Creating my happy life on the other side of fear.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

When comparison *brings* you joy

I’m sure you have heard the saying before: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. I have used it myself many times, when struggling with the envy that comes when you compare your life with the highlight reel you see on social media.

But you know what? You can actually turn it around and use comparison as a way to make yourself feel better.
Just this morning I read a confession from an author - let's call her Miranda - whom I equally admire and dislike. Admire, because she has achieved the dream – making a living by writing books – and dislike because I find her to be quite overbearing and obnoxious. Still, she is a great writer, and I keep reading her stuff and following her on Instagram, always curious what she will do next. This morning, she was characteristically honest – and uncharacteristically humble.

She said that making a living by marketing yourself and having to be interesting and innovative enough to have people pay money to hear you talk about yourself is incredibly exhausting.
Her advice to other storytellers is to not rely on earning your money solely by marketing yourself. Constantly sharing your vulnerabilities with the world will leave you raw and brittle. It will burn you out.
I always suspected that I would never be cut out to be one of those women who build their own companies. I get too scared. Too unsure of where I want to go. Hell, I’ve had this blog for over 4 years, and I still don’t know exactly where I’m going with it. I don't have a crystal-clear vision; I'm more of a vague-idea/let's-see-what-will-happen kinda girl.
The thing is: I like taking mental breaks. I need them for my sanity. And while I know that about myself, there are times where I look at other boss women and wish I could be more like them.  
Hearing Miranda share the downside of it all, and telling us that she is looking for a way out of it, is – well, it’s amazing. I’m so grateful for people who share the truth. And that’s why I continue to follow her, despite her loud personality. 

I have a job that’s not about me, and I like my job because of it. It’s nice to focus on other people. It’s nice to hear interesting stories, make connections, establish new friendships. I love when the friendly townsfolk amble past my window at work, and stop for a chat. Everybody greets me, whether they know me or not. It’s just really nice.

But the truth is: For a while there, I dreamed of being able to quit it one day. To become a writer full-time. But it was an unrealistic dream. One based on another person, not on me. Because me? I’m not cut out for it. The uncertainty, the constant hustle, the pressure to be a “media-influencer” (which I could never be, not in a million years!) would crush me. And what for? To be special? Above average? I have to admit, those thoughts crossed my mind.
I thought being a regularly employed average-Jane was not the goal I should strive for.
I thought I should “dream big”, “reach for the stars”, and “make the impossible possible”.
Turns out, you can pursue your dream while having a day-job. And it's fine to keep your day job. 
If you like what you do, if it pays the bills and you still have time for your creative endeavours, why not?
Honestly, hearing Miranda say that this is what she would do, wants to do, makes me feel lucky. Not because I chose “better” than her, but because I inadvertently did what’s best for myself. I’m telling you, man, that whole “listen-to-your-heart” thing works.
That comparison definitely brings me joy.

Then there are the multitude of tragedies I encounter every day: People who are sick, people with chronic pain, people who wistfully tell me that if they had known before what would happen to them, they would have enjoyed life more, treated their body better, made different choices.  
That comparison is humbling.

Or when I talk to my friends about their jobs.
One drives 300km every day to work and back, to be home with his kids at night.
Another one does hard physical labour at the age of 60.
Yet another friend has to live in a town 5 hours away from home for work, and only sees her husband every other weekend.
That comparison makes me appreciate my job deeply.

There is always more than one way to look at something. Negative, positive, a lesson learnt or a regret you’d like to erase – every choice can be seen in many different ways.
You are in control of how you want to look at your life and its twists and turns.

One thing I’m certain of: We all feel inadequate, insecure and like failures sometimes. Every.single.person.
You can spend your time looking at everything you don’t have and everything you’re not good at – or you can compare yourself with people who have less than you.

And when you do? 
That comparison will bring you tremendous joy.

xoxo Miriam


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A confession

Hi there! Remember me? It's been a hot minute since I've been here. I've been wanting to write every day, craving it, needing it, but then ... something happened. 

