Monday, January 31, 2011

you asked for it.

Have you ever asked for someone’s advice and not liked their response?  What do you do with it?  Take it to heart (or too much to heart as it may be)? Write it off as bullshit and move on?  Get mad at them and tell them to go fly a kite (probably not the best thing to do since after all, you did ask for the advice)?  Or maybe you just say nothing and then go ask someone else what they think of said advice and see if they agree (and risk the chance of being mad at two people). 

I recently asked a friend of mine if she had advice on how to break into a very cliquey group of Canadian bloggers.  I was hoping for one of the following responses:
  1. I will introduce you personally and recommend you to them
  2. They may seem like self-important blog snobs but if you email them they will totally open up their post Blissdom loving arms and welcome you into their community
  3. Forget about it, they don’t bother with bloggers with fewer than 5,000 twitter followers
The response I got was not what I expected at all.  It was:

Tighten your writing and get an editor. 

I sat and said nothing (shocking, yes).  What does that even mean?  While I agree that in an ideal world we would all have an editor, when you write as often as I do (and for free) it is not realistic.  Also, I spend a fair bit of time reviewing my posts before I press “publish”, and it is rare for there to be a typo in one of my blogs.  And what the hell? How does that help me break into that group of bloggers?  Even if I went back to school and got a degree in creative writing, that would not help me with this particular endeavor.  Are they going to magically discover me just because I have training they deem deserving of acknowledgement? 

Because I have it in me to be a passive aggressive asshole, I spent last night going over the blogs I “aspire to be affiliated with” (which is becoming less true by the second).  The very first one I checked had a grammatical error in the most recent post.  I called my husband and told him and he suggested they “tighten up their writing”.  

As it turns out, I think I'm okay not being part of this group.  It makes me feel like I'm back in high school which was not much fun then and is not much fun now.  Now excuse me while I go tighten up my writing.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

i may be small but i am mighty.

I have come to realize that I live two separate lives. There is my day to day "real" life where I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, an employee and a friend.   There is also my web existence where I don my fickle feline superhero costume and fly into the online ether.
Balancing the two can be tricky.  I love my life.  I have a terrific family that I adore.  Friends who belly dance and quilt with me.  A job that while not my dream job, pays the bills and is close to home.  This real life feeds my online persona.  It is my day to day experiences that I draw on to fuel my existence as fickle feline.  When I suit up (or log on) I feel an internal shift within me.

This past week I spent 3 days as fickle feline at the Blissdom Conference in Nashville.  It was awesome and weird and fun and thought provoking all rolled into one big ball of emotions.  I got to meet people that I have only ever known as their online identity (some of them equal to Mrs.Incredible and Wonder Woman in stature).  I realized that no matter how popular someone is online (determined by hundreds of thousands of twitter followers and millions of page views), when they are standing next to me in line for coffee, we are very much equals.
I met Brené Brown and learned that she too has felt less than fantastic about her appearance, she too has had flashes of panic about putting herself out there.  And she is still GREAT.  I met Karen Walrond, the author of The Beauty of Different and listened to her speak about having to do an internal check of her core values when writing her blog and keeping her online life and her real life completely separate.  And she is the personification of real beauty.  I sat on the floor with Maggie and Amy and talked with them about the challenges of running their own businesses and how they plan to grow while still staying true to the reason they started in the first place.  They both took the leap and are their own bosses. Everywhere I turned I was surrounded by women challenging themselves to live and love with their whole hearts.  For a few short days we all took off our super hero masks and capes and shared of ourselves in a way we cannot in our day to day lives.

It was a reminder of something I have known for a long time - we are all more the same than we are different.  That holds true in all facets of life.  My challenge now is to find a way to make this type of  connection more often, online and in day to day life.  It is easier to be vulnerable as fickle feline than it is as Katrina.  I can be both and be enough, either way.  

Friday, January 28, 2011

love that max.

This is Ellen from Love That Max.  As I type this, we are sitting at the Blissdom closing keynote.  Funny story, before I came to Blissdom, at least five people told me that I absolutely had to meet her.  So here we are, trading swag and whispering.  She is my people (and not just because she also has a son named Max).  Actually, we just got told to shut up, so we are no longer whispering.  Regardless, it is meeting ladies like Ellen that makes this trip worthwhile.  When she speaks about her journey I feel like she is telling my story.  When she tells me about things I have yet to experience I hope I will handle these situations with the same grace that she does.  She inspires me to see my Max through fresh eyes and to enjoy him as is.  Thank you Ellen.  You are awesome.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

finding my tribe at blissdom.

check out the sweet cards @designmojo made for me!
Hi, I'm Katrina and my blog is  I blog about... ummm... yeah... huh.  How do I encapsulate everything I write about here in under ten words?  It took me a few intros to get it down, but by the end of the day I had it perfected.

I write about infusing joy into every single day.

