Categories
Books Grief Healing Self-improvement

Taking the Space You Need: Part 1

I started writing this blog post in July 2020 but never finished it. Here’s my attempt at finishing all the thoughts swirling around my head regarding this topic. And there’s so much to be said that I’m doing it in parts.

In case you’ve never read my writing before, I need to tell you some things. I’ve been on a beautiful and difficult self-love journey for the past six years. It all started with decluttering and recognizing that I don’t need to fill up my space, be it physical, social, emotional or spiritual. Filling up all the space was taking away MY space and I started to create boundaries in my life, as a result. Boy, was that hard for me for many reasons, but especially for someone who was a people pleaser! I’m a recovering people-pleaser now and I’ve found strength in knowing that the more I love myself, the less I seek external validation from others. But that is essentially why I have been a people-pleaser. I wanted to do and be enough for them. But it only filled me up short term. It was never enough. (Never, never…now you’re wishing you were watching The Greatest Showman, aren’t you?) I’ll write more about this at another time.

After my mom died unexpectedly in January 2018, my self-love journey was accelerated. I was dealt a hand that I did not expect nor want, but it was still my hand. So, I tried to give myself all the space I needed to feel, to remember the good and bad, to grieve and to heal. Some well- meaning people would try to tell me how to feel or how to ‘get over it’. But it’s not anyone else’s journey is it? No one grieves the same way, so why do we try and tell people to grieve like us? I can’t get over my grief, the gaping hole that was left in me when my mom died. I can’t get over it, but I can move forward with it. And I am. I feel I am honouring my beautiful mother by letting myself feel it all, give it space, deal with it and heal along the way.

I’ve come to realize that sometimes I don’t give my children space to feel all the things. Sometimes I don’t acknowledge their feelings as much as I should. I think as parents we all do it. We forget that our kids have big emotions and need help to process them. I had a session with my therapist (official title is a Child Life Specialist, but I unofficially declare her title as Healer.). Before this session, one of my kids was having big emotions because his sister was invited to go to a friend’s house, but he was not. I tried to console him. He wasn’t having it. I eventually tried to tell him he should be happy for his sister because she hasn’t had the opportunity to go to this friend’s house often. I was half tempted to arrange to have a playdate for him just so he wasn’t so sad and disappointed. I mentioned this incident to my therapist and she gave me some insights that really got me thinking. She said things like:

“It’s okay to let kids grieve the loss of not getting the toy or experience. As parents, it’s usually our first instinct to rescue our kids or logic/guilt them out of it.”

I had never considered that I was not letting my kids grieve over these (little to me) things. It’s big to them, and I should give them the space they need to feel those big emotions. No amount of reasoning, guilting or (gulp) even shaming them will change the fact that they need to process it. My therapist gave me prompts that I could use instead of what I was defaulting to. Prompts that would aid me in connecting with my children. I could approach conversations with my kids in a more validating and questioning way. For example:

“That is hard (or disappointing, sad etc.).”

“I wonder how you’ll manage that?”

“I wonder what would happen if…”

“I wonder why…”

I couldn’t resist adding a meme.

Coming alongside our children helps them navigate the feelings of disappointment, anger, frustration, sadness, all the way to the feelings associated with deep tragedy. Sometimes I project my own values, experiences, or desired end goals onto my kids. It can become too convenient to just tell my kids how they should feel, respond and behave. Sometimes I lean towards more of a dictatorship when it comes to parenting. When that happens, we all lose out on the questioning and learning process. My kids lose out in coming to their own conclusions. They lose out on learning that they are capable problem solvers.

I was raised in a time where you were sent to your room when if you cried, pitched a fit, questioned authority and the list goes on. I’m sure most of us were. As a result, I learned to bottle my feelings up and didn’t really know how to effectively let them out. I’ve had to learn that as an adult. It’s hard to break those deep-rooted habits and tendencies. I am working on recognizing that my thoughts and feelings are not wrong and neither are other peoples’. It’s okay to cry, feel it all and question things.

In 2019, one our of favourite families had invited us to celebrate the baptism of their daughter. We were all gussied up and ready to go. Miraculously, we even arrived early. The church parking lot was empty when we arrived and I was baffled. As it turned out, we were extremely early-a whole week early! Lachlan, 3 at the time, was so disappointed. He cried and cried and couldn’t understand why we didn’t get to go to the baptism. I love that he was disappointed because it showed that he cared about that family and the baptism. Now, I don’t remember the outcome of his big emotions, but I just remember thinking he was too stinking cute with his broken heart and bowtie. I just had to take a photo. I hope I gave him the space he needed to grieve that disappointment.

