Anxiety… who knew?

My mother suffered from anxiety.

She was never clinically diagnosed but those who knew her well had no doubt.

It used to drive me crazy.

She was jumpy… and nervous… and sometimes hard to be around.  And, as I am learning, she was incredibly brave.

I’ve experienced the jumpiness myself. I’ve had my moments of what I thought was anxiety.  I’ve chalked it up to genetics and cursed my mother.

It seemed just an annoying personality trait that I would have to deal with… until today.

Today, anxiety… that thing I used to joke about… kicked my ass.

The physical sensation, the stilted emotions; it is something I cannot adequately describe.  It limits your breathing, even your thinking.  The worst part seems to be that I can’t even point to a trigger.  I’ve had a low level of stress for weeks as we have prepared for the first real separation as a military family.  I face extended periods of solo parenting over the next year but I thought I had come to peace with it.  I don’t actually feel worried about what is to come… at least not much.

That’s part of what made today so surprising.  I woke this morning not even aware of why I felt a low level but intense panic somewhere deep inside me.  As this anxiety coursed through my body I kept thinking about my mother and all the tough life changes she went through: the multiple moves, my father being laid off when they were facing college tuition bills.  Through all of that she never really let us see anything more than the occasional sharp word or an overdeveloped startle reflex we found both annoying and funny.

Part of that makes me proud – that she faced so much so bravely – but part of it makes me angry.  I knew anxiety could be genetic.  I knew I’d inherited the tendency towards it.  I have no idea what it really felt like.

That’s why I write here today.  It’s not easy to admit to a mental disorder.  It’s not easy to live it either.  But doing it in secret helps no one.  Mental health disorders are underfunded, undertreated and misunderstood.

I’m astonished at my mother’s bravery now that I have faced just one day of real anxiety.  All I can do is hope I’ll face it with as much bravery as my mother did, and hope that my children will be more forgiving than I was.

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Back from the dead

Where the hell have you been?!

That might be my question for a friend that disappears for nearly two months without a word.

If I had a good excuse I’d give it to you.  I don’t.  Instead I have come up with the following list of lame excuses.  Pick whichever offends you the least.

  • I ran away and joined the circus (oh, sorry, that’s just my fantasy after two snow days in a row followed by two days with a sick and whiny kid at home and then The Girl’s wisdom tooth extraction – the circus has to be easier!).
  • Santa Claus left behind a Christmas mess that has taken until Groundhog Day to clean up (who am I kidding – this house isn’t clean).
  • My new iPhone has caused a dangerous addiction which has me nearly surgically attached to Facebook.
  • I’m drowning in work (HA! Even I laugh at that one. I have to find time and energy to make it into the office for that part to be even remotely plausible).
  • I have been closely working with a web designer (okay, maybe sporadic emails is more honest) to re-brand my various sites into one easily updatable and no longer amateurish (meaning free) location… welcome to the new and improved (Mis)Adventures Mom.  I’ll try to stick around this time.
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A Shadow on the Holiday Spirit.

My mother loved poetry, particularily that of Alfred Lord Tennyson. On my 16th birthday she gave me a collection of his poetry, from which I read at her funeral.  When her father died she turned to his poem Crossing the Bar for comfort.  I read the same words for comfort at her service.

I would not consider myself a lover of poetry.  Perhaps that is why I find so it interesting that in my growing grief over my first Christmas without my mother I found myself reading Tennyson.  This time I found comfort in his work “A Grief at Christmas.”

This year I slept and woke with pain,
I almost wish’d no more to wake,
And that my hold on life would break
Before I heard those bells again:

But they my troubled spirit rule,
For they controll’d me when a boy;
They bring me sorrow touched with joy,
The merry merry bells of Yule.

With such compelling cause to grieve
As daily vexes household peace,
And chains regret to his decease,
How dare we keep our Christmas-eve;

I admit I had to seek out smarter minds than mine to glean some of the meaning but it still spoke to me. I have always loved the holidays – my mother did too. I get caught up in all the activity and do too much… but I enjoy all of it.

This year I’m still doing it all, but I’m having trouble enjoying it. The world just seems a little grey. I’ve always been so caught in the family element of Christmas. Now that my family is so much smaller, the spirit seems smaller too.

