One Year Later…


It has been exactly one year ago since my last post, and I’m happy to report that Everything Turned Out Just Fine. Not long after I wrote, I applied for what turned out to be my dream job, and I got it. I’m doing things I love (and am good at), and it is completely work-from-home, so I can be there to support my kids. The company has offices around the globe, but one of the biggest is right here in my region. So before the COVID restrictions were put into place, I opted to go into the office once or twice a week. It was a good way to meet new people face-to-face and establish relationships – and an excuse to dress like a grownup! Now, however, since COVID, I work 100% from home, and I have to say I am really loving it. I’ve settled into a wonderful daily rhythm, and since the company was already set up for remote work, the transition has been seamless. Thanks to the wonders of modern communication, I am able to connect with my colleagues easily, and I don’t feel isolated at all. I make enough money to take care of myself and my kids, despite the fact that my ex owes me tons of money and has given me next to no support (the wheels of justice grind slowly, but we’re getting there). Next week, I’m taking my kids on a family holiday that I made happen and paid for all on my own, and I feel a great deal of pride in being able to do that, especially when I look back one year ago and remember how worried I was. Along with my new job, and the newfound sense of pride it gives me, I have found a level of peace and happiness and contentment that I haven’t known in a long time. It was hard to let go of my marriage, but I can honestly say that I am in a much better place now, and better off for everything that happened. I love my life here with my kids and my friends, and every day I am grateful for where I’ve ended up.

200px-Intermittent_fasting.svgI also wanted to provide an update on Intermittent Fasting. I still practice this way of eating, almost two years since I started, which was right after (Canadian) Thanksgiving 2018. Over the first 3 months, I lost about 8-10 pounds, but then I hit a plateau. I was working on it when my marriage fell apart, and the stress and emotional trauma caused me to lose 20 lbs in about 3 months, which was not healthy for me, by the way. Despite realizing that it was not a Good Thing, I confess that I sure loved my new “divorce body”. When I recovered and began healing from that experience, I was determined not to pack on all the weight again. I knew that Intermittent Fasting would help with that. Even during the worst of times, when my appetite was minimal, I never really got out of the habit of eating later in the day, so going back to conscious fasting was easy. I made sure I ate delicious, healthy meals at dinner time, but otherwise I stuck with my usual one-meal-a-day pattern. I got to a healthy weight and have maintained that weight, give or take 3 or 4 pounds up and down, ever since. It’s the goal weight that I had originally set for myself when I began this journey almost two years ago, so I’m pretty pleased with that.

Since I began doing Intermittent Fasting, it has gained hugely in popularity. There has even been a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine about it. I can tell you that I still find it almost effortless to go without eating for 19 hours or more, and the fact that it is so effortless tells me that this is how our bodies are designed. I’m working with my hormones and instincts, rather than against them. Contrast this with caloric restriction spread throughout the day, which resulted in me battling constant hunger, having obsessive thoughts about food, and ultimately just binging when I couldn’t take it anymore. That felt like my body was fighting me every step of the way; intermittent fasting feels like the exact opposite, like my body is saying “Thank You!” by making me feel great. I still eat pretty much whatever foods I like, and I almost never go without dessert (my staple are those mini, Halloween-sized chocolate bars. I have 2-3 after dinner and that satisfies me). However, I will confess that my tastes have moved towards healthier foods over the last couple years, as many people who practice this way of eating report, and I also don’t like huge meals anymore, which used to feel like a luxurious indulgence that I looked forward to as a “treat”. I find myself being quite content with more rational serving sizes, even when it’s a food I enjoy, which I think is evidence that I am more in touch with my satiety signals than I was before. Anyways, all of this is to say that I absolutely love living this lifestyle – the idea of going back to 3 meals a day feels like a punishment. I don’t know many “diets” that are like that. But this really doesn’t feel like a diet at all, it is just how I live my life.

Lastly, my kids first year in public school was thrown off kilter by the coronavirus pandemic. It took them a long time to settle into the new environment, and just as we were making some headway, it all came to a halt. It seems likely that students will not be allowed to return full time in September, so I’ve hired a tutor to help them with their schooling. Both kids are behind, but we’re not stressing about it. I know too well from my years teaching university students that kids who take a break and/or enter post-secondary education older tend to do a lot better.

Last year was probably the most difficult one of my life. But when I look back on it, I’m grateful: for the lessons it taught me about resilience and healthy coping skills, for the new opportunities it brought to my life, and for landing in such a good and happy place. I feel like now, more than ever, I cherish each and every day, because for a while there I couldn’t imagine that it could be this good. And the lessons I’ve learned are bringing a whole new level of peace and contentment to my life. So here’s to happy endings.

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The D-Word

A few months ago, I found myself in a place I never expected to be: facing the end of my 17-year marriage. It was not my idea to separate, and for a while I fought against it with everything I had. Unfortunately, relationships require two interested parties, and it eventually sank in that I was alone in my desire to save this one. Getting to that place of acceptance was the most painful experience of my life. But time is working its healing powers, and I’m beginning to focus on the path ahead, rather than what I’ve lost.

That I made it through this difficult transition at all is a testament to the power of love and friendship. I am blessed to be part of a close-knit community, and the support I received from the people around me cannot be underestimated. I am also blessed to have a handful of lifelong friends who carried me through the worst of this experience. Finally, I credit the good fortune of having a naturally optimistic and positive temperament: I just cannot seem to stay down for long.

Having turned 50 not too long ago, I had begun to think I was on the retirement end of my career path. Now, faced with having to provide for myself and my family, I suddenly find myself perusing job-hunting websites. This is terrifying for any woman who has remained largely at home in a parenting and homemaking role for the last several years, let alone a women who is into her second half-century of life. But the privilege of being home with my kids during those precious childhood years came with the price of being financially dependent on another human being. It was hard enough processing the end of a relationship that spanned decades without the added fear of losing the house that nourishes my soul and is set amongst a supportive neighbourhood of friends. Staying here has become my top priority, and to do so I will need to find more sources of income.

