I noticed the change on Easter Sunday. The definite shift in the season.

I stayed home from church on Easter Sunday morning (kind of a bummer since I am big on celebratory worship and Easter Sunday is the most celebratory of them all). Celine was healing from bronchitis and needed the long sleep in the morning. I stayed home with her and slow roasted the chickens we were taking to Easter lunch at our friends' house.

After a quiet morning at home I was very relaxed and rested. I was refreshed, ready for an afternoon of feasting and engaging with friends and new acquaintances from our church.

I had a fabulous afternoon. It felt like stepping out into the light after nearly two months of sickness and quarantine.

Since that day, or nearabouts that time, I have experienced a change of energy.

My goal through March is to hold on to my sanity, hold on to Joy, hold on for dear life. It's a fight. I have to work hard. I know from experience things will change in April, and all signs point to winter ending, but in the day-by-day living it feels like there is little evidence of this.

Trusting that winter will end reminds me of one of the conversations I had on Easter Sunday, around our friend's generous dinner table.

I have a hard time trusting God. I want to be in control. I like to anticipate how situations will turn out so I can avoid pain and discomfort, both present and future. My struggles with anxiety are all wrapped up in this of course.

In early winter I talked to a friend about this, my struggle with trust and how perhaps my personality type affects that, and she said "oh, you need to talk to so-and-so". On Easter Sunday I was able to talk to so-and-so, someone who shares my STJ. He explained the way that he is able to trust God is to look back and remember God's faithfulness in his life till this point and to rely on what he knows to be true, the Word of God. This made total sense to my way of processing information and how I make decisions.

I can't just feel my way to trusting God. "It just feels right", does not work for me. And I need to experience things hands-on, not in an abstract way.

Waiting for spring feels like learning to trust God. Every year spring comes. The track record is impeccable. And the logic, the truth in the lengthening days, is inescapable. I can trust spring will come.

As I'm writing this post, we're experiencing frequent snowfalls (that thankfully melt), cold rains, and freezing temperatures. But the days continue to lengthen, we are drawing closer to the sun, and past experience tells us this weather is the harbinger of better things to come.

Even though the daffodils and tulips haven't bloomed yet my energy has shifted and spring is the reality in my mind, which makes all the difference.

Lately I've been thinking about personal energy through two different lenses.

  1. The cyclical nature of the seasons and how that affects my energy.
  2. The importance of personality type in how we manage our energy.

I undeniably experience shifts in energy with the seasons and in certain activities and ways of doing things.

Noticing and naming this reality has been really important because it gives me greater self-awareness and helps me make better life decisions from this awareness.

I'm not going to talk too much about personality type and energy, fascinating though that is. (I love that stuff!) I'll direct you to this Personality Hacker podcast instead. I love Personality Hacker. This podcast is particularly good as it explains energy flow, stress and burnout from the perspective of identifying and operating in the strengths of our personality, while building, but not overly relying on, the weaker parts of ourselves. When we operate or depend too much on our non-dominant functions we can experience burnout. I know this to be true.

Listening to this podcast was like flash bulbs of understanding all over the place in making sense of some of the stuff I've experienced.

Another way I think about energy is by paying attention to how cycles and seasons affect my energy.

I have calendar seasons of low energy (winter) and high energy (summer). (I know for some people it's the opposite.)

I have a monthly menstrual cycle that affects how much I can give out and when I need to pull back.

My weeks looks like a wave; gathering energy, expending energy, gathering energy, expending energy, over and over. My days even look like this. Gather energy, expend energy. Certain obligations and commitments will drain me, the fact I call them obligations is a big tip off. Those must be balanced with the activities that renew and energize me.

All of us have to expend energy and experience draining activities, that's life. The important thing is that we recognize and nurture the activities, practices, disciplines, and mindsets that restore our energy. And yes, this is challenging when you're living with people whose energy levels are fueled and drained in ways different from your own.

I feel better when I live in a way that acknowledges and honors my energy highs and lows. I need to hibernate for a period of time in winter. I need a chunk of time every week that is unstructured and unscheduled. I need daily quiet times. I need naps. I need to read and write. I need to go for walks. I need so many things I can't even begin to name them all.

I must listen to my body and read "the signs" (fatigue, excessive tears, frustation). I must do the things that restore my energy. I must honor boundaries, mine and others.

And here's the kicker: I must give myself permission to be this way in the first place.

Give myself permission to be the unique mix of "me". To have the personality I do (an introspective, quiet-loving ESTJ, enneagram 6), and to be a person who lives by seasons and cycles.

