Breakfast – The Most Important Meal of the Day

Since hitting my 40s and finding myself with a little more free time away from the responsibilities of “child raising” (Or should it be “parent raising?”  I feel that is the more appropriate term.  They’re still the same people they were when they were little, have attitude, a little gross and sweet, but I certainly am not.  I have less temper tantrums and now put away my toys…. I digress), I find myself now setting up playdates with other women.  This process usually takes the form of coffee, lunch or my favorite…breakfast.  I find nothing gives you an opportunity to assess the possibilities of a new friendship like finding out what they’ll order for breakfast.

Here’s my thinking….

Egg white vegetable omelet – Very conscious about food choices.  Physically active.  Translation: Always be wary when said individual asks if you want to do something fun…could be a 10-mile hike.  Not likely to be asking you out for ice cream.  They will keep me humble.

Vegan anything – Loves animals.  Socially conscious.  Translation:  High-maintenance friendship.  Can’t just call on the spur of the moment and say, “let’s do lunch.”  Must be willing to call them three days before said playdate to properly prep and research vegan options at restaurants.  Their personality makes it totally worth it.

Early-bird breakfast – Financially responsible.  Coupon clipper.  Thrift store shopper.  Translation:  Does not do Tupperware parties, raffle tickets or cash donations, but will always be there with hands-on help. 

Eggs, bacon and gluten-free bread – Bowel issues. Translation:  Minimal boundaries.  I can feel free to discuss bathroom habits and abdominal cramping without shame.  I can get real.

Eggs benedict – Lives in the moment.  Loves butter.  Translation: Kindred spirit. Will do ice cream.

After creating my breakfast friendship-judging formulation, I had the opportunity to take it for a little test run.  A new friend invited me to do breakfast, and you know what she ordered,

Chicken strips and waffles!

This friendship is way out of my league.  I’m not sure I can keep up with her.

Photo by Miguel Dominguez on Unsplash

Note: I do not in all seriousness judge any of my relationships based on breakfast.  This kind of shallowness is the antithesis to everything I believe in…

The important thing to consider is do they have a dog.

Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Struggling in the mud trying to keep with my dogs who have navigated the rocky, muddy route with ease and are way ahead of me gives me pause to notice how an ordinary event can be infused with the extraordinary.   Nothing like walking through sticky, slippery mud to make you notice every step…every flipping, precarious step…on a beach littered with dead fish.

Simultaneously cursing my decision to choose this path and stopping to catch my breath, I find myself noticing the many ordinary, yet extraordinary, events taking place around me. These include:

The Mud of Contemplation
  • An 8-foot sturgeon breaching the river…Amazing!
  • Rocks littered with dead salmon, the end of a long journey from the river to the ocean and back again to spawn… Smelly and humbling.
  • A feathered plant I had never noticed before…Delightful curiosity.
  • My awesome new boots…Warm, comfy, dry.
  • Mist settling on the river…Mysterious.
  • Dogs that don’t listen at all running ahead of me with pure joy…Annoying and lovely.
  • How much more nimble a dog with bad hips is over the rocks versus a woman in her 40s…Sad.
Plant I had never noticed before…pretty isn’t it!

By being forced to pause and reflect, I had an opportunity to change my story from getting the dogs out for walk (to-do list item #5 checked) to one of appreciating events weaving to create a magical moment infused with gratitude, awe, humor and delight.

It’s a reminder to get stuck in the mud more often and see beyond the ordinary.  I’m never disappointed when I chose to employ it, and it’s a perspective that always adds quality and value to the moment.

So, on the note of honing my skills, I’m going clothes shopping with my family today, and watch out, I’m bringing extraordinary (if your immediate reaction was pity for my family, you are not alone).   Kind of curious what kind of extraordinary magic can go into a moment that involves convincing my youngest to try on pants, but I’m willing to go there.

Dogs having fun and thinking about rolling on dead fish

Unrealistic Optimism versus Optimistic Realism

For years, I’ve had my own personal battle…I’m a recovering unrealistic optimist.

Confused?  You’ll continue to be.

In my early family years, everywhere I would go, I would be late.  It was a mixture of refusing to acknowledge how much time it took to get 5 people out of the house and extreme optimism about the traffic conditions and distance.  Regardless, I was always 15 to 45 minutes late everywhere I went.  It took a remark from a family member to make me realize what a problem it had become. 

Fast forward many years and I now manage to get most places on time and even earlier than intended.  I took myself in hand and realized how much I hate the rushed feeling of driving somewhere knowing I was going to be late and then feeling bad about being late.  Bad energy all round.  I now overestimate the time involved to get everyone out the door and have decided that pessimism about distance and traffic serves me well.

