It may sound weird – but it just dawned on me this morning when I was driving my son for his early a.m. workday, that “the roads connect”. I mean both literallyand figuratively. I was picturing myself driving and everyone else on the road for that matter. And then I visualized a satellite view of us all from above, looking like frantic army ants. Anyway, long story short, there is an extensive network of roads all the way across our Earth; and where roads are not possible we can fly, take a boat, etc.
The thing is, we might just drive back and forth on the same roads our whole life. The paths are available to us, but we decide whether or not to take them. In life, this translates to a much deeper meaning…
So the question is – do we:
A) Maintain status quo?
B) Travel the path less traveled?
I encourage everyone to take a closer look at their lives. While we may feel we are part of the rat race, it’s good to remember that we can occasionally find a route of escape from the box.
In this thing called life, we can be the jellyfish swimming in the vast depth of the ocean (unfortunately the one pictured above was held in captivity and may never see the ocean again). So same thing goes for us – can we escape?
This post is for those of you out there who may be struggling to have a baby. P.S. I am so sorry it took me so long to share this.
I have been thinking of how to spread the word, since I learned about it in university. I took a course about sexuality and sexual health (sociology as my major) and during one of the classes, my professor spoke about the biological process of conceiving a baby. It was so very logical to me after that. And my proof that the ‘secret’ works (maybe luck, maybe not?): 3 kids on first try lol. Keep in mind that I am not a doctor, so this blog is written in very easy to understand terms.
Over the years, I heard about so many people trying to conceive but without luck. Yet, it’s not something people are open to talk about (understandably), and it definitely not exactly a conversation that I feel comfortable to talk about unless someone wants to listen…
Biological process in a nutshell
As you probably all know – to make a baby, you only need one sperm to fertilize one egg. The problem is that following ejaculation (by the male), there are millions of sperm fighting to swim to the female fallopian tube. Like survival of the fittest. The strongest sperm will likely experience victory. But how can you help the process?
Ladies – have an orgasm during or immediatelyfollowing ejaculation. The biological function of an orgasm aids to neutralize the acidity in the fluids.
Very simply, the environment that the sperm swim in is acidic and neutralizing the fluids helps to increase their chances to survive the journey. Logic right? I thought so too!
But how do I do this?
Ladies – use your imagination. The means does not matter – just the ends!
I cannot guarantee that this will work, as there could be other biological issues surrounding ones inability to conceive. Or could also be stress, lifestyle, etc. causing issues. But I do believe that it’s definitely worth a try before investing in expensive infertility treatment or giving up. And seriously ladies, if it doesn’t work – at least you had some fun!
Once pregnant, here is my extended theory for a making a happy baby: have many orgasms. The body releases the ‘feel good’ endorphins during the process and thus in turn = happy baby!
Here’s a link to CBS News for some interesting info about sperm:
This post is dedicated to my new friend, Kelly Ann Charleson, who took the time to DM me on Instagram — pointing out that we are both children book authors, plus HUGE fans of Matthew Good! On top of that she has the same name as my daughter and has two sisters as well!
Kelly Ann Charleson is the author of “If I were a Dinosaur”, and The Woodland Series: “The Deer”, “The Den” and “The Socks”. She is a passionate writer and illustrator. Kelly is originally from Australia, but now lives in Ottawa.
You can follow her on Facebook: Kelly Ann Charleson and Instagram @kellyanncharleson
I am very lucky to have the opportunity to interview Kelly, as she is one busy lady!
I wanted to share Kelly’s story, because she is so genuine and
has such a lovely message behind her books.
As well, her stories are not ‘typical’ – three of her books deal with
difficult life issues written in a way that children can understand and relate
to: such as miscarriage in pregnancy/loss of a sibling (The Deer), living with
an auto immune disease (The Socks) and loss of a parent/adoption (The Den).
