Creating my happy life on the other side of fear.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Book update

I wanted to pop in briefly to give you a little update on my book project. Does anyone still remember? (Or care?)
As you may know, 2017 is the Year of the Book for me. I've been working on it all year, and I'm almost done with the first draft!! I'm working on the second to last chapter, and I'm really excited about it!
My feelings about it have ran the entire spectrum from "I love it! It's the best thing ever written!" to "This is the biggest piece of crap in the existence of the world."
I hope the reality is somewhere in between, hopefully leaning more towards the good side of the spectrum ...

Whatever happens though, I'm damn proud that I've gotten this far. I know that I will finish it no matter what, and that I will get it printed one way or another. Even if it would be just for me, the work wasn't for nothing. I've worked through the most complicated decade-and-a-half of my life with this book, and standing on the other side of it now, I feel nothing but peace. Peace, joy and gratitude about where all the ups and downs of my life have led me.

What writing down my story has taught me, is that everything happens for a reason. The most painful lessons are the ones we benefit the most from in the end.
That's also the reason why I don't believe in regrets. Because everything needs to happen for us to end up where we are supposed to be.

So, I'm getting close to the end. My initial deadlines was June 24th, but I missed it due to my MIL's visit. Man, that woman messes with my writing mojo! But I'm firmly back on track, with an adjusted deadline of July 31, and I anticipate I have less than 5,000 words left. Aaaaahhh!!

After that I will pitch it to a publishing house I love, and take it from there. Exciting times! Well, if exciting is the same as peeing-my-pants-I'm-so-nervous, that is 😉

Anyway, that's the reason for my sporadic blogging these past few months. I predict that I will blog a lot more once the first draft is done! I miss it.

Yesterday I played around with possible book jacket descriptions, something I'm doing constantly lately. That, and writing imaginary pitch letters, trying to find the best words to describe what my book is about.

Here is the latest version:

"I had the worst wedding. I did neither see nor try on my wedding outfit until the night before; it wasn’t a dress, and it wasn’t white; not one of the wedding guests thought we would make it to our first anniversary; and the man who broke my heart four years earlier was in attendance – as my brother-in-law. 

And yet, like any other bride, I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world, and dreamed of a future filled with love, happiness, and children. Unlike most brides, however, I already knew exactly what these children looked like - because I had met them. They were four girls, ages nine, thirteen, seventeen, seventeen. They were my step kids and I their new step mom. At twenty-five years old. My groom’s age? Fifty." 

This isn’t the story of a gold digger. It’s the story of a girl who is like you: Looking for love and happiness, but with no idea how to get there. She feels like she never quite fits in, despite trying desperately to be just like everybody else. When her heart is broken by a boy who starts dating her sister, she wants to run away as far as possible, and recklessly does something she was always too afraid to do before: Travel to the land of her dreams, Canada. 

There, she meets a man. Not a boy, but a man. He is handsome, charming, worldly – and married with kids. They have a fling. She thinks it’s over. But he follows her halfway around the world, first to Germany, later to Wales, to convince her that they are meant to be together. 

This is the story of a man and a girl who fell in love, and went for it despite the fear. They didn’t know if it would work out – if it could work out - everybody warned them against it. But there are chances in life that only come once, and you have to make a choice: Listen to your head or your heart. 

Not only did they find the love of a lifetime, but the girl found something she never thought possible: She found the life she was supposed to live, and became the woman she was supposed to be.

What do you think?

xo Miriam


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

More minis!

We have added to our Miniature Zebu herd! Last week we picked up 3 more, which means that we are now proud owners of 6 zebus - 2 bulls and 4 cows. They are gentle and sweet, and we think they're gorgeous
Let me introduce them (in the above picture): Mama, JoeJoe, Polly, Norman.

From left to right: Norman, JoeJoe (the 2 boys), and Stormy's butt.
JoeJoe is sniffing Stormy, because she smells delicious (she's in season). 
Here you can see how small they are!
Magnificent JoeJoe
Mama and Molly

In my latest newsletter I mentioned that we also have a new dog: Barney, another Great Pyrenees (same breed as Bear). We did not plan to get a new dog, since we already have 5, 3 of which are big, white and fluffy - after all, how many humongous fur balls does one family need?

