Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labour Day Feast

This post is filed under SAVOURING!

Here was our Labour Day Feast which turned out to be an amazing feast with little planning. We made roasted veggies with fresh herbs from our garden, locally grown green and yellow beans, homemade fresh bread, for dessert pumpkin scones with spiced icing which were better than Starbucks and the piece du resistance: Beer Can Chicken! My husband first attempt at the Beer Can Chicken was delectable especially as it was naturally-raised organic Beretta Farm Chicken (which aside from being the tastiest chicken I've ever bought are raised and farmed in a humane and sustainable way- all locally they are located in King City ON).

We also had a lovely glass of Chardonnay (which I'm not sure pairs well but tasted great to us!) All in all a lovely meal made even more special by sharing it with my family!

Sometimes the best dinners are ones that aren't planned and you end up eating in your sweats and it's the most beautiful meal you've had in a long time.

This was one of those meals and I will cherish the memory...especially how wide the Mouse's eyes got when she saw that bird!

Here are some pics....leftovers tonight were even better...yum!


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hello Bangs!

(This picture has been styled by my creative stylist, Jessica

and in no way do I plan to do this pose in every picture

from here on in and post them on Facebook

just in case you were wondering!)



My bangs are back and I am so happy. They are like old friends coming back to visit, I missed them and we have so much to catch up on. (Now they didn't arrive from the Great Style Fairy overnight but close, I must credit the talented Jennifer from W.A.C Hair Group on Main Street Markham for giving me a kick-ass do! Seriously, I barely have to do anything and my hair is normally wavy to curly!)

You see after I had my daughter, I let things go for awhile. As new mothers know all too well, previously impeccable personal grooming is the first thing to go. Even if your intentions are strong and the support systems are in place, there is just no way you'll trade an hour of sleep/eating/showering/reading/staring blankly into space in a shell-shocked daze for pulling out that flat-iron!

Now, although I have always been rather fussy about my hair (one friend joked that I went to the hairdresser practically every 2nd week to which I replied, "Doesn't everyone?") I knew going in that I wouldn't be able to maintain anything close to what I used to do so I pretty much gave up.

When you give up on your hair, you basically have given up on most of your personal pride. At least in my case that's true.

I did try hard to look my best while on my maternity leave even if I was just going for a lap or two around the park with the hounds but the level of fatigue usually didn't allow much coiffing. So I just gave in and gave up!

Now that the style is back, I feel like a new woman! Some mothers have said they feel sexier after having their children, the power of their bodies and inner strength bolstering their self-confidence which I get. I feel it too –sometimes-but mostly I just felt rather dishevelled. During university exams to take an hour just before leaving to write to shower, put on some make-up and nice clothes instead of showing up in my pyjamas like other students. I was always of the belief that if you look your best, you will perform your best too.

Looking good is more than mere vanity, it's the outward and inward commitment to the self that you are important too and should be cared for –whatever that means to you.

It's no wonder that many women would pick a perfect hair day over great sex! What's the point in pure ecstasy if you feel like a frump queen?!

It's good that I didn't obsess over my hair when I was home with Miss Mouse but it's equally as important that I remind myself that along with my new role as Mummy, my return to working girl life and continued devoted wife, daughter and friend, I can still be rather foxy....

Or at least my bangs can!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The best thing I've found online in awhile...

Thanks to Rambling Renovators who introduced me to my new addiction!

Lovin' it! Guess what I'll be doing for awhile?


Monday, August 23, 2010

Lessons I’ve Learned from Twitter

I know it's been awhile since I last posted. Maybe you thought I had given up marveling and savouring life.

I haven't. Actually quite the opposite.

I decided in July to go forward with a thought I had had to start a blog celebrating Canadian children's books and authors/illustrators by reviewing a book a day. I also had hoped that this new and exciting venture would keep my mind occupied during the time I was away from my precious Miss Mouse.

It's working. My blog Word of Mouse Books has been a saving grace. I am not required to use all my extra moments, whether commuting by train or downtime at work to plan and execute what I will do for each nightly post and that leaves little time for wallowing in the separation time. Plus, I am "forcing" myself to write each day and to find my own voice as I muddle through.

