What I’ve Been Up To & Why I’ve Been Quiet

Hey you guys!

…you’re still here, right? My silence hasn’t scared you away?

Oh good.

Hi. 🙂

I suppose I would summarize it as:



[parenting, freelancing, blogging, body, social media presence]


What I’ve been up to & why I’ve been quiet

So yeah.

The kids were away for a week a couple of week ago, visiting Jesse’s mom and stepdad. The break let us rest and reset our routines and priorities.

I introspected (as I do). I realized that the more burnt out I had been feeling as a mom in lockdown, the harder I was leaning into my Instagram account and, especially, leaning on my community there for support and company.

Which is good…

But the more I leaned into my Blushy Ginger-ing, the more I was feeling disconnected from the kiddos, and it wasn’t helping my burnout on the mom front.

So when they got home, I became very quiet online, left my phone in other rooms of the house (gasp!), and just focused on spending time with them.

Which Is good…

But the more I leaned into “being the best mom I can be,” the more I was feeling disconnected from my support system online. It might be hard to believe if you don’t do the online thing, but the friendships I’ve made online with other mental health and motherhood writers and creators have been huge sources of comfort and encouragement.

So… I’ve been having kind of a crisis of clarity and balance.

Obviously the kids are my world, my priority, my snuggly little cupcakes of cuddles and giggles. But I do still need my own time to use my brain and work on my mental health.

I’ve been having trouble finding balance.

So, I went quiet online, especially on my blog.

I’ll save the freelancing and body parts of the equation for another post.

I just wanted to give a little update.

Oh, and I redesigned my site, yet again. This time, it’s to bring my freelancing services under the same umbrella as my mental health blogging. I’ll chat about that soon too. 🙂

Thanks for still being here.

Anxiety Mama Series #1: Our Journeys Through Anxiety with Marijke Visser

I went live on Instagram for the first time! My friend Marijke (@girlmom.strong) and I chatted for an hour about how anxiety has impacted our lives and influenced our motherhood.

Some things we talked about:

  • Anxiety levels at the beginning and end of the Live
  • What anxiety looks like for us
  • How anxiety impacts our parenting
  • Tips for someone experiencing anxiety
  • Favourite books on mental health or motherhood
  • Questions from viewers

This video is now available on IGTV for anyone who might be interested! (Or you can scroll down!)

I can’t bring myself to re-watch it yet.

We’re talking about making this a monthly series, like Anxiety Mama Monthly or something. 🙂

  • The feature photo for this post includes part of the promo graphic created by Marijke.

Lockdown Life #4: Preparing to Emerge From Our COVID-19 Cocoon

Lockdown has felt like the strangest limbo version of life.

Ontario, the Canadian province we live in, is entering phase 1 of turning itself back on again after 9 weeks of flattening the curve.

Here are a few reflections I’ve had over the past 9 weeks, which I’ve been jotting down as we go.

A big small world

For me, everything feels less “compartmentalized” globally now.

We all got sick together, as a planet. Our economies suffered together, as a planet. And sickness and economic suffering are still happening.

Strength in numbers has come to mean strength in isolated numbers. And vulnerability in physical proximity.

Viruses don’t care about borders

I understand more than ever that borders are not impenetrable to tiny viral invaders.

I understand more than ever the importance of an active economy, and the challenge of balancing physical health, mental health, and economic health.

Daily life has become tiny and quiet

Our contribution has been to stay home. Our role is to help stop the spread by staying away from others.

We know the world and situation are constantly evolving, but it has also felt like someone hit the Pause button on reality.

The spectrum of experiences for this pandemic is vast

For us, it could be described by words like isolated, quiet, eerie, simple, and confined.

For essential workers, the description would certainly be a lot grimmer.

For those who experienced illness or the death of a loved one, the pain must be unimaginable.

We don’t know what “normal” will look like after this

You don’t get to know how history will unfold as it is happening.

But we do know that the Global Pandemic and Great Lockdown of 2020 will make the history books.

There are silver linings

I have been reminded to appreciate everything that we have.

I’ll never resent all the extra time I’ve had with my kids and husband (even though the flip-side also meant occasionally overdosing on each other’s company).