I know I’m not alone. I know there are many dealing with loss this year. I’m not writing this is self-pity. It’s more an acknowledge that we who are grieving are not alone. As great as this season can be, it can also be greatly difficult. The best advice I’ve received is to just let myself be sad.

Things are different this year and I cannot pretend otherwise. For now, that has to be enough. There will be moments of joy and there will be moments for other emotions too. Perhaps, if we let ourselves experience them all we’ll be a little closer to the true meaning of Christmas.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor;
Ring in redress of all mankind.


Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

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Entering the Wide World of Technology

I’m a multi-tasking Mama.
….well, I always was but now I’m doing it in high tech style. I have entered the world of the iPhone.

I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my new toy. There are lots of ways this will make things easier but it also means I’m taking the office with me.

While occupied with family errands and volunteer work today I still managed to correspond with an editor, arrange for some photos for an article and do some research. All that is good… But at the same time, I’m now missing watching Little Dude’s judo practice in favour of writing this post.

One of the biggest challenges in this technology obsessed lifestyle is using these great tools appropriately. A recent lecture at Big Dude’s home and school group had a school board tech expert talking about the need to raise good ‘digital citizens.’

He spoke not only about protecting kids online but about teaching them the best way to use all this technology, about etiquette and timing and creativity.

I guess that means I better put my toy away so I don’t miss the important moments.

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Surviving the busy times on a yeast-free diet.

Stop the ride, I want to get off!

I do this to myself… repeatedly.

I try to jam too much into a day.

Making all these crazy commitments work is a challenge most days but trying to make it work on the yeast free diet (where I can not stop for a sugar pick me up or resort to ordering a pizza once in a while for dinner) makes it all a little harder… maybe a lot, depends on the day.

However, I have found a few tips and tricks to make it a little easier.

  • I keep almonds or yeast-free diet crackers in my purse.
  • I carry a bottle of water with me.
  • I let myself have a coffee once every two days and fool myself with green tea the rest of the time.
  • Homemade humus and pre-cut veggies are a great stop gap for hunger.
  • I bring my own snacks to parties.
  • Mary’s Organic Sticks and Twigs are good enough that my ‘normal’ friends want some too.

My favorite quick snack tool has been the ‘popover.’   It is similar to the traditional Yorkshire Pudding that I grew up with (although made with less tasty fats).  I make a batch and throw them in the freezer, thawing as needed.

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup spelt or kamut flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450.
Beat the eggs with a fork until fluffy.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix. 
Brush the bottom of the muffin tins with oil.
Pour batter into muffin cups to fill about 2/3 full.
Bake for 25 minutes at 450, then knock the heat back to 350 and bake another 10 to 15 minutes.
These are good with soup, or as a snack with almond butter, guacamole, black bean dip or even some melted goats cheese cheddar.

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Remembrance Day… in a military family.

Little Dude stole some hearts at the Beaver Scouts Remeberanec Day service today.

He piped up during the moment of silence to say “My Daddy didn’t die.”  Then he paused, and looking sad he added, “other Daddies died.”

He broke my heart a little bit at that moment.

As a military wife, I have always found Rememberance Day hard to explain to my kids.  I have stayed home in years past, opting not to go to ceremonies by using the excuse that the kids were too young or would be too disruptive.  In reality, I think I’ve been avoiding it.

My kids have too much experience with death.  They understand Nana died.  They understand their grandfather, Bumpy, died before they could know him.  They know death is final… and scary.

Explaining why all these people, wearing the same uniform as Daddy, have died is complicated.

I don’t want them fearful for Daddy to go to work.  I also want them to understand the sacrifice these brave men and women make for Canada. 

They understand their Great Grandmother made airplanes in World War Two but, at least Big Dude, is starting to understand that the men and women currently laying their lives on the line include their friend’s Mommies and Daddies.

For many kids, Rememberance Day is very removed from their lives.  They look at the aged veterans and old pictures that have no relation to their realities.  Not so in a military community.  Our thoughts of remeberance include those veterans from past conflicts, but also encompass those who serve now.  Those who protect us overseas and on the homefront, whether injured by a road side bomb, killed on a search and rescue mission or traumatized by seeing too much.