The added boon, besides all the great books I get to read and my small but loyal readership, is the amazing on-line community I have met and become part of.

I'll be honest; while I love many of the social media tools (obviously blogging but also Facebook) I have been resistant to Twitter. I had this notion (probably from media portrayals and thanks to Ashton Kutcher) that it was a cyberspace wasteland of narcissistic individuals tweeting about their bowel movements, what they were eating, and what sort of underwear their wife had on today.

Boy, was I surprised.

Not only is Twitter a valuable tool for getting the word out about your product, service or brand (in my case my blog is my brand) it has become a valuable source of information and connections to various authors, illustrators, book enthusiast and bloggers. For me, Twitter has also been a way to engage in a meaningful dialogue about children's literature, local events and parenting styles. It's a limitless forum to build awareness and start a conversation.

So I just wanted to share some of the life lessons I've learned from Twitter:

Finding success at life or through Twitter is more than coming up with witty repartee and zany one-liners. You have to have substance:

Sure everyone loves the guy/gal with the sarcastic quip or the ability to make us laugh but people on-line and off only want that for so long. If you have nothing valuable to say after awhile, people will tune you out.

Vapid people get very tiresome really quickly just like tweets about nothing and the disingenuous get sniffed out fairly quickly too. For some reason the same tool that allows millions of people of any socio-economic, cultural, racial, religious, national group or affiliation allows those same folks to weed out those with self-serving gains or ill-will faster than you can say "tweeps"! I think there are some universalities when it comes to human behavior which is paradoxically evidenced in cyberspace. I also think the world is hungry for more (but that's a whole other post!)

If you aren't here to participate you might as well stay home:

Like life there are always those more engaged than others. Some of this is personality or upbringing while some of it is just laziness or as Seth Godin's coined our Lizard Brain. We are afraid of failure, fearful of taking a stand, cautious of being taken seriously. Why? Because it means we up to this point, we haven't been living up to our potential and that's tough for some people to take in.

This fear is not only reserved to the individual but to companies and organizations everywhere. They are afraid to get on-line and build a presence. They hire expensive consultants and assemble teams and meet ad nausea to plan and plan and plan. These aren't bad things but the worldwide web doesn't wait. Why, you ask, because it doesn't have to! If you are not there to add to its need for frequent, relevant and generating conversation don't bother even coming out.

It's like the guy who attends every single meeting, keeps his head down, takes only notes and never says a word. It's almost better that he didn't come because all he'll be remembered for is as the guy who never adds anything of value.

So if you plan to go do more than show up, contribute! And if you plan to go on-line to contribute, be prepared to contribute something of value often.

You don't always have to be right you just have to be willing to talk about it:

Here is another thing that happens to people when the fear takes over they ascribe to perfectionism especially those who look at life as a dog-eat-dog world. If I'm not cool/hip/au courant/chic/ insightful/innovative/creative all the time I will be laughed off of Twitter (or the boardroom, or the classroom, or out of this group). I've found that on Twitter most people just want to talk about things-whether it is parenting, breastfeeding, kids' lit, writing novels, learning how to be more environmentally responsible and even how to be more successful at Tweeting!

If you are not ready to put your opinions out there then you're missing an important part of the tool, it's to facilitate conversation. Sure you only have 140 characters in which to do it which makes it harder but also forces you to really look at what's the important crux of what you want to say. What are the bare bones of your argument and how to get it across to others in a meaningful way? It's brilliant really, technology forcing us to be more mindful!

I often wonder how much better international relations would go if world leaders were only allowed to Tweet to each other!

And lastly, good manners go a long way:

Never was I more acutely aware of the power of good etiquette than when I joined Twitter. While I can't honestly say that bad manners will do you in (I'm sure there is someone out there who has some insightful musings on this) all I can tell you is that paying attention to how you treat people makes a HUGE difference in your ability to generate goodwill on line which means more Re-Tweets (RTs)of your tweets (which is how this whole thing works) more followers and thus more recognition and how much more I want to help others who engage in a friendly, polite manner with me.

