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Purpose

Purpose. What is this blogs purpose?

This is a question I have been asking myself a lot since I created this blog. Initially, I wanted to explore my creative writing again, because it was something I loved to do when I was younger and when I went to finish my university degree in the fall I had that fire re-sparked in a travel writing course. Then I came back to my routine, back to the life I left behind for a few months. A life with my loving husband, beautiful daughter, and a 9-5 office job. My focus shifted.

I wanted to inspire others to get out of the house and explore the world around them. Partly because we love to explore, and partly because we started noticing how common it is for families to live an almost sedentary lifestyle. Seeing toddlers master an iPad made my heart feel sad. (This may be due to a childhood lacking a lot of technology and containing an abundance of outdoor adventures.) However, I have never been fully certain of how we are suppose to accomplish the feat of inspiration. There are so many accounts we can find on different social media platforms and blogging sites that have people sharing their travels year-round. It’s not unique,  it’s time consuming, and if someone wants that inspiration they already have plenty of ways to find it. It’s pretty easy, and that is wonderful.

Well, while my focus has shifted a bit, one thing remains the same. My desire for an outlet continues, and I will be using this domain to put my musings into writing. This used to be done with a pen and a paper, but now a computer and a keyboard will do the trick.

This blog may change, transforming as we go, but for now I have a few key areas in mind. We will still share our travels on here. We have so many tales to reminisce. Everything from Colombia to Ghana, and Canada to the USA. There will be more, but for now we are centering ourselves and recording what has passed. I would also like to share some personal pieces, which will be found in this musings section. Art will also be posted. It may be visual or written, depending on the inspiration.

We hope you enjoy sharing in this little slice of our life.

– Crystal

How I Spent More Money Being a Bridesmaid than I did Being a Bride

There are certain people in life that we tend to bend over backwards for. Where your appreciation for them, and thankfulness for having them in your life, is so deep that you will do almost anything for them.

However, I sometimes wonder… How much is too much? How far is too far? How do we know we have reached our limit, if we never set one to begin with?

This is my problem; setting limits. Especially when it comes to the people I love, I just tend to have a hard time saying “No”, or “I can’t do that”. Mostly because a part of what makes me happy is making other people happy, and appeasing them is part of how that can be accomplished.

Back on to the main topic here. When I was a bride I just wanted to get married. I finally met a man that loved me and all my crazy, all my flaws. Once I realized how truly special that is I agreed to marry him. It was a bit quick in terms of planning and budgeting, but we just wanted to tie the knot. We would’ve been happy to exchange vows with a couple witnesses in the backyard (that was our original plan), but we decided to celebrate with family and friends.

So, we rented a historic, beautiful little church and sent out invitations to the people we knew living nearby. We did the ceremony on one day and the reception the second day. I got a dress I loved and combined it with a borrowed wedding dress bottom from a friend. We asked friends and family to chip in, made it a potluck style celebration, and it was a huge success.

In total, we spent about $1000 on everything, including document fees.

Now, I fully realize that this is not the reality for everyone. Every man and woman has a different dream when it comes to tying the knot. Some people like it small and quaint, while some people like it grand and glamorous. Every way we do it is a beautiful experience, each unique in their own ways.

I suppose, I just did not realize the full scope, more so financially when I agreed to be a bridesmaid recently. (I had been one previously, but that was on a totally different level when it came to the pocket book.)

Some bridal parties are responsible for simply attending the main event and buying their own dress, while others are expected to organize and plan both the bridal party and the bachelorette. I was fully aware that we were the latter part of that scale, however I didn’t think it would be as much as it turned out to be.

So, to attend the wedding is about $1200 CAD. This is for flights, hotel, dress and shoes; the wedding itself is a destination wedding. The bridal shower is a very large event with over 60 people in attendance. I was just responsible for a dessert table and I spent $400 CAD. This included a cake, 6 dozen custom cupcakes, and a candy station. The bachelorette is at a nightclub with bottle service that costs $260/bottle, which could easily become a $400-$600 night.

In total I am spending around $2000 to be a bridesmaid.

As you can see, just attending this wedding is costing me more than my own wedding. Even if I wasn’t attending and I just helped with the two pre-wedding events, the cost would be close to what I spent for myself.

