Friday, 21 February 2014

Reconnecting Through Simple Pleasures

Anyone who travels for work knows that it is pretty tough both physically and emotionally. Being away from routine, family and comforts of home make you long to return as soon as possible, no matter how long you're away. I'm no different. As much as I love seeing knew places and experiencing the different ways in which people live, There's no better feeling than returning to the place you call home. This past Wednesday, I returned home after my first of two trips to Edmonton this winter for work. I enjoyed my time away, being responsible for just myself, focusing solely on work, and even getting to meet up with an old friend I haven't seen for a decade. But I missed home, a lot. So since my return, I have made sure to make time for everything it is I love about my home.

Yesterday was a day of simple pleasures of home. I enjoyed a fresh smoothie and homemade latte for breakfast, while sitting at the kitchen table catching up on social media, and gently getting started for the day. I find my morning routine so comforting, right down to using my trusty electric toothbrush, which seems silly, but after a week with a manual toothbrush, my mouth never felt so clean! Then, as with every weekday, I walked with my daughter to school and we talked about her week so far, and everything she and her friends had been getting up to. At school, I reconnected with the other parents, got the lowdown on some PAC related things I had missed, and made plans for day time coffee with a close friend. I've come to really appreciate the connections I've made at my daughter's school, and truly value the community of parents, knowing I would be very sad if we ever moved to a different school zone or city. It's a highlight to the start of my day, and it's always a great way to get back into routine.

After returning home and tidying up some tasks left over from my trip, I set off for some personal errands. I am lucky enough to have returned home to sunshine, so as tired as I was, I took my bike for a ride throughout the city. I may take pretty much the same route whenever I head out on my bicycle, but that's for a very good reason. Travelling along the separated lanes on Great Northern Way and 1st Avenue on my way to the seawall is such a relaxed ride, with very little interaction with cars and virtually no stress. It also allows for some amazing and unobstructed views of the North Shore mountains, which had a heavy coating of snow yesterday morning. 

I did deviate from my normal path a bit, doing something I've been meaning to do since January. I have two pairs of boots I absolutely love and wear almost daily, so I've pretty much worn the soles right out. I headed into the Downtown East Side to visit East Van Shoe Repair, a fairly new business run by a lovely young woman named Rebecca, who is now giving my shoes some much needed TLC. I have a real soft spot for small businesses, especially those run by women, so I was happy to go out of my way to support someone doing what they love.

I then finished off my day doing the most important errand after being away for an extended period; a lunch date with my best friend and biggest supporter, my husband, Chris. Although we chat every night when I'm away, getting together gives us the opportunity to discuss all the events of our week apart, as well as plans for the future. Chris stays much more on top of the happenings in our city and abroad when it comes to infrastructure changes, so it's great to get caught up, get excited for the positives and understand the challenges still to come. Most of all, our lunches are a time when we get to just be us. Not parents, not part of the "Velo Family", simply Melissa and Chris, talking and catching up as we have done for nearly seventeen years. Nothing truly says "welcome home" like a coffee with my favourite person!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Cold and Sunny Days in Vancouver

If this was your backdrop on the ride to work,
wouldn't you ride your bike?
If you live in Metro Vancouver, you know we've been experiencing unnaturally cold weather this past week. I feel I should explain to our friends and family elsewhere in Canada and the world beyond, cold for Vancouverites is -10 degrees Celsius, so nothing most of you aren't already used to. There is a lovely result of the cold weather in the Pacific Northwest. The skies have been a lovely shade of light blue and the sun has been kissing our cold faces for over a week, something we miss most winters for weeks on end. Lucky for me, this sunny week also coincided with having to travel to the showroom for work, meaning I could ride my bike in the sunshine all week! 

