Everyone is busy.

I’m no different that millions of other working mums who are trying to balance a number of different roles and trying to be good at all of them.

What makes me incredibly lucky is the support that I have. When people ask me how I balance everything, I say, “I married well.” By that I mean that I married someone who is a true partner – a husband who actually does his share (if not more) of the house and child duties. It’s an arrangement that I’ve found to be incredibly rare (which is another post for another time).

But this post isn’t about my great husband, it’s about my parents who have been really great about helping my family in small, but incredibly helpful and meaningful ways.

A sample of their recent efforts:

  • Taking both kids to their swimming lessons on the weekend
  • Taking my elder son to skiing lessons once a week
  • Shopping for and delivering pre-made meals, ready for the freezer
  • Pre-chopping fresh veggies and cubed, raw meat for easy meal prep
  • For our upcoming family vacation, they did the research and made ALL the arrangements, including taking my kids for passport photos and standing in line at Canada Place to submit the applications

We reimburse them for their purchases, so the only thing these efforts cost them is time and a bit of gas.

None of these are earth-shattering efforts, especially for two healthy, active, semi-retired people. But what they are is insightful. My parents, without me asking, have identified what would be most helpful and they do it.

It has made a world of difference for us. No more hastily thrown together junky meals served with a glass of V8 juice and a hope that it’s close to nutritious. It means my kids can participate in activities they enjoy without my time-crunch stress. It means on Saturdays we have 90 minutes of kid-free time to organize paperwork, fold laundry, tidy up, or just sit in blissful silence.

And as a bonus, my kids are building great memories with their grandparents who bring them to fun activities and feed them Doritos afterwards.

I think a lot of modern career women with families feel this pressure to do it all and be exceptional at it all. But it’s impossible – no person can live up to that kind of pressure for a sustained period of time. You need help. And when that help comes in a pitch-perfect package, accept it with the realization that getting help doesn’t make you weak, it makes you (and yours) so much stronger.

Mum and Dad, thank you.

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Tonight was the last night of my photography workshop at Vivid Print. It was a great class that made the multitude of buttons, dials and setting on my DSLR not quite so overwhelming. While I started off the course a bit discouraged, I’ve finished it feeling pretty good about my ability to get a decent shot – even if it takes me 20 tries…

Tonight we were supposed to bring our top five shots that we’ve taken since the class started and share them with the class. When I was picking last night, I was pleased that it was hard to pick only five. Of course, most of them were taken the day before at the Muttart Conservatory (my favourite photo taking spot, so far…)

So for you, oh handful of blog readers, I’m going to show off not my top five, but my top ten (my blog, my rules.)


(poor frosty)

A quick, post-Superbowl note to outline who, in my mind, were the big ad winners tonight.

(you didn’t think this was going to be anything sports-related, did you?)

Winners:

1)   Chrysler – Imported from Detroit

Great writing, great visuals, great tagline. Bigger than the product itself, it touched an emotional nerve in the American psyche. While other “buy American” messages have made it seem like the dutiful choice, this piece elevated Detroit-made cars as the authentic choice. Brilliant.

2)   Volkswagon – The Force

It’s obvious that VW knows its market. This ad brilliantly connects with the kids of the late 70s/early 80s (who are now re-introducing their kids to the magic of Star Wars). It’s not about the specific vehicle, it’s about being the brand that “gets” its audience. Bonus points for an adorably emotive performance from behind the mask.

3)   Audi – Release the Hounds

This did a good job of getting its message across – don’t get trapped by old school definitions of luxury. It nicely positions Audi as the luxury brand for a new generation. But mostly, I consider it a winner because it was funny and made me laugh out loud. Twice.

Honourable mentions:

Living Social – Changed My Life (nice art direction, cute storyline)

VW – Black Beetle (lovely CGI work, nice nod to product features, great teaser)

Stella Artois – Crying Jean (mostly because I love Adrian Brody)

And the big loser of the night seems to be Groupon, for their series of ads that (despite having a charitable connection) end up making the company seem massively douchy. It’s never a good idea to make your customers (and I’m one of them) feel icky for supporting your brand. These failed for being too subtle in their tongue-in-cheek-ness.