When I moved to this rural community, I did not expect to be looking for work in an advanced scientific field, and I certainly never expected to find anything like that here. Added to that is the difficulty of working full time outside the home. My children have autism and are prone to high anxiety; when I’m away too often, or for too long, their anxiety increases, and this creates problems for themselves and others around them. They don’t attend regular school, and they have regular appointments with various therapists, so their schedules are complicated. My plan right now is to find work that I can do mostly from home. I currently have two part-time jobs that allow me to do so, and I’m looking for a third to round out my income. Alternatively, I’m keeping my eyes open for a full-time job that allows me to work at least part of the time from home.

Over the last few years I have embraced the concept of Gratitude and the power it has to bring joy into one’s life. And while it may seem counterintuitive, gratitude has the most power when life brings us the most pain. While recognizing that I must allow myself to grieve the loss of my marriage, and the future I thought was laid out before me, I am also trying to focus on gratitude for what I have, and the new possibilities ahead.

First and foremost, I have renewed gratitude for those Best of Friends who are there when you need them the most. They readily gave of their time and energy to support me through the darkest times, and I was ashamed that I had not given half as much to staying in touch more often, or pay attention to what was going on in their lives. I have sworn to put more effort into letting these amazing people know just how much I love and value their friendship, and I’m grateful for the reminder to do so.

I am also grateful for the precious gift of my two children and the time I was able to spend with them over all these years as a stay-home mum. The relationship I have with these blossoming adults is precious to me, but as they become more independent and immersed in their friends and pursuits, spending quality time with them requires more planning and intention. Without the distraction of another adult in my life, I am focussing more on spending quality time with the kids. When I consider how few years I have left living with the both of them, I am grateful for this reminder.

Finally, I am grateful for this place I call home. I was born and raised here on the beautiful West Coast of Canada, and the land speaks to my heart. You cannot travel here without being reminded of its beauty. Whether I’m hiking on foot along empty forestry roads with spectacular views or forested trails ringing with bird song, driving along a highway with vistas of trees and mountains, or taking the ferry across the Salish Sea with its majestic coastlines and ocean life…I am surrounded by spectacular natural beauty. People travel all over the world to see what I live amongst every day, and I am so grateful.


I didn’t want my marriage to end, and I am still grieving that loss. They say that divorce is right up there with the death of a loved one in terms of life stressors. I’ve lost a loved one before (my brother), and in some ways divorce has been much more difficult to process. With death, there is no-one to blame and no way to get that person back. Divorce is not so simple, and neither are the emotions that go with it. I have moments of intense sadness and heartache, other times I feel angry and betrayed. I try to avoid feeling like a victim, but it’s hard not to see this as something that was done to me, rather than something that just happened. I feel jaded and bitter about relationships, and have a quiet envy of people with intact marriages. I also experience stress and anxiety as I worry about my future and that of my children. Where will we live? What will I be doing for work? Will I be able to support myself into retirement? Will I be able to help my kids establish independent lives for themselves?

As time goes by, the negative emotions happen less frequently, and I occasionally have moments where I feel really good and positive about the future. I manage my stress and fear through yoga, meditation, and hiking. And I have found great comfort in focussing on the here and now. A dear friend shared this advice with me early on in this process, and I have found it a good mantra when I need to calm my fears:

Don’t waste time worrying about the past, because it’s over and nothing in the universe can change it; Don’t waste time worrying about the future, because it is unknown and you cannot affect it; Instead, focus on today, on making the most of each and every moment.

I’m at the age where I understand that life really is about the journey. Not the plans we have for the future and the places we imagine we will be one day, but the here and now, today. We tend to move through the days with our eyes closed, focussing on specific events coming up on our calendars and moving on autopilot through the rest. And so when I find myself experiencing sadness or fear, I try to focus on just today. What plans do I have? What do I feel grateful for today? What are the high points of my day, and what challenges have I met? Each day is a new opportunity, a moment to be treasured (or borne with grace). I don’t want to waste any of them by dwelling in a past that is over, or fearing a future that just might be wonderful after all.

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Intermittent Fasting Update (Week 7)

51nXYd8YVBL._SL320_In my last post I had embarked on an intermittent fasting journey, a new Way of Eating (WOE) called One Meal a Day (using the Gin Stephens method). I am just about through my 7th week, and the benefits have been everything that was advertised. I am so enjoying this WOE that I doubt I will ever go back to eating all day long. Here are some of the benefits:

Weight Loss: the graph below shows a steady downward trend in my weight. Week 3 was a difficult “adjustment week” for me. I experienced a lot of hunger during that time, and I probably ate more than I should have, which may explain the brief upward trend. But by Week 4 that intense hunger had gone and the weight began to go down again. As of today I have lost over 6 lbs in 7.5 weeks, which is a healthy rate of loss. Three days ago I broke out of the 150’s and into the 140’s, having not seen such weights in well over a year (and even then it was only temporary, as I was unable to sustain the needed caloric restriction without being ravenously hungry).

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The bottom axis labels are a bit off (shifted to the right). I started on Oct 8.

Hunger: as promised by the proponents of intermittent fasting, dealing with hunger soon ceased to be an issue. I still feel hunger sometimes, but it’s a mild sensation that doesn’t bother me and doesn’t last very long. There’s a saying among IF-ers: “hunger is not an emergency”. You feel grumbling in your tummy and you no longer feel the need to drop everything and eat. It’s like passing gas – it’s just something your body does! It feels very freeing to live this way. I’m still amazed at how easy it is to fast for long periods of time (I average 19 – 20 hours of fasting each day).

Satiety: You need a lot less food each day than you might think. Especially if you are overweight. Think about it: if you have all that extra fat – why does your body need so much food? Fasting allows you to burn those fat stores easily, and so you just don’t need as much food as you used to. For example, one day I broke my fast with a rather large snack as my mother had come to visit and we were sitting there eating while chatting. I had cheese, nuts, raisin scones with butter, focaccia bread with olive oil and vinegar, and a pot of tea (with lots of milk and sugar). I was very full afterwards but it was only 3:30 pm (my usual window is 2 – 7 pm). I assumed I would eat dinner, but when the time came I was still full and not the least bit hungry. Part of me thought “this can’t be enough food – I’ll be starving tomorrow!”, but knowing I could get through hunger if I needed to gave me the courage to listen to my body and just not eat any more food. The next day was no different than any other day in terms of hunger, and this was the big “Ah-HA!” moment for me: I realized I can just listen to my body and stop eating when I am full and there are no negative consequences. Now, I no longer worry about how much I’ve eaten – I eat until I’m full and then stop. This the healthy relationship I have always wanted with food.

