For Fit Sake: Week Three

I’ve definetly hit the point where I’m battling excuses. I was so sick over the weekend and everything hurt. I felt like I belonged in a nursing home I was so stiff and off balance.  While that was a good reason to relax and heal, now that I’m feeling better I feel the excuses creeping up like maybe I’m just too busy today or maybe there’s some small reason that I’d let stand in my way and stop me from staying dedicated.

So I know this is where either this effort fails and fades, or it gets stronger and becomes a habit. I have been here and so many times I’ve failed and faded. Now I’m ready to double up my efforts and push through the excuses.  I have a relatively active weekend planned and looking ahead to my schedule next week I have lots of time to work out so I’m getting on top of and ahead of scheduling that time for myself.

That’s honestly one of the biggest game changers for me.  What made it so easy to slip into excuses this week was thinking I’ll just get my workout in at some point in the day.  Weeks one and two I really put emphasis on getting my workout in as early as possible.  Sometimes I got up early to do it before work.  If not before work it was as though the race was on to get it done ASAP and I want to get back to that. When I put that pressure on myself to get it DONE right away I worked out harder and I kept the positive effects of the workout, along with the focus on my health, all day!

When I wait all day before working out I rush through it at the end of my day and my whole day lacks any sort of focus on my health.

What I really love is when I’m able to workout at home in the morning and then squeeze in a little gym time on my evenings off.

Along with being unfocused this past week I’ve been slacking on instagram so I’m hoping to improve that accountability this week, too!
How are you doing this week? Where are you in your journey?

Carmen

How to: Support your Poly Friends

TL;DR: (Yeah, I had a lot to say here, #sorrynotsorry ) Be kind. To all of us. About our relationship. We like pizza and laughing so… less drama and more pizza please.

When we came out we knew the news would be a surprise for a lot of our friends and we were prepared to be patient while they processed this change in our lives.  We couldn’t have fully explained then exactly what we needed or wanted from them that was any different from before – we were in the midst of understanding this ourselves.  However, now that we’ve had some time to live this life and experience what it’s changed and what it hasn’t I have some thoughts I want to share.

In most ways being a supportive friend to any of the four of us hasn’t really changed. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that what we need from our friends didn’t change, just the number of people supporting us did. We’ve all been blessed with friends who included our married partners in the friendships and made sure they always recognized loving us meant loving our marriages.  Well there’s more to love now.  If you loved us and our marriages before please remember we have more partners we want to involve now.  Maybe it won’t be everyone together all the time – we don’t always travel as a group. However, we do travel as a group a lot of the time and it’s awkward and disheartening to think there are spaces where we aren’t welcome to be all of us.

Maybe I should note here that if there’s a real reason you want to invite one or two of us in to a space but not invite all of us, just talk to us! We’re pretty understanding about circumstances.  But if the limitation is being placed just because the plural nature of our relationship makes you uncomfortable, why are you inviting any of us to anything? This is a huge part of who we are.

Think of how you generally show support to your friends: spending time with them, keeping up to date with their lives, listening when they need an ear, offering advice when they need it, and yes, having some sort of friendship with their partner – even if its only because they’re dating and not because you would choose that partner as a friend for yourself.

I think maybe that last bit has been the most complicated for people in our lives, but we’ll get to that.

I want to stress here that I’m writing this with the greatest affection for everyone in all our lives and the deepest gratitude that they want to support us and be a part of our lives. Our friends aren’t the only ones figuring out “how this works” exactly, so we’re here to support them supporting us.

Spend Time with Us: We all have our own lives. Don’t worry – we didn’t become like a single-minded entity that can’t function unless we’re together. We still have our own friends and our own interests.  However, we love our time with all of our partners and we are protective of that time – we only have so much time with each person in a week – so maybe we’re a little picky about how we prioritize, especially when it means less time for our relationships. Try not to hold it against us if we can’t make a certain day or certain something work because we need to be home that night.  If we say we want to make plans work with you, we mean it.

Stay Up to Date with Us: Just ask us what’s up, what’s new, what’s happening.  We are busy, busy people and we’d love to share all the little things that bring us joy, stress us out, drive us crazy and make us laugh in a week. We have stories about the quirks of dating each other, about the side effects of living under one roof, about our various jobs and of course our hobbies.  We want to catch up – let’s pick a time. I think people hesitate to ask us what’s new because they just don’t know what to expect so let me reassure you – it hasn’t changed that much. It includes more people now. But if you’re afraid we’re going to bombard you with awkward amounts of detail about our sex lives or something you can stop worrying.

Let us Talk: You’re our friends – we’ve always been able to vent and rant and just talk with you.  We really highly value being able to speak freely about our lives without holding back when we want to switch from a story about one partner to a story about another.  We crave the ability to and the space to express ourselves without hiding any part of ourselves and our happiness.  But this is pretty well tied in to the next piece…

Give us Advice when Asked for or Needed: Except… don’t discount our relationships. I think it’s easy to assume poly is the root of all problems in our lives but we all have people at work that cause us stress, frustrations with our hobbies or other activities, and generally a whole lot of life that isn’t defined by our relationships.
We live together. We love each other. If we’ve come to you for advice on any topic, just know the recommending a break up is never the answer.

It feels like any time one of us expresses stress it’s easy for people to question if we should rethink our relationships. This gets frustrating because our relationships are a source of comfort, confidence and strength in our lives. Think of your own happy and healthy relationships – regardless of how they’re configured or defined – what do they bring to your life? I hope they bring you happiness, laughter, inspiration and that they feed your soul, feed your fire and enable you to be all that you are outside of those relationships. That’s what our relationships do in our lives.

When people suggest that our relationship structure is the reason we’re stressed about one thing or another I think it just kind of saddens us that maybe that person isn’t seeing how happy we are.

