Father’s Day

No matter how much I try to deny it, Father’s Day is by far the toughest day of the year for me.  Many of you know, that my father passed away at a very young age after what can only be described as the most bizarre period of my life.  In 2000, I was 22 years old, newly married and I hadn’t had my children yet.  Dad slipped away into the confusing and heartbreaking journey through Alzheimer’s, despite only being in his 40’s.

It wasn’t until over 15 years later that I finally started properly grieving his death.  Some days I still look at my daughters and a wave of anger washes over me – how could he be missing all of this, all of these moments, the laughter, the family visits and these granddaughters that he so enthusiastically looked forward to spoiling to bits?

I’m not a rational person when it comes to Father’s Day. I see kids struggle through the stage of not treating their parents well and my heart hurts for all the times I was rough on my poor dad.

Despite being generally sad on Father’s Day, I am very aware of how fortunate I am to have great dads in my life still.  Mike, the girl’s dad has always been a great father.  I treasure my conversations with Doug, Brent’s stepdad and I enjoy visits with David, Brent’s dad.  The last two years I have really loved watching my brother in law Chris shine as a dad, and of course my brother Dan is pretty much the exact replica of what I remember my dad being like when I see him with his girls.

There are countless other dad’s in my life that I admire.  But this year, I’d like to tribute my husband Brent.

Father's DayIt’s really hard to put into words what has happened to me this last week or so, but I can tell you that the events that unfolded have completely transformed my perspective on this man.  As in any marriage, things haven’t been easy.  We are both smart, and come equipped with our own firm set of values and opinions. Those haven’t always lined up. But now, I think I finally see that what I have been looking for in him has been there all along. I just never knew it until this week.  I realize that might sound ridiculous – after all, I am married to the man. Just hear me out….

One week ago today, I was in Grand Marais with my friend Lauren. We were blissfully basking in the afterglow of an epic spa day, making our way back home.  About 2 hours from town, my phone rang.  It was Mike, calling me from an ambulance, where he was with Camryn headed to the hospital.  In the short conversation that I can’t fully remember today, he explained that she had broken her leg while dirt biking at his camp.

Shaking, I realized that I couldn’t be there when she got to the hospital. I immediately called Brent, explained what I knew of the situation and asked him to be at the hospital with her. All he said was “Yes.”

When I arrived at emergency room two hours later, I walked in to find Camryn in a highly anxious state – and there was Brent at her bedside.  He stayed there, until almost 11pm.  He arrived at the hospital again at 7:30am with a bag packed for her, and he stayed with me all day Sunday while she had her surgery, got settled back in her room, and finally left at nearly 10pm that night. Just as I was getting settled in my “hospital chair that pretends to be a bed” a text came in that said “I miss you.”

I just stared at my phone, in disbelief.

Father's DayThis man, who had spent nearly 48 hours non-stop by my side, who had been nothing but steadfast, calm, and comforting for me, and for a child that *isn’t even his* leaves and then 15 minutes later tells me he misses me?

A wave of emotion came over me. Because every day, he chooses this life.  He doesn’t have to, but he does.  And when shit gets real, he doesn’t waver. Ever.  I thought about all the times I felt angry with him for not buying me flowers, or not saying the exact romantic thing I wanted to say at the exact moment I wanted him to say it and how in those moments I thought he was just the worst person ever and I felt shame. Because, if that same man can stand with me at my worst and tell me he misses me then he deserves my best, forever.

Nadia La RussaAll of a sudden, it was like the lights went on.  I became very, very grateful for the life I have.  I have a man who accepts me as I am, and who wholly and unconditionally loves my daughters as if they are his. And that makes Father’s Day a really, really amazing thing to celebrate.

Happy Father’s Day Brent

Love,

All your girls

 

Why I don't Celebrate Halloween

Why I Don’t Celebrate Halloween

Halloween is in a few days, and each year I dread it. Want to know why I don’t celebrate Halloween? The store shelves are just about buckling from the weight of chocolate bars, pumpkins and severed limbs, and hyperactive kids across North America are testing their parents’ sanity. As far as I’m concerned, Halloween is just another greedy, commercialized money-grab that teaches our kids very poor lessons.