Obsessive Thoughts about Food: I have spent years battling my obsession over sweets and desserts. I keep them out of my house to avoid temptation, so when I come across them, an obsessive mindset would take over. If you are familiar with “scarcity thinking”, the thoughts were kind of like that (“eat it while you have the chance!”). For example, recently I was at a meeting that had a small buffet table in the corner of the room. It had cookies and little tarts filled with fruit and cream. In the past, there is NO WAY that I would have walked past that table and not taken any of the desserts – besides loving sweets, my mind would say “they’re free! When will I get such an opportunity again? it’s just this one time!”…and of course I’d have to try one of everything. But this time I had NO desire to eat them. They were obviously store-bought and I was quite sure they would not end up tasting very good, definitely not worthy of breaking my fast! (on another occasion, I was offered a delicious hand-made treat from a local bakery – I wrapped it in a napkin and took it home and enjoyed it after my window opened!). As another example, we go to my mother’s house every couple of weeks for a delicious home-cooked meal, and she always serves dessert. I would have 2 or 3 helpings of dessert even though I was stuffed from eating dinner, because the feeling of eating that delicious food was like drugs to my brain – little explosions of dopamine with every bite! Then I would take the leftover cake home and end up eating more before I went to bed, to get rid of the “temptation” as quickly as possible. I suppose I thought of it as “bad food” and since I never allowed myself to have such things in the house, I would feel the need to get rid of it quickly and go back to being “good”. Well, all that has changed now. I can eat dessert every day if I want, but I don’t want to. I don’t crave sweets the way I used to. Yes, I still love dessert and pastries and sweet things. But not only has the “scarcity mindset” gone away, there is a noticeable and significant change in the feelings that those foods arouse in me. There is something about the effects of IF on insulin levels that, I believe, has rid me of those obsessive feelings, the urges that at times seemed so powerful they were beyond my control. The only time I was able to do this before was cutting out all sugar completely. That is not a life worth living!…(as an added bonus, I have begun to feel cravings for protein and vegetables and that is definitely new!)

Home Cooking: for years I have denied myself healthy home-cooked meals, the foods that I grew up with, that bring feelings of comfort, love, and happiness. Why? Because I could not control my portions, because trying to count the calories in a home-made recipe is a huge chore, because eating foods like white rice (a staple in my family’s diet) would cause those obsessive feelings and I would eat way too much of it. Now with IF, I have re-discovered the joy of cooking. I am remembering old favourite recipes, and eating healthy, balanced, delicious meals. Some examples: pork sausages with mashed sweet potatoes (butter and brown sugar!), roasted carrots and green beans (butter, cinnamon, and cumin); curried chicken thighs with basmati rice and stir-fried veggies; classic beef and vegetable stir fry over white rice; “all the leftovers” fried rice; mushroom risotto; pasta with beef bolognese; huge salads with cranberries, avocados, and toasted nuts. I almost always have dessert, but that usually means fruit (it’s Pumelo season right now) and a bit of chocolate (Cadbury has new mini chocolate bars, my current favorite is hazelnut), not because I’m trying to “be good” but because that is what I feel like having. I’m also planning on getting back into baking. I’m a pretty good baker, and I used to really enjoy it, but I could not be around all that sweet food without overeating. Now I’m planning on making homemade bread again, baking fresh buns to go with dinner, or crust for a homemade pizza. I’m also excited about baking Xmas cookies this year – I have some great recipes that I love. With IF and the adjustments in my appetite, cravings, and attitude towards food, I can have these things around and it isn’t a problem.

Mindless Snacking: I would say that a good deal of my weight issues stemmed from evening snacking. It was such a habit that when I was calorie counting, I would deliberately save anywhere from 200 – 400 calories for just that, and it was mostly made up of chocolate. Of course, the problem with calorie counting is that it was easier to justify having just one more little thing “it’s only an extra 60 calories, no big deal”. But with fasting, it’s all or nothing and for whatever reason it has served as the great gatekeeper against evening snacks. Only once in my 7 weeks of IF have I succumbed to the urge to have evening snacks. Otherwise, I simply do not eat after my window closes. But I am now realizing that I would also eat food just because it was there: Leftover lasagna? Better eat that. Oh look, there’s some fruit and yogurt in the fridge, I should eat that. In the past, I would have eaten that food even though I was not hungry. That fact has become crystal clear to me now, and I think “no wonder I put on weight, I was eating food that I didn’t need at all”. I’m continually surprised by how easy it was to do that. Again, it goes back to truly listening to your body: don’t eat if you aren’t really hungry. That was much harder to do before IF, now I find it easy.

So these are just a few of the many benefits of intermittent fasting. It has accomplished my greatest wish – healing my relationship with food. The weight loss is just an added bonus, and I can say with confidence that even if I did not lose weight, I would continue with this WOE because of the healthy mindset it brings around food. Many people doing IF/OMAD talk about “freedom”. That is really a great word that sums it all up. Freedom from distracting hunger, freedom from cravings, freedom from food obsessing, freedom to eat what you love, freedom from calorie counting, freedom to listen to your body and follow its cues, freedom to get stuff done during the day without being a slave to regular mealtimes, freedom to eat less and have it be plenty, freedom to say “no” to “free food” that you don’t even really want, freedom to enjoy a night out at a restaurant or a vacation or holiday feast without any feelings of guilt. The list goes on…I absolutely LOVE this WOE and can never imagine going back. Nobody has ever said that about a diet. But of course this isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle.

