Resources for Anti-Racism, White Privilege, and Decolonization Work for North Americans

The list below is a jumping-off point educated by what I’ve seen in the media recently as well as the mistakes I’ve made over the last decade or so since first coming across anti-racism work in university.

What Not to Do:

  • don’t watch or share videos of black deaths. Many individuals are expressing how exploitative and invasive it is for white folks to watch and circulate these videos and photos. They are causing deep distress and trauma amongst communities. Don’t do it. 
  • don’t assume you’re blameless / a nice person / not racist and therefore don’t have to do or say anything. We have to do this work. If you think you’re too old or too young or too kind to have to truly understand the systemic nature of oppression, then your privilege is getting in the way of your ability to learn. 
  • don’t ask or expect any person of colour to educate, explain, or argue with you. You might be just discovering anti-racism work now but this work is not new. There are likely decolonization/ abolitionist experts who have been providing information and workshops in your area for years. Seek them out, read or listen to what they have to say, pay them for their work, and don’t ask them to explain it to you later or argue with them in the comments section of their own platform. We have to do this work on our own. They are exhausted from having to explain shit to us.

What You Can Do:

  • just start! If you are overwhelmed by some of the more intense titles and content below and aren’t ready to dive into the Real Work yet, try reading some of the memoirs, histories, or works of fiction first. Familiarize yourself with and normalize the stories of non-white individuals who are experiencing the same system we are in North America, but in a very, very different way. Learn about the barriers and obstacles others face that you have not had to think about.
  • talk about all of this with your kids! Silence is dangerous because it allows children and teens to come to their own conclusions which may often be problematic or educated by the opinions of friends or teachers whose perspectives may not align with your own.
  • if you are white, use the inherent privilege you were born with to highlight and shine a light on other voices. There are numerous ways you can do this depending on your platforms and abilities. If you’re a teacher, educator, or caregiver you can ensure that your home or school libraries offer a diversity of representation. If you’re an avid reader you can start a Book Club that focuses on anti-racism and work and authors who specialize in it. If you have money you can support local small businesses and bookstores in your area owned by BIPOC rather than big box stores (and of course you can donate to one of the many worthy social justice organizations being highlighted at this time). If you’re a boss you can hire an anti-racism or decolonization educator to host a workshop or presentation for your staff. If you’re an employer you can ask your boss or HR personnel if she can look into hosting one in your workplace.
  • recognize the harm and dismissiveness in saying “I’m not racist, this doesn’t apply to me,” then come to terms with the fact that we all have inherent biases to confront and work through. Only once you admit that as an individual who grew up / is growing up in a system that prioritizes white lives over all others can you begin to root out the racism that exists within yourself. 
  • if you’re Canadian, don’t assume these are just American issues. Our country also has systemic racism, disproportionate incarceration rates, race-related poverty, and violence committed against queer, trans, and coloured bodies (yes, sometimes by the police!). Just like our southern neighbours our country was built on stolen land by exploited bodies and thinking we are exempt from the conversation is self righteous and wrong. 

Anti-Racism Specific IG Follows

Podcasts and Audio

  • CodeSwitch on NPR
  • This episode of This American Life highlights issues of poverty and education in the US.
  • 1619 a NYTimes podcast about the history of slavery in America
  • Nancy podcast about the queer experience, focuses on LGBTQ community.
  • 2 Dope Queens mostly comedy but touches on race

Non-Fiction Reads

  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin d’Angelo
  • Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognize Your Privilege, Combat Racism, and Change the World by Layla F Saad
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colourblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald
  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortis
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racism in America by Ibram X Kendi
  • The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr edited by Clayborne Carson

Memoir

  • Black is the Body by Emily Bernard
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Ordinary Light by Tracey K Smith
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright

Fiction Reads

  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • Things Fall Apart by China Achebe
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Loving Day by Mat Johnson
  • We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
  • The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Native Son by Richard Wright

For Parents:

  • Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey 
  • Like A Mother: A Feminist Journey through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes

Children’s Books

  • @hereweeread and @booksfordiversity on IG both showcase diverse educational products and books for kids
  • www.theconsciouskid.org offers book subscriptions for $1-$5 / month for families
  • A Boy Like You by Frank Murphy
  • Let the Children March by Monica Clark Robinson
  • A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory
  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodsen
  • I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont
  • Rosa Parks by Lisbeth Kaiser
  • The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

For Young Adult audiences:

  • This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell 
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X Kendi and Jason Reynolds (this is a version of another book by Kendi that has been reworked specifically for young adult readership. That book is called Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racism in America)
  • The Project Lit Initiative

Docs to Watch

  • 13th (Netflix): “scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.”
  • Student Athlete (HBO): highlights how college sports in America exploit players by failing to pay them despite being a billion dollar industry. 

CANADA SPECIFIC RESOURCES

  • Step One: go to www.native-land.ca and find out whose land you live on cuz it ain’t your land.
  • @cicelybelle_xo Cicely Blain is the founder of BLM Vancouver 
  • @decolonizefirst : a resource for decolonizing practices with work “grounded in Squamish ways of being”

Non-Fiction Reads:

  • The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King
  • 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality by Bob Joseph
  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Klimmerer
  • The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir by Joseph Auguste Merasty and David Carpenter

Books for Young Adult audiences:

  • Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation by Monique Gary Smith
  • Sugar Falls by David A Robertson (graphic novel about residential schools)
  • Good for Nothing by Michel Noel
  • Those Who Run the Sky by Aviaq Johnston
  • Pemmican Wars: A Girl Called Echo by Katherine Vilamette (graphic sci-fi about Indig history)

Fiction Books by First Nations authors: 

  • Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
  • The Break by Katherine Vermette
  • Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
  • Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
  • The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King

Workbooks

Children’s Books 

  • A Promise is a Promise by Robert Munsch and Michael Kusugak
  • Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel
  • Coyote Tales by Thomas King
  • When We Were Alone by David Robertson
  • Little You by Richard Van Camp
  • I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer
  • Just A Walk by Jordan Wheeler
  • Amik Loves School by Katherine Vilamette
  • We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp (board book)
  • You Hold Me Up by Monique Grey Smith
  • What’s My Superpower? by Aviaq Johnston

