as of late. She has a PhD in biochemistry and she is dedicated to improving women’s overall health and well being. Her message is simple but profound. The body is miraculous and too many of us are not in touch with its magnificence. Many women live in a chronic state of disconnected panic, due to the frantic, high-stress nature of our lives; and it is making us sick, tired and unhappy. There is no time or effort given to deeply connecting with the body. We do not stop and listen to the constant feedback messages that it sends us; and these messages are often misinterpreted as a signal to push harder and move faster. Dr. Libby coins this the Rushing Women’s Syndrome.

Rushing Women’s Syndrome is a term she uses to describe the cascade of hormonal changes that happens when we feel stressed for extended periods. It can manifest in anything from unexplained weight gain to fatigue to mood swings.

The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) controls homeostasis and the body at rest. It is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” function. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) controls the body’s responses to a perceived threat. It is responsible for the “fight or flight” response. The PNS and SNS are part of the ANS, or autonomic nervous system which is responsible for the involuntary functions of the human body.

When your body constantly live in the SNS zone, all of your systems respond accordingly. Your adrenals suffer (causing deep exhaustion), your hormones are imbalanced (causing emotional instability), your thyroid, stomach flora and liver become stressed (preventing you from absorbing nutrients) and you store more fat (as your body thinks it is in starvation mode).

Dr. Libby deems this to be a crisis in women’s health.  She suggests various lifestyle revisions to help bring the body back into biochemical balance. These include: eating more whole and local foods; incorporating slow and deliberate exercise into your schedule (e.g. yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates); working daily with deep breath and meditation; prioritizing adequate sleep; and considering the impact of alcohol and caffeine on the body. In her books, Dr. Libby goes into much more specific detail about actions that can be taken to support stress hormones, sex hormones, liver function, thyroid function, gut bacteria, insulin, alkalinity, and emotional health.

These are good, solid recommendations for achieving overall well-being; but they are not new revelations. Most of us know that we need to do these things in order to be healthy. The question is why do we not just do them? Dr. Libby credits the “not enough” complex. A common dialogue that runs through a woman’s head is…”I am not…pretty enough…smart enough…thin enough…successful enough…or generally good enough…to receive love, nourishment and support.” It results in that woman pushing through, striving harder, and serving everyone else’s needs before meeting her own.

I definitely fall into this category. The “not-enoughness” keeps me constantly striving to achieve more, contribute more, and generally “do” more. There is no end in sight and it is draining. A wise friend of mine recently reminded me that everyone dies with an unfinished “to-do” list.  She also challenged the voice of my inner critic, asking me: “If you would not speak to your friend like that, why would you speak to yourself that way? Give yourself a break.” I could not answer her, other than to say, because I had always talked to myself like that. Ah ha. Old stuff. Maybe it is time to pay closer attention to my words and re-examine the status quo. This is not serving me anymore. Maybe it never did.

Dr. Libby’s message came to me right at the moment I needed it, in a form I could hear. I have to be kinder to myself before I can start feeling better in my physical body. It is that simple. Setting boundaries with my time and energy will start to give me some much needed space to start; but it is going to be a life-long practice to make time for the things that nourish me and say no to more that does not.

 

Love Expands

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I lost my beloved Brittany Spaniel companion, Maggie Mae late in 2016. She died relatively peacefully at age thirteen. She was a very important part of our little family and we loved her very much.

Not long after our loss, my daughter and I went on a trip to Mexico to visit my mother and step-dad. They live on a rural property with a large menagerie of animals: dog, cats, birds, horses and a donkey. We were surrounded throughout our stay by their gentle love and quiet companionship.

The highlight for us both was falling in love with a large, loping black dog named Guardián. We spent hours snuggling him and giving belly rubs. We laughed at his silly antics and enjoyed having him follow us around the property: trying to climb into hammock with us each afternoon. Guardián reminded us of the special, devoted love that a dog offers a family, and so the idea was born for us to start looking for a new companion.

I always knew that I wanted to adopt a dog this time around. There are so many animals in the world without a home; and I liked the idea of opening up ours to one. But how to choose? And where to start? There are many wonderful not-for-profit organizations that save animals domestically and bring animals into Canada from international locations.

It turns out that British Columbians like to adopt dogs. I discovered a frenetic, quick paced world where animals are posted online and adopted almost before you can respond. There is  little time for thought or consideration; and no opportunity to meet them before they join your home forever. This is not an easy fit for a slow and considered thinker like myself. I wanted to bring the right dog into our family, not the first available dog. After many frustrating and unsuccessful attempts to make the right connection, I eventually resolved to take a break from my search.

And, as so often happens, this was exactly the moment when things came together: precisely when I stopped trying to direct the situation. In the beautiful and synchronistic way that the universe often unfolds, my younger sister arrived home that weekend with a dog she had just picked up to foster for a Vancouver organization called Big and Small Rescue. This agency transports dogs up from a high-kill shelter in Los Angeles: where animals get three days before they are euthanized.

Lucky is not at all what I expected but just what we needed. He is a little, fifteen pound bundle of fluff and sass. Sweet, smart and cuddly. A gentle, kind and loving little fellow. He arrived into town covered in matts, dirt, urine and feces. His hair had grown so far down into his face that he could see very little, and he lacked depth perception for the first few weeks, after we trimmed it.

After a good hair cut and some TLC from our local vet (clearing up an ear infection and some muscle tension in his back end from being crated for exceptionally long periods of time in his last home), he is good as new. And what a wonderful little companion he has become for our family. My daughter considers him to be her own special pet and he has settled into our home like he never lived anywhere else.

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The resiliency of this little fellow is quite astonishing; and his ability to connect with and love us, despite his difficult start in life, speaks to the uncanny ability of these little creatures to survive and adapt. And for me, it has been amazing to experience the expanding of our hearts to make room for this little fellow. He does not take the place of our Maggie Mae but he now joins her at our family’s heart centre.

Something to Inspire

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One of my favourite writers and thought leaders is Dr. Brené Brown. She a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Brené has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.

She is the author of three #1 New York Times Bestsellers: Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. Brené is also the Founder and CEO of The Daring Way and COURAGEworks – an online learning community that offers eCourses, workshops, and interviews for individuals and organizations ready for braver living, loving, and leading.

I am currently taking her online “Kitchen Sink” course on the gifts of imperfect parenting. I am really enjoying it so far and I look forward to telling you more about my experience of it in the coming weeks.

Brené’s 2010 TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world, with over 25 million viewers. It is definitely worth a watch.

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This short piece on the importance of boundaries is very powerful too: