March 28, 2015

From My Heart

These days, posts are few and far between in this space. It isn't because I don't enjoy blogging anymore, not at all; in fact, I'm constantly "writing" posts in my head and dreaming of sitting at the computer with the post editor open, creating and expressing myself through this medium. Blogging is actually something that shows up in all of my dreams of the future, a big part of my life and my career.

Recently, I've felt such a deep longing to write again here, in a more consistent way. At the same time though, I've felt stuck. So completely stuck. At the end of February, I made an editorial calendar for the entire month of March, and I had planned 3 posts for every week. I created only one of those 13 posts - the one where I talked about becoming an online shop owner - but I opened this blank text box so many times trying to fill it up with words and pictures, with no success.

You see, what's probably even more important to me than consistency in this space, is authenticity. I've been immersed in this blogging world for long enough to know what I like about my favourite blogs and what I'd like to emulate in my own. And powering through, talking about kind travelling or natural face products I use and love, like I had planned, just didn't feel authentic when all of my time, energy and thoughts are taken over by other, deeper and more challenging issues. Sure, these are things that I am still very much interested in writing about at some point, just not right now, when most days I feel like I'm just trying to keep my head above the water.

These last few weeks and months have challenged me in many ways. I've been spending my days working at a full-time job that, although I enjoy, has been demanding so much more than a full-time commitment from me. I've been using the little time I have outside of that job to build my own business, to focus on my self-care (not always with success) and to spend time with the most important people in this world to me, my family. I've been taking care, alongside my family, of a sweet pup that has been dealing with health issues for over two months now (and for whom, thankfully, we finally found answers last week, so things are starting to look up). I've been adjusting to life without one of the handful of women who inspired me the most and who completely changed the course of my life for the better - something that took me completely by surprise in how much it has affected me - while still constantly learning from her. All of this - and more - has happened through one of the most frigid winters we've had, that has been tough on the body and mind of this summer-loving girl.

I'd love to write more about each of these things, and I probably will, slowly, along the way, as I take time to think them through and to make sense of them for myself enough to turn the jumbled mess that's swirling in my head right now into a series of thoughts and sentences that make sense to everyone else too.

I've been craving to write some more light-hearted posts as well, where I can put some words and pictures together in a way that is still valuable enough for you to take time out of your day to read and that allows me to express my own creativity and views of the world. With all that has been going on, this is where I have gotten stuck a lot, not just because my thoughts have been taken over by the heavier stuff, but because long days at the office don't make for very many photo opportunities, so my digital camera has remained home and my phone camera has stayed neatly tucked into my coat pocket.

At this point though, I'm very optimistic about what lies ahead, both because some of these issues are starting to get resolved (spring is here and warmer days are on the horizon, and the pup is getting back his health, energy and playfulness too!) but because I've come across a message that has been shifting my perspective. 

The idea that life is beautiful no matter what we are faced with has shown up for me in so many forms lately that I can't help but take notice and explore the meaning of it. I know that not every challenging thing is going to magically disappear from my life and that I cannot control what will happen in the future (good or bad) but I'm learning that I can take control over how I react and how I let these things affect me and more importantly, I'm learning to enjoy or at least appreciate all of them - especially the tough ones - for what they are because they are such an essential part of our experience of life. 

What I am most looking forward to though, is sharing all these experiences here because the most important lesson I have finally learned recently is that everything is better when you're part of a supportive community.

So, I'll end this on a positive note, by saying thank you for being here and reading these words - whether you're a long-time reader, a recent one or just someone who happened upon this page through a Google search that seems completely unrelated to the content on this site - and wishing you a wonderful spring ahead!

March 2, 2015

My New Title: Shop Owner

On January 4, just in time for the new year, I officially started a new chapter in my life: I opened the doors to our online yarn shop called Josephine Yarns. Although we had been working on getting everything together for many months before, sharing our work and making it available to the whole wide world felt like such a massive step forward.