Maternity Clothing Hacks: When to Spend a Little and Where You Can Save A Lot

Right off the bat let me establish that this is meant to be a (mostly) tongue-in-cheek look at maternity clothes with just a little bit of actual advice thrown in, because I am not a fashionista, not a style savvy mama, and not often found wearing anything besides a comfy tee shirt and jeans whether I’m pregnant or not. I also realize that my views won’t be applicable to everyone’s circumstances or everyone’s body – by a long shot! If you’re excited to order a shitload of maternity clothes and you can afford to rock the amazing maternity fashions that are available to you, go girl! Do what you can to find joy in your bod during this weird time of having it taken over by another human. If your size necessitates specialized clothing (lookin’ at my big-busted mama friends! I see you!) then investing in certain high quality pieces could be wise for you because cheaping out on bras probably ain’t gonna cut it. This guide is just some basic advice from a third time mama with very low standards on how to cut some corners if your budget isn’t leaving room for a $70 maternity t-shirt that you’ll only wear for a few months.

All of these photos were taken at 35+ weeks and feature non maternity clothes!

Where I Got Swindled:

  • after ordering a ton of brand new maternity clothes online during my first pregnancy I was shocked when it all arrived. The shirts and dresses only had 1-2 extra cm of fabric on the front side of the dress and were otherwise exactly the same as my non-maternity clothes. They fit me well for the first few months when I only had a tiny cute bump but were laughably short once the bump grew even a little, which is when I actually needed clothes that fit.

When to Spend on Real Maternity Items:

  • shorts and pants: unless you plan on living only in dresses and stretchy rompers for 9 months you’re likely going to need some maternity pants. I bought two pairs of jeans from TopShop ($80 each) after finding that the stylish jeans at my local maternity store could run up to $150-$200 per pair! Old Navy also does some amazing maternity jeans but the sizes sell out quickly so you need to keep your eyes out for frequent restocks. I’m Canadian, but when I was in Palm Springs while pregnant I found that TJMaxx and ROSS in the US each had a small rack of denim maternity shorts with cute pairs for about $10-$15 (I’ve never seen this at Winners but they should get on board!).
  • special events: hard to imagine during these Covid days but you might be invited to a wedding again one day! Depending on your bump you might be able to wear one of your existing outfits well into the second trimester (god bless stretch fabrics!) but if you’re in later pregnancy or just wanna dress up there are a lot of options available online at PinkBlush (on the fancier side) and Asos (more casual dresses).
  • professional clothes: if you have a big girl job like at a bank or office you will obviously need to spend a little more money than those of us who work in more casual positions or from home. You can look around for some used pieces first – call your local consignment stores to see if they offer used pieces or post to your local Mom Group or Buy and Sell on FB and see what comes up! Lots of women have maternity clothes gathering dust that they’re wiling to part with, often for free. Otherwise Old Navy has some decent budget-friendly professional stuff and Asos has some very cute and trendy skirts and tops that you can layer under your existing blazer/ cardi/ jacket of choice.

Where You Can Avoid Maternity Pieces (and Save Money!):

  • (most) nursing bras: I admittedly do not have a large bust, but of course that changes quickly postpartum and, for many, in early pregnancy already. The size of your breasts will also adjust over the course of the first few months – they start out pretty engorged but after 3-4 months when baby has found a bit of a schedule with feeding (or you’ve found a schedule with pumping or formula), things will reach a new normal and that’s a great time to invest in a good quality nursing bra that you can wear out of the house and feel good in – Knix has a new line of nursing bras but I’ve gotten away with two of these from TopShop (just basic comfy mesh and lace, $7). At home I have always just worn and slept in basic bralettes (try Aerie or Blush) and sized up. I find when you need nursing access it’s easier to just pull them down – you do not always need something with a clasp! I personally found it to be a waste of time and the plastic mechanism can break easily anyway. I also found these super helpful during my second pregnancy and postpartum when my ribcage expanded (ugh) and my bras were too tight to be comfortable (spoiler alert: ribcage never went fully back to normal so I guess I’m just a whole new bra size now).
  • basic tees: not only are maternity tee shirts way overpriced, they’re often SO ugly, with truly awful corny graphics about being pregnant splayed across the front, sometimes in glitter. I guess that could be cute for your instagram feed or something but most of us would probably prefer a plain tee. Even though I am a very long torso-ed person I easily found inexpensive basic shirts that were long enough to cover even my 40 week bump. I found some at my local thrift store and another 1-2 at my WalMart (I don’t generally shop for clothes at Walmart but spending a minimal amount on a few tees during late pregnancy got me through to postpartum during a very hot summer).
  • dresses: if you’re having a late-summer or Fall baby you may want to search for a few breezy little summer dresses now! I scoured the thrift store and the local discount store (shoutout to Army and Navy) and bought a couple cheapie ones that would be long enough to cover a bump. I mostly wore these at home all summer in late pregnancy or I’d add small workout shorts if I wore them out in public. Can’t say I was very into shorts or pants near the end, especially when the temps hit 34 degrees!
  • leggings and comfy pants: I’ll admit that my bump outgrew my Topshop jeans the last month of my first pregnancy but by that point it was October and I’ve always been more about comfort in the Third Trimester anyway. Many women recommend Old Navy for a pair of comfy leggings for late pregnancy and I’ve seen some good options at Target as well, but you can also score a “buy one get one free” deal every couple months through the more expensive maternity stores. Don’t bother paying full price as this deal happens often! At home I generally just wear my regular comfy pants and fold the front down under the bump.
  • workout wear: I’m on my third pregnancy and haven’t bought any maternity workout wear yet. A lot of Lululemon’s basic tanks are super long and stretchy and will fit comfortably over a third trimester bump (I have one that is too long even when I’m 40 weeks!) and discount stores like TJ Maxx and Winners usually have a huge selection of workout tops as well – just size up and you’re sure to find something to accommodate a bump for around $15. I wore my pre-pregnancy workout shorts throughout all of my pregnancies and just rolled the front under my bump, but of course if you do a lot of workout classes or runs you may want to invest in something that looks cuter in public. Don’t get sucked into the need for a nursing sports bra either – I don’t think I’ve ever fed a baby during a workout.