Despite the challenges that get thrown my way in any 24 hour window, be it battling back depression, having a particularly challenging day with Max, feeling at the end of my rope with a lippy 2 year old, or not being able to get any "alone time" with my husband, that is a commitment I have made to myself.  Find your joy.  If I can do that, then I can manage all the other stuff.  I can do it.

Why the need for intros and attention getting business cards?  Long story short, I'm at the Blissdom Conference in Nashville this week.  Every year hundreds of women (and a few men) come together to discuss all things blogging and social media.  For a few short days this week I will be surrounded by a community of women who understand me.  They get the love of writing online.  They too get excited about twitter and facebook and sharing their stories with the universe.  Even better, within this community, there are tribes.  Groups of women who write about their children with special needs, or fitness, or mental health.  Lots of  other topics too, but those are the ones that bring it home for me.

Today I sat at a table of women who know what it is to raise a child with special needs.  Without saying a word, they already understand me better than the majority of people in my real life.  Last night I had dinner with a group of ladies who openly discussed all of the different medications they had taken to manage depression and the side effects each of them had.  The only thing that topped that was one of the conference founders confiding (quite loudly) that she counts back from 10 repeatedly when she is providing a certain service for her husband.  I think I may be in love.

Social media conventions can be overwhelming.  They are intense and the connections you make leave you feeling unraveled by the end of the day.  This one is by far the best one I've been to.  It's the right size, the energy is positive, and the people I have met are fascinating.  Also, today I met Brené Brown.  I had something really deep I wanted to say to her, but when I finally got the chance to say hello all I managed to stammer out was "thank you for being".  Regardless of me making an ass of myself, it was wonderful getting to hear her key note and be part of something bigger.

There is so much more to say, but I need to jet to a party... more later!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

reassessment for the erinoak ibi waitlist.

Max has been on the ErinoakKids wait list for IBI/ABA funding for over 25 months.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the situation around funding for Autism therapy in Canada, I'll give you a bit of background.  Max was officially diagnosed with Autism in December 2008 at the age of 32 months.  Once he had his diagnosis, he went on a wait list for therapy.  Since the key years for intensive behaviour intervention therapy are between the ages of 2 and 5, waiting to start therapy until he came to the top of the list (projected to be sometime this summer, after his fifth birthday) was not something we were willing to do.  Instead we have gone heavily into debt, remortgaged our home twice and relied on the incredible generosity of our families to provide Max with the life saving therapy he requires to even have a chance at a life where he can be happy and successful (whatever that looks like for him).  Last year Max's total therapy bill came to over $52,000.  This year it will be more in the range of $70,000. 

As part of the ErinOakKids waitlist, Max was initially assessed in April 2009.  The experience was down right awful and I let it be known not only on this site, but via email and phone conversations with the powers that be at ErinOakKids.  When I found out that Max needed to have another assessment, this one in our home, I was very apprehensive.  All sorts of thoughts scurried through my head.  What if he no longer qualifies for funding because he has had so much progress? Not that progress is a bad thing, but we are barely hanging on right now, we can't keep up the payments for therapy if he doesn't qualify.  Also, I will lose my sh!t if that same "doctor" who did the initial assessment thinks he is stepping foot in my home.  What if Max won't cooperate?  What if for some reason he acts totally normal and they think he is "cured"?  To say I didn't sleep very well on Sunday night is putting it lightly. 

Fortunately, the in home assessment is a lot more laid back than the first one.  A very nice Senior Therapist, Chris Bruce, from the ErinOakKids Autism program arrived at our home and introduced himself.  Max started objecting to his presence immediately, but Chris wasn't phased and was able to coax Max into cooperating enough that he was able to do the testing he needed to do for the assessment.  Add to that, he was kind.  And he listened to what I was saying.  He didn't get defensive when I made comments about our previous experiences.  And the best part, was he was very excited about Max.  For the first time in this journey, someone said to me "do you know what the best thing about Max is? He picks things up really quickly." 

Do you know what the best thing about Max is? 

This therapist, who had only met Max that morning took the time to point out something very positive to me about my son. To say I was blown away puts in mildly.  I'm used to getting letters that inform me that "Max is in the bottom percentile for his age" and "Max had a difficult time doing xyz".  It lifted my spirits for someone to see Max's strengths and to so generously share them with me. 

As Chris was leaving, I thanked him for not having two heads.  He gave me a funny look, and I explained that with all of the hoops we have had to jump through to get Max funding, we haven't always been treated well.  I appreciated that he was kind and listened and really saw Max for the wonderful little guy he is.  Now let's hope that funding comes through soon!

Monday, January 24, 2011

i'm an expert.

I'm headed to the Blissdom conference in Nashville on Wednesday.  It promises to be a lot of fun.  Great location (Opryland hotel), fun people (like Julie Cole) and interesting topics to discuss.  I'm mostly going for the fun people though.  I was doing some research on the different workshops and speakers last night and there are definitely some sessions I will be sure to check out.

