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Saturday, November 29, 2014

8 Ways to Give Presence AND Presents at Christmas

I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about giving your time and appreciation to those you love, work with, and do not know for Christmas - I'll be OM for Christmas.  I still agree with this sentiment.  I remind myself of it at Christmas and every occasion (I wrote about giving presence for Valentine's Day too - Presence for Presents).  Actually, this is a continuous effort in my life.

However, with so much emphasis on giving presence for Christmas, it almost seems a terrible thing to give presents!  Gift giving has almost become taboo.  It is suggested we give our time - yet we are so stretched for time, we sometimes want Christmas to go away.

My take on it is this:

Giving presents is wonderful.  People love to receive them and people love to give them.  When the purpose of a present is appreciation or a symbol of your love, isn't that a wonderful thing?

What I think takes away the spirit of Christmas is when presents become obligatory and take the place of presence.  You give presents because... just because you're supposed to.  Or when the actual present becomes more important than the meaning behind the giving.  Or when the present isn't appreciated because it's not what the person 'wanted' or 'asked for'.  And then... there is no love and attention exchanged in the process.

I love picking out the perfect gift for someone and seeing their face light up when they open it.  I also believe that giving someone your attention is the greatest gift you can give.  So here is what I try to do to keep it all in check... because I do love Christmas...
  1. When I feel like purchasing something for someone, I ask myself: Am I purchasing (or making) this present in appreciation for that person or because I want to give them joy?  If yes, purchase.  If no, reconsider.  If the presents feel obligatory, I reassess and sometimes I pass on the purchase if I realize I'm not buying it for the right reasons.  
  2. When I am giving someone a present, I make an effort to demonstrate my love and appreciation.  If it's going in the mail, I may write a note.  If it's being given in person, I try to plan a little time together.  If it's in the name of simple joy, I simply give.  For example, I am giving to a little boy this year who barely knows who I am.  But I know the simple act of opening a present is a joyous one for him since he spent several Christmases with very little.
  3. I create a reasonable budget.  I have gone overboard on Christmas in the past.  I've gotten caught up in the excitement and spent beyond my means.  What I've learned over the years is that a $5 gift is just as exciting and meaningful as a $500 gift... when the right sentiment is behind it.  So I try to decrease spending while increasing meaning.  It's a little challenge I give myself.  In fact, my husband and I have a little challenge each year to get the cheapest bestest Christmas gift.  One year I wrote him a song.  Another year he gave me a photo calendar with a little surprise experience in each month, for example yoga classes in January.  Last year, we fell down on our creativity and had all store bought presents, but I'm working on it this year:) 
  4. I don't overbook my time before and during the Christmas season.  Instead I have lots of open space in my 'schedule' to spend quality time with my loved ones.  I don't try to accept every invitation - unless I can, of course.  I spend my energy sharing beautiful moments with friends and family rather than trying to see everyone for a few minutes and not really get to have a meaningful conversation (which I have done in the past).  It's about quality, not quantity.  And my time is my present in many cases.
  5. I make a conscious effort to spend much of my budget on those in need and teach my children to do the same.  There was a time I did not have much money, so my giving in this area was a few items to the food bank.  But you can always give something - even your time.  I have a focus - single parents.  But I also give more generous tips at the coffee shops and bigger donations to the homeless on the streets.  I do this with my children.  My 3 1/2 year old has her first 'Christmas list' this year.  She asked for a toothbrush and raisins.  I then prompted her to ask for Santa to bring something to someone else.  She said, 'bring something to boys and girls.'  Ha!  This is my attempt to foster giving in my toddler.  My oldest has contributed to shoeboxes, Happy Tree presents (gifts for young children in need), the local food bank, and bags of necessities for women's shelters for years.  I have also made efforts to give money to people on the streets when my children are with me.  For me, doing these things means having less money to spend on Christmas stuff.... but it's also quite selfish.  I feel incredible doing it.  It gives me a rush.  I now see my 21 year old being the same way, and THAT is a great present.
  6. I have given up on trying to meet social etiquette requirements.  If I manage to pick up a bottle of wine to bring to the host/hostess of an event, fabulous.  If not, I am there.  I give me.  Fabulous, right? 
  7. I do not have any expectations.  Although I may put a lot of effort into getting the 'right' gift, it's not about the gift.  It's about the meaning behind the gift.  So, my practical side kicks in - return the gift if you don't like it.  You still enjoyed opening it and you still know I care.
  8. I make time by slowing down time.  My presence is the best gift I can give, but I cannot do that when my schedule is too jam packed.  When that happens, and I feel like my mind is spinning, I do tend to drop off the gift and barely say hello.  This just doesn't bode well with me.  So I do my best to fit in my meditation, mindfulness practices, and getting out in nature to reset my mind and focus on what I feel is really important.
Giving gifts is a good thing.  But it is not necessary.  It is also not necessary to give big.  Or to give to everyone.  As a grandma, you probably want to be fair to your grandchildren... I will be like that too. If you aren't happy to go purchase and give the present, maybe it's time to ask if the present has the right meaning behind it.

