Are you comfortable?

I rarely am. Don’t get me wrong. My body feels great. I have more energy and vibrancy now than I did when I was 30, but I always strive to be uncomfortable.

comfortableComfort is the absolute enemy of progress and growth. If I am comfortable, I am just bobbing along, letting life happen to me instead of me doing my utmost to influence my life.  

Comfort is a choice. And for some people it may be what they want.  I choose discomfort. I prefer to be constantly moving, striving, achieving, accomplishing. I’m happy with my life but know I am capable of so much more – and I want it all.

I’ve mentioned an elderly woman before, who at the age of 78 has just started her bachelor’s degree. While she misses her husband desperately since he passed away over a year ago, she maintains that she has too many things she wants to get done to die anytime soon. I recently visited her in Nevada.  She showed me her craft room. She has it all planned out to make a Christmas ornament for each year until 2030 for each of her nearly 30 grandchildren. She has materials organized, charts slowing what is completed, and hundreds of ornaments yet to make while she does her university studies. I can tell you she is happy and she is not comfortable. She is truly inspirational.

I’m curious … how comfortable or uncomfortable are you? What do you do to break out of your comfort zone? What have you achieved because of striving to stay uncomfortable?

Resolutions? Really?

Happy New Year! With a little strategic planning, some good old-fashioned elbow grease, and a generous dose of love, 2016 stands a chance at being an excellent year.

resolutionsLong, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away I decided to dislike and not participate in the insanity of New Year’s Resolutions. Once I left home to attend university I discovered that I was a bit of a type A girl. Prior to that I was the master of doing just enough. When I got married a few years later I discovered that I really am a type A++++ personality – although my oldest daughter and my daughters-from-another-mother make me look like a slacker! I make lists, and I love to check things off – it just feels so darn good to acknowledge what I’ve gotten done. There is always a master list for the day (and often for the week) on my desk. To the casual observer it looks like a scrap of paper, usually saved from the recycling pile, with a list down one side and various notes about other things I’m working on that are temporarily important down the other side. As the day or week progresses the page gets less readable with scribbles, notes, things that got crossed off, doodles – I’m a kinetic processor and doodling helps me think.  As the page gets busier and busier important things that are still not complete might get circled, highlighted, written a couple of times to bold them, or doodled around to draw attention to them.

I have long believed that if something is going to be of benefit to me I should not delay starting it; hence, the aversion to the New Year’s flavor of resolutions. I typically evaluate things at the three ‘new year’ marks in the year – Jan 1, my birthday, and September – but even then, when I notice something I want to change and it’s not a new year mark, why would I wait?  It’s so much easier to tackle big projects one at a time, staggered out over the year as I see the need rather than delaying the start to attack the mountain of changes all at once.

Whether you do or don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, I echo what Neil Gaiman said. “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”1 I plan on making plenty of mistakes again this year and mixing that with a generous dose of success.

And as always – I wish you health, happiness, love, and prosperity – and I want to know what do you think 2016 holds for you? What would you like 2016 to become?

  1. http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2011/12/my-new-year-wish.html

Leap of Faith

Many of my clients know that I have a religious/spiritual side that I lean on quite heavily. I’m not going to get preachy here.  Suffice it to say it is said that God helps those who help themselves.

leap of faithMy hubby, who is old enough to retire (boggles my mind that I’m married to a grandpa!) took a massive leap of faith in July – and pulled me along with him.

When we were first married, Hubby was an artist. A painter to be precise. We struggled on for a few years with him trying to eke out a living by producing and selling his artwork. Sometimes it went okay, most of the time it didn’t – and that was a part of what pushed me into the holistic healing venue.

About 20 years ago, with baby #6 having just arrived, it was clear Hubby’s art career wasn’t cutting it. An economic recession here destroyed the art market. We had some pretty ugly options to look at. The first one was for him to work in the oilfields as a directional drilling technician. He’s smart. He picked it up really fast. The problem was he was out for 10 – 21 days, then home for 3 – 7 days. Here I was with six kids ranging in age from newborn to 16, with a couple of teens who were giving me a run for my money. It wasn’t good. The exploration company he was working for folded after he did three stints – and we were back at square one.

