Monday, February 26, 2018

Come Away This Summer!

Dear Friends,
I’ve been feeling the winter blues a little lately. I wonder if you have too. My life decisions recently have been huge but difficult. I’ve chosen to walk away from doing what I love, and I’m walking to different things (or running, actually. Literally).
school is going through some changes - I am no longer offering group classes, except on demand, and I am moving towards individual mentorship, self-directed work, either in person or online! Super interesting and exciting. And I'm finding the time to build a new project that will unfold in a few years. Also exciting. And the present takes care of itself, with a large family, a cafe, and a marathon to run ...
It's so hard for us to take time off, to remove ourselves from our duties – even if those duties are ones we feel with the very deepest parts of ourselves that we MUST do. The tasks that we actually do have to do, time after time. Listening to an adult child. Comforting a small child. Spending time with a teenager who is growing before your eyes. Nurturing your intimate relationships.
Creating change. Working for what is right. Attending births. Writing for peace. Serving food.
And we get tired! And, of course, that’s ok. If you weren’t tired, it would be very clear that you weren’t fulfilling your potential. And not fulfilling your potential is not your way.
But that’s why, when you are tired, you need to reenergize so that you continue to reach your potential. Continue to care for others, to make change, to provide an example, to live well.
I'm really looking forward to the possibility of surrounding myself with strong, active (if a little tired) women - this summer, for a week.

Please make that first step. I am offering you the chance to spend one week in one of the most beautiful spots in the world, away from your work and your duties, surrounded by nature and the amazing people who will make up our group. I want to take care of you, and I will be there to facilitate, to guide, and to be silent when needed. (and my husband will cook...)

The first steps?
Check out the retreat:
Like what you see? Pay the deposit.
Contact me! Leave a comment and I promise I will get back to you.

Making that first step is the most important thing you can do for yourself, today. I promise you won’t regret it.
With Love and Respect,

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Endings and Beginnings and Forevers

February 11 is a special day for me. Exactly 36 years ago today I persuaded the person I knew I would spend my life with to buy me a cup of tea. And so it began. We had five sons, ran an organic farm, traveled through Africa on foot, helped each other out when things got tough, lived in some wonderful places and some difficult places, fought with each other, loved each other through thick and thin, and we're still best friends.

We've started lots of projects together - the epic trips, the farm, the family. We've rebuilt a bunch of houses together - from the medieval tower, to the stone farmhouse, to our Montreal bungalow and the abandoned stone shepherd's house we hide away in.

I've started a bunch of projects myself, too. My doula practice, my doula school, the volunteer doula organization, my midwifery certification and practice. And recently my cafe, which is a family project, but the two main players are myself and my middle son. Although we couldn't have done it alone - my husband made most of the furniture and did the construction work we needed.

This year, I've been letting things go. So, this February 11 is about endings as well as celebrating beginnings and forevers.

I let my volunteer doula organization go a couple of years ago, but I finally let someone else eat the placenta that I had left in the fridge (metaphorically). I'm left with a lot of really beautiful memories of big-hearted, giving, conscious, energetic, fiery, intelligent people giving their time, love and energy to the marginalized families we worked with.

I am officially trying to let go of my lumberjack mouth. Those who know me well know that I am also rather fiery, and my upbringing in Calgary and drinking in the bars there taught me some excellent words to emote with. But I feel I should let them go.

I left behind my doula practice. I could no longer put myself into the dynamic of hospital birthing. I have so many amazing memories of the 500 or so families I worked with, and the true miracle of birth and of love with never cease to amaze me. I am honored to have attended every single one of these births.

I left behind my midwifery practice. Although I was certified to practice midwifery, my certification did not allow me to practice where I live, and when unregistered midwives in Canada and elsewhere started to be taken to court by the Colleges of registered midwives, I knew that was not an option. I am deeply grateful to all the families who asked me to attend their births, and those who had the courage to birth on their own when I let them know I could not attend.

I am leaving my doula school. This has been part of my life since 2003. I love teaching, learning, and participating in that process. But slowly and surely the numbers of people interested in my manner of teaching (radical, honest, not certificate-oriented, political) has dropped and I am not into marketing. So, again, I am left with many beautiful memories, and a deep sense of gratitude to all of my students.

But when things fall away, others take their place. I have an amazing cafe, a large family, and I so much to do! Novels to publish, marathons to run, retreats to host.

So, thank you for everything, February 11. May I have the good luck and good grace to be seeing you many more times in the future.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

3 Lessons I've Learned Running

What Has Running Taught Me?

Running has taught me about healing. When I first started running after my father died in 2012, I didn't imagine I would be training to run my first marathon on Mother's Day, 2018. He died when I was away. I travelled frequently to visit him and care for him while he was in his last year of life, and when I left for Bali he knew and I knew that we would not see each other again.