I am 100% in favour of giving presence for Christmas and every day, and I encourage it and continue to learn to do more of it myself.  But if you want to spend $1000 on an item for someone you love because you think this will give them joy... and you also are giving them your attention and love.... and you have the right budget for it... what's wrong with that?  

The key is to not forget the reason behind the gift and not forget to give what we can give no matter how much money we have - our attention.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Becoming a Mom... Again... Redefined

My girls
This post is long overdue.  When I returned to Canada in 2011 and shifted my blogging from Snippets From Singapore to Going Om, I wasn't quite sure what I would write about.  Several people were following me and enjoying my blogging and were excited to see what was next.  My Aunt told me I should write about becoming a mom... again.... after 40.  But I didn't.

Going Om became about my journey readjusting to life after returning to Canada, with a baby, without a job, and all the challenges and celebrations that life has brought over three years. It was about finding mindfulness in my life.  It was about getting healthy and well while chaos ensued around me.  It was about 'going om'.

But, for me, that was about being a mom... again... after 40... with all its ups and downs.

Because that's my life.  Or at least part of it.  And being a mom at any age with any number of children is more than just being a mom.  Us moms are more than moms.  We are friends and daughters and business owners and wives and yogis and runners and... and... and...

So I decided it was time to write about becoming a mom... again.... because my journey brought me to here.  And that, I believe, is something I had to accept.

I spoke at MoMondays in October 2013 about my experience of being a single mom (see a very short snippet of that here).  It was the beginning of releasing something I didn't know I was holding onto.

I had defined myself as a single mom for 20 years.  I WAS a single mom for 15 years, and then I wasn't.  I then had an awesome partner who shared in parenting.  And then I had another child.  And then I was married.  I had a whole family!  I wasn't a single mom anymore, and I didn't know how to not be one.  It was who I was for almost half of my life.

Over the past year, I have gone through a lot of wellness woes... if you've been following, you have read about a few of them.  A little while ago, I realized some of that was a result of my holding onto the definition of myself - a single mom.  I had an incredibly difficult time letting go of that version of myself because it was all I had.  All of my pride and success came from that.  I was good at it.  I managed it all so well for so long.  That 'fire in my belly' came from wanting the best for my child. And when I could no longer say I'm a single mom, I didn't know who I was.

I love my new life.  I love my husband and my toddler with all of my heart and soul.  I love my grown up daughter so much I could burst.  Amazingly, when I was pregnant on my youngest, I feared I would not have enough love to love her as much as I loved my now grown up child.  HA!  There is NEVER a lack of love.  Love can only grow.  There is always enough and then some.  Lesson number one.

I also feared I would not have time for my oldest's needs.  I would have a baby who is totally dependent on me and how on earth would I continue to devote my energy into my oldest??  Well, that didn't happen either.  First of all, I had a husband who also cared for my baby, my oldest, and me.  (I still am not used to it!)  I had to begin to allow him to do stuff.  Take care of things.  It was normal... it was his share of the work.  He calls it division of labour.  I call it awesome.  Second, my oldest was part of this baby's life - she is not a person separate from the family, and this new family thing can be pretty awesome.  She contributes and she receives.  (Maybe it's a little bit of birth control too:)

All wonderful.

Except that for a long time, I felt guilty about my husband doing things and my oldest daughter not getting 100% of my attention 100% of the time.  If my hubby got up in the night with the baby, I felt like I had fallen down on my job as a mother.  If he cooked supper... I had failed.  If he took care of getting snow tires on the car... yep... I was not worthy.  If my oldest got miffed about me not having the time to drive her to school, I was the worst mom in the world.  She was in university and we have a bus system.... yet, I was so accustomed to taking care of her every need that I didn't know how to let that go (I'm still working on that to be honest).

Crazy, hey?

But that is how it is when you define yourself by something.  I was successful in life because I was able to do it all alone (and quite well at the time).  I managed everything by myself, and was I ever proud of that!  And now I don't do it all alone.  My seemingly only success in life (oh, I know, there were many) is now something I am not successful at - because it doesn't exist.

It's not that I'm not still proud of being a wonderful single mom.  But I have had to go through a process of letting go of it.  I was hanging onto it for dear life... when it was taken away from me, I no longer had anything to be proud of.  I thought.

When I had that ah-ha moment that I was defining myself as being a single mom and I no longer was, I began to fully allow the new awesomeness into my life.  I laugh at my situation a lot - I mean, really... diapers... again.  I embrace having a toddler.  I have a renewed sense of child-like fun.  I am seeing the world through a child's eyes again.  I am actually enjoying bringing her to swimming and dance classes.... I thought I had done it, did it, got the t-shirt... but I'm actually loving it again.  I feared I wouldn't.  But once I embraced it all, instead of fearing it all, it all became so good.  So rich.  So meaningful.

And having a grown up child at the same time is 'da bomb'.