He started looking for a trade. SAIT (the tech school here in Calgary) had courses in house framing. He applied and was told the course was full, but there was room in the hardwood floor program. It included meager pay during an apprenticeship period with a strong likelihood of being hired by whomever he apprenticed with. There he was at 40 years of age starting a new, physically demanding, trade. While the work was hard, it was clear he was a natural. It made sense. It came easily.

He worked with his apprenticing company for seven years before setting out on this own. He stayed in the industry for another 13 years, training two of our sons along the way. One of the boys now has his own hardwood flooring company in another city. The other has moved on to study heavy duty mechanics.

We knew the end of his flooring career was coming when, about a year ago, he started ‘hurting’ too much after a day of work. So, we set a ‘quit date’ for early July 2015. As he got calls in May and June asking him to do quotes on jobs, he started turning them down and referring them to other tradesmen whose work he had confidence in. On July 7 he was done. And so the leap of faith began. Since he was the business, there was nothing to sell. He simply took down his shingle and walked away. Walked away with no pension, no income, no “Employment Insurance’ payments coming in. Such is the life of a self-employed entrepreneur in small business.  

But he had a plan. Restart his art career. He has painted hard for the past 4 months. He has also crafted and built his own frames and started learning how to market online. You might not know this – galleries take the lion’s share of any piece they sell. They frame the pieces. When a piece sells, they first take the retail cost of the frame, then typically take 50 – 60% of what’s left as their commission. An artist will typically take home, before taxes, about $800 – $1000 from a painting that sold for $2500. If the painting doesn’t sell and it goes back to the artist, the artist must pay the gallery the retail price of the frame, even if he doesn’t like it and doesn’t want it. Hence, Hubby is anxious to create his career without a gallery.

Hubby had his first self-hosted, one-man show of his career on November 19. It was a bigger success than we had dared hope for. While he didn’t earn enough to take me to Hawaii for Christmas, he now knows he can have his career as an artist. He will be successful. It will just take more time, more hard work, more learning, and more faith.

You can see his work at www.howardcobb.com.

Breastfeeding – Attached for 11 Years!

As a teenager I had no idea that some women are unable to breastfeed successfully. All seven of our children were breastfed. I had known since I was a teenager that I wanted to breastfeed, and that’s kind of funny since I had no example of a breastfeeding tradition in our family. When we announced our first pregnancy, and I told my mom I intended to breastfeed, her response was “Good luck with that. I tried it and it didn’t work.” When she was having babies there was virtually no support at all for breastfeeding. The doctors and nurses pushed formula, and she was 2 hours away from her mom, who still lived on the farm and had no phone. My mom had no one to turn to.

breastfeedingFast forward to 1981 and the birth of our first. I knew some about herbs, but I didn’t know about breastfeeding – and the nurses and doctors were not hugely supportive. They sort of encouraged it, but not really. They were all about schedules and structure. I doubt any of them had actually ever breastfed an infant themselves. There was no direction for how to hold or latch the baby. I was lucky that baby #1 figured it out. He was a natural.

We nursed for 15 months and I never had a supply problem. That might be because I was using many of the herbs I listed in today’s article, How to Increase Breast Milk Supply. Each of our babies was breastfed for between 15 and 30 months. When I totalled up the number of years I spent with a baby attached to my breast, it came out to be over 11 years.

Now, as we have grandbabies, it makes me happy to see their moms (all of them our ‘daughters from another mother’) choosing to breastfeed. I delight to see a mom gazing lovingly at her baby, letting tiny fingers wrap around one of hers, while her baby gazes back. Truthfully, I kind of miss the late night feeds in a quiet house where it was just me and my babe in a prolactin-induced high of mutual adoration.

One of my key missions in life is to guide women to experience and understand the amazing and empowering journey that pregnancy and breastfeeding can be. Neither are necessarily easy tasks, but with the right support, encouragement, and love they can both be exhilarating and fulfilling on so many levels.