::dramatic pause::

I got lazy. BAM! Yup, that's it. Nothing bad happened. 

I've fallen into a terrible rabbit hole, and I've been desperately trying to crawl out of it. Every morning I'd wake up with the best intentions, promising myself that as soon as I was done with work, I'd go home, write, do yoga, and cook something healthy. 

And every day after work I plopped myself down in front of the TV, poured myself a big glass of wine, and fell into a Netflix stupor. 

Guys, it's been bad. And embarrassing. I really debated if I should share this on here, because I'm ashamed. I was on such a great path last year! And the year before!
Doing yoga every day, getting stronger, feeling in the best shape of my life mentally and physically. But I've fallen completely off the wagon. And once you're off it, gosh damn it is it ever hard to climb back on!
Instead of doing the things I love, I've become one of those lazy couch potatoes. And honestly, I barely recognize myself. I never thought I would end up here again, in a carb-filled, wine-soaked lazy-land. I was there before, and didn't care for it. And yet, here I am, like in a bad dream. 

The thing is, writing and yoga make you examine yourself closely. A little bit too close for comfort, apparently. And after reliving the last 17 years of my life for the book, I guess I needed a time out. No more looking at all my flaws, mistakes and quirks. No more feeling all.the.feelings all the time. I wanted to pause my brain, and I did it via the oldest trick in the book: good ol' booze and Television.

I've been trying to unpause my brain and rejoin my life for a few days, but you know how it is; once you've started a bad habit, it's really hard to break it. 

But then, today, I got three signs. You all know how I believe in the power of signs, don't you? I have asked for-and received them- all my life, and today was another powerful reminder of how magical the universe is. 

Old photo - but new ones are in the making once again!
Sign #1: Handsome cop
My first patient of the day was a pleasant surprise: Not only was he easy on the eyes and smelled good (which, in my line of work, is a rarity some days), he was also funny and interesting to talk to. He mentioned that he practices yoga regularly, and seeing him being completely comfortable in his body, and also being quite fit, made me suddenly yearn deeply for that feeling. I used to be like that just a few months ago - and I want it back. After work today I got on my mat for some stretches, and I swear to you - my muscles were singing with joy 🙏

A couple of hours after my new resolution to revive my flagging practice, I read this blog post from Suzy, a fellow yogi, author, and - former (!) wine lover. The timing was eerie, but absolutely amazing - while I'm not planning on quitting wine completely, I'm hopping off the booze train for a while in exchange for more mat-time.
Knowing that I'm not the only one embarking on a new adventure makes me feel so much stronger!

Sign #3: My friend's email
A former co-worker sent me an email after my latest newsletter (the one where I say we are doing amazing! no matter what the mean voice in our heads is trying to tell us). I LOVE it when I get personal emails from readers, and when I know them IRL, it's even more special. 
Somehow, writing about out uncomfortable truths is easier than talking about them, and I love nothing more than hearing someone say: "You made me feel better."
That's why I never want to stop blogging and writing. 

Thanks for listening, my friends. 
You are real gems. 

Group hug!
xoxo Miriam


Friday, 6 October 2017


It's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and I thought it appropriate to write out a list of everything I'm grateful for.
It's been a whirlwind of a year. Within the span of one year we sold our old property and moved to our dream place. I quit my job without knowing if and when I would find a new one; but I did, and it's better than I dared to hope.
Richard fulfilled his dream of owning cows.
We adopted another big, fluffy dog.
I wrote a book.

It's been a crazy, overwhelming, beautiful year, sometimes harder than expected, but mostly better than I could have ever imagined.

Here is my (hopelessly incomplete) list of things I'm thankful for:

I'm grateful for Richard being back home after being gone for 18 loooong days. I missed the old fart.

