Four things that are saving me these days

Photo: View from the Kaimai Ranges, by Mr. Wanderlust

On Wednesday morning, I turned the calendar leaf to reveal the first day of a new month. It dawned on me that, although this new month doesn’t feel remotely like the Novembers I have come to know, with their cold gray rain-drenched streets and trees that shed their cover in preparation for a blanket of snow, it’s nevertheless the second-last month of the year. And oh, how time does fly. That same day, I walked through the local shopping centre, where tall artificial Christmas trees had popped up overnight, to the sound of Christmas songs playing. November has always been my least favourite month in the northern hemisphere, and although it feels different in NZ, where sunny days are interspersed with warm springtime rainfall, I remain vigilant of the state of my thoughts and emotions. The reason I prioritise self-care and consistently work to improve my wellness habits is precisely because it’s much too easy for me to slip.

These days, here are four things that are saving me and helping me to stay well:

1. Walks in nature

On most mornings, after I take the Wanderlust Juniors to school, I walk to the beach or through the reserve. Some days, I drive to the local hills or the Mount for a more challenging walk to the summit, where I stand in awe, gazing from above upon our spectacular city. From time to time, whenever Mr. Wanderlust is able to steal away from his work for an hour, he joins me. Sometimes, we ride our bicycles in lieu of walking. I wrote previously about the resistance I have been feeling, as of late, toward more formal forms of cardio. Of course, yoga is a necessary daily practice, but I also crave fresh air and outdoor movement. Once outside, I often feel I could walk for hours. Some days, I listen to music or a podcast, but I prefer to tune into the sounds of the ocean’s waves or birds around me and take it all in, observing the ornate seashells as I pass them on the sand, the sheep that graze on the hillside. I walk briskly, but my mind remains in a state of meditative flow. If I’m lucky, from time to time I’m able to eavesdrop inconspicuously on an interesting conversation that I file away as possible material for a story.

2. Healthy routines

About two months after our move to NZ, I began to feel particularly homesick. I went through what immigration experts term the ‘fight or flight’ phase, during which I compared everything in NZ to what I had come to love in Canada. Then, I would nitpick at everything that did not appeal to me as much as I had hoped it would. At the same time, I began to drown my emotions in jars of Nutella late in the evening. Believe me, dear reader, that for me to admit to this feels shameful. I have always prided myself on being a careful eater and I have always had a difficult relationship with sugar. I know that it’s best for me to avoid it altogether. These days, I am picking up the pieces of me that I misplaced during that challenging phase. One day at a time, I plan carefully, eating three healthy solid meals, and avoid snacking after dinner. I brush my teeth, slip into my pajamas, and unwind with some Yin or restorative yoga, followed by reading a few pages from a book before turning off the light. I myself have often felt that this routine sounds rigid, but it helps me to feel my best, and for Vata, consistent healthy routines are key.

3. Community

Community is another major factor in adjusting to our new life in NZ. It’s easy for me to be a hermit, to stay at home all day and avoid any social interaction. However, when I do start speaking with our neighbours or the members of the fitness club who attend my classes, the conversation often ventures beyond small talk and leaves me feeling fulfilled. Moreover, online interaction via the blog also brings its delights. Yesterday, I received an email from a friend who told me about how much this blog helped her friend when he was going through a challenging time. As a writer, I enjoy putting my work out there, but I often wonder about who actually reads it and whether anyone cares about the content I produce. Similarly, as a yoga teacher, I want to know whether I deliver the type of class that other expect to attend and whether, in my classes, I am able to effectively address issues that others often struggle with. That feedback is invaluable to me and helps to connect me to the greater community, both online and offline.

