All posts by karen salcedo

What I found today in my Christmas Decorations

For almost 30 years I have put out the same decorations. Some of them have changed over the years but some remain from my first Christmas as a young wife and mother. Others have slowly made their way into my life on different occasions, my second marriage and the arrival of my daughter, but many are from those early days.  As I am placing them around my home today I realize that there are not very many of them that I would buy again, my style has changed quite a bit from the time I was 20. So why in the world are they still decorating my home?

My very first tree as a divorced single mom was made up of bows, there was not enough money to actually buy decorations…dollar stores didn’t exist 🙂 But I did have enough to buy 4 kinds of ribbon and pipe cleaners and I made about 50 bows to go onto our tree in our little one bedroom basement apartment in Toronto. It was small, my son and I shared the same room, but it was my first step at independence and that apartment was full of love and friendship. I don’t have the pull out blue foam couch from Ikea, the two twin beds that we slept in are long gone, but the Santa wreath that broke the bank still hangs on my door every year.

The musical lights I bought for that very first tree, just bit the dust this year!!

My son’s  stocking, that was a gift when he was born, still hangs on my fireplace waiting for Santa. We couldn’t afford an angel so a beautiful metal star topped our tree, that star is now a decoration in our home. Tonight we will decorate the tree and his Aladdin ornament will grace the tree as it has for 25 years.

For 8 years it was him and me against the world and when I pull out those Christmas decorations I am transported to that first apartment and the little hands that used to help me put up the tree and decorate the house.

Over those 8 years, we moved quite a bit after leaving that first basement apartment, but those decorations followed us, and if the place never felt like home, it soon did as soon as we put up those decorations.  I was able to finally afford an angel and I started to buy ornaments, slowly the bows started to disappear. My fingers were grateful, twisting those pipe cleaners on to the tree, could be a bloody mess, literally!!

By the time my husband moved into our home I had a pretty significant collection of decorations, he brought some with him and we started to collect a few of our own. A new angel, one that matched the decor better. A musical merry go round, that broke the first year we put it out 16 years ago, if you hold your tongue just right you can still get it to turn and play music. Yet we still box it up that broken merry go round every year and bring it out with all of the decorations. Why? If it was anything else it would have been thrown out, but oddly we keep that beautiful broken Christmas decoration. Could we afford a new one now? Sure. But we can’t buy the memories.

We will put out ornaments on the tree that we purchased together over the years and we will have those memories added to the tree. The bulk of the decorations were bought for our first home, I haven’t really added much more. Those decorations are all the memories of us starting our new life together. My son and I finding space to welcome my husband into our already set traditions. Transitional years, for sure, but once again happy memories of a home filled with friends, family, joy, and laughter.

I was blessed 13 years ago to have another child and I will admit that not many new decorations have entered the house since she was born. There is her very special stocking, a new Nativity and crafts that she made and ornaments that were purchased for her. She entered a world of traditions already set, much like her father did.  I watched her set up the Manger and some of the decorations around the house and as she placed her stocking in the center of the bunch, I realized how important all of these decorations were to her. She helped me unpack pausing intermittently reflecting on her   own memories of everything that she touched. The beaded garland that is 30 years old, bought for that very first tree, but that she has played with every year since she could walk, she has infused with her own special Christmas memories.

I guess I am the lucky one, I get to touch and feel that garland and I can have the memories of both of my children playing with it, as they would precious  jewels and the memories of trying to put it on the tree by myself and the memories of the frustrations of husband and wife putting the dam garland on the tree!!! It is amazing what one touch of beaded garland can do!!

Then there is the Christmas village. I never wanted a Christmas village.  My mother started making a village later in life once all of her kids were grown and out of the house. After she passed away I was asked if I wanted it, I didn’t. It didn’t hold any childhood memories, but I took it anyway because it had memories for my children of their gramma. Sooooo, the village goes up, not because I love it, but because I love how it makes my kids feel and hell, I miss her!!

As I begin to put the empty boxes back into the basement I realize these decorations that have been around for years have created completely different memories in the hands of everyone who has touched them. I will never have the perfectly decorated Christmas home, some of the decorations are full on tacky!! But every single one has a memory, and fills my heart and my family’s heart with joy!!

My wish is that you find joy in the simplest ways. I know it is isn’t always easy, but if you look hard enough it is there.

 

In love light and laughter

Karen

What does it mean to be Canadian?

My life has been full of very rich opportunities to be completely immersed into the cultures and faiths of many different people. I have married twice outside of my cultural background. My life is richer because of these experiences and in many ways, I approach life from a different perspective because of these experiences.

As we all do, we approach life from our own lens.

In more recent moments of my life, this question of what it means to be Canadian has been posed in front of me and around me in many different ways. Sometimes I am left mouth wide open at what people feel is what it means to be Canadian, sometimes it has created heated discussions and sometimes I just walk away from a conversation with my heart a little bit crushed at what some people have defined as being Canadian.

So I began to wonder what does it mean to be Canadian, so I figured, why not think out loud?

