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Month: August 2012

A Tired Week

A Tired Week

Earlier in the year I posted about some of the health issues I was facing and how I was trying to deal with it, I realise I haven’t posted on this topic since but it is never far from my mind.

After that post I went on and did more tests, one of which was a very sensitive adrenal test, it measured my cortisol levels throughout the day and into the night.  This revealed that my cortisol is the same at 8am as it is at midnight, this is not good.  Cortisol is the stuff that gets us out of bed in the morning, gets us moving, going, motivated.  Through the day it depletes and by night time we are tired and ready for sleep, while we sleep the cortisol replenishes ready for a new day.  Except mine doesn’t, my adrenals and my cortisol levels are flatlined.

What does this mean?  Well it means I’m getting out of bed feeling like I did when I went to bed, no vim, no vigour, no zip.  There are periods during the day where I’m less fatigued, the morning for example is when I can be quite productive, but then there are other times when I drop like a stone.  Between 2-5 I really struggle, as in please can I lie in a darkened room and sleep with no interruptions struggle.  I get headaches, naseau, joint pain and generally feel like death.  Around 5.30 I start picking up and do ok again until bedtime.

You know that foggy feeling you get when you haven’t slept for a good long while?  That feeling new parents know so well!  Well it feels like that, all the time.  It doesn’t matter if I sleep well, I’m tired.  There are some days I feel pretty good but they are balanced by the other days.  Or sometimes weeks.  In the spring I had to withdraw Neirin from preschool for a month because the back and forth to preschool twice a week was too much.  It has not been a fun time.




I’ve chosen to use natural supplements and diet to try and resolve this issue, as well as changing certain lifestyle factors.  Really this is the only solution open to me as the tests I took through my GP were unhelpfully vague and conventional medicine really can’t do that much for me.  This isn’t something I can stick a plaster over and hope for the best, to recover from this is going to take work.  Work and time.

Around 2 years of time.

That’s the kicker for me.  I can eat well, meditate, and wash my hair in wheatgrass but today it won’t make a difference.  Today I’ll still feel tired and probably tomorrow too.  I’ve cut out gluten, yeast and dairy all just to stop me feeling worse but that doesn’t lead to better, it doesn’t lead to well.  Even eating well, exercising and taking my supplements I still feel tired and will most likely gain weight as I’ve continued to do over the last year, despite my best efforts.

Depressing neh?  I know it’s not a fun story to hear, or to tell, or to live for that matter.  Living at sub par, always having to be careful not to overdo it, to feel exhausted for no good reason, is not my idea of a good time.  Knowing how long it will be before I’m fighting fit is even harder, some days that makes it tough to do all the things I need to.

I don’t know why I’ve been thrown this particular curve ball, but I know that this is a problem I’ve had for many years.  It’s not uncommon these days, living as we do in an overly stimulated and overly stressed society.  So many of us are burned out, frazzled on the inside; it doesn’t matter how we got there, what matters is that for that to change, we have to change.


I can never go back to eating things that aren’t good for me without knowing the consequences.  I can’t casually scoff down a take out pizza or eat anything off the menu at a restaurant.  But is that such a bad thing?  Frustrating, yes, but not bad.  In a world where we rely on convenience I’m suddenly faced with different choices.  No short cuts.  Eat whole foods, eat veggies and meat and fruit and leave the rest.  I’m not there but I’m working on it.

I can also never set aside my need for rest.  I can’t over schedule myself, or my children, rushing from one errand to another.  I can’t push and push and push myself without feeling the consequences.  Is that a bad thing?  Is it bad to spend the afternoon reading or just watching my kids play?  I want to say no but it is hard, hard to really feel that is true.  Isn’t productivity the goal of life?  Don’t we need something tangible to show for our efforts?  Is just being there, being alive and peaceful, enough?

This path of seeking restful nourishment has brought be back to something that used to be a big part of my life, yoga.  Before I moved to Canada I did quite a lot of yoga and was even thinking about taking the teaching qualification, but life and having children put paid to all that!  Now I’m a novice again, seeking the strength to open joints, use muscles and breathe.  It is bliss and I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to do this near to where I live.  We have a fabulous yoga studio just 15 minutes from here, a place where I find physical and spiritual solace every time I cross the threshold.  A silver lining indeed.