The human-made world around me - institutions, establishments, infrastructure - often doesn't account much for cycles and seasons. We want the economy to be in a state of constant growth. We expect steady output, like we are machines, not man.

I'm not anti-society or establishment. I love the security of systems. (ESTJ folks.) Hospitals, schools, insurance, air traffic controllers, police, all the people and infrastructure we rely on in a complicated world.

But sometimes it feels like seasons and cycles, which are inherently circular, bump up against the rigidity of our human-made constructs, which feel linear and square.

I have lots of questions around this. How is it that systems designed, created, maintained and used by humans feel square and we humans feel round? Or is it just me?

I highly value the efficacy of a well-oiled machine. I love systems. But I know that I have limits and other people have limits. Ergo, society and systems have limits. I ponder these things; the role of society, the dis-function of society, the human-ness of being human, and how that all fits together. And though I value and respect authority I do feel we must question "the way things are done". Our systems should work for us, not against us.

This is not (wo)man against machine, or a call to arms or action, except for the action of quotidien living that honors cycles, seasons, and energy flow.

My energy has shifted with the coming of spring. The household routine is transitioning, menu plans are changing, there are more appointments and errand runs. I can manage a "fuller" day with aplomb and joy.

It's time for a new season.

This year, like I mentioned in this post I'm choosing two colors to represent the essence of each season. The calendar says spring so I've switched from my winter theme of icy blue and golden orange to lime/celery green and lilac purple.

April 2011, My garden, Maine

I've started using my new green and purple gel pens to highlight in my bullet journal.

When I bought my bouquet this week at the market (still using the gift money my mom gave me when I was sick, those flower dollars sure stretch at the market) I asked specifically for a green and purple inspired arrangement and I was thrilled to find ranunculus also.

This is the only spring color in my world right now. Yesterday's weather was snow and freezing rain.

I chose my spring colors not because these are the colors of mid-March in Montreal, they are the colors of hope in my heart.

Color is really important to me. I express my creativity in photographing color, decorating with color, and even wearing bright colors. Choosing colors for each season is something I'm playing around this year with as a creative exercise.

Late last week I went through my photo archives to find photos of green and purple from past spring seasons to brighten this post and to celebrate the arrival of spring, and look what I found in my search. Photos of the kids on a hike, wearing purple and green, taken on the first day of spring six years ago.

Where do I begin? The perfect pre-adolescent skin, Celine's middle part, the scowl on Brienne's face, Laurent's adult teeth in a child's mouth. These children are my heart.

These photos capture the essence of the woods in spring. Very bright, no leaf cover yet. Snow still on the ground, melting to reveal the dead leaves from last autumn. There are no pretty colors in the woods in early spring/late winter, but they are coming. The angle of the sun, the length of the day, years of experiences assures us it is so.

I know the woods in all seasons but something I am not familiar with is long bouts of winter sickness.

The kids are still sick from the flu they all got last month. This is the worst winter sickness season we've experienced as a family.

Sickness has moved through our family like waves, first the flu, starting with one person and moving to another. Then as the kids seemed to be getting better and started to resume their normal activities, as teenagers are very wont to do, another wave of sickness hit each child, a secondary infection or illness affecting eyes, ears, and upper respiratory (different for each child).

April 2010, the woods, Maine

Last year a friend asked me what we did when our kids were sick, we were having a discussion about alternative medicine and holistic health. I said we didn't do much because we didn't get sick that often. Fluids and rest were the main strategies, and herbal tinctures, garlic, and oregano oil if necessary.

I haven't had to use my herbal tinctures for years and through our successive moves I tossed some of the sketchier bottles and old dried herbs. I don't remember when the elderberry syrup ran dry, but I didn't replace it. That section of the cupboard dwindled in size over the last few years.

April 2010, Bates College Campus, Maine

My education in essential oils has been slow and mostly limited to good blends for soapmaking and body care products, which is an entirely different game than healing illness.

I know nothing about homeopathy and many other alternative medicines. I don't have experience with bone broth and all the "traditional diet" nutritional recommendations. I haven't needed to acquire that knowledge.

Till now.

It's been a sea of sickness for eight weeks, unprecedented.

May 2011, Bates College Campus, Maine

There are many possible reasons for this, including a change in our diet last year in which I've allowed more animal products and processed foods (granola bars, crackers, bread, some ready-made meals) into our house.