I’ve finally started to miss other humans

I told Jesse the other day that I think I’m ready to start seeing other people.

“Socially,” I added.

He thanked me for specifying.

I’m conscious (and a little self-conscious) of my privilege in this situation. As hard as parts of this have been, my family has been very much “okay” this whole time.

But these thoughts have been on my mind over the weeks (months), and I figured I might as well share them, because pushing myself to do the uncomfortable is almost always valuable practice.

How has this all been for you?

Thanks for reading 🙂

6 Things Parents Probably Won’t Be Worrying About 20 Years After Quarantine

I am writing from the perspective of a mom of two kids aged 3 and 5. I’ve stopped freelancing to take care of them, and my husband is now teleworking full-time from home.

This post was inspired by my tendency to worry about, well, basically everything.

To help me through some of those anxious thoughts, my husband often says, “Will you still be worried about this in 5, 10, 20 years? Will you even remember worrying about this?”

The answer to both questions is usually no.

Here is a list of 6 things I probably won’t be worrying about 20 years from now when thinking back on COVID-19 and the weeks (months?) of quarantine.

I’d love to hear whether you can relate!

In 20 years, I’m pretty sure I won’t be worrying about…

#1. How well my son participated in his virtual kindergarten classes

The cat’s excitement is palpable. Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Between mics being left open, screen sharing freezing up, sound quality issues, my son’s camera phobia, and the fact that my 3-year-old daughter still exists and has needs during my son’s class, every morning has been a bit of a challenge.

My son’s teachers are wonderful. I’m sure it’s been no easy task to transform their teaching styles and curriculum into something compatible with distance learning, especially when their students are 5-year-olds who can’t type or even read yet.

At the end of the day, it’s kindergarten, and this situation is temporary. I figure as long as we show up online and do our best, that’s good enough.

#2. Whether we followed the perfect homeschool schedule

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

They’re 5 and 3. They’ll be fine. The School of Life is rich with opportunities to learn and grow and ponder and play.

Here is an article I found particularly reassuring on this topic: Local educator says we’re overthinking homeschooling. Educator Sandra Wilson says: “Learning doesn’t have to be a worksheet scenario. Play board games, watch videos and have discussions around them, study nature, explore properties of water…”

I’m pretty sure that, in 20 years, I won’t be looking back saying, “Man, if only I’d found a way to teach my kindergartner calculus during quarantine.”

#3. How much screen time they had

Photo by John-Mark Smith from Pexels

An extension of #2. Extra screen time for a couple of months won’t cause my kids to grow up into mindless zombie-adults.

Besides, they’re already out of the running for Harvard anyway given my aforementioned inability to teach them advanced mathematics at age 5.

#4. Whether we had “too many” pajama days

Photo from Canva Pro

I am confident that relaxing the rules about getting dressed promptly every morning will not produce future 20-year-olds who cannot select a suitable outfit for a job interview.

Unless they do become mindless zombies (#3).

But no one expects a zombie to wear a business suit anyway.

#5. Whether I showered an appropriate amount

Photo by Gratisography from Pexels

Look. Look.

I’m not saying I shower never.

I just shower… less.

And I’m confident I’m not the only one who can say this.

And as long as it doesn’t get too out of hand, I won’t even remember this facet of quarantine life in 20 years. (Although my husband might.)

#6. The fact that I didn’t really know what I was doing

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

In 20 years, it won’t really matter that I didn’t know the best way to spend our days or manage emotions and worries during the quarantine.

Some days, it feels like we are having a cozy little staycation in our private family bubble. Other days are filled with temper tantrums (including mine) and too much TV.

Looking back, I might say there was a lot trial and error.

But that pretty much sums up parenting life in general, right?

What would you add to this list?

Let me know in the comments!

A big thank-you to the essential workers who are still going out there every day to keep the world turning for the rest of us. Your list would probably look very different from mine — and I would love to read it.

Lockdown Life #3: Semi-Organized Chaos/Our Routine

Semi-organized chaos is the way I would describe our life for the past 4-5 weeks of physical distancing measures.

If you’re looking for the perfect recipe for life with two kids and two parents under one roof with nowhere to go, this is not that post.

At the same time, I’m not going to say that we’re suffering greatly. We are very, very lucky, and I recognize that.