Is being Vegetarian being Canadian? Is being a carnivore, being a Canadian? Is smoking being a Canadian? Is not smoking being a Canadian? Is drinking alcohol being a Canadian? Is not drinking alcohol being a Canadian? Is being Christian being a Canadian? Is being Muslim being a Canadian? Is being Jewish being a Canadian? Does the colour of our skin define us as being Canadian? Is being Gay being a Canadian? Is being heterosexual being a Canadian?

If none of those is the answer, then what is?

Here is my very simple conclusion.

RESPECT

Respect for the individual to honour their own lives and their own beliefs, to live in a Country where we respect the diversity of cultures and religions so that we all can grow and become better human beings because we were given the opportunity to know something different than what we had been taught in our core families.

I truly believe that we have been blessed that we live in a country that is not unilaterally one culture and one religion if for no other reason than the depth of life experience we get to enjoy without ever leaving our borders.

At any given moment I can have a conversation with someone from a multitude of religions and find out why they believe what they believe. Is it a belief formed of habit or have they come to this on their own? How do they spend their time honouring their beliefs, I love to know this about Atheists as well, how they came to the place of not believing in a God. I get to learn, I get to ask and I get to grow. Sometimes I ponder at how fascinating this is because it is not the norm in many different countries, but here we have a core tenet of respect. Respect of beliefs without the expectation of change.

Sure there are Canadian laws, of which most think are too many. However, even hard core Canadian criminals likely won’t run a red light on a deserted street at 3 am in the morning. It seems that most of us find comfort in our laws, in many ways they define us.

Around the world, we are known as polite and law abiding.

When people from other cultures arrive here, they are astounded by the number of laws we have, in most of the rest of the world, you are on your own. Helmets? Seat belts? Life is about personal responsibility if you die that is on you!! So I guess that is a bit of a mandate to become Canadian. Respect for each other and respect for the laws of the land.

I am probably about 6th generation Canadian, (I know if a couple of my cousins are reading this I might have to update that sentence) and my mother’s idea of being Canadian was respect mixed with amazing hospitality. If you were a guest in her home, she provided you with the best experience she possibly could provide. If my husband was in earshot of visiting her, deviled eggs would be on the menu. My best friend liked very few foods, as a child, but my mother would cook her up the exact meal that she loved because hospitality and making your guests feel welcomed and respected for who they are was of the utmost importance.

My mother knew very few people from other cultures and religions, her brother- in- law was Muslim and she had some son-in-laws from other cultures. However, I don’t think that she ever had an entire Muslim or Jewish family visit, but if she had, she would have gone out of her way to do everything she could to respect them, their culture and religion because to her, being a host was to provide your guest with a meaningful, memorable and respectful visit.

That, in my opinion, is what it means to be Canadian, to respect and honour the beliefs and the needs of your neighbours. Will they be different from yours? For your sake and mine….Let’s Hope!!

Personally I think if you truly want to be Canadian, you might just give up your knife and fork for a night and break bread on the floor with your neighbours, if that is what they do, take the time to step away from your own customs and traditions and experience a whole new way of living.  

My joy as a parent is that my children, who are both first generation Canadians on their father’s side, are being raised in a country where we respect the diversity of cultures and we honour the practices of all religions, not just our own. My hope is that it is something so deeply ingrained in who they are that they will never question the difference but only ask questions to gain knowledge and have a deeper understanding of their neighbour.

When we can all get to that place, then we are Canadian.

In love, light and laughter

Karen

As always this is my soap box and my opinion. 

What is yours? If you could define what it means to be Canadian in one word or concept, what would it be?

The Fattest Kid in School

A friend of mine posted this meme on her Facebook page and it inspired me to tell a snippet of my story.

When was the first time someone told me I was fat?

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Grade one the boys in the class decided to have a competition about who was the fattest in the class, me or the biggest boy in the class.

It was girls against boys. There were more boys in the class than girls.  … guess who was the crowning champion of being the fattest ?

… You guessed it!!  

Me.

Sometimes I will still cry for that little girl, but as I am approaching 50 I no longer feel the utter pain that she felt.

For my entire life…. I was the fattest kid in school.

Whether it was true or not; whether others thought it or not; whether that day was never remembered by any other kid … but for me, from that day on I BELIEVED I was the fattest kid in school.

Until recently, no matter what room I entered I would look to see if I was the fattest. If I was I could barely cope, could barely talk to anyone, BUT if one more person in the room was bigger than me I could breathe and not have the internal panic attack and want to leave.

In my last year of Elementary school, I was crowned the Snowflake Princess. When I look back on it now, though I may have given the best speech and sang the best song. I think the adults felt that a bit of pity on the fat kid might be a good idea. Well, lovely intentions, but the name I received in town was Snowbank princess….and it stuck!!  

There were many other moments, but those 2 stuck and they bore holes into my soul.

They created my belief system about myself. No matter how much I did no matter what I accomplished I was always going to be the fattest kid in school. As I grew up, I took that to fully believe that I was going to be the fattest in any group I was in.

As I sit here as an almost 50 year old woman, I realise that it such a crazy perspective to see your entire life from. EVERY accomplishment, Every great thing I have ever done was overshadowed by what I thought of my body. Chances that I didn’t take because I was the fattest kid in school. Relationships I wouldn’t fall into because, no one could possibly love the fattest kid in school.