I know, I know, these are hardly earth-shattering pregnancy hacks, but I find that in late pregnancy I’m usually so uncomfortable that I don’t care if I’m wearing fancy expensive clothes or not. Maybe dressing up is the only thing that keeps you going through that uncomfy phase and that’s fine, too! But First Time Mom’s often feel they need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe when they find out they’re pregnant and I wanted to share with other budget conscious mamas that you don’t need to run out and spend hundreds to look cute, you just need a few staple pieces, a fair amount of stretch, and an open mind!

It’s Our One Year Coastal-versary!

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March 28, 2019 – the day we moved in!

Break out the bubbly and let’s celebrate! The ProckyFam has been on the coast for one whole year today! And what a year it’s been. I don’t think when we bought this home we expected to be self-isolating in it from a global pandemic while pregnant with our third child, but here we are. I know a lot of people are curious so I want to talk about how this move from the city to a smaller town has been for us, plus how we’re finding living in the community of Gibsons itself. Here’s what you need to know!

Our Family 

The hardest thing for me has been the lack of walkability in our neighbourhood. For the last decade I’ve had the luxury of living only a block from coffee shops, grocery stores, bars, and parks, and it has been a bit of an adjustment for me to give up that #strollerlife I was used to. It’s worth mentioning though that I still haven’t gotten my license so that could be contributing to some feelings of being housebound (oops! I was going to start lessons this spring but now I have to wait until the pandemic has passed). I have always preferred to walk to stores than drive though, so not being able to that is a bummer for me whether I have my license or not. We still walk up to the shops from time to time as there’s a trail that takes us to our local bars, bank, hardware stores, and grocers, but it’s a solid 25 min trail walk to get there (while pushing a double stroller) so I can’t say I do it daily.

That said, moving from a 722 sq ft condo with three small windows and no direct sunlight to our big rancher with massive south-facing windows has had a positive affect on my personal mental health that outweighs living in a walkable neighbourhood, at least for me. Having two young children in a small, dark space was deeply impacting my happiness and contributing to anxiety when we were living in our small condo. I got out of the house as often as I could and we lived only a block from a large, walkable riverfront park, but you just can’t beat having access to outdoor space at home. My life as a stay-at-home-mom has drastically improved with the added space in our home and our yard. I feel like I finally have room to be a separate person from my kids now that we’re not living on top of each other and the kids aren’t waking each other up with their cries at night (they used to share a wall and Wells was in our bedroom). I’ve had far less anxiety attacks in the last year than any years previous. I distinctly remember the way I felt for the first couple weeks and months of living on the coast last Spring. I had space, my kids had space, we no longer had to fight for parking spaces… it just felt like I could breathe easier. That feeling has become the norm for me now, to the point where when we drive back to the Lower Mainland again to visit I can feel my body physically tensing from the stress of busyness and traffic.

Our House and Neighbourhood

Despite the grief it has given us in the first year we LOVE the house we bought! Being homeowners of an actual house feels totally different to us from being homeowners of a condo with a strata, fees, and strict rules. The responsibility and learning curve has of course been massive and various things went “tits up” over the course of our first year (you can scroll through a bunch of our adventures on Instagram here, if you’re curious!). Despite all of the crazy shit we’ve had to deal with so far we’re so glad to be masters of our own domain. We love the layout of our home, the open floor plan, the massive kitchen, the deck area, and the spacious yard. We love having a guest room with an ensuite so we can host family and friends for extended stays! We love that it’s a rancher and we love that none of the bedrooms border each other so no crying babies ever wake up sleeping babies; this is a big win for parents who are about to have 3 kids under the age of 4!

When it comes to neighbours we hit the absolute jackpot. The family across the street has two girls close to our kid’s ages who are always happy to come over and play (plus their yard has slides, a swing, a trampoline, a sand pit, and a zipline, plus a fully stocked beer fridge so…). We’ve known our neighbours for less than a year but they’ve happily leant us tools, trucks, and lawnmowers. When Tom totalled our only vehicle last summer after hitting a deer the family across the street gave us their SUV for two weeks while we looked for a new one (we have since bought a truck and were able to repay the favour for a few months when one of their vehicles died!). When we first moved in people stopped by with planters full of local beer and batches of fresh cookies still warm from the oven. A few months ago we found a pristine booster seat on the doorstep and still don’t know who left it there. These are the kinds of neighbours that come by with fresh produce when their garden is overproducing butter lettuce, who come over with hot dogs and beer when we’re around the fire, and who bring their tool belt over when Tom’s out of town and I’m stuck on a DIY, the kind of neighbourhood where we order pizzas to the front yard in the summertime and eat them while the kids ride their bikes in the street. The kind of neighbourhood where my friend across the street had a way more excited reaction than Tom when I told her I was pregnant, haha. When we first moved in I thought we had gotten particularly lucky but I’ve since met so many people on the coast who have said the same thing about their own neighbourhood that I’m starting to think it’s just how coast neighbourhoods are.

The Coast Community

The cons first. There is good food here but anyone who has come from the city would undoubtedly miss the diversity of culinary options there. I miss middle eastern food sooo bad. In Gibsons we have fantastic Mexican food, sushi, pizza, pubs and breweries, a Greek place, a bomb Italian place, coffee shops, donuts, and some hole-in-the-wall diners, but I would definitely sponsor someone to come open up a Lebanese restaurant (Nuba, anyone?). Another con is that if you’re moving here from the lower mainland the parks on the coast are going to seem absolutely pitiful to you. There are some great ones but nothing that comes close to comparing to something like Queens Park in New West (and since there are water bans in effect here for the hotter summer months, the one water park is turned off when it gets hot anyway).

That doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of things for your kids to do, though; there are many beaches on the coast and in Gibsons any of them are only a few minutes drive away. Parents here take their kids to the local trails, the mountain bike park, the beaches, library drop-ins, Strong Start programs and other drop-in programs, some of which even provide excellent free meals for parents and kids (most I’ve seen are free or $2 if you want to sneak off and leave your kids for a little bit to do a workout).

