The art of wanting less

My family and I just returned from a wonderful week away in Mexico. The weather was glorious, the scenery popped with beautiful colours and the time spent with family in a small, exquisite resort was priceless.

But the Welcoming Director kept wanting to send us away.

You read that right: the Welcoming Director practically pleaded with us, five unique times, to go and visit another resort. With a water park. For the kids! We were practically running away from her toward the end of the week. She’d find us at the pool, or stop us when we were walking to our room or try to lure us into the library so she could go over her spiel about visiting another resort in its chain on a day pass. I think she was wanting us to rebook our next vacation with them – and who knows, maybe it was a timeshare deal or something like that. But each time she suggested it, we knew it was coming before the words left her mouth because she’d start with, “What I really want is for you to go to this other new resort so you can spend time in the water park. For the kids! It will be fun! And it’s only a 40-minute bus ride away!”

Sigh. By the fifth time, we were finishing her sentence for her (“Yes, we know you want us to go to the water park. For the kids. But we’re not going. We want to stay here!”)

It got me to thinking about how the concept of ‘more’ is introduced at such a young age. Sure, kids have that intrinsically in varying degrees at different stages of their development, but we don’t have to feed it!

My husband and I kinda dug our heels in because there was so much to explore where we were staying. There were iguanas to spot, flowers to admire, parrots to converse with, sandcastles to build, a pool to play Marco Polo and tag in, books to read, hammocks to swing in, plays to put on, vibrant stars to count. Our to-do list was long, and it didn’t need to include a water park.

But we’re so used to being ultra-entertained these days, aren’t we? Those simple, soul-filling pleasures can sometimes become lost in the allure of ‘more.’

I got sucked in too. I ate more food than I’d normally eat, drank more wine – I still feel full from the trip and now I crave less. My son finished his last hockey game of the season yesterday, my daughter’s swimming lessons are done for the term and do you know what activities we have lined up for spring/summer? Nothing! Pardon me – there will be the vegetable garden to plant together, driveway hockey to play, butterfly spotting and walks to the park, discovering robins and going on bike rides.

On this first day of spring, what do you want to shed? What can you remove from – not add to – your life to give yourself a little more space to breathe, soak in the beauty around you, appreciate what you have and maybe even get a little bored. I once heard that boredom is the gateway to peace. And the wellspring of creativity. This week, I challenge you to find three small things that you can remove from your life to give yourself a little more breathing space to slow down and bask in the beauty around you.

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Today is International Women’s Day – honouring 10 incredible women

A few weeks ago, I was so excited to receive my first email about International Women’s Day: a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. It also marks a call-to-action to help forge a better working world that is more inclusive and gender equal.

As I opened the email with one hand and grabbed for my phone to mark March 8 with the other, my cell almost slid out of my palm when I read the first line: “Join us for ‘Tampon Tuesday’ in celebration of International Women’s Day.”

Hold the phone. Sweetie. Seriously. Is that all you got? Is that all we are to you?

Sigh.

It pains me to state the obvious here, but after this horrendous political year, maybe we’re back to this place. And so, I’ll state it for the record: WE…are so much more than tampons, my friend.

Maybe she was having an off-day. Maybe she just needs a little inspiration, and so here we go. When I think of International Women’s Day, I think of the legends. Y’know, those who radiate the true essence of Soul-Sisterhood. People like…

Gloria Steinem. From her early days as an audacious journalist who exposed the Playboy Club’s sexist policies while struttin’ her stuff as an undercover bunny, to this past January when she gave her ‘No More Asking Daddy’ speech in front of a sea of pink pussy hats at the Women’s March in January – this woman has balls. She’s the mackiest of all Mac-mommies and I love her.

Malala Yousafzai. At 15 years old, as she and her friends were travelling home from school in Pakistan when a masked gunman entered the school bus and asked for Malala by name. She was shot with a single bullet that went through her head, neck and shoulder. She survived. And told her story. And continued to speak out for a girl’s right to an education. She became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate and today, she continues as an activist for female education and a formidable beacon of light.

Mary Wollstonecraft. An English writer and feminist philosopher who raised her voice for gender equality back in the 1700s. Sing it and bring it, sister. She paved the way for us. ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women,’ her 1792 work, questioned Rousseau’s stuffy ideas of female inferiority and earned prominent status in feminist literature.

Simone de Beauvoir. A French philosopher, writer and major figure in modern feminism. In 1949, she authored, ‘The Second Sex,’ where she showed how men had consistently denied women’s identity, drawing on history, art and psychology as proof points. Despite a hater-ation, the work became a seminal text in feminism. She also spoke out against the discrimination toward unwed mothers.