4. Small celebrations

Earlier this week, our children celebrated their first Hallowe’en in NZ. Hallowe’en is a new holiday here and was not celebrated traditionally the way it’s celebrated in North America and some parts of Europe. With the longer daylight hours, the Wanderlust Juniors trick-or-treated when it was still light out, and stopped at only one spooky house among the non-ornate ones. Nevertheless, they enjoyed every moment of their outing and were particularly delighted that they did not need to wear winter jackets over their costumes the way they used to have to do in Canada. Seeing their excitement reminded me that every day is to be celebrated and that dressing up is fun. When I shared this article on my personal Facebook page, about one of my favourite fictional characters and films, lamenting over the casual dress in NZ, a friend commented to remind me that I should feel free to dress up and express my style any day. She’s right, of course, and I intend to do just that. I feel better when I put more effort into my outfit, even on days when I don’t have anywhere special to go. We should not need to wait for an occasion. Instead, every day can be a special occasion if we make it so.

Your turn: What is saving you right now? If you live in the northern hemisphere where November is the cold month in-between fall and winter, what do you do to turn up the hygge and make this time of year more enjoyable? Please leave a comment below. 

In the spirit of community-building, thank you for sharing this blog with a friend. 

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Four Things I Learned Recently

This is an exciting week for our family, and I promise to tell you more about it in a few days. For now, I will share with you four things that I learned recently and which you might find interesting in reference to your own health and wellness:

1. A lack of routine can present a setback. 

I stumbled and have been working to get back up. Following our move to NZ, my regular fitness regimen took a hit. Although I have continued to exercise, I lost my routine of waking early in the morning for yoga. We have been staying in a small, charming beach house, and although we are fortunate to have these accommodations, it has proved to be challenging to find room in the house where I could exercise without waking my family. As an INFP, routine is of paramount importance to me. If I don’t schedule something into my calendar, it might not happen at all. Likewise, although I am passionate about a healthy lifestyle and my energy levels are the highest early in the day, in the winter when the sun rises late, if I don’t make the effort to go to bed early and wake up before everyone else, I might not make time later in the day for my yoga practice. This week, I have adapted a new routine and am diligently working to stick with it. How do you feel about steady routines? Do you tend to veer off the path when on holidays?

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2. Variety and consistency are the key to a good fitness regimen.

Speaking of exercise, it might sound funny, but I designate certain days of the week as my cardio days. As I mentioned above, if I don’t schedule something in my calendar, I might never get to it. I do enjoy cardio and toning; both forms of fitness benefit and complement my yoga practice. Yet, sometimes, I forget about them altogether. Even with a consistent fitness regimen, I need variety. Some days, I enjoy ballet barre-style exercise, and on other days, I combine toning and cardio into one fun cardio pilates routine. Similarly with yoga, I might start with Vinyasa and end with Yin, then the next day opt for a restorative practice if that is what my body craves. The key is to design the practice intuitively. How do you feel about scheduling exercise? What criteria do you use when choosing a fitness regimen?

3. Different personality types have drastically distinct approaches toward starting a business.

Listen to the podcast here. This explains why Mr. Wanderlust is more inclined toward playing things safe when it comes to starting new projects, whereas I am more likely to abandon all prior commitments to launch directly into something novel and exciting. It turns out neither of us is wrong in our approaches. I’m curious to read about how this applies to your personality type and perhaps to your business venture or special project.

P.S. In the above podcast, there is also an update on new research that indicates that consumption of fruit and vegetables can nourish not only the body but also the mind, fuelling creativity and curiosity.

4. Aromatherapy continues to come to my rescue.

A few years ago, I started to experiment with essential oils. I am sensitive to various conventional products and, naturally, don’t want my family to be exposed to harmful substances. As such, I continue to concoct my own natural cleaning products for my yoga mat and for our home. Likewise, I only use skincare products that are naturally derived and gentle on my skin. I have always enjoyed specific scents but have recently become increasingly sensitive to certain fragrances, leading me to be selective about products that are not strongly scented but nevertheless provide me with a welcome aromatherapy boost. I was recently introduced to HZP + Co, a company based in the Bay of Plenty, our new home in NZ, which creates natural skincare products with the most delicious light scents. I can’t say enough about the beautiful Hydra-Defence Serum and Cream to Body Oil, created with local kiwifruit, mamaku leaf, and kowhai extracts. The Wake Me Up Splashwater, with a blend of citrus oils, has become my magic mist on dark mornings when it’s challenging to roll out of bed. Do you enjoy scented skincare and/or home cleaning products? What are a few of your favourite scents?