Me: Recently, you posted a copy of an ‘old treasure’ – a book titled: “Kelly’s Holiday Story Book” on Instagram. You wrote: “Looks like I’ve been an author/illustrator from the start.” It’s amazing what children are capable of creating on their own, if left to their own vices. I find that these days, kids don’t have a lot of down time -just a chance to sit down and be creative. I remember spending my childhood engaged in creative play and drawing, but my own kids don’t really like to read (think electronics!).
So, what exactly motivated or inspired you to begin writing
and illustrating for publication?
Kelly: I’ve known for years that someday, I would
like to be a foster mom, so until I’m in a position to do so I’ve joined a few
groups so that I can learn more about the reality of it all. One thing that
stood out to me was the amount of parents asking for recommendations of books
that deal with issues relating to foster care and adoption, and how few
fictional resources there were to meet those needs. Initially, I was making
books for the little ones in my life just for fun, but once I realized that
there is need for these very niche, touchy topics to be addressed, I decided to
create The Woodland Family series, and started making my books available to a
Me: It’s hard enough to be a self-published author
and your book content is very unique. I
asked you why you included a full free preview of your books on blurb.ca, and
you replied that you wanted to “make sure that any child who could benefit from
reading one of my books is able to access it, whether or not an adult can buy
it for them.” That is ABSOLUTELY
amazing! So, with this in mind, what are your plans to reach your target
Kelly: Once I start taking my books to markets,
libraries, schools, etc., I’m hoping that the exposure and word of mouth will
help the books to find the children who might need them. In addition to that, I
hope to continue teaming up with local organizations that are relevant to the
topics covered in my books. I really enjoy supporting worthwhile causes, so if
an opportunity for working together to bring attention to an important issue
arises, I’m more than happy to go for it. My latest book was loosely based on a
local project, and we’ve both been able to see some of the impact that
partnership has had already, which has been really exciting.
Me: I learned about your books because of your DM
through Instagram. Do you think that
social media is a helpful venue for you to market yourself and your books?
Kelly: At the very least, it’s great for networking.
I created an Instagram account to promote my work, but have found it to be more
a place of community and support than a marketing tool. It’s great seeing all
of the other authors on there, and sharing/receiving tips and encouragement.
Having said that, hash tags do seem to attract people to the
themes of my books when it’s something the individual has a personal connection
with, and I’ve found Facebook helpful for advertising and promotion. I am
rather oblivious when it comes to any social media platforms outside of those
Me: I saw online that the first book you wrote “The
Garden Thieves” is no longer available.
Can you explain why?
Kelly: The Garden Thieves was originally written a
year prior to publication under the title Princess Akeeba and the Night
Thieves. The first edition was created as a gift for a little girl who I loved
very much, and I re-designed the illustrations of the book as a part of my
grieving process when I lost her. Removing the book from circulation was a
tough decision, because I really liked the book, but ultimately I realized that
it was an important step in that process for me.
Me: I am very sorry for your loss and hope that your book has helped you heal. I love that you allow people to contact you with special requests for book topics (a note at the end of each of your books). For “The Deer” – you mentioned that you were asked by a mom to write a book about miscarriage, after she suffered the loss of her baby and didn’t know how to explain to her son why his sister would not come home.
There are so many sensitive issues that we might experience early in life, so I am thrilled that you have found a way to address them in your books using very simple language and illustration. Reading, “The Den” brought tears to my eyes – children not feeling ‘loved’ because of a new addition to the family. I believe that life is uncomplicated from the view of children, so parents paying more attention to the ‘baby’ is equal to them no longer being loved. But in real life, this is not true at all, yet it takes growing up to learn this.
I have two suggestions for book topics: 1) death of a parent/sibling
2) divorce of parents. I have seen the
impact on friends/family who experienced these traumatic events as children.
That being said, are you working on your next book?
Kelly: Thank you
for your feedback – those are definitely important topics, and I’ll see what I
can do with them.
I’m taking a bit of a break over the summer (I can’t believe
I ever took sunshine and warmth for granted! Living in Canada makes me want to
LIVE outside between April and November…), but I’ve started putting some notes
together for the next stand-alone book. I’ll be diving back into my counselling
study notes for this one, but it’ll be an easier read than The Woodland Family
books, in more ways than one!