I had to document this. Hahah! Luckily there was someone nearby willing to take a photo. We obviously had a lot of space here.
I want to squeeze him.

I have another favourite family who is going through some unimaginable trials right now. Someone gifted them the book, “When Sadness Is At Your Door” by Eva Eland and they showed it to me. This book is beautiful and profound. It taught me some powerful insights in such a simple way. The illustrations are beautiful, too. I immediately bought a copy. If you are looking to add to your library, you won’t regret it.

There’s not a lot of text, so I’d like to share it with you. (The illustrations add SO much, but I know if I wait to take photos of the book, this post may never be published. Haha!)

“Sometimes Sadness arrives unexpectedly.

It follows you around…

…and sits so close to you, you can hardly breathe.

You can try to hide it,

But it feels like you’ve become Sadness yourself.

Try not to be afraid of Sadness. Give it a name.

Listen to it. Ask where it comes from and what it needs. If you don’t understand each other, just sit still together and be quiet for a while.

Find something that you both enjoy, like drawing…

Listening to music or drinking hot chocolate.

Maybe Sadness doesn’t like to stay inside. Try letting it out sometimes.

Go for a walk through the trees. You can listen to their sounds together.

Maybe all it wants to know is that it is welcome.

And to sleep, knowing it is not alone.

When you wake up, it might be gone.

Don’t worry-today is a new day.”

I cried the first time I read this book. It really touched me.

Did this book make you feel things? I gets me good every time. And it never gets old. (But this pandemic is getting old. And so am I. I have an abundance of silver hairs to prove it. And I refuse to dye my hair at this point. I feel like I’ve earned every silver strand and I am proud of it.)

I made this post on social media in January 2021 and feel that this further illustrates the power of “I wonder”:

“Recently, I was saying a family prayer and I asked for our hearts to become softer. And as I said that, the word ‘gentle’ came to mind. So, I prayed for that, too. Instantly, I pictured baby Max, my nephew who was born last year. (He is perfection and we are all obsessed. Instead of playing, my kids would rather take turns holding and reading to him. It’s the sweetest.)

As I pictured baby Max, I also pictured my kids holding him, loving on him and being so sweet, soft and gentle. And I had some questions come to mind. After the prayer, I asked my kids, “Would any of us raise our voice at Max? Would we ever be physically rough with him? Would we try to hurt him with our words or actions?” The answer was unanimous. NO!!! We wouldn’t. We couldn’t imagine being like that to him or any other baby!!!

My next question was, “I wonder what would happen if we were as gentle with each other as we are with Max?” It really made us all think about it. My mind didn’t stop there and another question came to me. “I wonder what would happen if we were more gentle with ourselves?”

Last year was the first time I felt impressed with a “word”. It was reset. And it was exactly what I needed. And for this year, I can’t even tell you how much I needed this specific divine guidance to have gentle as my word. It’s like God knows exactly what Jacquie Fleming needs. Weird how that works. I know being gentler will make a huge difference, especially coming from the year we just said goodbye to. I’m a lot of things, but I don’t think gentle is one of them. Here we goooooo!!!

P.S. Do you have words or themes for the year? If so, I’d love to hear yours.”

I have a lot of gratitude in my heart for all the nuggets I’ve been learning along the way. And I hope my life will continue to be filled with all kinds of wonder and expansion. I’m grateful for the ability to learn and grow and change. I am especially grateful for those people who I learn from and grow with. Sometimes I’m a bit of a slow learner, and I keep making the same mistakes repeatedly. I get frustrated with myself and I’m so grateful for a family that forgives me repeatedly. I’m grateful I’m getting better at forgiving and being gentler with myself and others. I’m grateful that I’m finally recognizing what I need and figuring out that I’m important too. I’m starting to take up all the space I need. I’m worth the investment. And so are you!!!! And I can’t leave off how eternally grateful I am for a God who gives me second, third, fourth, fifth and thousandth chances. He encourages us take all the space we need.

Categories
Mindset Self-improvement Teaching

It’s Okay to Change Your Mind

We all tend to have strong beliefs, notions or opinions about things. Or even people. But sometimes we change our minds. It might be due to maturation and life experiences, our quest for learning and healing, the season we are in, just because it’s the right thing to do/divine inspiration. Sometimes I feel almost hypocritical when I change my mind. I shouldn’t feel that way, though, because life is fluid and always changing. Life gives us so many opportunities to learn and grow. Doesn’t it make sense that we are fluid and always learning, growing and changing, too? If we stay stagnant, that’s on us. I think it makes sense, but why does it sometimes feel like I’m eating crow if I change my mind?I will say this again for whoever needs to hear it: it’s okay to change your mind. (Me. It’s me who needed to hear it.)

