Friday, February 22, 2013

Pop the Question, Ladies!

The Valentine's hat I made for Bean.
Husband and I have never been big on celebrating Valentine's Day - not even before we were married. We started dating in January 2002, and that first Valentine's Day was probably the only time we've really celebrated the Hallmark holiday. He covered his bases by buying me a necklace and pendant, some chocolate, and a rose. Maybe even a stuffed animal? Haha ... not sure - I don't quite remember. I made him a message in a bottle, which is probably packed away down in our cluttered basement somewhere.

However, since that year, we've sort of boycotted Valentine's Day because it's easier to ignore it than to try to come up with an innovative way to celebrate it each year. (And for those of you who know me personally, you know that I don't like obligatory gifts like the type that often accompany Valentine's Day.)

So what do we celebrate in February if not Valentine's Day? The anniversary of our engagement. Yep, we got engaged on Friday, February 8th, 2008. One of the best decisions we've ever made. Here's the story:

We'd been dating for six years, long distance for five of those years. I was living in Toronto at the time, and he in St. Catharines, each with our best friends. I was sharing a grad student office with a friend of similar age who was married and had been talking a lot about marriage with her. Husband and I were serious and had talked plenty about marriage and children, but I had told him that I wanted to be finished school before we tied the knot.

Suddenly I found myself ready to "make the leap" though, and I couldn't explain what it was that had changed in me. I was just ready. I wanted to take that next step and I wanted to do it soon. The only problem? That stupid time I told him that I wanted to wait till I was done school (all 6 years of it!!!). Here's what I did:

Step One: Tell Husband's best friend that I'm ready to be engaged. Like now.
Poor guy, I still remember this moment - we were standing in the Bulk Barn parking lot across from the Pen Centre. He was like "UMMMMM ... okay ...hahaha."
I quickly followed up by admitting how ridiculous it was for me to give him that message. After all, what was he supposed to do? Tell Husband to get it together because I said the word?

Step Two: Consider taking matters into my own hands. 
After that awkward conversation with Husband's best friend, I started to wonder if I should just "man up" and ask Husband myself. No, not ask him to propose - I mean propose to him myself. I spent a weekend in Guelph with my university roommate discussing the matter with her and looking at rings.

Step Three: Survey the masses.
Ok, well, not the masses, but I did ask my big brother as well as a stranger on the bus home from Guelph. Stranger was a young guy who had just joined the Armed Forces and was quite traditional in his views (read: he thought it was a horrible idea). Brother thought it was intriguing, but worried that I might  be "stealing" Husband's moment. That's fair.

Step Four: Weigh my options.
Become the girl that is bitter every time she hears of someone getting engaged, having a bridal shower or getting married because I wish it were me? Or,  risk embarrassing (future) Husband by proposing to him instead of waiting for him to ask? 

Step Five: Make a plan.
I spent a couple hours with my journal - a journal that Husband had given me for our six-month anniversary, in which I often wrote "to" him during our long distance years. I poured my heart out about how much I loved him and all that we had been through. Then I started to plan the evening of the proposal. He would drive to Toronto and I would meet him downstairs (I lived in an apartment). We would go out for dinner, and when we got back, I'd come up with an excuse for me to run up on my own while he parked the car. Roommate/best friend would be out for the evening, so I would throw rose petals around the apartment, light some candles, and get ready to propose to my man.

Step Six: Freak out.
I barely slept that week. Not because I was scared he would reject me - no. Because I wanted it to be perfect and I wanted him to be happy about it, not disappointed. I still remember going to pottery class that Wednesday night with my sister-in-law. Our teacher offered for me to try to use the wheel that night - HA! I couldn't even center my piece! That week I also went out for lunch with a fellow grad student and told her about my plan. Pretty sure she and my best friend were the only ones I told about the big plan. Thank goodness they were supportive.

Step Seven: Do it.
Wonderful (future) husband that he was, Husband showed up EARLY at my apartment, knocking on my door an hour before he was supposed to arrive! He came bearing gifts, too: a big bouquet of flowers that he picked up to cover his butt in case I reneged on our decision not to celebrate Valentine's Day the next week. (Oh, and he bought them from the same florist where I had purchased a bouquet and bag of rose petals just an hour before...).  The living room was already set with flowers, pictures, candles, journal, etc., so I had to usher him into my bedroom and convince him to stay in my room while I put the bouquet he gave me in water.

It was still light out, so the candles wouldn't look right, so I needed to stall him. But could I get us out the door without him seeing the living room? Or would I have to move up the proposal to before dinner? (This is the only time in my life that I've been dissatisfied with the increased daylight hours in February!)

Now that he was there, there was no way I could wait till after dinner to propose! I'd be so nervous that I wouldn't be able to choke down a single bite. Ok, it's go time then.