Part of me wonders if it was all worth it, and most of me screams “YES”. I would probably do it again, but only for this person and a select few others. However, there is also the mother/frugal side of me that tells me I should have politely declined and saved the cash.

So, where do we draw that line?

In all seriousness though, I have learned a few things throughout this process.

  • It is okay to spend money on others, but don’t jeopardize your financial stability to please others.
  • It is okay to set limits and say no when you become uncomfortable or cannot afford certain things.
  • It is okay to make suggestions for ways to save some money.
  • It is okay to let someone know you love them, but you just can’t afford to attend a destination wedding.
  • Always be honest with yourself, your partner, and the bride (or groom) when you are planning for a wedding.

Let me know if you have ever been in a bridal party. What were your responsibilities? How much did you spend after everything was done? (Where are you from/currency? – I am in Alberta, Canada/CAD$)

Christmas in Our House

The most wonderful part about being a multicultural family is learning all about my spouses childhood traditions.

However, I have had to remind myself that just because his family did things a certain way, that doesn’t mean the rest of his country celebrates the same way. That may seem like an obvious statement, but it is so easy to sweep people into groups and assume they all operate in a similar way. But I digress…

My spouse grew up in a very religious household, they were Seventh Day Adventist. Now, they believe Jesus was born at another time of the year. So their focus during Christmas was to travel home to visit family. He never had a Christmas tree with presents under it, they didn’t decorate, and Santa wasn’t a thing for them. He believed that because they didn’t have a Christmas tree Santa wasn’t going to come. However, they did receive one Christmas dress (a new outfit). The other aspect he grew up with was that of an entrepreneurial household, as both of his parents had businesses to run. This meant that he and his brother were expected to help with the shop during the busy Christmas season. Keep in mind, his mom kept her shop open 24 hours between Christmas and New Years!

Then he came to Canada for school and a couple of years in he met me. During our first years together he joined my family and I in our gift exchanges and celebratory feast. Very new to the idea of having to buy a gift for everyone in attendance, he was often on the receiving end of the gift exchange. Once we married and moved provinces we were then invited into my relatives home for Christmas dinner, and again ended up on the receiving end of the gift giving (it’s surprisingly difficult to buy gifts for people you don’t know well, or we are just not that creative). Now we have our own little family with two children and we are trying to find our own new normal. Combining his traditions with the traditions I grew up with is the balance we are looking to create.

This will morph over time for sure, but for now we like to keep it simple. With a cost-conscious family like ours, we try to keep the presents to a minimum. I like to stick to the idea of: 1 wanted item, 1 needed item, 1 book to read, and something to wear. I tend to create a Christmas Eve box with: PJs, a movie, book, a snack, a Christmas mug, and a hot chocolate. This sets us up for a fun little evening together, watching a Christmas movie, eating snacks, and enjoying each others company. It also combines at least a couple of those gifts I just listed.

This is so important for me because Christmas to me is about being with the people you love. So what we have chosen to do is have our Christmas Eve time as a family, with our little boxes to open, and then on Christmas Day we can each open our gift. Yes, that would be just one gift. One gift that we get to open and enjoy because we are blessed to be alive and on earth. For that, we give thanks to God.

I truly believe that it is such a blessing to be here. So, the last thing I want is for this holiday season to become one of stress, loneliness, resentment, bitterness, or greed. These negative emotions always seem to explode around the holidays because we put so much pressure on ourselves to buy big expensive gifts or make a huge feast for everyone with little help. So, we have flipped the script and we are keeping it simple.

I am often so glad we do things simply. I’ve already seen so many photos on social media that show living rooms filled with so many presents you can barely see the Christmas tree or even have room to walk around in the room. Just seeing these images make me feel anxious. I can’t even imagine gifting huge expensive gifts and seeing the disappointment on someone’s face because it wasn’t what they wanted. It makes me think of that Harry Potter movie when Dudley counts his birthday presents and gets mad when he doesn’t have more than the year before. That sense of entitlement and lack of appreciation makes me physically cringe and feel slightly nauseous.