My goal is to share our new daily “normal” in a way that doesn’t conceal the imperfections but also doesn’t magnify them, and that shares the good without making it seem like that’s how it is all the time.

I just want to be real with you. I hate internet-perfection.

Cast of characters

We were pretending to have a picnic on the moon last week. I was having a very good mood day.

In case you’re new here, there are currently 4 humans in my house, including me:

  • Jesse is my husband, and his job in the financial sector has moved completely to telework, so he spends his days in our semi-finished basement office.
  • James is 5; he’s in JK (“maternelle,” since he goes to French school). We’ve started online classes for him in the mornings through his school. It’s… not perfect.
  • Olivia is 3; she went to daycare until the closures started.
  • And then there’s me! In non-pandemic times, I do a mix of freelance translation/editing and being the main parent for day-to-day kid stuff. Since school and daycare closed down, I’m looking after the kids full-time during the day.

Daily routine (such as it is)

I think we’ve all seen that schedule going around, and then the tongue-in-cheek response schedules. Our reality is somewhere in between. Most of the time.

I did the thing where I researched schedules and tried to find the perfect way to organize our days. But I kept my overachieving inclinations in check and tried not to go overboard.

Still, I did brainstorm several iterations of a possible schedule for our days. This was one… it is not tidy or pretty:

I can’t decide if I find schedules calming or stressful. Creating them gives me a sense of control, but having to then follow them makes me feel claustrophobic and rebellious.

In the end, I’ve decided to (try to) follow two sources to guide our days:

  1. James’ school schedule, which is roughly 9 am to 10 am every morning. There is usually light homework and suggested activities, so I (try to) do that.
  2. The daily “blocks” recommended by Avital (The Parenting Junkie) in her recent video Organize Your Kids’ Day with These 7 Crucial Elements: play time, focus time, messy time, movement time, quiet time, family time, screen time.

Simplicity over perfection

I get overwhelmed very easily if I’m bombarded with ideas, suggestions, links, videos, schedules, and resources. It’s just too much, and my perfectionism and anxiety both kick in hard, trying to build the “perfect” way to live our lives.

It’s just too much.

Knowing this about myself, I’ve been very careful to limit what I let myself look at. I try to stick to the two sources I mentioned above. It may not be perfect, but if you struggle with anxiety and perfectionism, try to aim for simple over perfect.

Our very rough schedule

So, with all that said, here’s what our days tend to actually look like:

Act 1: Morning

  • 7:30-8:30 am: Wake up sometime between 7:30 am and as late as the kids will let me sleep. (Jesse starts work at 9 am.) Curse myself for staying up past midnight watching Contagion, The Captive, or similar Netflix traps.
  • 8:30-9:00 am: Chocolate milk for the kids; coffee for me. They play (read: begin living room destruction) for a bit.
  • 9:00-10:00 am: James has class. (It’s a frustrating process at the moment, but that’s a story for another post.) Olivia gets tablet time — not an ideal solution (maybe?) but… it’s what works for now.
  • 10:00-11:00 am: The three of us play together, or go outside, or do a craft. Also there’s a snack in there somewhere.

Act 2: Afternoon

My rule of thumb these days is to avoid interrupting them at all costs if they are absorbed in independent or cooperative play.
  • 12:00-1:00 pm: Lunch time. Jesse comes up and takes over for a bit, so that I can “exercise” (in theory — in practice, I have been retreating to the bedroom to be in the dark and quiet for a half-hour. I’m… rather introverted.)
  • 1:00-4:00pm: This is a big chunk of time where I just try to keep us occupied and relatively happy. It depends what we did in the morning, but we might go for a walk, play in the sandbox, do a craft, bake cookies — NOT from scratch; literally the pre-made kind that requires minimal maternal frustration and results in prompt deliciousness — get their baths over with, do the learning activities recommended by James’ school… or lots of Netflix. It really depends how my mind and mood are doing that day.
  • I forgot to mention the 2-3-4 cups of coffee that happen during the day.