The copious amounts of money I spent to lose weight, the years I spent as a closet bulimic, all because my point of view was that I was absolutely ginormous!!

middle

Well guess what, here is the rub, I wasn’t…. I wasn’t ginormous. Sure I was bigger than some of my counter parts, but not by much.

 

I look at pictures of me in my 20’s and 30’s and I cry, because the girl in those pictures, tho not a Budweiser model was by no means as big as I saw myself in my head.

 

The irony is, that the size I am now, which is the largest I have ever been, is the size I saw myself my entire adult life. See manifestation really does work!! This body….where I am now….. not the perfect size 5 I had attempted to get to my entire life…….

THIS body and I are finally at peace.

I have finally come to a place of actually loving my body. Every. Single. Piece.  

It has taken some real concentrated effort on my part to get here, inspiring courses, great coaches, meditation and most importantly a desire for my beliefs to be different!!

Guess what happens when you love your body, you feed it fresh, live food and let it enjoy little treats now and then. When you love your body you move it and exercise it because that is what it wants, not because some fitness magazine told you to. When you love your body you sit with it in meditation and ask for its opinion. When you love your body you head outside and let it meet all the trees and enjoy the sunrise and the sunsets. When you love your body, if you have done all of these great things for it and loved it up, without opinion it will land exactly where it is meant to be. Not where someone else is, but uniquely and beautifully exactly the shape and size it wants to be.

For me and my journey, loving my body lead me right to something called NIA, it is a way of moving that helps me to sink deep into my own self and be in love with who I am. The energy, emotion and movement that I get from my Nia practice is unlike anything I have ever done. So much so I started teaching. My desire, is to help and guide people into this amazing loving journey with their bodies, a journey that allows peace, a journey that gives space for self talk other than how the body looks. I am blessed already to begin to see the changes in the mindset of some of the women who have come to my classes.

As I round up to my number 50 year, here is my little piece of wisdom that I truly wish that my 20 and 30 year old self knew. And maybe some current 20 and 30 year olds or anyone for that matter who is still in a hate relationship with the amazing vessel you have been given to walk this earth on for an extended time.

Here it is…..STOP!!

I know sounds too simple, but it is not.

Just stop hating whatever it is you think is wrong with you, making that choice to stop the hatred towards yourself is the biggest and most important step. Find the tools to help, not the tools to help you lose weight, but the tools to help you live and love your body…it is a better tool box.

Learn to love every movement it makes, love every morsel you feed it, I promise there will be so much peace on the other side, you may just wear horizontal stripes or polka dots and love yourself in them!!

And please know this, if you don’t get the job because of your size, it isn’t the right job, if you don’t get the guy or girl  because of your size, they are not the right person. If you don’t go after your greatest desire because of your size, you will slowly kill the spark and greatness that you were meant to share, the world is waiting for your unique you!!

It is the biggest cliche out there, but life is short!! It is way too short to spend your entire life hating the body of the person you are destined to be with everyday of your life.

In love light and laughter

Karen

 

P.S. Please don’t take this post, to assume that I think I am done!! Hell no!!

But with concentrated effort every day I am at a better place than I was yesterday.

 

Life as a white mom of a Black child

My view from here..atop my soap box!!

Nope he is not adopted, but his skin colour to the rest of the world is that of a black man. He doesn’t look mixed, especially to white people. I think that universally the comment we get the most is “YOU are his mom?” Yes I am and proud to be. To be his mom is the greatest joy ever, my heart broke open to a love I never knew existed until he was born.  On the journey to being his mother, I will tell you that I was called “Nigger Lover” to my face more often than I care to ever put a voice to.

I have lived my adult life as a witness to a child that was not offered the same life as me. I have witnessed my son be treated better once the “white mom” enters the scene. I have held him through tears of jokes kids brought to school, by kids who thought they were being funny. I have had conversations with too many principals on why their teachers and the students have no right to speak to him and treat him the way they do. I had to clarify that the word “Nigger” used for “fun” is not appropriate, anywhere, but especially a school environment.  I have witnessed him being pulled over for doing nothing, as I drove in front of him on the same road.

If you think this doesn’t shape how he sees the world, you are wrong. If you think he hasn’t constantly felt he had to prove the value of his existence to society, you are wrong. He is very aware that I live and am afforded a different life than he.  And now during a racial uprising, he gets bombarded with people saying I didn’t know racism still exists, well that statement alone slaps the face of any person who is not white who has had to endure systemic racism for years. Instead of assuming through your eyes that it does not exist, why not ask someone of another race with a skin colour different from white if racism still exists. I will guarantee you your perspective will change.

Sadly, over the years. I have witnessed, first hand, many times when black mothers have tried to speak out for their children, it is generally a harder fight. But for me, the white momma, things get done. The irony is, my son’s DNA is 50% white, but he will NEVER be afforded white privilege. You might want to read that sentence again!!

The hardest part of me watching the news, when racially motivated events happen, is the surprise of my white counterparts. All of these well-meaning white people are surprised that somehow racism still exists, and I am here to tell you, you may be a large part of the problem that it still does, as am I.