So, all I can do for today is think grateful thoughts.  We are priviledged to know all these brave and generous people.  We are priviledged they can have an influence on our chidlren’s lives.

As for explaining Remebrance Day… all I can do is answer questions and teach them gratitude… and hope for the best.

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Despite not being able to eat the hoards of candy donated to my children by generous neighbours (in what I know was a fiendish attempt to sabotage my diet), I am loving this diet.

I’m not hungry.  Not at all.

For lunch today I had a plate of veggies with some homemade hummus.  A month ago, the veggies would have been an appetizer and would have left me craving more, usually something filled with carbs.

Now that it has detoxed, its not craving all the sugary or yeasty substances it was used to.

I find myself continually astonished that some days I have reached mid-afternoon and realized I forgot to eat lunch.

My enthusiasm may wane, however, when I head off tomorrow for a business trip.  I have absolutely no idea how I am going to stick to this diet on the road.

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Feeling Great… but wishing for at least a little Halloween candy.

Okay, now that the flu is behind me, I can honestly say that I feel great.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started this yeast-free adventure but I feel as though a fog has lifted.  I feel clearer, more energetic and I’m loosing weight.  I’ve lost 5 pounds in 10 days. 

The best part is that I don’t even feel like I’m on a diet, or at least not the kinds I’ve tried in the past.  I’m not constantly thinking about food and I’m not very hungry most of the time.

There are still a few challenges.  Breakfast is the biggest one.  I have no idea what to eat for breakfast most days.  I’ve made some pretty flavourless pancakes and I’ve decided to give up on the first batch of my yeast-free bagels (don’t worry, I’ll try again).  Since I don’t like eggs and oatmeal, there is not much left. I love the dairy free crepes and want to try some potato latkes but those are too time consuming for a weekday morning.

I am finding a few more cravings in the past few days.  With two Dude birthdays and Halloween, I’m finding a few more things around the house I want but can’t have.  However, I also haven’t been good at keeping yummy snacks available so when I’m hungry I see what I can’t have rather than reaching for something I can (though that wouldn’t solve the problem of the Halloween candy.  I go through that every year.  I’m just weaker willed usually).

I promised I start sharing some recipes so here is one that keeps me going.  I can’t eat store bought hummus because of sugar and vinegar content but, with a food processor, it’s easy to make at home.

1 can chick peas
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup oil
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp (or more or less depending on desired spice) of curry powder.

Throw it all in a food processor and then let it sit for a half hour or so to let the flavours mingle.
I keep this in the fridge as a dip for rice crackers, carrots or my new favorite crackers Mary’s Organic (love these!).

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A short break… thanks to the flu.

I was all set to blog about how great being yeast-free makes me feel… then the flu hit. 

It’s hard to talk about being healthy when you’re not.

Stay tuned for more when this virus lets go of the vice-grip on my stomach.

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Gratitude and a sixth birthday.

I’ll continue posting about my diet this week but for today I have other thoughts….

Big Dude turned six today.

It is a fascinating age.  I see glimpses of the big boy he will become but love the little one that remains for the moment. 

I write these words to you my little man….

I was never sure how I would take to motherhood but now can’t imagine my life without you.  You, my first born, are teaching me far more than I ever expected. 

Thank you for teaching me to observe the little moments.  I get so wrapped up in my day and all the little tasks I ‘have’ to accomplish that it is easy to loose the details but, when I catch you out of the corner of my eye, I realize how important it is to watch what’s happening around me.  The day I came downstairs to find you reading a story to your little brother for the first time is one of my favorite moments but I almost missed it because of laundry.

Thank you for needing me.  Not just for meals or to fix your toy for the hundredth time but for still needing my presence in your life; for running into the house because you can’t wait to tell me about your day or hanging outside my bedroom door until you know I’m awake and you can come in and give me a morning hug.

Thank you for embracing life.  Whether you take off running with a stranger child on the playground or master a new skill for the first time, the joy you show in life is inspiring.

Thank you for letting me be your mummy.  I’m grateful.

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