This journey has been nothing like I had expected. It challenged me in ways that I didn't see coming, and in forcing me to overcome those challenges so we can move forward, it made me braver and more confident in the things that I can do. I'm sure that it will continue to test me constantly and, despite that, I'm filled with excitement when I think of the future of this little venture, and of my future including it. It's giving me so much energy and joy that I finally wake up happy again. Every day, I'm dreaming, planning and building this future, but today, almost exactly two months after that exciting step, I want to take some time to look back at everything we accomplished since July of last year when we decided to move beyond the idea phase:

We chose a meaningful name, in honor of the woman who instilled the love of handmade in both me and my mother: my darling grandmother.

We legally registered and incorporated the business - a step that I researched and stressed out about a great deal and that, of course, turned out much less daunting once I actually did it.

We opened a business account at the bank.

We researched, found and communicated with our first potential suppliers.

We placed our first wholesale orders to build our initial inventory, and since we had limited funds and a wide selection of wonderful yarns, it was quite a decision-making challenge.

We photographed all the yarns; knowing about my lack of skills and professional equipment, I dreaded this step quite a bit, until one day, I realized that all I need to do is to keep it simple. Now I am actually very happy with the results.

We decided on an online store platform; with plenty of options out there and not much knowledge about this field, it felt like diving into unknown waters, but I'm glad to report we made it back to shore safe and sound. We went with Shopify and we're very happy with our decision, since it's been a very user-friendly and straightforward process.

We got our business logo through a wonderful Etsy shop called Autumns Creek.

We did a lot of changing and tweaking (and learning in the process) to build our store to the look and functionality we wanted.

We figured out shipping costs. This was another one of those tasks that I found incredibly daunting, in part because it got the best of me in the past when I had some other online shop ideas, but this time we prevailed; of course, it's still something very new to us, so we're learning as we go.

We wrote product listings, which was a little more difficult than expected, as we tried to translate all our research and excitement for the products into a few concise lines.

We designed and ordered business cards.

We rented a PO box, something that was very important to us, since we are operating from home.

I say we because without the help and support and input of my family, I have no doubt that I would still be stuck in the idea phase even now. Josephine Yarns is the work of all of us, and I'm thrilled to watch it grow over the years. I am so proud of it already but I have many more ideas to make it even better, and I hope you'll join us on this journey!

Disclaimer: the Shopify link used in this post is part of the affiliate program, which means I get some compensation if a subscription results from it.

February 27, 2015

The Wellness Warrior

I am writing with a heavy heart today. Just a few hours ago, I found out that the world lost an incredible being: Jessica Ainscough, The Wellness Warrior. As I was sitting down after eating my lunch, I logged into my email account and I saw the message. The news hit me to the core and I am still reeling.

I've learned about the power of technology quite a few years ago - I wouldn't be connecting with you here & now otherwise - but until today, I don't think I fully understood just how massive an impact someone from the other side of the world whom I had never met before could have upon my life. All thanks to the power of technology.

I remember the day that I discovered Jess' website so clearly. The details of how I first arrived there are a little blurry in my mind now - I think it might have been through an article she wrote for Mind Body Green that I came upon while researching something health related - but I knew that I had found something very special. I spent a couple of hours reading through countless posts that she had written. I couldn't stop myself and I was literally shaking with excitement. The only way that I could take myself away from the computer screen was to get up, then and there, and go to the kitchen to make a carrot and apple juice, just like I read that she was making as part of her Gerson therapy regimen. It was the first juice that I ever made and something completely unlike me; I always pin, bookmark, or save things I want to remember in some way, but I never actually get up and try them right away. Jess was the only one who got me to do that, who inspired me to a level beyond what I had known before. I was not (and am not) in even a remotely similar situation to hers (on days like today especially, but really every day, my health is one of the things I am most thankful for), but I found so much inspiration in her story and her determination regardless.

I discovered a whole new world through her. I discovered the world of juicing and the world of health blogging. I learned about the empowerment that comes with taking control of your life and your health and the importance of self love. I discovered IIN through her, as well as B-School. This was about three years ago, in the early stages of my current health and wellness journey. There is no doubt in my mind now that I wouldn't be able to call myself a health coach, that I wouldn't be so deeply immersed in the wellness world, and that I wouldn't be the person that I am today without her - her bravery, her kindness and her brilliance.