Me: Kelly, thank you so much for taking the time to
answer my questions. It’s been great
learning about your creative process and hopes of helping children deal with
real life issues. I wish you the best of
luck in your future endeavours!
Kelly: Thank you so much, Monica! It has been an
absolute pleasure interviewing with you.
In this thing called life, you never know who you might touch with your words.
This post is dedicated to lifelong journeys of finding balance.
Pictured above (top from left to right: me in September 2010; May 2018; August 2018 and September 2018).
It’s a bit embarrassing to post these photos of me – but I am trying to make a point here! The point is that we all have control over our bodies and can change our lives just by making some lifestyle/eating changes.
…with my weight since I was a young kid – probably by about grade 5 (I determined this based on looking at my old school photos). I was made fun of by relatives and people at school. People thought I enjoyed being squeezed on the cheeks – like chubby is cute? My own aunts would say that I am “soooo fat!” (of course the same aunts that normally say nothing to me); a cousin that I never met before until we visited China called me “fay fay” (fatso) when I was 11 years old. So traumatic!
First major change
When I was about 19 years old, I joined a weight-training course in CEGEP (basically college in Montreal between high school and university). I enjoyed the class a lot and felt good. My teacher at the time (a 70 year old former weight trainer) pulled me aside and told me that I was a nice looking person, but there was no room for ‘fat’ people in this world. I felt so ashamed after that incident, that I signed myself up for another session the following semester. I managed to lose a lot of weight at that time. University life found me “thinner”, but I still felt like I was overweight. Body image is so skewed…because that was my ‘normal’ weight back then (but I still felt ‘fat’).
Pregnancy and life
After I got married at age 25, I became pregnant and gained a bunch of weight. By the time my second was born a couple of years after, I gained even more weight. When my daughter was about 8, she asked me why I was so ‘big’. I had no explanation.
I joined martial arts with my daughter and successfully lost 10 lbs in about 3 months.
Then I was pregnant with my third. I was pretty heavy at the time, so by the time I reached full term, I had only gained 10 lbs. When my son was born, I actually lost about 15 lbs – feeling like my body almost returned to my ‘normal’.
Then more life happened. By June 2017, my weight had ballooned to the point of no return. I could feel that my skeleton could no longer bear the excess weight. When I went to Montreal to visit my grandma and met up with my sister’s friends for dinner, I was wearing a skirt and I felt incredibly uncomfortable -like I couldn’t sit anymore, and my legs were kinda tingly. When I returned home, I tried to play with my babe on the floor and could barely kneel down (due to discomfort). That’s when the gears in my brain started to churn. I needed to do something and QUICK!
In September, I was about to take a 360 turn in my life. It just happened that my brother-in-law was talking about his own diet (Paleo) over a birthday dinner. The next day, I decided to cut the carbs and focus on eating meat and veggies (breakfast, lunch and dinner). After a couple of days, I swore my stomach was flatter! After I lost my first 10 lbs, the usual ‘plateau’ where weight does not come off as quickly. I then tried the Bulletproof coffee recipe for my breakfast. Basically, it was black coffee plus a tablespoon of grassfed butter plus two tablespoons of MCT (medium chained triglycerides) oil (pure coconut oil). After taking that for a couple of weeks, I lost about 5 lbs more.
then…25 lbs lighter
By May 2019, I had lost about 25 lbs. I still wanted to go for another 10 lbs to get closer to my “ideal” weight (and cut body fat), but I knew I needed some help. I saw the 42-day challenge at Anytime Fitness gym (Richmond Hill location) on Facebook and requested to join. I got a text shortly after and scheduled an appointment for a consult. The following Monday, I started my program.
then…7 lbs lighter
At the end of my 6 week challenge, I lost 7 lbs plus about 2% body fat. I just cannot believe that I am almost there…
A great big thank you to Maz, Liam, Dan (who is no longer at the gym), Taylor and Leah at Anytime Fitness Richmond Hill, for pushing me to work my hardest and be my best self. The best part of the challenge was being held accountable for my goals. I had the gym staff to help keep me motivated and on track – plus the weekly weigh-ins were a bit of pressure.