Including the Partner(s): Hey – you didn’t pick them. Your friend might think this person can do no wrong and you might think they’re all sorts of wrong.  That doesn’t change the fact. Friendships, in my experience, work best when friends respect and include a serious partner regardless of if they would pick that partner as a friend for themselves.  In case us living together isn’t the hint you’re looking for: We’re serious about this relationship and each other. You don’t get to pick your monogamous friends partners, and you don’t get to pick which one of us is coming to dinner.  If you message me saying we should get together for dinner and the invite is open to my partners – then it’s open to my partners. When you specify which partner or partners are invited and which aren’t it leaves me with the feeling I’m not really accepted by you. There’s a whole part of my life, a whole person who makes me crazy, insanely happy that you’re trying to ignore just because there are other partners you can focus on and really, that just doesn’t work. Maybe sometimes you want one on one time with me and that’s great but if this is an open invite for partners, it’s open to all of mine, or none of us.

Stop waiting fo the Break Up: Seriously. How much more do I need to say? Regardless of if a relationship is monogamous or not, holding your breath for us to break up because you’re not sold on the relationship is one of the absolute rudest behaviours I’ve ever witnessed in a friendship. You want me to be happy, yeah? Even if it’s not the exact happily ever after you imagined for me? (Otherwise, why are we friends?) Well then, start breathing because this relationship is built to last and friendships that don’t accept us can’t.

We’ve all gotten less tolerant of “friends” who add stress and drama to our busy lives

There might not be a super cute way to say this one. People who add stress instead of relieving it, people who make us cry instead of laugh, people who manipulate, spread doubt instead of encouragement, and who generally can’t bring themselves to be a positive part of our day… we’ve got less and less time or patience for those people.

And if our attitude shifting in a way that makes us okay with those friendships fading is a problem – if it’s a problem that we’re really over negativity and negative people – well, then our attitude changing really isn’t the reason the friendship is ending.

Carmen

For Fit Sake: Week Two

So last Friday I talked about starting a new series, For Fit Sake, so I could force myself to talk about this fitness journey and stay accountable.  It kind of comes with the idea that if I’m forcing myself to report on how it’s going I’ll try harder to make it go well.

So far, so good! I am just wrapping up week 2 using Anna Victoria’s Body Love app for workouts. It’s not super feasible with busy family life for me to commit to the meal plan in the app, but more on food in a bit.

Honestly, sometimes I do have to generalize the workouts a little bit if there’s a move I struggle with too much or if I don’t have equipment available. I’ve been working on staying as close to the workout plan as possible while making sure I never miss a day. Sunday is rest day, and other than that I never miss a day.

I’ve also joined Planet Fitness. My husband (Ben) and girlfriend (Maggie) have been going for a few months. It took a bit of figuring out because I don’t drive so I needed to figure out with Ben and Maggie how I’d get to the gym and make a schedule that worked.

I go a couple times a week with Maggie and whenever Ben and I are free at the same time we try to go.

I really like the chance to get in some extra cardio and I’m working my way towards remembering how to do strength training at the gym.

Now I said I’d come back around to talking about food. The thing is, I’ve gotten really good at working out often but I’m still in a serious love affair with carbs so… still working on eating well.  Week one I was great. Week two I’ve eaten a lot of bread. We’ll see what week three brings… I suppose all things can’t be improved at once, but at least there’s progress.

Question of the week: What do you find easier to do well with – working out consistently or eating well?

New Series: For Fit Sake

Okay so obviously I wanted to write about my fitness journey or health journey or weight loss journey – whatever you want to call it – when I started this blog.  In my mind it would have a bit of everything from my life and right now the three most important pillars that define my day to day life are my love life, my career and my quest to get healthier with the side effect of getting smaller.  If I’m really honest it starts with wanting to be smaller and I just know that the truth is I need to be healthier if I want to shrink.

Notice something about the blog? Two of those things get posted about all the time but something is missing. I haven’t been able to write honestly about my fitness journey because truthfully it’s been a mess.

Like anyone else, I prefer to write about my successes. I imagined myself writing these posts about having done this exercise or eaten that food and seeing results that made me happy.

Well here I am at my heaviest.

Damn it – that sucks to write. It sucks to admit publicly and to even think about going on, talking and writing about being here. It feels like the same old same old – I’ve been ‘at my heaviest” for some time now, except that number, what that phrase means on the scale, has been creeping up.

One of the most successful strategies I’ve had for losing weight in the past has been when I posted more regularly to my fitness-focused instagram. Of course I plan to get posting and engaging there again because it helped but I realized that this blog was always meant to have fitness on it so why shouldn’t it be a part of my accountability posts?

For Fit Sake is going to be an ongoing series posted every Friday where I’m making myself stay accountable about the week. I don’t want it to be just a diary so i’m going to encourage myself to learn each week and have something with a bit more substance to share and hopefully in the process of creating a series I’m proud of I’ll also be building a lifestyle that matches.

Things to look forward to this Friday and in near-future Fridays:

  • I’m starting again with the Body Love app by Anna Victoria. I really like her workouts and her as a fitness coach – she’s created a great community and a beautiful app so there’s no reason for me to go somewhere else at this moment. (Hint: 1 week in it’s going well!)
  • Updates to my fitness journal – what it looks like, how I use it, I’ll try to share.
  • Setting up space for myself to workout. I’ll share what working out at home means to me and how that’s changed.

You can find my instagram if you’d like the daily updates and details, too! My fitness focused instagram is @fitish.kitten

Since I’m starting here I want to know – what are you biggest struggles in creating a fitter or healthier lifestyle?

Function of Beauty: Am I really about to buy shampoo and conditioner from a facebook ad?

Well, if you’re like me you’ve probably seen Function of Beauty ads popping up all over your social media.  They catch your eye with pretty colours, alluring scent names and most notably, the promise to personalize your hair care.

