Rest First


When I imagined this maternity leave I had ideas that it would be similar to my last maternity leave.  My first maternity leave I ended up focusing on being healthy, and it was the first time I had felt healthy since high school.  It was like a body reset and I learned a lot about myself and my health that year.  I’ve mentioned several times that when I went back to work I really lost that feeling of being healthy due to stress and all that comes with that.  When I dreamt of this maternity leave I dreamt of losing all the weight by the 6 month mark.  I dreamt of loving being in the kitchen and inventing good healthy food.  I dreamt of walking every day and being super active and busy.

However, this maternity leave has been so much different.  I still have 15 pounds of weight to lose to get to pre-pregnancy weight and 15 more to lose to get to my ideal weight.  I can count on two hands how many walks I’ve been on in the last 3-4 months and my husband can attest that I’m not cooking like I used to.

Reflecting on how different these past six months are compared to what I thought they would be it’s easy to think I let myself down, that I didn’t motivate myself enough, that I was lazy.  All these thoughts try their hardest to creep in and bring me down but the truth is that I’ve been listening to my body and I’ve been honouring what it’s telling me.

REST

I’m giving myself time to rest and heal and that’s looking a lot different than I thought.  Honestly I thought that healing would mean exercising and building physical strength but my body has been showing me that healing first starts with resting.  This last week I’ve been feeling a rhythm start to our days, my body has been allowing for that to happen.  Up until recently I had no idea what I would be waking up to – would it be an Ashley full of energy or an Ashley unable to move much at all.  The past couple weeks my energy has been fairly consistent – even with Eden having VERY unpredictable nights.  So I can see how beneficial it’s been to listen to my body, to go to bed early, to stay home when I needed to, to relax when I was feeling run down.  With each passing week and month I gain a little bit more endurance and strength to just get a little bit more done each day.  Of course having a baby that is growing and maturing also helps with this but I can also feel the change in my body.  In August I barely had the ability to clean my whole house one day and be up moving a lot the next.  I couldn’t stand for longer than an hour doing things in the kitchen because my body just hurt all over and didn’t have the endurance.  This past month I’ve been up the majority of days canning, cleaning and just keeping busy and my body feels pretty good! Not awesome, but not awful and that’s a happy medium that I gladly welcome after a couple years of feeling terrible.

One thing I’ve been incorporating that last couple months is taking Sundays off.  That means that mentally I allow myself the space to not have a list of to-do’s.  If I wake up and have some energy to do a couple things I will, but I put zero pressure on myself to accomplish anything.  I sleep in an extra hour or two (which means up at 6 or 7 instead of 5), I rarely clean anything, I don’t do laundry, and my husband usually does the cooking.  This allows me to read a few more books to Ezekiel, to sit on the floor a little more with Eden, to write and read a bit more and maybe even spend some time on a hobby – which, with the changing of the weather means knitting!

Lots of lessons have been learned this year and resting is definitely one of the biggest.

Do you force yourself to rest? Is it hard or do you welcome it with arms wide open?

Becoming Oily


I’ve been wanting to start writing a lot more about my journey with essential oils – why I love them, how I got started, and how we are using them.  As always I don’t really write unless I get a spark of inspiration and today that inspiration is coming from my husband jumping on my oily band wagon! So before the inspiration fades I’m going to just hammer out a post in true “Ashley” fashion.

I’ve been using essential oils for about 3.5 years now – ever since Ezekiel was a baby.  I’ve written before about how I really started to focus on wellness when he was a baby.  I’ve been back and forth on this wellness journey – one step forward a couple back, two steps forward one back and it goes on and on.  I’ve found beauty in this journey and I have no shame about my set backs because each one has taught me something new.  So anyways, when Ezekiel was a baby I ordered a starter kit from Young Living.  I chose Young Living after researching other companies and realizing that their Seed to Seal process was and is far superior to any other company out there.  I guess the gardener/farmer in me just really resonates with planting a seed, growing that seed and preserving the amazing product that comes from that, but I don’t think you need to be a farmer or gardener to appreciate knowing EXACTLY where the product is coming from and how it got there.

