Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Waiting

The Waiting

We wait too long in our shortness of life to live. We dwell in a land of tomorrows where there is always time and never trouble to halt our dreaming. How often we silence the desires of the moment with promises of soon and someday and quiet our children with maybes and we’ll sees. Too easily we hide behind responsible living and rational thinking, falling in step with acceptable notions of success. We stand up quickly to be accounted against our neighbours, ledger to ledger best measure.
There should be more strive for days in the sun, the rain the bustle and the quiet of loving, where ‘have to’s’ are brushed aside for ‘want to’s’. More time spent saying yes to moments that stock the heart with comforts for darknesses ahead. If only we could be brave enough in a moment of choice to choose. Not default to the requisite, adding our footfalls to those ahead and behind us on the path leading our children by example into a life where hearts desires have less value than airs.
No measure exists to what the heart can hold only a measure to the time we have to fill it. My prayer today shall be one for bravery. For the courage to use words like now, today and yes.  For strength enough to smile at and encourage my children when they chose the path I fear. Today I will not wait for the perfect time or the right moment. I will say yes to all good things that come my way, yes to new memories and opportunities to dance with my soul. Today  I will not wait so long to live.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Give the Gift You'd Like Most of All

Opening up the local paper online this morning, on route to the days obituaries (I’m not morbid, it’s actually part of my job) I was surprised to see a familiar face. Dave Lewis, a former teacher of Rebecca’s. His story was main stage, the headline: ‘Kitchener Man Remembers a Plane Crash Tragedy, 50 Years Ago Near Montreal’, a picture accompanied of Dave sitting solemnly in his living room holding a book ‘Voices from a Forgotten Tragedy’

I read through the account of Dave’s Story (capital S because it is his great significant tale) and was saddened to learn that at the age of 11 he lost his father in one of the largest aviation disasters in Canadian History. The article outlines the tragedy, shares some history and details plans for a commemorative memorial being held this week in Quebec. (I invite and encourage you to read it here) Dave’s Story touched my heart and drew me in, partially I am sure because he is someone I have known but more so for that very same reason. He is someone I have known.

Does that make the story more compelling and relatable? To be frank I do not know Dave well beyond the part-time hours he taught my daughter, so I would not expect to know his Story; but that he had a Story never consciously crossed my mind. That is more to the point.

We forget that every single person we know has a Story. While we are busy talking about progress in reading and comprehension we forget that the person on the other side of the conversation has a private journey of highlights and struggles, successes, failures, great joys and heartbreaking tragedy.

Some Stories we know; the Stories of our friends (those they choose to share) that connect us to them beyond casual acquaintances. Our families have Stories; ones we are a part of, ones we’ve bared witness to and ones we support one another through. Our children have Stories, some are big and loud and exciting like learning to blow bubbles and scoring winning goals. Some of their Stories are quiet and hidden like first kisses and liquor cabinet raids. Our partners have Stories from their lives before we meet them that weave themselves into our fabric and become part of our own Story.

The one defining thing about all these stories is that they equalize us, don’t they? Our Stories are like flowers; each species has its own virtue, each is complete and beautiful in its own entirety, in this way they are the same. However, no one can say that one single flower is more beautiful or has the most pleasing fragrance. That is unique to each heart that looks upon the flower. 

No two journeys are the same; my tragedy does not outweigh your tragedy and make my Story more valuable. Your Joys do not out shine my joys and diminish their value. They simply can’t, we have not lived on one another’s Story to know and measure. In our Stories we are equal, in that each one of us has a very private personal one, equal because they touch all of the same emotions. The way a person feels sorrow or joy, the degree to which it makes them ache or radiate is as individual as our fingerprints and DNA, there is where the difference lies. How we feel our Stories makes us believe that we live a more difficult path or a more joyful one than our acquaintances. If our journey is one of great sorrow and pain, it is easy to feel we deserve greater portions of sympathy. If our Story is filled with great moments of boundless success and joy we may perceive that we have lived a greater life. How we feel our own Story pits and ranks it against the Stories we don’t really have the capacity to comprehend. 

In our experience, in our view, our own Story is most beautiful, most fragrant.

Our own Stories captivate us. Sometimes so much so that they keep us stuck, reliving a passage or a chapter over and over. We become so enthralled with living our Stories and creating our Stories that we forget that others have Stories too and we don’t value them the way we should as unique and beautiful flowers.

Sharing our Stories is a healing tool but it makes us bad listeners. Whether you vocalize it or not, at the very moment someone begins to tell you their Story your brain calculates “Ya, but do you know what happened to me?”  Put 6 mothers in a room and start a labour and delivery room conversation and you will see exactly what I mean. It’s so predictable it’s downright comical! Take those same 6 mothers aside separately and ask them to re-tell a labour story they just heard and I bet you they can’t. We don’t listen to understand, we listen to inform. We listen for breaks in conversation to share more of our own Story. Rude to the ultimate degree but so natural that we don’t even recognize we do it.

The end result, none of us really ever feels like our Story has been heard. It makes us feel anxious and angry, frustrated and disappointed. It makes the hurt last longer; it makes the joys feel uncelebrated, makes sadness reverberate in our hearts long after the event has come and gone. Most of all, it leaves us searching all the time to be heard.

Reading Dave’s Story this morning made me think; “How many Stories am I missing?” And I realised, there is a beautiful gift each of us has the capacity to give.

You can change how much you suffer by finding someone to tell your story to and you can change how much someone suffers by listening to their story.