I resisted these ads for months.  I already had shampoo and conditioner that I liked and honestly, as tempting as personalized hair products were, it still took me a bit to wrap my head around ordering online.

I read that they started out as a boutique you could visit and have your shampoo & conditioner made. I remember wishing I lived close to it because I totally would of loved something like that I just wasn’t sure about doiong it online.

Clearly I got on board with ordering my shampoo and conditioner online.  It’s not really like there was anything special about my experience buying it at the drug store or even buying “the good stuff” at Sephora – I was still just picking it up off a shelf.

So let’s get down to business – was it worth it?

Initial decision to Order

I decided to order, ultimately, because my hair care is personal. As you probably know I am all about dying my hair all kinds of colours. It’s teal, blue, a different shade of blue, a couple shades of purple and also pink. Hello #mermaidhair

Almost every time I receive a compliment on my hair it’s followed up with the ultimate hair dye question: How do you keep it so bright?

The answer is: Very carefully.

A lot of people have the misconception that hair dye happens at the salon and outside the salon you don’t have to think of it. The truth is that the real work begins when you leave the salon. Really, the salon is the easy part – I just sit there and Jess does all the work! I’m always looking for products that balance making my hair look clean, feel nice and brush easily, while also keeping as much of my colour as possible.

My hope with Function of Beauty was that I could “create” a product which truly answered my need for ultra-nourishing, caring for my hairs health hair care, that protected instead of attacking the dye.

First Impressions

The product arrived earlier than estimated, which was much appreciated since I’m never super patient when waiting for a package.

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I loved the simple, personal packaging. It doesn’t hurt that my name was right on the box.  The selling feature of Function of Beauty is how personalized it is and they definitely deliver in that department.

The colour was exactly as imagined, and the smell is pleasant. I chose a medium strength peony smell. Over all it is every bit as satisfying as imagined to open this personalized set. I love how elegant the packaging is with the pumps and everything else neatly tucked out of sight at first.

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More importantly – is Function of Beauty functional?

I am not entirely sure I had a good sense of what to expect. I think I thought it would either do nothing and be a total waste of time or I expected to be mind blown. I didn’t anticipate any middle ground.

This product didn’t dissapoint – the number one way the results show? I still have my hair colour!

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A lot of products that advertise colour protection fail to care for my hair in every other way. The dye stays in tact but washing will leave my hair dry, tangled, and impossible to work with. It ends up a dull, awful rats nest.

Not this time! My hair is soft, brushable and total #mermaidgoals!

Function of Beauty has delivered – as promised!

Time to Change it Up and Reorder!

Okay so round one went well. If you’ve looked at the Function of Beauty website you may have noticed that they strongly encourage a subscription service. You can choose how often you want to reorder and making that subscription selection comes with perks like free shipping.

It makes sense – I am eventually going to need more, right? I selected the 3 month reorder and it was pretty bang on for timing. As you can see below I had a good amount of shampoo left but I was getting dangerously low on conditioner. That’s how it goes, isn’t it? Really waht I need is a bigger bottle of conditioner and a little less shampoo.

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I tweeked my formula this time with the hope of getting a little more nourishment. Dying your hair can realllllly dry it out and for me, that means it can turn it to a rats nest very quickly. Plus, my hair is a different colour now so why shouldn’t I change up the shampoo and conditioner when it’s just as custom as my hair?

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So now my products are blue and smell like the beach. I’m even happier with this formula. Adding on the nourishment has made a difference.

I was definetly a little skeptical at first. Part of why I wanted to reorder was to see if changing the formula online would change how the shampoo and conditioner affected my hair at all.

The product seems very similar to use. I couldn’t tell what’s really different about it.  However it does do a bit better keeping my hair soft and brushable a little longer this round so I’ll take that as a very good sign.

I guess part of me kind of figured it might all be the same stuff in different colours and scents but that our online selections might not have made a difference. While the texture and consistency are the same the results do suggest I got the changes I requested.

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This time I took the at-checkout-add-on option to get a travel kit with hair elastics. It was an impulse buy, for sure, but also super useful when I went away for the weekend. Really, it’s the perfect accessory for those of us a little obsessed with our hair and picky about the product that goes in to it!

The Bottom Line:

I do love this product. I am pleased with how my hair feels after using it consistently for a while and I like the company. I like that they are cruelty free and that I can change the product without searching for a totaly new company.

Looking to order? Have $5 off! https://functionofbeauty.com/?ref=5a934d48e9406

Have you tried Function of Beauty? What’s your go-to hair product?

Working with Less

So if you’re out there doing your research about working from home, especially as an English teacher, you might notice the same trend I do: over-freaking-complicating what’s physically needed to do this job. If you watch online videos about teaching online you’ll see crazy class set ups and hundreds of props. you don’t need that! It’s mostly about YOU.

Some teachers are out here making videos showing their classroom or office set-up, showing off impressive collections of props and a wide range of technology. One teacher I saw a set-up video from even had her classroom in a very nicely finished shed, with electricity and internet wired from the house to this separate space. Now it was a really nice space – she had a little kitchenette and space for guests to use it as a guest house. I could totally see myself absolutely loving a space like that, and I was definitely a little jealous.

She had whole drawer sets full of this type of toy or prop, and that type of flash card. She even had a filing cabinet with the printed out lesson plan for every lesson she’d ever taught. It made it easy for her to know what she’d need and quickly prep when she got booked for those lessons again.

Honestly – kudos to her because she’s killin’ it.

But as I watched it occurred to me that if I had watched hers and videos like hers before applying to be an online teacher I would of thought I couldn’t do this – I don’t have that kind of space. As someone in search of employment I didn’t have the money to create anything like that or buy all those props. I would of figured this career was for someone else.