I would not trade all the hours I spent nourishing my babies in so many ways by breastfeeding – not for all the tea in China or all the money in the world.

Funny how times change. As my mom got used to the idea that I could breastfeed successfully, her tune changed to peeking in on the baby at my breast and saying, “What a good mom you’ve got. I’ll bet she’s a good cook, too.”

Do you have a breastfeeding “horror” or “success” story?

Family Dynamics

I always thought, silly me, that getting older meant I would be wiser, that life would get easier, and that family dynamics with my children and their partners would be a breeze. It’s been a bit of a shock over the last 15 years, as children have left home, that this is not my reality. So, I have a question for you.

balancing family dynamicsHow much should someone do to please, meet the needs of, or accommodate the requests of another family member who is not your spouse? As I get older the lines become murkier, or maybe I’m becoming softer.

It’s not much of an issue if we’re talking about one-on-one interactions. I’m happy to do things that meet individual needs if I can. In return I make respectful requests when I need help.

But as our family grows, bringing new people into our circle and adding little people too, shifting the family dynamics, it’s becoming harder and harder. Everyone has an opinion. I certainly don’t argue that we each have the right to an opinion. Everyone wants to feel important and valued. However, sometimes it is expressed in ways that say ‘everyone needs to do this my way to accommodate my needs.’ That is rarely possible in a group of 20+ with ages ranging from 9 months to 82 years.

So the first question is how to distinguish the difference between legitimate needs and emotionally charged desires (aka demands). The second question is

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It’s Beyond My Control

There are many things that are beyond my control. In my younger years I believed I had a major impact on just about everything. It’s taken hitting ‘middle-age’ and having seven children to make me understand that I really have only a minimal ability to influence and almost no power to control anything beyond myself.

teen out of controlMy kids have long accused me of being a ‘control-freak,’ and while they were little I probably was. Heavens, there were so many of them – if we didn’t have a plan, a schedule, a routine or a system, chaos ensued.

Teenagers, however, have a way of destroying plans and systems. Their search for independence makes them quite egocentric. That egocentricity often throws the family balance out the window. So, from my kids I learned to relax, to go with the flow a little more. I learned to be less reactive when ‘my’ systems were disregarded – as they frequently were. I learned to quietly enforce pieces that needed to be in place for the well-being of the family.

One thing that is joyfully out of my control is the addition of grand babies. Grand baby #7, a granddaughter, Shay, is due anytime in the next few weeks. I have been so delighted

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Just a Bad Memory

This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

Many years ago, 24 to be precise, I had just given birth to baby #4. He was a delightful, easy baby, but life was stressful. I was doing my best to breastfeed, run a business, keep the household running, volunteer at school, and fulfill volunteer assignments at church, and it was just getting to be too much. I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I wasn’t getting any exercise. I was just getting run down, and I suffered repeated bouts of mastitis for it.

When baby was about four months I had another round of mastitis. Once the fever and weakness were gone and the infection had cleared out, I was left with a lump in my left breast. The lump remained, and four months later Hubby insisted I go and get it checked. His exact words were, “These things can turn into cancer, and I don’t want you leaving me with four kids to raise alone.” So, off I went to the doctor. She examined the lump, aspirated it,

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Christmas Isabelle

Isabelle250px 72 dpiGrandbaby #6 has arrived. Little Isabelle was born at home earlier this month to a mom who is a die-hard breastfeeder and a dad (Son #2) who adores his children and his wife. It’s such a delight to see this little family blossoming. Isabelle is their fourth baby.

Isabelle’s mom faced some pretty huge challenges when their first baby was born. 

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Baby Blanket #7

Most people who meet me for the first time don’t believe I’m old enough to have grandchildren. bolts of flannelFact of the matter is – I am. We welcomed our sixth grandchild in November, and not a week later got the announcement that another one is on the way in July. So come July, we’ll have as many grandchildren as we have children.

I must say I am generally delighted with my children and their spouses and the way they are feeding and raising our grandchildren.

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