On another note, you may ask, what about Santa? Well, we are not discouraging him, but we are also not promoting him extensively. My children know about the stories of Santa. We’ve read books and we’ve watched movies. However, we make it known that he is someone people enjoy believing in, but he is not who we believe in. We think it is wonderful to keep the magic of the season alive, and if that’s how others want to do it, we support that. It’s just not how we want to do it. So our kids know that mom and dad buy the gifts that they open. If one day they wonder why they weren’t able to get some expensive “wish list” item, we will be able to tell them what we could afford and why. Hopefully that will become a good financial teaching moment.. we’ll see. My daughter still gets excited to see Santa, which is adorable, so I guess we will see how long the novelty lasts.

Basically our family does a few of the things I used to: decorate a tree, unwrap presents, eat a nice meal; and we also do what my husband grew up doing, which is get a new outfit and spend time with family. Oh, and sometimes we have to work too. Which is okay, because we can do these things on any day off around the holidays. (We aren’t holiday date dictators here 😉 )

That is our little Christmas.

What do you do for Christmas? What is your favorite tradition? What tradition could you live without?

Fear Vs. Passion

When we are passionate about something, what holds us back? Why does it take so long for some of us to really dive into our passion, or even find out what we are passionate about?

It seems to me that one of the main culprits is fear. Fear can be one of the most weakening emotions. Yet, oddly enough, for some people it can motivate and energize them.

I personally think it is quite interesting how emotions can affect people differently. For some people, fear is not something they hide from (think of thrill-seekers and horror movie enthusiasts). They may be scared of something, but they will seek it out or try to conquer it by doing it. For others though, fear can be the thing that stops them in their place. Frozen in fear, creating a barrier between them and progress. Every thought, every inaction, is revolved around that sense of fear and panic. I get it, because that is what has been happening to me.

It’s a little ironic that I say this, because I am a huge believer in mind over matter. That we are the master of our own mind and we have the ability to achieve what we think we can’t by changing the way we think. This is the power of positive thinking.

Yet here I am, knowing that I still let fear control some of the things I do, and essentially what I end up not doing.

I have always had a passion for the arts, and last night my husband looked at me and asked “What is it that you really want to do?” Which, to be honest, is one of the hardest questions for me to answer. As I grow, my answer keeps changing. I have however found one common thread to stay true; I love the Arts!

My main challenge is that the Arts encompass many fields, and I like them all! There is Photography, make-up, clothing design, drafting, woodworking, pottery, painting, drawing, writing, videography, music, and so much more.

Then he asked me the follow up question to my diluted listed answer: “If you could choose one to focus on which one would you choose?”

For me, this question is agony. Why would you make me choose? It is like a cruel and unusual punishment to make me pick from all these things that give me joy. But, unfortunately for me, my husband made a great argument as to why I should choose. It’s great to find joy in so many things, but in order to be successful in any one thing you need to narrow it down to just that: one thing.

Of course this is something I have heard thousands of times throughout my life. Just pick something and go for it! Work on it. Excel at it. I get it. But, I really didn’t want to get it, so it never happened. You might ask why I say that I didn’t want to get it, and it’s simple. I didn’t want to choose which thing I liked to do most, because I found joy in each area. However, what I have come to realize, is that choosing one subject to focus on does not mean I am neglecting or forgetting about the others. It more so means that I am going to focus on one thing. Practice it, fine tune it, and find my personal excellence within it.

I have always been afraid to write. Not journaling, which stays private, but any form that involves external readers. This blog, for instance, is my main example. It doesn’t take me long to come up with things to write about. Honestly, every night in bed my mind races with words and ideas that I would like to write down. The fear is what holds me back.

What am I so afraid of? Of being exposed, vulnerable, hated, ridiculed, and of baring my soul and being ultimately rejected. And you know what? These are all legitimate fears. Everyone has these fears. We are all human, and that carries with it the burden of complex emotions. That is okay.

As my daughter loves to say: “I am a person.”

I am beautifully complex.

I am afraid of putting it all out there and being rejected. But I have decided that I am going to work through it, and work past it, because it is okay to be afraid.

Let us not allow fear to control us.

Let us conquer our fears and find our passion!

 

Hiking Siffleur Falls, Alberta

Our Canada Day this year was spent enjoying the great outdoors in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. We camped in an area called the Kootenay Plains and we made some new friends while we were there. They were leaving the next day, so I decided to join them on a hiking trip up to Siffleur Falls with all our kids in tow. Let me tell you, hiking with kids is always an adventure!