Here are four reasons why I don’t celebrate Halloween:

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You Hurt My Feelings!

After a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings, Friday was a real learning experience for me. The topic of the day: Hurt Feelings.

As ridiculous as this sounds, I have hurt feelings about having hurt feelings. My failed attempt at communicating my hurt feelings elicited the following response:

“But your feelings get hurt all the time!”

Wow.

As it turns out, “Nadia the Well Adjusted” is actually “Nadia the Way Too Sensitive”. Well then, if I could only find that pesky feelings switch and shut them off, we could all carry on our merry way. I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately, I felt chopped to bits – as if he had no understanding whatsoever of what I was struggling with, and further, as if he didn’t care to find out.

So, I did a bit of research on feelings, what they are for, and how to control them. Personally, I don’t actually think that my feelings get hurt “all the time” but I will recognize that my feelings get consistently hurt by the same catalysts – in my case the feeling of rejection or abandonment.

The first place I went is back to The Love Dare. Chapter 3 is “Love is not Selfish” and it says that love asks us to deny ourselves for the sake of someone else, but selfishness leads to becoming “higher maintenance” (ironically, another phrase I’ve heard more than once!), more needy, overly sensitive and demanding.

Yep, I can see all of that. I felt (see, there I go again!) overwhelmed Friday by I series of probably innocent comments, varying in topic from laundry to work to marriage, compounded by the busy season of work, and my own lack of self-worth.

Then, I went to the book Boundaries, which is another really great foundational book. It details a story quite similar to mine – a husband dismisses his wife’s feelings because she has feelings too often. Boundaries states that we are responsible for our own feelings but to one another. So, it’s not anyone’s place to take the blame for my feelings, or for me to assume that they caused them or had any control over them – they are mine to own. However, the authors’ position is that we are all still responsible to connect with each other in a loving way. I’ll try to work on that today.

I think that most of us who have hurt feelings from one thing or another feel three basic things:
1) I don’t want hurt feelings.
2) I’m not sure why I have these feelings.
3) I don’t know how to stop these feelings.

I Don’t Want Hurt Feelings

Some people just like to have something to be upset about all the time. I’ve been accused of this, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m happy to go on my merry way, with no bumps in the road. As soon as my feelings get hurt, my chest heats up, my heart starts pounding, and I want to get on the next flight to Australia. But I have seen the opposite personality – the ones that revel in drama and just loves to create situations out of thin air. I feel like I have a short list of topics that I am sensitive to – so my plan is to work on those things.

Being aware that the world around us cannot be fully controlled by us is the first step. Ultimately, I cannot control any other person’s words, feelings, or actions. I can, however, note trends in what causes my hurt feelings and have a contingency plan in place.

I’m Not Sure Why I Have These Feelings

Do you ever look back on situations and say “WHY was I SO upset back then?” I do. The truth is, I cannot put my finger on the “why” of my hurt feelings in this place. Here is one important thing to always remember: Not knowing why your feelings are hurt is not a good reason to ignore them. Hurt feelings should neither be ignored nor placed in charge.

Ignoring your feelings leads to a snowball of emotions that will eventually manifest itself in one way or another, and likely on some innocent bystander wearing the wrong colour of socks. However, putting your hurt feelings in charge leads to hostility, harsh words, and misunderstanding.

I tend to feel vulnerable and easily hurt when issues touch on how I define myself. In this example, since I want to define myself as a good wife, my self-esteem is connected to my perceived performance in this regard. I’m more likely to be hurt by criticisms on my spousal responsibilities, parenting abilities and work performance and less likely to be hurt by criticism about the clothes I wear, the books I read, this blog and if I’m actually a good stand-up comedian.