A supposed con that turned out to be not an issue is the postal system. I was told when we moved here that Amazon deliveries to the coast would take about 11 days to arrive and that they would never come to our door, but most Amazon deliveries we’ve ordered have come in 3-4 days and come straight to our door every time (only one Amazon delivery went to the post office in the last year because it was super oversized). It’s not the same day delivery we enjoyed when we lived in the same city as the Amazon warehouse but we don’t mind at all; instant gratification probably isn’t good for people anyway (and before anyone roasts us about using Amazon, please note that we try to support small, local businesses whenever we’re able, but sometimes availability and price on the coast necessitate buying stuff from a large corporation).

When it comes to the Coast community though, by far what has made us the most sure that this move was the right choice has been the people and the welcoming nature of the community itself (though of course the rugged coastline views don’t hurt either!). We lived in a condo for a year and never met any of our neighbours. The community in Gibsons looks out for one another in a way I know we would never see in a larger city setting. It’s very easy to meet people because you see the same people are town at the beach, at preschool drop-off, at the coffee shop, and especially at events like the summer night market which brings out pretty much everyone. While it’s easy to meet people, we’ve found it a bit tougher to really make friends, but we have only been here a year and know good friendships take time to form (not to mention we’ve been so busy with our house this past year it hasn’t left much time for anything else!). The winters can be a little isolating socially, as with any community, but invitations to deck hangs, beach hangs, boat trips, and BBQs abound in the spring and summertime. It’s been really fun getting to know a ton of new people.

Another amazing thing we’ve found about the coast is the sheer willingness to help others. I’ve seen the community jump at the chance to help a stranger move, lend their truck, drop off firewood to a family who is running low, donate supplies to a new mom, run to the pharmacy for someone who is housebound, or deliver soup to someone who is sick (last week I posted on Instagram about having a craving for cinnamon buns but no yeast and there was a cinnamon bun on my doorstep the next day). We have a community FB page dedicated solely to delivering groceries to those in quarantine right now on the coast. Local businesses and breweries are delivering groceries and supplies free of charge right now and it feels like anyone who asks for help will receive it. It’s amazing to see the community really pull together through this global crisis but honestly, people here have been helping others since long before the pandemic started.

We have truly enjoyed our first year here and are so hopeful about our family’s future in Gibsons! The Coast is proving to be a wonderful place to raise a family.

What is Mindfulness and Why Do We Need it Right Now?

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I’ve long considered myself to be a #mindfulmama but so far I haven’t spoken much on here about what that means or how it translates into daily life with my kids. The concept of mindfulness is simple even if the practice is less easy to implement; to be mindful is just to be present without judgement. This can feel counter-intuitive for us for two reasons: most of us suck at being present and suck at not judging, particularly when it comes to ourselves. These same two points that make mindfulness so difficult for most of us also make them important lessons for us to learn.

With constant access to technology literally at hand, being present just isn’t something that most of our generation excels at. Personally, I have often struggled to curb my penchant for always looking forward to the “next best thing” and just be in the moment. It’s hard not to think “when I meet the right person…” or “when I get a new job…” or “when I lose this weight…” or “when my baby is older…” or ” when my kids are in school full time…” or “when we have a little more money…” but this line of thinking pulls us right out of the joy that exists where we are right now (for anyone currently struggling with this, consider starting a gratitude journal and jotting down a few things you’re grateful for at the end of each day, it has helped me so much!).

The second reason that mindfulness can be hard for us is because is trains us to see without judgment when judgment has become so ingrained in our psyches. From a young age we tend to judge and compare, from schoolyard bullying to online trolls to seemingly harmless stuff like the “Who Wore It Best?” articles in magazines. We have a tendency to want to conform to the norm rather than celebrate our differences, but for many of us the harshest judgment is self-imposed. When mindful practices ask us to be present without judgment, the goal is to really see what’s happening and to refrain from criticizing or even categorizing what we see.

So what does this look like? It’ll be difference for all of us but for me, practicing mindfulness in my day has a lot to do with my inner dialogue. On my most anxious days I might spiral quickly, thinking, “I’m having a hard day with the kids. Their misbehaving means that I’m failing as a mother because I can’t keep them happy. I don’t know why I ever thought I could do this. Tom should leave me for someone more capable.” (I know, what?). If I’m able to be mindful instead and withhold judgment of myself I can be gracious with myself and keep my thoughts from escalating. I might think, “I’m having a hard day with the kids. They’re at difficult ages right now and I’ve been exposed to a lot of overwhelming news stories lately. I feel anxious and impatient.” This simply gives voice to where I’m at and provides clarity without trying to problem solve. If you know you need to make a change like turning off the news, putting away your phone, or going outside, of course you can, and that’s a great idea. But being mindful doesn’t necessitate solutions, it’s more about noticing where you are in the moment and just being okay with it. Which I think we could all use a little more of these days!

For me mindfulness practice is especially important during the time of Corona because ruminating about the future is anxiety-inducing at the moment. Normally I revel in thinking ahead and making plans but there’s just so much uncertainty right now that it’s easier to focus on enjoying the present moment instead. I have definitely had many (many!) moments of exasperation but all in all I’m grateful to be home with my two oblivious children. The blissful, unconcerned way they continue to play and fight and demand snacks has been a refreshing dose of normalcy for me and has kept me grounded in an unexpected way, reminding me that what’s truly important during this frankly weird time is hanging out with the people I love most.

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of the present-moment reality. It wakes u up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation.” – Jon Kabat Zinn

 

Why I Want My Kids to Witness My Anger

I don’t really love writing about the super vulnerable parts of parenthood, like the brokenness and shame I felt after six months with my colicky first baby or the inexplicable rage and sadness I felt shortly after my second baby was born. But even more scary than baring my soul on the internet is the idea that other mamas might not see these parts of parenthood represented on this platform and wrongly assume that nobody else feels the way they feel. For me as a stay-at-home-mama isolation has always been the hardest part about parenthood these past 3.5 years and my goal is to talk about even / especially the hard stuff in order to help break down those barriers and make other mamas feel less alone.