After receiving my starter kit I basically only used my oils for diffusing in replacement of candles as well as for all my own cleaning products.  I didn’t dive any deeper into the science of the oils or how they could really support our bodies and our health.  My main purpose in using them was to eliminate some toxins in our home, to have cleaning products that I could use while my small son could be right beside me helping and I wasn’t worried about him putting anything in his mouth or touching the products.

Fast forward to this past year, and specifically the last few months and I’ve been diving deep into the health portion of essential oils and I am BLOWN AWAY at just how incredible these little bottles are and how they are changing our lives.  I’m not going to share all of the ways here right now – that post would be far too long.  Here’s the thing: there is actual science behind these oils.  They may not be researched much in western medicine (but we are getting there!) but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t true science in the oils.  I used to think they were a bit “hokey” but since starting to learn the actual science I’m 100% a believer in these oils.  The same science that applies to any drug also applies to oils but oils are FAR superior!

Please don’t get me wrong – I am in no way saying we should all ditch the drugs we are on and use only essential oils.  I am currently taking two prescription medications and I will not be replacing those with essential oils but I WILL be supporting my body and all it’s systems with essential oils especially my immune system.  My husband is hoping to reduce the amount of prescription drugs he is taking by starting to eat healthier and use essential oils to support his body as well because the drugs he is currently taking definitely can be reduced by lifestyle changes.

So don’t think that just because I’m a bit more crunchy than before that I’m swearing off western medicine – not true and I don’t think that will ever be true of me.  What I am saying is that the less toxins and man made and manufactured things we put into our bodies the healthier we will be.  I’m so excited to be on this journey and the more changes I see in myself and my family the more I want to share!

If you have ANY questions at all PLEASE connect with me, I have so much more to share and I’ll be doing that on the blog from time to time but I really love a good one on one chat!

You can find me on Facebook or Instagram (m_l_ashley) or E-mail me at joyofsimplicityblog@gmail.com

Are you currently an oil user? Have they changed your life like they have changed mine??

Post Partum Body

Hi Friends.

Posts are few and far between around here (what’s new right?).  I was hoping to have a bit more consistency on my year (plus 4 months) off but it turns out that having a newborn in the spring makes life pretty crazy.  If I’m not holding, rocking, or feeding the baby, then I’m probably playing with a toddler in the yard and/or doing yard work and planting the garden, and if I’m still not doing that, then most likely I’m cleaning the house or sleeping.  So – life, it’s a bit hectic right now but I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my postpartum body and I figured I’d write out a few thoughts.  This is a hot topic for anyone who’s been pregnant, is currently pregnant or thinking about/trying to get pregnant.  Some people will tell you while you’re pregnant that you should eat clean and stay fit no matter what.  Others will tell you to take it easy and eat what you want, don’t stress.  Then you have the baby and you begin to notice everyone else who has had a baby recently and the age old game of comparison begins.  On top of that you have people giving advice – don’t worry about your body, just enjoy your baby OR you should be working out 6 weeks after having your baby GET YOUR BODY BACK!

It’s an exhausting mind game and one that I wish I could say I didn’t participate in – but I do.  Still, I think there’s some validity to entering into the conversation.  I want to  break it down to solid truths for myself and by writing it out I hope that you can glean some truths for you as well, not only if you are a postpartum momma (regardless of how long it’s been!) but also if you are just a person that struggles with this topic in general.

Here’s the facts for us birth momma’s:

  1. You grew a human.
  2. That human changed you as a person – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.
  3. You will quite literally never be the same again.

Think about it – you nourished a rapidly growing person for 40 weeks (give or take some weeks), and if you are breastfeeding you are continuing to be the only source of nutrition for that person.

INCREDIBLE. MIRACULOUS. AWE-SOME. MIND-BLOWING.

I’ll never ever ever stop believing that being able to give life to another human is less than this.  I truly think it’s a sacrifice worth giving and if it wasn’t possibly life threatening for me I would hands down want to do it again.