I have now become an optimistic realist…for family events and appointments.

The funny thing is that you solve one issue, only to open the door on another one.

The realization came to me as I was listing precariously to the left trying to haul my basket of groceries around the discount (enormous) grocery store. 

Let’s face it, paying the $1 for a grocery cart is a commitment to grocery shopping.  It says I’m serious about shopping, and I intend to do a lot of it.  Today, I imagined a more flirtatious shopping expedition complete with arriving at the till with my handful of healthy grocery items.

They say we never plan to fail, we fail to plan.  More appropriate to my situation would be…I never intend to list with groceries, I fail to look at the grocery list.

Here are just a few items on my list…a carton of soy milk, two 2 kg bags of French fries, 1 L of ice cream, 4 cans of refried beans, a dozen sparkling water and 1 jar of butterscotch sauce.  Now before you judge me on the health value of the products in my basket (Saturday night awesomeness), let’s think weight.  Those are a handful of items…a handful of very heavy items.  Thank goodness it didn’t include milk.

So here I am having to revise my errant ways again and re-dedicate to my desire to be an optimistic realist as opposed to an unrealistic optimist in the field of grocery shopping.  It’s time to stop with the flirtation and get real with commitment.  Get the cart.  I never regret it.  I would hammer the table with that point, but my arm is too sore.

Photo by Veronika Koroleva on Unsplash

Sunflowers and Noticing

Inadvertently this spring, I threw a seed mix into my garden just to use it up.  Nothing much came of the seed mix until we noticed one distinct weed was growing above the rest (weeding is taking a back seat to bramble fun).  Last week, it flowered and revealed a lovely, bright yellow sunflower.  Every day, the kids and I peek at our beautiful flower and admire…a bit of sunshine amongst the green weeds and bramble.

It’s continually fascinating to me how the Universe continually hammers a message at you until you finally reach a point of listening and understanding.  Sometimes, your subconscious already has picked up on the hints and is busy setting up hints for my slow processing speed.  My requests for books from our local library usually mirror whatever angst is going on in my soul, so after a period of feeling intensely busy all the time, I went to the library, and there on the order shelf was a plethora of books on calm, slowing down, slow living and mindfulness (tax time usually involves a selection of books on off the grid living).

Whining and lamenting my frustration at never having any breathing time or the opportunity to do what I wanted to do, I started my trek through these books…jotting down quotes of inspiration while taking short breaks from working, ferrying people around and errands of life, but still not connecting the dots.  Thankfully, the Universe never gives up that easily.

My constant mental complaining and whining only led to out loud whining and complaining…poor me…so busy…never any time for me. 

A few days ago staring through the window admiring the sunflower with my teens while making dinner, one commented to the other “It’s so cool the way it follows the sun.”  “Yah!” said the other “You can always tell what time a day it is by looking at where the head is.”

Record screeching halt to dinner preparation.  “What?!  It follows the sun?!” 

“Of course, Mom!  Didn’t you notice?!” 

Weakly answering, I said “No, I just thought it was a pretty flower.”

I received some deserved disdainful looks from my teens at this point. 

The next couple of days, I stopped and noticed our sunflower following the sun; it faced east in the morning and by the evening it was facing west.  Because sunflowers do not swivel 360, I noticed how it moved its face to follow the sunlight. 

And you know what, it didn’t stop there.  I started stopping and noticing the way my impatient mind would carry itself off when I was working or doing housework, and I started bringing it back to focus on the task at hand.  I started stopping more to stare out the window for a few seconds and notice what the bird was doing on the lawn or the dog digging a new hole in the lawn.  I dug into my book selections with a new mind of actually paying attention to what I was reading.  I started recognizing that feeling of over committing to something where it would manifest as quantity over quality and turned down some invites, rescheduling them in a more qualitative way.  I started noticing that anxiety rumble and started breathing.  I started noticing my bad attitude and changed my attitude or changed the plan. 

My life quality is going back up again.  I can almost feel myself welling a bit when I say this.  Anxiety and mindlessness are soul-sucking places to live. 

All this due to a sunflower (and teenagers).  Thank you, teachers.  I’m paying attention now and following the sun.

Our Pretty Flower

Sharing Abundance

One of my own personal acts of gratitude for the abundance in my life has been to tip and tip well whenever I dine out.  My husband started this trend for our family, and at the time being in the mindset of frugality, I failed to see why it was necessary to tip so high whenever we ate out.  My husband has always been a generous soul, and it was one of the many aspects of his character that I loved and continue to love about him…even if it did cause momentary irritation.