So let’s talk about anger. I’m sure that none of us love it when we break down and yell at our kids. It happens in our house really, really rarely but of course there are days when I’ve been tested and depleted for days or weeks and something trivial pushes me over the edge. Growing up I assumed it was a parent’s job to keep their composure all the time but I know now that of course that’s not true. It was never our job to not have, or to hide all of our emotions. Since children learn how to regulate big emotions from their primary caregivers it’s actually extra important that they are able to see how we de-escalate from those big emotions of anger and exasperation that they will inevitably feel as well (this is also why we don’t do isolated time-outs in our house, but that’s probably a whole other post for another day).

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that while I communicate well I have a tendency to shut down and walk away when things get too overwhelming. This has led me to leave the room and take some time alone when my anger or frustration get the better of me, especially if I know that the kids are safe for a few minutes or if Tom’s off work and available to pick up the slack. I’m an introvert and need alone time, but it’s so, so hard to come by in these early years of motherhood when my kids’ emotional and physical needs are so high and unrelenting. So I’ve been focusing on staying in the room when I lose my composure. I make a point of talking through what I’m feeling so the kids can see why I’m upset and watch as I calm myself down; it’s important to me that they know that the big emotions they feel are valid, that everyone feels them, and that’s it’s possible to have self control when we’re ready to calm down again.

What does this look like in practice?

Last week after I had a rough, anxious, lonely week I yelled at Wells at dinner (don’t bother shaming me because you couldn’t possible make me feel more guilt and shame than I put on myself for it already). I had fiiiinally been feeling well enough to make a really nice meal and Wells threw the entire bowl on the ground as soon as we sat down. I shouted, dropped an expletive, and both Hen and Wells started to cry (my sensitive babies are not used to seeing their mama have an outburst). I instantly reined myself back and said “I’m sorry kiddos, I shouldn’t have yelled but mama is just feeling really frustrated today and I’m having a hard time. I’m gonna take a few big deep breaths and calm myself down, okay?” I took some deep breaths (while tearfully locking eyes with Tom) and Hennie breathed along with me. Then I repeated that I was upset but I shouldn’t have yelled, and I apologized again. Hennie kept telling me through her tears that it was “not nice to say dat mummy!” which broke my heart a little but two minutes later the kids were fine and eating their dinners (except for Wells, whose rice, salmon, and veggies remained on the floor). 

I know that this approach may not seem super revolutionary but I’m hoping that in the long run it leads to me kids being comfortable with their big emotions and not thinking that anger, sadness, and frustration are “bad” and should be hidden. My goal is to raise kids that feel comfortable coming to us with their emotions and I figure they won’t feel that way if they learn from us to run into another room and feel them alone.

Emotional Isolation and the Struggle of the First Trimester

I decided to announce my pregnancy with baby number 3 at only ten weeks pregnant, prompting more than a few people to ask me whether I thought that was an altogether wise decision. My answer, of course, is “yes!” It was the right decision for me, and not one that I made arbitrarily.

I know that everyone is different and many women value their privacy. Perhaps I’m at risk of being labeled an over-sharer but I learned, painstakingly over the course of my twenties, just who I was and how I operate and I’ve come to know that sharing is just who I am. Personally I find speaking about my experiences therapeutic. I’m not a very private person because finding commonality with others makes me feel like I’m part of a community and one of my biggest fears is emotional isolation. Feeling like we’re the only one going through something hard can be incredibly difficult and I’m grateful for the platforms we have in 2020 to speak about our experiences and easily find others who are feeling the same way (this ability to surround ourselves with only others who think the way we do comes with obvious dangers as well, but that’s a discussion for another time).

Feeling so bad in the first trimester but not being “allowed” to tell others or talk about it always feels a little tortuous to me. Since 2020 started I’ve missed appointments, cancelled plans, barely left the house, and completely dropped the ball on all parenting-related responsibilities without being able to give anyone any explanation. Sometimes it feels as if the hardest parts in pregnancy and motherhood are the ones that are also considered too private to talk about. The majority of pregnant women feel nausea during their first trimester and it often lasts all day (that morning sickness label is exceedingly false for many!). There’s also a pervasive fatigue, like a cant-keep-your-eyes-open, exhausted-down-to-your-very-bones kind of tiredness, the likes of which challenges even that postpartum fatigue once baby arrives and decides not to sleep for the first six months if it’s life. I described the First Trimester to Tom as waking up with one of the worst hangovers of your life, but every day for weeks. You don’t have the appetite for any food but know you have to eat something to feel better and you wake up and wistfully dream about bedtime before you’ve even gotten out of bed to start your day. This is what the First Trimester is like for most of us so why should we have to suffer through it in silence?

There are some super exciting moments in these early days as well, like peeing on a stick in the sleepy hours of the morning and then sharing the happy results with your partner (or your hetero life partner/cousin, in my case), telling family and friends, and going to your first ultrasound appointment to see that tiny blob in your growing uterus and hear baby’s heartbeat for the first time. There’s nothing quite like those exciting and anxiety-ridden first few months of pregnancy and we try our best to enjoy it with gratitude and hope, even through the nausea and food aversions.

As in all things, what’s right for me may not be right for you – maybe you’re the type to keep silent and maybe you, like me, are prone to sharing and commiserating with others. Whatever feels right for you, do it! But know that you’re not alone – the first trimester is a tough time for all of us.

Wells turns One-and-a-Half!

Happy Half Birthday to our Baby Boy!