Here’s some more truth:

Growing a human is HARD.  Even if you had the most amazing pregnancy ever, your body had to work unbelievably hard to do that.

When I think back on my pregnancy I know I’ll never forget the crazy amount of hard that it was and because of that I want nothing more than to HONOUR my body.

The truth is that to honour my body I must nourish it, move it and treat it with respect.  I must listen intently to what it is saying.  I must take time each day to understand what it needs that day and also understand that it’s needs are going to change each day.

 To honour my body I must work towards my healthiest self – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

Will that take me down a road of weight loss? Truthfully, I hope so but it’s no longer my goal. My goal is health and your goal should be health as well.

Not a size zero? No one cares and neither should you!

Be confident and radiant in who you are right now in this moment.  Take steps towards a healthy you and eventually the number on the scale isn’t going to matter to you anymore.

As you nourished your child (and maybe still do) honour your body by nourishing it as well.  How can you give something to another person that you don’t possess yourself? If you are unhealthy physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally then how can you expect to nourish healthy human beings? Even if you didn’t grow a human and even if you aren’t breastfeeding, you are still nourishing those around you by what you give.  Are you giving the best of you?  If you aren’t giving the best to yourself then I would argue that it’s not possible to give the best to those around you.

More than anything I need to focus on me so that what I pour out to those around me (especially my children) is healthy and nourishing for them.

Here’s some practical ways I’m putting this into practice:

  1. Eating mostly whole “real” foods and very little processed food
  2. Listening to my body when it tells me that gluten is bad (even when I desperately want a pastry)
  3. Engaging in a hobby (hello garden!)
  4. Making time each day for me (hello early mornings!)
  5. Praying
  6. Allowing myself to feel all the feels and be honest about feeling them
  7. Being realistic about my to-do lists (bye bye spring cleaning wishes)
  8. Talking to people frequently and being intentional in relationships

I had a much different post planned out in my head when I started this, but as is the case so often I let my hands do the talking for my brain and it’s usually exactly what I needed to hear.

So here’s to letting go of postpartum body expectations and to embracing a healthy new me.  Here’s to letting go of the numbers.  Here’s to honouring my body so that I can honour those around me.

 

I’m Not Immortal

It’s not often that I have health concerns – I count myself very lucky that I am a relatively healthy person (aside from that pesky genetic mutation).  I don’t often have to go to my family physician with any sorts of concerns other than my regular annual check up.  I make my rounds through my list of specialists each year and when I’m pregnant it all ramps up quite a bit as a precaution – so it may seem to the outside world that I’ve got a lot going on but overall I’m happy and healthy.

A couple months ago I started having some concerning symptoms – pain, intermittent nausea, constipation, feelings of fullness, lack of appetite and fatigue.  My closest nurse friends shouted from the roof tops – go the your DOC! I promised and promised and re-promised but I’m really good at ignoring and putting things aside.  I learned to live with the discomfort and didn’t really pay it much attention, often I’d think “hmm… it seems to have fixed itself” and I kid you not, each time I thought that I’d get the now familiar jab to my abdomen – a reminder that something is still not quite right.  Then about a month ago my body sent me an alarm that can’t be shoved to the side or ignored – unbelievable constant heartburn.  That was my final straw to finally go and see my physician.

I work in two different places – both in Oncology and so I realize my view of the world is very skewed yet with every new diagnosis I see I think to myself – a few days ago they thought they were healthy and now their world is turned upside down.  It’s a big joke in the Oncology nursing world that we all think we have cancer at the slightest headache, but it really is impossible to get that out of your head when sometimes that’s all it takes for someone to come in to their Dr and be diagnosed.  I don’t actually think I have cancer but historically in my life I get ominous feelings – a feeling of knowing something isn’t quite right before I get an actual diagnosis.  My infertility and PCOS is a prime example – I didn’t need a full work up to know exactly what was going on and I wasn’t surprised or shocked at the diagnosis.  It was the same with my Marfan’s diagnosis – I got the phone call and a sympathetic genetic counsellor on the other end saying “I’m sorry, it’s come back positive,” cheerily I said “I thought it would! Thanks for letting me know!” She seemed taken aback – “you don’t sound upset or surprised” and I replied “Well, I’ve been assuming that’s the correct diagnosis most of my life so it’s actually nice to finally have a confirmation.”

