iamom: (Default)
I recently composed a piece on my first year in the Partners for Healthier Weight program. The full post is here:

iamom: (bush hunger strike for nepal)
Rich man's burden, this. It's just that I've been finding that I'm losing a lot of time lately just to managing the flow of messages through my Gmail inbox. I have innumerable filters set up for my various lists and such, and since my time is at a premium right now I actually seldom get a chance to read most of my favourite feeds or list e-mail anyway. I'm also using the excellent new Gmail priority inbox system, which has been super helpful in separating my non-essential e-mail from my essential e-mail. But I just find that whenever I still have unread or undealt-with e-mail in my inbox, I become drawn to sit down at the computer and try to clear some of it out. And there's at least a dozen really important tasks related to e-mail in my Inbox that I should be working on, but whenever I look at my Inbox I start to try to read and deal with whatever's left over instead.

I'm starting to feel like the tail is wagging the dog, here. Instead of doing productive work on my computer I'm playing with my goddamned e-mail. And instead of doing constructive work around the house or exercising, I'm sitting at the computer to try to deal with some of my e-mail. And I don't even have a damn straight job right now! Imagine if I did!!!

I have a handful of friends who have committed Facebook suicide because they've found themselves so utterly consumed by it; lately, I've felt like committing e-mail suicide. I also know from experience that many of "the kids" out there don't even check their e-mail or have functioning e-mail addresses anymore. It's all Facebook and text for them, period. It's so funny that e-mail might be becoming an obsolete means of communication for us old folks out here. And I'm not even 40 yet. I do, however, find myself wondering what the hell we did before e-mail. My wife and I both are attached to our Inboxes at the hip, it's so lame.
iamom: (Default)
My friend Jerry Katz has a very esoteric radio show on the university radio station called Nonduality Street, and this week he had me come in to do a live interview about nonduality and parenting, a topic on which I am unbelievably expert. (heh.) He describes the show and provides a link to the half-hour show here:


Having said that, I noticed that the CKDU archive has a passable-sounding version of the show here -- just scroll ahead a minute or so to get past the initial commercial and to the beginning of the show:

I don't know if anyone here would listen to the whole show, but I'd be curious to know if they do, and/or what they think about it. I thought it was really fun to do and I'd love to do it again soon. I also discovered that I say "like" and "as such" too often.
iamom: (flying by)
A key part of The Gabriel Method deals with creative visualization. Each day, in the morning and before bed, you're supposed to spend some time visualizing yourself in an ideal body. Change the mind, the logic goes, and the body will follow.

My wife pointed out a flaw in this logic the other night, though. She said that you might not do anything productive to reach that ideal state if all you visualize is that ideal state. What might be more useful would be to visualize yourself as you are now, but to see yourself doing the behaviours that will lead to the ideal state.

I've been thinking about that. It makes a lot of sense. In other words, visualize yourself preparing healthy meals, visualize yourself sitting down to eat them in a leisurely, focused way without distractions, and visualizing yourself performing physical exercises that you enjoy. Then maybe when those visualizations really get ingrained in your mind, you'll start to try some of them. And once you start to try some of them, you'll start to repeat some of them more often. And then once you start to repeat some of them more often, you'll start to change your relationship with food and exercise and start to lose weight successfully.

I think this all comes out of NLP, that technique that Tony Robbins uses in his self-improvement seminars. I've been gearing up mentally for starting some of these visualizations, because I haven't even made the effort to sit quietly and try them. We'll see what comes out of them. Frankly, it's so easy to maintain the status quo that trying to do ANYTHING can feel like a really challenge sometimes.
iamom: (Default)
About a week ago I wrote about how I had relaxed my behavioural expectations of my 2 year-old son, and how that had brought about a positive shift in my relationship with him. I wasn't yelling at him anymore for doing bad things, and I was re-evaluating what was really all that bad about what he was doing, anyway. He still has his "moments" -- several of them every day, in fact -- but I haven't been reacting to them in the angry way that I was becoming accustomed to. I just try to pick him up, or crouch down to his level, and give him a hug and ask him how I can help. About half the time, if I stop whatever else I'm doing and concentrate carefully on what he's trying so hard to say, then I can figure out what he really wants and just give it to him. It's infinitely more gratifying for me to bring him pleasure or to help him feel better or to resolve a problem than it is to try to ignore him or delay him or push him off for another two minutes so that I can finish washing that pot in the sink. Who the hell cares about that pot anyway? Why not bend down and embrace the child instead?

I also just can't help but love this boy. I love him terribly just because he's my son, of course, and I can recall the true love that blossomed between him and me when he was only a few months old. But he's also so incredibly beautiful and full of expressive affection himself, it's impossible not to fall in love with him every day.