What I have lost and gained during my 42 days
7 lbs about 2% body fat My grandma (she passed away the day after Mother’s Day)
Muscle Confidence New friends A new tattoo (in memory of my grandma) A huge inventory of new exercises that I can do at home on my own
This past year and a half
I have dropped 3 pant sizes (crazy eh?). I know how people love to see photos of before and after, so I will be bold and show them here. Pictured on the bottom left: 2 pant sizes, centre: 1 pant size and right: now. I didn’t even take a photo of 3 pant sizes because they ran out of that size!
It is not just about diet – exercise is critical to weight loss and sustainability of ones’ weight and health (both physical and mental). That being said, diet is a HUGE part of it! You cannot pig out on junk food and expect to lose any weight. Our “body is our temple” and we need to fuel it up with healthy food.
I have also been vegan for over six months’ now. Being vegan is not just for the environment and the animals, but makes one more conscious of what you feed your body.
I was really lucky that even at my maximum weight, I did not experience any health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. For that, I am truly thankful. Both of my parents had strokes (my mom in her fifties and my dad in his mid-sixties); and my mother has diabetes and high cholesterol, so I am probably more susceptible to these conditions. Gotta stay healthy for me and my family.
Here’s me yesterday, after my home workout. Not the greatest pic, but whatever – I don’t give a damn!
In this thing called life, you have the power to change. No one can force you to change, so you have to change for yourself. No one can want it more than you.
I am not writing about the feeling of fluttering in your stomach, the uncontrollable giddiness, etc. that you experience when you fall in love with someone. I’m writing about my experience of ‘falling in love’ with a song. Has it ever happened to you? I didn’t think it was possible and never had this type of sensation before. But it happened. I heard Lewis Capaldi’s song “Someone you loved” on the radio the other day. I was just thinking last week that it would be great to have some new fresh songs on the radio – and suddenly he sang to me. I was in awe – what a powerful voice and composition.
I had no idea who the artist was at that time, but my daughter said that we could just Google the lyrics. Anyway, long story short…I am in love!
Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone you loved”:
I have listened to it at least 100 times since I first heard it. Lewis’ voice, song lyrics and composition bring out so many raw emotions. I can feel my heart drop and hairs stand up on my arms. Just want to close my eyes and feel the music.
“Hold me while you wait” is another of my favs:
Music can be so powerful and heal the soul. The world is silent without it.
In this thing called life – feeling means that we are alive. If you have never fallen in love with a song – I sure hope it happens to you!
My grandmother just passed away at age 88 this past Monday, May 13th at 4:45am in the morning. She is survived by her daughter, son-in-law, three granddaughters and five grandchildren.
It has been a while since I last posted, so long that I actually forgot my login password for a bit. On top of regular life (work, kids, chores), I have extremely busy with the 42-day challenge that I joined at Anytime Fitness (3 times a week workouts), working on my novel, and most recently, going to see my grandmother in Montreal.
If you believe in fate
As fate would have it, I had planned a trip to see my grandma on May 18th. I ended up cancelling my trip because my kids were very busy that weekend. Then I got a text message from my sister, letting me know that she got a call from my grandma’s nursing home. Apparently my grandma had a fever for a couple of weeks but was stable. The issue was the she stopped eating and she was unresponsive. I re-booked my trip, and took off by bus the next day.
My grandmother raised us when we were children, while our parents went to work. Yet, I cannot say that we were very close (probably due to language problems (we spoke mainly English while she spoke Cantonese) and the conflict between our mother and grandma). She lived in a nursing home in Montreal for at least five years, so us grandchildren tried out best to visit her as often as we could.
Her last two days
It’s really hard to write this post without tears. I have been crying at random times this whole week since her passing. When I remember how truly lucky I am that I spent the last one and a half days of her life with her. On top of that the last day was Mother’s Day.