What I found most interesting was reading the profiles of the people who have been selected to present.  For the sake of full disclosure, I should tell you that I threw my name in the hat and submitted a proposal to participate in a panel and was not selected.  I am completely fine with that and will attend the panel all the same.   Back to these bios though.  As I read through them I thought to myself "very few of these people have any more experience in writing or social media than me, yet they are experts".  I'm not holding myself up next to Brené Brown by any stretch, but I am certainly comparable to the vast majority of speakers.

So, what makes someone an "expert" anyhow?  From what I can tell, and this has been my opinion for a very long time, it is that you feel confident enough in your skills in an area to call yourself an expert.  The end.  You don't even need someone else to call you an expert first.  Just start calling yourself one and others will follow suit.  So, I'm a social media expert.  I am.  Feel free to refer to me as one.

To back up my claim I wrote up a little bio for myself:
Katrina writes for the award winning website Fickle Feline which she founded in 2004.  Her candid writing and bare bones honesty have won her accolades from both the Mental Health and Autism communities.  She is an Autism advocate and is currently documenting her Autistic son Max's journey for a book she is writing on how to achieve a best outcome for Autism through early intervention and intensive therapy.  She is a contributor to websites Sew Sew Def and Traveling Mom and has provided content for WonderBra, Mabels Labels,  FedEx, Bell Sympatico, American Express, Air Miles, Royal Bank of Canada, Purolator, Sprite, CVS Caremark and Microsoft.  She is also a social media consultant, specializing in helping businesses use social media in relevant and cost effective ways to build customer loyalty and strengthen relationships.  Katrina thinks raisins are just rotten grapes and is not afraid to share pictures of herself looking completely ridiculous.  She hates her cat and very much looks forward to the day that her two year old daughter turns 18 and moves out.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

don't let these pictures fool you.

Cameron has spent the majority of this afternoon acting like a wee beast. She did manage to turn it around for the very special Princess Birthday Party for the one and only Party Mama's daughter Emma. Not to worry, true to form the minute she got home she turned on the Carefoot temper and has been showing off her perfected act as the Princess of the Kingdom of Jerky Little Penniless Dwarfs ever since.  I am counting the seconds until bedtime.
table for one
I heard there was a Sleeping Beauty Princess around here somewhere...
paper bag princess?

Friday, January 21, 2011

could you (would you) give up booze?

During my morning spin of facebook (and yes, I look at it first thing, before I check my horoscope and the price of gold), I noticed that one of my friend's (actually, the brother of a friend, but a facebook friend nonetheless) status message read "hasn't had a drink in 710 days".  My first thought was "wow, good for you dude, that is TERRIFIC" and I immediately clicked "like".  My second thought was "that is a long ass time to go without a glass of wine".  My third thought was "I don't know if I could do it".  That is a complete cop out though.  I am one of the most hard headed people out there.  If I decided I wasn't going to have a drink for 710 days, I could do it.  So the question is not "could I", the question is "would I". 

Probably not is the answer.  I have cut back significantly over the last few months.  The glass of wine I felt entitled to every evening as as method of helping me "relax" has been replaced with good old fashioned exercise.  I now go weeks at a time without one sip of alcohol.  But I still like knowing that if I wanted a vodka and soda I could have one.  The challenge now is that I have very little tolerance, so one drink is enough and I often don't even finish it.  I also find that I don't feel so hot the next morning if I imbibe.  I'm turning into one of "those people" I used to shake my head at.  Man, getting old sucks.  I remember how in my early twenties I could go out after work, socialize all evening, fall into bed well after midnight and be back at my desk bright eyed and bushy tailed by 8:30am, ready to do it all over again.  Apparently those days are long gone.  Increasingly I find myself acting responsibly and behaving in a manner that takes into consideration how doing something now will make me feel in the future.  It's a lot less fun but has spared me much physical agony and car detailing costs.

So my question is, could you (would you) give up booze for 710 days?  I could, but I don't want to.  How about you?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

silver white winters.

While most of my friends work in downtown Toronto, I currently work in Milton, Ontario. Springridge Farm is a five minute drive away from my office and I like to go there for lunch. Today I discovered, much to my dismay, that they are closed until April.  Lucky for me, I had my camera in the car so  was able to take some photos.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

beginner belly dancing: hips don't lie.

this is not me.
As part of the Rediscover Your Wonder project I participated in this past fall, I took a private belly dancing lesson with the lovely Joharah of belly up.  I felt like a fish out of water but by the end of the class, Joharah had me doing some solid beginner moves and left me wanting more.  She signed me up for the beginner intensive course, which started last week.  I somehow managed to talk my friend Lolo (not her real name) into coming with me, figuring it's much more fun to make an ass of yourself in good company. 

