Daily we are inundated with a multitude of information and often it is left cluttering our minds where we are not even sure how to sift through it. The news stories, latest statistics and various people’s opinions…family, friends and complete strangers…it all can be somewhat overwhelming in the best of times, let alone during THIS time. All of that compiled with our own worries about health and well being of our loved ones, financial uncertainty, social disconnection and even the simplicity of the every day routine that has now become unknown.
No wonder stress, anxiety and depression have skyrocketed in all ages. We are all grieving. Each of us in various stages of grief. Building in daily practices of gratitude, just simple moments of reflection into our lives can assist with our ability to process what we are going through. By choosing just one or two of these ways to grow our gratefulness, it can change our perception, boost our mood and give us the opportunity to move forward.
Gratitude Journal Keep a notebook by your bedside and at the end of each day, list three things you were grateful for about the day. It could be as simple as a quiet moment with a cup of coffee. By reflecting on the positives from our day it can help us with not taking the ordinary for granted. Focusing on the positive aspects can also promote a better sleep and re-frame our thoughts. You could make gratitude a family focus and use a white board with fun colored markers, for anyone to write down what they are grateful for as they walk past it. The physical act of writing it down is sometimes easier than verbalizing our gratitude.
Music Playlist Whenever I begin a new writing project I create a music playlist. I only play it when I’m working on my project. It helps to keep me focused and trains my brain that when I hear those sounds, it is time to write. Music is a powerful tool for our brain. It can calm us, boost a mood or conjure up a memory. Develop playlists to soothe your soul or cause you to bust out your dance moves. Let music move you to a grateful place.
Looking Through Photos During these past months, our family has spent time looking through old photos. Since we live in a digital age, so many of our photos are not stored in albums to page through. It’s that old saying, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. So we made a determined effort to look back over family trips, special memories and just the goofy or ordinary photos taken over the years. It caused much laughter, nostalgia and realization how quickly time goes by. It definitely instilled within us grateful hearts for those moments captured in photos.
Nature for Nurture Often I don’t remember the nurture nature gives to me, until I’m desperately in need of it. If I could make that effort to get outdoors consistently, it would make a big difference in my mood. Just stepping outside, moving, breathing in the outdoors and breathing out the stress replenishes the mind and body. Listening to the birds, feeling the earth beneath my feet, gazing up at the natural world around me reminds me of the beauty amid the chaos. Naturally, I feel grateful.
Meaningful Messages The power of a handwritten note or thoughtful text message to check in on a loved one or friend doesn’t only impact the day of the receiver, it touches the heart of the sender, too. Letting others around us know that we have been thinking of them or how we are thankful for them allows us the opportunity to pour into the lives of others. When we acknowledge how much someone means in our lives, it reminds us of the gratefulness in authentic connections.
In the comments below, I would love if it you shared some ways you build an attitude of gratitude into your day.
As we journey this road together, may you look for the simple ways to grow gratefulness in a season that can feel hard. Love, Nikki
Once a month I treasure my coffee time with a group of lovely ladies. We became friends through our workplace and have stayed connected even though we do not all continue to work together. We were brought together out of a love for children and teaching but have stayed connected for so many more reasons. We have seen each other go through many seasons, celebrations, shared struggles, heartbreak and loss. We’ve sought wisdom from each other, those who have travelled paths before us. We’ve been present as a listening ear without judgement. We’ve laughed, cried and laughed some more. Whenever we get together, my heart is lifted.
So what do you want to do when faced with hard days and uncertain times? Share with your friends. But what happens when we can’t be with our friends? We learn to connect in different ways.
Yesterday, one of our friends set up a Zoom meeting for us all to meet online. Soon all five of our faces were displayed on the screen. It was a little awkward at first navigating this new normal of communication. But soon we were chatting away, with our coffee or tea in hand. Almost 90 minutes later I emerged from my office, encouraged by our connection. It’s still not the same as if we had met in person, being able to give each other a hug, but it worked. Seeing their smiles, laughing together and sharing concerns, it just felt good, like we could hold onto what fills us. Because right now we are all grieving so many losses in this time, it’s comforting to know there are some things that will not change…the comfort of friendship.
This morning our BC provincial government confirmed what we had all been thinking would happen…schools are closed indefinitely. Indefinitely is a tough word to hear, especially in the unknown waters our country is currently treading.
Many parents are scrambling to figure out how to now educate their children at home in this new normal. But I encourage you to PAUSE.
- Acknowledge your emotions. You and your children will be feeling the full range of emotions. You are grieving your normal routine, what was comfortable for you and your children, what you all have lost. Take some quiet time to just breathe, listen to calming music or journal.
- Sit down as a family and have a discussion. Ask your children how they are feeling? What are their worries? What are they looking forward to? Share with them that things will be changing but it is important as a family to work together as a team. Ask for their ideas/suggestions. Take everything into consideration but don’t make any firm plans, yet.
- Pause again. You do not need to rush into “school work”. Enjoy family time, soak in the quietness and just being together. Play games, watch movies, bake together, read together and just be.
- Make notes on what you would like in a routine. Ask for input from your children. Develop a routine for “Spring Break” and then compile ideas for a routine to get back into academics.
- Join a parent support group on social media. I have started “It Takes a Village” for parents to find resources, ask questions and just be encouraged.
- Wait to hear from your school. They are working hard right now to develop ways to support your family too. Just give them a little breathing room as they gather together to come up with a plan.
- A really good activity is to have everyone in your family take a personality quiz. Then you all can sit down over a bowl of popcorn and discuss your traits and how as a part of a team, everyone can respect each other’s uniqueness and ways to communicate effectively with each other. You are all going to be in close quarters for a while, it is bound to get overwhelming at times. This is completely normal.
- Communication is key. Listen to each other and give each other grace. This is new for everyone and we all handle change differently.
You’ve got this!
May your day be filled with peace and your cup with copious amounts of coffee. Love, Nikki
Turning on the news or scrolling through social media feeds tells us there are many hurting people. From across the globe, to our neighbors, friends and within our own families. It can make us feel helpless to see so many in pain or facing overwhelming obstacles.
So when one feels helpless, choose to be helpful.
