Almost through

I got sick last month. I'm pretty sure it was the flu, the same thing Laurent got in early February. The girls also got sick.

Damien escaped the worst of it. Thank God. As a self-employed person there are no sick days and to have Damien not working right now would be a real financial stretch/stress.

What I experienced last month is the sickest I've been in my whole adult life. I tend to forget bad things, this is actually a healthy thing so I don't mind too much this tendency of mine. But I'm sure I've never been that sick before. I could not function for a week and for the week following I could barely function and when our kids were really little that would have been awful. I'm sure I would remember something like that.

I speculate we got hit so hard because we're new to the city (public transit, homeschool co-op, church that meets in a theatre, etc.) so we were exposed to a lot of new germs this winter. And I wasn't ready for it, at all. I was low on herbal remedies and I didn't really know what to do with the essential oils I had, nothing seemed to work. Was my timing wrong? Did I not use enough?

I'm working to change that situation for next year. I felt helpless. I need to get educated and stock the cupboard. Remedies are already brewing and I'm considering this course. Do you know of an exhaustive "do this in the case of flu" resource? Please recommend in comments. (I'm not looking for vague, internet-search stuff. I did that myself. I want to be taught specifics and I want protocols, not "try a little of this, little of that". I don't want to experiment. I want effective solutions.)

Damien's mom came to visit in the thick of it, not because we were sick, it was a visit that had been planned for months. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta and we haven't seen her for two years. She helped cook and brought a motherly/grandmotherly vibe to a house of sickies. She also bought us a few small kitchen appliances while she was here. God bless her.

Laurent's birthday happened during this time and we were too sick to celebrate. With grandma's help we managed to pull together our traditional birthday breakfast before we crashed back into bed.

I spent so much time in bed that I developed muscle and joint aches from sitting and laying down. Within a couple days I had maxed out on Netflix and social media. Getting sick actually helped me reset my social media consumption, which had been getting a little out of hand. When I emerged from the fog after two weeks it felt like I had restart my whole life (that first grocery shopping trip was monumental) so I restarted with much less Facebook and Instagram.

Being sick was awful, and recovering hasn't been a cake walk either. Physically I was weak and have been more tired than usual but the real struggle has been in my mind.

This season of late February and March is the hardest time of year for me. It is not spring where I live, it is the end of winter, and it is not pretty. At this time of year, I am at my lowest point emotionally and mentally; getting so sick felt like a low blow, like someone kicking you when you're down.

I've been foggy brained in my recovery. And because I have a history of March malaise or situational depression I feared that in my weakened, post-sickness state I was fast-tracking down that path again.

And so I've had to fight.

I know now how my mind works, the paths I can and cannot let it go down. I know the principles of CBT. I'm very self-aware at this point. I know the importance of exercise and the outdoors. I know the importance of music. I know the importance of meditation and prayer. I know the importance of reaching out.

But I tell you, doing these things is hard work. I'm not asking for kudos, the reward is in the fact that I am not depressed. I am uninspired about this time of year, I am still tired from being sick, but I'm not crying every day. I'm not dwelling in negative spaces mentally or emotionally. My mind wants to go there but I am holding fast and firm against that.

Here's the hardest part about self-awareness and fighting the dark places: you still have to do the work.

It's not enough to have head knowledge and understanding.

I love book learning. I love to read things, nod my head, underline, make notes in the margin, and say "this is good". I love to listen to lectures and podcasts that teach me how to understand myself. But none of this is doing the work.

Doing the work:

  • Going outside even in these grey uninspiring days. (Ski season has probably come to an end, after a pitiful winter, and we missed a couple weeks because of sickness. I was so sad about this, skiing is my favorite part of winter.)
  • Forcing my thoughts in more positive directions. My thoughts are like misbehaving children who need continual correction and discipline. Just like training my toddlers, it can be exhausting to re-train my mind.
  • Meditating.
  • Overcoming my nesting/homebody urges to explore things that I know will give me a boost but that require the initial effort of changing the schedule, leaving the house, etc. (Made more difficult because the weather has been so yucky.)
  • Working on my income earning and writing projects even when I want to procrastinate and do other stuff around the house instead. There's always some other homemaking or homeschooling work I can do, but I have this tendency to self-sabatoge my personal income earning projects and this is something I must push through. (Sometimes you don't push, you rest, but trust me, this is something I must push through.)

Getting through this hardest part of the year and recovering from being sick is not all "work". This is probably the ugliest time of year outdoors. It's melting dog poop season in the city, beauty is really hard to find, so I must make it and find it where I can.

I've been drawing again, mostly in the evenings. I'm working on a tangle for Lent called "Hidden in Christ" and I'm also learning new tangles.

Something I did this winter was to choose a color theme for each season. I started a bullet journal in January, I'll probably blog more about that later.