My goal isn't to look like Joharah (well, maybe one day).  Kidding aside, what I find most challenging about the class is figuring out how to isolate certain muscles to make them do things they have NEVER done before.  And that's not kinky talk (though I did laugh when Joharah referred to the space between her ribs and her hips as a "woman's toolbox").  Having never taken dance I just haven't been required to connect that way with my body.  She says left, my body goes right, she says down, I go up.  I try to stay off to the side so I don't throw everyone off with my lack of coordination but Johorah somehow manages to catch every shimmy and drop I do.  Thank goodness the room is full of true beginners so I'm not the only one who is having a tough time keeping my feet flat on the floor while I do hip thrusts from side to side (you try it - it ain't easy!). 

I love how earthy the movement is - it makes me feel very grounded.  The idea of being able to truly connect with my body is fascinating (and here I thought walking while chewing gum was fancy).  With four more classes to go, I'll be happy if I get a decent shimmy going and can line up my lefts and rights with everyone by the end of February.  There will definitely be more belly dancing in my future! It's addictive (and a nice break from the intensity of P90X).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

tits up, hammer out.

One of Mama Kat's (not me) writing prompts this week is "how has social media changed your life?".  That's a loaded question. It would be easier to answer the question "how hasn't social media changed your life?".  The most obvious way is that a whole lot of people know a whole lot about me, including potential employers.  I have blogged about all sorts of personal stuff, including battling depression, the struggles and triumphs of raising a child with special needs, and acting very inappropriately at my bachelorette party (though I'm fairly certain I made those police officer's day).  Yes, I am card carrying over sharer, but that's true in my day-to-day life as well (just ask anyone who knows me "IRL").  And, if you don't want to give me a job after you read about my efforts to make the most of my life, then I probably don't want to work for you anyway. 

Social media has also made me less patient (I know, who knew that was even possible?).  If I want information, I want it NOW.  Like, how old is Hugh Laurie (51), and do I make the half-your-age-plus-seven cut-off?  (Yes.)  If I want to talk with you I can find you with a text or bbm or tweet in a matter of seconds.  If you don't answer right away I will wonder if you are dead and ask you if you are, in fact, six feet under.  I can rsvp for an event and see who else is attending to decide if I want to go without picking up the phone, and I can share photos in real time of the evil Canada Geese that thwart my efforts to get to work on time.

On the flip side, I can get daily inspiration from world class thinkers I have never met, listen to an artist's latest track before I decide to pay for it on itunes, and banter back and forth with friends while watching my favourite show on tv (even if they are in a different city).  Good and bad, social media has brought the world to me.  Almost everything I want is only a click of a button away. 

Almost.  I have this theory about social media.  We use it as a way to stay in touch, make contact, and interact with people.  We love it because we think it actually helps us achieve these goals, even though all we are really doing is keeping the world at arm's length.   I love me some social media, but it does nothing to help me truly connect with the people in my immediate circle.  It does the exact opposite.  After telling the world how I'm feeling about something on my blog I assume my family and friends have read it and know I having a tough time that day.  My facebook status message informed the world that Cameron peed in the toilet for me, so I don't need to relive the joy with my mom.  My oldest friend got married by Elvis in Vegas and it was webcast real time online but I wasn't there to celebrate with her.  My friend from college's cat died and I found out on twitter how sad he was about it.  So near yet so very, very far.

Something to think about for sure.

Monday, January 17, 2011

date with tony horton.

not quite ready for the cover of downward dog magazine.
I started the P90X program on December 26th (I got it for Christmas and couldn't wait to get started).  The first week kicked my ass.  So did the second and third.  Here I am in week four (the recovery week before starting Phase 2) and I'm still finding the workouts very challenging, but also doable. 

Somehow, even with everyone (including me) getting sick last week, I still managed to hit my workouts every day.  Previously I would have used being under the weather as an excuse not to exercise, but there is something about this Tony guy that is infectious (in a good way).  I look forward to "pressing play" and being put through my paces.  Yesterday, when I had to wait to do the 90 minute Yoga X workout I felt myself getting impatient to get going, which made me laugh.  A friend of mine who has already done the program has told me to slow up and not get too excited just yet because it will become a grind.  I believe it too.  It's easy to be motivated the first month.  There are still 10 weeks to this program and I have to keep on chugging and building momentum.

The changes I've noticed so far from a physical standpoint have been small.  I'm down a few pounds and parts of me that used to jiggle a lot are jiggling less.  The biggest change by far is between my ears.  I feel calmer, and less overwhelmed when I get stressed out or sad.  I'm also able to avoid most of the negative self-talk that creeps in when I'm at my most vulnerable.  Friends have told me that they are proud of me and impressed by my dedication.  I'm proud of me too.  Every night when I go to bed, I reflect on the day and as long as I have made my best effort for my health and my family, I feel at peace.

The key to this program working for me is that it requires you to exercise using a specific workout every day (there are 7 different workouts per week).  Because I am terrible at moderation, this speaks to me.  I have to make time every day, no matter what.  If it was only four days a week I wouldn't be able to keep it up because it would be too easy to not find time or think "I'll just do that tomorrow".  That doesn't work on the P90X program because tomorrow I will have a different workout to do.  Plus, Tony is waiting for me, and I would hate to let him down.  If you have done the program you know what I mean by this.  He might be a cheese ball, but he knows how to keep you feeling motivated.