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Do you have a few additional minutes to stay and read? 

One year ago on the blog: Anniversary

Two years ago on the blog: Marriage Lessons from the Past Nine Years

A favourite from around the web: The Myth of the Teachable Moment

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A tranquil scene on one of the beautiful paths to the summit of Mount Maunganui
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Exploring Papamoa Hills

Please leave a comment below to join the conversation, and thank you, as always, for sharing this blog with a friend! 

The guilt of unbusyness

When Mr. Wanderlust and I were considering a move to NZ, one of the major deciding factors was our quest toward a quieter life. We had become used to working full-time in the corporate world, rushing every morning to prepare breakfast and pack lunches before taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, then rush again to the school at 5 p.m. to pick them up from an after-school program, then rush to an evening class. Yes, I did just use the word ‘rush’ and its derivative thrice in one sentence. Our children used to spend more time at their school than we did at our workplaces. Every family must make its own decisions about how to bring up children, based on individual values, and this lifestyle never sat comfortably with me. Although we both enjoyed our work, we sought a schedule that would allow us more leeway to truly enjoy life without needing to race toward the weekend at breakneck speed. That was why we moved to NZ.

Mr. Wanderlust continues to work full-time in our new setting, and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead several yoga classes per week. I am continuing to search for additional opportunities, but I do so at a more relaxed pace. After leading classes for three evenings in a row, I felt tired on Thursday last week and decided to dedicate the day to myself, to read, enjoy a leisurely walk, and do some knitting.

I would love to say that I felt gloriously relaxed while sitting on the cosy couch. Instead, I felt guilt at sitting on the couch on a weekday afternoon when many others, including my partner, were immersed in their work. I felt guilt at dedicating some time to my well-being when I could have invested that time in more lucrative pursuits. I could have spent that time preparing dinner for our family. Have you ever felt that pang of guilt? It tends to visit at the worst of times, often after we had been running off our feet and the much awaited downtime has finally arrived. That’s when it sneaks up on us.

We chose the slower life and are continuing to work toward it. I remind myself daily that there is no need to rush, or to spend every waking minute working or planning ahead for the work that is yet to be done. We do not need to schedule every minute of the day. Instead, we should carve out time to focus on self-care. We should carve out time to enjoy a walk in the park or on the beach. We should slow down to say ‘hello’ to a neighbour. We should prioritise leisure time on the couch or in bed with a great book and — in my case — yarn and needles. We should spend more time gardening, practising yoga, or enjoying a delicious cup of coffee at a favourite cafe. It’s also about becoming comfortable with the pangs of guilt that sometimes sneak up on us, then giving ourselves permission to simply sit back without adhering to a packed timetable.

Having spent the afternoon on the couch, I felt recharged as I drove to pick up the Wanderlust Juniors from school, then helped them with their homework and prepared our dinner. Here’s a little known fact of adulthood: Becoming less busy helps us to put our lives in perspective, fine-tuning our focus for the work that matters most; in turn, we end up wasting less time on what is inconsequential. 

It’s a radical decision, to work toward becoming less busy and to enjoy life at a slower pace, and I am embracing my quiet rebellious side. It’s okay to do less and be more.

How do you practise becoming less busy? Please leave a comment below.

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Beautiful Waihi Beach

Favourites from around the web:

The Kind Gesture that Helps Elizabeth Gilbert Find the Light on Her Worst Days

Creative Ways to Inspire Your Yoga Practice this Summer

The Life-Changing Habit of Journaling

How to Retain More from the Books You Read

How to Read an Entire Book in a Single Day

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Waihi Beach in late June

Start slow: A Monday morning date

Last week, we were feeling miserable, resting in bed with a cold that knocked us off our feet. This week, we are starting to slowly, gently reawaken to greet the sunshine and restore our energy reserves. A morning walk in the sunshine up Mount Maunganui was just what the doctor ordered.