There are many things in this world that I am not good at. I’m a terrible bowler. I have no idea about mechanics, I can’t cook without a recipe, I avoid confrontation, I take terrible notes and I couldn’t whistle my way out of a wet paper bag.

Most of those things, I don’t really care about.

But I wish I could design – graphic, fashion, interior, industrial, whatever. But alas, while I have the appreciation and the desire, I’m woefully lacking in the talent department. Can’t draw a circle to save my life.

What I do have is “a good eye” which means I can’t actually DO anything, but I’m pretty good at discerning what’s good and what’s crap. And I’ve spent most of my career surrounding myself with people who ARE talented and CAN design. If I can’t do it myself, at least I can be nearby when it happens.

But I haven’t let go of my dream of finding that creative outlet and that’s what has spurred my recent flirtations with photography. My hope is that my “good eye” will translate into a good eye for composition and perhaps my photos will end up matching what I see in my head.

Tonight I had my first of four photography classes at Vivid Print. We spent tonight learning the basics of shutter speed, aperture, white balance and ISO settings. Then we had a go at playing with the settings and seeing how they affected the images we got.

I must say, that it has left me quite discouraged. Once again, what I envision in my head is miles away from what I’m actually able to create.  However, thanks to my “good eye,” I can tell you, that my photos are indeed, crap:

Sigh.

It’s all a bit humbling. I suppose that’s why I’m taking these lessons, right? Learn how to draw that circle. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a tiny seed of talent inside me that just needs some time, practice and encouragement so I can get closer to creating something cool.

I’ve always been flexible.

It’s not challenging for me to touch my toes. Which is perhaps why my first years practicing hatha or pre- and post-natal yoga were nice, but nothing I particularly connected with.

A few years ago, I tried my first Ashtanga class. I was surprised – it wasn’t like those gentle classes I’d been doing – it was a real workout. I got sweaty and was sore afterwards. It was hard and I loved it and I started taking more classes.

About a year ago, I showed up for a class to find I was the only student there, so I snagged myself an impromptu private lesson. I had some specific questions about things that I knew I was doing wrong, and for the next 60 minutes we went over those moves again and again until I got them.

That hour with Angie completely changed my practice.

While I’m flexible, my balance is average and my strength is laughable. All of a sudden, moves that I thought were easy thanks to my flexibility, were much harder, requiring more strength, because I was no longer cheating them. Suddenly, the whole sequence seemed to make more sense, become more challenging and at the same time more rewarding. Since then, I’ve made it a priority to fit Ashtanga (especially with Angie) into my schedule.

I’ve discovered that I love the structure of Ashtanga. It’s the same series of moves in the same order every time. It’s comforting knowing what’s coming next, and doing the same sequence every time makes it easy to see improvements – I can see that I’m getting stronger, that my balance is improving and that I’m getting more flexible.

I even love the chanting at the beginning and end of every class. Me – the skeptical non-believer, who shuns anything metaphysical or mystical! But hey, you want me to recite a Sanskrit chant about a sage with a thousand radiant white heads holding a conch shell? I’m totally in.

But most of all, I love the feeling I have after class. I get a real sense of accomplishment when my practice advances or I can do something new – going in to full backbend, or getting into headstand without using the wall. These are things that make me proud of myself and proud of how strong my body is. That post-practice sense of calm mixed with pride and power is intoxicating.

I spend my days collaborating, negotiating and compromising with clients, suppliers, coworkers, my kids, my husband, traffic and so on. With my yoga practice, it’s just my mat and me. The feeling of accomplishment from a good practice is all mine – there’s no one else to share the credit with, I did it. Me. All by myself.

With help and guidance from Angie, of course.

Last night I had the pleasure of joining a group of foodies for dinner at Hardware Grill. The evening was organized by Chris of Eating is the Hard Part and we were lucky to sit at the Chef’s Table with a front row view of the action going on in the kitchen:

To be clear, I don’t consider myself a foodie, so going to dinner with those who do, can be a bit intimidating (will I be shunned if I accidentally reveal my love of powdered coffee creamer?) Add to that the fact that I hadn’t met most of the people at the table beforehand, and I was out of my comfort zone.