It was tough coming back for the funeral. Our family didn't know how to do anything. It was very small, and he appeared to have made no friends during his retirement to a small provincial town. It was sad. Me and my sisters and mother had a tough time. There were arguments. Birthdays came right after his death and cremation. One of the days we were hanging around wondering what to do, my sister invited me for a run. I put on an old pair of her leggings and a pair of old sneakers, and we ran for about a half an hour. I was pooped by the end, especially as it ended with a hill and stairs. 
I was hooked!

Even though I didn't know it yet. By 2013, I was running on an old indoor track. Not outside, not during the winter (Yes, actually, there are some days that it's just plain stupid to run outside). That year was full of changes. My mother got sick. She travelled the world saying goodbye to friends and family.

She followed my father in March of 2014... my sister and I ran a couple of times while we were ushering her out of this life into the next. We did an awful job. Death isn't pretty in our family. She had the highest pain tolerance of anyone I've ever met, and I have seen a lot of people in pain (I figure I've assisted around 600 people give birth, and generally that's a pretty painful process). She broke her leg years ago playing pirates with the kids, in the vineyard. She jumped off a rock and "Ahoy!" a compound fracture. She breathed through it. Just like she breathed her way out of this life and into who-knows-where.
I decided I wanted to race. Racing doesn't have to mean that you're out there to actually race like a greyhound, unless you're an elite runner. For me, I'm racing against myself, and I want to get a decent time for my age and gender. I trained, kind of. I ran a few times a week, mostly on the flat suburban streets around my house. The longest I ran before the race was 13 k. That year, I also opened a cafe, where my mother's spirit might come and have tea or coffee and where she would have loved to hang out, if she'd been able.
I kept running.

Running has taught me about honesty.  I've been in labor for a ridiculous number of hours, all told, with five children and insanely long labors. I think I may have ischial spines that are shaped like Mobius strips, or something. Babies can't navigate through them. I've breastfed for years and years. I've hoed fields and picked tobacco, and raised boys. I've stayed with birthing women for hours and hours and days and days, while they navigated their own special journey through childbirth.

All that to say, I know about strength, endurance, and stamina.
But I also know, now, that our bodies are full of surprises. There are real flaws, like weirdly shaped bones or weak joints, or bodies with diseases or genetic conditions. There are the secret flaws that we don't know about until, suddenly, we do. I was sure for very many years that my difficult labors were caused by mistreatment. I built a whole career on that belief. Now I'm not so sure: running has provided me with information about my body that I didn't know before, and it has also taught me that it's ok. Our weaknesses, our flaws, our crooked limbs and joints: these are all part of ourselves that we have to cherish and love if we want to keep them running smoothly.

Running has taught me about persistence.

I started my Marathon project with a 26 week training plan. I picked such a long one because I wanted to give myself lots of time to train, and I wanted to have extra leeway if something came up, like the little glitch I had way back in December. Since then, I've been doing a long run every Sunday. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday I run at least 5 k. I try to run fast for my short runs.

In the past month, everything has changed. December and early January were cold; record-breaking cold. I continued to run outside.

I was very fortunate - we went to Lisbon for a week and I ran there. People, this is runner's paradise! Hills, temperate climate, long running tracks next to the water, courteous pedestrians, other runners, and drivers. Heaven! The hills slowed me down a little, but the flat long runs were amazing.
Then back home. There's a common saying amongst runners "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear." There are so many bullshit macho sayings out there. There is absolutely such a thing as bad weather, and Montreal has it all. There's no way it is safe to run on two inches of ice covered by two inches of snow. I can and have run in very cold conditions, and snow, rain, ultra hot and dry. I trail run at 875 meters, with a dog who cannonballs into me or completely on my own in the hills. But I won't risk falling and breaking a bone due to hubris. So, I've done my fair share of treadmill running this winter.

Treadmill running is tough because it can get boring. Not only for your mind, but also for your feet. What can I say? If you have to run on a treadmill, try to challenge yourself with intervals, good music, checking your form, watching your breathing. There's fine tuning you can do on the treadmill that you can't do so well when you're running outdoors, so be content with those benefits and don't feel too bad you're not outside.

I do run outside whenever I can though. Last week for my long run, I was super grumpy because the weather was looking really bad. There was an indoor track but I didn't feel like going. I packed up and headed for the gym - and discovered the weather was great and the icy sidewalks had become slush. Yay! I ran a good 13.4 k!

Now? I'm back on track, but grumpy as hell and feeling very anxious. Can I run a marathon? I look like Mrs. Tiggywinkle, small and slightly pudgy around the waist (5 kids). My hair is grey and my face goes red like a beetroot when I run. I sweat.

Running has taught me not to care about these little things. It has taught me to look at the bigger picture. It has taught me to be positive, to stick to a schedule, to never complain, to laugh at myself, to love life.