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The view of Mount Maunganui, referred to as ‘the mount’ by the locals, from the boardwalk of Pilot Bay

We had a busy first month in NZ and now that we are away from our families, couple time is not easy to carve out. Mr. Wanderlust wasn’t due to start work until lunchtime, and after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, we decided to make our way toward Mount Maunganui. We had walked up the mount once before with the boys, and although the trek was challenging, it did not feel overly difficult. This time, our experience was not the same as before.

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Not even 15 minutes into our hike up the mount, we felt short of breath.

“I can’t believe the terrible shape I’m in,” I complained while blowing my nose and tugging at my clogged left ear.

“You are recovering from a bad cold,” Mr. Wanderlust gently reminded me. “You can’t expect to be as strong as you normally are.”

A few days ago, we were feeling too weak to walk around the block, let alone walk up a mountain. Our next thought, as we stopped to catch our breath, was that if we’re feeling weak, at the very least we were in this together. We had to crack a few jokes along the lines of, “If I ever make it up the mount…”

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We made a few more stops on the incline, each time taking the opportunity to snap a few photos of the spectacular vistas in-between coughing and clearing our noses — okay, it was me blowing my nose while Mr. Wanderlust ensured that I did not have bits of facial tissue left on my face. What started out as a frustrating and humbling trek left me with a reminder to start slowly and be kind to myself, to be patient as I continue to regain my strength. This was our opportunity to go gently, without feeling the need to rush toward a destination. We reminded ourselves that while we were working to catch our breath, we had the perfect excuse to stop to enjoy the sights on the way up.

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Putting one foot before the other, we made it to the summit sooner than we had expected. Our walk was silent, in the comfortable manner of long-time lovers who have lately had too much on their minds and hearts. Sitting down to recharge before coming down from the mount, I rested my head on my husband’s shoulder and, closing my eyes for a few moments, leaned into the comfort of home.

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Adorable residents of the mount.

Updates from Instagram:

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Previously on the blog:

Chez Kathleen Kelly and Holly Golightly

Skipping the Small Talk

Wishing you a week of gentle beginnings!

When opportunity knocks

We had just returned home following a wonderful day of adventure and sightseeing in Rotorua on our eighth day in NZ. On my way to the kitchen to prepare dinner, I sat for a moment at the dining room table and opened my laptop to look up a recipe for salad dressing. Facebook was open in another tab, letting me know of a new private message waiting for me, from a local fellow yoga instructor whom I met on Instagram. Her daughter was feeling unwell and she was desperately looking for a teacher to cover her 5:30 p.m. class at the local gym.

Before I had finished reading the message, a voice somewhere in my head protested, “I’m not ready!” and “I have never led a class at a gym before, let alone in NZ!” It continued with, “What will everyone think of me? I speak with a North American accent and they will immediately think that I’m an outsider who doesn’t belong at the gym. They will surely miss Melissa and might feel annoyed that I came in to take over her class.”

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I had worked for years to silence those old insecurities that once kept me tightly bound, holding me back from everything I wanted to do. When an exciting offer would arise, the timid girl would step back into the shadow, keeping her gaze at her feet, afraid to make eye contact with someone who might see her for what she truly is, yet at once also wishing so desperately to be seen, to be recognized. Let it be clear that I have always enjoyed leading yoga classes and have every intention to continue doing so in NZ. I simply did not expect an offer to arrive so soon following our move.

With a deep breath, before I could change my mind, I agreed to guide the class. Mr. Wanderlust happily treated the Wanderlust Juniors to fish and chips for dinner. During the drive to the gym, in a bubbling emotional cocktail of excitement and nervousness, I smiled in gratitude for an opportunity that found me so soon in my new home.