I am sure that there are many many people out there who feel the same way. My heart aches for her beloved father, her devoted fiance and all the loved ones who will have to keep going in her physical absence - I say physical, because I know that she will forever live on in their hearts, the same as she will for all of us who never got a chance to be in her presence yet were deeply impacted by her message. I can't even imagine the amount of hurt that they are going through right now, but somehow I know that they are also proud to have shared their lives with her.

I don't understand why such tragic things happen and right now, I'm not trying to. All I want in this moment is to take some time to remember, recognize, and celebrate Jessica Ainscough, the true wellness warrior, and all the wonderful things that she stands for. I can only hope to become as kind and brave as she has been in my own lifetime and I'm thankful to have such a fantastic example and ideal to strive towards.

My heart is aching today and writing down all these thoughts has been helpful. I could say so much more, but I will stop here for now. Thank you for indulging me.

I will end with the words that I first saw today in my inbox next to her fiance's name, that I think are the essence of Jess's legacy:

Be Kind. Be Brave. Be Well.

February 10, 2015

On a cold February morning...

...when you've had enough of winter, but winter is actually in full force
...when temperatures regularly dip down to the -20 degree (Celsius) mark, and sometimes even further down
....when you're not sure how you're going to make it through the next two months of cold weather, before spring starts showing up
...when you'd give almost anything to stay in your warm bed rather than start getting ready to head out into the cold
....when the holiday cheer is long gone

This is the kind of morning when you start wondering.....
....why you don't live closer to the equator
...whether summer really exists or it's just an illusion
...if making a living is actually worth getting out of said warm bed
...if you should add that fourth layer or leave it at three
...and so much more of the same.

At least I do.

All jokes aside, every year in January and February, once the holidays are over, I'm reminded just how complicated my relationship with winter is, and that I should maybe start thinking more seriously about living in a warmer region...or at least taking lots of trips to those areas of the world.

Tell me, how do you feel about winter?

February 4, 2015

A Day In The Life: Nine to Five

In the last couple of years, ever since I started working full-time, I've struggled with updating this space consistently, and given myself a hard time about it. The truth is that my schedule during this time has been truly packed and I haven't done a great job with the work-life balance, let alone the work-blog balance. At this point though, I'm determined to improve my day-to-day and I've been working on implementing small changes that I hope will help bring about big shifts in the not-too-distant future.

Before then however, I want to take note of what life looks like now so that I can remind myself of what it has been like for quite a few months of my life and appreciate the progress I'll have made once things are different. So, here is a peek into a typical work day for me:

5:00-5:20 It's time to wake up and start getting ready to leave for work. I have only about an hour to do everything from washing up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and making sure that Toby & Mikka have everything they need (water, food, bathroom time) before leaving them for the rest of the day.

6:20-6:30 Ideally, by this time I leave for work; the first hour of the trip I spend in the car, going from our home in the suburbs to the nearest subway station in the city; if I'm not too sleepy, I try to do something productive, like knitting or reading. I carpool with my brother for this part, and he drops me off at the subway station, from where it's another 30 minute ride to work.

8:00 If traffic on the highways is not terrible and the subway has no delays, I generally arrive at work at this time and find a place to spend the next hour, before work starts. I usually spend it reading blogs, browsing Instagram and Twitter, or listening to some IIN lectures.

9:00 I go into the office and start working.

11:30 or 1:00 Lunch breaks are on a rotating schedule every few weeks, so it depends on the given week whether I have an earlier or later break. Since I'm on campus at a university, I try to find a quiet spot (which is not an easy feat, especially at lunch time) where I can listen to more IIN lectures while I eat, then read a few more blogs or a book; on some days, once I'm done eating, I'll either go for a walk (when it's warmer outside), browse through a few books at a bookstore or look through the racks at a clothing store before going back to the office.

1 or 2:30 It's time to get back to work.