What a beautiful thing, especially as the holidays approach and people are overwhelmed with memories, joys, sadness, grief and longing, what a gift to be the listener. What a gift I have to give; to give someone’s story my undivided attention, to hear it all the way through from beginning to end. To listen without sharing, comparing or fixing. To, for the time of a tale, wrap attention around them like a blanket around their shoulders.  Be completely present, riveted in the moment of their story and not mentally online or at the mall or at my desk.  To just smile and nod and give them all the time they need. It’s a gift that, is going to take some effort.

I hope you find this a gift worth giving and I hope you find someone to give it to…. but mostly I hope someone gives this gift to you.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Heated Seat - Comutication and Poop

Mike and I are comuticating...
That’s a real word, because I said so and also because I am at a loss to, in any other way, label the 23 minutes Mike and I spend together in the vehicle each morning.

Driving to work together is a new experience for us. (Imagine that, after almost 30 years together we’re still ‘keep’n it fresh’) It is a pretty economical decision and also not much of a choice as we are a one car family. I knew when we launched this effort a few months ago that our 23 minutes would become a daily mini married speed date. We can cram a lot of conversation into that short time, (time has been a great teacher). I knew we would tackle issues of family importance; budget meetings, scheduling, disciplinary hearings (sorry kids, family democracy isn’t really a democracy). I knew we would discuss vacation planning and errands, family squabbles and home repairs. I was prepared for it all.

I failed however to remember that I was driving with Mike; the man behind the Mickey Rourke incident. This morning I'm fairly confident that I left a few brain cells out on the highway.

Don’t ask me how it happened but we left the driveway talking about the night’s schedule for hockey and practices; we gravitated naturally to the radio hosts bantering about a recent survey of 1500 adults and their sexual history. That conversation morphed into a commitment discussion which led eventually, at the end of a long convoluted journey, to some random debate on whether in fact whales actually poop or not AND if they do... would said poop be slippery or frozen if it found itself mysteriously on an iceberg. I don’t even know how we got there. Two left lane passes, an off-ramp and a road-rageous comment and we were there. That’s all I know.

Luckily, the conversation went into the ‘blocked from memory’ vault and I managed through my work day to focus on death, investments and premiums.

Then I came home, opened my email and there was this…..

‘new message from: Mike    Subject: whale poop’

I never see it coming.


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Best of Attentions

Sunday this past weekend found me with a rare opportunity of un-allotted time; a few non-committed hours between hockey arena appearances and taxiing teenagers back and forth to work. Mike was occupied with a 5 hour training session for his coaching role and E-man was engrossed in a Lego project. (That was nice to see, he spends so many hours growing up these days that it was comforting to be reminded that there is still a little boy underneath all of the increasing independence.)

When you are a mom and this rare opportunity presents itself you have a checklist: ‘everything I’ve been neglecting’. It’s prioritized and itemized and burned into that part of your subconscious that wakes you up at 3am for a chat. My list looks like this

1.       Fold the laundry.

That’s it, a list of one item. Folding laundry is always the neglected chore; it is always on the list and always at the top.

Presented with an afternoon of un-allotted time and some careful planning a mom can also do some serious damage to their list! By the time my morning coffee was finished I had successfully set my intention on folding the laundry while everyone else was busy. At a steady pace and with a good dose of PMA (present moment awareness) I calculated that the mound of ‘washed and fluffed’ on the laundry room table could be diminished to 5 neat and tidy stacks of crisp corners and pretty pleats in under 2 hours.

With my day planned and myself psyched up for the folding job, I met Mike and Kate in the truck and completed the first run of drop offs. On the way back home I popped into the grocery store to pick up butter and parchment paper, stewing beef and dates. I made a quick stop at the hardware store for an extra string of Christmas lights and some zip ties to complete our outdoor light display. When I arrived home I put the zip ties to work stringing garland on our rusty porch rail while I still had my coat and gloves on. I unloaded the groceries from the car and went inside to put them away. While unpacking I warmed up the oven; Date Squares might as well be baking while I’m folding I figured (never overlook an opportunity to double duty). Date squares come together so easily and with so little effort you can also whip up a batch of oatmeal macaroons and dice a pot full of veg for Sunday stew and have a great conversation with a teenager at the Kitchen table all without breaking sweat. So quickly in fact that you can find yourself with some leftover time to accept an invitation to cuddle up on the couch for a movie and wash the dishes and answer a few emails. Heck before you know it you can be back in the taxi again – this time for a round of pick-ups that soon became dinner served, dishes washed, tea time –feet up, tuck-ins and pillow talk. Before your eyes you’ve accomplished a record number of successes in a single day!

Then comes Monday morning.
Here I am, in the laundry room, rummaging for matching socks and measuring wrinkled-ness against wear-ability; a little frustrated with myself for failing to achieve my intentions. All the time thinking to myself “Dam, Oprah and Deepak nailed it this morning!” Reflecting on day 11 of our 21 day Meditation Challenge (okay technically it’s day 15 but folding laundry isn’t the only place I’m behind). This morning’s meditation was focused on Intention vs. Attention and here I was wading up to my earlobes in example; well played universe, well played you caught me with my attentions down, shiny things got into my line of sight and I lost focus of my intentions. How
often does this happen? With certain regularity I'd say; to me, to you, to most people in the modern civilized industrial world. Unless you are a fulltime granola crunching, commune living, peace and enlightenment seeker, removed from society (for the record this would be me, if I wasn’t secretly terrified of having to stomp my own cabernet.) and even then I bet it happens, our best intentions don't get our attention.