What I meant by "the switch" was that it was a week ago that I made a simple but conscious decision to change the way I was thinking about my boy when I was getting mad at him. I just chose to think about it differently. And it suddenly changed the way I behaved around him and the rest of the family. His behaviour and that of some others in the family also seemed to improve simultaneously. I wanted to make note that I've kept up that practice this week too, and I'm sticking by it because it's working. And it's also much easier than I thought it would be to change the way I think about things, even things that used to bother me a lot.
iamom: (max at 9 months)
I'm not usually slow to anger over a number of things that my kids do. The triggers usually involve not listening to my instructions; doing something I’ve already clearly forbidden them to do (important things like not climbing onto the stove while I’m cooking, for example); or they might be making a mess (seemingly for its own sake). Depending on my mood and the amount of sleep I got the night before, my reaction to behaviour like this can be swift and not infrequently fierce. There’s quite a temper that lurks there, beneath. (I bet I could mitigate that with more strenuous physical exercise...)

I’ve noticed, however, that these angry reactions of mine appear to be brought on not by the behaviour itself of the kids, but rather by my own dashed expectations at that moment. When I round the corner to find Max squirting extra-moisturizing hand cream all over the coffee table, I think to myself, “Dammit! Why does he have to make such a mess all the time? And why doesn’t he listen when I tell him not to do that?!” And then I get mad, sometimes right at him with a raised voice, snatching away the lotion and yanking him away from the coffee table, telling him for the umpteenth time not to play with Mama’s lotion. (Or make-up, or jewelry, or her purse, or her freshly-folded laundry...)

Of course, the reason for my anger is that I keep expecting him to behave better than he’s actually capable of behaving. And when he repeatedly demonstrates for me that my expectations of him are too high for his tender age of 2, I remain angrily ignorant of this fact and keep getting mad at him for not listening to me. It’s a terrible, vicious circle that can only be broken by one person: the parent.

I took some stock of the things that drive me the most crazy about his behaviour. It sounds silly, but mostly it involved making messes. I realized that these events could mostly be avoided if I simply gave him more of my direct attention -- especially when he’s in the kitchen with me. He loves to help out and get involved and act like a grown-up, so if I could slow down some of my mundane kitchen tasks, I might be able to get him involved in some of those tasks instead of him trying to climb up the pantry shelves like a ladder. Maybe I could even teach him how to load the dishwasher!

I also gave some serious thought to how important it is for me not to have messes made in the house. Why is it that I’m holding myself to such high standards of cleanliness when I have two boys under 2 years old running around? Is it realistic or even sane to expect that I’ll be able to keep our house completely clean in that situation? And is it really such a big deal if someone dumps their milk onto the floor? It’s not that hard to clean up. And spilled milk comes with the territory anyway, doesn’t it? (Along with broken plates, hurled toys, and overflowing diapers removed by himself and carried dripping across the living room floor to proudly show you that he pooped?)

I’ve been experimenting with this for about a week, and I’ve noticed a bunch of things right off the bat. My mood in the mornings has drastically improved. It’s not perfect, but it’s much, much better. And I immediately noticed that I often have more patience for him when he does something bad. Furthermore, I’ve realized that these expectations I’ve been holding are just thoughts, and I can change my thoughts with a simple flick of a switch. Everyone can. I simply choose to think about something different, or I make a conscious choice to frame a certain experience in a more positive light instead. And it’s remarkable how much less stressful it is to get through your day like that. Suddenly, barely anything drives you crazy anymore.

Hopefully this isn’t just some sort of psychological calm before the storm or something, and that I’m not just pushing off some emotional tornado that will unleash itself in another week. This feels pretty natural though, and it has had immediate, positive effects on the rest of my family. Ironically, I’ve found that everyone’s behaviour around me improved when I improved my own.
iamom: (Default)
A year ago, my wife and I were expecting our third child, and I was having mild panic attacks about it. I had been in the mindset that when our second child, who was around a year old at that time, would reach 18 months of age, I'd put him in daycare part-time and then officially get my freelance writing and journalism career off the ground. Instead, we discovered we were pregnant again and I had begun to worry that I'd never make it back to normal adult professional life.

Since then, our little Cohen was born, and it's no understatement to say that he has changed my life. I haven't sorted out all of my foibles yet (at the tender age of 35, it would be unreasonable to expect that anyway), but his arrival has heralded quite a surprising amount of peace in my life. Since he was born in February, I've been able to lose a tremendous amount of my anger, anxiety and frustration about my life. My everyday mood has improved and I've developed a tremendous appreciation for our children that I didn't really have before. In short, I'm happy with where I am and what I'm doing, and I'm happy to wait until late next year when Cohen is of daycare age in order to get this professional writing career off the ground. The truth is, I find it to be so rewarding to be with children this young, that I no longer feel that selfish pull towards a "real job" until the timing is better. These times will be over so fast, I don't want to look back on them with regret that I didn't spend enough time with the kids at this age.