He had been with his first family for over 2 years, guarding livestock and being part of the family as far as I know. When they sold their sheep, they decided that they didn't need Barney any more, and gave him to another home. Those people wanted to keep him strictly as guard dog for their goats, quite a bit away from the house. He was supposed to live out on the pasture with them year round.

Some dogs like that arrangement, but Barney didn't. He kept digging himself out from under the fence, wanting to be closer to people. So, again he had to move.

When he came to us, we were supposed to be nothing but a temporary place until we found someone who would take him. Well, Barney took one look around, decided that he likes it here, and then proceeded to charm our socks off. I fell hopelessly in love with him, and let myself be adopted by him!
It's working out well so far:  
Barney and Tom Snow
My idea of heaven - surrounded by dogs 😍

Now we have one dog for every cow! Ranch life is fun. 

xoxo Miriam

P.S. I want to take a moment and ask for your help. As you may know, my province of British Columbia has declared a state of emergency due to over 220 forest fires burning throughout the province. Over 14,000 people have been evacuated, and with the hot, dry and windy weather continuing, it's expected to get worse. The Canadian Red Cross is assisting the evacuated people, and it needs our help. 

If you would consider to donate to BC Fires Appeal, it would go a long way in helping all these people who have lost everything. 
To do so, you can either text FIRES to 45678 to donate $10 via your phone, or click on this link.
Thank you!!!


Monday, 10 July 2017

Paris, part 2: Con diaries

Our first full day in Paris is hot. We're guzzling water like it's going out of style, and after an hour our water bottle is empty. We are at Sacre Coeur when that happens, where the prices are sky-high and a single bottle of water costs 3 Euros. Reluctant to pay that much, we decide to stroll around for a bit first.

Good thing we did! In a little park off to the side, we find a water fountain. Later we read in our guide book that these cast-iron fountains are found all over Paris and are called 'Wallace fountains', dedicated to Richard Wallace, who paid for their construction in the 19th century. We fill up our bottle twice, and then step back to let other people have their turn.

Suddenly, we are surrounded. A group of small women has appeared out of nowhere, shoving clipboards into our hands. They point to their ears and mouth, and then tap the top of the sheet attached to the clipboard urgently. "Support the deaf and mute", it says there. Underneath it, several people have signed what looks like a petition, leaving their name, home country, and the amount of money they have donated.
The women have put pens into our hands, and all but grab our hands to write for us. It happens so fast, we can't do anything but comply. When it comes to the amount, I write down 5 Euros. I pull out my wallet and hand over the 5 Euro-bill, thinking I'm done. 
Oh, no. They turn over the sheet, where someone has written "10 Euros". 
What do I do? Do I shake my head firmly and refuse, like I should?

Nope. I pull out my wallet again, and look for another fiver. I don't have one; the smallest bill is a 20 Euro-bill. No problem! One of the women pulls a handful of crumpled bills out of her pocket, gives me 10 Euros and takes my 20. "Hey, you still owe me another 5!" I protest. She hesitates, but then, incredibly, she gives me one more 5 Euro-bill. A honest crook?

And then they are gone. 
As quickly as they appeared, they disappear, and my sister and I look at each other dazed. 
"We just got conned," I finally say. Welcome to Paris!

Oh well, it could have been worse. We are a bit humiliated, but we still have all our belongings, minus our pride. To recover, we rent bikes and head to the Seine, which will become one of our favourite spots during this trip. 

The Parisians sure know how to enjoy life! Starting in the late afternoon, more and more people gather at the banks of the Seine, sharing glasses of wine, enjoying the warm summer evening and each other. We are only too happy to join this tradition! One night, after a surprise rain storm, we sit under a bridge by the Seine, sipping our wine, when there's suddenly a voice behind me, saying something in French. 
I turn around and find a tall, dark-haired, good-looking guy smile at us. I tell him that I don't speak French and turn away, expecting him to move on, but something about us must communicate "talk to us!", despite my best efforts to give off the message to "leave us alone", because he sits down. 

Great. I gesture to my sister and tell him that she's the one speaking French, a move I probably shouldn't have made, because now he starts in on her with such fast French, she is completely lost. When he notices that he has lost his audience, he pulls a battered French-English dictionary out of his bag and starts using that to help us understand him. 