This type of relationship currency is invaluable for the success of anything you want to do in life or on Twitter.

Speaking of which, I have some RTs to do and thank you DMs to respond to!

Hopefully I will meet you there!



Friday, July 16, 2010

Ch-ch-cha Changes!

If I have learned anything it's that change comes whether we like it or not. It comes when we are not expecting it and it comes when we are coasting along contentedly loving the status quo.

Change can be hard but it is a necessary component for personal growth. I know this sounds trite but it is true.

Having faced a whole host of change the last fourteen months with the birth of the Mouse and now with my second week of returning to work under my belt, I have had to *try* and make peace with this change. My daughter spent the first week with her Daddy and my mother, her Oma, and has now started home care (daycare in a home setting) with a lovely woman down the street.

I am composing this post for no other reason than to convince myself to stay calm and carry on and hopefully help some other moms who are due to return soon. (Actually, I think this post is an attempt to bolster my resolve not to walk into work every day and quit my job and stay home with her forever; to transform my maternity leave what I've heard one hip mom blogger call an “eternity leave”.)

Here’s what I have discovered about major transitional periods:

1.Growth can only come with change

Bottom line: if it’s comfortable then there is no personal growth. Just like plants pushing through the earth and chicks learning to fly, if there is risk involved then you can gain growth (new skill, new perspective, greater confidence, more money, etc.). Without exposing yourself to occasional discomfort you may even regress.

Growth is a good thing right? One positive outcome of having to return to work is that I have forced time to focus on some of the things I need to in order to put myself in a position to be home more with my child. Although initially I have to be apart from her, I might not have put in the time because I felt guilty working on these projects while I was home with her. This time apart has allowed me to focus on tasks that will get me closer to my end goals in a way I am not distracted. So, when I do get to be with her I focus completely on her.

Another postive is that The Mouse learns how to be cared for and interact with other people in this world besides her family and she may even learn more advanced skills from exposure to other children. She would not get this opportunity solely from being with me, unless I managed to adopt a couple of slightly older children really quickly!

2.No matter what type of change it is human nature wants to adjust

I have been so concerned about how the Mouse would respond to my return to work. Would she feel abandoned, would she feel insecure in her world now that things shifted from being with Mummy to a strange new environment? I feared the worst. The reality is that the past couple of weeks have been the hardest on me!

Children are wonderful creatures to be around because they live more in the present. Instead of focusing on what was (her and I together all the time) she just accepts that I am gone more now. Sure she cries a little when I leave and is stuck to me when I get home but otherwise she just goes about her day. The new experiences push her forward and cause her delight so she just moves on.

The thing is humans are always seeking homeostasis, a way to return to normal so our basic drive always compel us to try and get as comfortable in a new situation as possible.

In our dyadic relationship, I am the one who is able to understand our separation so therefore it’s worse for me. Strange as it is, the more you know the more you resist the urge to change. Maybe it is over-intellectualizing or over-rationalizing that inhibits a willingness to suspend our expectations and be more emotionally flexible. Buddhists often talk about living without expectations as a path to enlightenment and toddlers just don’t cognitively see the world in the way adults do, they have expectations but not the complex ones we do so they are better able to go with the flow.*

*This is an extremely reassuring concept for any Moms out there who are facing return to work anticipatory pangs and stresses of separation and fear for how their child will handle it.

3.When you feel secure its easier to weather the changes

The main thing that has helped me through this transitional time (aside from the zillion calls to my husband every day to check on The Mouse and the gazillion pictures I carry of her everywhere I go) is that I know she feels secure wherever she goes and whatever she does because I/we worked tirelessly to create a strong attachment bond with our daughter.

I continue to breastfeed, we co-sleep, I believe in baby-wearing and I always pay close attention to her needs when it comes to separation or closeness. People call this “attachment parenting” nowadays but I think of it as a normal visceral response to caring for your child. I will continue to respect and honour where my daughter is in terms of her individual growth and support that as much as I can and not worry about where she “should” be according to the well-meaning standards of others.