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One Meal a Day: a new eating plan


There are blog posts here going back to at least 2011 where I discuss attempts to eat “healthy” and control my weight. Like many people, over the last few decades of adulthood I have slowly gained weight, going from 128 lbs in my 20’s to 152 lbs at age 50, which is where I’ve been sitting at for the last year or so. For the last 7 or 8 years I have tried various eating plans to lose weight. I’ve done low-carb, Paleo, and calorie-counting, and although all have been successful, they have not been sustainable. After a while I “fall off the wagon”, regain the weight, and when I try again I just can’t seem to stick to it.

As I tried to figure out where I was going wrong, I began to look at my eating habits and I realized there were some issues. First, I love sugar. I crave it. Second, I often eat even when I am not hungry. If it’s a dessert I love, I will eat more even if I’m so full my stomach feels bloated and uncomfortable. Third, I stopped eating “normal” foods, the home-cooked recipes I love, because I lacked portion control. Especially with rice and stir-fries! Frozen dinners are portion- and calorie-controlled so they are my go-to meal. And yes, it’s depressing to feel I can’t make a home-made meal because I can’t stop myself from eating too much of it.

I had been pondering these things for a while, when this past weekend I ran into an old friend, and she happened to mention she was on an intermittent fasting (IF) plan. We didn’t have too much time to talk, but when she mentioned “getting my eating hormones in balance so I don’t overeat or crave foods, and so I can stop when I’m full” well, that rang a bell for me. Also, I’d heard a lot about the benefits of fasting but felt there was no way I could go all day without eating – my friend told me she eats during a 5-hour window each day. So I asked her for a link, and that night I downloaded the book “Delay, Don’t Deny” by Gin Stephens. I read it cover to cover and decided the next day (yesterday) to start IF with the recommended 5-hour window. I know on days when I’m very busy I can go to 2 pm or later without eating, so I figured if I started my window somewhere around that time, I could do it.

The book got me motivated but left me with many questions about how it worked, so I bought the recommended “Obesity Code” by Drs. Timothy Noakes and Jason Fung. I’m half way through it and enjoying it so far. It seems to be answering my questions. But I’ve done enough of these to know that this could just be the next fad for me. I’m approaching this with a healthy dose of skepticism. But I think the benefits, if they are what is claimed, could be really good for me.

Yesterday, the kids and I were travelling back to the Island from Thanksgiving weekend in Vancouver. I woke up feeling a bit queasy, probably from all the overeating the night before, and figured I could last until 3 pm. But by 1:15 I was feeling quite dizzy and unwell. Although this is to be expected at first, I was still facing a 1-hour highway drive after we got off the ferry, and I did not want to put my family at risk. I broke my fast at 1:15 with a packet of peanut M&Ms that happened to be in my purse. When I came home, I had some cheese, apples, and cherry tomatoes. Then I made one of my favourite soups – fave bean and rice – which I haven’t made in ages. That became my dinner, and I followed it up with a packet of sesame snaps and a mini Kit Kat for dessert. I actually had no trouble not eating after that, despite the fact that I often struggle with wanting snacks in the evening.

Today (Day 2) I went until 2 pm. I decided to keep myself busy in the morning, because I know that when I have a busy day I often go without eating, and without any problems. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, so I tackled a big project. I took down all the window screens, washed them, lay them out in the sun to dry, then packed them away in the basement. I then washed the outsides of all the windows on the house. By then it was after noon, and although I was very hungry, I was also exhausted (I’m coming down with a cold), so I lay on the sofa and sipped water and read a book until it was time to eat. I broke my fast with a big bowl of my soup, and now I’m having my beloved pot of tea.

The biggest obstacle I faced to taking on this challenge was my routine of having a pot of sweet, milky tea in the morning. I didn’t think I could give that up, until I realized two things. First, I can have it during my window (like I’m doing right now), and second – I’m much more productive without it! Previously, my routine was to sit down at my desk with my pot of tea…and before I knew it, half the day had gone by. Many big projects around the house were not getting done, because by afternoon I’m tired and have less energy. A huge bonus to this IF lifestyle is that I want to keep busy in the mornings to avoid hunger and cravings. So, when I’m home, I am going to tackle a project each morning (if I don’t have work or other commitments). I will also start scheduling errands after I drop the kids off, rather than trying to put them off – as I often do – so that I can enjoy my pot of tea. I’m looking forward to being much more productive!

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Bullet Journal Update: 1 Year

It has been one whole year since I began Bullet Journalling, and I am still at it, which just goes to show how successful this planning system has been. I have never stuck with any planner for more than a couple of months. I thought it would be fun to do an update and show how my BuJo system has evolved over the last year (read this post to learn about Bullet Journalling, and this post for a tour of my BuJo from last year).

One of the defining features of the Bullet Journal is its adaptability. More than anything else, I think this explains why so many people have found lasting success with the BuJo system. Just looking at the changes I’ve made over the past year really brings this point home.

The first thing I’ve changed is my index, which serves as a Table of Contents. If you are using a Leuchtturm1917 (the most popular journal) then it comes with a built-in Index. I used to make a note for every page of my journal, but I found that I rarely ever referred to the Index. So now I only note the start of each month and any collections I have, rather than trying to document every page. You can see the difference here between last year (on the left) and this year (on the right).

IMG_4173   IMG_4174

Also, I adopted the practice of marking the start of each month with a strip of washi tape along the edge of the page, which made it really easy to flip back to earlier months on the rare occasion when I wanted to find something there.


In terms of spreads, I’m still doing my monthly spreads with the same vertical format, and I have stuck with the practice of only listing those appointments and events that are not regularly scheduled. I still rely heavily on my Google Calendar for scheduling, and I refer to it when I’m doing my monthly and weekly planning. I’m still tracking garbage pickup days, and now that I have a cleaning service (more on that below), I track them as well (both are every-other-week events). I also added a dividing line to provide a quick visual of the weeks.


The biggest change in my BuJo has been my weekly and daily spreads. I went back and forth with using, or not using, a weekly spread, but it just wasn’t clicking for me. First, I found that I was basically repeating my monthly entries in the weekly calendar, and then having to repeat them again in the daily spreads was getting too redundant. Second, my weekly spreads allowed me to easily list to-dos that weren’t time sensitive, but sometimes I would want to assign a task to a specific day of the week ahead. Drawing arrows to the date made the whole thing look pretty messy. Third, some weeks had little going on, so I wasn’t always maximizing the page. Fourth – and this is something only a certain type of personality can relate to – but the combination of one weekly spread plus two pages of daily spreads meant that I was starting new weeks on alternating sides of the journal, and the daily spreads would sometimes be separated, which I did not like. Finally, I didn’t like having to flip back and forth between the weekly and daily spreads so often while tracking my to-do list.