He's not creepy, just - weirdly insistent. We would like him to move on, but he keeps up an oddly one-sided conversation, telling us in a mix of broken English and fast French that we look like twins, asking us about our lives (marriage, children, where are we from), and then proceeds to show us art installations on YouTube (like this giant blue star). When it becomes clear that he won't leave, we pack our things and get up, telling him that we're going home now. He seems okay with that, giving us the French 2-cheeked kiss and a cheery 'Au revoir'. The French men sure are - friendly?!

The next day we have an appointment: Going up the Eiffel Tower. Neither my sister nor I are great with heights, but she bought us tickets, and damned if we don't use them! We have bought food and wine for a picnic we are planning to have under the Eiffel tower right after.
As we are standing in line, I see a giant sign posted next to the entrance, listing everything that's not allowed to bring in. Amongst the 20 or so items is also a bottle of wine. 'Oh well, they will take it away', I think to myself, not too worried about it.  

Not so my sister. When the unsmiling security guard pulls the bottle out of my backpack roughly, she protests, demanding to be able to pick it up later. He shakes his head sternly, pointing to a garbage can just outside the door, indicating that we have to throw it out. "Should we leave?" she asks me, annoyed.
"No, we've come that far, let's just throw it out!" I tell her, and she reluctantly agrees, resolving to pick it up once we are done. She carefully wraps the bottle into a pink plastic bag and places it deep down into the garbage can, determined to get it back.

What can I say about the Eiffel Tower? It looks better from below than from above. There are so many people, I get panicky, and when we are up on the second platform and the wind whistles by, I get weak-kneed and shaky. I swear the tower is swaying, and we race down the steps to the first platform, where we feel safer.
Part of the flooring is made up of milky glass, and the latest craze is to lie down on it and take a selfie. Maybe the thin air is messing with my mind, but I'm suddenly determined to try it, too.

You can't see it, but I'm shaking here.

I wouldn't say that I have overcome my fear, but I have faced it, and it feels pretty empowering. 
With that done, we head down the stairs, having crossed the Eiffel Tower off our list once and for all. 

The wine is gone. 

But if there is one thing to be said about Paris, it's that it's easy to find more, so we head back to the Seine and toast to an eventful day and amazing trip.

Paris, you are many things, but you're certainly not boring!

xoxo Miriam

Part 1


Thursday, 6 July 2017

Yoga and me - a flawed love story

I was going to share part 2 of my Paris-story (and I will, no worries!), but then I felt the overwhelming urge to talk about something else that's close to my heart: Being kind to yourself

Like many of you, I haven't always been kind to myself. In fact, for about 2 decades (!!) I was absolutely vicious to myself. My self-loathing was so strong, I did everything in my power to avoid being alone with my thoughts, because my inner mean girl would smash me into a million pieces. 
For example, when walking my family's dog, I would always listen to an audiobook, to drown out the unrelenting self-loathing that was happening in my mind. One time, to my absolute horror, the batteries of my disc-player ran out, and I was so panicked, I ran the last 2 kilometres home (and I am not a runner). Anything to avoid my own, terrible thoughts.  

Time, my husband's love, medication for my depression, and a slowly developing mindfulness helped me tremendously in becoming kinder towards myself. Forgiveness and grace were the important cornerstones of my first, hesitant steps on the road of getting to like myself. 
But the most important, most life-altering change in my life was when I re-discovered yoga in March of 2015. I had a brief relationship with yoga a few years earlier, but since it was for all the wrong reasons (I saw it purely as exercise to get skinny and toned), it fizzled out. 

But in 2015, being more comfortable with my body and mind, I was open to the real purpose of yoga: To discover my own inner world. Not only was I prepared to give the whole breathing-stuff a chance (a part of yoga I found endlessly boring before), but I also thought I could face my ultimate demon: Being alone with myself, without distractions.

To be completely honest, that first year, it was all about taking photos for Instagram challenges and posting them online. Not only did I find an online community that was amazingly supportive, I also gained a bunch of new followers and the admiration of people IRL. They were all immensely impressed about my swift progress in yoga, and their praise was all I needed to get on my mat and do #yogaeverydamnday. 

It was great. Not only did I gain some handy party tricks, I also got leaner and stronger. I never felt better about my body!

The noise and bustle of participating in challenges kept me from facing what I tried to face: My fear of dealing with my inner thoughts and insecurities. 
I would attempt to practice without my phone or camera, and I had to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth: Without the public validation, yoga was damn hard
Being confronted with myself may not be as horrifying as it once was, but it was still hard AF.   