We are reaping the benefits of having a secure bond with our daughter; she trusts us implicitly and knows that if she is in a situation that is uncomfortable her parents are always looking out for her even if they are not in the room. I can sense this intuitively with her (another benefit of a secure attachment!)

I know this because I feel this security myself. I am very lucky and this helps me to weather these changes. I have a very empathetic and steadfast husband, loving parents and in-laws, caring friends and I have been especially fortunate to have found a wonderful set of like-minded moms who have similar parenting styles and who are an endless fountain of compassionate support, well-times humor and guidance. I wish every new mother could have such a group of women in their lives, their presence is an invaluable source of strength to me.

I am desperately trying to posit this challenging time in positive terms. Using techniques I have learned long-ago about optimism and positive self-talk, I am trying to use this time to learn all I can while I have to go through it.

As I've just begun to learn, this too shall pass.


*Note: photo of the Mouse and I in the carefree days of maternity leave. SIGH!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Why wait? My Own Questionnaire…ummm… to myself

I love magazines!I especially love reading the bits where the interviewer asks questions of someone famous about their likes and dislikes and recent activities. I find this so interesting, a glimpse into the lives of the otherworldly and I’ve always secretly fantasized about being asked to do such an interview myself. I am the first one to diligently fill out those email questionnaires and zip them off to family and friends while others are bemoaning even getting one.

So instead of waiting around until I get famous (or another email questionnaire from a bored buddy) I decided to ask myself and post it. (I’ve borrowed some of the questions from interviews I have read and thought “What would I say if I was asked that?” This exercise was a fun reminder that my opinions and likes should be as important to me as reading anyone else’s. You should try it yourself, even if you don’t post it or share it.

Check out my answers below:

1. What was the first concert you attended (without your parents) and do you still listen to the band/artist today?

I have got to a place in my life where I am completely comfortable with myself so I can admit out loud that it was MILLI VANILLI and it was the summer of 1990, just months before they were exposed as gorgeous lip syncing fakes. SIGH!
I still know all their moves and I will drop a little Rob & Fabian when Blame it on the Rain comes on the radio.

2. Have you ever lied about reading a particular book to impress someone? What was the book?

I’ll admit I have lied about reading books but I’ve never done it to impress someone. Usually I’ve lied when I know the other person is lying too, stops a pretentious conversationalist in their tracks.

3. What was the most recent show you watched on television?

My guilty pleasure from my hausfrau days: The Young & the Restless!!!

4. Who would play you if your life was adapted for the big screen?

I would love to say Eva Mendes or Salma Hayek but let’s be real people, it would be Sandra Bullock or someone who is less super perfect, more down-to-earth and combines humour and slapstick effortlessly.

5. Have you ever walked out of a movie theatre?

Never, if I’ve paid I’m watching the whole thing!

6. Which film is your guilty pleasure or you are most embarrassed to love?

Legally Blonde – that movie always makes me happy.

7. Who's your favourite female protagonist in books or movies?

Anne Shirley, of Anne of Green Gables. I love spunky women, especially when they have all the cards stacked against them.

More recently, I have enjoyed soon to be highschool grad, Carrie Bradshaw in Candance Bushnell’s The Carrie Diaries. If I thought I loved Carrie in Manolos I love her more in white patent leather high boots!

8. What’s the most overplayed song on your iPod at the moment?

My iPod is really my husband’s but I have been rocking the Raffi, Animal Songs with the Mouse. It’s creepy how addictive his music is!

9. If you could live the life of any fictional character who would it be and why?

Wow – I think there are way too many great characters in fiction that I could never settle on just one but I have always fancied myself as more of background scene-stealer type.

10. Team Jacob or Team Edward?

JACOB!!! I’d pick warm and furry over cold and pale any day!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Jumping hurdles the path to bliss?

I haven’t posted anything in a couple of weeks because I have been undecided about what to write about. Miss Mouse’s birthday passed at the end of May with much fanfare and feelings of wonderment. Gone is the little baby, now is a busy little girl, making me a very busy Mommy. Or perhaps I have just been savouring this time, letting it digest. It is a milestone for me and my little family.