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One of the benefits of being a yoga instructor is that I am able to remind myself to breathe deeply as I guide the class to do just that. As I invite the group to move with awareness, I speak slower, more calmly. I chose to teach yoga to share its gifts with others, to allow them to enjoy the magical effect born from the synergy of the breath and controlled movement. In paying attention to the physical alignment of the clients in the room, I forgot about any insecurities I might have felt earlier. How silly I was to think about perceptions when it was never about me. Instead, I was there to create an enjoyable and rewarding experience for my clients, as I intend to do each time I step onto my mat to face those who have arrived to dedicate a special hour to themselves.

It might not have been the most successful class I have ever led. Later, I laughed at the memory of having cued the group to shift their right foot a few inches to the right-hand side of their mats in low lunge, or to keep their gaze a couple of feet to the front of their mats in Warrior III. I made a note to myself to use metric measurements next time.

Oh yes, there most certainly was a ‘next time’ the following week. Due to circumstances that benefit both Melissa and me, the Wednesday evening class is now a regular on my schedule. I am glad that I silenced the old doubts and fears and said ‘yes’ when presented with a special opportunity. I am also grateful for an accepting group with a great sense of humour, which I can confidently attribute to all the kiwis I have met here to date.

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When was the last time you said ‘yes’ to life while feeling unsure of yourself? How did you feel in the process? What was the outcome? Please share your story in the comments below. 

Thank you for reading.

Those pesky fluctuations

Yoga chitta vritti nirodha. – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

NOTE: My family and I will be on a wee break until the week of April 24th, when I will next update this blog. I will continue to check in on Facebook and Instagram, so please follow me there.


Antelope Canyon Katia

The weather patterns in my part of the world have been erratic, with rain and 5°C one day, then sun and 19°C a few days later. Spring tends to be lazy in Ontario. In Ayurveda, it is believed that nature and its elements greatly influence our inner state. If you have been feeling tired and your thoughts and emotions have been running in myriad directions as of late, you are in good company. These days, I vacillate between wanting to start ten different projects and craving a long nap, and that is okay. Nature is curious and we are curious beings, though in our quest to create some semblance of stability we, in effect, sometimes end up with enormous frustration.

Yoga teaches us that changes are inevitable. Sutra 1.2 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali states that ‘Yoga chitta vritti nirodha,’ or ‘Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.’ In fact, it is not only the mind that we attempt to still, and try as we might, activity will always continue to occur in some manner. So, what exactly is the point of attempting to still those fluctuations, and how can we bring about a state of stillness?

When I first started practising and studying yoga and meditation, I expected to experience that often advertised stillness and was looking forward to the transformation toward complete clarity in everything I do on a daily basis. As miraculous as yoga and meditation might be — and they truly are magical — I soon learned that to continue to enjoy their benefits, I must continue to practise. Just as nature is in a perpetual state of flux, so are our minds, emotions, and physical bodies. Nothing in this world is constant. We continue to grow, learn, and evolve, as do others around us. Yoga and awareness practices help us to understand these changing states and accept their ebb and flow, and in so doing, we practise merely staying afloat and learning to become more adaptable, more agile, as we learn to surf with reverence on the surface of the vast ocean of wisdom. 

If changes are inevitable, then the only way to the other side is by accepting what is. Yoga and awareness practices might not cease our thoughts from occurring altogether, but perhaps, slowly, we might learn to ignore the constant chatter and listen only to what is most important here and now. Over time, the volume of the chatter might become reduced to a mere whisper somewhere at the back of the mind. As we learn to be compassionate with our thoughts, accepting that they are there but choosing to give up attempts to chase them down the rabbit hole, we start to also become more compassionate toward others around us and their opinions and personality types. To me, acceptance and compassion are the definition of living in harmony with ourselves and the world around us. And truly, life is much more pleasant when we make the choice to accept its changeable ways.