Things We Want to Remember about Wells at 18 months:

  • his obsession for bananas! His first word in the morning is “nana!” and he runs to the counter and points to the fruit basket, stomping his feet and crying until he gets one. He asks for one multiple times a day and we buy about 5 bunches per week.
  • the way he sings into a microphone saying “yaa yaaa yaaaaa” and plays the piano carefully, not bashing the keys but picking out one little sound at a time
  • he says “hiiiiiiiiiiii” as he’s giggling when he’s being tickled
  • he loves going outside! Every day he grabs his shoes and stands by the door asking to go out like a puppy who needs a walk
  • how well he can kick and throw balls, and from such a young age! Natural athlete.
  • how much he looooves to get a piggyback ride from mum and will grin so big (and throw a tantrum when he is refused); whenever I sit on the floor he constantly tries to climb on my back like a little monkey and it’s surprisingly hard to shake him off so I usually have to give in
  • we love how cuddly and shy he gets in large groups of people – it’s one of the only times we get cuddles from him anymore and Tom and I fight over who gets to hold him at noisy family functions
  • how he climbs up onto the windowsill – climbs up onto anythings he can – every chance he gets. This is something his sister never did and still doesn’t really do. He is fearless but cautious.
  • how easy it is to put him down for a nap or bedtime – we just lay him down in the crib, put a pacifier in each hand, and walk out the door (ps we worked very hard to achieve this; all hail sleep training!)
  • how sweet it is that he’s Hennie’s little shadow and wants to do everything she does. Once in a while he’ll run off for some alone time and hang out independently in our playroom for an hour but generally he is wherever Hennie is, doing whatever Hennie’s doing. He lights up when she comes home from preschool
  • how he scrunches up his face when he is displeased (usually when someone has food that they’re not sharing with him)
  • Favourite Words (other than “nana” of course): “football!” “more!” “Paw Po” (Paw Patrol), “yay!”, “hi!”, “nigh-nigh”, “kitty”, and hooting like an owl, obviously.

We love parenting this adventurous boy! He favours his mama but only just, seeking out cuddles with daddy as often as he can and giving us loud kisses on the mouth (“mmmmmwaa!”). He is a perfect piece of our little family and we can’t wait to watch him continue to grow and learn. Love you, Wellsy Boy!

My Vision for the NorthWestJess Community

North West Jess

I need to tell you something that makes me feel embarrassed so I’m gonna rip the bandaid off right away and then I can freely dig into the ‘why’. Here it is: I want to grow my Instagram following and blog.

I know, maybe not what you were expecting. The reason it feels embarrassing to me is because I don’t want people to think I’m over here “trying to be an influencer”. I’m not interested in buying followers (yes, that’s a thing you can do!) or trading likes for likes so that I can sell you shit. I’m not interested in making money by perpetuating a false image of motherhood and posting only picture-perfect poses of my children. What I am interested in is building connection and community and here’s why.

The first time I really started using this space to try and foster connection was when I was in the throes of colic and medical drama with Hennie. My first experience of motherhood had me baffled; I had truly never experienced a feeling of isolation quite like during that time. I felt so resentful toward the internet and all of the perfectly staged sleeping babies I had seen throughout my pregnancy. Why was no one was being honest about how hard the postpartum phase could be? We couldn’t get our baby to stop screaming, let alone fall asleep for one of those sleeping-baby photos and I felt completely alone in my experience. The moms I knew in my real life were having a hard time adjusting to their new lives postpartum too, but they weren’t traumatized. Slowly I stopped seeing friends and family, stopped going out of the house. When Hurricane Hennie (what we called her colic phase) had fully passed almost a year later I finally posted about how bad the colic had been and immediately received comments from women who said they had struggled with colic, too. Why wasn’t anybody posting about this, I wondered. I hadn’t been able to find many moms on the internet who were portraying an authentic view of motherhood so I decided to become one for the next round of new moms who would end up searching the colic hashtag on Instagram at four in the morning, not having slept yet, searching for just one person who understood their distress and guilt at being unable to calm their own baby. “I survived!” I would be able to tell them, “and you will too. I promise.” Then I would send them the list of 42 things we had tried for Hennie’s colic that hadn’t worked and probably wouldn’t work for their babies, either (you gotta try though, just to feel like you’re doing something).

You know that quote that says “be who you needed when you were younger”? Well North West Jess became my attempt at being who I needed in that first year of motherhood, colic and all.

Of course, trying to portray an authentic view of motherhood doesn’t mean that I’m constantly complaining or that I’m ungrateful for my lot in life (as a coupla judgey DMs accused me of back in the day). There’s a lot to celebrate in my life and I’m always doing my best to choose gratitude over grumbling. But when we omit those inevitable dark, ugly, angry, or messy times from the conversation (and our feeds!) we run the risk of sending the message to new mamas that those times don’t exist  at all and that it’s wrong if you’re experiencing them. In meditation you’re encouraged to quiet your mind not by ignoring intrusive thoughts but acknowledging them and letting them pass through you without holding onto them. This has been my aim in my portrayal of motherhood as well – not to dwell on or ignore the hardships that come along with having kids but to acknowledge them and let them pass without holding them until they make me bitter. There is more in parenthood that unites than divides us and our acknowledgement of and reaction to hardship can be something that contributes to our ability to find connection, community, and common ground.

Through my blog posts about colic, Noonan Syndrome, and all of the more common ailments and milestones of motherhood from teething to sleep regressions to pelvic floor dysfunction I’m able to connect with other moms and say to them “I hear you. I understand you. I’ve been there and it gets easier” and sometimes that’s all we need to hear in order to feel less isolated in our experience.

So there it is: my hopes and dreams for this space. A group of parents who feel supported and encouraged, who can speak freely about their troubles and joys without feeling the need to filter their experiences before presenting them to the world. I promise I will always portray my own truth just as it is, answer your questions honestly, cheer you on through the easy parts and help you carry the weight of the harder ones. I hope you’ll stick around.

Flavourful, Hearty Buddha Bowls Your Whole Fam Will Love 🥦

Happy New Year!

I know this is far from my regular content and I am oh-so-far from being a qualified food photographer (how is it easier to take a good photo of a moving toddler than a good photo of a stationary meal?) but I’ve gotten so many questions about my great veggie bowls and I figured the New Year was the right time to post it. Despite how long-winded I can be (it’s all in the details, right?) it’s actually super simple. Let’s get to it!

There are 3-4 layers that you can mix as you wish and that’s basically the gist of it. You can remove and substitute to make adjustments for cost, flavour, intolerances, or availability. Here they are:

Greens Layer: this is a nutritious layer rather than a flavourful one but don’t worry, we’ll jazz it up in a minute. If I’m making a smaller bowl I’ll stick to just greens (spinach, kale, butter lettuce) but if I want quite a filling bowl (aka for Tom) I’ll add a few scoops of quinoa to bulk things up. I love a crunchy, fresh combo of kale and shredded purple cabbage! You could also use: lentils, beans, rice, potatoes, arugula, parsley.