All of this was in the back of my mind, percolating away, when my favourite BuJo guru, Kara Benz of Boho Berry, provided me with the perfect solution: a daily/weekly hybrid.

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This spread provides the look-ahead ability I wanted from my weekly spread, with room for daily modifications. It solves the page-flipping dilemma, and allows for maximization of page space. I’ve been using it for 4 weeks now and I love it (you can hear Kara talking about the daily/weekly hybrid in her January 2018 Plan With Me video).

As Kara did, I started out with the vertical layout. I love the look! But after a while, she and I ran into the same problem: not enough room for writing effectively. I found I was deliberately trying to shorten the name of a task so that I wouldn’t have to use up another line for text.


Also, the weekend spaces have much less room. Although this might make sense for most people, I have a lot of tasks that fall on the weekends because that is when my daughter’s homeschool reporting is due, and when the next week’s assignments are released. As noted in this recent post, I’ve taken a much bigger role in her homeschooling this year, and my BuJo has been a huge help in keeping me organized and on track. I needed more space for weekend entries.

It just so happens that Kara was doing a “One Month in My Bullet Journal” feature, where she posts a daily planning video for each day of February. So I got to see her working through the layouts day by day. It was during this month that she decided to try a new layout for her daily/weekly hybrid:

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I thought this might be the solution I was looking for, and I could not wait for the next week to begin so I could try it. I’m about halfway through the week now, and although it is working really well, I’m unhappy with the choices I’ve made for marking the days.


I thought it looked messy and so, using the back pages of my previous year’s journal, I played around with different elements until I figured out what I didn’t like. My original intention was to use one colour for regularly scheduled events (like taking the kids to the learning centre), and another colour for those that aren’t regular events as a way of making them stand out. But I think in the end it just looks chaotic. Also, I really wanted the events to be arranged in order of appointment time, and to appear before the daily tasks, but that doesn’t allow much flexibility when events change or when new ones are added during the week. Finally, I did not like the practice of leaving a blank line between rows. It just takes up too much room. I also tried to leave a blank line between my daily tasks, but there were too many and I had to infill some lines. The irregular line spacing made it all look untidy.

After trying out some different systems, I settled in on using one non-black colour for events and marking them with a circle, which is actually how they are keyed in the original bullet journal system. Daily tasks are done with black ink and marked with a dot. I’m going to stop focussing on trying to get the events all in one place and the tasks in another – having two colours should make this easier. I also realized that the pen I’m  using (a Staedtler triplus fineliner) is too thick for this application. I borrowed my daughter’s Pigma Micron 03 and it was perfect, so I’m off to order some Microns for myself.

Making these choices also solved another nagging issue: an easy visual indication of what day I’m on. With my old daily spreads, the current day was simply the last entry on the page. The empty space below it clearly marked where I was at in the week. For example, here it is easy to see that I’m on Wednesday.


Kara does a bit of journalling on each day of her daily/weekly hybrid page, and that provides a ready visual cue that the day has been completed.

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I didn’t think I would have room for journalling, but when practising my new layout, I found that I likely would have some room. I’m going to try it next week and see how it goes.

This example of tweaking the daily and weekly hybrids is the perfect illustration of why I love the Bullet Journal system. Each week and/or month you have the opportunity to try something new, and experiment with layouts and designs until you have something that fits you at that particular time. If things change for you, the layout can change with you.

The final update in this year’s BuJo is in regard to my collections. Although my old BuJo wasn’t used up by the end of 2017, I decided to start the new year with a new journal. That meant facing the task of migrating my collections over. It really showed me how little I use most of them, as fun as they were to create. This year, I’ve narrowed it down to two collections so far. The first was a total revamping of my housekeeping chores list. Last fall I was crazy busy with work, and my husband has been travelling a lot, so I finally bit the bullet and hired a housecleaning service. They come every other week, and that has significantly changed my housekeeping task list. Rather than daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks, I was able to narrow it down to a monthly tracker for most things, and a yearly for the longer-term tasks.

I also created an entire tracker for bedding changes. When we moved into the new house everyone got new quality mattresses, and I want them to last. With three beds and my insistence on rotating the mattresses, I really needed a way to keep track of who had their bedding changed, when, and which way I rotated the mattress.


Most tasks don’t need to be done more than twice a month. The list on the left provides two boxes per month, where I enter the date that the task was done. A few tasks should be done more often, and those are listed along the bottom with room for up to 6 entries per month, though I would not normally do them more than 3 times per month. Finally, on the right is my Bedding Tracker.

As I’m typing this, I’m sick with my first really bad cold of the year. I had a couple of mild cold bugs earlier this year, but for some time now I’ve wanted to keep track of how often I get sick with colds, and the start of 2018 gave me that chance.


The key is on the facing page (I neglected to make room for that when I drew this out), and provides three colour-coded levels of severity. Green is for mild colds, where I feel a bit crappy but I can still exercise and get through my day. Yellow is for when I don’t feel up to exercising, and/or I may jam out of any minor tasks and appointments. Magenta is for severe bugs where I’m basically in bed as much as possible, cancel pretty much everything, and feel really horrid.

So that is my Bullet Journal system as of February 2018. I want to add that I spend a bit of time each morning, while I have a pot of tea, doing my daily planning. Often I’ll watch one of Kara’s videos while I’m at it. It is a part of my day that I really enjoy; I find it quite meditative. You definitely don’t need to go all fancy with colours and illustrations, but if that is your thing, then it’s just an added bonus.

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A Homeschooling Parent Again!


Although my kids have been homeschooled since kindergarten, the last few years have seen my workload as homeschooling parent diminish significantly as the kids began attending therapeutic day programs (“learning centres”). It has been probably three or four years since I’ve played an active role in their education. But as of this year, my role has been renewed.