I should never have worried. It was a great evening filled with wonderful conversation, delightful dishes and plenty of laughter. What more could you ask for on a chilly winter’s night?

I will leave the food descriptions and reviews to others who are more talented and adept (such as Chris). I was delighted by the visual appeal of the dishes placed in front of me, so that I will share. It was all delicious spot-on, but I have to say the beef carpaccio was my favourite of the evening.

P.S. D and I had our first date at Hardware Grill, so it’s got a soft spot in my heart – we even stopped by the restaurant on our wedding day to snap photos…

Last week, someone close to me critiqued this wee blog of mine and it bothered me much more than was probably warranted.

It’s been days, and it’s still stinging. Part of me wants to just pack it in – forget this foray into blogging. That’s the perfectionist/defeatist part of me. If my writing can’t be perfect on every note, then why bother creating at all? If I’m going to get well-intentioned wrist slaps every time I take a misstep here, then perhaps it’s just not worth it.

Welcome to my psyche, folks!

This blog is frightening for me. I like to think that I’m pretty good at the whole “writing” thing, but I mostly restrict myself to 140 characters for the meagre extent of my “personal” writing. These longer posts allow me to mull things over in more words, but they also afford more opportunity to screw up, sound dumb, make bad arguments, insult people or come across as whiny, pedantic, unoriginal or (horrors of horrors!) just plain boring.

But NOT writing isn’t going to make my writing better.

And maybe I should give myself permission to screw up. Maybe it’s those missteps – as a blogger, employee, friend, daughter, wife and mother – that keep me from being the worst thing of all:

Just plain boring.

 

 

 

I love traffic circles.

I love the constant movement of traffic. I love choosing lanes based on circumferential fractions. I love the ordered chaos and the rules of the circle. I love the mid-curve signal change. I love the game-show feel (“she’s chosen three-quarters, let’s see where she’ll end up… why it’s the zoo!”)  They just seem like a civilized way to handle an intersection. So much more… organic.

For some reason, traffic circles have fallen out of favour in current roadway design, and it’s a pity. Just outside of my new neighbourhood, there’s a massive, multi-lane, four-way stop intersection. It’s confusing, it’s huge and it’s dangerous. It’s also not quite busy enough to justify proper traffic lights outside of morning and evening rush hour. However, it would be the perfect spot for a traffic circle.

If there were a traffic circle, it wouldn’t matter who got to the line first, or whether a left turning vehicle has the right of way in the face of on-coming but slightly late-arriving traffic. Just throw them all in the circle and they can go on their merry way.  No stop and go, just go around. Much better.

I might be the only person who wishes traffic circles would make a comeback, but that might be because I’m the only one who gets excited approaching a traffic circle. It’s like an amusement park ride in the midst of my travels. And I’m all in favour of injecting just a little bit more fun into the mundane.

I was at the Muttart today – what a great place to take my new camera for a spin. I really love the texture of plants…

Running a half marathon is easy.

It’s the four months of training beforehand that’s the bitch.

I’m training for a May half marathon, which means training starts now. It will be my third half, but it’s been almost a year since I’ve done anything close to serious running. I’ve also never trained outdoors through the winter. But people do it all the time, so why can’t I?

Tonight, while J and I were crunching our way through the dark trails behind my neighbourhood, we set out our running schedule:

Monday – off

Tuesday – she does volleyball, I do yoga

Wednesday – run (this will eventually be our speed training or hills day)

Thursday – clinic night + run

Friday – off

Saturday – off

Sunday – long runs

There’s enough flexibility in that schedule to add another run later on when more mileage is needed and I might add in some extra yoga classes if time permits. Yes, we’ve signed up for a clinic. We don’t need the talks, but we’re both the type of people who needed a scheduled event (that we paid money for) to help keep us going. It’s also nice to run in different areas of town, just for a change of scenery.

So the plan is set. It’s nothing but good intentions at this point.