The Year of the Mouse, as I have coined this past year, has been unequivocally the best one of my life yet it has also been the most challenging. In fact, from the time I found out I was pregnant my whole being has gone through upheaval, inside out and top to bottom. From my expanding waistline to the expansion of my own mind; once you witness the unlimited potential of the body your thinking cannot help but follow suit.

The main epiphany I have had this past year is that:

When you are doing what you love, challenges become joys.

Yes people, I have finally experienced what others have referred to as BLISS and by George it feels good. Sure I’ve had moments of it. While painting, reading a great novel or perhaps falling in love I have felt like I have lost track of time and been completely and wonderfully absorbed in what I was doing, but nothing like this. My experience has taught me that bliss comes when you feel fantastic not from strife.

So imagine my shock then the most interesting thing I’ve learnt is that the greatest bliss comes when you get over the hurdles. Who knew? True bliss comes from labouring of love.

I ruminate often of the story of the Russian math genius, Grigori Perelman, who locked himself in a room in his St. Petersburg apartment for five years working everyday determinately to solve the Poincaré Conjuncture theorem. He did and then posted it on line. Citing no desire for fame and fortune he refused a prestigious medal and million dollar price, he just wanted to post it on the Internet. Perelman just wanted everyone to acknowledge that the proof was correct and that was enough for him.

After hearing his story, I had often wondered if I would ever feel the deep desire to do something just for the sake it like Perelman did. Could I ever struggle hard and dedicate my life everyday to something where the only joy and recognition you get is from doing the thing you love? After a year I know I have and it is truly something to marvel at.

When you are pregnant the level of physiological changes that assault can be daunting. You don’t know whether to lie down, throw up, eat strange things, argue with everyone, and clean your entire house from top to bottom or just cry. Some women get glowing skin, high sex drives and luxuriously shiny hair. I got bad acne, heartburn and cankles. Some days it just plain sucked. But many moments were beautiful; a shared secret between you and the blossoming creature inside; to feel my little one growing in my stomach and to sit in amazement wondering just how big my skin could stretch.

Before I could truly wrap my head around the idea of giving birth, there I was five weeks early, in the hospital giving birth. I was petrified for my unborn baby's health, praying all would be well and I was petrified for myself, how could I do this when my whole goal that day was to lie down as soon as I got home from work. I just had to get her out but was there no other way!

After eleven hours of induced labour with the epidural wearing off and in front of about fifteen people watching, she came into this world screaming and I breathed a sigh of relief. The power of the body is humbling, it knows exactly what to do and it guides you. (Side note: once you go through that experience you never quite feel the same anxiety about public –ahem-performances)

And just when I was trying to reconcile the most challenging day in my life with the fact that it was also the most wonderful day of my life, all while trying to reorient my body back to daily functioning, I was told you can go home but your baby has to stay here.


I will never forget the feeling of the floor falling out from under me taking my heart with it.

But, we both not only survived but also gained unexpected benefits: the Mouse got the best darn care and attention she needed to become the healthiest one year old I know and I literally got hands on breastfeeding help every single time I went to nurse. You can’t pay for that type of lactation education (well actually you probably can but it would wager it would be pretty pricey).

My husband and I also really bonded during those first two weeks of becoming new parents. We discovered that we could make it through some trying times together. We had some scares and some tense times going back and forth to the hospital, but we did it and that made bringing the Mouse home that much more special.

Then the real work began.

We were on our own and we had to figure it all out as we went. As a new bleary-eyed and battle-worn parent you really have to tap into new creative juices to get that newborn to sleep, to eat, and to change the seemingly endless diapers and outfits. We had to figure out why she is mewling in the middle of the night, we had to clean up thousands of spit ups and spills and wash what felt like a billion loads of laundry. I won’t lie, its hell while you are going through it, when you come out the other side, the confidence you feel and the pride of your accomplishments is magnificent.

Despite all this I have felt excited to start every day even when I have barely slept the night before or when I knew I might face all the same struggles as the day before. I have been invigorated to meet all the challenges I would face and I feel like I have grown as an individual, the joy has come out of the struggle.