I'm grateful for receiving the most beautiful email from Jennifer, a new blog reader. She wrote to me to express her thanks for talking about difficult stuff on the blog, and I can't put into words how much this means to me. Here is a part of her wonderful email: "It can be so confusing and some days can be a REAL internal battle but I find so much motivation and courage from other women and hearing/reading about their journeys, yourself included. I love to see strong women succeed, in their relationships, jobs, creative ventures or whatever it may be, I just love seeing people strive for their happy. Most importantly, I just want to say a huge THANK-YOU! For your honesty and showing your vulnerable side, because so many of us stay quiet and hide this amazing and precious side of ourselves. I feel like we all need to speak up once in a while and be more open because we could be an inspiration to others experiencing the same struggles." 
Jennifer, you made my day with your kind gesture!

I'm grateful for living in a town where help is just one click away. Merritt has a private Facebook group, and that group has been invaluable to me. When my computer suddenly turned black and wouldn't turn back on (NIGHTMARE!), I frantically asked the group about a computer repair shop in town. Within a couple of minutes, I had five suggestions plus evaluations, and found a nice guy who fixed my computer for a great price. He works from home, which means I would never have found him without the group, but I'm so glad I did.

A few weeks later, I needed head shots done (for my book!), and upon trying (and failing) to do the old tripod-and-10-sec-timer routine, I asked my trusty FB pals for help.
They did not disappoint.
Not only did I receive a private message from a photographer within 15 minutes, I also received several replies recommending this very photographer. Two days later we did the shoot, which was yesterday. Julie came to my place, because that's where I'm most comfortable, and while I haven't seen the photos yet, the little glimpses on her camera were brilliant. The light was amazing, I curled my hair, and it was a really positive experience. Have I mentioned that I love my town?

I'm grateful for neighbours who have turned into friends who feed me. Jenny is my Canadian mom, and she has cooked for me every night since they returned from vacation until Rich came home. I love her. 

I'm grateful for surprise gifts. Rich left his car at his oldest friends' place before his trip, and when he returned to pick it up, Jessie gave him a gift for me. Well, two gifts: An apron and a teapot cozy, both made by her, out of this fabric ↡

It's farm animals doing yoga!!! I can't even express how much I love it. I've never been an apron-wearing cook before, but I am most certainly now! I'll be wearing this bad boy when I cook dinner tomorrow, and I have never looked forward to cooking more. 

I'm grateful for having a job I like, a passion I love, and a soulmate to share it all with. 
Life is so unpredictable and crazy. And short. It's so very, very short. This year alone I've had several deaths in my family, my brother-in-law's family, and in our community. Another person close to me was just diagnosed with cancer. The world seems to be going insane with natural catastrophes like hurricanes and wildfires, and man-made catastrophes like terrorist attacks, insane shootings, and too much hate. 
Life can be brutal, but it's also wildly, exhilaratingly beautiful.
I believe that in the face of all these disasters, we shouldn't despair. On the contrary: Let's live as loudly as humanly possible! 

Do the thing you've always wanted to do, but were too afraid to. When the fear threatens to take over, remind yourself of this: Life is fucking short. You don't know what tomorrow might bring. In the face of all the terrible stuff that's going on in the world, what do you have to lose? Pride? Comfort? Honestly, I can't even think of anything else. What was I always so afraid of? Oh yeah, I remember: other people's opinions. How ridiculous. How insignificant.   

Do what  makes you happy. Do it every day, as much as you can. Never stop being thankful. Live life as fully as you can. Look for beauty, it's everywhere. Look for kindness, and you will find it.
Life is precious, and it's so damn short. 

You have nothing to lose. GO FOR IT!! 

To all my fellow Canadians: Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
To everybody else: Have a wonderful weekend. Do something crazy! You deserve it.