Although they have been enrolled in the same provincially-funded homeschool program from the beginning, this year Mira* began the high school program (Grade 10). This is a huge change from the K-9 program, and reflects the brand new curriculum adopted in our province this year. I’ll talk more about our experience with the new curriculum in a subsequent post (spoiler: I’m loving it!). This post is about my renewed duties as a homeschooling parent, and how much I’m enjoying it.

During the elementary learning years, I used a very free approach to learning (thus the name of this blog) that some might call “unschooling”. It was basically a child-led approach to learning, where I simply followed the kids’ natural interests. My job was to ensure they had access to resources, learning experiences, and materials to help them fully explore their subject of interest. In later years, I adopted Lori Pickert’s Project Based Homeschooling approach. “Project Time”, as we called it, was a prescribed time of day when the kids would get my undivided attention for a more focussed examination of their topics of interest, encouraging them to think of what they were doing as learning and to be a bit more self-reflective of that process. But mostly, our homeschooling approach was pretty hands-off in terms of work on my part. I just showed up and facilitated – there were no lesson plans or homework, and the only tests were the required standardized tests given in Grades 4 and 7.

However, now that my eldest is in the high school program, we are following a much more structured approach to learning. The program is based entirely online, and each week Mira is given a list of tasks and assignments to complete. Most of the Grade 10 coursework takes place within a “Themed Workshop”, a place where kids can explore the various “core competencies” (what we used to know as “prescribed learning outcomes”) within a topic that is of particular interest to them. They offer a large selection of Themes to suit every interest, from Music to Video Games, from Animals to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). There are also separate courses for Math and an Elective.

Because Mira has executive functioning deficits, she finds it difficult to organize her work and to break down complex instructions into a clear path of specific tasks. The format of the high school program is really neat, but it does take some getting used to. Sometimes I have to play around with the learning materials to figure out exactly what they are asking the kids to do and which materials are mandatory, optional, or recommended. And because this was the first year of this program, there was a huge learning curve for the parents, learners, and teachers. There were several hiccups at first, and some tweaks were made over the first two terms (there are 4 terms in the academic year), but things are running smoothly now.

Through trial and error, Mira and I developed a system whereby each week I write out a list of tasks for her, broken down over the four days she attends the learning centre. These tasks are drawn directly from her course assignments and the learning materials that go with them (videos, quizzes, articles, etc). She gets academic time twice per day at the learning centre, which is when she works through her list. Most of the assignments and learning materials she is able to work on herself at the learning centre. But there are some that are a bit too complex for her to do on her own, and so these we do together at home where I can mentor her (note: the learning centre is a therapeutic program for homeschooled kids with autism and related disabilities; although they offer time for academic work, it is not staffed by teachers – the main emphasis of the program is on social skills and related therapies).

The process of sharing and documenting her work is also somewhat complex, and I have taken on the task of doing that as well. The goal is for her to slowly take on more and more of this work, but since she is brand new to the concept of assignments and deadlines for homework, we are taking this one step at a time.

I cannot emphasize enough just how much I am enjoying my new role as homeschooling parent! The learning platform is really engaging, and I’m so impressed with how well they have put the lessons together. I really enjoy creating her list each weekend, and checking in with her throughout the week to see how she is progressing. On weekends we take some time to wrap up loose ends, or work on any assignments she needs help with. It has been really fun to engage directly with her about her learning – like the old days – but the topics are more diverse and I love getting to see and hear her insights into the subject matter.

She has really poured her heart into this program, even though it has been a huge adjustment for her. The work load is a massive change from her previous learning experiences. At times she felt overwhelmed, but she kept at it and she is improving in leaps and bounds with each term. I’ve also discovered that she thrives on the structure, while also benefitting from the freedom of expression that is an integral part of the new curriculum.

With this new program, my work load has increased, too. I would say I am now devoting several hours a week to tracking her work, reviewing the assignments, creating the lists, working with her on specific assignments, creating new assignments from the supplementary materials they provide (when students need to catch up on certain topics), and then the weekly reporting and uploading of all her work to the online portfolios for each course. But I am just loving it – best job ever! I am so grateful that I get to be this involved with my child’s learning journey.

And, I can’t wait for my other child to start! In fact, even though Luka is only in Grade 8, I have plans to start creating assignments for him along the same format as the high school program, using the supplemental materials library provided to all learners. If I don’t get to it by the end of this year, I will for sure be doing it for Grade 9. This will hopefully save him a bit of the learning curve when he gets to Grade 10, but I’ve also seen what a great tool this is for allowing me to better assess their learning. By working with Luka ahead of time, I’ll be able to identify any gaps in his learning and do some supplementary work so that he is ready for high school when the time comes. I also just enjoy it so much that I’d like to be able to engage with him in the same way as I’m engaging with his sister. It has been a great confidence booster for Mira to see her progress and get feedback, and I think Luka would benefit from that as well. It’s also a nice way to connect with my teenagers!


For many years now in this blog, I have referred to my two children using the pseudonyms “Miss Em” for my girl and “Mr. Boo” for my boy. These are based on baby names I used to call them as infants and toddlers, and they don’t seem appropriate anymore given they are teenagers now! Therefore, I decided to assign them new pseudonyms. I chose the names that I had first chosen for my future kids, back before I was married. In the end, they received different names, but I thought they would be a good choice for my blog. I’m not one of those people who fear the Internet and the lack of privacy that comes with it, but I do believe that my children have the right to choose for themselves how public they wish to be.

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Finding my Biological Mother


In my last post I wrote about how I was researching my family tree, and found my biological mother. It took several days to contact her, and as I’m not a patient person, the waiting was difficult. Finally I was able to email her “the letter” telling her who I was. She was understandably shocked, and from her first response I suspected that the entire episode was one she had hoped to forget. She told me that only a handful of people knew about my birth, that she had never told her children because she was ashamed, and that she wanted to keep it that way.

I felt defensive about that at first. It was exciting to learn that I had a half-sister. She looked like me, and based on her Facebook profile she apparently shares my love of horses. I felt that, as an adult, she had a right to know about me. But I wasn’t in any rush, and I decided to take it slowly with my birth mother and see if she might warm up to the idea once she’d gotten over the shock.