A sunny bike ride would seem like a no brainer for a fair weather cyclist like me, but I was actually amazed at the number of people who questioned my mental stability for riding in the cold. Perhaps it was my Ontario upbringing coming through, or just my sheer desire to ride my bike after a number of wet weeks, but I just didn't feel I was doing anything bordering on insanity. Sure it was cold, but with my warm winter jacket, a scarf, woolly toque and lovely woolly mitts I brought with my from Ontario, I was comfortably toasty. In fact, each member of the Velo Family rode their bikes most of last week, and not one of us felt it was too cold to do so.
The rest of the family riding yesterday, which was
definitely a cold one at minus eight degrees
I think because we're so spoiled when it comes to warmer climates here in Vancouver, most people find it difficult to adapt to colder temperatures. What's important to note, though, is that riding a bike on a cold sunny day is no different than walking. You bundle up appropriately, making sure you have layers to cover your extremities from the cold. For me, the number one accessory is my scarf that I can use to cover my mouth and nose from the colder winds, and, of course, a toasty pair of gloves or mitts. Most importantly, though, is I don't have any special gear for winter riding different from winter walking or transit riding. There is really nothing stopping me from getting on my bike. 
Dressed and ready to go
All Chris needs are gloves, his Whitecaps scarf and his
toque and he's ready for his daily winter ride.

In a city known for never ending days of rain throughout the winter months and well into Spring, I find it so important to take advantage of the sunny days, regardless of the temperature. Riding my bike gives me a chance to enjoy some quiet moments on my own, get in a bit of physical activity, something most people crave in the winter, and also enjoy the beauty of my city and its landscape in the winter months. I'm not daunted about riding in the winter, because I don't have to worry about dressing any differently than if I was walking. In fact, I know that by getting on my saddle and moving at a slightly faster pace than walking, I will get to my destination faster, and likely feeling a bit more toasty for my efforts.

 The Velo Kids, bundled up but happy to go for a ride on their bikes

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Overload ~ Remembering to Take Time for Myself

The month of January has been quite a bundle of activity for me. With a return to school for the kids and work for me, a promise to myself to dedicate more time to my yoga practice, and reigniting my volunteer responsibilities at the school and within my co-op, there has certainly been no shortage of activity. Add to that the excitement of learning that my lovely husband and I will be travelling to Auckland later this year, and all the love I've received for my posts so far and I'm running on overdrive. So it should come as no surprise that this week, I started to show sign of burning out. By Wednesday, I was feeling pretty much out for the count, and realizing it was time to take some rest.

Cautiously making their way down the hill
at Great Northern Way and Clark. One day they'll
enjoy the rush of going downhill

Thankfully, this week included a PD Day for my daughter, meaning forced relaxation with her being home. Having found also this month that our son has been reluctant to go to preschool, claiming missing his mom, we decided he would stay home for the day as well. After a somewhat relaxing morning, even with our trip to the dentist first thing, the kids and I headed out on our bicycles to not only enjoy the beautiful sunny day we were gifted, but also to have a family lunch with my husband, something we haven't done in quite some time.

To some, taking a ride with children wouldn't seem like a relaxing endeavour, but it's been far too long since I've ridden my bike with my children at my side. Also, riding along the seawall at an extreme leisurely pace isn't quite strenuous. I got to listen to the ramblings of a five year old, which are simultaneously insightful and ridiculous, and enjoy riding next to my mini-me, my daughter riding her almost matching red bike. Along the way, we had the lovely opportunity to watch a harbour seal pop out of the water briefly before diving back under water for food, and the beauty of the snow capped mountains contrasted by some blossoms showing the first signs of spring. It really was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.
Happily enjoying a sunny ride instead of being at school
Blue skies ahead as arrive at the Seawall
Proof that Spring is not far away for Vancouver

My munchkins always love warming up with a little hot chocolate
Remembering to take time for myself is difficult, as for most moms out there (and dads, too). Along with all the adult responsibilities I have, like working and paying bills, I also have a family, meaning meal planning, groceries, running errands, getting the kids to their extra curricular activities and everything else that life entails. I also have a knack for taking on lots of additional tasks, like my work with the school PAC and even writing this blog. These are all things that I enjoy deeply, and I have no regrets for any of the decisions I've made along the way. However, I'm not super-human, and even the best of us need to rest, which my body and mind made abundantly clear this week. So today was the perfect way to end out a busy and stressful month. To slow down, spend some happy time with my children, and enjoy the day with no set schedule, no pressure, and a little time for myself.
Remembering to rest is so important...Hot chocolate helps! ;)