Much love, 
Miriam xoxo

Top image found here


Monday, 2 October 2017

Boss Women: Jenny

Happy Monday and welcome October! After a period of mourning for another summer gone too quickly, I'm now ready to embrace autumn with all its leaf-crunching, candle-burning, soup-cooking and scarf-wearing glory. I hope you are too!?
One of the best things about the colder months is that it gives you more time to spend on indoor projects. Fall and winter are the best months for creating, crafting, writing, drawing ... which brings me to this week's boss woman.

I 'met' Jenny several years ago through blogging. She used to run a lifestyle blog, and I was immediately drawn to her wonderful writing voice. Jenny is an avid reader, and wise beyond her years, and her writing reflects that. I always felt better after having read one of her posts, more prepared for what life may throw at me. She has a way of making sense of the world that I deeply admire. You will know what I mean once you start reading her interview!

How Jenny came up with the idea for her business Carrot Top Paper Shop is just wonderful - she is literally (pun intended!) doing something she was meant to do.
I let her tell you her story:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your business?
A: My husband and I moved from Washington D.C. back to my home state of Oklahoma when I was eight weeks pregnant with our daughter (who is now two-and-a-half!). I knew I wanted to stay home with her, but I also knew I wanted to do something creative, that would hopefully allow me to contribute financially to our family. At the time, that felt like too much to hope for!
When preparing Violet’s nursery, I couldn’t get this idea out of my head to create a banner for her room with all my favorite literary heroines on it. I’ve always been a big reader, and my favorite book as a girl was Anne of Green Gables. When I found out we were having a girl, being able to share Anne with her was one of the things I was most excited about!

But I couldn’t find a heroine banner online, or anything close to what I wanted, so I made my own. It wasn’t long after that I realized I couldn’t be the only mom out there looking to inspire her young daughter with the role models she grew up with. Once I had the idea to start selling my literary heroine banners, it soon became something I knew I wouldn’t be able to shake, and I started selling my work on Etsy when my daughter was seven months old.

Q: Was it always your dream to have your own business?
A: Strangely, no. Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to do something creative when I grew up, but my creative interests didn’t feel cohesive to me: I loved to read, so I “ran” a library out of my bedroom for my friends and family (I had a mini card catalog system), I loved to write and draw, so I wrote a magazine that I mailed out to my friends (I think at my peak, I had twelve subscribers), I loved Anne Shirley, and wrote a play based on the book, and coerced my sisters and friend to act in it with me (let’s just say I was much better at set design than acting).
A business owner, specifically, was never something I really considered. But looking back, I realize that’s because for me, the passion has to come first. Once I had a cohesive, creative idea involving something I loved, being a business owner was just something that came with the job. And now, I love it!

Q: What does a typical day look like?
A: The first two years of a child’s life are a roller coaster ride, to say the least. I’ve learned to be flexible in my goals and not set strict expectations for myself. Otherwise, I would just be constantly setting myself up for frustration.
But structure can still be flexible. Each night, I look at that week’s to-do list and decide what will be manageable the next day. I decide what can be done when Violet is awake, and what would be best to do while she is asleep. I find it is crucial for my productivity to know exactly what I will be doing first thing in the morning, ahead of time.

A typical day for me means waking up around 6:30, working out (briefly), and drinking coffee while tackling whatever I planned for my early morning hours. Violet wakes up around 8:00, and I’m all hers for the next couple of hours. We have breakfast and play for a little while before I do some work in the same vicinity (household chores, or answer emails while she plays). During her afternoon nap is when I pack orders and do as much of the behind-the-scenes work as I can.

Right now, my husband works from home most days, which is hugely helpful. We let Violet “help” us in whatever small ways we can (unloading the dishwasher even when it takes twice as long, or throwing away the trimmings from my heroine bookmarks. Don’t judge – she loves taking things to the trash can!). She definitely thinks the three of us are a team!
I rarely get through my entire to-do list for the day, but I love my flexible schedule, even if it does mean longer hours most days of the week. There’s something to be said for simply being content with doing your best for the day. I end each night with a good book, which is a must for me when it comes to recharging!