She offered to answer any questions I might have, and over the next few days we emailed back and forth. Although I was enjoying the conversation, and she was being very polite and generous with the information, I could tell that she was not interested in going any further. She was glad to know I’d had a great life and wonderful parents, but she did not ask any questions about me or my children. She kept her answers on topic, and I began to suspect that this whole ordeal was something she was just trying to get through so she could close this chapter forever.

My last email to her that evening was to offer her an “out”. I could not think of any other questions, and I was conscious that this whole situation was stressful for her. I told her that if she wanted to continue the conversation, that would be okay, but otherwise I was done with my questions. As I went to bed that night, I realized that the thought of ending our correspondence brought with it sadness, but also a palpable sense of relief. Although the conversation with her is one I will cherish forever, the whole experience of finding her and learning the identity of my birth father (more on that in a subsequent post) was very emotional and even overwhelming at times. I felt I had effectively “checked out” of my normal life for the last several days, and the idea that I could close this door and get back to my life was appealing.

The next morning, her reply proved that my instincts were right – reading between the lines it was clear she was not looking for anything from me, and simply felt she had a duty to provide me with answers. She was gracious and kind, and I have so much respect for her. I’ve now changed my mind about my half-sister: I simply cannot contact her knowing it would cause my birth mother so much pain and distress. Besides, when I really had a chance to think about all of this, I realized that there was nothing I wanted from this person, anyway. In the end, I look at this entire experience as a gift to myself as I prepare for my 50th birthday this year. I know my story now, and I’m content with that.


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The True Meaning of Family


In my last post I talked about the results of my DNA ancestry test, and how it started me wondering about my family tree. I’ve tried researching my family tree before, but it didn’t feel right researching my adoptive family, and I could not really explain why. Then a friend who is adopted told me that most adoptees were given names by their birth mothers. It was a requirement, apparently (a rather cruel one, if you ask me). She said I could send away for a copy of my original birth certificate to find out, and so I did. My intention was to use the information to research my family tree, though I knew that finding my birth parents might also come out of this.

My certificate was waiting for me when we returned from a family holiday, and I learned my birth name and the name of my birth mother. I immediately searched her on the Internet, but found nothing, so I moved on to the family tree. I got an account on Ancestry and began my research. I found one record for my birth mother, a baptism record, which gave me the names of my biological grandparents. From there it was pretty easy work to trace back my grandfather’s line to 4 or 5 generations. I spent several days putting together a detailed family tree, and I was enjoying myself immensely. The process appeals to both my interest in history and my obsessive need to categorize things and place them in order.

What I found interesting was the immediate connection I felt to this family. I felt that this was my family, that these were my great-grandparents and great-great-Aunts and second cousins. This was my story, and I felt that I rightly belonged there regardless of the circumstances of my birth.

But I also understood that a family tree is a story: it does not capture the interpersonal relationships, the individual personalities, or their day to day lives. These are two different aspects of what it means to be a family – the story, and the actual people. I felt very strongly that I deserved my place in this family tree, that this was my story as much as anybody else’s in the tree. But that was not the same thing as feeling part of a family, the people who raise you and with whom you develop relationships based on blood ties. That lesson was to become more clear to me as time went on.

But it did explain why I had been unable to get emotionally invested in creating a family tree for my adoptive parents. I would have this nagging sensation that these were not my people. That puzzled me, because I have never felt disconnected from my family in any way. I have never felt any holes in my life as a result of being adopted. The whole thing just didn’t make much sense to me at the time, but now I understood. Because a family tree is just one kind of story, and I did not really belong in that story for my adoptive family. And that was okay.

Going back through my maternal grandfather’s line was pretty easy, but my grandmother’s line proved a bit more difficult because the first record I found for her turned out to be for a different person (same name, same year of birth). I spent a few days researching the wrong ancestors until I realized that some of the information didn’t fit. Once I’d found my real great-grandparents on her side, I very quickly discovered a family tree with my birth mother on it. There was no identifying information other than her name, but it did show that she had married someone with a first initial “S” and a last name. Once I knew her married name, I very quickly found her on Facebook. And that’s when things went from family tree research, to actually reaching out to my birth mother.

It’s an odd experience to take a first look at a person’s photo and try to see yourself in them. Other than my skin tone, I could see no resemblance between myself and this woman in her profile picture. However, when I clicked on her daughter’s profile, I definitely saw myself in that face. I spent the next several days trying to contact my birth mother, but older people and Facebook Messenger don’t always mix, and the message was not getting through. Finally, I tracked down an email address for the daughter. I did not say why I was looking, but the daughter confirmed that her mother was the same person I was looking for, and she gave me her email address. So I wrote her “the letter”.

I will write more about our communication in a subsequent post. But what I wanted to share today is how much this process cemented my earlier feelings around the family tree. Yes, this woman and her ancestors are part of my family tree, and I still feel strongly that I belong in that schema, that those ancestors are as much mine as they are hers. But in communicating with her, and learning a bit about her family, it soon became clear to me that historical records on a family tree are not the same as the relationships we have with our family. I did not feel like I belonged with her or her children. I did not feel as though she was “the mother I was supposed to have”. If anything, it made me feel even more connected to my own family.

Yesterday, I spent the day visiting with first my father and then my mother (my adoptive parents, or my “real” parents, as I like to call them). Talking with them, hearing about my cousins and Aunts and Uncles, sharing news with them about my kids (their grandchildren)…those were the stories of family. Not the family tree kind of stories, but the real relationship stories, the personal histories of events and memories, of trials and tribulations, joys and losses that are what makes family come to life. It drove home the fact that my connection to my biological family could never match the connections I have with the family who raised me. And confirmed my lifelong sense that I did not even want to try to have that sort of connection with them.

Thankfully, I don’t think my birth mother wanted that either, and so for now we have closed this chapter. My interaction with her was kind and pleasant and wonderful in many ways, but I have the answers I wanted, and I feel at peace with how this all went. I’m relieved in a sense to get back to my own life, to my real family, as this has all been a rather wild emotional ride. With my 50th birthday looming around the corner, I feel that I have given myself a gift: the gift of knowing my story, and of claiming my place in the history that is my family tree. But now it’s time to move on, and I’m happy to do so.