After the high of the first year, I have tried to find my personal yoga-balance ever since. While I still believe that challenges are an absolutely amazing way to stay accountable (without them I would never have found a consistent practice), they are also really time-consuming, and it's tempting to cheat and snap a quick picture of the pose of the day, instead of doing a real practice.

So, despite my absolute, unwavering love for the practice, I struggle to get on the mat on a regular basis. Facing your inner demons is no joke! It's much more difficult than sore muscles and exhaustion.

But here's the thing: Despite my momentary struggle, yoga has become a part of my life. All I have to do is ignore the demons inside me that are quick to wag their poisonous little tongues, gleefully pointing out that "you're not a real yogi if you don't practice daily ... don't do it for the right reasons ... find excuses not to get on your mat ... let life interfere with your dedication ... don't do it #everydamnday ..."

Screw the voices. 
love yoga.
Yet, I sometimes struggle to do it.
Because as good as exercise feels, it's damn hard sometimes.
And doing something that forces you to look at yourself all the time? It's fucking impossible some days.

Yoga and I, we are in it for the long haul.
But it's a flawed love story.
It isn't always easy.
Some days, it will involve swearing, or running away, or doing it for the 'gram.

But if my marriage is anything to go by, it only gets better over time.
And we have the rest of our lives to figure this relationship out.

Neither of us is going anywhere. 

How is your relationship with yoga/fitness/your inner peace?

xoxo Miriam

P.S. I'm exploring how saying "yes" more often changed my life for the better in my next newsletter. Don't miss it! Sign up here.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Paris, part 1: Croissants for breakfast

I arrive at the address they gave me: 171 Rue Legendre. It's in the 17th arrondissment, in what we will learn is part of the "real" Paris: No major sights, few tourists, but lots of great shops, bistros, and Parisians going about their day, often with a baguette or bottle of wine under their arm, cigarette dangling casually from their lips.

But I don't know that yet. All I know is that my French butler Aurélien is supposed to show me the apartment my sister and I rented for 4 days. I had emailed my AirB'nB hostess Isabelle that I would be at the address at 3:30pm, and I'm there on the dot. 

When I pull out my cell, I see that he sent me a message on WhatsApp. He's already there, and I text him back that I'm outside the door. A minute later, a young, handsome guy opens the door. 
It's Aurélien, and he leads me up one flight of stairs to our home for the next few days. 

The apartment is small, but beautiful: Flooded with light, neat and clean. After showing me everything and taking a photo of my driver's licence to confirm that I am who I say I am, Aurélien takes off. While waiting for my sister to arrive, I take a little nap on the comfortable bed. 

Two hours later, my phone rings. "I'm here, I'm outside the building! Let me in!"
It's my sis! I rub the sleep out of my eyes, and then I race down the stairs, open the door - and there she is. 
"I can't believe you are finally here!" I squeal. 
"I can't believe you opened the door to an apartment in the middle of Paris!" she squeals back. We hug each other hard, before going back upstairs to drop off her suitcase.

As soon as that's done, we head back on the street. First stop: Food! We go to one of the many bistros in our neighbourhood, and sit down on one of the tiny tables. It's minuscule, as are the chairs we gingerly sit on. What's the weight limits on these things? They don't look strong enough to hold two normal-sized women's weight. They are also placed so close together, facing the street, that our shoulders are touching. Luckily, we like each other  😉

After we have eaten and shared a bottle of wine, we are eager to explore our new neighbourhood. It's a beautiful, balmy night, and we stroll through the streets, soaking it all in and catching up. We also drink more wine in a park, which is so common-place in Paris that nobody bats an eyelash. We love it here!

The next morning, we eat out first 'petit déjeuner': Coffee, orange juice, and a buttery, flaky, fresh croissant. Delicious! However, it's not a lot of food. If that's all the French eat, no wonder their chairs and tables are so tiny.
The next day (and for the rest of the trip), we are in search of a more substantial breakfast; something including eggs, bacon and toast, maybe some fruit? My sister is in charge of ordering, since she is enrolled in a French course and wants to practice the language. I don't know if it's her broken French or the lack of another choice for breakfast, but every time we go to a café or bistro and ask for "déjeuner?", the only answer we get is a hopeful "croissant?". Defeated, we say "oui", and eat croissant or chocolate croissant every single morning.