Lucy Stone. A renowned feminist and abolitionist of the 1800s who decided to keep her maiden name after marriage as a symbol of individuality. I thought there was controversy when I did that in 2004, imagine what it was like for dear ol’ Luce in Victorian times! She also played a pivotal role in organizing the first National Women’s Rights Convention in 1850.

Madonna. Love her or hate her, this musical material girl is a superhero and has redefined what it is to be a feminist. From the moment she stepped into the spotlight with her lace, mesh and frills, she has stood for strength, empowerment and unabashedly owning her sexuality. Last December, she accepted the Billboard Women of the Year award and delivered a powerful, honest speech about sexism, feminism and her own perseverance.

Isabella Baumfree a.k.a. Sojourner Truth. A crusader against racial discrimination and gender equality. Born into slavery where she spent her first 30 years, she was emancipated in 1827. She travelled to many different places, preaching missions and speaking for rights of women and slaves. In 1836, she became the first Black woman to win a lawsuit in the U.S. where she fought for her son who was sold as a slave. In 1843, she took on the name ‘Sojourner Truth,’ claiming it as God’s message. Her 1851, her ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ speech at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, was a landmark in the feminist movement history.

Emily Stowe. A woman who supported her children and sick husband by working, illegally, as a doctor in Ontario. She had to go to New York to obtain her degree because Canadian women weren’t allowed in medical school, or any other higher educational institute, at that time. She graduated in 1868 and in 1876, she started the Toronto Women’s Literacy Club, which was actually a women’s suffrage group.

Adelaide Hoodless. Another pioneer among Canadian women, whose 18-month-old son died from unpasteurized milk in 1887. Hoodless took to the streets and began campaigning for better health and nutrition education for women. In 1897, she founded the first Women’s Institute to instruct women in farm and household management. She was also the founder of the Victorian Order of Nurses, which provided nursing to the poor.

Angela Merkel. Named Forbes #1 Most Powerful Woman in 2016, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, has been named the last bastion of Western liberal power. Facing a challenging reelection bid this year, she’s been charged with the task of maintaining a united European front in the wake of Brexit while balancing Russia’s growing influence on the continent and managing more than 1 million migrants who have entered Germany in recent years. But this woman’s tough. She guided Germany through a recession with subsidies and stimulus packages for companies that cut hours for workers, and Germany rang in the 2016 New Year with a budget surplus of 12.1 billion euros ($13.1 billion) and an AAA rating from creditors.

And that’s just my inspiring list of famous people! I’m sure there are many more women in your life who inspire you and have been incredible influences on you too. I’ve been fortunate to have several in my life that I’ve benefited from, in addition to the greats I’ve listed here. Today, let’s honour them all. I challenge you to send an amazing woman in your life a note today to thank her for shining her light. I’m going to do the same and tonight, my 6-year-old daughter and I are going out for dinner to celebrate International Women’s Day. They’re never too young to start honouring the strong, inspiring women who have cleared the path for us today.

Cheers!

A Musical Brick in the Head


“… you’ll start in a race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The waiting place……for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.” ~ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

When I was on the treadmill yesterday, I thought of this Dr. Seuss classic, which I received as a graduation present. There I was sweating, trudging along, stomping one foot in front of the other and going seemingly nowhere, which only accentuated the bitch that I’ve been in for the past four days. Could it be PMS? Possibly. Could it be that some things aren’t going my way, or on my schedule, and that’s just irritating as shit and has me in a place of waiting? Quite likely.

Have you been here before? I can relate to what Dr. Seuss is saying. I think I’m there right now. What am I waiting for?

I’m waiting to find the right fit with a literary agent (I’m guffawing right now because George Michael’s ‘Faith‘ just started playing on my shuffled playlist – seriously!). So anyway, yes, George, it’s true, I gotta have faith. You got me there. I found such a perfect fit with my editor, and it happened so effortlessly – I’m still in awe of how it all came together and how much I value her. The quest for a literary agent hasn’t been so easy and it’s a crucial step to being considered by a traditional publisher. I want to get my message out there – I don’t want to keep waiting. I waited 18 years just to write the damn thing and then last year, prompted by a series of events, it all came out of me. I felt like I gave birth to my third baby. She’s here and safe and all bundled up and I want to introduce her to the world. I hope that she’ll remind as many people as I can count of how strong and powerful and worthy they are – how we all have divine power at our core that’s just waiting to be unleashed. It’s a gift to ourselves and it’s a gift to others we’re connected to (which is like, everyone, yo).