Many of us come to yoga and meditation in an attempt to find that elusive sense of stability and grounding, and that is precisely what we should be doing, but perhaps it might be beneficial to slightly tone down our expectations. As a person of Vata dosha (air element), I constantly strive to find my footing. Instead of seeking solid ground, I have learned to think of the surface beneath my feet as a surfboard that sometimes washes ashore for short periods of time, allowing a reprieve. Soon enough, the tide will rise again and I will be adrift. I remind myself to continue practising, to dig deeper to find my balance and allow my heard to open to possibilities. That is how we learn to enjoy the current.DSCN6735Comments? Questions? Please leave a note below. If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please click ‘share’ to tell others about it.

Renewal

Oh, Spring! I want to go out and feel you and get inspiration. My old things seem dead. I want fresh contacts, more vital searching. – Emily Carr

A few captures from the past week:

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As we welcome Spring in the northern hemisphere, we are invited to reflect on what, in our personal lives, is waiting to be reawakened. What has been dormant throughout a winter of hibernation and a lazy pace?

Last week was the annual spring break for the Wanderlust Juniors, though the weather made it feel more like mid-January with a windy, cold start to the week. We could be found at home, nursing ourselves to good health; I’m still waiting for my voice to return after a bout of laryngitis. In seeking comfort, we turned to the typical old-fashioned — or maybe the currently trendy hygge-esque — wool blankets and mugs of tea with honey, made forts, watched movies while munching popcorn, and crafted. Today, however, I feel ready to return to my routine and renew my intention to create magic.

I am renewing my commitment to sit in meditation for 10-15 minutes in the morning, following my physical practice. Although I love meditation for its soothing quality and as a disciplinary practice, my practice has lately become sporadic. I am ready to reignite the spark of inspiration.

Is there an intention that you are ready to renew? Please tell me about it in the commends below. 

Favourites from around the web:

I am made of equal parts wanderlust and homebody fibres, as is this writer.

Guided meditation from Tara Brach.

Inspiring podcasts.

More on decluttering.

Wisdom from Mary Oliver.

From the archives:

Feeling yoga.

What meditation is really like.

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“Hibernation.”

Wishing you a week of gentle awakenings and inspiration! Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Favourites: March 10th edition

A few simple highlights from the past week:

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A delightful new knitting project!

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A great book.

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Our current quick-and-easy ‘go to’ dessert: banana and chocolate chip cake.

From around the web:

Important for HSP to remember.

A mindful approach to difficult emotions.

Self-care.

Environmental responsibility..

More mindfulness.

For the yogis.

On letting go of books. Mr. Wanderlust and I recently significantly downsized our enormous library; we can empathize with the author of this story.

Life lessons.

Instagram Favourite:

I enjoy following the explorations of Zero Waste Chef. Her profile states the three inspiring rules she follows to run her kitchen: “Rule #1 no packaging. Rule #2 nothing processed. Rule #3 no trash.”

Wishing you a tranquil weekend!

Valentine’s yoga: new video

Some of my readers might remember the YouTube yoga channel on which I used to share videos. For several reasons, I chose to put the channel to rest after two or three years. Over the past weekend, I created a new YouTube home with the intention of sharing short but effective yoga practices with you, based on my personal practice. It is my hope that the videos will benefit anyone with a schedule that might not allow for a regular full-length practice. Once upon a time, I could not conceive of the idea that a yoga practice could be less than one hour in length. When the Wanderlust Juniors were born, I had to change that perception in order to fit self-care into an already packed schedule. You might choose to practise in the morning before work or before the children wake up for the day, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or in the evening before dinner. Your practice is yours to coordinate into your schedule.

As I set out to film the video, the Wanderlust Juniors were playing quietly in the basement. Toward the end, however, and in spite of the closed doors, the sounds grew louder, as they most often will when two school-age boys lose themselves in a game of pretend. The neighbour’s dogs likely became excited by the sight of a squirrel in a backyard tree, adding to the sound effects. As I reviewed the video, I started to note these and various other aspects that did not appeal to me. I started to become self-critical. The truth is, dear reader, I felt slightly nervous while filming. I considered not uploading the video, thinking it might be wise to re-film. I scrapped those thoughts for now. The video, as you see it, is honest, real, and almost completely unscripted. This is me, in my home, with all the sounds that surround me on a daily basis. I reminded myself that there I was, reviewing a video I made with a focus on self-love; I should walk the talk. Please do not judge too harshly. In the future, I will continue to play with filming while figuring out how to improve angles, lighting, sound, and more.