My bullet journal is my weekly to-do lists, but it's also full of spiritual wisdom and insights, self-awareness stuff, things I want to meditate on during my days, seasonal menu plans, and some other stuff. This journal is a record of my year, not just what I did week-by-week but what I am thinking and how I am growing and changing.

I use a black pen to write but I wanted to use colored pens to underline and highlight. I decided on gel pens and chose two colors for each season to be used in my journaling, drawing, and miscellaneous stuff (all the little notes of encouragement I write to myself).

My winter colors are icy blue and sparkling orange. They are inspired by the colors of January. For me, the essence of winter, its most beautiful expression, is sparkly snow, crystalline clear blue skies paired with the warm and golden light of early afternoon sunsets and candlelight. This collage of images express the essence of winter that I love.

All of that is to explain that using my blue and orange gel pens (the blue isn't the same tone as the blue of winter's essence, truthfully, I was just using what I had on hand) has brought me a lot of pleasure this winter, even now. And I'm working on a little Zentangle that incorporates these colors.

My spring colors are lime/celery green and lilac purple. And the essence I want to capture is "fresh, pretty and clean". Last weekend I bought my pens and I'm not using them yet but I've been playing around a little.

I finally hung these photos and art in our bedroom. My first Power Hour project and it didn't even take an hour. And this brings a bit more beauty into my days.

While I was sick my mom sent some money to buy flowers. Damien was unable to get out to purchase them for me, so it wasn't till post-sickness that I was able to buy some. The bonus of this is that I can choose my own arrangements and if I buy them at the market my flower dollars go farther and I'm aiming to get three bouquets, enough to see me through the end of March.

Next weekend is my retreat with my mom, a plan I made in January because I knew I would need to go somewhere this month.

This week I bought our family pass for the Montreal Botanical Gardens, which is fabulous in summer, but also has greenhouses to explore this time of year. This afternoon the kids and I went to experience the Butterflies Go Free exhibit.

And we're starting to make our summer travel and camping plans. Last summer I didn't want to go anywhere. Tired of hiking and moving I just wanted to stay put and explore our new city. This year I am so anxious to travel and explore out of the city.

I am longing to sleep in a tent, be by a lake, hike in the mountains. Vermont, Ontario, and "out west" are calling. Some ideas are becoming reality with reservations and squirreled away funds, others are dreams that need a few things to align to make them reality. But either way, we're going places this summer.

March is now a third over and I know I'm going to make it. I'm being proactive (making summer plans, getting out of the house, going away next weekend), I'm doing the work, and I'm finding the beauty.

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  • Lisa

    Lisa on March 11, 2016, 1:39 a.m.


    I'm sorry you've been so sick. In my adult life, I've gotten the flu like that twice that I can remember--about 10 years apart. When my oldest child was an infant, I got it and couldn't get out of bed for a week, much less tend to him. George had to stay home from work the entire time and he'd just bring Eli into bed with me every once in a while to nurse. Luckily Eli was over a year old so the nursing wasn't as frequent or as necessary by that time. 

    I was also sick like that about 3 years ago in January. I came down with it the day after my grandma died, and I rallied just enough to attend and speak at her funeral, then crashed. I swear between all four of us we were sick for a month. Like Damien, George was the only one that didn't get it and usually doesn't get sick. Thank goodness!

    As an herbalist that doesn't practice and has mostly "learnin' " and not so much experience, my best suggestions are Fire Cider (like we made in the Hibernate class) and Elderberry. Prevention is the best cure, and taking both Fire Cider and Elderberry tincture (5 drops or a dropperful of tincture) every day is an excellent preventative measure. These are the herbal remedies both of my very experienced herb teachers would recommend. Both also help during the flu, as they are anti-viral and anti-bacterial.

    I'm glad you're feeling better and hope spring gets prettier soon! Your ideas of the retreat with your mom and the Botanical Garden are both wonderful!




    • renee

      renee on March 11, 2016, 12:40 p.m.

      That's interesting Lisa. Damien hardly ever gets sick either. 

      Re: Fire Cider (I made that years ago and we never needed it and I haven't made it since) & Elderberry, how much Fire Cider a day? And for preventative, do you mean taking fire cider and elderberry every day through flu season as a preventative measure? And I thought Elderberry was no good after you had the flu full-on. 


      • Lisa

        Lisa on March 11, 2016, 3:06 p.m.

        I think Heather had a dosing suggestion for the recipe in the class. I think even just a tablespoon a day either in hot water or in soup or something is about right. It can be a preventative. 

        And Elderberry is good all around. It can help prevent illness as well as lessen the severity and shorten the duration during illness. It's one of the few "proven" remedies for anti-viral.



  • Nicole

    Nicole on March 11, 2016, 3:04 a.m.


    It was a breath of fresh air for me to stop and read your latest entry today, and see the beautiful photos of the butterflies. So glad you're feeling better, and it is so great that you get to hang out with your mom soon.