So yeah… this was my pity party on the treadmill in my basement and do you know what snapped me out of it? A song came on the radio (which is why the George Michael’s jam a few minutes ago was so funny and confirming). And what was the song that played? What’s one of the most iconic songs about having faith that reminds us to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even though you might feel like you’re going nowhere?

Oh yeah, it was Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’ Of course it was.

I think the Universe was tired of giving me subtle clues and so it just clocked me over the head with the biggest cliché around.

Thank you, Universe. We all need a musical brick in the head once in a while. And so, I laughed, and then I sighed and started to raise my vibration by thinking of the possibilities instead of the limitations. And I rocked out to that Journey’s song, having a hard and forced time reaching the high notes but I belted them out anyway. When my kids yelled down to the basement to ask if I was okay, I told them I was good.

It was all good. I’m letting go, letting God and continuing to put one foot in front of the other and keep believing.

What about you? Is there a challenge you’re facing this week that you could set to music, with a cliché ol’ song like ‘Don’t Stop Believing?’ Or ‘Faith?’ Could you commit to putting it on your playlist and listening it to a few times this week and thinking of that problem but letting go at the same time, asking a greater power for help and knowing that one way or another, at the right time you’ll receive it?

“Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.” ~ Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Seuss

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Who could you call if your thumb turned black?

I had this crazy freak thing happen this week, where a silly hangnail got infected, my thumb started turning black and two doctors told me I needed to go to the hospital immediately to get treated within four hours, or else… Or else what, I don’t know, but it was pretty scary. And gross. And confusing! I wash my hands almost excessively, I was putting hydrogen peroxide, Polysporin and Band-Aids on it all week and come Friday, I even saw a nurse who put silver nitrate on it before it went from bad, to oozing worse.

For a girl who tries to find meaning in almost everything, I was scratching my head about this whole fiasco. I get what it means to have a green thumb. We have an abundant vegetable garden and I’ve even received that compliment from someone who enjoyed the…er, ‘vegetables’ of our labour (although house plants still wilt at the sight of me). When I looked up ‘black thumb’ in the dictionary, I was surprised to learn it’s an actual term: “A notable inability to make plants grow. A tendency to fail as a gardener (i.e. Ever since I was a child, I was known for a really bad black thumb—I could not grow anything, and even worse, plants seemed to die under my supervision, even the plastic kind.)”

Awesome. It went on. “I have a black thumb that can kill a petunia at 10 paces.”

Thank you for clarifying that, Merriam Webster. Oh wait, there was more: “Calling all black thumbs and those who are averse to flower arranging: Hardy succulents are the perfect solution for anyone who can’t remember to water plants or who struggles to pull together a centerpiece.” Crikey. I killed a bunch of succulents last year. Hmm…was this really about my gardening? Or was it about how the Universe responded at a time of need?

Late Friday afternoon, when I called my husband to tell him I was on my way to the hospital, I didn’t realize that I was on speaker and my 6- and 7-year-olds heard everything. My son burst into tears and daughter started gagging. She has a weak stomach. I felt terrible. After I got off the phone, I called my parents and was relieved to catch them (they’re enjoying quite a lively and activity-filled retirement, you know). I told my Mom what happened and before I could even ask their help in caring for the kids, she was putting the phone down, saying they were on their way. I was worried about their 45km drive because it was snowing quite heavily and the roads weren’t great but for my Mom, this was a no-brainer. The next thing I knew, my Dad was in the emergency room, scooping up our kids and taking them home so my husband could stay with me and we could get this whole mess sorted out.

What a gift.

Everything ended up being all right. I was sent home with antibiotic ointment and pills to blast the infection. The kids were sleeping soundly after an enchanting evening of playing, laughing, snuggling and making up funny stories with Nana and Papa. I was relieved to be home, with a glass of wine and personal commitment to get on with my weekend, which has turned out to be pretty amazing.

Friends of ours asked if they could send their kids over for a few hours on Saturday, while they did some painting in their house. We were happy to help and the kids had a great time together. Later that day, our incredible neighbours, who are retired teachers, asked if our kids wanted to come over for dinner and to make some Valentine’s crafts while Mom and Dad went out for dinner. Does it get better than this? People helping people.

And my dear friend has been calling and texting all weekend, making sure I’m okay, offering natural remedy suggestions and asking to stop by this afternoon to see me. It’s all kinda taking my breath away. I feel so grateful to have these wonderful people in my life, who are there in an instant, because they love me and just want to help. I hope they know how much I love them and how I’m here for them too.

So who are the people in your life you’d call in a flash if you needed them? Are you one of those people (like I used to be) who’s reluctant to ask for help? This week, could you challenge yourself to ask for help? Is there someone in your life who could use your help? If so, what one act could you do today to help someone in need?