Now, there are others out there making videos that show just how do-able it is. I’ve also seen “here’s my space” videos from teachers who are literally making their classroom in a closet. Hang a backdrop, tweek the lighting and BOOM! International classroom in the basement closet.

So there’s definitely a spectrum.

The Truth: These Videos come from Experienced Teachers

That’s not a bad thing but it’s definitely something you’ve gotta remember when you watch these. You might be just considering your application or preparing for an interview when you go down the rabbit hole of videos about classroom and space set ups, prop organization and more. It can be super intimidating because it seems like you would never be able to compete with the kind of resources and collections that are literally at the fingertips of these teachers.

Fear not – they didn’t go to target and buy it all in one haul. They built those collections while they built their careers and you will too.

When I got hired I went to chapters and bought one lavender coloured bunny from the kids section. I like things that are soft, and cute so it was kind of a treat for me too. I never really got over my affection for plush toys. I call her Flora.

I keep her by my desk with a hedgehog that Ben gave me one year for our anniversary because he knows about my affection of plush toys.

There’s also a Panda toy that mom got me one year when Telus sold them to raise money for a wildlife organization.

I have more but I don’t use them as much. I don’t need a different toy for every class and any given class doesn’t need more than 2 or 3 toys, if that, because they aren’t really what class is about.

I use a hand drawn set of music notes to show when it’s time to sing.

But most of the time for anything else I just use my hands or demonstrate on the platform. For example if I want my students to circle things, I circle them. If I want them to read, I underline.

I also keep whiteboards near me because sometimes it helps to draw the letters and do little reading games with them. Really anything else I use is a common desk item like a book, pen, or sometimes I use coloured markers to show colours and practice the names. Lamp, keyboard, ipad… nothing extraordinary. No super collection of reward systems. I cheer my kids on and then get back to the lesson. No bucket of action figures.

Honestly, you know what my students love? When I cheer and dance in my chair like a FOOL. It’s interesting, funny , and it clearly communicates to them that they did well and their teacher is happy. THAT’s what matters.

When the teacher is happy, so are the students!

So here I am, making just as much a career of it as the woman who built a separate classroom in her back yard.

I kind of get it though

I kind of get why these teachers create such elaborate set ups and why they show off just how elaborate they are. We as a society have a habit of seeing validity in complication. The more intricate the system, the harder it is for us to understand the more valid we consider the person who is understanding and doing the work. Think of scientific careers like doctors and astrophysicists, or the scholarly such as lawyers whose job it is to navigate systems that are so large and complex most of us need help using them.  Consider the validity we give these career choices over say, writer or even a traditional teacher. While we acknowledge that writing and teaching are respectable careers we tend to underestimate the difficulty of careers we understand and see as uncomplicated.

So sometimes there’s an urge to sort of demonstrate the validity of our career choices by making our careers fit a more complicated, difficult narrative.

“Look how I’ve organized the reward systems and over here are the lesson plans…” translates in to “Look how much equipment and paperwork is required.”

“See how I’ve arranged this space to optimize the light and….” turns in to “There’s more to this… This is where I work hard to support my family.”

I feel this temptation too. I want people to join me in this career because it’s been rewarding and I really, genuinely enjoy it. But it’s also tempting to put up barriers and push people to see that this isn’t a hobby or a passing phase. It’s work, the same as any other job in so many ways.

Ultimately, it takes balance.

It’s a career like any other. It demands a set of skills that, if you have, you’ll excel and without, you’ll struggle. It can mean long hours, waking up early and going to bed late. Sometimes it will be awesome and some days you’ll hate it.

What you don’t have to worry about to start out is having an elaborate set up.

So I’m here to say to you – you who may be considering or just starting on this path – don’t be intimidated by the veterans. Settle in to a little corner you’re comfortable in. Wear a covering, plain shirt. Bring a cup of tea and a smile. You can be great at this.

Essential Oils are Only a Drop in the Self-Care Conversation

When it comes to essential oils I may be a casual user living among skeptics. I call myself a casual user because, as you likely know, there are people out there whose endorsement of essential oils would have us using them for literally everything. They’re like a more complicated coconut oil – collectively a miracle remedy for all things.

*in case you haven’t been on pinterest this year – coconut oil in all of its forms is praised as a miracle product for your hair, skin, health… you name it! Put it in your coffee, your shower and on your skin. Essential oils are like that, too, but in drop form and with more complicated delivery methods.

I’m not saying they aren’t beneficial (I mean honestly, like coconut oil for many reasons!) but I do stop short of recommending every person I meet use this or that oil and blend for whatever ails them.

Actually, I think essential oils are important and do give us a reason to start a way bigger and more important conversation. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

How my Love Story with Essential Oils starts:

Really I was pretty passive about the whole essential oil industry. Curious, but not curious enough to have taken action. I’d used lemon oil to flavor my water and I knew lavender was good for relaxation and sleep. That was kind of the extent of my knowledge and I wasn’t quite ready to hop in the bandwagon to pursue a greater knowledge or use.

My girlfriend bought me a beautiful diffuser necklace that I’d been admiring and that’s really what initiated my active use of essential oils.

I struggle with mental health ups and downs. As a teenager some research revealed I am likely affected by S.A.D or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It basically means that come winter, when the natural urge is to shelter ourselves from the cold and take in less sunlight, I suffer. My body and brain don’t balance my mood-affecting chemicals quite right without a good dose of sunlight and so I spend a lot of the colder months feeling depressed.

Luckily, because this overwhelming sadness is a balance issue and not because my life is actually sad, there’s lots I can do to lift my mood. No one remedy is a fix-all and nothing really makes it go away entirely. It’s still a battle but each year I discover more weapons at my disposal and feel a little stronger in this fight.

