“The Why”

Hi. How’s it going?

Oh me? Not bad, not bad.

What’s that you say…? Three years… that can’t be right…

(flips page)

(mumbles incoherently)

Huh.

Well, let’s get back on track, shall we?

2019, where’d you come from?

When I started this blog in 2016, I had a vague notion of what I wanted to do. That fell to the wayside when I became pregnant for the second time.

That’s right, I now have two munchkins, but that’s now…

So it’s 2016 and I’m working 40-plus hours a week, trying to feed my growing family healthy, home-cooked meals. And volunteer. And keep a blog. And deal with morning sickness.

Stressing out about one little munchkin under foot, and another in the oven… Something had to give and, sad to say, it was my blog-a-doo.

But no longer!

You see, I’ve had a bit of time since then to think through this whole “blog” thing, to reflect on why I put so much work into what was ostensibly a leisure activity. I’ve been reflecting on what I was doing and why I felt the need to write about family and food and all that jazz.

I’ve determined what it was that I hadn’t realized before. To sustain any project long-term, I need a good reason. I need to find “The Why”.

After almost three years away, I’m finding the desire and energy to continue. Before I can be successful, though, I need to understand my “why” so when things get hard (and with two growing girls, “hard” comes in crushing waves of insanity, to be sure), I can remember why I’m taking time, energy, and mental real estate to put “e”-pen to keyboard.

Much like another blogging family whose work I admire (when you’re done here, consider going to check them out…) if I’m going to put in the work, I need a darn good reason.

Enter “The Why”.

Initially, I had a nebulous notion (like my alliteration there?) of “keeping track of family recipes”, but I wanted this space to be more than that.

I mean, I’m not a chef, so I can’t expect my own self to come up with super-duper-famous recipes that take the world by storm.

I don’t have a dozen staff (or bots) scraping recipes from the internet 24/7 and pumping out whatever I think “the algorithm” will want today, and I’m not just looking for “clicks” (but those are nice), so I can’t make my “why” be about making sure I have “all the content”.

So my why? It’s a tripod:

1 – My family

It may be somewhat hokey, but: my family really is the center of my world. I push myself hard at work and in life because they deserve the best I can provide, whether that’s a few extra sprinkles on the proverbial cake, or a standing firm against the maelström that is Temper-Tantrum.

So why is my family a motivation for me to push forward when a storm’s a-brewin’? Because by keeping track of our family journey (food being a prominent part of that), I have something to look to other than the “here and now”. This place offers a “snapshot”, if you will, of what things were like “back in the olden days of 2019”.

2 – Myself

I’m an introvert by nature and, frankly, writing is the best way I know to compose my thoughts. Even if all my words don’t make it to the web, the whole process is valuable to me.

Plus, even when I don’t realize it, writing makes me a better-tempered parent, and a more well-rounded human person. Sometimes, you have to be selfish.

And Human.

3 – My community

I’m not alone. I’m surrounded by a wonderful support network of friends and family, which I’d like to grow as my family needs change.

By thinking of my community, I can use that as a bit of a helping hand when my kids are stinky and I’m petulant about self care.

Now that I have “the why”, how ’bout that “what”?

Simply put, I’m looking to document the things that makes my family tick, what make us “us”.

So what does that mean for 2019?

Similar to before, I intend to keep a regular update schedule. But unlike before, I won’t be holding myself to an impossible (for now) standard of three posts a week.

I’m aiming for two posts a week – Mondays something food-related, and Fridays something… else. That’s not me being cagey, I simply don’t know what Fridays are going to be like until the day. What I can say is that you can look forward to everything from random parenting reflections to colouring sheets to Girl Guide, er… guides. I’ve been known to experiment and for now I’ll let the “why” keep me moving forward, and the “what” will get filled in as I go.

Like I said before, though, I’m not going to hold my feet to the fire. Life happens, and I gotta go with the flow. That may mean a missed post here or there, but rest assured, it’s for a good reason!

Now, before I go, here’s a twist on an old adage (yes, the puns are mighty here today):

Where there’s a why, there’s a way.

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An Open Letter to Costco

I’ve only got two hands…

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Costco was sent the following letter and informed up front that it would be posted publicly.

Dear Costco,

Most of the time, I love you, I really do. You help me stay on budget, you help provide my toddler with healthy snack options and warm socks. (Her favourite article of clothing is her blue owl house-coat. She knows the word for housecoat and most of her vocabulary is dedicated to food and ponies… that’s a lot!)

My parents had a membership and when I finally had the opportunity to purchase my own, I jumped at the chance. You’ve sincerely helped my family grow in the short months since we signed up.

But…

…are you familiar with the saying “You’re only as good as your last success”? With a corporate goal to “exceed member expectations” I would think so. Sadly, you have not exceeded my expectations today, in point of fact, I feel like you’ve forgotten that I had any expectations to begin with.

Here’s why…

After spending $502, I needed an extra few seconds of time from your checkout staff to get my things in my cart.

Instead:

  • …I was asked if I’d mind pushing two carts to my car (I was alone and politely said as much).

  • …I was told “no, that won’t fit there” when items were unnecessarily moved from one cart (all tightly nestled with bar-codes exposed) to another smaller/deformed cart – where they, of course “wouldn’t fit”.

  • …I was checked out around so that the next customer had to excuse his way past me while I struggled to jam packages into some semblance of how they had been in my previous cart.

Now, I’m no Costco newbie. I know to:

  • …put the light stuff on the conveyor.

  • …leave the bulky/heavy stuff in the cart – bar-codes visible and accessible by the hand-scanner.

  • …pack the conveyor neatly but compactly so your staff can get all their items per minute (or whatever the metric-de-jour might be).