The traditional diet folks will not make a link between animal products and illness, but when those foods start to replace immune-system supporting and disease-reducing plant foods, something our family has eaten a lot of in previous years, a case can be made for a possible link. And no one thinks processed foods are healthy. And the same principle applies, if eating them reduces your consumption of health-supporting foods you compromise your immune system.

Is it possible that our plant-based, almost all homemade foods diet really did protect us so well all those years from flu and winter illness?

May 2015, Quebec

I don't think it's that simple though I do feel I've compromised our health with some of the changes to our diet.

We live in a new city, and we're in much closer contact than we've experienced before with a lot of germs. And the flu hit our social circle hard this year. Many people we know have struggled this winter through virulent illness.

Kind of creepy but also somewhat reassuring, we're not the only ones.

Once I got over my own illness, and thank God I didn't catch a secondary one, I was able to re-educate and newly educate myself on remedies and solutions, source the herbs I needed to start re-stocking our cupboards, make bone broth, do more research on essential oils and be introduced, albeit very reluctantly and skeptically, to homeopathy.

This is the part of the story where you might expect a "the successful protocol has been...", "how I've healed my family with herbs", or maybe even a sales pitch for a particular essential oil. None of that is forthcoming because it's not clear to me what, if anything, helped.

I am not convinced of anything at this point, except this: I didn't understand the possible implications of "getting the flu".

There has been no miracle cure in our family this winter. Some people swear by essential oils, other people say to use with extreme caution. My friends are convinced about homeopathy, I'm not. I am probably most familiar with herbs but I'm not used to treating long illnesses with herbal remedies.

May 2015, Quebec

This week we took two kids to the doctor. Our first sick doctor's visit in over a decade. In one child it was "just" congestion (which we're actively treating with all manner of remedies), not an ear infection, though I'm still holding onto the just-in-case prescription the doctor gave me.

In the other child it was acute bronchitis and sinusitis, and we are using the antibiotics prescribed, and we are so thankful for them.

I've been a parent for nearly seventeen years and I've never experienced anything like this, the flu followed by a secondary illness. Sickness that requires more vigilance, more remedies, more preventative measures than I am familiar with.

I can't go back but I wish I had been more prepared, more knowledgable.

This bout of illness shook my confidence but it also gave me experience, and showed me I definitely need to re-educate, re-stock, and learn new things.

I've had success in the past treating simple illnesses with basic herbs, healing foods (garlic, ginger, etc.) and topical essential oil applications. I have so much more to learn but I can't learn it all, it's overwhelming. We have to pick and choose what we invest our energies into. "Alternative" medicine and holistic healing is not my passion, though it is my preference.

May 2015, Quebec

Ultimately, I need to find my own mother-wisdom in these matters. But I can't gain that without the experience, and who wants the experience of being sick!

I hope with some meds and probiotics; and other foods, strategies and remedies to support healing, the recovery journey will continue, without new infections. God help us.

I would love simple recommendations in the comments, if you have any, for foods or herbs to support the healing process.

I have two courses picked out to educate myself on essential oils and herbal remedies for cold and flu specifically. They won't do me any good now but I don't want to be this ill-prepared again.

My goal is that by next winter I'll have a straightforward "at first sign of sniffles do this" protocol. Something along these lines. (Though I tried many of these things this year. I think I just didn't catch it soon enough.)

It's hard not to feel like a mother-failure when something like this happens. I felt that way, coming out of my own sickness, when I was mentally and emotionally drained.

But that kind of thinking does me and my family no good whatsoever.

June 2015, Quebec

Instead I am choosing to recognize that I have the resources I need: a healthy mind to make sound decisions and access to medicine and remedies. I can educate myself for the future. I can, and will, be better prepared next time. And I can be grateful for so many blessings, right now.

I am grateful that I am physically, mentally and emotionally well enough to take care of my family. This is no small feat for this time of the year. I am grateful Damien is well and we can tag-team parent our kids through this season. I am grateful our teenagers still seek the comfort of our bed in the middle of the night when they are unwell and needing comfort. (Of course one of us has to leave in that scenario, there is not room for three adult-sized people in our queen bed!) I am grateful for a car to drive to walk-in clinics nowhere near our neighborhood.

I am grateful for mother-wisdom and intuition. I am grateful for medicine of all sorts, knowledgeable doctors who say "let's wait and see", knowledgeable doctors who say "let's treat this", and caring friends who offer the remedies that worked for them.

I am grateful that though the kids are suffering through sickness right now the situation could be so much worse. We have a safe home. We have access to clean water, good food, health food stores, and medicine. And we have time. Time to recover and rest.

