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I am in a major creative rut. Every time I sit in front of a screen with the intention of writing, the same sequence of events takes place. I open my laptop. I see 29 layers of unfinished musings on my desktop and am immediately stumped. Then I open the various notes where I keep writing ideas and my brain stages a rebellion.

“No way in hell I’m writing any of that crap,” says Muse. Door slams. Silence.

So I go to my default. I plan children’s activities. I plan menus. I make to do lists that include planning children’s activities and menus. Maybe I start the laundry, do the dishes, figure out what’s for dinner because, despite all the posturing, I actually suck at menu planning.

There’s always a new project I can use as an excuse for not putting words on a page. The newest one is Christmas. Christmas, you beautiful cornucopia of manufactured obligations. Photo books, family advent calendars, parties, gingerbread houses! And amidst it all I have someone suggesting I put my kid on a restricted diet. So now there’s research to do, cookbooks to read and oh so much planning.

You know what I mean. All that mental load stuff we’ve been talking about for the last few months. It is never ending but it’s almost like one of those exploding snake fireworks, the one where the black ash keeps frothing out of a tiny capsule. I can keep producing items for my list but if I really want it to stop, I just have to put my foot down.

And here’s where I usually hit a wall. I’ve written a few paragraphs, come to a decent point and am now left with no clue as to where to take this thing. So I send a text. Check email. Make a coffee. Try not to eat chocolate. 

This happens to me a lot. I was in a good groove back in the spring, posting twice a week. I have no idea how I made that happen. Judah was only at the day home once a week and I used all his preschool time to workout so I’m not sure when I wrote. More importantly, I’m not sure how I wrote. These days, idea of writing anything at all sends my muse into the fetal position. The thought of writing two things a week, well that’s just crazy talk.

I have figured out one important factor, though. If I ever get back into a groove like that again, I can never take a break. Ever. It’s the same as working out. You miss one day, it’s fine. You miss a week and you think, screw it where’s the remote and that bag of Cool Ranch Doritos? (I just googled to make sure they still make those.)

I fell off both bandwagons as soon as summer rolled around. I missed a self-imposed post deadline. Then the next. Then I let the workouts slide. Next thing I know it’s September, I’m back at the gym and my legs are wondering what the heck I’m trying to prove. Meanwhile my muse is still sitting in the corner pretending there’s something uber important happening on Instagram.

It reminds me of a quote I heard last spring when I started to put some effort into my fitness regime. That is to say, around the time when I decided to actually go to a gym and not assume driving children all over place counted as “moderate activity.” I was doing an online workout and the instructor said, “If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up.”

That one hit me like an eight pound hand weight. I was used to hearing her spout out the cheesiest of cheesie motivational quotes, ones that would be written in violet cursive overtop a floral background in your Instagram feed.

You get what you give. This is your time. Find the real you. Life is a box of chocolates so don’t eat all the good ones first.

OK, maybe not that last one. The point is I wasn’t expecting to feel compelled to write down anything she said let alone put it on a post-it on the bathroom mirror. Even Luke thought it was good, and he’s not one for violet cursive talk.

Whether it’s working out, eating more consciously, challenging yourself not to yell at your kids or honouring your creative passions, one of the hardest things to do is stay on course. Like Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill, each step can seem impossibly hard, but at least we know our rocks can actually reach the top. We aren’t destined to continually start all over again. We have a choice.

I should know. I’ve walked back down that hill a thousand times, only to find my desire to write staring me right in the face when I get to the bottom. Clearly, I need a plan. Because as I stand here dusting my hands, I am certain of one real truth: I don’t want to spend the rest of my life at the bottom of this hill with this bloody rock standing in my way.

Drink your greens but make them purple

Until recently, I had never really seen food as a means to an end. The world has so many delicious food combinations to enjoy. I couldn't imagine throwing away the chance for a fabulous meal from this cornucopia just for the purpose of sustenance (says the woman who used to eat popcorn for dinner). Enter motherhood and the tune changes. All of a sudden, meals become more of prerequisite for basic function rather than an enjoyable taste experience.

Take breakfast, for example. They say people are inclined to eat the same thing for breakfast every day, in part because it means reserving brain power for things like walking upright and being civil to your partner. For me, it also used to be incentive to get out of bed. What better reason to shower and get dressed than for the reward of peanut butter oozing all over a toasted english muffin?

Surprisingly, the promise of liquid salad has never offered the level of motivation. But time, reality, and countless elimination diets have a funny way of shifting your perspective. As I was weighing the desire for fitness, convenience, and the ability to survive a day with children, the green smoothie weaselled its way into my routine.

According to my research, there are at least a million recipes for green smoothies. About 999,992 of them start with an entire banana. In my mind, there’s a 20 second window during which a banana is suitably edible and by the time you’re done peeling it, those 20 seconds are up. Other options included tofu (don't get me started) or recipes that aim to include an army of powders, seeds and potions. I don’t have the patience to open that many containers before 7am. Grass-fed collagen be damned.