It is a pretty popular hiking trail, and now I know why! It is decently accessible for many types of hikers and the trail is diverse in landscape and feeling. There are three sets of falls, but we just stuck to the first waterfall as it was a good 4km walk from the start. I wouldn’t recommend taking a stroller or wheelchair all the way to the falls however, since you would need to abandon it about 2/3 of the way there, at the bottom of a big rocky climb. I witnessed a number of strollers being left at the bottom of that hill, but to each their own.

The beginning of the hike took us down into a flat, treed/meadow-like area along a gravel path, which lead us to our first bridge leading over the North Saskatchewan River.

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Beginning of the trail

The first river crossing is actually a long suspension bridge over the North Saskatchewan River.

Suspension Bridge
First Bridge

Cordelia was awed by the powerful river moving under our feet. She would repeat “Mom, let’s go swimming!” To which I would respond with “Honey, I know you love to swim, but this river is much to strong for us to swim safely.” Of course it took some time to explain the reasoning behind this answer to our three year old.

It probably took about 5 minutes just to cross this bridge! Not because of the length, but more so due to the swaying scaring my toddler. Every time someone would run, or even walk past us, and the bridge would sway and shake, Cordelia froze on the spot. We ended up having to carry her the last half of the bridge length.

Upon exiting the suspension bridge we entered a lovely wide boardwalk trail. Signs posted explained that the boardwalk was created to save the fragile environment. One sign stated “This sensitive ecological zone has severely eroded due to the large number of visitors travelling through this area.” For this, I am grateful of the boardwalk trails existence. I hope that one day my children can return and enjoy the natural beauty of this area in a similar state that we saw on our visit.

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Boardwalk trail

The boardwalk trail ends and the trail continues with gravel, another bridge over the Siffleur River, and then gaining elevation and climbing a hill. It’s the one big climb on this trail, and really it’s not too taxing. It can be a bit slippery in places though, with all the little gravel pebbles on it. So I took my time. One of my fears is falling while I have my children strapped to my body in carriers. Falling on my own is not such a big deal to me, but I dread hurting my children. The trail becomes a bit trickier at the top of the hill, with lots of tree roots and large rocks/boulders to maneuver around. There is a really awesome tree that the kids loved swinging and climbing on, so naturally we had to take some photos.

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Finally, this highlight of this trail is the canyon carved out by the Siffleur River and the Siffleur Waterfalls. There is a viewpoint looking out over the canyon before the waterfalls viewpoint, and at the first waterfall there is also an area to walk out to the water. Caution is a must, as this water is quite powerful and many lives have been lost here. However, there are pools that form near the edge of the river and the water is very refreshing on a hot day! So, we carefully dipped our toes into a safe spot and then retreated to the trees to perch and have a snack before heading back to our vehicles.

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View at the top of the falls

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Canyon Viewpoint

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Goodbye Grandpa

Dear Grandpa,

As in life, so many things have been left unsaid. Maybe that is because I don’t know how to vocalize my thoughts, or maybe it is because it was hard to communicate with you for the last few years. When I wrote you that letter and received your reply I was thrilled that I could talk to you again. All I wanted to do was write to you again and again … But I let the little things in life get in my way and I waited too long to write you back. For that, I am deeply sorry.

So, here is my last letter to you.

I want you to know how much I have looked up to you and Grandma throughout my life. You have this bond, this connection, that kept you together through the ups and downs that life threw at you. You were always a calm soul and you always shared your best side with us. You showed me how a man should treat a lady and how a relationship can weather any storm. You were an anchor of resilience, determination, and love. Every milestone that you could attend in my life, you did with a smile on your face and pride in your eyes. If we ever needed to escape you would take us in with open arms.

You taught me how to love unconditionally, how to enjoy life with the people that mean the world to me, and how to work hard for my family.

I remember finding an Old Dogs cassette once, and mom told me you were singing on that cassette tape. You had a soulful voice and I am sure you are singing with the angels now.

I have always believed in heaven. In my mind it is a place where all our pains go away, where we are whole once again in our greatest form. From this place of peace we can rejoice with our loved ones who have also passed and keep an ever watchful eye on the earthly survivors that hold a piece of our hearts. I can just imagine you up there with your son, your brother and sisters, with my dad, uncles, grandparents, and cousin. I am positive your heart is full with this reunion.