This is the habit of our modern life and I am brought to mind Cecile Andrews' book Slow is Beautiful; a
n exceptional primer (if not a little too politically rich for my free thought spiritual brain) on reclaiming a life of meaning over matters. In her writing she addresses the very real paradox that the things we are very well able to identify as the most meaningful aspects of their lives, (think deathbed regrets); family, love, relationships, spending time with others and enjoying life are also the things we have great intentions to do right by.

Then we spend all of our attention on the very opposite; work, advancing careers and educations, increasing worth and consumerism, amassing and paying down debt, striving for markers of success and status, vacations and cars and promotions, trips to the dentist and Black Friday sales, Thursday night premiers, cellphone launches, networking groups, social branding, what we wear, how we smell, where we buy our tofu and who knows it.  We get distracted by shiny objects, misplace our attentions and find ourselves wearing really great shoes and staring at a pile failed and neglected intentions.

My intention was to fold the laundry, my attention was not.

It makes me curious...... just how much of my attention is actually being misplaced?  
Working on the premise that:
Intention is to speech as Attention is to action. One wants to accomplish great things, the other does.
I’m going to ask myself for the next little while “Is my Attention focused on my Intention right now?”

Worst case scenario; my family and friends will be getting a better piece of me. Best case scenario; the laundry will get folded!
Thank you Deepak, Oprah, Cecile, and the laundry Gods.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We Day - Our Part

We Day arrived in Kitchener Waterloo today with all of the buzz and excitement expected when the travelling ‘do good’ show comes to town. The kids love it, teachers love it, social media folks swoon over it like the latest specialty offering at Starbucks. So much praise for the event and for so many great reasons. The day is devoted to celebrating the greatest potential in our community youth. It is devoted to celebrating young people of leadership and to encouraging young people to be the change the world is waiting for. We Day is a fabulous thing!

And it has me reflecting (are you surprised?) on what leadership is and who leaders are and what responsibilities leaders have to the people around them.

I’ll be very honest here and admit that the attendance process had me a little bummed and flustered, you can’t buy tickets to We Day. You can watch it live on-line but you can’t get in unless you’ve been selected through your school or service club or church or social ‘connections’. And while the tickets are free, make no mistake; like any other social, brand marketed, mainstream event, attendance to We Day is bought, by people who can talk about it or who will be talked about.

Rule number one of marketing; if you want to reach the greatest number of people you need to deliver your message to the people with the greatest audience to spread it to. Makes perfect sense. There are 6,000 seats for the young leaders of today in the auditorium and many of them will be filled by limelight leaders of our youth; student council chairs, youth group leaders, volunteers, but I guarantee and hope that a great many will be filled not with extraordinary examples of leadership by ‘popular demand’. For very good reason; choirs don’t need converting.

Popularity is so easily confused with Leadership. To be very clear they are NOT the same thing, they do however have a responsibility to one another. We Day organizers are very cognisant of this I believe and I wish them great success in delivering to the popular seat fillers the real message of We Day.

Not that they are great leaders but that they have a responsibility to become great leaders.

That, as History has proven in catastrophic proportion, your ability to retain followers does not certify the content of your message. Our school yards are filled with live demonstrations of this every single day; popular kids inciting bullying and segregation, promoting exclusion and demonstrating ‘under the line’ choices like drug use, profanity, and disrespect.  Certainly, they are leading by virtue of personality but they are not leading anyone to a brighter tomorrow.

…..But they could be, with a little encouragement, a little coaching, a little accountability, a little We Day demonstration of what positive leadership can do. Imagine the impact a socially popular student could have on our community with their notable reach if they could learn and adopt the leading traits of our best messengers.

Our best messengers; the quiet kids on the playground, the invisible leaders who’s strengths are kindness, compassion and empathy; kids who seek the odd man out and raise their hands to lend a hand, not because it increases their exposure but because they like the way it feels to do something nice for someone else.

These kids are great leaders too who very often go unnoticed by their peers and teachers and grown-ups simply because they do not command the same attention as the popular set, they do not have the same notable ‘reach’ (not yet).

One of the greatest markers of a true and exceptional leader is their ability to generate an atmosphere others can thrive in. Our best messengers, our quiet leaders do this every single day by simple virtue of living by example

So today while we are celebrating our strong visual community youth leaders and encouraging our popular kids to live up to the responsibility of their stations I want to encourage every adult to take a moment and thank a messenger; one of the kids in the middle who might not feel like they are making a difference because they miss out on the loud revival message and the fanfare. 

They need our praise and encouragement because they just as much, if not more, represent the future and the change we will see in the world. When the kids grow up and the wheat of leadership is separated from the chaff of popularity, the goodness of our society will depend upon leaders who live a great message everyday, pass it along to there own children and make our world a better place.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Sunrise

Sunday unfurls as the cat burrows under the blankets and nips gently on my leg “It’s about to begin” he whispers, “get up and watch the sunrise with me.” I stretch and rise, reluctantly but awake none the less.

We pad to the kitchen, I brew coffee and lift the living room blinds just enough for Curious to perch on the sill and check on the outside world. Satisfied he trips gently across the piano keys, the devil, on route to a freshly filled breakfast bowl; a little musical interlude of gratitude, perhaps just loud enough to wake another.

In the corner of my eye a sleepy ruffle headed boy crosses the hallway to wipe the sand from his eyes before joining me on the couch. He snuggles his pillow wrinkled cheek soft against my arm and yawns a “Morning Mom” his breath warming the backside of my coffee hugging hand. These days are not long.

Before they become a creaking downstairs door and quiet footsteps that ascend in search of a shower and toast before work. A gentle quiet smile for mom and a snuggle for Curious, who knows he cannot be resisted, and soaks up a tender good morning nuzzle from the girl who brought him home. These days have come too soon.