One theory is that hurt feelings caused by the exclusion of another is a primal and evolutionary response that we have very little control over. In The Highly Sensitive Person author Elaine Aron discusses that back when humans were hunter-gatherers, “being excluded from the group was very dangerous.” The concept back then was that “you might have starved, or even gone insane from being ostracized.” Aron’s further position is that we record emotional wounds in the same part of the brain as physical pain.

So, THAT’S why.

I Don’t Know How to Stop These Feelings

Sometimes, I’m told to “just be ok” and I feel like crying. Thankfully, after yesterday, I finally understand that men just don’t understand. Men, as we know, are “fixers” and want to make everything better by some tangible, logical and rational “thing” and us women sometimes just need a hug and some time. Thankfully, our brains can actually learn to process hurt feelings despite history and genetic predisposition to being sensitive.

Here is a game plan:

1) Eject! (Temporarily) – I would never suggest to bury or hide your feelings forever. But, a few things to keep in mind as you process through them. We have all heard the famous Lawrence J. Peter quote “Speak when you’re angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” Sometimes, 24 hours makes everything better. I will one day research why a pounding heart and tight chest causes foolish words to exit our mouths.

2) Reject with Positivity – Make a list of all the great things about yourself, write it down, and keep it handy. This list is now the Master List. The more aware you are about the positive things about yourself, the less likely you are to disintegrate when criticized.

3) Engage in Pleasure – go for a walk, notice the sunshine, read a book, have a bath. I can see most of you rolling your eyes and saying “how cliché.” TRUST ME THESE WORK! Just do them. Excessive focus on what hurt your feelings makes them seem larger and more difficult to resolve. Find a positive, healthy distraction.

4) Forgive, trust, and be vulnerable – Seems pretty backwards, doesn’t it? The truth is that those of us who are closed off and unwilling to open up are the recipient of more criticism, anxiety and depression than our open-book counterparts. Accept an apology, then say “Thank you, I forgive you” out loud. Magic will happen.

Love is kind

It’s been a crazy month and a half. I couldn’t believe it when I logged in to find out my last post was in January. I would like to humbly admit that my first attempt at my second attempt of the love dare didn’t go well. To be brutally honest, Brent and I have had a rough six weeks.

I understand that most of the nonsense in our marriage is a direct result of my terrible sense of self worth and my lack of self confidence. It was some time after my last post that I realized that there is actually nothing about myself that I like. Now, before you all start awwww-ing, just hear me out. I’m actually ok with realizing that I don’t like anything about myself, because from there I was able to identify and conquer these items.

I have some broad goals for this year, in no particular order:

1) Get my body in better shape.

I don’t quite have this mapped out just yet, but I am struggling through the ongoing frustration of having drastically changed so much about my eating and activity habits only to see absolutely no changes in my physical appearance. 5 years ago I gave up soda pop, fast food and started actively exercising. Then, two years ago I gave up gluten, and started eating more fruits and veggies daily. Then last year, I started running regularly. Guess what the result was? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I haven’t lost any weight or dropped any inches.

My new view of this is that a dedicated and serious attempt is required: mindful eating of whole clean foods only. The only liquid to enter my mouth is water, 64oz per day minimum and sweat-inducing workouts 4 days per week. I have decided to track this for the next 12 weeks (with your help, Dear Reader, of course!)

2) Get my marriage in better shape.

Isn’t falling in love fantastic? Isn’t staying in love the most difficult thing in the whole world? Why does no one point this out in a clear fashion *before* married couples find themselves on the brink of emotional disaster? Truth is that Brent and I love each other terribly. I know this. I have read pretty much every relationship book there is, and the basic premises of these writings all make perfect sense – and all seem to completely vanish in the moment of a good argument. Our last big fight was on Valentine’s Day – how ironic. I miss being romanced and being doted on, something Brent pointed out was not in our wedding vows.

He has told me clearly that he has no intentions of being more romantic or changing in any way, so the reins are in my hands on this one. I’m going to try again.