You see the white people who are racist know it exists, and they have convinced themselves that you are too.  Here’s why. The racists are the ones who tell the Paki and Nigger jokes, but you are the one who laughs nervously, and think it isn’t a big deal, just a joke right!! Well, guess what, your kid who heard that joke, told that joke to my nigger kid the next day!! They don’t see a problem with it because you didn’t say to the guy at the backyard bar b que, that is inappropriate, please don’t tell those jokes.

When we as white people don’t stop the small indiscretions of our friends and family members, then we give fuel to the racists. That is what they want and that is their hope. For anyone who does not see White Nationalist/ Supremacist groups as the EXACT same thing as Islamic Extremists, then you have your head under a rock and you need to lift off the rock!! White Nationalists are “recruiting” and rallying at an alarming rate once again.

Why?

Because all of us well-meaning white people thought that racism didn’t exist anymore. So we fell asleep, well meaning, loving people…but we fell asleep!! I implore you to wake up, take off the blinders and take action against the small indiscretions that happen in your life every day.

Because guess what? White people are the only people who can stop White Nationalism, White Supremacy, KKK….we are it!!! It is up to us, yes I am talking to you!!

I have always believed that understanding view points is important, but we are at a time of action. I don’t really know what that action is for you, but you will.

Hatred is NOT ok!! If you see it speak against it!!

If marching in a rally isn’t your thing, then maybe stopping the jokes at work or maybe unfriending your bigoted friends, making sure they know why you made the choice.

Hell, ask someone who is not white about their journey, that alone may change how you view the world.

What I know for sure is that we were not born to hate….. it is taught!!

We also need to be taught to speak against it, I know it is hard. We could risk friendships, or family relationships. But it is my belief that If we come at the discussion from a place of love we will have much more success than if we attempt to fight hate with hate!!

I hope that you can find it in your soul to step out of your comfort zone, we are all needed!!

In love light and laughter

Karen

 

Happy Anniversary

 

We have now been married for 16 years, we did take a 3 year hiatus, but we never stopped living together. So I have decided that for 3 years of our marriage we lived in an open relationship. In reality that is what we did.

My husband is likely one of the most gentle spirits on the planet, he came into my life when I was the single parent of a amazing 9 year old boy. From the very beginning, he loved him like a parent, the words step son rarely came from his mouth, he was always just “my son.” We may parent very differently, but we share the load and lead with love.

Parenting is not the only thing we do differently, my husband and I are complete polar opposites. To give you an idea, his retirement plans is a gated community in Florida spending his days playing tennis and golf. Mine is to live in different huts all over South America studying culture and helping in impoverished communities.

Our life has been this way from day one, if you see the Yin and Yang symbol this is us. Which makes this marriage not only the most challenging relationship but also the most rewarding.

So besides retirement here is where we differ, just to name a few.

Stature ….he is small I am large

Voice…I am loud he is quiet

Sports….Him is doubles Tennis and every team sport he could play as often as he can, me is running, biking, yoga, Nia any solitary sport I could play

Socially…he loves to have people around, I love to be alone

Books….I read constantly, usually non-fiction…him..a book?

Nature….I would live outside if I could……as long as everything is perfect he will go outside, he will spend hours shoveling and mowing the lawn, so as long as there is an outdoor job he will do it. God forbid he run into a bug!!!

Music…I listen to anything and love anything off the beaten path…….he loves the top 40’s of multiple generations.

Food choices….I would never stick a processed food in my mouth if I was living the ultimate life….he loves spam and corned beef.

Risk…me…bring it on!! Him…why would I?

Trust me I could go on!!

So what is my little black spot on his white half and his little white spot on my black half? It is a few things really.

Both of us lead our lives with love, for both of us, our heart leads first. We both have a deep sense and belief in a higher power, it looks a little different, but at the core it is similar. We both LOVE to LAUGH and appreciate each other’s sense of humour. We love to dance, it is the one time he gets to lead 🙂

Lastly, but most importantly, we both let the other one be the absolute polar opposite.

When I need to disappear from the world he doesn’t question and just picks up the slack and when he needs to work or play sports incessantly I pick up the slack. After many years of trying to traverse this (code for huge blow outs!!) we have both finally come to understand that those are needs that we each have and if satisfied we are more able come back and put energy into being a great couple.

So how does that look in retirement? I think it means I get a host of good books for the time that I spend in the gated community and he finds some kids in the communities in South America for a pick up game of basketball.

Our life isn’t close to perfect…but it is perfectly us.  Anyone who ever said marriage is easy, obviously was never married, it is not easy, but it is a decision every day to make life for each other and our family of the utmost importance, together.

I will enjoy this crazy ride that is forever a moving target of love, sadness, happiness, frustration, laughter, grief and incredible JOY.

Happy Anniversary Alfredo Salcedo, forever grateful that we took this leap together.

What if your dad is an asshole?

So what if…..your dad is an asshole?

On the heals of Father’s Day

Do you ever wish that Hallmark made cards that said what you actually want it to say… something like thanks for nothing…I succeeded in spite of who you were. Does Father’s Day or for that matter Mother’s day bring up all of these feelings? Feelings of “who the hell are you kidding I was lucky to get out of that house alive!!