From when not long ago she, like her sister, would protest an early end to slumber a little too emphatically to match the glimmer in her eye. It’s so early on a Sunday for a perfect outfit and well styled hair. A ‘see ya’ thrown over her shoulder to mom as she bounces out the door to her knight in shining armour with the engine running. There is a promised day of adventure ahead.

I rise to refill my coffee mug and I count quietly the years since those days were ours. I wander to close the bedroom door against the noise of the wakened day. Glory the vision that greets me; my love, lazing peacefully in a bed of tangled sheets. I smile at the way he uses up every inch of space and at the content that lingers on his face even as he sleeps.

I pause to love this moment as I watch his breathing rise and fall. Around my ankle Curious circles and I reach down to pick him up. “Yes” I whisper “my sunrise is a beautiful thing.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Small ~ Quiet ~ Life

It is funny that in our fast paced life while we are rushing from commitment to commitment and striving to fill all the needs, it takes something completely out of proportion to stop us in our tracks and grab our attention. We are amazed by names etched on grains of rice and dogs bred to retain the miniature cuteness of puppyhood, tea cup kittens, Smart cars, and hamburgers the size of Ritz crackers. We pull over to the side of the road to have our picture taken with statues of ginormous buffalos, giant hockey sticks and cowboy boots the size of Mac trucks. People will stare mesmerized for a very long time at a dollhouse where everything is a miniature recreation of its life sized counterpart. They marvel at tiny spoons and plates, tiny portraits that hang on papered walls, they remark at the stitching of teeny little quilts that cover teeny little beds and nuzzle teeny little sleeping figurines.

This happened to me in my absence from life over the past year. As Mike and I worked through the challenges of rescuing our family from a life that had strayed from its heading, my focus needed to be small and narrow. I did not have the time or energy to both regroup and touch many if any of the things outside of our immediate life that I once believed the world needed from me. To commit to our vision I had to retreat from everything beyond fulfilling the basic needs of our family and that made my world incredibly small. We changed the proportions and I stopped in my tracks and was suddenly seeing my life, our life, for the first time from a new perspective. I was mesmerized by its details.

I hadn’t really given it much thought, how much we have actually accomplished in the past year. We just go about living and enjoying the days as they unfold. Then this quote crossed my desk this morning

"A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live” ~Bertrand Russell

This sums up this past year for me beautifully.

When life got small, life got quiet.

It was already happy but as Russell suggests, when it got quiet I found joy. Partially because I removed all of the distractions, partially because I allowed myself to concentrate fully on the blessings in my life rather than just caring for them. I began reading and studying and learning how to support myself, my life, my husband, my children better. I got quiet and focused and meditative and looked for answers to questions I never wanted to hear the answers to before. I’ve become a student of living, real heart open ‘all in’ living.

This year of honest living has been a tremendous teacher and to be fair, I’ve practiced hard.

I’ve learned so much.
I’ve learned a lot about letting go, I’ve learned a lot about letting people discover their own paths, I’ve learned a lot about trusting that everyone gets to their ‘place’ in their own time and  a lot about holding the light rather than cutting the path for them.
I’ve come to understand that my happiness, my children’s happiness, my husband’s has nothing to do with the dishes on the counter or the age of the car we drive or the length of my hair or the colour of its roots. I’ve learned to admit that these things really don’t matter to me and that I won’t be kicked out of the human race for saying so. I’ve learned that their true happiness depends on how they are honoured, loved, respected, listened to, and cherished, and the time I can devote to celebrating them and supporting their dreams is what is needed.  
I’ve learned that loving people doesn’t mean fixing them, it means loving them broken. I’ve learned that I am not always good at doing this.
I’ve learned to be fearless by releasing a need to judge. It’s a backwards strategy but it has taught me not to worry what other people think of me, or my views or my possessions. That people will love me or hate me no matter how I try to please them or fit in and that’s okay because there are people I don’t appreciate very much either. I’ve learned that having an opinion does not change who they are or what they love or how they behave.  I am learning to find myself in other people instead of measuring the ways they are different.  
I have learned that our stories are courage for other people. I’m learning that compassion and understanding take work.  
I’ve learned that the smile I can put on someone’s face is more important than the food I can put in their stomachs or the gift I can place in their hands.
I have learned that every good memory depends on how I behave in this very moment.
I am learning to have patience with the way people treat me, that their behaviour has less to do with who I am and our situation than it does with who they are and the past they come from.
I am learning to get quiet when things get crazy, that there is joy to be found in every single tragedy, setback, disappointment and frustration. I am learning that sometimes you just have to look a little harder for it. I’m learning that it’s important to live in a way that makes it easier for other people to find their joys, to be a light not a shadow.  
I’m learning that I don’t want to be a good person, I want to be a better person than I was last year, 10 years ago and yesterday.
I've learned that just how much joy hides in a small quiet life.

Monday, August 12, 2013


I'm back at my kitchen table this morning. How wonderful and comforting to find it just the way I left it, tucked into the corner, covered with the usual family trappings; mail, charging cords, fruit baskets and car keys, with just enough space reserved for my laptop and a steaming cup of coffee. It won't be long before the cat slinks out of whatever corner he's slumbered in for the night and claims what little tabletop remains, stretching his tiny body to an imposing size and re-homing items to the floor as necessary. He forever adores our time together in the morning, I forever adore his innate sense of entitlement.

It's good to be home.

He sighs it out and touches the back of my hand with an outstretched paw. "This is nice." his touch says "To be back in our quiet, our contemplation our thinking."