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DNA Ancestry

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I was adopted as a 10-day-old infant, and so genetic relatedness has never been a part of my concept of family. I have never taken any real interest in my birth story, although my parents have always been open about my adoption and supportive of any interest I might develop in learning more about my birth parents. I think it’s because I do not consider myself as having been “abandoned” or unwanted in any way and so there has not been any sense of loss or having missed out on something. I always assumed that my birth mother had good reasons for not wanting to raise a child, and the family who adopted me gave me a wonderful life. I also don’t like complicated relationships: I’m one of those people who take time to develop friendships and bring people into my inner circle – mostly because I’m extremely uncomfortable with getting rid of those same people if things don’t work out! There are bound to be complications in terms of what sort of relationship I would have with such people if I ever met them, and I’m not sure I want to bring that into my life. Finally, I had lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins growing up and both my parents remarried after their divorce so I had numerous step-siblings as well. I guess I felt I had enough family already.

However, I’m turning 50 soon, and perhaps that explains why now I have developed some interest in learning more about my “back story”. It started when my husband did one of those DNA testing kits that claim to provide answers about your ancestry. I already knew enough about genetics to understand that what they tell you is extremely broad and non-specific, so I really had no interest. But I got bugged to do one so I finally caved and did it. I joked that being a white-skinned, blue-eyed person living in North America, the results would not be very surprising…”Congrats, you come from northwestern Europe!”…what a surprise (not!). But I was curious if there was anything else thrown in there. I was also secretly hoping for lots of British heritage since my Dad and his side of the family are all English (my mum’s side has a bit as well), and I grew up with a good dose of British culture. The results came quite quickly and the results were pleasing but not surprising. I’m 99.1% northwestern european, with the other 0.9% being more generalized european (those genes that can’t be traced to anything more specific). Of that 99.1%, I’m 65% British/Irish and about 20% French/German with the rest being non-specific. Again, that doesn’t really mean anything since those populations mixed a lot over the last millennium or so. But although it’s silly I did give a silent cheer that I was “mostly British”. I’m guessing my genetic family has lived in Britain for a long time before someone emigrated to the New World.

These sites also have the ability to identify genetic relatives, although they are generally limited to those who have been customers of the same service you choose. I was especially nervous when I clicked on that link, worried that a cousin or closer might show up and wondering how I would handle that information. But it turns out that the nearest genetic relative shares about 1% of my DNA, and may be a third or fourth cousin (I also used a sharing site that allows you to test against people from other DNA kit providers, but nobody closer than that appeared there either). I share great-great-grandparents with my third cousins, and given how many kids people had in those days, this person could be one of dozens and dozens of them.

So all in all, it was not a surprise, but it is cool to know. And since British historical records go back centuries it has started me getting interested in learning more about my ancestors. I’m thinking about doing a family tree, but that is a bit more complicated when you are adopted…my next post will tackle that subject.



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Long Overdue Update

update conceptOver the past 18 months I have taken up community activism in the form of joining our newly formed neighbourhood organization as a director and treasurer. A development set up shop in our neighbourhood that is creating a lot of noise, and the neighbouring municipality (we live right near the border between two local government jurisdictions) was partly at fault for not paying close enough attention when the offenders were applying for their permits. Not only has the business taken an antagonistic attitude towards the local residents (they are based in a nearby large city and don’t know nor appreciate the local culture), but Mayor and Council have decided on a strategy of covering their collective a$$e$ rather than dealing openly with the situation, so it has been quite frustrating. We ended up having to file a lawsuit, which is a long slow process in itself.

On the bright side, our community has come together as never before, and I have met so many of my neighbours. I have developed some strong friendships in the process of working with these people, and it has made my sense of home feel that much stronger. I feel settled in this place as nowhere else since I was a child, and that feels good. The situation has also caused me to start paying more attention to planning and development in our area, and I’ve joined my local area planning committee, which I’m enjoying very much. It’s so important to take advantage of opportunities to have a say in what goes on, and I’m very grateful to be able to do so.

I had an extremely busy fall season, with lots of teaching and some big consulting projects. I finally got to the point where hiring a biweekly cleaning service made sense, and I’m very pleased to have that load off my plate. Meanwhile, Husband started an AgTech company with a farmer/software designer friend and it has really taken off. He spent 3 months in New York with an accelerator/investment program, and the kids and I arrived here yesterday for a 2 week visit. With Mum in New Zealand taking care of an ailing sister, we had the opportunity to go away for Xmas, and I appreciate not having to do too much this year. We are planning to watch the ball drop at Times Square on New Year’s Eve, definitely a bucket list experience!

Both kids are doing well. Miss Em is in the new high school program with our homeschooling program (the same one we’ve been in for years) and seems to be handling the increased work load really well. I’m surprised at how well she has adapted, and I can also see how well she responds to a more structured program. I think this will be a very good fit for her, and I like that she can take as long as she needs to complete her high school education (advantages of being in the Special Ed program). She still attends the therapeutic day program she’s been in for over a year, and she enjoys it because there is dedicated time for academics (she says she finds it hard to get motivated when left to her own devices to schedule and implement homework time).

Mr Boo attends the same day program, but I think he is ready for more social activity and more academics. He’s become much more interested in having friends and inviting them over, but he only has 2 friends and neither is a great fit, IMO. Unfortunately there do not seem to be any good options here since the local Walford high school closed – that school was a very small private school which would have been perfect for him. The public schools here are huge and have the usual issues, and I just don’t think it would be a good fit for him. We have three elite private schools here but they aren’t interested in special ed students (you’d think if you were willing to pay their exorbitant fees that they would be willing to accommodate such kids, but they are all about the high achievers). He doesn’t do sports or clubs so meeting kids that way isn’t going to work. So for now he stays where he is, but we are keeping our eyes open. Perhaps if Husband’s company takes off we will have more opportunities to travel, and as that fits much better with homeschooling perhaps we can broaden his horizons that way.

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