Make February a month filled with purposeful kindness. It does not need to be grand gestures, but simply small actions that for the receiving person will make a big difference. It can be as simple as smiling at the cashiers, asking about their day. Telling someone they are doing a great job or paying for a coffee for a frazzled mom or college student in line at the coffee shop. Look for ways to bring a moment of joy into someone’s day.
As a family you could take up a kindness challenge for the month. Sit down together and do some brainstorming on different ways to show kindness at work, school, in the community and at home with each other. If you would prefer to have something already created, I have a February “Family Kindness Challenge” Calendar and will include the link so all that needs to be done is print it out and put it on the fridge for all to see.
To see the calendar click here: February Family Kindness Challenge
More than ever, we need to have the light of love shine through our acts of kindness to those around us. Let others know they are not alone.
Now that the spring weather is in full bloom here on the west coast it is time to get pots and flower beds ready and simply enjoy being outside taking in the beauty around us. This weekend I had a long “to do” list sitting on my counter and my house was anything less than organized. But I made a choice to leave it all behind and head outside for a couple of hours. After all, I knew it would most definitely still be there when I came back inside.
Did I absolutely need to go outside to spend time digging in the soil? Yes, I did. Not from a pure sense of “it has to get done immediately” time pressure purpose. The need came from giving myself time to breathe in the earthy air, feel the soil between my fingers and just be in the moment. It had rained earlier that morning and there’s nothing quite like the smell after a rain with the faint scent of spring blossoms in the air. I had been feeling worn from a week filled with activities and commitments. There were some things weighing heavy on my mind. When I feel like that, it is far too easy to plop myself onto the couch and get lost in a zombie trance either mindlessly watching tv or scrolling through social media. Sometimes it’s great just to do that, but not if my purpose was to improve my mood, clear my mind and fill my spirit.
Nature, it does a body good.
Breathing: As I dug my hands into the damp soil I breathed in my surroundings. Our house backs onto a stream and I could hear the sound of water gurgling over the rocks as well as a chorus of birds from the large trees. I literally felt my breathing slow down and become deeper. When we are anxious about daily life activities, we often don’t even realize how shallow our breathing can become. Deep breathing activates neurons in our brain to tell it to slow down, reduce our stress and tension. Our lungs take in more oxygen and muscles relax. Even memory has been known to improve with deep breathing.
Observing: As I dug, I took in the minute details around me. I looked at the bugs scurrying as I overturned soil, watched a snail cross along one of the pots and noticed the tiny buds and new growth on perennials. Those small moments that are overlooked in the big picture of everyday busyness. Being present and in the moment clears the mind of clutter and brings an attitude of joy, noticing the beauty of creation in even the smallest of details. Taking time to observe and being still in nature can bring me new perspective and more a positive outlook or mood. It can change how I react to daily events in my life. I am far more able to positively and effectively handle the unexpected things that come my way when I’ve spent time in nature. When I’ve been rushing and neglecting taking that time in the outdoors, well that is when things can unravel for me or I feel pressure and stress and then my family feels it too.
Touching: Often if children are struggling with anxiety or a variety of emotions, providing tactile or sensory support in the way of therapeutic putty or weighted blankets can be suggested. Well, digging in the soil can also help! It even goes a step further scientifically for boosting our mood. Not only does the feel of running our hands through the soil bring a sense of calmness but soil contains certain microbes that have now been shown to help relieve stress and combat depression. Even pulling weeds gives me a satisfaction in reducing stress levels or letting my frustration out. (especially those hard to pull ones with long root systems).
After spending time outside, I came back into the house feeling renewed. I would probably feel sore the next day as it had been a while for my body to be bending and stretching like that….a friendly reminder to ease myself into the season. However, I was feeling far more willing to “dig” into the things that lay before me with a much improved attitude for having spent time with my hands in the dirt. Remember as a child how much fun it was to dig in the dirt, even make mud pies? This week, take a page from your childhood and spend some time letting the soil calm your soul.
Four weeks ago, our dishwasher stopped working. Yes, it is a First World type problem as I am grateful for the fact we have clean water to wash dishes. This blog post is a ‘tongue in cheek’ humorous approach about our dishwasher dilemma and the emotions that followed.
I have come to realize there were 7 stages we “cycled” through with our dishwasher breakdown.
When I first noticed the E24 indicator light flashing on our Bosch, I simply thought it would be something easy such as refilling the compartment with Jet Dry, I could do that. After all, the dishwasher was relatively new but just past the stage for the warranty to still be effective, of course. It was a Bosch, so shouldn’t be an issue at all I told myself. When I googled the code, it led me to discover the indicator light meant we had a block somewhere in the hose/filter. I figured it was an easy fix and opened up the door, pulled the filter out to retrieve anything that was stuck such as a popcorn seed. But no, there was nothing trapped in the filter. Maybe if I just re-ran the dishwasher again, it would work. I liked taking an optimistic approach. No. There was E24 again.
What to do next? Well YouTube it of course! We found a plethora of videos about our exact dishwasher model and the frustrations people had with the E24 code. Probably would have been good to know this before we bought it. The first video had us using a ladle and sponge to get rid of the excess water in the bottom of the dishwasher. Thinking that process hopefully solved the problem we ran the dishwasher. No such luck. The code appeared again. This time another video suggested using a wet/dry shop vac sucking the water up and loosening what was supposedly trapped in the hose. Well, that should probably have taken care of it. After all, it worked perfectly for the guy in the video. Ran the dishwasher. E24. And this time, it felt like the code was flashing just to mock me and my failed attempts. Through this all, my family continued to feel the need to eat, go figure. More dishes were now piling up all over my counter. I was too stubborn to give in and actually wash the dishes by hand at this point. After all, I needed to show code E24 who was boss. But with pulling everything out from under the sink my kitchen was soon to be declared a disaster zone. Then someone decided to open up a can of sardines. A dirty plate laying on the counter with sardine remnants needed to be dealt with immediately as my cats were now eyeing the countertops ready to pounce and participate in the chaos as plates, cups and cutlery that were so finely balanced. Dirty dish piling is a true art form. One wrong move could send them all tumbling in many directions.