I get it….trust me!! My dad was a severe alcoholic and a manic depressive who refused to get help. He was out of the house by the time I was 6 and dead by the time I was ten. If you asked my siblings I was the lucky one being the youngest because I didn’t have to live with him for as long as they did.

For years I wished it would be different when I saw my friends be totally loved up by their dads it would completely break my heart. I desperately craved a man to tell me that I was “okay” that I was doing a great job. I rolled into my teenage years desperate for love and approval of any man that looked my way. Choosing relationships over and over that proved my point that men are all assholes!!

Looking back I spent most of my 20’s grieving my dad, going through almost every emotion from anger to sadness, even putting him on a pedestal and worshiping him at some point, much to the chagrin of some of my siblings. But I needed to grieve him and it was a process I needed to do on my own because my relationship to my dad was nothing like my siblings. So grieve him I did. But blame him I didn’t.

This was my life….not his! Just because he wasted most of his life, did not mean that I needed to as well. I made a decision pretty early in the grieving process that I wouldn’t wear the wounded child label on my shirt sleeve for all to see, but instead find some way through it. I never looked for forgiveness, but instead, I settled for acceptance of who he was as a person.

And the person he was, was a tortured soul. His life was pure hell and honestly, he probably did pretty well for the kind of upbringing he had and understanding that changed how I looked him. I guess for some it would be something close to forgiveness, but for me, it simply became about looking at his life through his eyes. There was no excuse for the life he created for his children and his wife. He could have made better choices……..but you see, there is the kicker. We all have a choice.

He was a tortured soul because he chose to keep living in the horrible atrocities of his past. Instead of living his life from the space of the gifts he had been given, his amazing entrepreneurial spirit, his stunning artistic talent, his humour and his charismatic charm. I was 5 when he left, but even as a child, I could see his gifts hidden behind the smell of stale alcohol.

He had a choice to either live in that past or rise above, and we are all given that same choice, a choice to live our own lives and write our own story. No matter what kind of foundation our life started on, sand sills, stones, bricks or no foundation at all the rest of this life is ours to live. We can live it from a space of anger and hatred or we can live it from a space of joy and love.

It has been a bit of a journey for me to get to this full place of acceptance of the father that was in my life and what finally put the final piece was watching the relationship between my husband and our daughter.

My husband has let our little girl wrap him around her finger from the moment he first held her and 13 years later he is wrapped up tighter than a drum. I look at her and I know that no matter what she faces in this lifetime, the one thing that she will never question is how much her father loves her. The expectation of how a man is to love her will be so high, I am not so sure that anyone will measure up, I wish good luck to anyone who tries. I have been able to witness what a great relationship can look like.

So here is my wish for you, if your father was an asshole. First of all grieve him, go through all of those emotions, hate him for not being that daddy that you needed, but move through it, for your own sake. Then look at who he is and what story he has told himself to get him where he is, accept who he is and accept that he is never going to be anyone different. Then go and live your life!! Live your very best life, no longer from the space of what you were missing but instead from the space of all of the beautiful gifts you have to offer this world.

We are waiting for you.

In love light and laughter

Karen

Author’s Note: Please don’t take this 700 word blog post as me saying this is easy, but taking the time to change perspective about our lives can be one of the most helpful tools we can give ourseleves.

why I let my daughter skip track and field day

Why I let my Daughter SKIP Track and Feild Day

 In my day…..

When I was a child in school, I loved track and field day. Although I wasn’t a small girl I was a kick ass sprinter, long jumper and because of my size I excelled at shot put as well. Every year track and field day would come around I would get so excited, I know it was supposed to be just for fun and all, but I wanted me some red ribbons!!!!
Just for fun…what, in the hell is that!! That, is what adults say to make everyone participate, meanwhile every kid on that field knows that this is a full-on competition.
My very best friend hated track and field, she was smaller than me but athleticism was not her strength and to be honest, competition wasn’t her strength. Unlike me, who got charged up by competition, it made her physically ill. So days before track and field day she would be anxious and not want to go. As a child, I didn’t really understand it, but I did understand that she was hurting.
So when my daughter came to me a week before her school’s track and field day and said, “Mommy, do I have to go to track and field day?” My first response, in my head, was of course you do, we parent old school here there is no bubble wrapping here, you can’t just get out of things because you don’t like them. Life is full of ups and downs and moments that we may not like but there are things in life you aren’t going to like and you have to do them anyway. Really, Karen, this is your response, your daughter has never asked to “get out” of anything in her life, I think you need to look at this. And look at it I did.