In the meantime, please enjoy this self-love practice, and leave a comment below this post or below the video to let me know the one thing (or more) that you love and appreciate about yourself. Please also remember to share this blog and video with your friends. Thank you for your support.

 

Making February a bit brighter

Last week, I overheard an exchange between two colleagues who were complaining about February, referring to it sarcastically as everyone’s favourite month of the year. Many years ago, I might have agreed with them and rolled my eyes at yet another cold winter month, but these days, I refuse to join the pity party. Instead, I focus on self-care, and at the risk of sounding nauseatingly sweet and obnoxiously bubbly, I will confess that I do seek the silver lining. February is a month I celebrate. Here are a few special occasions and favourite rituals that help to make my February a bit brighter:

Aquarian birthdays. Dear reader, you might dislike astrology and think of it as bogus pseudoscience at best. Some days, I agree with you. However, I also happen to really like Aquarians and their eccentric, artsy, often off-the-wall quirky personality traits. A friend who studied astrology gifted me ten years ago with a birth chart, which showed that my Moon sign is in Aquarius. Perhaps that is one reason why I feel such a connection to these fascinating people. The youngest Wanderlust Junior is my favourite Aquarius and we celebrate his birthday this month. The birthdays of my children are as important (or perhaps even more important) to me as they are to them. The births of my children were the most pivotal moments in my and Mr. Wanderlust’s lives. So bring on the celebration. This year, it will be a small one for us, but we are making the most of it.

Valentine’s Day. Again, some of you might dislike this consumerist pseudo-holiday. And once again, I nod my head. Yet, amid the worldwide sadness, confusion, and anxiety that affects us at this time, I think we can use any excuse to celebrate LOVE. To me, Valentine’s Day is not a reason to spend money on overpriced chocolate and heart-shaped everything for a romantic partner — though that is a perfectly valid way to celebrate and I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to chocolate. Instead, it’s an invitation to reconnect to the love that resides within us and abounds all around us. It’s a reminder to take better care of ourselves, to practise self-love, and to express gratitude toward our friends and loved ones.

Shrove Tuesday. In the interest of refraining from over-scheduling our weekday mornings, we celebrate Shrove Tuesday on the Sunday prior with a fancy pancake breakfast. It helps that Sundays are traditional pancake breakfast days in our household, but we make this one ever more naughty with extra chocolate chips in our pancakes, and perhaps even a bit of Nutella on the side. Oh my!

Tea. After experiencing several health concerns that were exacerbated by coffee consumption, and after attempting to give up my love affair with java for the past several years, I have finally given it up. I still enjoy an espresso or a flat white from time to time (about once a month, to be exact), but tea has become my choice for a hot beverage. I love Earl Grey in the morning and drink green, rooibos, and mint tea throughout the day to stay warm and hydrated.

Essential oils. I enjoy using my oil diffuser to freshen the air in our home and keep the Wanderlust Juniors breathing easy at night. A few drops of eucalyptus oil work wonders for night-time congestion.

Electric blanket. At the end of the day, I look forward to snuggling in bed with Wanderlust Juniors while reading books to them before bedtime, then continuing to read my book until my eyelids become heavy. The warm fleecy blanket is a life saver on cold nights and makes bedtime reading even more enjoyable. The key is to remember to unplug it before falling asleep.

Fireside yoga. On chilly mornings, the thought of rolling out my mat in front of the blazing fireplace makes it much easier to get out of bed, and my muscles and joints thank me.

Epsom salt baths with lavender oil. This is my favourite weekly treat before bedtime, usually on Saturday nights.

Your turn! What helps to make your February a bit brighter? Please leave a comment below.

And remember, this is the shortest month of the year, so let’s enjoy it while it’s here. Spring surely must be lurking somewhere around the corner.