The art of negotiations soon ensued. Who would trade another chore with someone else just to get out of doing the dishes? It was rather entertaining to see how badly each of us tried to avoid the stacks of dishes piled up. But we had run out of cutlery and finger food options so the task had to be faced head on. The only chore detested more than dishes is cleaning out of the cats’ litter box.
4. Get’er Done
What’s that saying, “more hands make lighter work”? Well we all decided (alright, some may/may not have decided voluntarily) to just roll up our sleeves and dig into the mountain that lay before us. It did not take as long as everyone thought and despite protests, everyone actually lived through it unscathed, mostly. We knew the dishes would pile up again if we did not keep up with this task until the dishwasher was fixed.
Over the next couple of weeks, we took turns washing the dishes. In fact, it was rather enjoyable at times. Instead of everyone rushing off to their own agendas after supper, we chatted and joked while the dishes got done. It was almost a “Leave it to Beaver” type moment. This was so retro, it felt cool to do the dishes together. We even pondered whether we continued with this family bonding activity once the dishwasher was fixed. Yes, we were in the rainbows, kittens and unicorn stage of the dishwasher dilemma.
And then Spring Break ended and sickness in the household reigned supreme. Our euphoric family bonding over bubbles burst. Suddenly everyone was either too busy to do the dishes or plagued with a stomach ache, headache or severe case of sudsaphobia. Even hormonal imbalance issues were used as a scapegoat (not naming any names). If only I could train the cats and dog to wash and dry, but they gave me attitude and it wasn’t worth the effort. I watched a few more videos on how to fix your own dishwasher because I was too stubborn to be willing to pay a dishwasher repair person $150 just to ring my doorbell and then another wad of cash to fix what I probably could fix myself. I kept thinking how many books and glasses of wine that money could buy. My husband was willing to give it another go but it was “year end” time in his business and he was swamped so it would have to wait for a while. So reality reared its ugly head. Mustering my remaining strength I clasped onto the white dish towel, slowly waved it over my head staring at the pile of dishes that lay before me, I vowed, “You may take our lives, but you will never take our freedom!” My Braveheart moment was over, I knew what needed to happen and walked over to my phone to call someone much more powerful than I.
In 4 sleeps it will happen. My doorbell will ring and I will open it in giddy anticipation, coming face to face with the dishwasher repair person. I will try not to scare him/her off with my enthusiastic greeting. There may/may not involve a warm embrace of gratitude when I am no longer met with the E24 code on my dishwasher.
And my lesson learned from this experience; do not take your appliances for granted. Appreciate them, even give them a few words of affirmation now and again…for we all work much harder when our hard work is acknowledged.
May your day be filled with sunshine and your cupboards with clean dishes.
“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” —Billy Joel
The last two months I have worked on a challenge. Shying away from calling it a New Year’s Resolution because if past years were any indication of my patterns, I tend to fade out on those resolutions quickly. I wanted a challenge that would motivate me in a variety of areas of my life. So I decided to challenge myself to incorporate more music into my day.
Mornings are not always my friend and I rely on the power of caffeine to get me going. Don’t worry, I did not go so drastic in my challenge as to cut out caffeine. I value the people around me too much to put them through that scenario. No, I just added some music to my morning routine as well. I created a playlist of upbeat, positive songs, putting my wireless speaker into the bathroom and cranking the energizing tunes while I showered. Songs to sing along with…because we all know how much better we sound when we sing in the shower! Gone was the morning news I usually began my day with and by replacing it with music, I was pleasantly surprised with my energy and positive outlook to start the day.
My writing project during this time was to finish up editing and revising a romance novel. So I created a playlist filled with crooner and big band era music. I loved playing this music as I did things around the house. It made chores seem somewhat more enjoyable…somewhat. The genre of music gave me the motivation to write and new ideas flowed.
Music has this amazing ability to uplift the spirit and also soothe the mind. During evenings I would play calm, inspirational tunes or simply instrumental songs with nature sounds interwoven into the music. All electrical devices were turned off by 9pm and it was just me, my music and a good book. I began to watch less tv. Sleep came easy. Over the last couple of weeks I strayed from this nightly pattern and the insomnia and restless sleep once again had returned. In my mind, I knew the detriment of electronics before bed but slipping back into old habits showed me the importance of sticking to this new nightly routine I had established.
Incorporating more music into our day made a positive impact on my daughters as well. Driving teens around somedays I feel like an Uber Mom and so I try to be intentional with our time, connecting. No earbuds by passengers are ever allowed. We would play music and everyone got a chance to be the DJ. Laughing, car singing and the occasional dancing may have occurred. It was fun to share new songs with each other!
Scientifically, there is plenty of research on the positive effects of music on the brain. Listening to music has been shown to reduce pain, decrease stress and anxiety as well as improve memory and mood. Even patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia have been known to find relief through the power of music. Children with post traumatic stress disorders, anxiety or various forms of special needs have also benefitted from music as a therapeutic resource. Yet, more and more we see many public schools forced to reduce music and arts programming.
So if you find yourself struggling with energy or needing to reduce stress, step away from devices, social media and news stories and just crank your favourite tunes. It may even motivate you to pick up an instrument and begin playing because there’s even more known benefits to the brain and body when you play an instrument.
January and February can be gloomy months, especially on the rainy west coast. I’m so glad I chose this music challenge as I was reminded how much music has meant to me over the years. It’s amazing how some songs can still bring back a flood of memories from special moments in my childhood and teen years.
Not only the musical notes and tunes, but the lyrical poetry and stories found within the songs gave me a much needed boost during this winter. Let me know how you incorporate music into your day by commenting below.
A love of music does the heart good!
“Music is life. That’s why our hearts have beats.”-unknown
May your day be filled with sunshine and your heart with songs. -love Nikki
Did you know there are 36 days until Christmas? Now check your pulse. Did that realization make your heart race, fill you with panic or did it bring a smile to your face with anticipation? We all face the lead up to Christmas with a different attitude. And sometimes different years bring added stress or busyness to the season. Our children also experience the varying emotions brought on by the holidays and they can definitely sense how we react as well.