Roasted Veg Layer: this is my favourite part because if you do it right it’ll be a super flavourful layer! I almost always roast just shallots, broccoli and cauliflower – they key is to roast them long enough, til they’re a tad charred and all of the good flavours are released when they caramelize (usually 20 mins at 400, longer if you’ve got a packed tray). Just chop up your veg, drizzle some oil over ’em (I usually use avocado oil but olive oil works too!) and go crazy with seasoning; my go-to combo is a little salt and a lot of garlic and paprika. You could also use: carrots, sweet potato, shredded brussels sprouts, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, onion, eggplant, asparagus, the possibilities are truly endless. Different vegetables will roast at different rates of course, so be mindful of that when you chop them so they’re all done at the same time. Veg can be expensive so you can always stick to the cheaper veg if you need to or focus on what’s in season, local, or growing in your own garden!

Optional “Meat” Layer: this is where you can add some crispy fried tofu if you please! I’m not calling this the ‘protein layer’ because there is a ton of protein in plants as well and I’m not into furthering long-held misconceptions about protein 😉 If you’re in doubt go watch Game Changers on Netflix or do some good ol’ fashioned googling on a fact/science-based website. Anyway, my favourite way to cook tofu is to press the water out, cube it small, pan fry it in a little oil with garlic powder til it’s crispy, then add sauce at the end for about 1 min over high heat til the sugars in the sauce caramelize and become sticky. So good! My favourite sauces for tofu are this peanut sauce or a mix of soy and sriracha if I’m feeling lazy. I probably only put tofu on like 25% of the time though (again, lazy!). You could also use: beans, tempeh, hell throw some baked pakoras on there! I generally try to stay away from the faux-meat substitutes since they’re still highly processed foods chock full of sodium and we’re tryin’ to make a plant-heavy bowl here.

Super-Filling Sprankles Layer: I always add hemp hearts and slivered almonds to keep us nice and full for a long time but you can add any yummy additions you like! You could also use: nutritional yeast, avocado, roasted sunflower seeds, bean sprouts, cashews, any nuts or seeds you’ve got in your pantry (pecans would be lovely with the caramelized veg!), or this vegan parmesan that is yummy and easy to make and keeps in the fridge so you can throw it on everything all week. Go nuts! (get it?)

The Most Important Layer, DRIZZLE: for almost all of my bowls I mix up the same quick-n-tangy Lemon Tahini dressing that I couldn’t tell you the recipe for but it always works out. Into a mason jar I throw a scoop of tahini, the juice of half a lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper. Then I shake the bejeesus out of it and drizzle it all over the bottom (greens) layer of my bowl and again over the top. You can thin it out with a little water, oil, or even almond milk if you like and if you want to do a bigger batch just throw it all in your mini food processor or blender. I also keep a huge bottle of this, the only store-bought dressing I ever buy on hand for the lazy days when I want less dishes to do. I feel passionately about this dressing to the point where it was the first thing I sought out when we moved to the coast because I was worried no stores would carry it here (found it at IGA though!). A wine-bottle-sized-bottle only costs $12. So delicious.

I know this looks like a lot but it only takes about 25 minutes total: 5 mins to chop my veg and then 20 mins in the oven. I prep the tofu and make the drizzle while the veg is in the oven and throw it all together when it’s done! We eat this bowl a few times a week and it just feels so hearty and nourishing – no one wants to eat a cold salad in the winter time so this is my way of eating salad, a warm, roasted salad with a light, tangy sauce.

Variations: I’ve added curry powder to the veg and done the tofu in a peanut sauce to create a yummy curry-peanut bowl before. I’ve also made this dressing before over roasted sweet potato, black beans, corn, and edamame for a southwestern-y version of the bowl (you could use a lime-ier dressing if you can’t handle the heat of chipotles). As a matter of fact since I’m so into the drizzle layer of these bowls, here is a link to all of Pinch of Yum’s sauces, they are truly the best at drizzles.

A Word about Calories: there are a lot of things in here that make this a dense, calorie-rich bowl, so I always imagine this to be a meal that is meant to accompany a fairly active lifestyle (or a breastfeeding mother, haha). They’re all those good, healthy fats that our bodies need sometimes but I realize that some of my readers are also looking to make healthy changes with the goal of weight loss. If this is the case for you, you can go easier on the nuts, seeds, quinoa, hemp hearts, etc. and heavier on the greens, veg, and drizzle. My kids love these bowls because there’s so much flavour and I like that they get those healthy fats for their developing brains! I have a much slower metabolism than Tom so when I make these bowls for our family I always add more veg to my own and more high-calorie nuts and seeds to his because his body burns his food so fast that he has to follow most meals with a few pieces of toast if I don’t bulk them up.

If you make a bowl, let me know! I’d love to see it. And if anyone has food photography tips I’M ALL EARS, haha.

 

2019 Reflections: Assessing the Lessons We Learned So We Can Start Planning for Next Year’s Growth

I’ve been having a really difficult time lately trying to decide where I want to put my energy and how I want to grow this next year. I’ve been reading some great self-help books that have helped me hone in on the “how” of goal-setting, the only problem is that I can’t figure out which goals to set! Today I realized that I’m trying to harness all of my hopeful, positive January energy into looking ahead before I’ve done the work of looking back to see what I learned last year.

Why Is This Important? I love goal-setting and I really, really love planning ahead. In fact, I’ve learned that planning makes me feel grounded and stable and when something happens that I cannot plan for I feel untethered and anxious. But when we go ‘full speed ahead’ with planning and don’t stop to make sure we’re still going in the direction we wanna go we can end up wildly off course. Without looking back to see if we met the last goals we set – or if they’re even still relevant to our long term vision! – we lose the ability to make sure we’re still on the right track.