What I learned by pausing…

Let me tell you a little bit about my daughter, she sings like an angel, she draws and paints, she is in a stage choir group that encompasses singing, dancing and acting. She has been on a stage since she was 5 years old and loves it, whether it is for competition or fun. She has a heart of gold and is likely one of the gentlest spirits that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. What she doesn’t necessarily excel in are sports and track and field events. We are an active family with bike rides and hikes and she either walks or bikes to school in all kinds of weather. If she asked me to write her a note to get her out of phys ed, I would say “no”. My belief is that physical activity is not only good for the body but it is amazing for the mind and the soul as well. So getting out of physical activity is a flat out “no” in this domain.
But did I need to send her to track and field day to have her come close to last all day long for the 5th year in a row? Nope, I did not need to impose that on her.
She has participated in all the track and field events in her gym class leading up to the day and has become pretty adept at shot put, but is she allowed to only compete in shot put? No, she has to chose 5 events.
All the children in the school are required to take music, every child is not told they need to compete in music.
All the children in the school are required to take art, every child is not told they need to enter the art competition.
I am a true believer that every child needs the literacy of physical activity, but they do not need to compete, and have that day be part of their mark in phys ed?
For those adults who say it is just for fun, you are wrong. And personally I don’t think that it should be. My daughter gets her chances throughout the year to excel in the things that she is really good at, her gifts. Track and Field day is sometimes the only day that a child who is gifted in this area gets to shine, what an amazing day for them to know and realize their gifts. Let them get those dam red ribbons….
When my daughter sings at her school there is a gymnasium of support cheering loudly for her after she performs. Why not let my daughter and others like her be the cheer leader at the track and field day for the kids who are showing off their gifts and talents.

One Girl’s Journey

One girls journey to find her way through the deliciousness of life. Not ever trying to change your mind, but to help show you some light on your path from where I stand on my soap box.

I would love to share this journey with you, I want to hear your stories as much as I want to tell you mine. We are in this together.

What are you going to find here…

My hope is that you find inspiration either through my writing or other’s writings or quite possibly by trying products that I have tried and support.

For those of you who don’t know me. I was the owner of a company called Earth’s Berries, where I introduced the world of soap nuts to anyone who would be willing to listen. But I am much more than the owner of a soap nut company.

A Door Hanger Changed My Life

Ever wonder how one small decision can change your entire life?

One decision, it really is that simple.

I am not talking about whether to say yes to a marriage proposal or to buy the house or the condo. Not the big decisions, but the little ones. The small choices along the way that end up changing the course of your life into something that you never saw coming.

Buying an antique desk on Kijiji and meeting a person who becomes a great treasure hunting friend and maybe even later your business partner in an Antique store. Moments like that, ones that at the time seem so incredibly small and inconsequential but as you look back on that one decision you realise that it created an entire life change.

I was driving home from one of my many road trips for products and I realised that 10 years ago a Marketing door hanger completely changed the course of my life.

If you follow this blog or have read much of my stuff you know that I live a pretty spiritual life. Where I fall on the whole religion category is something of a mix of many beliefs that have formed over the years. However, I do attend a church, not only do I attend, myself and my family are very large part of the church that we attend….but it wasn’t always that way.

NO this is not a born again Christian story where you find me attempting to recruit you into my life and lifestyle.

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It is life in the small moments..

This is a story about the small moments, a story of life in the small moments, a life lesson and a reminder, for me, really. All of those small moments make up the life that we have. As much as we make big plans, it is the yes and the no to the small things that actually forms our life.

I had grown up in the church, my mother went faithfully every Sunday and us as children went right along with her. Me and 2 of my other sisters became Sunday school teachers. I was an integral part of the entertainment of the church, part of the junior choir, Messengers, even becoming a CGIT (Canadian girl in training). I remember a particular monologue I delivered that was talked about for years. However, besides the old family bible  I never once saw my mother read the bible except at church, there were no bible verses spoken in our home. But our entire life was about “Love thy neighbour”, “Do unto others” and “There but by the grace fo God go I. ” I was raised to love everyone, but there was NO religious dogma in my house at all. What there was, was music, the old hymnal my mom had as a little girl sat at our piano. For my mom, religion was in the music, actually, for her,  God was in the music. To this day, the song “Mother’s of Salem” is still a song I will find myself singing like an earworm. I went to church, but was never raised to believe that my life or my spiritually or my journey as a human was in that building nor was it in that book.

As a young single mother I chose not to attend church, my son wasn’t raised in a church, except when he attended with his Aunt. I instead went on a spiritual quest, exploring different traditions and practices.  I hated the dogma of religion I hated the hypocritical nature of many “Christians” who were in my life. What happened to love thy neighbour?My motto for much of my life became what would Jesus do, not what would a Christian do, because I truly thought they were not the same thing. That was a firm belief that the 25 year old me, I have softened a little as I have aged.

I did however, attend church every Christmas Eve, no matter what city I lived in, I found my way to the Christmas Eve service of the United Church in the area. I’m not sure why that service was the one that mattered, but it was.

Then one Christmas Eve 10 years ago I went back to my home church. When I say home church I mean it, it was my home as a child. I knew every nook and cranny in that building, around every corner there was a memory for me. I was there at least 3 times a week besides Sunday, it was my home. Anyway, we had moved back to my hometown and I decided that I would go to the Christmas Eve service there. OMGooodness, it was the WORST service I had ever been to, solemn, droll and dictatorial. I vowed the moment we walked out the door that I would NEVER dawn the doorstep of that building ever again. I was done with religion, I wasn’t a Christian anyway, I believed in love and doing for my neighbour and the church and me were just not a good fit.

Then one day in early January I took a door hanger from my front door, a door hanger that said…Early Morning service, Contemporary Band, All welcome. I’m sure I’m paraphrasing.