When my daughters were younger, they loved bringing in the special bin filled with treasured Christmas picture books that we would read and reread every year. We also added to our pile each year and they anticipated new Christmas stories. This was a tradition to them, something that brought them comfort and joy. It was also routine. Establishing a routine during a season that brings many activities that are out of routine will give stability to a child who has anxiety over the many unexpected or new experiences.
So what are some creative ways to establish a reading routine through Christmas?
For younger children create an Advent Calendar of books:
1. Go to the library or used book store without your child. Pick out some new to them stories. They could be Christmas related or on a theme that is completely separate from Christmas. Choose some different genres. Don’t forget to include non-fiction books as well.
2. Look for book sales online or local authors selling books at Christmas events.
3. Create an element of excitement about these books for your child. You could wrap each book up individually and choose one package a day to open. Or if you want to limit the wrapping paper waste, you could write each title down on a separate piece of paper and have it in a Christmas decorated bag where your child could choose one title a day. Make sure to have the bin of books hidden so the books are kept secret until they are chosen to read.
4. Snuggle up as a family with pillows, blankets, favourite stuffed animal friends and maybe even a Christmas cookie as you share the new story.
5. Don’t forget to introduce your child to the author or illustrator of the book by maybe telling a little fact about them such as where they live, other books written or illustrated etc. A quick Google search about the author/illustrator before reading will give you and your child a connection to the story and the person who wrote or illustrated it.
For older children:
Choose a family novel that you all can sit around listening to a chapter or two each evening. It could even be an audio book. You can turn off the lights, have the fireplace going and enjoy a mug of hot chocolate as you journey along with the characters on adventure.
This year my teen daughters and I will be reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. After we finish reading it, I’m looking forward to having a pj movie night with them and watch the 1949 movie.
So as the Countdown to Christmas creeps closer, find your family a reading tradition around the holidays that brings anticipation, comfort and special memories.
What are some special Christmas books that you loved as a child? Share with me in the comments down below!
May your holidays be filled with books and stories to share.
This past May our family had the opportunity to travel to Europe, visiting Germany and Denmark. On the first leg of our journey we drove from Frankfurt to Berlin and I noticed beautiful patches of wild flowers along the way. I marvelled at the quaint little towns we would pass with church steeples standing tall. The cobblestone squares as gathering places to share stories and laughs with friends and family. Such a beautiful country side; tranquil, peaceful. Yes, I could easily find myself living here.
Arriving in Berlin we began touring the many historical sites, where not so long ago there was no peace. It was hard to believe there was a time where the beautiful land we were travelling now was not always such. Here we were, standing in history; on ground where battles were waged. Not only physical battles but battles of strength of mind, heart and perseverance. Those days were heavy days as we read about personal stories of families torn apart, those taking a stand and being a voice, knowing what it would cost and yet still willing to risk everything. Seeing photos of the faces, physical landmarks, tunnels dug for freedom and buildings of shelter or worship destroyed. It had a huge impact on my family. History that we had read about in books was now where we placed our feet. The bravery of those who told their stories, those who stood up for the unjust ways in the most difficult of times was something that we took away with us, forever in our hearts.
Today, Remembrance Day, we remember the many lives changed forever by war, I think of the men and women who fought to protect, for those to have freedom. They gave so that many could live. We will not forget.
There are still battles waging around the world today, maybe not all are physical battles, but those just as powerful. Ones speaking of hatred and greed, seeking power by attempting to make others powerless. But we can be the voice for the voiceless, even if it is in the small things around us on a daily basis. When we hear words of hate being used, say something. When we see those struggling, do something. Small steps taken will lead to miles gained as we journey a road to freedom for all.
Where it is possible to sow kindness, there is peace.
I am just a small small voice sometimes never heard.
So listen very closely to my each and every word.
Each of us can make a difference, each of us can touch a heart.
Each of us can hold a hand, each of us can do our part.
I am just a small voice wanting all people to live free.
It’s up to every one to change the sadness that we see.
Each of us can say a prayer, each of us can shed a tear.
Each of us can share with others, whether far away or near.
I am just a small voice but I will make my message clear.
All children should be safe and never have to live in fear.
Each of us can take a stand, each of us can make a choice.
Each of us can speak together and have a louder voice.
-Nikki Kroetsch Bergstresser
Do you remember as a child sitting around a campfire, where spooky stories were being told? Or maybe you have fond memories of listening to relatives share stories of days gone by. The art of storytelling has us connecting with others and sharing experiences. Storytelling entertains, educates, preserves culture and instills values.
If you are interested in building storytelling into your family routines, I would suggest spending time listening and observing with your children in different environments. Go into the forest, sit on a log together and just listen to the sounds. What do you hear? Look up high into the trees; imagine what lives in the branches. Are there hollowed out trunks or crevices between rocks? Who or what could be living there? Be creative, all responses accepted, there’s no wrong answers. This builds in an aspect of risk taking that is needed when telling stories. Often we can become paralyzed in our storytelling searching for a correct response or perfect way to tell a story. Spend time “people watching” in stores and parks. One of my favourite places to watch people is the airport. Make up stories about the people you observe. Where are they going? Who are they going to see? When driving in the car, look out at the landscapes, farmyards or neighbourhoods. Ask questions to each other about what you see that would illicit creative responses. All these aspects are great springboards to becoming a storyteller.
This last year I had the opportunity to develop a series of five stories for Bedtime Stories (getbedtimestories.com). It is a digital storytelling app to support parents in sharing stories with their children. It has a multifaceted approach where parents can directly read the stories word for word to their children or they can use the key points to guide their storytelling. With each story series having five stories, children and parents connect to the characters and observe the growth and development throughout the series. They can even continue making up new stories related to the series. There is also a Story Builder section where random components of a story are selected and families build their own story together. It can make for many giggles on a long car trip with each family member contributing to telling the story. Authors all around the world contributed to this storytelling app, seeing the value in bringing families together through storytelling. Bedtime Stories will be releasing a Storytelling School within the app to assist families with how to tell stories and the benefits of storytelling for your child’s growth and family connection.