And yoga is showing me the way to my recovery.  That combination of conscious strength and letting go, the bringing together of body and soul, the recognition of limits while always reaching just a little further.  The emphasis on clean eating, thinking, feeling, that makes it so unique and so perfect.  I may not be able to run a 5k or kickbox my way to fitness but I can find peace in a posture, giving myself over to it completely, giving in to the truth of that moment.

Surrendering to what is, not fighting what has to be.

Because that is what this journey is really about for me.  I’m stepping off a path and trying to find a new one.  Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that I’m stepping off the path, finding a shady spot and having a restful sit down.  All of the ways I’m used to taking, all of the action I feel compelled to engage in, is actually counter productive.  What I really need to do is stop.

And it is so hard.



But when I do I notice things, I notice the flowers my boys picked for me floating in water.  I notice the joy in my son’s eyes when I read him nursery rhymes again and again.  And again.  I notice the sound of the neeker breekers and the play of the light on the grass.  All of the things I wouldn’t see if I were rushing, pushing, reaching for more all the time.  That is my nature, it’s how I’m made, I don’t know how to be any other way.   But I’m trying to learn, a little step at a time.  I’m trying to see how I might be remade, how I can find peace in my own heart and then my body will follow.

So very straight forward really.  No, it isn’t a simple prescription but it is all I have and all I will have to hold onto.  Things won’t ever ‘go back’ to the way they were, and the more I try the worse I feel.  Instead I have to turn my face into a new breeze, close my eyes and notice the grass between my toes, the air on my skin.  I need to seek nourishment and stillness, they need to be my path and my goal.  It will take a lifetime, luckily that is what I have available.

Tipping Point

Tipping Point

There comes a time in each season when we realise it is past it’s prime; we sense when the icy grip of winter has cracked well before the final snow and frost have melted away, so it is the same with summer.  August is still summer of course but we’ve moved out of the oven heat and into the mixed weather of harvest time.  The kitchen is full of produce from the garden and my thoughts are full of ways to preserve it all.




Last week I added two new flavours of jam to the cupboard (bringing the total to four) when I made double batches of blueberry and apricot jam.  Both fruits were sourced locally and were preserved in their prime.   I really can’t express in words the satisfaction I gain from making jam, the most simple of all preserves, the joy of a well stocked cupboard really does speak for itself.




Last week we also had extra eggs so I made the most of the bounty by freezing them.  To do this you simply whisk the egg, add a good pinch of sugar for each yolk and then freeze in trays.  I used a mini muffin tin that holds half an egg in each cup, getting them out was a bit tricky so I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a silicone tray which should resolve that problem.  Those golden yellow blobs will no doubt come in handy during the winter months and each one will remind me of this so abundant, and so hot, summer.

This week continues to be about preserving, I have onions hanging in the dining room and sacks of potatoes in the basement waiting to be put into paper bags and tucked safely away.  The greens that are bursting in the garden need blanching and freezing, the tomatoes are beginning to gain colour filling me with a pleasant panic as I know the frenetic work a good tomato crop yields.

These last days of summer have a lot to offer, lots of work in store, but I’m glad and grateful for it.  Winter may be just a few heartbeats away, but it isn’t here yet.  Not yet.

The Queen Is Dead

The Queen Is Dead

If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that I’m an aspiring bee-keeper. Back in the spring we took possession of two hives of fantastic bees, lovingly fed them sugar syrup, assembled and painted bright new hives and generally gave them a bloody marvellous home. Then something sinister happened: one of my beautiful hives transformed into the Mean Machine. I’m not talking about Burt Reynolds in tight pants, but an aggressive Beta Colony of agro bees intent on stinging any poor fool who tries to approach them.