I'm also feeling a very strong pull towards some kind of community service. I've volunteered sporadically at my daughter's school, made donations to a local community association that works with disadvantaged families, and also bought Christmas presents + the makings for Christmas dinner for a local Adopt-A-Family program in the black community next door, so to speak. Those are all a nice start, but I feel like our family is so overwhelmingly fortunate compared with so many others, that I want to increase our involvement even more throughout this next year. I feel a genuine pull to spread the wealth to whatever small degree we're able, and I'd also really appreciate an opportunity for my daughter to get involved with these kinds of activities so that she can also develop more insight into how fortunate we are. I know that she's mostly unaware of this fact, but I don't want her to grow up permanently unaware of it.
iamom: (patriotism)
Most of the time, my mind is actively churning through thoughts on a variety of topics. I've discovered that I'm an 'ideas guy' anyway, so I'm constantly running through different concepts, creations and ideas in my head.

With respect to my ordinary, everyday physical life, I find that my mind is naturally drawn to pairs of questions about what I should do next. "Should I eat this, or that?" I ask myself. "Should I next work on this project, or that one?"

Invariably, there are two opposing concepts at the basis of each of these questions. One concept might be called good (a.k.a. what you know the 'right one' to be) and the other might be called bad (a.k.a. what you might want to do more, even though it's a less good choice all things considered). However, if there's a middle option that falls roughly halfway between these two choices, then I think there's merit in choosing that middle option.

Walk down the middle, and you'll find balance. Strive too hard for the good or let yourself fall too often for the bad, then you become inherently unstable, ready for easy upset. Stay rooted in that middle path, and you stand firm like a mountain.
iamom: (suntrees)
We had a great Christmas this year in our new house, with my wife's parents visiting from Calgary for two weeks. We kind of went hog-wild on gifts this year too, with three major big-ticket items of a pro espresso machine, a new camera (with a 50-mm fixed focal-length lens which I'm IN LOVE WITH), and a new vehicle! (The latter wasn't a Christmas gift so much as a planned necessary purchase to accommodate our upcoming third child -- we just happened to find this amazing deal on an '06 model that we couldn't afford to pass up. And my goodness, what a beautiful vehicle it is, even though I'm a little scared that David Suzuki is going to egg my house sometime soon.)

Santa brought the kids an ensemble of musical instruments and toys this year, and the biggest hit with both Zoë (age 5) and Max (age 1) has been the little Karaoke machine. They both love singing into the mic, although while Z sings actual songs, Max sort of growls, grunts, and howls into it. It sounds not unlike whalesong, actually. And it's terribly cute to watch them do it together.

Some of the cuter pics are under the cut.
see photos here )
iamom: (nisargadatta in shades)
My father-in-law sent us a link to a Globe and Mail survey results page that posed the following question:

Are you prepared to make some sacrifice in your own standard of living to help fight global warming?

Yes, unequivocally.

8587 votes (27%) 8587 votes

Yes, but only if governments and industries around the world also join the fight.

20597 votes (64%) 20597 votes

No, global warming is occurring but we don't need to act right now.

1138 votes (4%) 1138 votes

No, I don't believe that global warming is occurring.

1951 votes (6%) 1951 votes

Total votes: 32273

In the e-mail, he indicated that he had responded "Yes, unequivocally," which spawned part of the following reply from myself:
Have you given any thought to what sacrifice you could make personally? It's not hard to support this idea in principle, but it's a lot harder to make the changes required to make a difference. Things like moving to a more fuel-efficient vehicle, driving less, altering your home, flying less, etc. The only areas I feel like I personally can make a serious difference are in using less gasoline and using less electricity. Beyond that, I feel a bit helpless.

But maybe I should watch Al Gore's doc about it. I heard an audio clip from it in which he asked the audience to consider living a carbon-neutral life, in which you reduce your own emissions by the greatest extent possible, then purchase carbon offsets for the remainder of your surplus.

More info on going carbon neutral can be found on this page of David Suzuki's site, and a Canadian carbon emissions calculator can be found here, with which you can calculate your own output.