*Edit: Oopsie daisy!!! I forgot that I wrote this previously and didn’t end up including it in yesterday’s blog post. I feel I needed to share this, too. Especially since it references Julia Roberts. Haha!

My kids were building with wooden blocks one day. Bennett told Evie he was building something and then he changed his mind once the finished product looked like something else. Evie thought he lied because he didn’t do what he said he would. It was a good opportunity to talk about how changing your mind isn’t the same as lying.

I have sometimes wondered if I am a hypocrite because I have felt strongly about some things in the past and no longer feel that same way now. Does that make me a hypocrite? No! What it makes me is human. (But I am obviously a hypocrite sometimes.) We are fluid, always changing. Well, hopefully we achieve balance in how we change and who we allow to influence us to make changes. We don’t want to be like Julia Robert’s character on Runaway Bride. Remember how she always changed what her favourite eggs were based on who she was dating? She didn’t know for herself, so she changed her preference to her newest fiancé’s preference.

I LOVED this movie!!!!

I would like to share a few examples of my mind-changing ways.

I remember when I once thought boys had cooties and were gross. I also thought mushrooms and tomatoes were ‘bisgusting’, as my kids used to say. I have changed my mind since then, on all fronts. I married Keegan, and he does not have cooties, and is the farthest thing from gross. I am drooling thinking about a tender steak with sauteed mushrooms, and a perfectly toasted BLT.

I can recall countless stories of people from my church sharing the same story; boy meets girl, boy takes girl on a few dates, boy and girl get engaged. (Side example: I used to think the traditional-style of boy proposing to girl was the thing to do. Who is to say that is the only way? As the morbid idiom goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. My kids will tell you all about how it’s perfectly normal for men or women to propose.) To be honest, I was a bit judgey about the whole super short courtship and engagement trend. Well, I ate a big ol’ slice of humble pie because I knew I loved Keegan before we even started dating. It wasn’t puppy love, either. Or lust. Don’t get me wrong, there were lustful feelings, but the love was real and right. But because of my strong beliefs, okay…judgements, I didn’t want a short courtship. We dated for about 10 months by the time we were married. (In the culture I grew up in, that is a long time. Haha!) In humbled hindsight, I truly wish we would’ve just got married quickly and not drawn it all out. I’m really sorry if you felt judged by me. I was a real cotton-headed ninny muggins, and I am so glad I changed my mind about it now. No judgement coming from me. I now understand how you could love someone in such a short time. When it’s right, it’s right, especially when God is involved in the process.

Our wedding invitation. Looking at this photo evokes so many emotions and memories! Keegan and I craved each other and could not wait to be married! We couldn’t wait for the day we could just say goodnight and not have to say goodbye at the end of the night. Also, yes. You see correctly. Our colours were pink, brown and cream. Sepia photos were all the rage.

Traditions. When I think of that word, I immediately hear Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof belting out the song, “Tradition!” Sometimes we automatically do things because of the deep-rooted tradition of it all. It’s okay to change your mind on these things, too. I just spoke with a friend who broke tradition this year and ordered Chinese food for their Canadian Thanksgiving. Lightning didn’t strike with the lack of turkey, stuffing and all the fixings. Everyone loved it!!! In fact, my friend told me this is going to be their new tradition! My husband and I have only made one turkey dinner in our 14 years of marriage. I was dog-tired (a little foreshadowing for you) after the preparation, cooking, hosting and cleaning. Even though we loved gathering family together, it was exhausting. I have a new appreciation for all the effort and work that goes into it. And I think if I was in charge of Thanksgiving dinner every year, I’d opt for Chinese food, too. Genius idea, really. As long as there was still pie involved.

When Keegan and I were pregnant with our first full-term pregnancy, we went to a prenatal class. Co-sleeping was discouraged, so we decided against it. We both planned to have our baby girl sleep in her own room, in her own crib. That sure didn’t happen with her. Or for baby number 2 or 3. We became co-sleepers, and we (mostly) loved it! I breastfed and it was more convenient to have the baby with me in bed. That helped me get more sleep. One time, Evie had a fever seizure in our bed. It was so scary. Everything was fine after, but we were so grateful we were with her. Co-sleeping helped both me and Keegan with having a peace of mind. (If he wasn’t on board, we wouldn’t have been co-sleepers.) We had lots of quality time and so many tender moments together as a family as a result, and I will never regret that. I know co-sleeping is not for everyone, but it worked for us. I’m so grateful we changed our minds.