Carter & the Cedar Forest Critters is the story series I developed for Bedtime Stories. Carter is a rather shy boy and often struggles to have his voice heard among his four older and louder brothers. When he has the opportunity to spend summer with his grandparents in Cedar Forest, Carter discovers a magical walking stick, giving him the ability to talk to furry and feathered critters. His knowledge and love of nature allows him to lend a helping hand, solve a few problems and make new friends.
One of the highlights in my writing journey has been to connect with storytellers from around the world. The publisher for Bedtime Stories is Little Lights Studio in Vienna, Austria. The illustrator for the cover of Carter & the Cedar Forest Critters was Lenny Wen who lives in Jakarta, Indonesia. Seeing the characters you created on paper be brought to life in illustration was quite exciting. Having each story world with only one illustration is part of the concept behind the storytelling app. This allows for families to incorporate more creativity and interpretation into the story world.
Nature is an aspect I love to include in my story writing. There is peace that unclutters the mind and heart when one spends time in nature. While writing this story series I would immerse myself in the natural setting of the forest for inspiration. Often I would load up my folding chair, laptop, coffee and munchies (because chocolate and writing go hand in hand) and head to Bateman Park. You may have seen me writing under the large trees with the gurgling stream.
My writing journey continues on as I have numerous picture book manuscripts completed as well as a middle grade novel set in the Pacific West coast. This summer I dipped my feet into the waters of screenplay writing andworked with my dear friend, Denise Jaden www.denisejaden.com from Abbotsford, who writes YA fiction. The path to traditional publishing can be difficult and at times disheartening with rejections. Connecting with fellow authors and being part of the writing community is key. My focus is to enjoy the steps in the journey and not worry about the destination, for it is in our steps where we find the story.
May your days be filled with stories to share and your cup with coffee.
You can connect with Nikki on Twitter (@NBergstresser) and Facebook (Nikki Bergstresser-author) or check out her blog NikkiBergstresser.com
This was a post I had written last year and wanted to share it again. I will be completing some further blog posts on connecting with your child in the weeks to come. Enjoy and feel free to share your ideas and comments!
September is a whirlwind of activities. From filling out a plethora of forms for each child, to making sure you have groceries to pack those school lunches and even just getting into the car on time for activities…without forgetting a child. It can be overwhelming! Calendars once again become filled with who has to be where with what and at what time. In my opinion, one can never have enough coffee for the first few weeks of September!
Last Monday I was feeling quite proud of myself for getting my daughter to tennis, packing a supper for her to eat in the car after the lesson and then picking up her friends and taking them all to their first time at youth group. We drive up to the event and I said, “Wow, we are the first to arrive!” Again, feeling proud of my organization and time management. Waiting for…
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For as long as I can remember, the last weekend in August meant a full weekend of celebrating Morden Manitoba’s Corn & Apple Festival. It was filled with food and entertainment. However, I think my highlight has always been the people. Walking up and down the main street meeting friends and sharing laughs. Moving away to university I still returned home with anticipation of the festival. Now having lived on the west coast for almost 20 years there was a time when I was unable to come back to enjoy the festivities. It’s only been in the last four years where my schedule changed that I have been able to come “home” again. And it’s been more special than ever because I have been able to introduce my daughters to all that Corn & Apple has to offer. At first I wondered if they would see the same joy I had for it. However, they fully embraced all the traditions and now are even more eager than I to attend. Each summer they make a list of “must do’s” when returning to Morden. My one daughter commented that only in Morden would she go to the post office and receive a ‘welcome home hug’ from someone that knew our family when I was going up, yet she had never met.
For our friends who often ask me why I get so excited about Morden’s Corn & Apple Festival 🌽🍎 ….here’s a few of my reasons….and maybe next year you may just find yourself making the trip to the prairies where you will be warmly welcomed!
‘Twas the night before Corn & Apple and all through the streets,
Set up was occurring with food and sweet treats.
The main stage put up with lights and sound tested,
Time to go home soon so we’d all be well rested.
For morning would come in a blink of an eye,
And first on our list was the pancakes to try.
Catching up with folks and sharing some laughs,
Then make a stop by the tents filled with crafts.
The midway is waiting with wild-crazy rides,
That will be sure to jostle and jolt your insides.
Hours spent walking up and down Stephen Street,
Cause half of the fun is the people you meet.
Free corn on the cob and apple cider galore,
A petting farm with goats and much to explore.
Saturday morning know there’s no time to snooze.
For it’s out the door early a parade spot to choose.
Tossing of candy and clowns will appear.
Those playing bagpipes are met with great cheer.
There’s horses, floats and Shriners galore.
And just when you ask, “Can there be any more?”
Cause with all that was seen the end must be near.
But out come the combines; Case and John Deere.
And finally, the sign that we know it’s a wrap
Come those carrying shovels and scooping horse crap.
We join in the crowds headed to munch,
For it’s Elk’s BBQ we are having for lunch.
Then Bingo is calling under the tent,
Hoping to win back the money we spent.
CottonWood stage is fiddling a song.
The seniors are dancing and singing along.
But the smell of fried onions calls me away
Catholic burgers are waiting there’s no time to stay.
And then it’s the main stage, the music so loud.
Chilliwack’s “My Girl” is drawing the crowd.
Corn & Apple weekend will soon draw to an end.
Summer is over and fall’s just round the bend.
We hear it exclaimed as we pass others near.
“Wasn’t it great? See you next year!”
-Nikki Kroetsch Bergstresser (2018)
For more information on the Morden Corn 🌽 & Apple 🍎 Festival check out their website by clicking this link: Corn & Apple Festival
So may your day be filled with festivities and your cup with apple cider!
Our family flew to Germany yesterday. My husband has been there 15 years ago but for our daughters and myself this is our first time in Europe. Over the next while, I will be posting our experiences and my reflections.
Everyone wants those Rick Steves’ travel moments but how often are those visions in our head smacked down and replaced by a Griswold’s family vacation? Now I have nothing against the Griswolds but a combination of the two vacation ideals would definitely be my preference.
So today I spent time reflecting and writing on what goes into the journey and how through our travels we are trying to be more intentional in how we relate to each other as a family. Don’t get me wrong…there will definitely be many Griswold moments along the way. I promise I will share those too!