Our own family's output, which I've just calculated, seems pretty high -- 8.57 tonnes -- with over half being generated by transportation and a third generated by heating. Thankfully when we move this spring, both of those will drop significantly because we'll heat with natural gas instead of oil, and our commuting distance will be cut by roughly three-quarters.
At times like this, when global warming is so prevalent in the news, I'm inspired to try and reawaken the [livejournal.com profile] energyconscious community. But at the moment, I know I haven't the time to do so.
iamom: (blue glasses)
Did delts + abs at the gym yesterday. During my dumbbell shoulder raises (3 sets anterior raises + 3 sets lateral raises slightly bent (i.e. with participation from posterior delts) + 3 sets overhead presses (military style) + 3 sets Arnolds), I did ball sits with an aerobics ball pressed between my lower back and the wall (it rolls up your back (and down the wall) with each squat). Ball sits are similar to sissy squats, but because your back is pressing against the ball instead of thin air, they're a lot easier on your lower back than free squats of any type.

For each set, I'm using a weight that leaves me unable to lift more than 15 reps. The Arnolds are a nice finisher for delts, involving the anterior and middle (medial?) delts such as they do. After completing those 12 sets of shoulder exercises (which left my shoulders feeling pretty shredded), I did ab crunches on the ball and a 15-minute set on the treadmill.

The truth is that I feel fucking fantastic. Some of my muscles are fatigued, but not in a bad way. I'm not getting excessive DOMS from this style of lifting, either. After three weeks, I feel stronger, I feel a little leaner, and I feel more sure of myself. I also feel sharper, and less slothful; more centred, more relaxed, more productive, more at ease.

There is a clear benefit to vigorous physical activity on a regular basis. This fact goes unnoticed by, or remains unknown to, many.

(Technical note on the dumbbell exercises: If doing ball sits simultaneously with dumbbell raises, you can use a mirror to keep your form steady. Holding the dumbbells perfectly steady with each squat -- as though you were miming holding onto a railing attached to the wall -- generates the perfect range of motion for each exercise and gives you something interesting to look at in the mirror, too.)
iamom: (flying)
...and loving it. Went out to see Halifax-based hip-hop group Universal Soul tonight at The Marquee and got a big eyeful of all the beautiful people from the province-wide basketball tournament post-game party (can you say goofy-looking white dude surrounded by 25 lanky black dawgs 6'6" and higher, all being purred and fawned over by twice as many tricked-out women in filmy too-short dresses and dripping with sweat?). I just got back at 1:30 AM (I left when things were just starting to get hot), and at 8:45 AM this morning (in just over 7 hours -- that's not too bad) I'm running in a 10K road race across the bridge from Halifax to Dartmouth.

Now please allow me to disabuse you pre-emptively of the notion that this will be a great achievement. Granted, it should be notable if for no other reason than this 100-mm heavy rainfall warning with wind gusts from 60-80 kph by late morning (luckily for me I have a low centre of gravity and don't stand much chance of being blown off the bridge); however, my dear wife, she of the jackrabbit running stance and lean, muscular runner's bod, will be running the half-marathon (21 km / 13 mi) and is trying, as so many are wont to do, to beat her previous personal best time. (Jerry's step-daughter is also running the half tomorrow.)

I have the modest goal of finishing my portion in 90 minutes or less. I'll try to take some pictures, and will also try to snap Jo crossing the finish line (something I've yet to do properly in either of her past two races).
iamom: (Default)
The excerpt below is from Issue 450 of the Yoga Journal newsletter, which, despite its being distributed by a major glossy magazine publisher, has maintained a really high standard of quality in the year or so I've been reading it.

The article also calls to mind some heavy feelings I've had in the past year about my own mom. Like this part: If you don't acknowledge and make peace with these feelings, they can stay caught forever in your mind and heart, preventing the possibility of an authentic relationship. My relationship with my mom is far from inauthentic, but that probably doesn't mean we don't still have some stuff to discuss. :)

At any rate, I could definitely use some Child's Pose action -- my back is killing me today and I almost always find that posture helpful for relieving back pain.
As I awaited the trolley during my commute this morning, a mother with her toddler son approached the platform. Clearly they were upset with one another—she barked commands to him in Russian while he protested and whined back at her. While I couldn't understand what they were saying, the dynamic was universal. I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable as I witnessed their struggle.

What is it about the delicate mother-child relationship that can send us back to our own childhood in an instant? Vipassana meditation teacher Phillip Moffitt says he is surprised to discover how yogis of both genders and all ages report being overwhelmed by unresolved feelings about their mothers. If you don't acknowledge and make peace with these feelings, he says, they can stay caught forever in your mind and heart, preventing the possibility of an authentic relationship.

This week, in honor of Mother's Day, take a look at your own unresolved mother issues, examine parenting as a spiritual practice and nurture yourself by spending some time in Child's Pose.

Andrea Kowalski


iamom: (Default)
Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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