How To Do This? Easy. Make a list of the big moments and analyze what worked and didn’t work for you. The most important part: reflect on WHY they worked (or didn’t!) and the lessons you can learn from the outcome. Why do you think that one business venture failed? What did you learn from that failure? Why was something else such a success? Did you learn from that outcome too, or just celebrate it? This is the time to dive deep and do the work so you can set smarter goals for the next season of your business / mental health / family finances / fitness / whatever it is you want to work on or make slight changes to. To jog your memory you can look back over journal entries, blog entries, Instagram posts, your day timer… wherever you chronicle important information or share successes and failures. You could ask your therapist to work through it with you or talk it through with a partner or close friend. For me writing is therapy, so I re-read my journals from the last year. This didn’t take long since I started the year with a five month old who had just learned to crawl, but a few key things still stuck out. Since emotions and reactions are the chaos I need to learn to harness in my life I’ve decided to look at the emotions behind some of the biggest milestones in my year and see how I dealt with them. Hopefully in that way I can learn from my successes and use my failures to shine a light on potential new goals.

A Big Move (aka Big Stress) We started the year by moving into my dad’s house so we could start the process of selling our condo. This became a huge stressor for me from January through to late March when we got possession of our new place. We moved out so we could properly stage and show our condo and in the meantime we found our dream home on the coast and put an offer in subject to sale. We quickly sold our condo but it fell through at the last minute due to the buyer’s financing. A week later we sold it again but it fell through again. The third time was the charm, thankfully, and both our sale and our purchase were finalized. Sounds quick and easy when I tell it like that but spending a few months not knowing where we’d end up was overwhelming for me. What I learned about myself: I tend to get emotionally invested in things extremely quickly and don’t fare well when I can’t plan for something specific so I lost a ton of sleep during this time. During the wee hours one night I downloaded a 30 day trial of the Calm app and, happily, it automatically took my annual payment before I could cancel. That app and the sleep stories and meditations it has provided me this year have saved my sanity so many times. I learned how well my mind responds to meditation and how necessary it is that I make time for a few moments (or half an hour) of focus in order to achieve a calmer, less anxious headspace for the whole day. I had always suspected that meditation would be worth it for me but had never looked into it so I’m grateful for that stressful phase at the beginning of the year for forcing me to find a coping mechanism that worked for me.

Adjusting to Two Kids (aka Big Burnout) the “fourth trimester” is generally considered to be the toughest time with a new baby but for our family the entire first year is generally pretty tumultuous. Living out of someone else’s house, even when it’s a family member, and then navigating a massive move with two needy children was tough. Many days were super fun and full of hope for our new home and community but it was also isolating and full of unknowns as well.  What I learned about myself: I thrive when I operate within a predictable routine and I have difficulty during times of transition. If I had known this earlier I could have prepared for the emotional upheaval that I would have known would be imminent as we entered our first year with two kids while planning a massive move to a completely new community that we had never been to. In general I handled things pretty well but in 2020 I know I can do a better job to adjust my expectations for big transitional times (like back-to-school) and prepare more to help myself deal.

Our Trip to the UK (aka Big Anxiety) by far the toughest part of the year for me emotionally was our trip to the UK in June. I’ve actually been meaning to write about it since, well, June, but seven months later the thought of that trip still makes my heart palpitate (not because of England by the way, which I’ve visited 8 times now, or my in-laws, who are absolutely wonderful). I know that this may sound utterly ridiculous to many of you seasoned travellers (I was an enthusiastic and flexible traveller before I had kids, by the way!) but it’s just my truth. Our kids are not Kids Who Travel Well, it would seem, and while the stress and anxiety of parenting our kids is easy for me to handle within the confines of an established routine and home environment it is very tough for me to manage so far outside of that space. I very much envy those “fly by the seat of their pants” type of people. What I learned about myself: I was completely overwhelmed, almost distraught most days and unfortunately my in-laws and my husband’s friends saw me at my absolute worst. To give a visual, let’s say that normally I wake up with my latent anxiety at a 1 or 2 out of 10. Through breath-work, meditations, and respecting my own boundaries I can keep it at that level which works for me as it’s hardly on my mind at all. On a bad day I might wake with it around a 3-5 and need to do more serious work to expel my anxious thoughts or feelings, like getting away from the kids and going for a nice long run. By contrast, every day that we were in the UK dealing with jetlag and illness I woke with my anxiety already at a 9 or 10. I guess what I’ve learned the most from it has been the massive failure of my inability to cope. While I’ve spent a lot of time working on tools for handling my anxiety these past few years I’m clearly not equipped to handle it at that level, nor do I have a single clue where to start. Perhaps this offers a good insight into where my emotional focus for the new year should be.

Settling In (aka Big Gratitude) looking at my inner mindset over the last year there was one big change that only I could feel, and that was gratitude (yay!). After months in survival mode after moving with a baby and a toddler it was quite a while before I felt like the smoke had cleared in our lives and we had settled in. I found myself feeling isolated, irritated, and annoyed so often that I didn’t have any energy left to notice that the joy outweighed it all. By forcing myself to document the best part of my day, every day, I trained my brain to start looking for the good stuff rather than the bad. Over the course of the year I felt a deep-rooted shift in my perspective but I know I can still do better.  What I learned about myself: Only I can make the changes I want to make and even small changes can yield massive results. This 10-second activity of writing down the best part of the day before I go to bed has saved me many times before. Our whole lives are our habits; if we’re always looking at the bad we won’t have time to see the good, but with work habits can be changed. My gratitude journal is definitely a practice I want to continue in the new year.

My biggest takeaway from doing this self-imposed introspective deep-dive is that whether I handled a difficult time well or terribly, I tried to learn from it. I have often felt this year that since I don’t have a “real job” I was just stagnating. I have had a lot of energy to burn this year but without a career to put that energy into I felt a bit lost. After reflecting on the emotional gains and lessons learned in 2019 I can see that in fact it was a big year of growth for me, just in my mind and heart rather than in my job. As a deeply emotional person I think it has been necessary growth for me but I’m beyond excited to channel some of my energy into writing and career opportunities in the coming year. I’m working on a separate post detailing how and why I hope to grow the NorthWestJess community so stay tuned!