How to Make Peace with Autumn

Autumn is often viewed as a bitter sting after our fun loving friend Summer has gone. But that doesn’t need to be the case. Each season has it’s own unique energy, and humans are connected to that energy too. After the frenetic intensity of summer, where we’ve thrown caution to the wind, stayed up too late, and gallivanted around, we are ready for some stability.

Autumn is a call to return to rhythm and routine. It’s back to school, back to schedules, and also, a time of new beginnings. Autumn isn’t a downward spiral, it’s more of an inward journey.

We can step back, refocus, and begin to shed that which won’t serve us in the coming months. We can take a cue from nature, who showcases one last, beautiful spectacle of colour, and then, so simply, let’s it all go one leaf at a time. The trees stand stoic, getting ready for their winter slumber, without a single complaint.

Autumn is also a time of abundance and celebration where we reap the benefits of the harvest, gather in thanks with our family and friends, and make preparations for winter.

There is a quality to the light of Autumn,which poet Max Eastman describes, as “So bright and soft and tranquil-rendering…” I love that light. Especially when it falls on the face of loved ones.

So instead of cringing when we see a fallen leaf, we can instead begin to store, not just the harvest, but all of the joy, warmth and colour of autumn, for our (temporary) darker days ahead.

Introverts aren’t SHY, they’re Wonderful!

Today, most people wouldn’t even guess that my son is an introvert, and I think that’s because he’s been well supported and understood in his early years. He totally enjoys parties and chaos now, but he has a definite limit, and he can identify when he’s reached that limit. That’s when I hear the question, “Can we go home now?”

When I started dating my introverted husband, I quickly learned that being an introvert was a whole thing I had never considered. As our relationship blossomed, I discovered so many things about him that I could not relate to AT ALL.

At first I thought these things were simply preferences, but when my son was born, he exhibited these same tendencies. Once at a birthday party, I found my 4 year old son sitting quietly in his cousins room, looking at books, while the rest of the crew were running around having fun. That’s when it really hit me; this chaos is tiring for him.

I started to notice the following trends in my husband and son;

  • needing a day of recovery after a busy event
  • needing a lot of time to think about something before giving an answer
  • not wanting to do 2 events back to back
  • needing to know all of the details about something before it happens
  • needing to learn new things privately (as in, no one watching)

I knew I had to do something to connect to these people who I loved beyond words, so I found some excellent resources to guide my extroverted mind:

  1. Quiet (Also available as a TED Talk)
  2. The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child
  3. The Introvert Advantage

If you have any introverts in your life, I strongly recommend you read one of these books! Until then, here are the most important, clinically proven findings about introverts, that will help you navigate the introverted waters in your own life.

1. Introverts aren’t shy: Being shy is typically an anticipatory anxiety of socializing. Being an introvert is a fixed temperament or personality type that we can’t change. Shyness is experienced by both introverts and extroverts.

2. Introverts expend energy in social situations, whereas extroverts gain energy. This means that long periods of socializing depletes the energy of an introvert, which is why they are often exhausted after a big get-together or event.

3. Solitude restores their energy. They need downtime after being busy to restore, and especially, to reflect.

4. They have small, but mighty friendships: Introverts are all about quality over quantity, and will have a small, close group of friends. They are known to have deep, significant relationships, where intimacy and authenticity are highly valued.

5. They know who they are: Introverts have a rich inner world, and they spend a lot of time reflecting and examining their experiences, motivations, and relationships.

6. Their brains are actually different: Introverts use a longer pathway in their brain to process complex information, however, they can integrate more emotional and intellectual data than an extrovert.

7. They do deep dives: When an introvert has an interest, they will delve very deep into that subject with intense focus.

8. It’s harder for them to move their bodies: Introverts have to work a little harder at movement because it requires them to use conscious thought to do so.

9. They have incredible long-term memory: Introverts use their long-term memory more than short-term, giving them a wealth of data to draw from (but it can take them a little while to retrieve the information in their brain).

10. They are great listeners: They have genuine interest in getting to know people, and particularly love to be around people who they can learn something from one-on-one.

Today, most people wouldn’t even guess that my son is an introvert, and I think that’s because he’s been well supported and understood in his early years. He totally enjoys parties and chaos now, but he has a definite limit, and he can identify when he’s reached that limit. That’s when I hear the question, “Can we go home now?”