    I've been thinking about you lately in regards to all your moves in the past few years. I have been in one spot for 7 years, but we are moving to Thailand in July! I am very overwhelmed! It is totally by choice, but originally we thought we'd go in a year or two, not in 4 months. I got a job offer to teach second grade at a Christian school there, and after much praying, fasting, thinking, we decided we should go now. So now it's time to finish all that house work we meant to do years ago (I have been inspired by your experience of NOT owning a home and I hope to follow that when we come back!) and try to sell the house, while packing and such at the same time. 

    Anyway, as always I look forward to each Blog post from you, and will continue to do so when we are living in Thailand! :) Happy end-of-winter, hope spring comes soon for you there!





  • Brittany

    Brittany on March 11, 2016, 3:18 a.m.

    Hi Renee,

    I'm looking for a CBT workbook for myself and wonder if you can make any recommendations? I have a $30 Amazon gift card from Christmas that I've been saving for this purchase!

    Thanks a bunch, xoxoxo


    • renee

      renee on March 11, 2016, 12:34 p.m.


      The book I'm using is The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety (there's one for depression specifically also). It's definitely a "workbook", it's not all theory. There's a lot packed in this book but it's circular, or iterative. The ideas repeat themselves throughout the book, just applied to different "experessions" of anxiety. I've been working in this book for 6 months and I'm not quite halfway through. You don't have to do the whole book, you can pick the chapters most applicable to you. 

      I also purchased Mind Over Mood (the old edition, this new one looks nice). It came highly recommended but I haven't read it because The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety has been very comprehensive for my needs (thought I like the Thought Record & Mood Rating tools in Mind over Mood).


  • Jen Knowing The Light

    Jen Knowing The Light on March 11, 2016, 9:33 a.m.

    Ah yes, that thing of forcing yourself to do the right thing, make the right choices oh and do the work instead of just reading and learning about it. All so familliar. 

    I got my yoga mat out yesterday morning and sat on it and then just didn't have the energy to go any further. Couldn't bring myself to reach out and stretch. And then move the 25 cms to face my sacred space to meditate and prauy

    It all felt to much. 

    And yet if we give in to that moving out of the despair is so difficult. 



  • Beth

    Beth on March 11, 2016, 11:52 a.m.

    Another great post. So glad to have you back in the land of blogging! This calendar year has been rough for me so your words are often what I need to hear. 

    i'm very curious to hear what you have to say about the Bullet Journal.  I find myself simultaneously intrigued and thinking it's the most ridiculous thing ever.  As a friend (whose in her 50s) put it, "Oh look, the Millenials have invented a planner. How cute of them."  Ha ha. #crankyoldlady

    But I have always kept random notebooks of random notes and lists so maybe the Bullet Journal would work for me.  I' should probably turn off the part of me who rebels against things that are All The Rage and give it a go. 


    • renee

      renee on March 11, 2016, 11:57 a.m.

      Ha! I hear you on rebeling against "All The Rage". Damien introduced me to the bullet journal before I'd heard of it anywhere else, phew. I feel less trendy that way :)

      I've always devised my own planners and to-do lists, I've never used a storebought product, because I like the flexibility of my own system. What's different for me about a bullet journal is that there is more to it than to-do lists. It's a record of so much more of my life and thoughts. 

      I will blog about how I do it one day. I really like using it and like most bullet journal users have really tweaked it and fit it for my purposes. 


  • mist

    mist on March 11, 2016, 3:53 p.m.

    Oh no, I'm sorry you've had a rough month! I'm glad you are on the mend and hope you are on the up and up totally soon!

    I just started bullet journaling. I had been using a blank notebook for all of that stuff up until last summer and then decdied I needed a Fancy Planner. Unfortunately Fancy Planner was HUGE and doesn't fit in my purse. Not logical for me. :( Back to notebooks for me and a modified Bullet Journal. So far I really, really enjoy it! Much more logical for me. 


    Love your photos from the botanic garden. :) 


  • MOM Tougas

    MOM Tougas on March 13, 2016, 6:29 a.m.

    I had a wonderful visit with you and your family. Thank you. I enjoyed cooking for everyone and happily I felt needed and useful and aapreciated. I have to admit I was worried about getting 'the bug' since I did not have my usual herbs on hand. All I had was one bottle of Hylands Bio-Xll Tissue Salts (also known as Homeopathic Cell Salts). If you are unfamiliar with this, Google  Dr Scheussler's Tissue Salts. They are a micro dose of the 12 essential minerals your body needs to repair and maintain itself. They are prepared in Homeopathic 6X potencies that are gentle enough to be used by the youngest to the oldest of your family. I took 6 three times a day while I was visiting. I got a sore throat for half a day and a little hardly noticeable sniffle and that was it! I was quite impressed as I was not expecting it to work so well. I have never used the tissue salts to ward off a cold/flu before. I will define lyrics use it for that purpose again.


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