You should know, we will take care of your love, Grandma. She knows you won’t be too far. You will be watching over her. We will be there for each other. All of us remaining on this earthly surface. You have created a strong family and raised wonderful children. Your life was full of love and happiness, and we will continue to live in the light to honour you. To honour your soul, your life, and the man you always will be in our hearts.

It’s hard to say that we are the people you left behind, because you did not choose this. God did. God saw that your pain had lasted too long and he felt it was time to bring you into a better place. As every life cycle has an end, I cannot believe we are left behind. We will simply.. See you soon.

From the time I was born

Until the day I am gone

You will always be my rock

My constant

In my heart

Forever you will be

 

Goodbye Grandpa

Minimizing

I’ve become more aware of this trend lately. All these movies, shows, books, articles, and blogs that talk about how cleansing it is to get rid of everything and only keep the bare necessities.

I commend these people for their extremism, and yes I refer to this idea as a tad extreme (to a certain extent). Mainly because I strongly believe that in life everything has a balance, and when it comes to minimalism there should be a balance to consider as well. Plainly speaking, minimizing to the point of having 10 items in your closet or no furniture to sit on is not going to be for everyone. Especially not this little family.

We recently dived into this ‘cleansing’ of  our stuff wholeheartedly, and we are actually still amidst this process. The idea of minimizing for us was sparked after watching the movie ‘Minimalism’ on Netflix. That spark was fanned into a flame when we kept stumbling upon posts and articles with people describing a sense of freedom and happiness after they let go of all their unnecessary stuff.

Into the journey of purging “40 bags in 40 days” we went.

In the beginning, we were feeling a bit stuck in our lives and in some ways a little unhappy too. It’s not like we blamed our feelings on our stuff, but going through all the areas of our home together has been a great way to connect and make some new decisions together.

Through this process we have noticed something a bit key for us. While letting go of certain items feels cleansing, other things are harder to part with. We have come to realize the balance between keeping or purging everything.

Here’s the deal…

Each time we pick a small space to de-clutter we start with the intention of analyzing each item before making an executive decision about whether to keep it or not. If the item brings us joy, has a purpose, or has been used recently and will likely be used again soon, then the item will stay. Whereas if the item hasn’t been used in quite some time, is broken, makes us sad, or is no longer of value, then we will let it go.

Some items can be sold or donated, and others can be thrown straight in the trash or recycling bin.

While we know that in many ways stuff is ‘just stuff’, there are some things that can still serve a purpose in our lives and add value to our time together. This has been key to our moving forward. If our time together will not be enhanced by what we our keeping in our home, then why should we keep it?

So… We may not be getting rid of all the furniture in our home or downsizing our closets to the bare minimum of essentials, but we are making positive decisions and changes.

And every step forward feels like a breath of fresh air and a little block being lifted off our backs.

We are minimizing, for us.

Here is an overview of what we are accomplishing, and I have full confidence that if you need to find space in your home and your life, you can do these small things too.

  • Clean and organize drawers, cupboards, and shelves
  • Clean out each closet & dresser – donate/sell anything that doesn’t fit or hasn’t been worn within the last year. (If it is too small/too big we decided not to hold onto the item in hopes of getting back to that size)
  • All the clothes/shoes/toys kids have outgrown are sold/passed on
  • DVDs/Books – All unloved items can be sold or traded in for store credit at second-hand shops
  • Fridge/Freezer – expired items tossed, fridge cleaned
  • Bathroom – anything that will potentially keep being unused can be given away or tossed, the rest is organized and cleaned
  • Basement storage – this is the largest task and we are slowly working through it. But if it’s been sitting in a box for years, and will continue it’s life there for the foreseeable future, why should it be held onto?
  • Yard – spring/fall cleaning, raking, trimming
  • Shed/Garage – clean and organize
  • Car – toss junk, clean the upholstery and surfaces
  • Financials – using a spreadsheet calculate all household fixed/variable costs and create a budget
  • Computer/Emails – clear browsing history, do a computer disk-cleanup and de-fragmentation, and sort through email boxes

I’m sure there will be other nooks and crannies of life that may need some cleaning up, but for now I think we’ve done pretty good.

What are your thoughts? How do you tackle minimizing or simply de-cluttering?