The first day, she was totally unresponsive. She could barely open her eyes. She could no longer speak and I had trouble to make her laugh using my ‘techniques’ that would have worked the last time I saw her.
On Mother’s Day, she opened her eyes and stayed awake and was super-aware the whole day. She even ate the full bowl of soup and peach fruit puree! She was able to follow a stuffed animal with her eyes, and she watched me the whole day.
After the nurses helped to change her clothes, I saw she wore a nice pink flowery shirt. I told her that she looked so beautiful and she smiled the biggest smile that you could ever imagine.
I told her that we all cared about her a lot, that she didn’t need to worry about us, and that she could ‘sleep’ if she was tired.
My grandma was the first person (other than myself) to hear my manuscript. I am about half-way through the manuscript. I told her I loved to write and hoped to finish my book this year. Even though she doesn’t really understand English, she listened and watched me the whole time. She showed no sign of tiredness at all. My novel is essentially a fictional story but based on her life. I believe in my heart that this was her bedtime story, because the next morning she left the earth.
My final thoughts
My grandma passed peacefully in her sleep. With her passing, I experienced a flood of emotions: sadness, happiness, regret and guilt to name a few. Sad that I will never see her physical person again in my life; happy that she was not in pain when she passed; regretful that I didn’t get to see her more often; and guilty that I didn’t really get a chance to know her.
In this thing called life…
Grab life by the horns. Don’t let the moments pass by.
If you want something – GO FOR IT!
Treat every day like your last – live with no regrets.
This post is dedicated to the guy who needs to take control of his quality of sleep. No excuses!
MOST IMPORTANT: QUALITY ZZZs
Did you know that quality sleep is REALLY important for your overall health? If you feel sluggish all the time and complain of tiredness or inability to focus, you may want to take a look at your sleep patterns. I read somewhere that the body does its main ‘healing’ while you sleep, between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. So, if you are awake between those hours – guess what? Yeah, your body is not given time to heal itself. I have a friend that sleeps at about 3 a.m. every night and gets up around 7:30 a.m. every day. Of course, she complains of tiredness every day. I wonder why?
According to Statistics Canada, “Insufficient sleep (short duration and poor quality) is associated with a range of adverse health outcomes, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, injuries, all-cause mortality, depression, irritability, and reduced well-being. ” and “For adults aged 18 to 64 and seniors aged 65 or older, 7 to 9 hours and 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, respectively, are recommended.”
So, any time a couple complains about poor sleep, I ask:
1) do you sleep on the same bed?
2) do you cover the same blanket?
To date, I have had the same conversation with seven different ‘couples’ who complained of poor sleep and tiredness.
Guess what they all said: Yes, we sleep together and yes, we share the same blanket.
Come on guys! Break the social norms/ habits! It’s for you and your health (mental and physical).
Well, it may sound crazy – but I confess that I haven’t slept in the same bed as my hubby for the last 17 -18 years! It started this way while I was pregnant and had trouble to sleep; then after our first child was born, I started to sleep with the baby; then followed the second child about two years later – I started to sleep with her and our son slept with my hubby. The years in between are cloudy, but we realized that sleeping separately was better for us. Then ten years later, number three came along and I started to sleep with him. BTW – all three of my kids were crappy sleepers, so basically I didn’t sleep well for these past 17-18 years. I TOTALLY believe that you have to do whatever it takes to catch some quality ZZZs.
My hubby has sleep apnea, so does not sleep well. He often gets up multiple times a night and likes to turn on the lights and make instant noodles in the kitchen (think noise!). In addition, he has a ‘cold’ body, so needs two big blankets to sleep. Myself, I developed into a light sleeper over the years and have a ‘hot’ body, so just one blanket would suffice.
My parents had the same problem – same bed, same blanket. Finally, I convinced them to at least have two blankets – rather than always fighting for the blanket. They are loving it and get better sleep. To them, I am a genius!