When Bennett was born, Evie would sleep on a mattress beside our bed. When Lachlan was born, Evie and Bennett would sleep together in Evie’s room. Then we moved into our new house and this happened. Hahah! Eventually we had a “kid bed” where all three kids would sleep in Evie’s room. Now, each child sleeps in their own room, but occasionally we still get nighttime visitors.

When we first meet someone, I think it’s natural to draw conclusions about him or her. In general, I tend to get positive first impressions of people. Sometimes, however, I have been ‘rubbed the wrong way’. It makes me so happy when I meet that same person later on, and changes are made to that first impression! What often helps instigate change in this situation is putting in the time. Everyone has a story and sometimes the chapters in their story have made them build up walls. Putting in time, helps you see through the chinks, and you get a glimpse of who they really are! I’m sure I have rubbed people wrong. I use humour as a defense mechanism, I’m a silence-filler and I’m sure I’m too ‘big’ for some people upon the first time meeting me. Insert awkward laugh. I’m a recovering people pleaser and it hurts when people don’t like me at first. I should carry around a business card that says something like, “Give me another chance. I’ll grow on you like fungus.”


In our little family, we do not own any video game consoles. Our kids do not play video games at home, but they do enjoy playing at other people’s houses. We don’t give our kids much screen time, either. Will it always be this way? I hope so, but at some point, we may have to reevaluate our kids’ ages, stages and interests. We might change our mind. And if we do, that’s okay.

I have two very recent mind-changing experiences. One is in regards to homeschooling, and the other is having a pet. For the record, I NEVER wanted to homeschool my kids. And I NEVER wanted to own a dog post-kids.

I love learning. I love teaching. I love connecting with people. I love kids. I love creating. I always have, and I suspect I always will. It seemed only natural that I would become a certified teacher. I loved the class setting. I loved all my students and busted my butt to help them feel safe and welcome, to learn, grow, believe in themselves, and to take risks. I loved going to school as a student, and I continued to love it as a teacher. I kind of expected people to feel the same way about school. Naive, I know.
When I was a teacher, but before I had kids, I had some (uninformed) opinions about homeschooling. I thought homeschooling was odd. I just didn’t get it. I loved school so much and had a positive experience, that I assumed most parents would want their kids in public school. Confession: I may have even generalized homeschooled kids as being socially awkward and a bit on the weird side. I had heard other people talk like that, too, and had met a few odd ducks who fit that mold. In other words, I had no real data to back it up, but I generalized. After I had kids, I was humbled. I changed my tune and realized that parents have insights into their children that no one else does, and that fuels their decisions to make. I still didn’t get the whole homeschool thing, but I got the whole parents-know-best thing. And I respected that. Did it mean that I ever wanted to homeschool my kids? That’s a negatory, my good buddy! Negatory with a capital N!

My kids love school. Covid school was hard on them. And on me. As soon as it was announced this summer that school was back on, the kids couldn’t wait to go school supply shopping! They were thrilled to be going back to school! They had amazing teachers who I trusted and respected. We went school supply shopping as soon as our local pharmacy was fully stocked up. The kids were so excited, that they labelled everything and put it all in their backpacks. Even their Kleenex boxes. And to be honest, I was thrilled that I was going to have two mornings a week to myself. Even though I had mixed emotions that my baby would be in preschool, his excitement trumped my mourning.

They would’ve slept with their school supplies if I let them.

So, imagine my surprise when mid-August, I felt a Divine Nudge to homeschool for the 2020/21 school year. Say what???? Why? Who, what, where, when, why and HOW? I had the skills and I didn’t work outside of the home, but did I have the patience? What about the alone time I was supposed to get because I had paid my dues? I had a taste of Covid school for over 3 months and didn’t want to do that again. No sir! Keegan, had mentioned homeschooling years ago, but I shut that down real quick. I didn’t want to. And I trusted our school division, and the terrific staff at our schools! I wanted to shut this prompting down real quick, too. I battled it for a bit, but between talking to God and my husband, I realized I could do it. With God, all things are possible. And I realized homeschooling wouldn’t be like Covid school. Even though I felt peace with this decision, I still had a million questions. Through talking with friends and family, I felt a surge of courage and support. I could do this. We could do this. And the kids will thrive! Did I feel judged? Yep. Did I have bouts of insecurity? Yep. Do my kids mainly play with each other? Indeed, but we make sure to socialize with other families! Do I get lots of time by myself? Nope, but we are finding our groove and I am finding ways to get what I need.