And now, I get why. Introverts are kind of like electric cars, they can perform just as well as their gas powered counterparts, but at the end of the day, they need to recharge.

Why we need to Drink in the Loveliness

We aren’t just here to work and pay bills and rush around. As humans, we have the luxury to witness and marvel at the earth on which we find ourselves. We can all take that breath every now and then and fully drink in the loveliness.

Spring is such a universal time for people to awaken to the natural beauty of the earth. Though there isn’t a lot of evidence that things will get better (because it’s mostly just muddy) there is something that ignites hope, and the promise of renewal when that first Robin appears.

While I am waiting for my garden to bloom, I bought myself (for the first time ever) a bouquet of flowers for no reason whatsoever. They are bringing me so much joy every time I walk past them, and there is a subtle aroma permeating my living room.

I am of the mind that, rather than waiting for “big” things to make us happy, we can enjoy an abundance of little pleasures sprinkled all through our lives.

That morning cup of coffee, sipped slowly. Savouring a good book. Watching the moon, the clouds, the sunrise. Listening to our loved ones. Feeling grass with our barefeet. All the loveliness that is constantly surrounding us and requires only our observation. Most of the loveliness in the world is free, and can be found anywhere in nature. Anyone can, at anytime, tap in to an unlimited bank account of beauty just by stepping outside.

We aren’t just here to work and pay bills and rush around. As humans, we have the luxury to witness and marvel at the earth on which we find ourselves. We can all take that breath every now and then and fully drink in the loveliness.

Play: It’s not just for Kids

Is there a way to hit pause on our to-do-lists and just give ourselves permission to play? I think we must. Play can be simple or elaborate. Think back to your own childhood and remind yourself of what brought you joy. There are no rules, except of course, that you have to have fun!

Every winter, my husband likes to build snow forts for my kids. He puts serious effort (sometimes hours) into each one. I always check from the window watching it unfold, and am astonished that an hour later, he’s still there, working away at it. Admittedly, he is better at going the distance for this type of play than I am, and it’s one of the things I really love about him. This year when we had a lot of snow he made a snow castle on our front lawn.

Not surprisingly, our kids loved it and had so much fun playing in it, even on the frigid -15 days. What was surprising, was that other people seemed to love it too. And by people, I mean adults.

It wasn’t neighbourhood kids that were showing up at our house to check it out, it was grown ups. One man walked down the street in the early, freezing morning just to take a picture of it, and he looked so happy! There were adults slowing down as they drove by to take a picture. Adults stopping to ask questions, like What!!! and Why!!! Adults getting a total kick out of it, laughing and smiling over this crazy snow castle.

Over the next few days, I think we met more people in our neighborhood than we have in the almost 10 years that we’ve lived there. So why is that? Because play is a powerful tool for building community. No matter how out of touch we are with it, play is a fundamental need for everyone, not just kids. Adults especially need that reprieve from worries and responsibilities. We all need to let go, have fun, and enjoy the ride. Play is also a really easy way to make connections and get to know people. When our spirits are light, conversation and laughter flow naturally, and we feel good. So why are these opportunities so rare?

Is there a way to hit pause on our to-do-lists and just give ourselves permission to play? I think we must. Play can be simple or elaborate. Think back to your own childhood and remind yourself of what brought you joy. There are no rules, except of course, that you have to have fun!

This One, Small Act to Cure a Bad Mood

When I find myself in a mood that I can’t stand, or when I can’t believe how messy my house is, I perform this small, simple ritual to make myself feel better; I clean the kitchen sink.

I take my time, scrubbing, and making it as shiny as can be. Then I leave a little splash of water in it, and I add a few drops of my favourite essential oil. When I am done, my kitchen might not be completely clean, but at least one place in it is pure and fresh and taken care of.

It is a small enough task that I know I can complete it uninterrupted, and I feel a sense of accomplishment, however small it may be. But the best part is, every time I walk through my kitchen, the fragrance lifts me up, and that mood I didn’t like, is nowhere to be found.

Lavender growing in our garden

My Life without a Cellphone

Prepare yourself for some shocking information. I do not have a cell phone and neither does my husband. What?!! I know. It’s hard to believe, but this is a conscious choice we’ve made, checking in every now and then to see if it’s still the right thing for  us.