"Yes." I say "But where we have be, that has been magical. So much so in fact that I forgot about these comforts, this chair, these hours, the wondrous aroma of coffee, your company. Perhaps I have even forgotten about words and how not to plan them. Can that happen to a person? Can you set out upon a journey to discovery something about yourself and change who you are seeking to find?"

A back leg juts out and knocks my mug. "Drink your coffee, and stop talking so stupid. Journeys change us. What would be the point of taking one to return home the same person who left, to never grow or expand or change our vantage? The change is the point."

"Purpose was my point."

"One reveals the other and you are too fearful of each for it to matter. The sun is up now and I have plans to bask on the hardwood. Pick your keys up off the floor."

There is a discernible swagger in the ass end of a cat who has had enough of your company.

It's good to be home.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Out Came a Happiness Slam

Everyone expects that there is some grand transcendent answer to the meaning of life. A recipe for happiness… As though it is some majestic pursuit; that if you are not seeking it you are denying it, condemning yourself to a future of unfulfilled desires and a life unlived.
 And we fail.
We fail to realise that in the pursuit of a life of purpose the purpose is to live life. This life the one we are in right now. Not some future life where our planets are lined up, everything matches and life is in perfect order and harmony because we are fulfilling our life purpose.
The meaning of life is to live this life, this breath, this moment we are in… with the unpaid bills and the sick kids and the dying parents and the boss from hell and the job that fills a need but leaves you empty. It is this life where the neighbour’s dog barks all night and the garbage man refuses to pick up your mal sorted recycling. It is this life.
The secret that isn’t a secret at all, is to give yourself to this very moment.  Realise that everything you have thought, everything that has happened to you up to this very moment in time has brought you to this place. That in this exact breath you are exactly where you are meant to be.
And maybe it is because you have a job to do or maybe it is because your job is done. Maybe it’s because your grand purpose in life has nothing to do with you at all. Maybe your grand purpose is to be a cog, may be you are a stepping stone for some other person to achieve some monumental accomplishment for humanity.
Your destiny is not up to your design, your purpose is your birthright and the longer you fight what you are to be, to accomplish something you imagine you should be, the longer you  fight against the universe in an effort to fulfill what you perceive as your quest you will be denied, denied happiness, riches of spirit and life, peace, calm and clarity.
You are one microscopic speck in the universe; you cannot believe that this journey is solely about you. This journey is about a big picture a picture that includes you. A picture to which you are vital and integral, but you don’t get to choose your part, your role, your calling. That is predestined.
And some people know this and they struggle with impatience. They know they have purpose, that they are not just an enigma taking up space and using up oxygen. And they want to know, they are impatient and chase after what they imagine their purpose must be and they call themselves unhappy because the future never reveals itself despite peeling at the layers of themselves and digging deeper and deeper into their being to discover what they are to become they fail to realise that this moment, this breath is all they need.
They forget that happiness is found in hugging your children and loving your spouse and giving your effort to the job at hand. That at this moment your entire purpose on this earth is to devote yourself to just this breath. Do this. Give everything you’ve got to the very minute you are in.  I promise you no one reaches the end of their journey yelling “WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THAT!”  If that were true we would not mourn those that leave us or celebrate those who arrive.
Live this breath, breath it in. Let it fill you with hope. Greet every opportunity with enthusiasm; face every challenge before you with conviction and determination to see the other side of its trouble. Love every person who comes into your life, they are there for a reason. Praise those who leave your life they have left impressions, fossils on your soul that will be discovered in time. Believe that nothing happens out of context or without purpose.
How bold we are to believe that in a world filled with billions of people that we are the one chosen to impact it all. Our world has become so small that we believe we are huge, mega capable, that our market is reachable and crowded with people but what if it isn’t? What if your sole purpose in this life, your role in the equation is to help just a single person? Perhaps some person you do not even know, maybe a person who, without a second thought, you have erased completely from your memory before the lingering scent of their perfume has left the room.  What if your role is something as incremental as letting a stranger take your place in line at the grocery store or cancelling a dentist appointment? What if that is your piece. What if our reach is a far as the end of our fingertips?
You may go to your grave never knowing what great thing your existence in this life has sparked and that will be okay.
That is not to say don’t dream.
Do dream, do plan, do fantasize a future but do not make your happiness dependent upon it. Draft a future. Not something rigid and demanding, dream something, weave it like lace with a pattern open to the possibilities, challenges, opportunities and the souls life is going to place in your path. They are gifts. Capture them and work them into the fabric. Set your intentions but do not attach your happiness to them.
Happiness is fastened to this moment. Give yourself permission to live the breath you are in. Fully. Completely. Use up every scrap of oxygen it contains. Loving completely the people you are with at that moment you are in, committing to make their time with you memorable to the extent that those memories, on a bad day, on a day when you can’t be there to hold a hand and share a smile will sustain them through their trials. Commit to embrace this very moment, it is the only one you are guaranteed and the secret of happiness is that.
It is hiding in the very act of making the very most of the single breath you are in.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Where Victory Hides

At some point we all have to come back down to earth. For our son E, and I imagine the rest of the boys on his hockey team, it will be a slow return. It’s not been a banner season, not in terms of wins anyway, it has however been a season of great victory and this past weekend in Niagara on the Lake proved just how much this group of boys has won.

We are at the end of our regular league season. Our record is 2 wins, 2 ties and a stack of loses. Those are the stats and even though I am only a 2nd year rookie hockey mom and far from educated about the game, I understand those stats aren’t pretty.