Act 3: Late afternoon/evening

He’s their jungle gym; they’re his free weights.
  • 4:00-7:00pm: Supper gets made. Most of it gets eaten. Some ends up on the floor. Daddy plays with the kids after supper and I tidy up.
  • 7:00-9:00pm: Bedtimes happen. We each focus on one kiddo, alternating nights.
  • 9:00-??: I vegetate (like meditate but less trendy). We aim to go to bed at 11pm… but it’s really hard to go to sleep when we finally have peace and quiet and free time.

Semi-organized chaos

“Semi-organized” because they are seated and non-bleeding. “Chaos” because HAVE YOU SEEN OUR HOUSE?

Some of it works; some of it doesn’t. I think the kids are happy. I think they’re learning. I do okay most days. I’ve started tracking my mood using a “year in pixels” printable — maybe I’ll share that in a future post.

The things that are falling through the cracks a bit are housework, blogging (me), and exercise (both, but mostly me).

(Why did I say housework? That’s always fallen through the cracks.)

But we’re managing, and James says he never wants to go back to school. (I’ve always been curious about homeschooling… he’s always said he wants to stay home. It’s an unexpected opportunity to try it out. Maybe that’s yet another future post.)

I recognize how privileged we are to have a parent who is able to work full-time from home while also having a freelancing parent who has the flexibility to not take on work for now. We are so lucky.

It’s not easy every day, but as a family of introverts (except maybe Olivia? too soon to say), we’ve adjusted quite well.

There’s a simplicity to this temporary cocoon we live in.

I find myself saying “If there’s time…” a lot less to the kids.

There was time.

This situation is not idyllic by any means, for anyone, but there’s often a way to find the silver lining, or “flip the script,” as The Parenting Junkie puts it.

But still, pass the coffee. No, no, the whole pot, please.

Hang in there. xoxo

How My Husband Helps Me Deal With Parenting Perfectionism

“Why do I get so angry at the kids?” I said tearfully to my husband this past Tuesday night (shortly after writing this post). “I always thought I would be so patient. But I feel like a bitch mom.”

“You’re an amazing mother,” he replied. (I’m omitting our pet names for each other to save you from gagging.) “You’re just way too hard on yourself. I don’t think you’re actually angry at the kids… I think you’re angry at yourself. For not meeting your own impossible standards.”

And that, in a nutshell, is the conversation that helped me break out of the parenting perfectionism/anxiety trap I had been in for weeks.

Perfectionism and anxiety rob you of the present moment

It’s hard impossible to be present, playful, and calm with two tiny tornadoes when your inner voice is always there narrating for you in the most toxic way: “You’re bad at this. You’re doing it wrong. You’re not doing enough. You’re ruining your kids. This is all your fault. Why aren’t you better at this?”

These feelings tend to sneakily build up over time, until I finally break down in tears. In those moments, I rely heavily on my husband to validate and reassure me, while calling out my inner bully.

Sometimes I just can’t do it for myself.

When I get stuck seeing the trees, my husband helps me step back and see the forest.

Perfectionism and anxiety keep you trapped in the details

Photo by Todd Trapani from Pexels

I get lost in the trees, focusing on how each one isn’t perfect, and taking on all the blame and guilt for every knick and knot.

My husband can see the whole forest. He sees that our family is healthy, that our kids are happy, and that their mama is doing way better than she lets herself believe.

Our marriage is not perfect. The trees of our relationship forest have seen some shit. But when my mental health and self-esteem are on the line, there is no one else who can soothe my soul and help me silence my inner bully the way Jesse does.

To the supportive partners out there: Thank you.

I wish there were more of you in the world. Your support is a potent antidote to the toxic thoughts that run through the mind of someone who struggles with perfectionism, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Fall 2019. Shortly after Jesse’s return from deployment overseas.

Lockdown Life #2: How We’re Doing

Things I’ve learned and/or confirmed this week:

About myself

Photo by Luis Ruiz from Pexels
  • I hate following a schedule. (I used to like building schedules, but never followed them. Now I hate the building part, too.)
  • Not having a schedule makes it hard to get through housebound days with two kiddies.
  • Trying to sit down to make a schedule triggers my perfectionism.
  • A bad schedule is better than no schedule, they say.
  • Speed is better than perfection, they also say.
  • There’s a difference between how I used to think of the word “crisis” most of the time and what a real “crisis” actually looks like. We’re there now — but does crisis exist on a spectrum? They say it will get worse before it gets better. What does a “worse crisis” than a crisis look like?
  • It’s time for me to shift from the “WTF IS EVEN HAPPENING” stage to the “Okay, let’s do our best” stage.