I fully admit that there are great benefits to having a cell-phone; instant communication, a multitude of incredible apps (that I am totally jealous of), the internet at your constant fingertips, GPS, etc, etc. I do think those things have tremendous value.  But, I also think a home phone, face-to-face communication, a computer, a camera, and even maps have value too. And I already have those things.

It isn’t so much the benefits of technology that have me wondering. And I’m not talking about people who use technology appropriately and responsibly, because I know MANY of those people. What worries me is the flip-side, the “risks” of  having a cell-phone, that I want nothing to do with right now.

It’s texting while driving. It’s taking hundreds of photos of inconsequential or staged moments that don’t reflect the true reality of our day. It’s the way we feel the need to force our experiences to be Instagramable or Pinterest Worthy. It’s the way those photos make other people feel badly about their own unraveling, imperfect lives. It’s the way we’ve come to rely on our phones for everything, even basic knowledge. But I think the scariest part is the addictive nature of this technology and the negative impact it actually has on our relationships with ourselves and others.  It’s the way it quietly steals the precious, fleeting moments of our life away by offering us a distraction from the sometimes tedious, but mostly beautiful, real world.

Studies are pouring out linking heavy smartphone use to a host of negative effects.  One in four cell-phone users polled said their partner was too distracted by their cell phone. Excessive use is tied to materialism, impulsiveness, impaired self-esteem, anxiety, irritability, headaches, eyestrain and more.

Are there ways to manage these issues? Of course! But as a woman, a mother, and a wife, I already feel like I have enough to manage. My plate (like yours) is so full of what I need to manage in any given day that the thought of putting ANYTHING else on there makes me want to run screaming into the wild.  So, for now,  I choose not to participate.

And this is what my life looks like without a cellphone:

I email or call my husband at work if I really need to tell him something. I take turns with everyone in my family when I want to use the computer. I have a super awesome camera (that I’m still learning how to work!). I use my home phone to call people. We even bust out maps (fold-out style) on our road trips, or sometimes we stop and ask for directions.

It isn’t always easy. The convenience of a cell phone is phenomenal. Not having one has forced me to try and be where I say I’m going to be, when I say I’m going to be there. But I think it’s also made me tap in to real moments and experience them fully, by bypassing the option of selfies and the like.  My moments belong to me and me alone. I bear witness to them, and I kind of like that.

Because my camera is in a case, it makes me think twice about taking it out for a photo. I ask myself (partially out of laziness, partially out of honesty) if I really need a picture of this moment.

Of course, I do NOT think everyone should throw their cell-phone out the window, nor am I saying that I will never own one. Each of our lives look so different and we all have extremely different needs and desires. What I am saying, is that sometimes we think that what we have will make us happier, when often, what we don’t have can produce equally great results.

How to make an UnPin-Worthy Gingerbread House

Our Gingerbread House may not be perfect, but with the light shining on it just right, it wasn’t half bad, and today, that’s good enough.

Over the Christmas break, we made the worst gingerbread house. That’s right. The worst. I had made the (crooked) cookie cut-outs for the house a week before and we were waiting for some fancy candy to decorate it (and perhaps hide the flaws of the over-all structure). But of course, time went by quickly, as it does at the Christmas season, and before we knew it, it was Christmas Eve, and we hadn’t made our little house yet.

I had two options. Either scrap the whole idea or go ahead and do it with whatever we had in the pantry. I really wanted a pretty, pinterest-worthy gingerbread house. But my kids? They just wanted to experience the fun of making a gingerbread house.

So we did it. We made a house without a big pile of bright, pretty candy. We made a house and did not have quite enough icing. And, after each child meticulously decorated their half of the roof, they were completely satisfied. Because, in spite of of what we lacked, the process was still fun and they were proud of what they had contributed.

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Eily “patiently” waiting for her turn

I could have kicked myself. I almost took that little moment away from them because I had an expectation of what it should look like. I almost missed those adorable, serious little faces as they placed each, tiny, chocolate chip as if the fate of the universe hung in the balance.

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Focused Fynn

But I didn’t miss it. I let the process be more important than the end result. And isn’t it? I think so! Although it’s easy to forget that these days when we see so many beautiful images floating around social media.

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Our Gingerbread House may not be perfect, but with the light shining on it just right, it wasn’t half bad, and today, that’s good enough.