I've never been one for physical fitness goals (outside of losing weight).  With this program I am finding for the first time ever I am getting excited about getting better at the different workouts and skills.  Each time I do the Ab workout I get a little stronger and am able to do a few more reps or hold a posture better than the last time I did it.  Funny enough, this doesn't make the workouts easier, it makes them harder because I'm able to "bring it" even more.  That's the beauty of it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

max update.

I can tell they are sick because they stayed in bed playing for over an hour without jumping on each other.
At some point over the last week, Max decided to spring a bunch of new skills on us. We were so sick it seemed like a mirage. Did he really just reply "no" when Scott asked him if he wanted toast or waffles and then "yes" to pancakes? I swear it was only last week that he was echoing whatever the last thing you said to him ("Max do you want pancakes?" followed by Max responding "pancakes"). Max deciding what he wants and then communicating it decisively with a yes/no response has us on cloud nine. It's a step in the direction of conversing which is exciting.

But the real mind blowing skill that Max has had tucked away is that he knows how to write out all of the letters of the alphabet.  I was well aware that Max could write the letters of his name, but the entire alphabet?  As we sat on the couch with the GloDoodle on his lap, I asked him to draw each letter.  When we got to "i" and Max drew the stick and then put a dot on top I let out a whoop and a "YAY MAX" and he beamed back at me with an ear to ear smile.  I must say he writes a kick ass back half of the alphabet (his "Z" is a work of art that should be hung in the AGO).

On top of these developments, the continued growth of Max and Cameron's relationship amazes us on a daily basis.  They tease each other mercilessly, refuse to share and get very jealous of the other getting attention from Scott and myself.  And the giggling at each other in the car?  It's wonderful.  The progress is slow, but it is inching forward.  Maybe being sick forced us to slow down long enough to truly appreciate it.

i forgot peekaboo was so much fun.

good hiding spot Cammie.
where are you mommy?
I'm coming to find you!
there you are! 

Friday, January 14, 2011

easy prey: the irreparable damage committed by the anti-vaccine movement.

I  was never convinced that the MMR vaccine caused Autism. Max showed symptoms of Autism from the age of 6 months on (way before he had the MMR).  It seemed far fetched to me that the answer was so obvious. If the MMR was a known cause of Autism, wouldn’t every doctor and nurse in the universe refuse to administer it? Wouldn’t every child with Autism who had received the MMR be put in an exhaustive study to compare them against children with Autism who didn’t receive the MMR? I’m not talking about a group of 12 kids like the Lancet Study - I’m talking about thousands. Any person who passed grade 7 science class would tell you that a group of 12 kids is not enough to base a study on. Especially if those results would affect millions of children worldwide.

But that’s what happened. The results of a study that declared the MMR to be a cause of Autism - even though the results were never duplicated - had parents deciding en masse to not vaccinate their kids. The parents who already had a child with Autism who had received the MMR were left wondering if their decision to have their child vaccinated was the very reason their child had been inflicted with this terrible disorder. Add to that the celebrities masquerading as health care experts (I'm looking at you Jenny McCarthy) screaming from every media outlet that would listen that vaccinations made their kids  Autistic.  And they were wrong. The Lancet study was completely fabricated to support a lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant Smithkline Beecham.  Yet there are still thousands of parents who hold onto the idea that it was the MMR that caused their child to be Autistic.

We parents of children with Autism are easy prey.  We are desperate to heal our children, to figure out how to help them (be it proven methods like behaviour therapy or unproven methods like extreme diets and hyperbolic chambers).  Even I delayed my daughter's vaccines.   I knew there was no scientific evidence that vaccines cause Autism.  I knew that Cameron was completely different than Max, with not one single symptom of Autism.  But still, somewhere in the back of my mind, was the idea that the MMR could possibly contribute to her being at risk for Autism.  As I said,  we're easy prey.  But perhaps I am being too hard on myself.  I have a child with Autism and I know devastating it is.  I would do ANYTHING to avoid having another child with this disorder, even risking exposing her to other diseases.

It isn't just parents of children with Autism who made health care decisions based on the findings of the fraudulent Lancet study.  Parents of neurotypical children all over the world have decided not to have their children vaccinated for fear of their child becoming Autistic.  I wish I could begin to describe the disgust I feel for the study's authors and the fear mongering tactics they used to take advantage of a population of people desperate for answers.  What the Autism community needs is legitimate research that will discover the true causes of Autism.  The answers are out there - avoiding vaccinating your child is not one of them.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

happiness despite barfiness.

This week I got my ass handed to me.  Literally, figuratively, you name it, I got up close and personal with  my entire family's bodily fluids (and not the good ones).  Here we are, five days after The Stomach Bug of 2011 hit us, and we are just now coming up for air.  On a side note, I wish it weren't so damn cold out - or else I'd have have every single window in my house wide open!  This place smells rank.