Spring is coming, there are flowers on my table and hope in my heart.

March is my least favorite month and each year I have to be intentional about how I'm going to get through the end of the winter.

I get very antsy this time of year. Cabin fever I guess.

I definitely experience a transformation through the winter season. In January, right after the energy and resource expenditure of the holidays, all I want to do is retreat, rest and hibernate. I want to hunker down. So I make every effort to honor that desire.

But as the days slowly lengthen and winter's magic wanes (early winter is magical but the magic doesn't last forever) I am itching for a change.

By March I want to start making plans for the summer and I want to go places, right now. This seasonal shift in me has helped fuel our moves over the last few years. It wasn't the reason for our moves, they were necessary for other reasons - short-term rentals, hiking the AT, housing availability etc. But this natural change in "energy" helped us pull it off, for at least four of our last five moves (one move was in autumn).

This year no moving. Hallelujah!! So I can instead plan summer camping, backpacking/hiking, and roadtrip adventures. I am so relieved I want to start planning those again. After our hike I thought I lost my travel and adventure desires all together. All I wanted to do was to nest and make home. Thank goodness that was just part of my post-trail experience and recovery.

I'm ready to go places again, both in terms of the March "itch" and in the bigger picture of my life in which I am both a homebody and an adventurer.

That's the big story, the more immediate story is that back in January, anticipating my need in March to go somewhere I made a plan with my mom to meet up in March, roughly halfway between Nova Scotia and Montreal.

This weekend was that meet-up. We called it a retreat. We did this once before, six years ago when I still lived in Maine. We met in New Brunswick that time.

For this retreat my mom made a big effort in driving all the way to Riviere-du-Loup and I arrived by bus from Montreal. There are not a lot great places to meet, in March, in central New Brunswick, which is truly the halfway point between us. My mom graciously agreed to "go the distance" to meet me in Riviere-du-Loup, which offers more culture and outdoors opportunities than small-town New Brunswick.

I had such a wonderful time with my mom. We connect on many levels, and share multiple interests. And we respect and love the differences in each other. I feel safe with my mom, at ease.

Sometimes I get so caught up in our current friendship that I forget my whole history and being is dependent on her. There is no part of my life she does not know, she has not been witness to.

She knows me in one of the most intimate ways possible, more intimately than I can ever know her. My mom had a life before me, a childhood I wasn't a part of and an early adult life that I was largely oblivious to. As a child I didn't think of my mom as a person to know, she was just "my mom". It wasn't until my adulthood that I appreciated my mom as a person unique from me.

My mom does not offer unsolicited advice and she does not smother. She has always given me plenty of space to become independent, to be my own person, the daughter of Derryl and Karen Toews.

From the time I was little my mom has been the parent that I got along with most easily. It is my Dad, who shares many of my personality traits and ways of looking at the world, with whom the sparks flew in my teenaged years.

Now there are no sparks, except those that ignite the love in my heart for these two people in the world who know me so well and have loved me unconditionally all my life.

Most of the time my mom and I are together we are with other family - husbands/fathers, kids/grandkids. Our attentions are divided, conversations shortened by things we must do. But this weekend was one long, uninterrupted, conversation and connect time.

It was winter in Riviere-du-Loup but that didn't dampen our enthusiasm to get outdoors and walk, something we both love to do. We even dress the same for the outdoors. That's years of Damien's influence, helping equip our family and my parents to be comfortably active outdoors year round.

We drank red wine at the end of the day and ate our meals out. Nothing as tasty as my mom's cooking, but I sure enjoyed the break from the kitchen.

We talked a lot but we enjoyed companionable silences and personal time. I napped and did Zentangle. We read.

My mom loved on me with an AromaTouch Technique experience.

We talked about our passions and our dreams for the future. Of course I talked about my kids. My mom is the one person in my life, other than Damien, that does not tire to hear the stories and struggles of Celine, Laurent and Brienne, my life's pride and joy (and the cause sometimes of heartache and concern).

My joy is her joy and my pain is her pain. And as a grown adult, the empathy goes both ways. She is no longer just "my mom", the way she was when I was a kid, she's my friend.

We filled our adult relationship mother-daughter well, and agreed we should make this an annual activity.

Driving back to Montreal on the bus, watching the snow disappear as we travelled south, it feels like spring is just around the corner. I'm happy to leave the snow in Riviere-du-Loup.

March has turned. We reached the equinox, and winter is truly waning. The magic of spring will start soon, and summer, a season for traveling and adventures, will follow shortly.

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