Heading to the March Break tournament we were promised three games and that, in all honesty, is all any of us (parents anyway) expected. By the time we hit game four; the semi-final game, the pangs of parental guilt for believing secretly and not so secretly that we would never had made it so far were visible on almost every face. In our defense our team came out of nowhere, playing solid hockey like we hadn’t seen all season; skating, digging, passing, back checking, defending the net and taking away scoring chances (these are all terms I have memorized and will someday understand) Where did this team come from?

They came from playing get-to-know you street hockey and mini-sticks, eating hamburgers and playing video games. They came from a great afternoon of pond hockey against their Coaches and their Dads. This team came from hanging out in the pool and old school road hockey in the hotel parking lot. They came from hours hanging out at the Hockey Loft, competing against one another in targets and time trials and goofing off during the free skate of on-ice practice. You could see they emerged from joining together to change a family’s Christmas and from eating pancakes and bacon after a morning of big show hockey at Ranger’s Nation. They came from great Coaches who were as much a part of the team as the leaders of it.  Those boys who went into the final game came from cheering loud and proud for their hometown Kitchener Rangers and dancing Gangnom style in the dressing room. They brought it all to the ice and you could feel it, their energy, their ‘Team’. They brought it all to the win! They won, and I would be remise if I didn't exclaim it was exhilarating, thrilling and emotional, even more so because of where the win came from.

I’m not going to lie; watching games throughout the season has been painful at times. I cheer and smile and silently think to myself ‘come on guys – when are you going to get it together’ and I am feeling rather small at the moment for failing to see that they were getting it together the whole time, that it simply wasn’t recognizable until it looked like winning.

That may be one of the saddest things about becoming an adult I think; in the land of grown-ups and grown-up jobs the focus is all on the result, on the win, it’s how we measure success. Sure we strive to recognize the efforts along the way but we fail to celebrate them as the other victory.

Play-offs are coming up for our boys, they are going in on a high note riding the wave of victory not only as champions of a recent tournament (which was sweet) but riding a season of auxiliary successes. Whatever the result at the end of the day – every one of those boys has won far more than a championship.

…and isn’t that the point?

idkfjbasldhfkba 2024

Monday, April 8, 2013

Crayon Leadership

English: crayons of rainbow colorAn interesting awareness that came up during mediation this morning was this “A leader does not control others, their words, thoughts, actions, or deeds. A leader does not demand from others. A leader controls their own words, thoughts, actions and deeds, strives to live by example and allows others the freedom to discover their own potential.”

Then the next thought; how true that statement is of parenthood. We all want to raise great leaders of life and community but how willing are we to turn our parenting role into a true role of leadership to do it?

Thinking about when my children were little I remember spending hours with our green metal lunchbox stuffed full of bright bits of wax crayons and a stack of newsprint colouring books just waiting to be brought to life. “Let’s Colour!” it was a favourite pastime, and we did. We coloured dolphins and soldiers, puppy dogs and Easter Bunnies. We would cram together on a single book; grown-up colouring on one side of the spine, kid colouring on the other. A mini competition of artistic expression where grown-ups always fail because we know puppy dogs are brown, dolphins are grey and Easter Bunnies have pink ears.

There are two types of grown-ups that colour with children. The first type says “That’s beautiful sweetie!” the second type says “Stay in the lines.” There are two types of kids who colour with grown-ups; the type that colours in the lines because you told them to and the type that scribbles all over the page because you didn’t. Eventually both children colour in the lines, one because you told them to the other because they watched you do it. The end results are the same with the exception of the enjoyment level of both parties. It’s not much fun to colour if you are always worried the other person is going to make a mistake and it isn’t much fun to colour if you are always waiting for someone to tell you how you are doing it wrong.

It isn’t easy to control your own words, thoughts, actions and deeds. As a parent it is terrifying to watch your children make mistakes, take risks that can set them back and occasionally fail. Leading by example is hard. Leading from the back is a challenge especially as the kids get older, the stakes get higher and the consequences more dire. Terrifying maybe isn’t the best word, I like petrifying a little better. Being a leader for our children often scares us right into control and robs them of great opportunities to draw their own lines and fill their page with colour.

There is a great saying rattling in our home this week…Mike says “When nothing is going right, go left” it makes me think that perhaps when I’m having the most challenging time with parenting my young adults. Maybe I'm trying to control more than lead.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Family Days and Fat Food Happens

IMAG0298Pictured at left is a bowl of Family Day. I know it looks like an artery clogging heart stopping bowl of gourmet poutine; glorious homemade french fries cut from the finest Yukon gold potatoes the grocery store has to offer, sprinkled with near crispy bits of bacon, sweet golden brown caramelized onions, nuggets of white cheese curd so fresh they squeak between your teeth, warm and salty and blanketed with a luxurious laddlefull of maple bbq beef gravy. (napkins are on the counter)

Looks can be deceiving. Like I said it's a bowl of Family Day.

Our family missed Family Day. Well, we didn't so much miss it, it was more a failure to synchronize. We all knew it was Family Day but the efforts to celebrate caused more tension than harmony. In short we just tried too darn hard and pushed family togetherness right out the window. It is one of the greatest lessons in life and the one I struggle to remember all the time; Let it be, what's meant to be.

Meant to be is what happened yesterday on the way home from a disappointing loss at the rink. Family harmony came to life in the back seat, an effort to lighten the mood became a game plan for what I coined Guilt Free Saturday (an effort to justify the ridiculous 'what's for dinner' menu my kids were dreaming up).