I loved contemporary Christian music.  So we went.

And there it was, that was our small moment, that marketing door hanger, changed the course of our lives. Our lives that were destined to be Christmas Eve service moments only changed into a life that I could never have planned.

The contemporary band was amazing. However, we soon came to realise that we might be better suited to the later service because the Sunday School was larger.  My daughter ended up joining the cherubs choir and befriending the minister’s little girl. In 10 years my daughter and that little girl have become lifelong friends and singing partners. They have travelled together, sang together and consider themselves sisters much more than they ever consider themselves friends. My husband lead groups of youth at the Vacation Bible Camp, I lead the Green Team our daughter now actually sings in that early service band that originally brought us to the church.

The church is our home, my daughter now has a home church like I did years ago. She is surrounded by people who love her and “know” her. People who have watched her grow from a 3-year-old little princess to a confident young pre-teen. My daughter and I are both part of the choir, my husband teaches Sunday school when he can. We are all involved in all of the entertainment that the church provides, it is very much a huge part of our lives. Our lives are richer and deeper and blessed by the lives and the friendships that we have made at the church.

All because we said yes to a door hanger.

Our lives are made up of our small yeses and our small nos. Tiny decisions that we make every day, course corrections that we make, people that enter and people that leave. It is all this beautiful tapestry of a life sewn together with small tiny stitches, and it is in those tiny stitches that we find our greatness.

Never give up the opportunity to say yes to the small things …just imagine where it can lead.

Never underestimate the power of your “yes” in someone else’s life

I heard news today of the death of a man that meant a lot to me as a child. His moments of love and caring for me I believe changed the course of who I am. He truly made me see and believe that it was in my crazy quirkiness that I would find my true self. Not something I really understood at the age of 12, but it is something I completely understand now. The moment he said yes to spending a bit of time with me was the life changing moment that this fatherless child realised she was worthy.

 

All I Ever Needed To Know Was Hidden In A Soap Nut!!

To the Most Amazing customers ever,

Well, that was quite the sale and I am completely sold out. I have a couple of people who have purchased bulk from me to either start a soap nut business or add soap nuts to their current offerings and I am excited to see and witness their excitement. Over the course of the 8 years I have helped to start a few different soap nut companies. It has been fun to watch them each grow in their own way some took off and were very successful, others lasted mere months. I was a born guidance counsellor, teaching and guiding is what fuels my soul and helping them was no exception.

Earth’s Berries actually was a full realisation of my entire life. Over the course of my life, I have been the one to introduce products to people long before most knew about them. That I think, comes from my thirst to find out what else is possible? This is a question I attempt to live in as much as possible and when I am not in this question I know that generally my life is likely not in the best direction and it is time for a change.

Absolutely everything about this business has been a gift, even the closing. But not only has it been a gift it has been the biggest learning experience in my life and I will never, not for a moment look back on these 8 years as anything but the most amazing ride. I met some of the most incredible people, learned the stories of so many and learned things I just never even knew were on the radar of learning.

This final little blog post on this Earth’s Berries site is for you…you the one who wonders if it is all worth it, the one who wonders should you take the chance, the one who may look at your life and think it is falling apart when really it is all just coming together. This is for you because I will guarantee you, you will only regret the chances and the opportunities you didn’t take. That still small voice of intuition is inside of you for a reason….listen!!

 

 

Sooooooo? What did I learn on this 8 year journey…. To mention it all would take years…8 to be exact 🙂

  1. Taking a trip to India to meet my supplier. As much as I had always wanted to travel to India for a spiritual journey. I knew I couldn’t start this company without meeting my supplier, it was a short trip but a trip long enough to get to know DK and his company and his mission.  I made the decision to go from my gut on a warm day in July. My husband was taking a week off for my birthday in mid August so in mid-July I said to him I think I need to go to India if I am going to start this business and find a suitable supplier. Oddly enough, he didn’t even blink an eye…after 10 years together he knew this was not out of the ordinary.  In 2 weeks I secured an emergency visa and while at the Indian embassy I met someone whose brother was a taxi driver in India, arrangements were made and his brother was willing to pick me up at the airport and drive me the 10 hours up the Himalayan mountains to get to meet DK. Scariest drive of my entire life!!! If things didn’t work out with him I had 2 meetings planned in Delhi on my way out of India.  They did work out and we continued to work together for the entire time of this company. If our paths ever cross again I would be more than honoured to do more business with him.
  2. How to register and incorporate a business….the hard way!!
  3. How to get a trademark….who would have thought that was a 2-year process!!
  4. How to apply and develop third-party testing against a huge brand
  5. How to build a website with an e-commerce platform

I ended up hiring professionals but my very first website was a templated website that I designed, I copy and pasted  HTML code and I set up a store front with Pay Pal buttons, excepted payment and shipped orders. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks!!

  1. Learned that most “approved by labels” mean absolutely nothing

Did you know that anyone can slap an “HE” label on any of their laundry products, it means nothing!!
USDA organic is sometimes useful but as soon as we in the western world want everything from developing countries to have “Organic and ECO- certification” the farmers have to pay more. A much better label to look for is “Fair Trade”. Soap nuts have been and will forever be organic, they don’t need a governing body to make it so. Simply a cash grab!!!