This week my current symptoms have been screaming at me – I can’t tell you if they are truly worse or if my final acknowledgement of them have made them more real to me.   This time is a bit different than every other medical issue I’ve had – I have not a clue what’s going on and my only assumption is the worst one.  My Dr is quite stumped as well and can only offer that maybe it’s a mechanical bowel issue – I’m almost certain that it’s not but I’m willing to test out that theory.  My blood work is almost perfect – but that’s not very reassuring for me, I almost wish it wasn’t so at least we’d have a direction.  We’ve talked about lifestyle and diet – I thought at the beginning it was stress related due to my work situation, I changed that up and have no work or home related stress at all – symptoms persisted.  I know my diet isn’t perfect but compared to the vast majority of the North American population it’s pretty close to being flawless, I make an effort to drink a lot of water, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods of any kind, no refined sugar of any kind.  Of course I treat myself here and there and maybe I just need to be more strict – so in hopes of figuring it all out I’m going to once again get my diet to a strict gluten, sugar, dairy free diet, maybe that’ll help.

It’s really rare for me to be concerned or worried about anything health related – even cardiac wise, which is my biggest risk, I have a carefree attitude but this time around I just can’t shake it.  I think for the most part as I’ve gotten older, and as I have started a family, I realize that I’m not a superhero that can survive everything.  I am but a mere mortal at the mercy of whatever gets thrown my way.

I don’t mean to be so negative and really I don’t think I have cancer, and to be honest I just needed to get this all out as some stress release.  I’m just ready to start feeling well again and the more days that pass the farther and farther away that feeling gets.  Right now my norm is naps in the day and sleeping from 730pm to 7 am.  I used to be able to clean the house, do the laundry and prepare the food all in a day, recently I can only do a portion of a couple of those things throughout the day and the rest of my day is spent resting.  I’ve taken for granted my health in the past and today I am thankful for an incredible health care system (even a broken one) which includes an amazing GP who truly listens and investigates concerns.

Gluten and Refined Sugar Free Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread

I’m slowly obtaining recipes to freeze to make my transition back to work smooth, stress free, and organized.  I’m fairly certain this is an ideal I have and that it’s actually going to be very difficult, but anything I can do to make it a little less difficult I’m going to try out.  I had a large ziploc bag full of frozen bananas, and quite a few strays in the freezer to use up so I figured it was a perfect time to test out some Banana Bread recipes, I tried two and settled on this one as the winner. Overall we got 5 loaves of banana bread out of my stash!  I had a really yummy recipe that I always made for Carlos but it’s laden with oil and sugar and I’m really trying to cut back on the sugar intake in this house.  Not to mention I’m on a mission to limit Ezekiel to no refined sugar at all (there’s another ideal).  So my mission for this recipe was to make a bread that would please my husband (I’ll eat healthy anything but he’s a little harder to convince) and that I would be able to give to Ezekiel without compromising my ideal.  Enter this gluten free banana bread.  The recipe is adapted from one I found on The Minimalist Baker.

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1.5 cups mashed banana (about 3 bananas)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt **
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 3.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup milk of choice
  • 1 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 1/4 cup gluten free flour blend (you may need to add xantham gum depending on which blend you use.)
  • 1 1/4 cup oats

** I made one loaf with coconut oil and the rest with yogurt, the loaves with yogurt were A LOT heavier than with the oil but still really good.  If you don’t mind oil you could substitute this for 3 tbsp melted coconut oil.

Here’s what you do:

Gluten Free Banana Bread

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a loaf pan, or line it with parchment paper.
  3. Dump all ingredients into a bowl and mix.
  4. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, when it’s done it will be firm in the center, be golden brown and have cracks on the top.
  5. Let cool completely before cutting so that it holds it’s form.

Gluten Free Banana Bread Gluten Free Banana Bread

Let me know if you make this and how it turned out!