5:00 I finish work and meet up again with my brother for our car ride home. As much as I try to occupy my commuting time somehow like I do in the morning, I usually just end up falling asleep midway through. The fact that all winter it's already dark out by this time doesn't make it easy for me to stay awake either.

6:30 Once I'm back home, I spend a little time catching up with my family, taking a shower and, of course, cuddling and playing with my two munchkins - Toby and Mikka - who are always so happy we're back home. I'm certain that there's few things that make for a better welcome home than a wagging puppy tail. 

7:00 It's dinner time, and if we're lucky, we can squeeze in a family dinner before everyone has to go about their own business getting ready for the next day.

7:30 Once dinner is finished, I turn on my computer and spend some time checking emails, checking up on the store and looking over social media again.

8:00 I help with preparing lunches for the next day, which generally means making sandwiches. I've tried bringing proper meals with me but since I'm not always in the same spot, I've found that it's easier to just bring sandwiches.

8:30 I spend the rest of the night looking after Toby and Mikka and watching TV, though I don't always get to see more than a few glimpses when I have to deal with a squirmy puppy that wants attention. I try to do some work on the computer or clean up around the house sometimes, but again, not much happens at this time of day.

10:00-10:30 As much as I'd like it to be earlier, so far I haven't managed to start getting ready for bed before this hour on more than a few occasions. Since I'm almost completely wiped out by this point, my bedtime rituals are as quick and simple as possible and don't go much farther than changing into my pyjamas, brushing my teeth and taking a few minutes to wind down from the day.

10:20-11 It's time to let my head hit the pillow and get some rest before another early morning. 

January 10, 2015

Winter Break

We've been back at work for a full week already, but my mind is still on the two weeks of vacation that we had before because, to be honest, those two weeks were a dream. After a year spent living at a crazy pace, the winter break was a much-needed and so-very-welcome slow down from it all.

It was full of....
puppy cuddles; family time; movie watching; kitty cuddles; being home; cooking yummy things and eating yummy things; late wake-up calls (or no calls at all really) and late bedtimes; more being and less doing; belly laughs; puppy play time; blog reading and social media reviewing; online shop building (!!!); simply enjoying.

and sprinkled with little bits of...
blog writing; house cleaning; holiday decorating; puppy walks in the snow; kitty play time; 2015 planning and dreaming.

and lots of other things that just don't come to mind right now, but that I know were equally enjoyable and relaxing. These two weeks fully convinced me that all vacations from now on must include at least a few days of the same.

December 30, 2014

The Beginning of Something New

For the last five or six months, on the side of my full-time job (and of studying to become a health coach), I've been working on something new and really special along with my family: a new business called Josephine Yarns. It is an online shop where we sell yarns for knitting, crocheting and all sorts of other handmade projects. To stay true to what I (and we) believe in the most - a beautiful, healthy and sustainable world - the yarns that we are stocking are all in some way natural, organic, and/or sustainable.

The shop is not quite ready yet, as there are still a few details to iron out. It's been quite a long-winded process so far - certainly much longer than we had initially hoped and wanted - but we are slowly inching our way towards opening day. I wanted to share the news here now regardless because I've learned an important lesson during these last few months: sometimes it's better to reveal works-in-progress and allow people to root for you along the way and take part in the experience as it is unfolding (with both successes and setbacks alike) than to keep everything under wraps in hopes of having a pleasant surprise later on. Though I generally tend to do the latter, I've learned throughout this process how much pressure it can build up, and for me, it got to a point where it was causing quite a few tense moments and where I just couldn't move forward anymore. Only once I started to accept help and to talk about what I was working on as I was working on it, things started to turn around and progress more quickly. Even though it might ruin the surprise at the end, having another (or a few) ear and perspective during the million little and big decisions that need to be taken is so much more valuable.

Now, the excitement is building up, and though I'm realizing that I have absolutely no idea what running this new venture will actually look like, I'm ready to let it happen and start the journey. It wasn't planned this way, but I can't help thinking how wonderful it is that the beginning of a new year will be the beginning of a new chapter as well.
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