Like any mean bully, they were never the strongest. Thinking perhaps that the bees were trying to compensate for their physical weakness, I made a bid to boost their strength before the season got too late and swapped out a frame of fresh brood from Alpha and put it into Beta to give them a kick. I got stung several times in the process and on reflection have to admin that doing it in sweltering 40C heat wasn’t my smartest idea. However, there was no doubt in my mind – Beta bees were in fact, transforming from those initial happy-go-lucky fun-time bees into Belligerent Geordie Bees.

I checked them a week ago and had barely cracked open the hive lid when I was viciously attacked and stung again. If anything, the bees were meaner than ever. Like Darth Vader in a TIE fighter, I couldn’t shake those buggers off. My Beta Colony bees simply would not leave me alone until they had stung and reduced me to a hopping, flapping, panicky shambles.

Now, the shame of failure is a bitter draught to drink and I’ll freely admit that I’m not a man who likes to savour the dregs from that cup. So, after my neighbour (who keeps bees too) suggested that their behaviour is typical of a Queen-less hive, I called up Brent (the Bee Guy) and got him to come and inspect them. After all, while my queen was cheaper than a night out with Liz, she still cost me the tidy side of $250 and if she was a dud, I wanted a new one.

I was grimly pleased to discover that the Bee Guy got stung several times in short order too and after muttering to himself “They are unusually aggressive” he scuttled away to put on a full suit. Meanwhile, the Geordies had stung my son on the leg and he howled like only a seven year old can. You’d have thought that would distract the bees from stinging me, but no. They nailed my back a couple of times for good measure so that under the pretence of needing to check on my son, I too was sent gambolling for the relative safety of my garage to put on a heavy rain coat.

By the time I had got back to the hive, the Bee Guy had found the queen and committed regicide by squashing her. He said it was for the best. He said it was the only way to change their behaviour. He said there was no other option. Personally, I think he might have tried counselling first. He also declared that my innocent queen was most likely a slut with a fancy for a bit of rough. Having found the equivalent of a drunken Jimmy Nail on her maiden flight, she had ruthlessly shagged him until he died and was now popping out angry Geordie Jimmy Bees in the thousands.

And so my queen is dead. Perhaps like Morrissey, the Beta Colony will stage a comeback and make bad but harmless music without the angst or edge of yesterday. Or perhaps it’s best that she’s gone to bee Nirvana and doomed the hive to destruction. Only time will tell.

To make amends for whacking my $250 avian royal, the Bee Guy came and delivered a new queen the day after and, now that her pheromones are recognised and accepted by the hive, is due back tomorrow to release her. Personally, if she is in fact surrounded by bewildered Geordie Jimmy Bees all the new queen needed to do was take off her stripey top and make inappropriate gestures with a bottle of Hooch toward the biggest drone to gain complete acceptance. Unfortunately, the Bee Guy is Canadian and of course couldn’t have known the mating ritual of the Common Geordie and so we had to wait the few days for time to do what alcopops could have hastened.

Hopefully the new queen is demure and likes her drones more like Commander Data than Jimmy Nail. Either way, I’m taking their honey next month however many stings it costs me.

Little Big Boy But Not A Daddy Yet

Little Big Boy But Not A Daddy Yet

We’ve arrived at a phase in the evolution of a 3 year old that I’d forgotten about, it’s delightful and enchanting and makes bedtime really long.  Neirin has reached the point where he is beginning to describe his own thoughts, he can ask questions and tell us how he sees things and it is just too fascinating.  I remember going through this with Huwyl at bedtime, he’d start chatting about anything and everything and I just couldn’t stop listening, Neirin has reached the same wonderful stage.

Being 3 is a confusing and tough time, Neirin let’s us know this regularly.  Being stopped from doing anything he wants is NOT good and Mummy regularly falls foul of his world view with such transgressions as,

– NOT letting him eat crisps for every meal

– NOT letting him eat salami for every meal

– NOT letting him watch Dora the Explorer for 15 hours straight

It really is a world of hurt as far as he is concerned.  Luckily the storms pass pretty quickly and we move on to something else.  Following on the heels of a champion tantrum thrower, Neirin really has to work hard for his stormy moments to get noticed.  He does a pretty good line in nasal whining though that really is coming along very well.  But mostly he’s a pretty happy chap, getting up to mischief and discovering the world in his own way.