The plan; an epic dinner to be enjoyed tv-side with a feature NHL game (Pittsburg vs. Montreal...you can't make this stuff up)
What was on the epic dinner menu? Not vegetables. Maple bacon BBQ cheddar burgers sandwiched on bakery rolls and served with a side of gourmet poutine. Just reading it makes your arteries clog and your pulse race, internal conflict rivaled only by my natural instinct to  not fuel my body with poison vs. my desire to dive right into a day of indulgence and family fun. Indulgence won.

A quick stop at the grocery store for essential ingredients not usually on hand, namely burgers, buns, cheese curds, and bacon.  We arrived home with smiles and comradery. In the kitchen E helped cut and blanche potatoes, KJ precision fried the bacon and I sliced and diced onions, tomatoes, and cheese. Lula, whose favourite room is not the kitchen, kept the dog distracted from the aromas wafting from it. Mike, enjoyed an indulgence of his own, a nap...and we let him, because well.... we don't let him very often and what better way to say "we love you Dad." than to let the man rest up before his gourmet meal.

I set up a burger grilling station for E and he worked that George Forman like a grill master, cooking each burger to perfection then smothering them lovingly with Maple BBQ sauce to bathe in while they rested in the oven. KJ cooked a golden roux for the gravy and stirred the gently caramelizing onions. I soaked it all in, the cooperation, the intensity of heart to task, the verbal jousting, the 'family' that filled the air.

Anyone who tries to portray that their family is a living breathing cocoon of love, peace and togetherness is probably delusional and quite likely thinks you are an idiot. Families aren't, they are places where people learn to debate and speak their minds, individuate themselves and become independent. Families squabble and slam doors, they cry and disagree, they push each other to be better and call one another out when they are being less than they are capable of. Homes are places where people learn to trust and take chances, get comfortable with who they are and who they want to become. Families are the thing that catch and comfort you when things don't go how you thought they would and you need a soft place to heal.

The cocoon of love peace and togetherness is always there, rippling just beneath the surface of the chaos. It doesn't surface because you will it, it surfaces when you won't it. When you simply let it be.
Guilt Free Saturday, I would love to have them every week. Fortunately for my arteries and my waistline a family doesn't readily support the idea.

This morning I am extremely grateful that I opted out of the burger stopped at a single serving of poutine and that the dog is up for a good long walk. I am also grateful that life sends you the lessons you need, when you need them the most.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

I Forget

Yesterday was a difficult day for me. I had firmly planted in my brain that today was going to be even harder. And it was, for a little while.

Then this word crossed my desk...


I have that!

I want things, I plan for them, I set goals and take steps everyday to move myself closer to them. Then they don't come to me as quickly as I want them and I get impatient. I get impatient and forget everything I know.

I forget that you are only in charge of your desires not their arrival

I forget that you don't always get what you want but it is usually because there is something better waiting for you.

I forget that buckets are filled a drop at a time

I forget that the best place to be is in now, breathing this breath and letting the future unfold according to a greater plan.

I forget that things happen for a reason

I forget that the reason is not always clear

I forget that I am exactly where I am meant to be at this minute

I forget that I am not alone in the world and I have a role to play in someone else's story

I forget that we never remain in any place in life too long

I forget that the things I cried about in the past have shaped where I am today and made me a stronger person

I forget to trust

I forget

Impatience does this to me.

I forget to have faith

Yesterday was a day of impatience, today was a day of recognition, tomorrow is a day of growing in patience and practicing to breath...

...So I don't forget.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Getting Back to a Dream

Tomorrow is not going to be a good day. I know because today I have been visiting my past; a past where I had what I always wanted. Believe it or not once upon a time I was a lucky one, a person blessed to be living the life they have dreamed.

I am living proof that you can do it. I am also living proof that you can give it all up. I did that too. Now I spend a split second of every day angry and disappointed in myself. It happens at 9:26 each morning when I slip my key into the lock of my office door and flip the switch that starts another day of addressing form letters, tracking missed insurance payments and problem solving. I unlock that door and I am angry, not at my job; that would be foolish. I am grateful for my job, for the ability to earn a living and provide for my family. I work with nice people and nice people sign my paycheck. There are many people who pray every day for the opportunity of employment. I am not angry at my job, I am angry at myself. Angry that I didn’t fight harder for my dream while I was living it, angry that I didn’t try harder to turn the situation inside out and look at every other conceivable option before doing the ‘right’ thing. Every day I turn that key and I think “the right thing for who?” Did my children entering school fulltime have to end my privilege to live my dream?  Wouldn’t the right thing for me, for my family, for my children have been to find a way, anyway to stay home in the role that I dreamt my whole life to fill, doing the things that bring my heart joy? Wouldn’t the right decision have been to believe in myself enough to build on my dream rather than trade it in for what was expected of me?

And I answer myself, “Yes that would have been the right thing, but you made the wrong decision. You didn’t fight hard enough, you didn’t find another way. You cashed in the chips on the life you always wanted.” I acknowledge my mistake put the cork back in my regret and I check the messages on my machine, scan my emails and review my to-do list for the day. I carry on. I carry on and I do a good job but I’m not really there. My heart is at school and on field trips, home cooked meals and sorting socks (yes even the domestic chore I hate more than any other is forefront in my mind) I clock out at 5, head home, soak in as much domestic bliss as I possibly can before heading to bed and getting up to do it all again the next day. My job is akin to my mother’s arthritis. It aches and causes her discomfort but she pushes through and does what she needs to do to live with it. Most days it’s okay, I can manage it, laugh at where I’ve put myself and, make the most of the day, do the very best with the task I’ve taken upon myself and remind myself that the money is making other great things possible.

Then sometimes my mistake hits home and immobilizes me. All it takes is a personal day or the arrival of my Friday off or like this week, someone getting sick and needing me at home. That’s when I feel it, the comfort of being back in my place, the return to being who I am in my heart. I am reminded I have done the wrong thing. I’ve done the wrong thing and I don’t have a clue how to fix it.