So I told him I had set up a bunch of my pottery creations in the living room and that I wanted him to follow me out there with closed eyes. Well, he did. I sat him down on the couch, and he opened his eyes to a scene of flowers, candles, pictures of us, our journal, and me. I was shaking with nerves and had watery eyes as I knelt down and told him how much I loved him and how I couldn't imagine a better way to show him than to ask him to be my husband.

He asked me if it was for real and I told him it was ... unless he didn't want it ... haha! He said yes, and the rest is history, I guess. Five years of history so far.

So, to all of the ladies out there who are waiting for their boyfriends/girlfriends to propose, I say this:

If your desire to get engaged is affecting your relationship negatively because you are growing impatient, consider taking matters into your own hands. It doesn't make you less of a woman and it's not tacky. It's practical and reasonable and it can be beautiful! Just go for it.

For the curious: the next day we went ring shopping. We both got rings and we wore them on our right hands until our wedding day until we switched them to our left hands. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Amazing Neighbours

Last week when I visited my friend/almost neighbour, she gave me a notebook. She told me that during my sleepless nights (I get a lot of those at times), I should pull it out and start writing out my thousand gifts. See, this dear friend of mine is currently reading the novel, A Thousand Gifts. And it's times like this I believe that I can easily think of a thousand things and people I am thankful for.

One of the things I am most thankful for these days is great neighbours. For anyone who has studied population health, you'll know that one of the social determinants of health is a support network. Well, let me tell you - mine is incredible right now.

A few weeks ago when our cat, Bagheera was having seizures, our neighbour with not one, but two infant children looked after Pea while we took Bagheera to the vet. All with just a couple hour's notice. This is the same neighbour that dropped off soup and muffins when I got hit hard with a cold in November, and the one that welcomed the kids and I into her home when I locked myself out in December.

Every time the snow flies, our next door neighbour shovels our sidewalk as he prepares to leave for work in the morning. Sure, we try to return the favour, but he does it every single time.

Nearly every other Sunday while husband and I go play Ultimate (we bring Pea), our other next door neighbour comes over to watch Bean. She's amazing with her and Bean loves this time with her. This is the same neighbour that lent me pattern books so I could crochet little food toys for Bean for Christmas, and the same neighbour that rescued me twice this week.

You see, Bean came home from daycare last Friday with the stomach flu and was sick Friday through Wednesday. Well, by Sunday, husband was feeling run down and I was desperate to keep Pea healthy. So, I started sending Pea out.

On Sunday, Pea spent 7 hours with my wonderful friends/neighbours a few streets over (same friend that walks with me weekly and gives me a good dose of emotional support on those walks). When I dropped him off, she welcomed me in and fueled me with coffee and a freshly baked cinnamon roll!

When Pea arrived home, we sent him out to his aunties' place. His aunties are a pair of the sweetest women you'll ever meet - they care for our children frequently and they're pals of ours. They're our local family, really. He spent some time at their house until they took him to his auntie's sister's place where he spent some time with yet another of our close friends and Pea's honorary aunties. Pea was out of the house for about 12 hours that day.

Well, come Monday, husband was itching to get out of the house and so he went to play Ultimate (with the aforementioned aunties). Bean still wasn't 100% and needed extra attention, so Pea went next door for a couple hours while I put her to bed.

Finally, the next day, husband woke feeling awful, and Bean was still iffy, so Pea went next door again! (That's when I threw in the towel - I packed the car and drove the kids and myself 2 hours north to my parents' place.)

But I couldn't have done it without my next door neighbour. She watched both kids while I put the finishing touches on the car. And she didn't leave til we pulled out the driveway. I swear if I had hugged her that day I would have cried on her shoulder. I was so emotionally raw after watching my baby get so sick that weekend and battling on low sleep and food.

We are so blessed to have so many wonderful, dependable people so close to us in our life! I didn't even tell you about our daycare provider's daughter who bathed Bean when she was sick, or the food that the notebook friend brought for us, or my mother-in-law who watched the kids on Saturday night while we caught a glimpse of the outside world.

So, yes, I have a LOT to be thankful for. For our return to health, but especially for the love and support of so many while we struggled with our little mole hill that felt like an insurmountable mountain. Thank you all.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Be Positive About Your Body

As Eating Disorder Awareness Week draws to a close, I've been inspired to write a post about body image.

As most people do, I sometimes have negative thoughts about my appearance. Maybe I'm frustrated with the thinness of my hair or the way I have limited footwear options because of foot abnormalities I have developed. Or maybe I just don't like the way a shirt hangs on my curvier-than-usual postpartum body. Whatever it is, when I think this way about my body, it's negative self-talk and it's not healthy.

These negative thoughts do nothing but harm to myself and those around me, so my goal is to minimize them. One of the ways I do this is by repeating mantras or phrases in my head. For example:

When I was pregnant and nearing delivery time, I would say to myself, "my body is perfectly designed to grow and DELIVER this baby.".