Q: How do you come up with your ideas/designs?
A: Inspiration comes from all different places, and often, when I least expect it. I write down half-baked ideas in between product lines, and create Pinterest boards to help me visualize a certain look I’m going for. Mostly though, my ideas evolve as I sit down to draw or paint. Rarely do I have the complete product in mind from the start. Although, actually, one of my favorite things in my upcoming collection came to me like a vision while I was washing my face one night. That never happens, and it was weird. But I’m not complaining! And, of course, most of my ideas are inspired by my favorite books, so I always have a book by my muse, L.M. Montgomery, on my nightstand.

Q: What is the best part? What is the worst?
A: The best part is the community that has formed over something I am so passionate about. I kind of can’t get over that there are so many wonderful people in the world who share this love of Lucy Maud Montgomery and her work, and just a love of reading in general. 
The worst part is that there are never enough hours in the day. Ever. Have I mentioned that?

Q: Did you take any business classes, or do you learn as you go along?
A: I read a quote from an entrepreneur recently that said something like, “Building a business is like jumping off a cliff and learning how to build a plane on the way down”. It can feel like that a
lot of times, but thankfully, I have an amazing business coach! I am technically learning as I go, but having a guide means I’m not winging it. Also, both of my parents have experience in owning their own businesses, so I think I grew up thinking it was possible for anyone. I’m grateful for the confidence they instilled in me that if you want something, you go out and make it happen.

Q: Do you do it alone, or do you have help?
A: Right now, I’m a one-woman show. But that doesn’t seem fair to say because my husband’s emotional support and willingness to run to the post office for me is not to be underestimated!

Q: Do you ever get self-doubts, or think you can't do it?
A: Yes and no. I have never had doubts that this is the job I am supposed to be doing. But do I have doubts that I am talented enough? Creative enough? That I can sustain what I have created? Yes, absolutely. You would think that if I believed I am supposed to do this job, I should also believe I am equipped for it. But somehow that one requires more faith.

Q: How do you balance being a mom/wife/and running your business?
A: I try to take one day at a time, and remember that I can’t see the future, as much as I like to imagine I can. You can do almost anything when you take it one day at a time! And as Anne Shirley says, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet”. I’m learning to be present in whatever I’m doing. I try not to think about work when I’m with my family, and I give myself permission to give 100% when it is time to work.

I’ve learned that creativity begets creativity, and sometimes it feels like I’ll never be able to do everything I want to do. But I also know that raising my daughter comes first, and I am perfectly okay with the fact that some of my ideas might take ten years to come to fruition.

Q: Any tips for others who want to start their own business?
A: If you don’t believe in your product, no one else is going to care either. Enthusiasm is contagious. Don’t underestimate your passion as an important part of your business plan.
But also, passion isn’t enough. Don’t guess. You don’t have to go to business school to run your own business, but you definitely need some sort of guide. Whether that is a business coach, online classes, or a stack of recommended books. Start with a plan, ask a lot of questions, and look for answers from people a few steps ahead of you. Also, read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber!

Q: How did you come up with the name?
A: In the book, Anne of Green Gables, an overly-confident schoolmate tries to get Anne’s attention by making fun of her greatest insecurity: her red hair. He calls her “carrots” in front of the whole school, which is an unforgivable act in her book. Anne holds a grudge for years before she finally finds it in her heart to forgive him, and they become friends (and, spoiler alert, a love interest!). My shop name is a cheeky homage to one thing every reader around the world loves about Anne: her greatest insecurity. 

Thank you Jenny!

Check out her gorgeous designs at her
↠ Etsy shop and
↠ Instagram

Join her Kindred Spirit Club (e-newsletter) and get a free print by signing up to her

Or how about joining her Instagram Book Club? You can get Jenny's book recommendations and enter her book giveaways!

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