Here are some of the things in the foreground in the world of Neirin right now.

– Aeroplanes.  How they fly, how high they go and how you get on them.  We’ve tried explaining airports but he remains sceptical.  I told him there is a special set of stairs but he seems determined that boarding requires super powers and being able to fly, he wonders is crisps might give  him super powers.

– Age.  He can’t quite work out where he is on the spectrum, he’s not a baby but not a really big boy or a Daddy.  He’s big but also little, this requires hand gestures to be fully understood.

– Saying I love you.  He says it a lot, even when he is really cross with me (see list of transgressions above).  When he is really cross he shouts I LOVE YOU at me, like an accusation.  When I say thanks he tends to give up being angry and give me a firm hug instead.  A hug that clearly says, you have done wrong but I will let it go.  Maybe.

– Being a ghost.  He’s mentioned this a few times and this morning I found him in tears after Huwyl had told him “Neirin, you are only three, you are not going to die for many days at least.”  Helpful.  I instructed that further responses should be limited to “You’re not going to die” and leave it at that.



Over the summer what remained of the baby in Neirin has disappeared.  He’s emerged leaner, taller and endlessly curious about everything around him.  While I mourn this loss of the baby years I can’t help but be charmed by this new person who has emerged; a mass of contradictions he is (the same boy who says I love you, you’re my best brother can be pulling the same brother’s hair within 5 minutes) but he is so definitely himself.   Bold one minute, shy the next, fearful, strong, clever, funny, frustrating, delightful, loving, destructive, sweet.

He may be a Big Little Boy but I know I have years of hugs and snuggles ahead, more bedtime conversations and heartfelt revelations.  I have years ahead to get to know him, to listen, to teach, to learn.  I hope I have the good sense to cherish them all.

Tuesday Morning

Tuesday Morning

Here are a few snapshots taken on my rounds this morning.  I thought these would be nice for a certain chap who’s been away working and might be missing home right about now.







Travel safe my love, we all miss you.

P.S. The pigs say you owe them back rubs.  

Harvest Beginnings

Harvest Beginnings

Yesterday Stephen brought in the onion harvest, what will hopefully be a years worth of onions are resting on our deck.  The sun shone warm and golden on our crop as we laid them out to begin drying out.

It’s been a lot of work getting these little gems from garden to store.  All the planting of bulbs back in the spring, the endless weeding and watering that is the lot of any gardener.  But then here they are, miniature sun globes, releasing their heady scent into the summer air.  Come winter they will warm and nourish us, titivating our tastebuds in stews, soups, chillis, curries and anything else we care to put them in.  Nourishing our bodies, not just with their vitamins, but with their connection to this time, this hot summer growing on our land.  Each one we eat will release a little bit of sunshine into our tummies.  Now that is a good harvest.

Things I learned

Things I learned

It may seem odd that one day of vacation could give rise to so many thoughts, but it isn’t often I really have the chance to sit back and watch my family without being at the centre of things.  We were sharing it all but separate, all experiencing the same thing but excited by it in different ways.  Stephen loved the ingenuity of the engines and farming devices, I loved the simplicity, beauty and order of the environment and the boys…well they just loved being boys.

The boys are both at fantastically creative ages, Huwyl is the storyteller, the lover of words, he immerses himself in each experience whether good or bad.  Neirin is just beginning to express his wild imagination, a physical being with such confidence and determination it takes my breath away.  Yet their hands still reach for mine, their arms open and ready for cuddles at any time.

Watching the boys run, explore and play for 6 solid hours yesterday with barely a complaint brought a few simple truths home to me:

1 – Shade is important.  I’ve been nagging the boys all summer to be out more, even though it has been scorching and I certainly don’t want to be outside.  We lack shade on our property so we’ve really baked this year.  Next year we will begin planting trees to create little pools of comfort in the summer months.

2 – My children like me.  A lot.  They like having me near by and are quite content to do all the wonderful things I hope they’ll do such as draw, run, play, laugh, explore, discover…as long as I am not far away.  I am still their touchstone, their solid base and, much as I want to get on they won’t stray too far away from me just yet.  If I’m nearby, even if I’m occupied or simply walking along they feel secure and will range and have fun.  I need to remember that helping them discover the world is my real job, sometimes other things will just have to wait.