When I look down at my wrinkly, scarred-up belly where my youthful, attractive (to my husband at least) tummy once was, I tell myself "you are more beautiful and he loves you more now because you're a mother. You are not just a body."

And as my body continues to shed the extra padding I acquired during pregnancy, I tell myself "it's part of the journey and I will be beautiful in whatever shape or form my body takes, as long as I am good to myself."

And when my knee or foot hurts when I run or play sports, or I don't quite "measure up" in my mind, I try to remember to be thankful for what I have and what I AM capable of. After all, it wasn't long ago that it hurt to walk, never mind run!

The point is that the best defense against negative self-talk is positive self-talk. Just as we know it's more valuable to reinforce positive behaviors in our children (and dogs for that matter!), the same is true within our own minds.

You can be healthy at every size (HAES), so long as you are kind and respectful to yourself and the body you've been blessed with.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Food is a Gift

This is true in more ways than one.

Certainly it is a gift from the earth and from those who work hard to bring it to your market, store, table, etc.
However, it also possesses other "gift-like" qualities. Bare with me for a moment and it should all make sense.

Think about gifts at Christmas time - especially during those exchanges where you're given numbers and everyone selects gifts to open and you're able to swap/steal as part of the game. Now this is where food and gifts become similar.

 The Appearance of the Package
When you're choosing a gift to open, often the most appealing gifts are the ones that are wrapped well. The one in pretty paper or the one adorned with a fancy bow. Same goes for food. You're more likely to pick up food that looks appealing. When we're talking about processed foods, this is where the marketing experts get you with their eye-catching packaging (think Golden Grahams versus Corn Flakes). When we're talking about fresh foods, this is where we see brightly coloured, blemish-free fruits and veggies being chosen over duller, less vibrant choices (think fresh red strawberries over a waxed rutabaga).

When it comes to fruit and veggies, fresher, undamaged pieces are certainly preferable. However, much of the time it is valuable to heed the traditional advice: "Don't judge a book by its cover."

Size Matters

Do you choose the biggest gift in the pile? Or the smallest? This is where we're often split on our preferences in terms of selecting gifts. However, when it comes to food, more often than not, people are going to choose the bigger food option. We're always trying to get more bang for our buck because it makes us feel like we're being wise (but are we?).  I think it depends on the type of food we're purchasing. Sure - maybe it's a good choice to purchase a big bag of carrots over a small one if your family enjoys them and you eat them up before they spoil. But do we really need the family-size bag of chips or cookies? There have been many studies to show that when there's an abundance of something, we tend to eat more than we normally would. Same goes for when there is less of something. I'm sure you can think of an example in your own life. The one that comes to my mind is cookies. When I first make a batch, I gobble them up - not even counting how many I've eaten. We rely upon visual cues and if the pile of cookies is big, my mind sees no reason to slow up on the cookie-eating until the pile looks noticeably smaller. Sound familiar? Alternatively, if you receive a small tin of cookies from a friend (say with 6 cookies in it), I'm going to bet you'll make them last a little. Six of 48 cookies disappears a lot quicker than 6 of 6 cookies. Know what I'm saying?

The Tricky Package

There's often one of these in the pile at the gift exchange, and this is the point of this entire post.  The large gift that is just a fooler because the gift inside the large box is either tiny, or it's a dud. Another way to think of this is to think of a gift from your significant other. I'm sure many of us would agree that we might prefer a small box with a high quality, thoughtful, and potentially expensive gift in it (hello diamonds!) to a large, bulky gift containing the opposite (I'm thinking a tin of stale popcorn or a mega package of tube socks).

So what would you prefer? A small box filled to the brim with quality? Or a large box with lots (or a small amount) of low quality stuff?

You can think about food in a similar way. Try to make choices that are full of quality. For example, when you're hungry for a snack before dinner, try having a small handful of almonds and a piece of fruit rather than a couple of handfuls of nachos with salsa. Why? Well, there's a good chance the fruit and nuts will satisfy your hunger better, but beyond that, it's higher quality food. You can get more nutrition - vitamins and minerals - from the fruit and nuts, with less calories compared to the nachos and salsa. See? Vitamins and minerals = quality, calories = gift box size.

Here's an even better example: 2 fried eggs vs. 1 hot dog

The 2 eggs will give you approximately 11 grams of protein in 178 calories, while the hot dog will give you only 10 grams of protein but for 242 calories.

Next time you're forced to make a food decision (and believe me - you make many in just a day's time), think about one or all of these points. How are you being influenced by the appearance of the package? Are you being wise about the size? And how does the quantity compare to quality (in terms of serving size, but also just the nature of the food and the amount of calories it delivers versus the nutrition you get from it)?

And if you want a real kick in the butt on this topic, have a look at the Hungry for Change film. If this post doesn't get you thinking about all the extra calories we're eating to get a small amount of nutrition (nutrients like vitamins and minerals), that film will!