Between loads of laundry, I had a lot of time on my hands to think (uh oh).  This year is just two weeks in, and already I feel a significant shift in my thinking patterns.  Yes, we are all sick.  Yes, we are all tired.  And yes, I do fear that our couch will smell permanently of regurgitated milk and apples (big ups to my boy Max).  But, we are managing.  We are holding it together and not biting each other's heads off.  And somewhere in there, we are keeping a sense of humour about the whole thing.  That is not to be discounted.

So, while I rejoice that my washer didn't bite the biscuit this week and that Target is coming to Canada (praise be), I wanted to share this happiness flow chart that my dear friend Jennifer emailed me this morning.

Being happy, finding joy, whatever your name for levity is, it truly is a choice.  Powerful.

Note: (Happiness is also hearing the dryer shut off on that last load of sheets and knowing that for the next 5 minutes, everything in your home is clean.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

getting RAW with Michael Willems.

I think he looks a bit like House...
Phew. Is that life starting to settle back into some semblance of a routine? Or maybe I'm just going stir crazy from being stuck in the house with Max (who is STILL barfing). Either way, I am finally finding time to play with my new camera equipment while also digesting all of the stuff I learned from Michael Willems (the handsome fellow in the mosaic above) at the Henry's Nikon Part 2 course back in December.  I should add that I haven't mastered all of things I learned in the Part 1 course yet either.
nobody is safe when mom has her camera out!
It was a tonne of information and I need to spend some time reading the training materials again.  The main thing I took away from the course was to never delete photos because the ones that don't turn out are the ones that teach you the most and help you improve.  Michael's suggestion was to look at the settings you took the photo with (viewable on your camera and computer once you download them) and see just what the heck was going on for the photo to turn out that way.  Then compare it to a photo that turned out great and see what the difference was.  He also got us all shooting in RAW format which allows for a lot more flexibility in post production.  Other tips?  The flash is your friend - learn how to use it and Adobe Photoshop Elements is the program use for editing your photos.  Lucky for me, I got a new flash for Christmas from Santa Scott and my mom hooked me up with the Elements program.  Be warned, if you come over to our house, you will probably have your picture taken...I'm in desperate need of models!

Monday, January 10, 2011

lunch prep gone bananas.

As part of my own personal happiness project/resolution to find my joy in 2011 (official site here),  I am tackling a few items at a time.  The most important thing I am focusing on is my mental health.  The two tactics I'm using for this are exercising every day with P90X, and getting to bed early every night.  If I manage to do those two things and I'm feeling ambitious, I am also trying to be more organized so that I don't get stressed out about stuff like packing lunches in the morning.  As you may recall, Max takes quite a bit of food with him each day (he needs enough to cover off snack and lunch for junior kindergarten and a snack for his afternoon therapy.

In addition, I have always been a fan of packing healthy snacks for myself to take to work.  I like to eat well and I hate to spend money on lunch.  The combined time of packing both Max and my food for the day is over 20 minutes (which I never have in the morning so we're always late).   This Sunday I decided to prepare all of our fruits and vegetables for the first half of the week at once.  It only took 20 minutes - so I saved myself 40 minutes and a lot of morning stress.  The containers with the red lids and oranges are for me, and the labelled containers are for Max.   I still make sandwiches in the morning because I can't stand refrigerated bread and it only takes 2 minutes to slap them together.

I sure am glad I don't have to pack a lunch for Cam yet!  What do you do to make your mornings less stressful?

why we don't have nice furniture.

It was a long night chez Carefoot and it involved a lot of laundry. Hopefully this is a kid-only-24-hour-stomach-bug... or I might end up using all my sick days in January!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

more space or less stuff?

I have always had a ten year plan for our current house.  My logic was that by the time we had lived in our first home for ten years, we'd have a couple of kids underfoot and we would simply need more room (true and true).  Alas, we're currently nine years in and I don't think my ten year plan holds water.

Our finances have taken a huge hit due to Max's therapy bills (ringing in at over $60,000 a year).  Add to that, the idea of actually organizing a move and all it would entail makes my brain feel on the verge of exploding.  There is also the issue of schools, transitioning Max into a completely new environment and the fact that in our nine years here, we have done a bunch of maintenance (new furnace, A/C, windows, roof and flooring) and I feel like we should reap the benefits of those investments.

But, we're nine years in and we have a couple of kids underfoot and we need more room!  What the hell are we supposed to do?  The physicist in me (hahahaha) tells me that to create more physical space without putting an addition on our home, we need to reduce the amount of stuff in our house.  While we're at it, we need to consume less stuff overall (what's the good in getting rid of stuff if you simply replace it?).

If you wondering, no, our dining room is no longer in post makeover condition, nor is our kitchen or bedroom.   So, re-starting with our bedroom (also my quilting room and workout room) I am back to the mantra "when it doubt throw it out (or recycle or donate)".  While I'm at it, I'm trying to organize the storage spaces we have so that I actually know what we have and where we have it (simple in theory, yes).   I'm still fantasizing about building a wall of bookcases in my bedroom and getting a beautiful sewing table like my friend Kimberly, but I'd prefer to do it from a design perspective and not a "I need a place to put all this junk" requirement.