So when travelling, remember…
Recognize Each Other’s Strengths
Getting ready for this type of trip requires much planning. I’m a spontaneous person but my husband is the planner. We are a great pair that way. Mostly. Sometimes we get frustrated with each other’s uniqueness. My approach to “fly by the seat of my pants” or “I’m more creative when I push something to a deadline” doesn’t always work in every circumstance and can totally stress an “A” personality out. Just like at times his colour coded spread sheets and prioritized lists make me feel overwhelmed and panic. But for the most part, we compliment each other and appreciate the gifts we bring to our marriage. When we attempt to understand where each other is coming from, we allow our spouse to bring his or her best into the marriage.
Not Every Moment is FB Perfect
Now travelling is such a family bonding time and many special memories are made but truth be told it also brings added stress to a marriage, between siblings or child and parent. We have spent some time discussing how to give each other grace when under pressure. What does that look like? To recognize what our trigger points are during stressful times is important. It doesn’t alway happen and in the heat of the moment it can easily be forgotten. But we are going to keep reminding ourselves to let the little things “go” and keep the bigger picture in mind. So if one child is freaked out by “old things” be respectful when taking him or her to a museum and understand anxiety levels will be higher. Or know that if another child uses humour and may be overly wild, it could be a coping mechanism for feeling nervous. Know that what might come across as anger or moody could actually be panic or anxiousness about a new situation. We all handle our emotions in different ways. Attempt to understand before trying to be understood. And sometimes things just get messy. Bickering will happen. Plans may not go according to how we think they should go. Take a step back and start a clean slate…I know I always appreciate being offered a “do over”.
Respect Each Other’s Passions
Not everyone in our family is into the same interests. When doing our planning for travelling we try to remember to take this into account. We want to balance where we eat, what we see and do as well as pace the day out. My husband is not one to sit by a pool on vacation. He is a goer and needs to be active. But he also knows even though I love to be on the move too, I desperately need some quiet time here and there. Both our daughters have different interests and passions as well. So sometimes on vacation we will plan doing things on our own for a few hours or pair off together for activities and then come together to share our experiences. When in Florida last November, my husband left for a little adventure to tour around different hotel resorts around DisneyWorld. My youngest daughter and I were much more content to enjoy some pool time and reading. Later that day the four of us got back together and enjoyed some great laughs about our day and looking over our photos.
When my husband began his business and our girls were babies, we didn’t travel, unless it was back to Manitoba to see our families. Starting up a business is hard financially and takes a toll on the emotions too. I was also working several jobs from the home while looking after babies and having poor health. There were some really tough years. Now we are in a season where we can enjoy doing travelling together. Not every family is in a season to travel or travel doesn’t work or interest them. We all have different points or paths in our journeys. We are thankful we are able to travel and do something together we love and I never want our family to take it for granted or feel entitled to it.
There may be a season in our lives again where travel is not possible and that’s ok too. For as much as I absolutely love our travels as a family, it’s not just about what we see and do, for me it’s my crazy crew that I am thankful to do it with. No matter what journey we are on, I’m just thankful we can journey on together.
Tomorrow my dad has his birthday. And living provinces away, I am not able to celebrate with him face to face. It is sometimes difficult being so far away from family. My dad has given me a love of reading, writing and nature throughout my life and for that I will always be grateful. He loves to write so I thought this year I would write him something as part of my gift. He battled cancer with strength and determination three years ago, it was a hard journey but he chose to journey on. So Happy Birthday to a wonderful dad!
With much love, your daughter. xxoo
When the path laid out before you bends and turns and twists…journey on.
When majestic trees stretch up to the sky, casting shadows down below…journey on.
When moss fallen logs and broken branches try to stop you in your tracks…journey on.
When feet begin to tire and you think it’s time to stop…journey on.
When the trail rises up and you climb and climb and climb…journey on.
When you stumble on the rocks and you feel yourself slow down…journey on.
When wind blows hard and rain beats down and almost knocks you over…journey on.
When the path of travel splits ahead and you have to make a choice…journey on.
When you meet the rushing river and need to cross the bridge…journey on.
And when you finally reach the end, stop and look around.
See where you have been, each step and struggle has made you who you are.
For each journey makes you stronger and gives you something new.
You look at things much differently than when you first began.
Took the risks, learned and grew on a journey made for you.
And in the end stand tall, be proud because you chose to journey on.
(April 12, 2018)
What was supposed to be the beginning of a wonderful weekend, ended up with a plot twist part way through. In the middle of the night my husband woke me with a start. He yelled for me saying something was wrong with him. My husband rarely gets ill. He looked absolutely ashen, I had never seen that colouring on him before. He was cold and clammy. All of a sudden he stumbled backwards and fell to the ground. I panicked and woke up my daughters. My first thought was a heart attack. Give my youngest credit as she had been watching some First Aid videos for school and immediately said we should give my husband an aspirin. She was much calmer in the situation that I was at the moment.
My husband assured us he did not think it was a heart attack. Still he was quite ill and I was quite worried. So I kept waking him frequently. Several hours later I began to feel ill myself. I figured it was maybe a delayed reaction from being stressed. But my stomach pains continued to get worse and worse. It quickly became evident that we both had food poisoning. A bad case of food poisoning. (Not that there’s actually a good case of it ever.)
Now having both of us so ill was not a good thing. Our daughters had not come out with us to eat the day before. They were spared this agony. My husband and I kept saying we were beyond thankful the girls were not sick and old enough to take care of themselves and the pets for the day. We were definitely not able to care for anyone, barely even ourselves. I think before any couple can get married they have to pass the “sick together” test. Because seeing each other in such a state definitely is a testament to true love. Forget the flowers and chocolate. True love means holding your loved one’s head over a porcelain bowl.
Laying in bed, barely able to form complete sentences, I felt guilty because my daughters were left by themselves for the day. I had a huge list of things to get and prepare for our Easter celebration the next day. As well, I was supposed to leave Sunday evening to enjoy a few days on a writing get away. These now seemed impossible. I tend to be a control freak so when things are out of control, it’s a bad feeling…a good lesson for me, but not a pleasant one.