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What will your eulogy say about you?

It seems like a bit of a morbid question, I know. It’s also a powerful one that changed my life just over a year ago. I had started working with a life coach who was relentlessly kind – and relentlessly tough with his questions – and walked me through a challenging exercise to answer just that.

Now I’ve heard this question asked before and I recall even conjuring up a few adjectives that I hope would be my legacy. But I had never told someone – in such detail – what I hoped would be said about me at my funeral, or explained what I hoped I’d be doing with my life for each and every decade before that.

What brought it home even more? I was in the process of writing an actual eulogy for my dear friend, Shelley, who died at the age of 40 last February. Have you ever written a eulogy before? I was so worried about not doing her life and her soul justice, but the words just flowed.

I started thinking about the fragility of life, and my own life, and how important it was for me to live in alignment with my values and purpose.

A wellspring of small-but-mighty changes ensued. I wrote the book I had been talking about writing for the past 18 years (now to just publish that baby!). I hugged my children extra hard, spoke more tenderly to my husband, switched careers, took a karate class just for kicks (punny!) and bonded with my girlfriends like never before. It’s been a year of reflection and fine-tuning that alignment and day by day, with each action and decision, I’m feeling truer about how I’m showing up and contributing to this world.

So how about you? What will they say at your funeral? Let’s envision it happens at the ripe age of 100. What will you be doing with your life between 90 and 100? Between 80 and 90? Complete this exercise in detail with someone you trust. And when you get to the present day, ask yourself if you’re living now in a way that will get you to what that eulogy will reflect.

It’s not really all that morbid. It’s just an alignment check. You’d get a mechanic to look at your car if the steering was off. Why wouldn’t you do the same thing for your life?

Getting over the Trump hump

“What Donald Trump has done is unchristian,” Bishop Michael Pryse said this morning at a local church I’ve been attending. He was preaching at its 60th anniversary celebration, but couldn’t help but go on a tangent about this week’s executive orders. And who could blame him. Trump’s actions to bar citizens from a select group of Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., his command to build a wall across the Mexican border, and his decree to stop funding any UN organization promoting the performance of abortion or sterilization as a method of family planning—it all weighs so heavy on the heart.

There were moments at that 60th anniversary celebration when I just wanted to hang my head and weep. In many ways, I felt like we were right back in 1957. The year Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ‘Give Us the Ballot’ speech, urging Congress to take action to stay true to its promise – made three years prior – to finally allow Blacks the right to vote.

The year 9 out of 10 Americans thought anyone who chose not to marry was either “sick,” “neurotic,” or “immoral.”

The year a national bestseller proclaimed it was dangerous to allow single women to teach young children and called for a nationwide ban on their employment.

And the year East Germany introduced a new passport law that reduced the overall number of refugees leaving Eastern Germany, which had the unintended result of drastically increasing the percentage of those leaving through West Berlin from 60% to over 90% by the end of 1958.

In today’s dark moments, it was hard not to feel as though we’re regressing.

It’s hard not to be perpetually confused about what went through the minds of American voters last November. Like, how could they let this to happen? Why isn’t there more upstream work being done in schools to teach people how to intelligently vote? Or more reflection on history – what can happen to a nation, or world, when there’s an abuse of power and complacency for it?

This isn’t uplifting or inspiring, I know. But it’s real. And reflects how I, and many others, have been feeling this weekend. Sad over the divide, at a loss over all the Obamas have built, and angry over Trump’s attempt to claim power from those who are different from him. And I’m not even a U.S. citizen! I’m Canadian! With a rockin’ Prime Minister! But like so many here, I’m still feeling it for my more rational neighbours to the south.

It’s a desperation that calls for me to play Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off or (less desperately and more triumphantly) Meghan Trainor’s Me Too, sung loudly, through the mirror, directly to Trump.

It’s that shift in energy that’s needed when we’re called to dig deep for hope. And stand in our own power. Stand up for what we won’t tolerate: hate, division, misogyny, racism, bullying, and stand up for what we need to collectively usher in: more love, kindness, humanity, respect and grace.

Now is not the time for complacency – now is the time to act. To do something. Do anything that reflects our strong, courageous and intelligent leadership as caring citizens of the world.

To inspire this action, I urge you to find 22 minutes to enrich your life by listening to Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1957 speech, Give Us the Ballot. And while you’re at it, find 5 minutes more to watch his I Have a Dream speech again.

I pray it stirs in you the will to do a series of small acts this week. I trust it has the power to transform into a tidal wave of love, grace and goodness when combined with the works of others so that together, we can rise above all this bottom-feeder stuff and truly let freedom reign.