Now understanding that my own experience of lack and abundance has to do with perspective, I have embraced his generosity as my own.  In enjoying the comradery of my family and being served a wonderful meal, I celebrate the abundance that allows me the option to not cook, as well as appreciating the beautiful people who spoil me.

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash

Financially, there have been many times in our family life where eating out was not an option.  Recently in fact, my hubbie experienced a layoff which meant the luxury of eating out was off the table (literally); however, celebrating abundance is a habit that tends to stick regardless of circumstance, and having to weigh the cost of eating out including our generous tipping into the equation has enhanced the specialness of the occasion when we chose to do so.

Besides the benefit of being remembered by servers and eyes lighting up when we enter certain restaurants, these little habits of celebrating and sharing abundance have enriched my life and remind me to walk in gratitude because there truly is so much to be grateful for.

The Little Things

“Mom, I found a baby rat lying on the ground.”  Abruptly pausing mid conversation, I offered up a suggestion knowing as it left my mouth that it was a futile one as the little creature, they held in their hands, had its eyes still closed and was obviously less than 2 weeks old.  ”Did you see the hole it came from, maybe you should put it back” and when confirmed that this was indeed impossible due to being unable to find the hole and a large number of dogs playing in the immediate vicinity, my shoulders sagged.

Knowing how the rest of the afternoon was going to play out, I still allowed myself the luxury of having an internal whine session. “I have so much work…can’t I just let nature take it’s course!”  “Why is it always us who ends up finding these creatures.”  “It’s a rat!”  This whine session plays itself in my head within seconds and then…

“Tuck it in your work glove and keep it warm…let’s get it home.” 

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

The sad end to the story was that this little one died in my daughter’s hands, but not before buying $30 in baby formula and $10 for batteries for the food scale so we could weigh it, as well as tearing the house apart for a syringe small enough (we found one…who knew!…the argument against minimalism).

This little moment got me to thinking though (a recurring theme in this blog…the result of too much ruminating and coffee) is it not these little actions that say the most about me and what I value.  It’s one thing to blog about kindness and then snap at a cashier because the lineup is too long, and lectures to my kids on patience don’t carry much weight when I’m sighing heavily or tailgating a new driver. 

Thankfully though, I do believe I am the sum of hundreds of little moments which gives me a little leeway when I fail and fall short (often) of who I am learning to be…nothing like a bit of failure to add a bit more shine to the wins.

Please don’t think that I expect you to go out and rescue baby rats.  We each have our different journeys, and baby rat saving may not be yours.  Others near and dear to us would have made a different call regarding the rat baby and that would possibly have been kinder.

What I am saying is that right now in my house, I have baby formula, a syringe and a fully functioning food scale as evidence that one time I managed to override my selfish tendencies and act in alignment with my values, and I’m feeling good about that….though very sad for the baby rat.

Himalayan Mindfulness

Picture a backyard on a steep slope covered with blackberry bushes as far as the eye can see, throw in three grumpy teenagers and their mother, you have our backyard.

Seizing up on the realization that I have a very limited time frame with free labor in the house, my summer project is for once and for all deal with our yard full of blackberry bushes (my daughter says I say this every year).  While ideally I’d love to have the importer of said Himalayan blackberry bushes over to clean up our yard, the next best thing is family.

Yes, there are easier ways to remove bramble, but hiring help would involve money (currently earmarked for removing DS’ wisdom teeth).  Chemicals are not an option as we have a small pond, and my first priority is to protect any life that exists in it…even if the dogs may have already eaten said life as they seem to have their heads in the pond every day. 

Photo by Molly Frances on Unsplash

So here we are, clippers and compost bags in hand (why Himalayan blackberries are compostable is a mystery to me…we are the reason I never accept our hometown’s yearly offering of free dirt from our city’s compost…do I really want to import all those blackberries back?!).

That aside, there is something therapeutic about tackling blackberries with hand clippers.   It has the same effect on me as hanging laundry or doing dishes…takes me to a place of mindfulness which I find soothing in a twisted way.  Relegating the whining to the background, I notice and rescue all the little creatures that show up in our efforts especially ladybugs.  Blackberry is quick to remind when you are not mindful as evidenced by the many scratches on my arms and pricks to my well-gloved bands, and as we climb higher up our hill, the view is just amazing putting me more into a state of Zen.

So if you’re in need of some therapeutic activity, I’m going to trademark a new mindfulness routine called Himalayan mindfulness…gardening in a mindful way.  You achieve Zen…I get my backyard back.  Win-win.