At 5pm I started to wonder how they were doing. You see they were both a little squeamish to come near us in the state we were in. Yes, we were that scary. At one point I had laid my face down on the cool tiles in the bathroom and I could hear my husband call out from his bathroom, “Girls! Go check on your mom!” Apparently they played best out of five, “Paper, Rock, Scissors” and the loser had to check on me.
Then my youngest came into our room an hour later. “Don’t worry about making us supper cause I ordered in pizza. I also have a list of all the restaurants for Skip the Dishes in case you are sick tomorrow.” (Please note there were lots of groceries in our pantry for them to cook) I lifted my poor aching head off the pillow. “You ordered in supper?” At that moment I didn’t even want to think about food. “Yep! We also did the dishes and tidied up.”
Hmmmm. I was impressed, but mostly thankful. It’s at these moments as a parent where you see your children show their independence. Gone are the days of cutting up grapes and wiping down high chairs. They were able to phone in an order for pizza, provide proper instructions, give the correct money (they even used their own money) and included a tip.
Mind you, there are still many lessons to be learned. One such lesson was that every so often come and offer your ill parents water or a cool cloth. Also, if your parents are violently sick, maybe open the windows so the smell of popcorn you are making to watch a movie doesn’t waft upstairs to the bedroom making them more nauseous. And just because your parents are too incoherent to notice the time, don’t think you should stay up till midnight watching movies together. Mind you, it was sweet hearing their laughter downstairs while they enjoyed each other’s company.
So the next morning we still were quite ill. I woke to hearing my daughter on the phone to my mom giving her all the details. And I do mean ALL. She then said, “So now, Grandma, I guess we won’t get to go to church or get any Easter treats. But it’s ok. It was just a little sad looking on Instagram at my friends dressed up and having their Easter egg hunts.” Ugh! The guilt. But when I was up and a little more coherent I did assure my daughter that Easter would be coming to our house but a week later.
I made it to my hotel room Sunday night, barely functioning. I must have looked a mess when checking in. Not only was I still ill and not able to eat anything but I had broke my glasses a couple of days before and had not been able to take them to be fixed. Because I could not see to repair them (my eyesight is that bad) my daughter used a glue gun to mend them for me. A LARGE quantity of glue was used. Give her credit for resourcefulness. However, I was quite the sight for sore eyes. Why didn’t I just stay home, you ask? Because the reservation was not refundable. The time away was a lovely birthday gift from my parents and husband that I had not yet used and I could not see it go to waste. So I crawled into bed. A beautiful King sized bed all to myself and slept the entire night.
Today I woke up feeling a little better but definitely not a 100 percent. My husband took the day off work as he was still not fully functioning either. It was a weekend to remember and not one we will soon forget. But tomorrow is a new day and I am looking forward to curling up in my room and doing some writing on my novel. Easter celebrating will come when I get home. Any day is a good day to celebrate Easter and the risen Lord. And on the positive side…the Easter treats are now 50% off! There’s always something to be thankful for.
So may your week be filled with chocolate eggs and your heart with gratitude.
When I’m not an author, I’m an actor. My family would easily attest to that and my friends know I follow Shakespeare’s “all the world’s a stage” philosophy. I can bring the drama. (No comments needed.) My husband often says I don’t even need to speak a word as my emotions are in my facial expressions. So I always anticipate the moments when I am able to use my acting skills.
One of my dear friends asked me to come into her classroom and bring my dramatic abilities to help her share with her students the concept of European exploration and the impact of how it affected the Indigenous peoples in Canada. Hmmm…this sounded like a heavy topic. Was I able to accurately present this concept? My friend had a plan….
She set the stage. I was a French immersion teacher in a neighbouring school and the school was facing a renovation issue due to flooding. People in need of finding new space/land…sound familiar? So I came to her school wanting to share in her classroom space. A new land so to speak.
My friend introduced me and I entered the classroom with her students’ warm welcome. I thanked them for allowing me and my “class” to share their space. In fact, I brought their teacher flowers as a thank you. Their teacher gave me some cookies she baked in trade. Not beaded blankets or metal pots but a similar idea. Soon I displayed a feeling of entitlement. Then the fun began.
I noticed the native art on the walls. I stated that it looked “interesting” but did not fit with what my students were learning so I said it would need to be removed. The students were slightly surprised but were more than willing to have it taken down. One student even suggested we could put up something my students would prefer. I was surprised at how easy that was. Next, I moved to the back of the classroom by the coat hooks. I mentioned my students needed space so many of the students in the class would need to remove their bags/jackets to make room. When questioned by one girl as to what they should do with their belongings, I stated they could simply keep them by their desks and wear the coats all day because we needed the space. Ridiculous and simply bossy of me to suggest, but the students were quite agreeable to take their jackets and backpacks to their desks. Much more agreeable than I would have imagined. These were caring and giving kids! So far, not the reaction my teacher friend and I were expecting. I needed to “up” my acting game. And I was beginning to feel rather uncomfortable with how pushy and demanding I was towards such kind students.
I knew they recently had numerous students absent from school due to illness. I asked for those students to stand. Then I stated that it was important for my students to have space and not to be infected with germs. I asked all the students who had been ill to move to a corner of the classroom to make space for my students as I did not want them to become ill. Germs were to be avoided at all costs. (Which is rather ironic considering the small pox and other illnesses brought to North American soil by explorers and inhabitants.) I made the space quite small and I was pushy in my demands. Again, they were a little surprised, but being the kind hearted, respectful and generous students that they were, they moved.