  1. How to import product, what port would be best, what is air shipping what is sea shipping
  2. How to broker my own product….it is easier than you think….learn!!
  3. Chemical sensitives do exist, not new to me, but what was new was how affected people going through cancer treatments are to smell and chemicals. Please be mindful

 I have saved most of my emails over the 8 years but the ones that are really dear to my heart were the ones from people going through cancer treatment, autoimmune diseases, allergies and chemical sensitives because those people this isn’t about laundry. This, these lovely little Earth’ s Berries were about life. They were honestly a game changer in the lives of many people I had the privilege of meeting or chatting to over the past 8 years.

  1. Naivety works really well sometimes.

Not knowing that most people work with an agent when they head off to The Shopping Channel to pitch their products was actually what helped to get me a spot on the show. I was so incredibly naïve about the business that I just walked in and pitched

  1. The Shopping Channel or other big contracts are not always what the seem to be, nor are they always good for business. Always make sure that your business is able to walk before someone thinks it can run.
  2. I can pack a box like I’m playing Tetris
  3. The inside of an import-export warehouse. Words simply can’t explain. I remember leaving the building looking at my sister and saying. I never in a million years ever expected to be in there. But I was, and it was so much joy filled fun!!
  4. There are some absolutely amazing business mentors in this area, don’t ever let knowledge be an excuse not to do something. People love to share their knowledge, listen and learn even one small nugget of information can save you mountains of time.
  5. I could work as a bookkeeper, I took bookkeeping courses and with the help of my sister I was able to do my own books.
  6. I could work as a social media consultant for small business, trust me I have taken more online and in person social media courses than I ever felt I needed. I didn’t always do everything, but I sure as hell know how.
  7. How to create systems so that someone can come in and buy the business, yep, I did it. I created systems for shipping, product development, suppliers. I had built an email list of thousands of people. But,  in the end it ended up being my baby and I couldn’t watch it move on to someone else.
I know that sounds sentimental and financially irresponsible, but that is me.

Two Key Life Lessons

1. People change people
2. There are more people on this planet that are here to support you than you will ever truly realise….

.  Even if your idea is to sell an obscure berry from India.

 

From the bottom of my heart, I live in awe and incredible gratitude for the journey of this business and so many deserve a big thank you.

Customers

First of all, I have said it so many times, I had the most amazing customers. I heard the stories of people, so many heartfelt conversations over the years that I will cherish forever. After the announcement of the closing, so many of those customers took time out of their day to email me or call me, I was completely overwhelmed by their continued support. Even with website issues over the years, times that I messed up, they were always so forgiving and patient. I never expected that customers of a laundry detergent would truly change my life and my perspective.

Web Developer Extroidanaire

Then there is the greatest web developer in the entire world. Over the course of the last 3 years of us working together, she was as much a part of this business as I was. I could not have survived had she not come into my life when she did. Thank you Nikki and Blackmoosemedia

Friends and Family…You are my rock!!

To my husband, my sisters and some very special friends who supported me always without question and usually for free. From packing boxes to financial aid, my support system was unbelievable.

For my daughter who was up at 5 am for market mornings and doing free labour willingly every time I needed her.

To the guy who started this whole journey with me, my beloved son. Who at 21 decided that he wanted to get on the train of his mom’s crazy idea. Boy am I glad he did. Not many parents can say that they got to travel around Ontario going to market after market with their 21-year-old son. It was a defining moment in our relationship and I think that everyone should find a way to spend that much time with their adult children before they head off into their own lives with families and children. Now that we only see each other a couple of times a year I am thankful for all of that time travelling in a car.

And the biggest thank you is to my loving source who guided me to this adventure and I know is heading me off to another.
Until I fully realise what that is you will be able to find my musings about life starting May 5th at Karen’s Soap Box

In love, light and laughter
Karen

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” -Hunter S. Thompson

 

                

Where can you buy soap nuts now?

Many people have asked where they can buy soap nuts now. There is a host of companies that sell soap nuts, however, what I have heard over the years is that people like what I stand for and my mission-based business. Therefore, I will lead you to those people I think are similar to my core ethics. Just an FYI SOAP NUTS DO NOT NEED TO BE SANITISED, and any company that claims this your tells you so is lying for your business. Do your very best to make sure they are not from China.

In Canada two of my past Earth’s Berries Consultants have decided to start up their own business, they both are amazing Mompreneurs who have family farm businesses.

Wash Berries
Jason & Ashley Fehr
705-544-5447
wash.berries@hotmail.com

Ashley also has an incredible craft business as well.
 https://www.facebook.com/fehrlycraftycreations/

Ever After Acres
Lisa Stevens
www.everafteracres.net
www.facebook.com/everafteracres
info@everafteracres.net
506-5762748

In the US
I think your best bet is a company called www.Naturoli.com

What about those Dryer Balls?
I searched high and low for the best dryer balls and I found them with Nurtured Sew Naturally
Contact Carley for retail or wholesale needs.

What about the Earth’s Berries website?
The website will be up and operational for the next year and you can reach me by email at info@earthsberries.com for any questions or inquiries.