Needless to say, it totally makes sense to sleep separately. It has absolutely nothing to do with separation from a relationship -so I wouldn’t feel guilty about it. The most recent person we talked to said that he understood why some ‘old people’ slept separately. That was such a funny comment, because you don’t have to be old to be practical and conscious of your need for sleep. [In my opinion -sleeping in one bed and sharing one blanket is way over-rated!] He said he had no trouble to fall asleep but woke frequently throughout the night and could not fall back asleep. I reminded him that his spouse might actually be knocking him without him knowing and thus wake him. Perhaps taking a video would be interesting…
Finally, so many studies have been done, linking better quality sleep with a completely dark room. If you have dinky blinds that let in light – just hang a set of black-out curtains in front of them. Something so simple can change the way you sleep. Get on it!
And if you do wake, try not to turn on the lights – or your body’s circadian rhythm will be interrupted.
In this thing called life – let’s all be practical and get some good quality sleep. Don’t feel that you are abandoning your spouse. Your body and brain will thank you and make you a happier person for your spouse. On that note, I ended this post by going to sleep. I love my sleep! But sadly had trouble to fall asleep. Could be because of the smell of the noodles and loud talking downstairs at 1:30 a.m.
I would love to hear from you: One bed or two? One blanket or two?
I decided to re-name my blog title to…”In search of plant-based food” instead of restaurants – because vegan restaurants are hard to find where I am. So, now I look for vegan menu items at ‘regular’ restaurants.
Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill (Bayview & Sheppard, Toronto location) (aka O & B) is not a vegan restaurant but does have a selection of vegetarian dishes, but you should double-check the ingredients with the waiter/waitress before ordering.
My in-laws treated our family for a Chinese New Year dinner back in Feb 2019 at Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill. It would have been too hectic at any Chinese restaurants, so we went for Italian-style food.
The main dinner menu online looked promising for me and my daughter, so by request, we went there. But unfortunately, I found out it was part of the Winterlicious festival with a set three-course meal (appetizer, main dish, and dessert). That meant that their entree menu was reduced significantly.
Food: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Price: $$$-$$$$ out of $$$$$ (depends what you order)
Ambience/decor: 3.5 out of 5 stars
My fav dish: If I have to pick an item – it would be the mushroom soup (made with no cream and no butter).
I ordered the Spaghetti Pomorado entree (pictured above). O & B made no effort to add a unique ingredient like truffle mushroom to the spaghetti or decorate the plate. So no fancy ingredients or garnish at all. Basically, the pasta had tomato sauce and a bit of basil. I could easily have made the dish myself at home for a few dollars – but it cost $16.
My husband had the Schnitzel dish, but it did not look so great and he didn’t really like it, and my son had a curry lamb, which he did not really enjoy.
Feedback: I was disappointed when I tried to ask for a customized pizza to share with my meat-eating 5-year-old. They have Margarita pizza and pepperoni pizza- so I asked for half with just tomato sauce, basil and no cheese; and half with pepperoni and cheese. They could not do it for me.
It’s kinda funny how pen-to-paper works. You just start with a general thought, then it develops into something fun or serious. I find writing poetry therapeutic. I suggest trying to write a poem. However, if you can’t handle poetry try keeping a diary. I still have my old diary from when I was about 8 years old. It’s enjoyable to read it occasionally.
A poem a day keeps the shrink away. This simple remedy keeps your thoughts at bay. Don't know what to write? Just grab a pen and turn on the light. Jot down just one word and soon his friends will join. And pretty soon, a poem is born.
In this thing called life, things don’t always need to make sense. That’s what keeps things fun.
Ask yourself – which would you rather? Be surrounded by negativity or happiness? Is happiness over-rated? No way! Happiness is the foundation of life. Gotta have it.
I am not a shrink, but I did study sociology in U. My advice is simple: surround yourself with happy and positive people where possible. There is no rocket science to this. It’s like when you are always around people who like to complain or contemplate life in a negative way…don’t you feel mentally and emotionally drained by the time you finish speaking to them? Well, move those feet of yours away and find some happier and more positive people. If you are having trouble meeting positive people, try finding an activity you like and join a group with people who enjoy the same thing as you.
In this thing called life – the world stops for no one. Make every moment count.