How could I get a reaction? These were really sweet kids. They were willing to give and share more than I expected. In reality, their teacher and parents were doing a great job! What was their currency? What would cause them to hit that breaking point? Hmmm…I remembered when I first came into their class I asked them what they loved about their school. Hit them where it matters most, I thought. Phys.Ed. and recess!! I mentioned that they would need to cut their Phys. Ed. classes down by half so my students could take more classes as well as their recess times since there was not room for both groups on the playground at the same time. Well, that started the revolt! In fact, I went a step further and said that they would have to give their beloved floor hockey sticks to my students…but we would be willing to give them the broken sticks to use. That did it! Students started to protest and argue with what I was saying. In fact, when I moved their teacher’s belongings to another desk and said I would need to have her desk as well, I wasn’t sure I would make it out of the classroom in one piece. Very loyal students, they loved their teacher! The teacher intervened. She stated how I wasn’t actually a teacher from the school and was in fact an actor. They actually would not need to share their classroom with another class. No students or teacher would be “taking over” their classroom in such a way. I commended the students for being so accommodating and kind hearted. They also shared how frustrated and even angry they were for how I had made them feel.
This was a great catalyst for my teacher friend. She began the discussion with her students on how the indigenous peoples were impacted by European exploration. Even though what we presented was minute in comparison to how the impact was for the First Nations peoples, it gave the students real life comparison. They shared how mad they really were with what happened. How unfair it seemed with how they were treated. And keep in mind it was the same language we were speaking….no language barrier.
I guarantee you that it was a lesson that would stick with them for a while.
It was also a lesson for myself. My take away…this land does not belong to us. I am thankful for the land that I live on and recognize there are others’ steps that came before mine. Blood and tears have been shed over the land. It is a gift that we must share willingly.
It is up to us to make reconciliation. To understand what occurred before us and to make restitution. To live in peace and harmony and show a love that goes far beyond our selfish human nature. Our country was shaped by bravery, exploration and adventure but it was also shaped by heartbreak, injustice and sacrifice. Just like a Clint Eastwood film, in regards to the development and history of our Canada, it is crucial that we recognize the good, the bad and the ugly. Because if we do not acknowledge the full spectrum of development, we will not fully appreciate what came before us and live with a grateful heart for what we have now.
For it is not just the destination that we seek and set our sight, but the journey for in which the story unfolds.
Yesterday I left an acting audition in North Vancouver. It was a miserably dreary and rainy day coupled with a long drive from Abbotsford. I was tired and had a number of things on my mind. In my own little world, trying to think of what I needed to get done at home, things individual family members were counting on me for and various other miscellaneous items piling up. Normally I love February, but this year it has been a tough month for a couple of reasons. Just like everyone else. My mind felt muddled. All I wanted to do was get in my vehicle, crank the soundtrack that many of you have been listening to lately (The Greatest Showman) and sing my way back to Abbotsford. In the process of fumbling to get my keys out of my pocket and balance an umbrella, I dropped my phone. When I bent to pick it up, it was then I noticed a small clump of greenery beside the curb with the most brilliant purple. Crocus flowers were ready to bloom. There against the hard concrete was a small, but beautiful sign. Spring was coming. Hope. Soon more blooms would be bursting forth. I stopped to take in the small beauty, enjoy the moment and capture a couple of photos.
Today as I woke up to snow on the ground and gusting winds, it was disappointing to see. Winter has seemed rather long this year. Then I remembered the sign from yesterday, the little gift of a glimpse into what is coming. A crocus is a hardy plant. They have a waxy film on the cuticle that protects them from early spring or late winter frost. Persevering hardships of cold temperatures they are among the first signs of spring. So maybe your winter has seemed long. Maybe it has been a difficult season for you. Take hope, look for the signs, no matter how small. Spring is coming. Time for new growth and beauty. Are you looking for the signs?
May your day be filled with hope and your cup with coffee.
Countdown for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea is happening in our household. Ever since our daughters were itty bitty we would make watching the Olympics a family event. Kickoff was the Opening Ceremonies but preparation occurred much before that night. There are some great ways to incorporate learning, fun and family traditions into the Olympics. Throughout the article, I have included some links that you can use to jumpstart your Olympic celebrations at home.
Research the Host Country
Spend some time learning about where the Olympics will occur. Print out a flag, get books from the library and watch videos on YouTube about the host country’s culture, government and history. It gets a momentum going and can give insight and connections into events that occur during the ceremonies. Here are some helpful links:
Identify the different sports in the Winter Olympics. Choose some to watch that are family favourites and then choose one or two to learn about that are unfamiliar to your family. Look up some of the athletes that are competing before the ceremonies so you can look for them in the Parade of Nations. Here’s a link:
On the night of the Olympic Ceremonies, we enjoy cuisine that is from the host country. Now this may sound overly ambitious but it has become some of our most special family memories. Look up recipes and food that are part of the host country’s culture. Find some easy recipes and then maybe choose one that is a little more time consuming. We would make a list of the ingredients and go shopping together. No “Little Red Hen” happening in our house, everyone becomes part of the cooking process. When it was in Vancouver, BC we enjoyed maple glazed Salmon, poutine and Nanaimo bars. London celebrations began with tea and crumpets at a English tea room the afternoon of the ceremonies and then home to make Yorkshire pudding, bangers and mash and Toad in the Hole. Russia had us making beet borscht, piroshki and Bubba Romovaya cake.
So what are the recipes for this year? Now that the girls are older, they were responsible for planning the menu. Here are two of the web links that they found most user friendly and authentic.
Parade of Nations
Hanging a World map on the wall in our family room allowed us quick access to look up a country throughout the parade. As well, throughout the Olympic Games, it’s great to have a map for reference. Costco sells wall maps that are perfect for this purpose.
Recording the Results
We use a whiteboard to keep track of Canada’s medal wins as well as the top few countries. Every morning at breakfast we would do a quick medal count. It’s also a fun idea to do some predicting before the games commence as to the country that will get the most medals, number of gold/silver/bronze for your home country etc. Make it a fun family competition!
One of the special things about the Olympics I treasure is seeing countries come together. In this day when there is much hatred and darkness, it is a light to celebrate determination and perseverance of athletes and the hope brought forth by countries coming together.
Well I hope these few ideas and links will be of help for you in developing your own family traditions around the Olympics. Traditions are a great way to make family memories and it warms my heart that our daughters still look forward to these traditions even into their teen years. Hopefully they will continue to hold onto some of them as they have their own families and create new ones to pass down the torch of tradition as well.
So cheer hard and enjoy the games, my friends!
Let me know in the comments below if you found these ideas helpful.
May your day be filled with joy and your cup with coffee,