When Maggie gifted me the diffuser necklace she included the essential oil Bergamot, which the store had suggested as a mood lifter. Since then I’ve also purchased one called Liquid Sunshine and for long work days, one called Quick Study.

While putting the necklace on doesn’t instantly protect me from feeling down or off balance, it does give me a lot of hope. I think it’s possible that it genuinely encourages subtle changes in my mood. More importantly, though, it can act as a placebo. The idea that I should feel good with the aid of these scents is a powerful reason to open my mind and embrace each and every shred of positivity that I can find.

Even beyond the actual scents and oils, just seeing the necklace is a sweet reminder of how loved I am and that I am far from alone in this fight. That, too, is a mood lifter.

There’s more to be said, though:

So I said earlier that I think essential oils and this conversation are a gateway to something bigger, and more important. That thing is self care and mental health as a whole.

There’s a lot of pressure these days to take time for self care, self love and nourishing our own mental health. While I do think encouragement and support for these efforts is critical, putting pressure on people to accomplish these activities in a certain way or with a certain style is counterintuitive.

When we talk about essential oils we are talking about just one way to look after ourselves, stay contentious of our minds and bodies, and strive for improvement. However it really is just one way in to the conversation. The list of “ways in” to the self care and mental health conversation is endless. Anything you do to make yourself feel good, look after your mental health and look after yourself as a whole qualifies.  Nobody can tell us what’s going to work for us.

I’ve been relatively open over the years about my struggle with my mental health. Even when I haven’t been super open, it’s sometimes hard to hide. This has meant lots of people have provided well meaning suggestions on how I can stay healthy.

I welcome all suggestions but have learned over the years that the combination of things which will work and make me feel healthy is entirely unique. It’s a collection of small actions, rituals and choices that add up to a lifestyle.

And here’s the big secret – I’m not always good at it.

I know getting up at the same time every day puts my mind in a good and productive place for work but I still like sleeping in. I know that bubble baths and music give me space to unwind but I don’t always make the time. I know that something as simple as brushing my hair can lift my confidence but sometimes my topknot has a lifespan of like 3 days.

The thing is, without fail, I recover.

I like using essential oils but I couldn’t just write about that when it’s part of something so much bigger.

The coming fall weather and my recent dabbling in essential oils has brought this to mind. I don’t think it’s fair how some products try to dominate the self care market when self care is so inherently unique. What may make a world of difference for one person may have no impact on another. It doesn’t have to mean that the product or the people are right or wrong. It’s just a fact in self care.

I can only tell you what I know and what my experience is. I’m enjoying surrounding myself with the scent of sunshine and hanging on to the hope I find in this locket. I can tell you essential oils might make you feel well or they might just smell nice.

Whatever it is for you, celebrate it. =)

It’s been an Amazing Year

Happy Anniversary to the Pod!

I love anniversaries. Honestly I love any excuse to celebrate and focus on the people I love just because I love them. Anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Day… I’m a sucker for it all. I know lots of people kind of scoff at these celebrations but I say why not take every little moment of happiness we can? Why write something off as not having enough substance when the substance it has is all about joy and human connection? Plus – really – love is significant. A relationship is ample substance to celebrate, or at least it should be. We typically base our lives, social interactions and big decisions about where to live and what kind of life we want on the partner or partners we choose. If were gonna give the relationship that much influence on our lives, it better be an experience worth celebrating.

As a family we realized that there were a few good reasons to celebrate different anniversaries. Maggie and I truthfully began our relationship on August 8th but we didn’t make it really official, and it didn’t involve Ben or Tom, until September 5th.  For a while I think we just envisioned September 5th as the anniversary because it was this day that we started finding words and defining both what we had and what we wanted.

It’s a darn cute story (in my humble opinion) so let me remind you. Feelings had been swirling between Maggie and I for… well a while. I mean we had first kissed in Nashville nine months before. But then being more than friends got harder to ignore when wine kindly removed the barriers of shyness and uncertainty that has kept us “friend zoned” for so many years. Fast foreword from August 8th to September 5th: Maggie and Ben found themselves flirting and both immediately sent messages to Tom and I kind of announcing that their messages turned flirty and making sure everyone was comfortable with it. This checking in and communicating about the situation opened the door for Tom and I to chat but I was on my way to run errands and go to work. It wasn’t the sexist situation for flirting. After work Ben and I ate a bucket of KFC while trying to figure out what the events of the day meant for us. We decided that it could mean polyamory. I don’t think we had that language exactly, but the concept that we could begin new relationships without changing our current one was there. So we headed to Maggie and Toms for a campfire and friendly chat about falling in love.

So September 5th became significant.

I think it was after Valentines day that it first occurred to us how inconvenient it would be to only celebrate September 5th. Think about it – what does Valentine’s Day look like with so many partners and overlapping relationships looks like?

Yeah we don’t really have an answer either.

Maggie and I realized that we had a few days that qualified as defining moments of our relationship. So we picked the one that made the most sense and had solidified our position beyond the friend zone – and our mutual agreement we liked being more than friends. This made August 8th our anniversary and meant that on September 5 we could focus on our boyfriends rather than overlapping celebrations.

I do want to acknowledge that something really important did happen for Maggie and I a year ago today. Aside from simply calling the whole pod “official”, we also took the opportunity to really acknowledge that we were dating and that we wanted to be dating. Until this point we existed in a grey zone. We were kind of just best friends that got drunk and hooked up. It was easy for everyone to feel we were just a side relationship to the marriages. Today, however, we made it clear that with me dating Tom and her dating Ben we were all experimenting with full and valid relationships outside our marriages and therefore there was space for Maggie and I’s relationship to be so much more than a side hook up habit between friends.

I’m so grateful for that.

All this to say that I love anniversaries. I love taking a moment in the year, that isn’t a holiday or some other event, when we celebrate loving each other.