3 – Being together matters.  It is to easy to end up splitting in so many directions just to get things done.  Do you notice a theme here?   But it is the sharing of the experience that makes it worthwhile, each of us seeing it through a different lens and learning from the insights or enjoyment of the other.

4 – Productivity is the key to happiness.  Everywhere we looked in this place there was work, not just the straight up work of mill or lumberyard but cooking, quilting, growing, making.  All of the gardens were full of vegetables, the trees that shaded us were laden with fruit rather than decorative berries, each object had beauty and function.  Essentially everything I think is wonderful and good in the world.  It saddens me to know that this perception is one our society has largely lost but pleases me to know that those with good sense and a true awareness of the nature of life, thought along the same lines.

It is all too easy (for me anyway) to get drawn into the wonderful world of other people’s creativity.  Whether it is cruising blogs, watching movies or even reading books I too often put appreciation ahead of my own productivity.  I stay up late to read but them I’m too tired to make the most of my day.  A movie can be fun or a documentary informative but if it takes time away from ones own endeavours is it truly valuable?

There is so much I’d like to do, so much more I feel I could get from my time.  When I think of the women of the 1860’s I know their hands were never idle.  Sewing scraps into quilts or embroidering the edge of a dress, turned sitting time into productive time.  Though I wouldn’t want to trade my life for the extremely hard and physical one those people lived, I want to see my home and my life as a truly productive one.  I’d like each item in my home to earn it’s place, to have purpose or beauty on its side, I’d like no day to pass without something being made or created.

So I turn my mind from appreciating (which I love to do) and onto doing.  Stepping away from the wonderful virtual world and into the real one, it’s where all the good stuff is.

Into the past

Into the past

Yesterday we spent a fantastic family day in the 1860’s, courtesy of Upper Canada Village.  This is a recreated town in which people dress and function as they would in the 1860’s and also act as guides to us visitors.  We visited a wool mill, rode a mini train, walked around houses, shops and even took time out for a spot of afternoon tea.  It was bliss.

The first part of our visit revolved around learning about the 1812 war, which the boys really enjoyed and was very informative for us non-native Canadian parents!  But as soon as we moved into the village itself the atmosphere was completely different.  We left the modern world behind and entered into a world that contains hard work and peacefulness in equal measure.

It was a scorching hot day so we were grateful for the many mature trees providing shade and places to rest and picnic.  Each shady porch had a bench where it was a wonderful pleasure to sit and soak up the breezes and watch the world go by.  The village was full of industry but also quiet; no cars, radios, phones or any of the other noise we are so used to in the modern world.

As we progressed through our journey, visiting houses, businesses, farms, we naturally began to relax and slow.  There was no rush, no urgency, we simply discovered alongside the boys who ranged safely around, running along shaded walkways and exploring to their heart’s content.  I was struck often by the simplicity of the homes and the ingenuity we saw again and again.  What would have been considered a prosperous home would today seem stark and a little lacking.  Yet each item had a practical and aesthetic value that most objects today could not claim.

It is all to easy to idealise or course, to see only the simplicity and forget the gender inequality, illness and vulnerability that these people would have faced every day.  A million challenges I don’t even have to think about.  Certainly as I chatted to one of the ‘farm tenants’ as she cooked on an open fire, the table swarming with flies and her long sleeves and skirts only adding to the heat, I was more than a little grateful for my cool summer dress and my idle vacation day.

But I admit that when returned to the modern world I felt a loss of something, a peacefulness, a sense of order and purpose that I often find elusive.  Perhaps it was the sense of each thing having value, of nothing wasted, of industry and simplicity.  Perhaps it was just the feeling of older buildings reminding me of home.  Whatever it was I find my mind returning there, to the safe gravel paths my children ran along, to the simple benches taking advantage of summer breezes in a shady spot, to the slow progress of a barge along the water.  And I wonder, I wonder at how much we have gained and how much we have lost.