Family traditions

Summer, for me, is woven with family traditions – traditions that run deep.

I am fortunate to live in a place rich with berries just waiting to be harvested. As well as berries, some harvest mushrooms, hazelnuts, rose hips and even fire weed.

My childhood was filled with berry picking with my mom, grandmother and a few of my aunts. Our pantries and freezers were filled with the fruits of our labor…pun totally intended.

As an adult, I have continued the tradition and make preserves and freeze berries for baking for my own family, and I thoroughly enjoy learning more from the people in my life.

Just recently, I was introduced to a tasty and spectacularly beautiful mushroom called an Indigo Milk Cap.

I have been busy picking berries to freeze and have made jams and syrups to last until next summer. I anxiously wait for the chokecherries to be ready so I can make another batch or 5 of chokecherry syrup. Chokecherry syrup is not only delicious but, it holds sweet memories of breakfasts sitting beside my grandpa, with bread Granny had freshly made, toasted and smothered with peanut butter. We would poke holes in the toast and pour the syrup onto our toast, letting it seep through to saturate the toast from the bottom. My grandpa’s eyes would sparkle with mischief as he asked if I would like long or short syrup. Asking for long syrup always brought forth laughter that echoed through the home as he would jump on his chair or reach as high as he could to give me “long syrup”.

We would gather rose hips along our walks, snacking on them as we built wildflower bouquets for Mom and Grandma.

Picking berries with the adult women always made me feel part of something special and I will forever treasure those moments spent with my grandma picking berries, sometimes even hazelnuts.

Now, it is my turn, and I love creating tasty treats for my family and friends. I also find it a delicious excuse to get outside, enjoy the fresh air and chill out away from the chaos of the city.

Can it

Today my step-daughter and I made Saskatoon Berry jam from the berries that I had gathered last week.

Honestly, the smell in the house, as we stirred our berry/sugar/secret ingredient mixture, was divine.

Our first small batch of canning is done for the year. The list of to-do’s has been created, including some of our favorites from previous years and we have a list of possible and hopeful first attempts.

Are we ever looking forward to sinking our teeth into this delicious treat.

I love taking the time to teach my kids (bio, step or otherwise) about life, love and adventure, and imparting into them my adoration for nature and mindfulness.

Focus

Sometimes we get tunnel vision. Our sites become set on the wrong targets.

A few months ago, my energies were on seeing the negative actions and energies that made their way into our, otherwise, very peaceful environment.

Where focus goes, there we will find ourselves. So, I made a shift.

People make choices. I can only be responsible for my own choices. Sometimes that is simply my reaction to their choices…

Once focus changed, life felt much lighter.

What do you want to spend your time, energies and focus?

I know what I choose.

Taking care of busine…YOU!

Self-care is defined as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health” and “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness “.

Making it a habit to practice self-care can be challenging. We all have busy schedules (with work, school, household, familial and social obligations) and let’s not forget the guilt. The “I should-be’s” can have very loud opinions.

How we should implement self-care into our lives:

1. I suggest trying to get enough sleep. How difficult is it to try to do anything when you’re exhausted? I know when I go through my seasons of PTSD nightmares, I can hardly function, let alone feel like caring for myself.

In order to set yourself up for success in the sleep department, my personal experience shows that (at least for me) routine and organization are key. Have a bedtime routine that shifts your mind from activity to preparing for sleep modes. One of the most helpful for me was making the bedroom a sanctuary….cozy colors, cozy blankets, soft lighting. Hygge the hell out of that space. Room darkening curtains are a must and consider removing electronics from your bedroom (cell phones, televisions, etc.

2. Practice the art of saying “no”. “No” is a complete sentence. If you have no time to give yourself at least 15 min, you don’t have time to add another bake sale, Susan.

3. Eat well to feel well. Practice mindfulness during your meals, truly savoring your food. Watch which types of food make you feel gross and sluggish and which make you feel great? Water, water, water…

4. If you are able, get a pet. Studies have shown that pets, especially a dog, help reduce stress, anxiety and high blood pressure. I’ve heard that people with PTSD are now using service dogs. I know for myself, although not a service dog, my dog has been a great asset in helping to calm and relax me – even going as far as waking me up from the nightmares that harass me and the dog will not leave my side when a panic attack sets in.

5. My personal favorite, get outside. Being outside reduces fatigue, burn-out and depression. For me, it nourishes my soul, especially when I am able to get away from the city, major bonus points when I can get out to enjoy a full moon or a sunset/rise…

6. Exercise daily

7. Get organized. Organize your space, your calendar, your routines. Organization reduces stress exponentially. Schedule your self-care so you reduce your chances of bailing on yourself.

8. Make time to read.

Life has shown me that self-care is a fundamental part of what we should do. How can we pour ourselves out for our loved ones if we feel there is nothing within us to give?

So, let’s take a look at our calendars, pick a day and schedule a nice, long walk, a hot bath, a leisurely meal with friends, even just waking up 15 minutes earlier to have an uninterrupted cuppa and some time for a little deep breathing.

Step-parents, this is especially important for us all. Hell, it’s important no matter what prefix is attached to parenting.

Surrounded by Beauty

Enjoying the beauty I am honored to live around – except today, today it is snowing. Yes, I know it won’t last long, but I’m just a smidge tired of snow and minus eleventy hundred (slight exaggeration) degrees Celsius.

Choosing to focus on positivity, I’m posting a picture or two from one of my many walks in this beautiful land I get to call home.

Go chase ants

If I may offer any advice to all parents out there, it’s to allow yourself to slow down with your children. A lesson I never fully learned until I became a grandmother.

It’s ok to stop to track bugs, look at pinecones and explore along the way. I know it seems daunting; you have so much to do. Those sleepless nights that last for a month, with a teething baby, do not seem short at all. Like at all. And you certainly don’t feel like watching ants while you need to be worrying about supper or laundry or washing your floors.

As I reach my mid-forties and my youngest (biological) child nears 16, I look back on those years and they are but a blip in my life. I constantly find I am contemplating the following quotes:

“How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr Seuss

“The days are long, but the years are short” – Gretchen Rubin

I was a single parent twice in my life. The first time to a toddler while I was barely in my twenties; the second time was in my thirties and I can’t say I was a legitimate single parent as my ex had the kids 50% of the time (until they chose to live with me full-time and by then I was in a relationship and they have an amazing step-dad).

Every day was long. Every night was longer. I felt I couldn’t do it at times, that it would never be “easy”. I worked

Now those kids are adults and teenagers and although it still isn’t “easy”, I have come to the realization I wish I could have been more mindful in my moments with my children.

I know I did the best I could and they were very well cared for. My thoughts on this are geared to my needs more than theirs but also realize I wishI could have been more attentive. I wish I had been more mindful during those cuddles I was getting in the midst of those nights of broken sleep, the moments where my children were excited to share their discoveries of earthworms and beetles. I acknowledge that I was in survival mode due to my own circumstances and that I should cut myself a bit of slack. To be fair to myself, due to that survival mode, there are many gaps in my memories…fragments of time my brain doesn’t want to, or chooses not to remember (this is common for a domestic abuse survivor). Perhaps my situation is a bit more extreme and complicated than others.

The main point I want to make is this: cut yourself some slack. You’re doing the best you can. Those dishes can totally wait if you want to enjoy singing your baby one more song or chase butterflies for 5 more minutes. Just breath, parents. Breath and enjoy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, this handsome dude and I have some ants to follow….