Class picture!

Homeschooling is not without its challenges, but the kids and I are loving it. There is so much to say about all of the positives we are seeing. And I need to say something to all the homeschool moms out there that I never ‘got’: we are only a month and a half in, and I’m just a newbie, but I am starting to get it now. I don’t know what the next year will look like, but for this year, I am all in. Thank you to all the homeschool pioneers who were so brave to do something with very little resources available and/or support from the public. Thank you for paving the way! I know that it was not without sacrifice. Also, I am sorry for being close-minded about it before. I feel like you are Sam I Am, homeschool is green eggs and ham and I am the grumpy close-minded dude refusing to try it. He finally got a taste and so did I! We both like the green eggs and ham!

I will share more about our homeschool adventure on another blog post. Stay tuned!


Man’s best friend. We consistently had a dog in my growing up years and I’ll never forget them, or their names: Muffy, Binky, Lassie and Shelby. I adored each and every one! (We had cats, too, but this isn’t about them, regardless of what they think. Haha!) I was what you’d call a ‘pet person’ when I was younger. As an adult, though, I just didn’t want to be a pet owner. Keegan felt the same way. We knew it was a big responsibility and didn’t want that on top of our other responsibilities (work, community, church callings etc.). And we didn’t think it was fair to be away all day long. Then we had kids, and definitely did not want a pet. Keeping humans alive and happy was enough for us! Plus, we didn’t want the mess. Having a pet, other than a fish (and even then, no thanks), was not in the cards.

Me with Binky (AKA Richard Gere eyes) and her puppies.


While the kids were trick-or-treating last year (2019), I got the strongest impression that our family was supposed to get a puppy. I immediately told Keegan. He had a look of shock on his face, and then told me he had the exact same thought at the exact same time. Insert awkward laugh and shifty eyes here. Did I mention that our daughter has a phobia of dogs? We have been taking her to our doctor of natural medicine, as well as for talk therapy, and there is progress, but it still is a very real issue. We did not want a puppy, but that prompting was one we couldn’t ignore.
Within a few months of that prompting, our kids met and fell in love with their cousins’ puppy. Then a few months after that, they fell in love with one of our dearest friend’s puppy. Our kids started asking if we could get a puppy. The phobia was still there for Evie, but we were thrilled with the baby steps made. The prompting from Halloween night was definitely still on our minds, but we weren’t ready to take action. In April of 2020, that prompting came again, so we took action. (I don’t even know who I am anymore.)We got on a waiting list to get a female poodle!!! Once our puppy was born, we let the cat out of the bag. The kids were thrilled when we finally told them! And we decided to name our puppy Libby, which was going to be Lachlan’s name if he was a girl.


Fast forward to October 2020. We picked our Libby girl up!!! (Check out our breeder, Justine, if you’re in the market for a poodle! She’s wonderful.) Libby was so darn cute, calm and snuggly! We were so excited to have her join our family! The honeymoon phase abruptly ended though. Evie’s phobia was wreaking havoc on her. Bennett was having allergic reactions to a “hypoallergenic” dog. Lachlan was scared of her, too, and I had often had to carry him around so she couldn’t get him. Libby was so hyper and bitey and unpredictable. I couldn’t turn my back without her peeing and pooping somewhere in the house. She was a stage five clinger with me, which is equal parts adorable and annoying. She was up throughout the night and whimpered and barked all night, despite the fact her kennel is in our room. I felt like I had a newborn baby again. The only difference is that my nipples weren’t hurting. Haha! I expected things to be challenging with a puppy, but I was not expecting all of this. It gets better every day, but oh my goodness!!!! It feels like life will never be the same again. And there are so many resources out there on how to train your puppy, that it has made me question myself at every turn. That’s overwhelming, too. I ended up reaching out to Evelyn with Perfect Pooches for some in-home puppy training. Evelyn is amazing, and just what we needed. We are glad we changed our minds on the whole pet thing. We don’t regret getting our Libby Lou and we love her so much already. (That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally dream of our pre-puppy life.)

Mary had a little lamb…I get such a kick out of this picture!

Libby is seriously adorable.

Pardon my short story long. I just had so much to say on this whole mind-changing business. If you read this far, congratulations!!! You win something! You win this reminder: it’s okay to change your mind.