I’ve been lucky enough to celebrate a string of anniversaries with Maggie and I celebrating August 8th, Ben and I celebrating our marriage on August 29th and now Tom and I celebrating our relationship on September 5th. What can I say, the end of summer brings the start of my favourite season and clearly is a very happy time in my life. A lot of stars align for me around this time.

Those whose Career is Building Your Career

When you choose to make a career for yourself that looks and feels different than the beaten path it’s a choice that comes with a lot of questions. Wanting to blog and make money online from home is different than either of my parents careers, it’s different from my husband, my girlfriend or my boyfriend. I don’t have anyone in my personal network who I feel alike to in this regard. All the people who I see doing what I want to be doing are the people I’m following online but don’t know in real life.

This leads to a healthy amount of skepticism, both in terms of doubting myself and my ability to do this but also with people around me doubting the realness of this career choice. When very few people actually know someone in person whose made a paying career online it’s easy to imagine those who say they do might be stretching the truth and us who aspire to similar careers are simply foolish.

If you find yourself in my position, be aware of the vulnerability some people see in us.

Picture yourself from the outside looking in: We are trying to build careers that look like the careers of people we only see online, we are trying to make money from home on our own terms and outside the regular 9-5 or familiar corporate structure, we probably start knowing where we want to get but not a lot about how to actually get there and there’s no hiding that we’ve got big questions on how to reach our goals…

There’s a lot of people advertising answers to our questions.  They’re marketing is alluring like those whose influencer or blogger careers we admire. The people advertising answers to others like us really set themselves up as being among us – boss babes that have broken the 9-5 grind to launch their own business and build their dreams. It’s inspirational and compelling marketing that makes you see them as “just like you” – a version of yourself that’s “made it” and now wants to share how she did it to empower you to do the same.

How kind, right? That’s some on point feminism and the true definition of women for women – helping each other build that dream life.

Some people genuinely do have some useful info that they’re putting out there because it’s useful. I like to think I’m writing myself in to this category. If you read my posts about working from home I hope you find them interesting and useful. I hope they make you feel encouraged to pursue a career you really want and that you know I don’t expect anything from you, and I’m not holding info hostage from you.

You see, that idea that some people just want to share what they know and help out someone similar to them, it’s not entirely false. If my posts help someone land the teaching job, or see a path for themselves that answers how they want to work and define their life – that’s awesome! Given that I really don’t know it all, it’s also nice to think I might make a few friends on this journey while I write.

That’s the thing with the other category. There’s a lot of people who have actually made their online, influencer and blogging or work from home career out of supporting others that want to do the online, influencer, work from home thing. They write posts with tips but really, their way of answering questions inspires more questions. Then they tell you they’ll answer those questions too, but you’ll have to buy the answers. They have courses, e-books, paid support groups and other buy-in resources.

Don’t get me wrong – they might have some really valuable information that can provide the success they promise. They might be really smart, have worked really hard to acquire the knowledge and they probably deserve to be paid for sharing it and supporting your education and career journey.

I’m absolutely not against them working their business and asking you to buy the answers. In fact I’ve purchased e-books and resources that make sense to my business and I’m both grateful to the entrepreneurs that created these resources and truly happy to support their entrepreneurial career.

However you can’t buy all the answers.

So while you shouldn’t write off the idea of paying for some good resources now and then you should be very critical and picky of which resources get your money and which ones you pass up.

Not to mention, there’s a lot of tidbits and good advice out there for free. It takes more time to find it all… you’ll have to read a wider variety of sources and connect some of the dots for yourself instead of having them connected for you in a course format but it’s doable. The idea that you must put a lot of money out before you’ll know how to bring it in is false.

The bottom line is that I think what kills a lot of dreams is the fear that the dream is inaccessible.  So far I can say it’s really more accessible than it seems once you get past the barrage of paid everything and start making your own little space.

What are your biggest questions when it comes to pursuing this dream?

“Date Night” in the Polyamorous Life

There’s many conventions of dating that can change or shift when in a polyamorous relationship.  Deciding to engage in a polyamorous relationship hasn’t taken away our favourite conventions from our days of monogamy but it has affected exactly what those conventions look like. For example, date night.

Of course not every night you’re with a loved one is inherently a date. Especially as a relationship goes on, you move in together, you must handle day to day tasks and not all your time together is spent focused on how much you adore each other.  That’s what makes date nights so special, right? Ben and I have always tried to plan date nights where we can focus on each other and maybe take time to get outside our routine to try something new or do something just for fun. This was part of Maggie and Tom’s marriage, too, so it’s no surprise that we all still love a good date night.

But what exactly does date night mean for us now?

Just the Two of Us

Well – any two of us, really.  I have date nights with Ben, date nights with Maggie and date nights with Tom.  What we do with the time depends on who I’m with and what we need in that moment.

Having multiple relationships pushes each of us to be cognizant of the time, effort and energy that we give each other.  If we weren’t conscious of our actions and efforts it might be easy to become very romantic with one partner while becoming very pragmatic with another.

For example, Maggie and I are both planners. We like organization, timelines, details and knowing exactly how our days and weeks should unfold.  Both Ben and Tom are used to these qualities and leave a lot of planning to us.  This means that in our time together it’s easy for us to get preoccupied with planning.  We check in with each other about upcoming events, meal plans, who needs to be where when…. before we know it dinner is over and we might be super satisfied with the plans we made but we didn’t really take time for ourselves.

Planning a date night is a signal to ourselves as much as it’s a signal to everyone else: This is relationship building time. The practical stuff can wait. Right now, it’s about nurturing our love for each other.

In all three of my relationships I look foreword to our date time and the chance to nurture these unique relationships.

Have Fun you Two!

We often plan date nights according to events we’re interested in. Concerts, plays, and festivals all make great venues for a date.  We also plan according to important dates like anniversaries.  This can mean that a date night for one couple isn’t necessarily a date  night for another.