3) Get my house in better shape

All five kids have grown since we last went through their closets, my room and kitchen need a major overhaul and the basement, well…ya. I am blessed to have Katie Miller in my life – she is coming to give me a hand at the end of the month. I find that I am much more relaxed when I feel like the house is in order.

4) Get work in better shape

All things considered, work is going pretty well. I have already completed a bunch of training this year and have a clearer idea of where I want the companies to go – implementation will begin May 1.

So – back to my love dare. On the topic of kindness to Brent, I have a long way to go. Some “journal” thoughts are this:

How would your husband describe you on the kindness meter? – Very low, ashamedly.
How harsh are you? – In general, I feel I come off as very harsh. This is not intentional. Brent has said to me “you have no idea how you sound” and I hate that about myself.
How gentle and helpful are you? – I feel like I am quite helpful. I try to lighten his household burden, but I get frustrated when it goes seemingly unnoticed. As for being gentle, yes, I am, but it’s intentional instead of natural.

I guess what I am realizing is that love needs to exist in me, even if I don’t feel I am receiving it. So, for the next 3 days I will say nothing negative to Brent, and I will show him at least one act of kindness per day.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.”- Ephesians 4:32

The Love Dare, Round 2

Last year I very quietly read, and (tried to) implement(ed) the Love Dare and the Respect Dare. At the same time.

They aren’t written by the same authors, but their 40-dare systems allow for integration, somewhat. So it worked…ish. I think most people that read these books operate like this is a “one time thing” because each dare gets more challenging than the next. They are geared towards a happy marriage, creating one, fixing one or preventing undue stress. I don’t consider myself to be a marriage expert by any means, but lately I have found odd trinkets of advice come out of my mouth. Brent and I are constantly talking about and trying to improve our marriage, and we can both humbly admit that we have said and done things to each other that were far less than what we’d expect from ourselves.

My goals this year include learning more about myself and expanding my consulting/teaching aspects of my job. I firmly believe that one cannot give what one does not have, so I have decided to take the Love Dare and the Respect Dare journeys again, only this time slower, and one at a time. I am starting with the Love Dare.

I would like to integrate each dare for a series of days, for three reasons:
1) I sometimes fail, (like I did with this first dare when I tried it, oh, 4 days ago!)
2) I don’t want to forget the progress. I want to make these 40 dares more like 40 habits, so I think I will decide on a number of days to practice each dare.
3) I need time to process the impact of each dare before moving on to the next one.

Dare #1 – Based on the principle that love is patient, my challenge for the next 3 days is to demonstrate patience by not saying anything negative to Brent.

When most of us hear “love is patient” I bet our minds wander to the popular bible verse from 1 Corinthians. Although that is a great verse, and I’m sure our friends at Hallmark must have made just a fortune on artsy “I’m sorry” cards with it, the premise behind my dare is to pause for a moment so I can fully listen to what Brent is trying to say to me without interrupting. I feel like mastering this will make my thoughts wise, my emotions more controlled, and my marriage stronger.

If anyone chooses to join me on this journey – welcome. Reach out to me if you wish, I would love it! Here is my first bit of encouragement: Few of us do patience well, and NONE of us do it naturally. What this means is that this “unnatural” calm is something we need to work at, to allow those around us to fail without feeling shame from us. There is nothing more rewarding than actively giving someone more time than they need to correct a mistake, and visibly avoiding an argument. Trust me, it’s exhilarating! Too often we feel the need to lash out, or give our spouse the gears. I bet all of us feel bad afterward, even just a little bit. Take this dare with me, and try extending extra patience to your significant other.

Mosquito’s Find Me Tasty!

Recently, I snuck away to Cancun with Brent. And boy, did we *sneak*. Only two people knew we were going before we left…best trip ever 🙂 We chilled, relaxed, did a little flyboarding, and slept in every day.