  • …have my card ready for the cashier so he/she can start scanning quickly.

  • …smile warmly and make polite conversation so your busy cashier knows he/she doesn’t have to worry about me, the customer, being impatient.

And yet, your staff – I assume in an effort to be more efficient (it wasn’t, by the way) – made me feel like my purchase ($502, remember) was an inconvenience rather than providing income for Costco (and, by extension, for themselves as Costco employees).

I have some suggestions: next time, help your customer unload the cart onto the conveyor instead of starting a new cart where moving heavy/bulky things is needed; Wait until your customer is at least somewhat close to being settled away before scanning the next person’s items through; Above all, have a little empathy for the lone customer with a full cart and a single pair of hands.

I’m not calling for action against the employees involved. Neither of them were rude or abrasive; they were simply rushed. And frankly, they must be receiving direction from above that this sort of “rush ’em through” behaviour is deemed okay. But rest assured, my experience today makes it clear that sometimes speed is not the same as efficiency.

I do my Costco shopping on Frantic-Fridays and Squashed-like-Sardines-Saturdays because of the value your products add to my life and the life of my family. Kirkland No-Salt-Added Tomatoes are a mainstay in my kitchen. Kirkland-brand toilet paper never runs out…

…but no “great deal” is worth feeling like a burden over.

Perhaps you could remind your employees (and the management team who drives their behaviour), that when “there are plenty of shopping alternatives”, it’s service that’ll keep your customers walking through your doors.

With Regards,
Crystal
Costco member since 2015

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Dealing With Stress

No, I’m not a fire-fighter…

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No, I haven’t changed careers to fire-fighter (although it seems like I could be a stunt-double these days), but I am dealing with some hectic work-type things for the next few days. Who’d have thunk that real-world-paying job would take priority over super-fun-but-time-consuming hobby-blog? (Who has two thumbs and knew it all along? Two hints: Starts with “M”; ends with “E”).

Alas, this means during my crunch-time at work, I’m going to have to cut back on the number of posts I do for the next week or so.

Not to fear, though, I’ve got plenty in store for March, including a bunch of recipes I’ve been working on, of the low-carb, all carb, and just plain sinful varieties. Family-approved food, and a little less frenetic posting…

Not to leave you completely empty-handed, I’ll end with a few words of wisdom on dealing with stress.

Not that I’m an expert…

While I’ve had a rough couple of weeks at work, I’ve found that taking a step back has really helped. Specifically, for the first 15 minutes of my day, I jot down what didn’t get accomplished the day before (if it still needs to be done today), followed by a quick numbering of what’s most important. Finally, I mark what could be pushed into another day and save that for the very end, just in case I don’t get to it.

There’s always something to do, and while I’m able to do anything, I can’t do everything. Prioritizing the tasks at hand can really help keep the noise down.

Perspective: it’s hard to achieve in the middle of a rushing blaze, so taking the first 15 minutes before the fires start raging has helped me gain a little ground. Follow it up with a deep breath and I can battle anything that comes my way.

Just make sure there’s coffee ready, ’cause sometimes the rest of the day is a doozy.

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Mindful reflection: a five-minute recharge

I was sitting here in the quiet, my mind blank, doing absolutely nothing, just enjoying the silence. Never content with being idle, my mind flashed with insight into just why I’m so content:

After almost a week of night-time disruptions, my toddler’s hacking cough has finally stopped. Ah, that’s it…

The child rests.

So does, it seems, my hyper-active parental worry. The typical worry-noise in my head has gone from a fire-engine alert (Is she okay? What if she doesn’t get enough sleep? What if she’s sick-sick? Should I take her to the doctor? Should I throw her in the car seat and take her to the emergency room? Should I charter a helicopter and get her there even faster??) to a dull drum-beat (Is she okay? Better take a peek…).

Now that the holidays are over, I hope to discover a few more of these moments, these “everyone’s fine, you can relax” sort of moments.

In order to do that, I need to make sure that the meals for the week are prepped, that the clean laundry pile is slightly bigger than the dirty one, and that there are no unexpected science experiments on my kitchen floor.

…or do I?

While I’m not an advocate for petri-dish kitchen floors, I do feel it’s worth taking a few minutes at the end of the day to ignore all the mess, all the responsibilities and to just… be. So I’m taking a few minutes for me to mindfully reflect on another day gone by, to think about all the things I’ve done right (because there’s always something I’ve done right) and all the things I can improve upon tomorrow (because there’s always some of that too).

Taking a breather

Here’s how I exercise mindful reflection:

  • I find a quiet space. I hear the kids don’t go in the linen closet. That’ll work in a pinch.

  • Allot five minutes…

  • …but don’t set a timer. The last thing I need when trying to relax is a blaring alarm telling me I’m relaxed. Kind of defeats the purpose.

  • Lastly, I actively think about the day. Depending on my day, I’ll ask leading questions: “Have I given my daughter enough active attention today? Have I engaged her enough? Have I accomplished something meaningful with my time?” If the answer is “No”, I think about “What can I do to improve that?”. Sometimes there are no answers, only questions, and that’s okay. But usually I’ll have a flash of insight a “The Child Rests” moment, and I’ll be invigorated by the experience. Empowered by insight, I can charge ahead with a better plan for the rest of the day and into tomorrow.

Back to reality

Now that I’ve had my five minutes, those precious five minutes, I feel recharged. Better than a cup of joe, and better than powering through to exhaustion. Now I’m ready to tackle those daily tasks that have to be done, or else bellies won’t get filled and socks won’t match.

Thanks five-minute-break, you’ve done a good job today. Just like me. I’ll see you tomorrow.

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