For example, if Ben and Maggie go to a beer festival that doesn’t automatically mean Tom and I will hunt for date plans.  We’ll more than likely be enjoying the time to ourselves but in a less formalized way.  We might catch up on some t.v, sneak out for icecream and maybe get some derby cars built.

I’ve written before about the effect of “compersion” – the opposite of jealousy. This can really  be felt on a date night where two of us staying home are perfectly content and happy for our partners who are off to enjoy some well deserved time together.

I guess it’s also convenient too as we can choose to invite partners to events that interest them and not force partners that aren’t interested. Maggie and I can catch all the “girly” movies together, call it a date when we get our nails done, and plan shopping trips to spend time together.  Meanwhile Ben can take Maggie to all the beer festivals which they both enjoy and neither Tom or I have interest in.  Tom and I this summer have gone to watch a lot of the derbys he hasn’t participated in while Maggie and Tom have always liked a good dinner and movie date.

Ultimately having multiple partners has meant having more opportunity to connect over common interests and not force date nights in venues only one partner is really interested.

Three’s a Crowd and Four is…?

Not surprisingly there are things that get all 4 of us interested.  Sometime’s it’s a new Marvel movie or a big concert like Trackside Country Music festival in London, Ontario. On these occasions we go as a family.  I guess the idea of being out somewhere and seeing your partner with other partners is very strange to some but it’s become our daily norm.

It’s really nice to get out sometimes and bond as a family.  However unique our individual relationships with each other we’ve ultimately moved in together and committed to living our day to day lives together. It’s nice when our common interests bring us together.

We’ve had our Weird moments, and Gotten Over It

I guess in conclusion the biggest thing people struggle with is thinking of all the potential for awkward moments and weirdness.  Like is it weird knowing that your spouse is on a date? Is it awkward saying bye to them as they leave, or greeting them when they come home? Do we flip coins for who’s with who for what?

Yeah, we went through that phase too. We spent time staring at each other trying to figure out how to ask for a date night or suggest a date for an event or something.  We wondered what the proper protocols might be for coming and going and how to interact with each other in all kinds of new situations.

Then, all of a sudden we woke up one day and didn’t wonder anymore. We loved each other, we trusted and were happy together, there was nothing to be weird about.

Working from Home and Setting Your Own Schedule

The biggest misconception people have about working from home or working for yourself is that you work when you want or need and can take it easy the rest of the time.  The reality, for online teachers at least, is that we work at the demand of our students.

The only way to make this job work as a full time gig is to set work goals in accordance with your financial goals.  I know I need to make X number of dollars a month to pay my bills, save and have some room for unexpected costs.  It is necessary to translate that dollar amount in to classes taught, break it down by week and meticulously track day by day.

I’ve learned I have to notice early on – by mid-month at least – if I’m falling behind on my goals. After that point there isn’t enough time to meaningfully add to my schedule and make up the hours. With teaching it’s easy to fall behind on goals.  If classes don’t get booked it adds up fast. Being a class or two short of a daily goal quickly means stripping down the budget to accommodate anticipated shortcomings.

The truth about working from home means I am available until my goal is met.  Maybe I only need to work 8 hours in a day but I can’t force my students to consistently fill 9am-5pm so that I can go live my life. I start around 7:30 most days, many days earlier, and most days I work until 11pm or midnight. Some days it’s 1am or 1:30am.

Working crazy hours Monday to Thursday allows me to end earlier (mid afternoon) most Fridays and then take Saturday and Sunday off with my family.

The hard part is having to politely remind people that you actually do work and it isn’t possible for you to change your schedule last minute the way some work from home jobs can.  Even if I could, changing my schedule for last minute plans would still mean making the time up so chances are even if my companies let me change my schedule last minute I would still be held on schedule by financial obligations.

What we really mean when we say our work from home jobs are flexible is that, with 24 hour potential to work you might be able to set up a unique schedule that suits your life.  My whole family works 9-5’s with weekends off so I try to mimic that as much as I can to maximize my time with them.

That being said lots of people are working jobs like mine on a when-the-kids-are-out schedule, or using it as a night job. Flexibility doesn’t mean that I can change my schedule last minute, but it does mean that I can book classes around other obligations outside a traditional work schedule.

Oh, and I guess it’s true that outside of my budget, I don’t have to ask anyone for approval when I want a day off.

Thinking of picking up extra work? What kind of schedule would working from home mean for you?

Emotional Responsibility in Polyamory

Sharing emotional responsibility was easy in a monogamous marriage.  I could ask my husband to take some of the burdens if I was feeling less than peachy, and I could do the same for him.  It felt like a normal part of a partnership and truly, there was nothing wrong with it.

But in polyamory that just doesn’t work.  With three partners to balance I can’t expect them to take on my emotional baggage or take on all of theirs myself.

It’s not such a bad thing.  In one-on-one romantic relationships as well as friendships its normal to exchange emotional responsibility.  We always want to lighten the emotional load for those we love (as partners and friends), and we truly do appreciate how they do the same for us.  As I said, there’s nothing actually wrong with this.  As a common practice, it’s a tango we’re all pretty good at.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t value to changing the tempo a bit and taking more responsibility for ourselves.

Let’s start with the big one, shall we:

Jealousy

When I explain to people that I’m in a relationship with multiple people one of the most common questions is how we can love without jealousy.  There’s a couple points that I want to address on that front.

First of all,  we didn’t eliminate jealousy from our range of emotions when we chose this relationship.  However, we did make a commitment to manage all of our emotions, including jealousy, appropriately.

In our language, we tend to attribute jealousy we feel to other peoples actions.  For example: “He was flirty with her all night just to make me jealous.”  We talk about how other peoples actions are the cause of our jealousy and therefore we see it as their responsibility to relieve the jealousy with reassurance.