I've certainly got my work cut out for me.  See you in 2012 (I kid, I kid).

Saturday, January 08, 2011

the first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event.

We got our first heavy snowfall last night. Max was delighted. At the first chance he got, he threw himself into the snow and made snow angels. Though he continues to refuse to wear a hat, I have sewn his mittens into his coat (much to his dismay). He spent almost two hours outside today, smiling the entire time. I finally lured him in with the promise of pineapple. (Cookies didn't work.)

Friday, January 07, 2011

working out for mental health.

taken with my bberry, and yes I know I cut half my head off.
I have only ever exercised for one reason, and that was to lose weight.  The end.  I would huff and puff on the treadmill or stairmaster or rowing machine with the vision of me wearing a certain dress at xyz event looking skinny.  And I wonder why those exercise regimens always failed.

This past August, I started working out for a new reason, and that was to manage my anxiety.  I would get on the treadmill and run.  I felt like I could run for days.  I was terribly anxious about everything in my life, to the point that I felt like my chest would explode.  I ran until I was so exhausted, I didn't have the energy to feel anxious anymore.  For the first time in my life, I was not picturing myself as skinnier version of myself, I was picturing myself as a happier and calmer version of myself. 

Like all things I love, I went completely over the top and ran to the point of injuring myself.  Not good.  I had to stop altogether to let my leg heal.  I started feeling anxious again, but figured I'd get back on the horse once my leg felt better.  It's better now and this time I decided to go at the exercise thing with a more balanced approach.  If you can call P90X balanced.  It involves working out every day for 91 days (they must have called it "90X" because that is catchier than "91X"!).  The beauty of this program for me, is it kind of requires you to go over the top from a commitment standpoint.  Every day? For three months?  That's a lot! 

Granted, I'm only two weeks into the program, so I'm still hopped up and ready to go every time I press play on my dvd player.  I feel myself getting stronger, and better yet, I feel my mindset getting healthier too.  After being hugely disappointed yesterday about not getting a job I wanted, I went home and worked out for 75 minutes.  The old me would have come home, poured myself a big glass of wine, ordered a pizza, and gotten on the couch for a pity party.  I didn't need those crutches to find perspective or numb my sadness.  That in itself made yesterday a great day.  Not getting completely derailed or knocked down was a way bigger accomplishment than getting any job. 

Today I get to do some kenpo, tomorrow stretching, and then on Sunday I start week 3!  I can't wait to get home to work my body and my brain out. 

Thursday, January 06, 2011

you gotta get that dirt off your shoulder.

I recently interviewed for an opportunity that I thought would be THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD! OMG! THIS JOB WAS MADE FOR ME!!

I really felt (and still feel) that strongly about it. It brought together the thing I am most passionate about (Autism) with all of my skills and my love of all things media and communications. For the first time in my life I looked at a job and thought “that’s it – this is the perfect job for me – I will rock this job”.

But I didn’t get the job. Apparently there is someone else out there who is going to rock that job harder than me (difficult to believe, I know).

So where does that leave me? It’s hard to get so close you can taste it. Kind of like inhaling the clean, crisp air in Whistler and then being yanked back into the smog of downtown Toronto and told "just kidding". The polluted city didn’t seem so bad when you didn’t know how good it felt to breathe the fresh air that made you feel alive from head to toe.  Now it feels like someone is sitting on my chest.

The only option, as I see it, is to trust and keep faith. Trust that the universe has something else, something better in mind for me. Believe that keeping an open mind and open heart will reflect back the positive energy I am sending out. While I am certainly sad today, I know that is good, because it means that this was real. I wanted this with all my heart and it is totally okay to be disappointed. That glimpse of what I really want will give me the drive to keep pursuing those types of opportunities. There have to be more out there just like it, except, you know, better.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

this is me, all smiles.

My friend Jennifer took this picture of me on December 30th during a quick meet up in Toronto to exchange Christmas gifts and hugs.  I forgot half of her presents at home (classy) and she was totally cool about it.   She just got a new camera too, and she was kind enough take a picture of me (I took one of her as well).  While I used to try to channel my inner top model whenever a camera appeared, I've decided to toss caution to the wind and just smile. No worrying about double chins, good side, right light, or perfect lipstick.  Just me, what you see is what you get.

vulnerability is not a sign of weakness.

Take 20 minutes and watch this. It will change your way of thinking and make your day better. In fact, watch it 2 or 3 times.

Monday, January 03, 2011

doctor visit #1 of 2011.