About co-parenting during social isolation

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
  • When there are two parents in a situation like this, and one has to step into the role of caregiver while the other keeps working, now as sole breadwinner, it can be easy to think the other person has it better.
  • The breadwinner gets to keep their schedule more or less intact. They get to use their brains in the ways they like. They get more adult contact. They get peed on less. Their clothes are generally less caked in dried boogers.
  • The caregiver gets to spend all this bonus time with their babies. They aren’t missing these precious, fleeting moments of childhood because they happen to make the higher income, and therefore their job cannot be sacrificed in favour of childcare. They are apart from their spouse and kids all day, or all night, or all the time in the case of some emergency room workers.
  • The “breadwinner” gets too much kid-free time; the caregiver gets too little.
  • The breadwinner feels the pressure to keep the family afloat; the caregiver feels the pressure to keep the family alive.
  • I read somewhere that in order to have a happy marriage, you should each assume the other person is doing 70% of the work. There might be something to that, especially now.

About social anxiety during social distancing

Photo by Lewis Burrows from Pexels
  • It used to feel uncomfortable to be out among people — like my presence was an inconvenience to them.
  • Now, it feels downright wrong.
  • There’s a microscopic elephant in the room, and we’re talking about it constantly in the social situations that remain (grocery store, pharmacy) in an abstract way, like commenting on the weather: “Can you believe how crazy this is? I can’t believe how crazy this is.”
  • But we aren’t really talking about what’s truly going on in (at least some of) our minds in the moments we’re near each other publicly: “I am terrified that one of us could get the other sick; I am terrified that you think I am sick and will give it to you; I am terrified that you think I’m being careless; I am terrified that you think I am being overly cautious; I am terrified you will take the essentials my family needs; I am terrified you will think I am being selfish and taking too much; I am terrified; are you terrified?”
  • As the generally non-socially-anxious public gets a taste of what it’s like to live with social anxiety — those of us with social anxiety feel the terror ratcheted up to suffocation.
  • Should we be bracing ourselves against developing full-blown agoraphobia?
  • What about those with health anxieties — those who were already perhaps uncharitably called “germaphobes”? Is a similar shift happening in their lives? Are we all a little germaphobic now, and they have been levelled up to their breaking point?

About life in uncertain times

Photo by Lewis Burrows from Pexels
  • Positive and negative emotional states can coexist. It possible to feel:

Resentful and grateful

Trapped and blessed

Safe and terrified

Cranky and relieved

Affectionate and angry

Anxious and hopeful

Lucky and overwhelmed

  • It’s time to put all that we’ve learned about managing anxiety to the test. For ourselves, and in service to others.
  • For those of us who’ve benefited from therapy, we have a lot to offer others on how to manage anxious thoughts and live with uncertainty.
  • Maybe the way forward is to find a way to anxiously accept that unacceptable things are happening right now.
  • There’s not much certainty today, except the certainty that life is now more unpredictable than ever.
  • Let’s just take a deep breath and take comfort in knowing that we’re all uncomfortable together.

Maybe it’s about socially distant solidarity.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Reconnecting With My “Why” as a Mental Health Blogger

When my grandmother passed away in August 2018, I wrote a post about her for my old blog. In that post, I mentioned that I think she experienced anxiety. The way she wrote about interactions with others makes me think it may have been social anxiety to some extent.

I’ll never know first-hand what it was like to experience anxiety or depression in generations past. I can speculate that it was a lonely, confusing road.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I even learned there was condition known as social anxiety disorder. As for “depression,” it was a term I was vaguely aware of, but I assumed it was the kind of thing that happened to other people, and that I was far too resilient for such things.

I was probably depressed at the time.

I was definitely anxious.

I definitely suffered from low self-esteem and rock-bottom self-worth.

But I am so lucky.