I’m noticing a trend with mosquitos – that is, I never see them, yet they manage to have a feast out of my flesh. Only mine, not Brent’s. My first experience with this anomaly is when we went to Thailand last year for Tara’s wedding. I woke up after the first day with my left leg, arm and shoulder covered in little bites. We determined that I must have kicked off the blankets while I slept, or, uncovering the buffet table as you will. They looked and acted just like normal mosquito bites – small, itchy red bumps with no other unique qualities – until our flight home reached crusing altitude. By this time, I had fully taken advantage of our Avion-points-extra-super-duper-first-class-seats complete with mini bar and my friend Drambuie, when all of a sudden, the mosquito bites quintupled in size, became burning hot to the touch, and broke my skin open.

431325_10150506690362212_571724387_n

I paged the flight attendant and asked if they had Benadryl on board. She returned a few minutes later with a small baggy containing two unmarked yellow pills, smiled and handed them to me with my 4th Drambuie. Skeptical, I consumed both, and the Drambuie, and woke up what felt like a short time later on the ground in Paris. Brent tells me about 9 hours passed.

The flight from Paris was the one leg of our trip that was economy class. By the time we landed in Toronto, I was emotional, sore, my legs were on fire, bleeding and I was afraid that I was going to have to have them both amputated. I did the only logical thing that any well-adjusted professional would do. I burst into tears and called my mommy.

Me: Mooooooooooommmmmm!!!! IgotbitbymosquitosinthailandandnowmylegsareSORE! *sob*
Mom: Mm-hmm. Ok. Well, what time does your flight land?
Me: IDUNNO!*sniffsobsobsob*
Mom: I see. Alright. Well, how about I figure it all out and pick you up at the airport with some Benadryl?
Me: Ya
Mom: So, is Brent there with you?
Me: Ya, but he has no clue what to do with me.
Mom: No kidding.

Sometimes moms just know how to fix things. A few days, a hospital visit and some more tears later, they went away.

I had completely forgotten about them until Cancun. During an excursion to Chichen Itza
I looked down at my feet and saw this:

IMG_0053

I have no idea why this happens to me. About $115USD later I had some lovely drugs and a topical cream so that I could continue walking without wanting to claw the skin off my ankles.

I guess I’m just tasty.

The Sniffling-Sneezing-Stuffyhead-Sorethroat-Ifeellikedying

Uggggggggghhhhhhhhhh.

I’m sick.

I hardly ever get sick.

Probably because God doesn’t like to inflict sick Nadia on my friends and family. I immediately turn into a clingy-whiny-needy brat. This started on Tuesday of last week when I completely lost all drive and energy and fell asleep sitting up at a church potluck at 6pm. Brent sent me home, where I immediately fell asleep again until 7am the next day. Now every time he leaves the room I text “Where are you!” and when he comes back we identify that I really didn’t *need* him for anything, just wanted him in the same room for….something…

Then, I lost my voice. Which, after you hear for the hundreth time “Oh wow, lucky Brent you have no voice har-dee-harhar” it gets old. And really, who came up with that joke anyway? Is my normal talking that terrible? Cause I tell ya, having to say everything twice when you have a sore throat aint fun.

Today I have sexy-raspy-voice. You know, the one where it sounds like you are a voice double for Marge Simpson’s sisters that smoke 8 packs a day. The one where you can’t quite yet have a coherent phone conversation.

And the exhaustion is probably the worst part. Poor Brent has been cleaning up after me all week. I get these bursts of energy, and think I can do normal things like prepare fancy dinners and bake. Then, about 3/4 of the way through I drift off to the bedroom, leaving him piles of dishes, baking supplies and various other messes to sort out.

And isn’t it also cool when you are sick you think that this is the opportune time to start experimenting with concoctions that you wouldn’t dream of consuming in normal life. Next to me on my desk, where my coffee usually sits is a witches brew of various kitchen spices including cayenne pepper because “the internet” insists that it will bring my voice back.

Yummy

Diet goes out the window as well. Forget working out, and what feels best on a sore throat? Why, ice cream of course! For dinner!

I have an idea…I think I’ll take a beach vacation…