We might experience jealousy when we witness someone else’s actions but it isn’t something they actually created.  When you see your partner interact with someone else and feel jealous it’s an expression of fear and insecurity. Try this on: “He was flirty with her all night and I was scared he’d like her better than me.” 

Let’s be clear – it’s not inherently bad to have these fears and insecurities in our relationships.  Some people feel them more often or more strongly than others but they’re pretty normal.  My point here isn’t that you should or shouldn’t feel this way – just that you have to own that insecurity and address it.

Think of it this way: “If he chooses her over me – that’s his choice, and not a fault of mine.”

He can appreciate her beauty and still love me just the same.” 

I’m worth loving and we’re happy together. I trust him and don’t hold
his actions against him; I’m not looking for any reason to retract my
trust.”

Taking ownership of the jealousy means we have more power than we originally thought.  We can ease our own emotions and reassure ourselves.  We aren’t relying on someone else to remind us of our value.

It also ties in a way to my post on maintaining your own identity within your relationships – just like having your own hobbies and interests, you should know your worth and that it exists independent of your relationship, even when experiencing jealousy.

To be fair here we’re also humans and we don’t always handle our jealousy as appropriately as we wish we did. It’s hard for everyone but as much as we try to practice owning our jealousy and coping with it effectively we also practice forgiveness when we throw each other off balance.

Compersion is the opposite of jealousy

A word that quickly got added to my vocabulary as Ben and I fell for Maggie and Tom was compersion. This is the feeling of joy and happiness you feel knowing your partner is experiencing joy and satisfaction with someone else (no, it’s not just sexual but a whole and full relationship between two humans!).

Instead of inspiring fear that he’ll choose Maggie over me, I usually lean the other way and feel happy for Ben that he has such happiness in his relationship with Maggie.  It’s the utmost security knowing that his happiness with her does not diminish his happiness with me and so instead of resenting it and feeling jealous, I celebrate it and feel happy.

It helps that I have a relationship with Maggie that is separate from the boys, and have a relationship with Tom that is also unique.  Knowing from personal experience that loving Maggie and loving Tom has not lessened my love for Ben makes it easier to know that Ben can also love Maggie without it taking anything away from me.

When I read posts from others in a polyamorous relationship that are struggling with jealousy they are often struggling in part because their partner has one or more other partners but, for one reason or another, they do not.  I think that balance isn’t necessary – one doesn’t have to have something just because the other does – but it sure helps with an empathetic understanding of the emotional experience.

Take emotional responsibility In all your Relationships

Learning to be more consciously responsible for my emotions in my romantic relationships has opened my eyes to the value of emotional responsibility in general.  As a student in particular over the past 6 years, it’s been almost necessary to lean on each other.  In the high-stress atmosphere of University with half your friends in an identity crisis and the other half confident in who they are but stressed about their future the emotional exchange helped all of us balance out enough to function.

As I age into adulthood, my stress level, identity and relationships are all stabilizing and I see emotional responsibility as a way to maintain more even and balanced control of our own lives.  There will always be circumstances beyond our control and they will inevitably fuck with our plans.  We will also always be surprised by emotions we didn’t expect to feel – jealousy, anger, sadness, even strange amounts of joy that we may or may not know the cause of.  Managing these emotions on our own limits the havoc they may wreak on our daily lives and stabilizes our sense of self.

Developing Emotional Responsibility

So now that I’ve made the case for emotional responsibility, how can someone begin practicing it?

Reflect before you speak.  Before you share your emotions and get caught up in what others did that contributed to them consider what existing emotions allowed others to have an impact on you (ie: existing insecurities that turn in to jealousy, as explored above.) Consider how you can work through those existing emotions with a focus on your own abilities. When you’re approaching someone else it’s beneficial to both of you if you can ask for support handling certain emotions rather than just asking them to calm those emotions for you.

For example – approaching your partner to say “Hey, in this situation I felt really ______. I know that isn’t what you intended and doesn’t really reflect your intentions or behaviour, but it helps me feel better when you _____.”

Be open with those you love.  Owning and taking responsibility for our emotions doesn’t mean they have to be secrets. Share how you’re feeling and what you can do to alleviate any negative emotions. If I do feel a pang of jealousy or sadness I can say to my partners “I felt a bit jealous when —–, so I’m working through that right now.” It lets them know what’s gong on with me without obligating them to take action on my behalf.

Above all, stay calm. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and quickly fall in to old habits but take a deep breath and assess what’s happening as separate from how you’re feeling. Then assess how you’re feeling and look at how the two connect.  Try to be specific in identifying what you would like to change, what you can change yourself and what you need from others to accomplish the change you want.

Last but not least, before you ask for support consider exactly what you’re asking. Taking emotional responsibility is all about being more self sufficient and managing your own emotions. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask your partners, from time to time, to adjust their phrasing on a certain subject or keep an awareness of how a situation impacts you but asking that they completely change an aspect of another relationship or otherwise let your emotions dictate their behaviour may lead to trouble later on.  Keep this in mind.

Your quest for emotional responsibility may surprise or confuse others.

This has been the most unexpected part of this emotional journey. I think it has affected most of us in our little family. It seems natural to let our new found emotional attitude permeate through all the different relationships in our lives.  Since the most outward aspect of this journey is asking less of others the people around us have sometimes felt we isolated ourselves or abandoned them, depending on their perspective.

People are used to feeling needed just as much as they have need for other people in their lives.  We were focused on guarding ourselves and our relationships against negative emotions like unexpected jealousy or the disapproval of others. It was later we realized that needing our friends less for that emotional support meant finding new ways to look after them and show them that they are just as important to us as they always have been.

 

Well – that was a long one! Thanks for reading!

Carmen