I am so lucky to be a young(ish) adult(ish) in 2020, to be part of the movement away from bottling up feelings and keeping a stiff upper-lip. To be part of breaking down mental health stigma. To be going through my own recovery amidst mental health advocacy, eating disorder awareness, and basically a collective cry to stop beating ourselves up about EVERYTHING.

It’s only a start; voices are joining the chorus but for many, still, mental health is an obscure topic, and personal challenges are secret and shameful.

But even as I recognize how lucky I am, I hurt as I wonder… What about my grandmother? What about other family members who have also suffered from mental health challenges that went undiagnosed, unvalidated, and most importantly, untreated?

I’m generally a mental health optimist, but when I think about how many people have lost so much from untreated, and sometimes self-medicated, disorders… it’s hard.

At the end of my blog post about my grandmother, I wrote:

I will help tear down the walls of stigma and ignorance so that my children—your greatgrandchildren—have access to even more resources and support than I do now, and you ever did.

This was written before I felt the need to have an explicit “purpose” for my writing or for sharing my journey.

But when I came across it in my drafts a little while ago, it stuck with me. Just a little niggle in the back of my mind.

This week and last, I’ve been struggling a lot with what I’ve started calling “purpose anxiety.” I’ve been wrestling with the question of “why” I’m putting myself out there and whether it “matters.”

Today, finally, it hit me that I’ve had a “why” this whole time, without consciously realizing it.

That statement was my why, before I really knew it.

  • I’m writing for my grandmother.
  • I’m writing for my daughter and my son.
  • I’m writing for me.
  • And I’m writing for you.

Even though I may never know that “you” have read this. All I can hope is that some parts of my words impact some of the many people who need to feel less alone.

Is it too grandiose to hope that today’s voices can empower the voices of tomorrow?

I guess I don’t need a specific path plotted out. I don’t need to worry so much about how to make the perfect impact all the time. I can’t save the world with every post — and probably not with all my posts combined, either.

And that’s okay, in the end. This is a group effort, right?

I just need to show up and let my voice join the chorus of mental health and self-compassion advocates out there today who are saying:

  • It’s okay to not be okay.
  • Check on your friends.
  • Give yourself some grace.
  • You are not bad.
  • You deserve to heal.
  • Recovery is possible.
  • You are not alone.

I think that’s a pretty good “why.” 🙂

Facing My Fear of Talking on Video

I’ve been getting viddy with it.

I’m having complete blogger’s block today, so I thought I would share 3 videos from the past week that I shared on Instagram. (Apologies if you follow me on both platforms and have seen these already.)

I want to share these on here because I feel like they capture many sides of the social anxiety experience:

  • The first one was filmed on a “really bad” anxiety day (that one was hard to film!).
  • The second one talks about shopping anxiety and compares my kids to drunk dinosaurs, and then features me coming back on to assure everyone that my kids are not, in fact, drunk. (Jesse tells me this was clearly a social anxiety safety behaviour, because anyone who thought I was actually giving my kids alcohol would be crazy.)
  • And the third one goes into perfectionism, which is something I haven’t written much about it on here, but plan to.

I hope you get something out of the videos! I’ll get my writer inspiration back for the next post. 🙂

Filming on a “bad” anxiety day

It’s shaky and there’s an editing glitch partway through… but, fuck it, we’re doing it live. (Not really live.)

Mall anxiety, driving anxiety, and drunk dinos

Perfectionism… and Batman

This one has another glitch near the end where a segment plays twice in a row… gaaaah…. can I let this one go? Should I? Must I?! IT’S A VIDEO ABOUT PERFECTIONISM. Fuck. I have to let it stay as is. I know I do.

And just in case it’s on your mind as well — I do find it strange and surprising that I can talk so candidly on video. Imperfectly. With imperfect lighting and glitchy editing and all sorts of amateur-hour stuff.

But I’m doing it, finally. I’m committed to this messy process of learning and growth.

And I also feel like I’m committed to something bigger than me — I want to document real social anxiety and everything that comes with it, from many angles and content formats.

I want to help people feel less alone. I want to shed light on a very quiet condition — because how many people with social anxiety feel ready to share? I’m finally there, and I feel like it’s my duty and my privilege to share the journey.

I’m all in on this.

Apparently I’m feeling all lofty and impassioned today, after all. 🙂