I know, so many sister-selfies. We couldn't help ourselves 🙈

We spend a substantial amount of time in the Metro. It's pretty easy to navigate, and the best way to get quickly from A to B. 
It's also the perfect way to learn several things about Parisian women:
1. They are very natural. Minimal make-up, no fake nails/eyelashes/tans/boobs anywhere in sight. 
2. Speaking of boobs: Bras are optional, at least in Paris. We've seen more nipples in 4 days than most people see in a lifetime!
3. Their style is just as classy as its reputation: Understated, elegant, simple. J'adore.

On our way home after day 1, we sit down exhausted in one of the metro stations, waiting for the next train. My sister hungrily unwraps a power bar and breaks it into pieces to share with me. A woman sits down next to hear, pointing to the bar, and asks my sister in French: "May I?"
Startled, she nods, and the stranger helps herself. What the hell?!
She then proceeds to unleash a torrent of French upon my poor sis. When she answers, the stranger recognizes her German accent, and switches to German. I discreetly move slightly away from them, distancing myself from the situation. Sis, you're on your own!

The woman proceeds to ask a long barrage of intrusive questions, including what my sister does for a living, where she lives, if she's married, how many kids she has, etc. She is a German-teacher who moved to Paris 10 years ago, and who obviously doesn't know the first thing about personal boundaries. Thankfully, the train finally arrives, and we flee into its relative safety. 

We stumbled across a miniature amusement park in the Tuileries, the 'Fête des Tuileries', and I spontaneously bought 2 tickets for the "Happy Sailor" ride. It's a kiddie ride, and it was terrifying. We don't laugh with joy, we laugh with fear. Ride-people we are not. 

This is getting long, so I stop now. Next time, you will hear about how a bottle of wine was taken from us, how we got conned not once, but twice, and about Philippe, the handsome French man who wouldn't leave us alone... 

Au revoir, 

Part 2

P.S. I write heartfelt, honest letters once a week about how to live our best lives. Want to check it out? Click here!


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Become comfortable with being uncomfortable

I'm currently sitting on the train from Amsterdam to Paris, typing this post on my small laptop, feeling insanely worldly. While I've been travelling back and forth between Canada and Germany for the last 15 years, I'm far from a seasoned traveler. On the contrary, all the unknowns you can't control (train schedules, lost luggage, delays due to traffic/repairs/who-knows-what) always freak me out on the day before I go somewhere new. Is everybody like that? I suspect so, except maybe for travel pros who do it all the time. 

Yesterday I was a wreck, teary and emotional, not wanting to leave Rich and the dogs behind. 
But since this happens every time before going on a trip, I had to accept this annoying habit as part of my travel ritual. I seem to have to go through a brief period of freak-outs and grief, and once I'm on the road, I'm fine. I'm now in the 20th hour of my long travel day, and there is only one leg of the journey left: Taking the metro to our AirB'nB, where I will meet our butler Aurélien who is giving me the keys to our apartment, and waiting for my sister. 

During the flight, I reflected on yesterday (my yesterday, it's really 2 days ago - travel is weird), and my reluctance to leave. 
The reason for it is simple: I don't want to leave my comfort zone. Despite knowing that I have never regretted stepping out of it, it's a battle every fricking time.  

In my ongoing effort to overcome my fear of the unknown, I have a mantra that Jillian Michaels (yup, the tough-talking trainer from 'The Biggest Loser') always used to say: 

"Become comfortable with being uncomfortable."

That's just it, isn't it? If we choose comfort every time, we will never get anywhere. 
If we let fear win, we will never experience the thrill of catching a connecting train at the last second, because the original one isn't running that day, and other trains have taken over the route (this happened to me a few hours ago). 

In our normal lives, weeks or months can go by where nothing uncomfortable happens. We go the same way to work every day, doing jobs we have gotten used to with people we know. We eat the same foods, watch the same TV shows, and go about our normal routines. I do it myself, because, well - it's comfortable. It feels safe and nice. 

However, when it comes down to it, do I want to be a woman who always plays it safe?
Or do I want to find out what happens when I do the scary and uncomfortable thing? 
Judging by my personal history, the very best things in my life have always happened outside my comfort zone. 

I guess all we can do is keep reminding ourselves what we want out of life, and then force ourselves to do it
It will probably be uncomfortable - but it will also probably be worth it. 

Here's to becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable!

xoxo Miriam

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