So I made up my own. It remains quite simple and remarkably tasty. The almond milk adds some creaminess to the mix. The beet crystals give it a hint of sweetness and a beautiful colour. My three-year-old asked to taste it—the guy who picks vegetables out of vegetable soup—and he actually liked it. He is my litmus test for palatability. If he will eat it, it has to be good. Mind you, he also likes mustard on macaroni and cheese, so maybe I'm off on my assessment of his sophisticated palate. 

I've been drinking this for a few weeks, and now find myself waking up favourably to the idea of a liquid breakfast. The other bonus is that it forces me to drink at least some water, something I have been known to eschew.

The Not-Green Green Smoothie 2 cups of kale (off the stem - no one’s body needs to fight that demon) 1/3 cup frozen sliced strawberries 1/4 cup frozen raspberries 1 tbsp chia seeds 1 tbsp beet crystals 1.5 tbsp pumpkin seed protein powder* Splash of vanilla Shake of cinnamon Almond milk** Water, depending on desired thickness and the willingness of your blender

Do I need to tell you to put all this stuff in a a Vitamix? I tried putting it in the Magic Bullet and all I got was a watery mess of chopped kale. I didn’t think I had issues with texture until that vile concoction landed on my tongue.

*This is the simplest of protein powders. It doesn’t have much of an imposing flavour and it delivers 9.5 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat in a 55 calorie serving.

**I like Califia and I just noticed they have a Toasted Coconut Almond Milk flavour that I might just have to go crazy over. I just have to find a store that stocks it since they don’t ship to Canada. Sad face.

You spin me right round, baby, right round

A friend of mine just asked if I want to join her for a spin class this week. Truthfully, she’s been asking me to come to a spin class for about a year. I keep saying no, simply because I’m a big fat chicken. Bok bok.

I don’t know what it is about spin classes but they intimidate the crap out of me. Everyone seems to be one step away from Tour de France qualification, you have to attach yourself to the equipment so you can’t run away and it’s an entire hour of working my wimpiest muscle group, the one that’s always first to cry uncle.

Also, I’ve just discovered you have to book—and pay for—the bike in advance. So I can’t fall back on my usual habit and come up with some elaborate, last minute excuse to save my quads from this imagined hell. Not unless I want to kiss $20 goodbye. That kind of money could buy five coffees or two jars of amazing peanut butter. That logic should give you a good indication as to why spin class is a necessary addition to my life.

I have never been athletically-inclined. Back in grade school, we had sports days when everyone in the school would compete to earn points for their house. The only event I can remember participating in was the mandatory 100 yard sprint. They would blow the whistle and I would run like I had never run before. Run like there was a tiger chasing me. Run like there was an ice cream truck about to disappear around the corner. I focused on the goal and gave it my all. Then I watched each one of my classmates cross the finish line while I continued to knock my knees half way down the field.

Despite my inabilities, I convinced myself that joining a sports teams in high school was a great way to convince people I was not a loser. The only team that didn’t have try-outs was the swim team. I guess they figured it didn’t matter how good you were as long as you weren’t going to drown. The good kids would win. The kids like me would lose but get half a day off school. Win win!

My biggest problem with swimming, other than not being able to breathe, is the flip turn. There is something in the logic of the movement that is completely lost on me. I experienced this same lack of comprehension more recently in step class, only this time I didn’t end up going sideways through someone else’s territory, which is precisely what I did at my first and final swim meet.

After that, I think I accepted that fitness would never really be a part of my life. I created a narrative of failure in my mind. I dabbled with it every once in a while, but always felt like it was on a higher plain than I could ever reach. Every class I tried would leave me dying on the floor or wiping away tears. Again, I would see everyone else trudging forward, rocking those mountain climbers like they were born to run horizontally. And there I would be, sloppy and uncoordinated, unable to handle the burn.

But two months ago, my spin friend asked if I would join her for a birthday fitness class. You have to understand, this woman would do anything for her friends. She gave me one of the best birthdays I’ve had in years. So the absolute least I could do for her on her birthday was endure an hour of pain and embarrassment.

To my shock and amazement, the class was incredible. The instructor was amazing, the music was motivating and the moves felt like they were going to make a difference. I loved every minute, even the parts where my quads felt like they were swimming in acid.

I officially drank the BODYPump Kool-Aid and have kept coming back for more. I even tried some cardio classes, despite my hate-hate relationship with cardio. The step class is the most amusing. The instructor said it takes about ten tries to graduate from uncoordinated mess to only slightly incompetent. Seven more to go and no ankle injuries yet!

So what’s happening with spin? I swallowed my fear and said yes—not just because she dangled a post-workout carrot by making a dinner reservation at our favourite restaurant. This time, I think I can actually do it.