There are so many advantages to having raised a child before you have your next one... sure, yes, babysitting... but I don't expect that.  It's more about knowing that it's all going to be OK.  I don't fret about having the perfect birthday party or having the trendiest toys or the fact that she is not yet toilet trained.  I didn't really fret about that stuff for my oldest either, but I had an underlying worry that my way of parenting would mess her up.  Now, I don't really worry about that.  Because parents do mess up their children.  That's just the way it is.  No matter how hard we try not to, our parents have the greatest impact on us, and that is good... and it can also contribute to our humanly messed up ways - because parents are human too.

The first time around as a parent I used to say, "All you need is love."  And then I'd work really hard at making sure she knew she was loved and I'd worry that maybe something I said or did would have a negative impact on her future... so I'd work harder at being a perfect single mom.

Now, I know all you need is love.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

And then I ate Smarties

This morning I woke before my 3-year old.  My husband, Terry, was just leaving for work so we said our lovely good-byes.  I stretched out of bed and lingered over to my yoga mat (it's permanently on my bedroom floor) and completed 10-15 minutes of mindful breathing, stretching, and sun salutations.  Ahhhh... it is going to be a productive and wonderful day.

My toddler woke happy, we read a book, I got her dressed, she didn't fuss over breakfast.  Like, really... this day was going so smoothly! It's because I went to bed early.  That makes all the difference.

My oldest came upstairs - her bedroom/living area is downstairs.  She seems happy as usual, gets breakfast, and then makes a comment about lunch.

Daughter: "I am going to revert back to high school lunches."
Me: "What do you mean?"
Daughter: "Well, I will make a sandwich and have fruit and a granola bar."
Me: thinking... why the granola bar?? What is good about that??  Are you going to make them yourself?  Or do I have to make them? "How is that different from now?"
Daughter: "Well, I often don't eat or end up eating out for lunch."
Me; "So you are going to make your lunch and take it to school with you?"
Daughter: "No."
Me: "So.... what's the difference?"
Daughter: "Oh, never mind.  It does not matter."
Me: thinking to myself.... I'm such a bad mom for not organizing a decent lunch for my daughter....

I think I snarled.

The morning progressed.  I had no extra diapers and the daycare was out of them.  That's OK.... I'll just give the daycare the ones from home and buy more.  My toddler wanted to watch Sesame Street - she was introduced to Sesame Street for the first time a couple of weeks ago when I brought her to the live show, and then she discovered it comes on Netflix!  We were controlling screen watching by only allowing Dora a couple of times a week - she hardly had any screen time before 2 years old.  We were so proud of this feat.... yet now, it seems, we are just giving in to the screen many days when the whining hits and we are too tired to distract her with silliness or games or getting supper ready and simply can't be in the playroom putting a puzzle together AND the kitchen cooking at once.

I finally managed to get my toddler ready to get out the door... with only one trip up the stairs post boots and coat because I forgot an extra pair of pants for daycare (sometimes those trips add up to three or four).  My 21-year old gave me an apology for her words earlier.  I think I snarled again... I was still feeling the affects of my crazy belief that I must be a bad mom.... seriously?  Cracked.  It is the one thing I KNOW I'm good at.

We got to the truck.  My Dad's truck.  We've had it since his surgery and Terry usually drives it so the oldest can have access to a car.  (We all have a vehicle for now and that really does make life easier, although having an efficient public transport system would be really nice.)  My car is in the garage getting snow tires.  Terry needed to drive his car because we forgot to switch the car seat from the car in the garage to his car... so he had to go to the garage on the way to work and get the car seat, so he could pick up the toddler at the end of the day.  Clear as mud.

I am putting my little one in the truck and I bump my head.  Hard.  The sting goes down to my neck and my 21-year old laughs so hard I thought she'd pee.  Under normal circumstances, I'd laugh too.  That really is the best response.  But I didn't.   I'm 5'2" and I hit my head on a truck.  How does that happen?  I almost swore.  I breathed.  Breathe in....... breathe out...... get the 3-year old strapped in and drive.  Just get through this little itty bitty bit of pain and move on.

I get in the driver's seat.  Ahhhh... we're in.  The toddler will make it to daycare before snacktime.

When I begin to drive, I realize the brakes aren't working great (safe but I wasn't used to this truck) and the steering seems to be off.  I can't talk.  I can't get the Dora book my toddler is screaming for.  I can't apologize to my oldest before she gets out of the car.  I'm just focused on not having an accident.

Wtf?  I must focus on driving safely... not NOT having an accident.  That is totally the wrong way of thinking.  Tina.  You must practice what you preach.  Drive safely.  Drive safely.

I got to daycare in time for snack.  Phew!

I got home (my office is in my house).  I forgot to pick up coffee.  My husband had left Halloween treats in the truck (I was unaware of this until I got into the truck).  So I brought a few in the house.

And then I ate Smarties.

Now I can carry on with my productive, wonderful day <3 And let my daughter know I will support her efforts to eat healthier.  Sheesh... all it took was Smarties.