Big, Boisterous Belonging

This week I attended the first meeting of a newly formed book club, comprised of a boisterous, hilarious group of women – whom I just met – and fell in love with at first laugh! They were sooo funny, and so real, that I giggled until I guffawed at the myriad of topics we covered. And I mean everything from the course of action one takes after finding a first grey eyebrow hair, to what happens to your vagina after you have babies, to how it’s sometimes necessary to leave your husband with the kids to “run out to buy tampons” just to escape the mundane and stroll around Shopper’s Drug Mart in a state of Optimum Card bliss (“Extra points? I’ll buy four!”), which is anything but mundane, don’t you know.

They’re truly a remarkable group of women and I can’t wait to meet up again next month. I love that we spend 10 minutes on the book and 3 hours and 20 minutes discussing everything from soup to nuts to ovaries. In one fell swoop, we became a community.

“Being engaged in some way for the good of the community, whatever that community, is a factor in a meaningful life,” Patricia Smith Churchland, Canadian-American analytical philosopher, said. “We long to belong, and belonging and caring anchors our sense of place in the universe.”

Being part of community – and extending it to others – is so important. The night of book club, I was blown away when the host shared that every other Saturday, she and five other neighbourhood families have dinner together. One family hosts – supplying a full dinner including appetizers, mains, dessert and drinks for the 12 adults and 11 kids – while the others show up empty-handed. In return, the next family in the rotation extends the same glorious offering to the group in two weeks’ time.

There are so many good things about this beautiful ritual. Every other week, with intention, they are deepening their sense of community and belonging. Hearing about it took me right back to biblical teachings of loving our neighbour, treating each other as we’d like to be treated, and – quite literally – breaking bread together. It’s like this neighbourhood group figured out that at a primal level, we’re all social beings who need each other and need to belong to something bigger than ourselves.

So what sorts of communities do you belong to? How did it feel when you became a part of them? Do you have any ideas that you’d like to turn into action, which might deepen your sense of community? Any random acts of kindness you could think of doing that might make your community and its members even stronger?

The week is young. Go love up on your communities.

The Start of Something BIG

Starting big new things can be hard. A new job. A business venture. A new relationship. Parenting. It can even be hard to start what you think might be a big, bright, bold new year.

One way to push through the fear is by thinking of one person in your life who is a supporter, and imagining that person at the finish line of your new adventure. That’s all. No one else (besides a fleet of heavenly hosts who are always cheering you on). Can you picture it?

It’s like this newsletter, for example. I’ve been so nervous about writing it, putting myself out there and letting people in — that I’ve stalled. As I sit here and write this, I realize that I haven’t told anyone about this project…except my husband, Robert, and my dear friend, Amy.

The other day over coffee, I was showing Amy my website, which is half-complete and despite my, “I-still-have-to’s,” and my “It’s-not-finished-yet-but’s,” Amy swooped that laptop up into her arms like it was my third-born child, dipped her nose to it and confidently said, “It’s beautiful, Tanya. It looks awesome and I think it’s fantastic – now I need you to give yourself a big pat on the back for getting this far. You started writing your book in what – May? Now you’ve written it, and you’re launching a website and newsletter. It’s amazing. You’re amazing!”

I was so uncomfortable and relieved and overwhelmed at the same time! I realized it was that feeling of being imperfectly accepted. That night, I received an email notice saying Amy had signed up for my newsletter, before I even named it or made it a “thing” to people. Thank you, Amy.

We all need people in our lives like Amy – supporters who believe in us even when we’re not sure we believe in ourselves. Who are your supporters? Who in your life — present or past — is just sitting there, with bated breath, waiting for you to knock it out of the park because they sooo know you can do it? They sooo know it’s imminent. They’re sooo whistling around at the air waiting for you to just shine, Shine, SHINE and own the space you were made to take up.

I’m going to be talking about a lot of these themes and more each week with this newsletter (which I haven’t even named yet – what should I name her? Post your ideas in the reply section!). Let’s make 2017 your year. What are you going to do with it? What are you going to own? How are you going to take up space? Share it on my Facebook page! I’m waiting for you, with bated breath, to do just that.

Let’s journey this terrain together so that your wild, bold and sass-tacular self can be all that it was meant to be. To shine in ways that only you can. Let’s make this year more insanely powerful and juicy and raw and fantastic than we could ever have imagined. Let’s have a deep-into-soul-but-possibly-out-of-body experience…shall we? Are you ready to own 2017 with me? Are you in?

Your Soul Sister,

Tanya xo