On a day like today when I know tomorrow means a return to my job I feel helplessly lost, I cy, I get angry with myself for giving up so easily. My daughter would call me a hypocrite. “Mom, you spend so much time encouraging everyone to follow their heart to pursue their dreams to do whatever it takes to live their passion every day. Then you do the opposite.” She is not wrong. She also does not see that I spend that time because I have lived in that beautiful space of my dream, I did it for 13 years; and I let it go just like that. I opened my hand and responsibility blew it from my outstretched palm. I put a smile on my face and pretended I was excited to return to work, but it was a lie. One the consequences of which I have to fix, if I can just figure out how. What she doesn’t get to see is the regret. She doesn't know that my wrong is the thing that makes me push so hard for other people to it do right.

Tomorrow is not going to be a good day, I know that. I am going to head into the office, I am going to turn that key and wish worse than ever that I was home, where I belong taking care of the life I dreamed for myself. I am going to be angry and disappointed with myself. Then I am going to do something I usually stop short of; I am going to work on the fix until I have a plan to get back to where I belong.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hockey on My Terms

I’ve been trying, with great conviction, to write all week. I brew fresh coffee, plunk down in my favourite writing spot, tuck my left foot up under my right leg and begin...

and hockey comes out. Hockey comes out and a little voice in the back of my head screams NOOOOO…not here too!

Don’t get me wrong, I love hockey. Okay, not really. To be more accurate I love the people in my life who love hockey, so I go along with it. Going along was pretty easy in the beginning of the season this year, we were restricted to house league games and our hometown OHL heroes. House league is good, mostly because there is no place in this entire world I would rather be than watching one of my kids live their passion. The OHL is good; all those Friday home games leave me with an empty house and some time to rejuvenate my inner calm. But then it happened; the end of the NHL lockout, and we switched to all hockey all the time. The Hockey Night in Canada theme song is an earworm loop from sun up to sun down.  When the sun does go down, in my sleep Don Cherry narrates a play by play of my day, tells me exactly where I messed up and what to expect tomorrow. I can’t escape. We are so deep in the quicksand of hockey that it has leaked right into my creative spirit and I can’t even pen a thought that isn’t associated in some way with hockey.

I have Hockey Block.

There are only two ways to handle any kind of block; Turn around and go home or push it out of the way. I can’t go home, writing is my home. So I have to push.

An exercise in turning hockey terms into relevant terms:

Offside – what the cat does with a glass left on the table.

Face-off – Removal of makeup before bed each night.

Left wing – right-wing – a snack in each hand

Power play – remote control supremacy

Tripping – a mother’s reaction to chores that get ignored

Penalty box – locking yourself in the washroom for a timeout

Penalty minutes – the length of time you are in the box before somebody knocks on the door

Goaltender – the person responsible for remembering that things besides hockey are waiting for attention

Point-man – I have one

Checking – running around behind people picking up what gets left behind

Cross checking – finding someone else’s stuff

Line change – moving to the faster cue for coffee

1 Game Suspension – pretending you don’t find hockey boring for one night and attending a game with your husband. If a girl wants a date during hockey season – you’ve got to compromise.

Good play – making it a double date with dinner beforehand.

There is still a lot of season left and I’m sure to suffer further bouts of Hockey Block, there is no telling how long this list of terms might get before we get to…

Playoff Season – light at the end of the tunnel

Have a great weekend everyone! Keep your Stick on the Ice -


Friday, January 18, 2013

Potential Concerto

Our family is getting a new piano tomorrow! There is nothing wrong with our old piano, mainly because we don't have one, but this new one is going to be fabulous! Fabulous because, well who doesn't need a piano? (insert visual of Michelle waving frantically "Me! Over here, me...I don't need a piano.")

I've had this stabbing pain in my left temple since Mike sent me the first text that said "I got us a piano. Want to put it in the livingroom?" That was the whole message, no "Hey, how do you feel about music?" or "Do you like Liberace?" just "Where are we putting it?" My gut reaction, probably fueled by a flashback of a short encounter from hell with piano lessons as a child, was; "someone elses house."  There was something however about my husband's childlike enthusiasm rivalled only by the enthusiasm of my children that led me to conceded to moving the couch to make room for a piano.

It should probably be noted here that beyond not having a piano in our home currently we also have no person in the house who plays the piano. Those lessons weren't hell for no reason. All we have is potential. Our children were born with considerately more music aptitude than their mother (thank goodness) and there is the long shot chance that one of them may find the instrument fascinating. Mike has "learn to play..." high on his live list. Although I think is finishes 'guitar' not '700lb string instrument that you need a crane to get to the campfire' So potentially the piano might get some attention.

Some attention if we can get it home in one piece without damaging the ivory beast or our poor friends in the process. That was text #2 "Free, just have to move it." I seriously wish my husband was born with a hint of 'impossible' sometimes.

"How are you going to move a piano?" was my dumb question.
"No Problem, don't worry." was the response I got. It was also the response I've come to expect from Mike, nothing is beyond possible in his world.

So the new piano is a fait accompli, move the couch and make some room. The days ahead are filled with potential.

Potential physical harm, potential destruction of a musical instrument, potential discovery of a musical prodigy, potential nervous breakdown of a mother. There are so many places we can go with all of this potential and I will do what I always do when Mike says "Ahhh, don't worry." ...I'll go along for the ride and life will never be the same.

See you at the concert hall!

Have a great weekend, make sure you use every minute!