Max has been under the weather for over a week.  Actually, we all have, to varying degrees.  Today was supposed to be a beautiful kid-free day before Scott and I head back to work tomorrow.  The key words here are "supposed to be".  The dreaded call from school came at 11:40am - one measly hour before Max's pick-up for therapy.  His teacher said he had been tugging on his left ear all morning saying "ear hurt" and not  wanting to do anything.  Scott picked him up and brought him home.  We asked him if his ear hurt and he repeated "ear hurt" back to us.  The challenge of course, is that Max is often echolalic, so we weren't sure if his ear really hurt or not.  It may be that he was just having a hard time getting back into being at school again. Me, being the hard ass mom that I am, decided that he was still going to therapy (we have to pay either way, whether he goes or not).

I asked his behaviour therapist to keep an eye on him and give me a call to let me know what she thought.  A few hours later she called and said that she thought he probably did have an ear infection.  Ugh.  Just what I wanted to hear.  I headed over to the drop-in clinic to put Max's name on the wait list.  I never bring him in to the clinic without first finding out how long the wait is going to be.  To say it is stressful for all involved is an understatement.  The drop-in clinic is always a last option, because I find the doctors there to be uneducated about Autism and in turn, judgemental of my parenting (not something I need when dealing with Max who is in pain and not coping well with an unfamiliar environment).

Since Scott was home, we both took Max to the clinic (after waiting at home for 2 hours).  Turns out telling time is not the nurses' forte.  Despite me calling ahead, we ended up waiting another 45 minutes (15 in the waiting room dealing with Max running around) and another 30 minutes in the exam room with Max laying on the floor screaming.  And - the only reason we were given access to the exam room is that a nurse who knows Max and me took pity on us and snuck us in.  When the doctor finally came in it took him all of 30 seconds to diagnose Max with a very bad (7 on a scale of 1 to 10) ear infection.  Scott took Max home and I headed to the pharmacy to get the prescription filled.

While I don't ask for special treatment for myself when it comes to the Canadian health care system, I wish that there were a better general understanding of how to best help children with special needs in these situations.  How hard would it have been for them to give us an accurate time for our time slot?  How hard would it have been to allow us to enter the exam room upon arrival so that Max didn't have the chance to get overexcited?   It seems like a reasonable request to me.  And one that would make a world of difference to a little boy in a lot of pain.

happiness is a pair of comfy socks.

My friend Jennifer gave me the book "The Happiness Project" for Christmas.  Seemingly unrelated, she also got me 2 pairs of North Country socks (her personal favourites).

And then this morning I put them on, and it all made sense.  You see, happiness is a pair of comfy socks.

I think we make attaining happiness too damn hard.  All it takes is stopping for a moment and soaking it up.  Happiness is all around you.  Cameron complaining that "Max is touching her", Max giggling as he pokes Cameron over and over again until she screams "MAX NO THANK YOU!! STOP TOUCHING ME!".   Watching Louis CK's latest movie (for free!) on my mac in bed, taking pictures of my feet. the way the clouds covered this morning's sky as if they had been rolled out on parchment paper.

But mostly it's a pair of comfy socks.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

souping up my nikon d3100.

Now that the holidays are wrapping up (phew!) I am finally getting some time to play with the new toys Santa generously left under the tree for me.  I will admit to sending him a rather detailed letter as to what I would like, down to the website link.  As it turns out, I'm not a big one for surprises so it all worked out perfectly.

The d3100 I got this Fall came with an 18-55 VR F3.5-5.6, which is a good all around lens.  I still use it for the majority of photos I shoot.  My west coast Santa (mom) got me the 50MM/1.8 AF D lens for taking portraits.  It doesn't have the auto focus feature of the 18-55, so it will take some getting used to and experimenting with.  Also, I think I need a lesson in changing lenses back and forth because I find it extremely frustrating.
My central Santa (Scott) got me a flash for my camera.  Yes, the d3100 comes with one that works just fine, but after taking a few classes with Michael Willems at Henry's, I felt like I needed an external flash, in the worst way.  I could not have been happier when I opened up the fancy gold Nikon box to find the SB-600 flash!  As an aside, I'll point out that I know I'm growing up because I didn't mind only getting one (very nice) present from my central Santa.
Now that we have checked out the accessories that will help me make my photos look good, lets look at the accessories that will help make me look good.  While I normally love the colour black, I find the sea of black bags and neck straps in the camera shop to be very boring.   My west coast Santa came through and the following items appeared under the tree for me.  I love this Crumpler camera bag.  My laptop bag is from Crumpler as well.  They have fun colours and are a sturdy product as well.  This bag is the perfect size for going to an event where you know you will only need one lens (which for me, is most of the time).  I ended up ordering a larger one for storing all my camera gear with a Henry's gift card I got from another generous Santa.
Finally, the pièce de résistance, a funky Boho Blossom neck strap from phat straps.  Wow did my west coast Santa ever come through for me or what?!
Of course, Santa Scott also made sure to tuck another 4G memory card into my stocking (along with Step up 3 and a quilting magazine!!). I got spoiled for sure!  I'm looking forward to learning how to use all this stuff and maybe taking a few more classes from Michael to get the most out of this flash!  Merry Christmas to me!