Of course, now I want more. Yes, I am saying I want more struggle. The kind that enlightens and the kind that can transform because that is exactly where bliss is found and it changes everything. Why fill my finite time on earth with things that bring me little to no bliss? Why not actively seek it out and add it wherever I possibly can and in whatever fashion I can?

And hey, if someone wants to give me a medal and a million dollars for following my bliss, I think I may just have to politely decline.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Instantaneous takes time

Every Saturday morning I attend a meditative yoga class. I love it, even though I spend most of the hour, trying not to think about things I need to do, random silly thoughts and trying not to think about trying not to think.

While I am there I do sometimes feel moments of being in another place, an other worldly feeling that (I think) sometimes feels like transcendence.

Most importantly, I adore the instructor. She is marvellous. Sometimes I even think she can even read my thoughts.

One time I was supposed to be meditating but was thinking instead about the calming spa-like music she plays during our class. Should I have music on when I practice at home? Is it better to practice with or without it? I wonder where she buys this music, is there a special mediative yoga music store somewhere? I'll bet really cool mellow people hang out there...

Then, as if she heard my thoughts she said; "Music is for the beginning, when we are learning. As we practice more, we don't need to use these external distractions. These things, music, body movements, visualization, colour, sound are to help us learn how to quiet the mind and focus inward."

I peeked through my half closed eyelid at her. She was sitting serenely, eyes closed no outward sign that she was a mind reader.

This past Saturday, I was mulling over a new path I hope to forge in the next six months or so. I want to start my own business and feel that this is the direction the universe is compelling me to take. When I think about this I feel something that can only be described as inner peace. I know this is where I need to go.

Like many though, I suffer moments of indecision, self-doubt and dare I said it, fear. Sometimes through this lens I look at others' lives and wonder how things seem so easy for them or their transitions appear so seamless despite knowing the logical answer (its not that easy). I realized its hard not to look at a successful outcome and truly pay attention to the emotional labour that goes into it.

All we see is the moment in time where everything seems perfect for someone else.

As I was thinking about this and both bemoaning my insecurities and lack of focus my instructor punctuated the silence with this:

"Sometimes we forget that what seems so quick and easy took a lot of time to create. What looks instantaneous; cell phones, ipods, internet really are things that make things faster and quick took much time to make. Turning inward is like that. What seems easy takes much practice and effort to achieve. Instantaeous takes time.

Yogis say that being creative is not just painting a picture or sculpting or even writing a story. Creativity is how we use the finite time we are given on this earth, being creative to them is spending your life focused inward."

Ummm....this woman must really see inside my head (if so I feel for her) or are we all reaching a certain level of awareness wherein we can tap into these energies of others and feelwhat they are thinking?

I'm not sure how she does it but I know that my perspective changed in an instant. Yes, some people seem to have it all but most, in some fashion or another, had to work hard to get there. We never know the battles people have to face to succeed and it never really matters because we only see a snapshot of peoples' lives, even our close friends and family. We only see one part - the outcome that looks easy.

I swear my instructor can read my mind in a second but it must've taken her years to do it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Love actually is....

I love romantic comedies or rom-coms. I rejoice in the formula: two people each going through their own struggle have a chance encounter and fall in romantic head-over-heels type of love. Inevitability some strife comes their way and they are torn apart again only to realize at the last possible moment and have to get through rush-hour traffic (why does the moment of awareness always occur during peak times I know not) and then one professes their love in a very public and poignant way, everyone cries and they both live happily ever after. Ahhhh.....you always know what you are going to get and it always works out in the end.

The rom-com is beautiful because it is simplistic and so completely unrealistic, precisely the reason I adore them. I mean, one of the other equally important reasons I find them so entertaining is that the two parties manage to do all the above in hopelessly stylish apartments, clothes, and lives on impossibly meagre salaries while never seeming to work, or at least not work particularly hard. Again, pure fantasy and for me a delightful one.

For most, the romantic ideal like those presented in rom-coms has become ingrained in our psyches and so we start out on this quest to find for this one perfect person who will come and make everything right in our world. This is where trouble sometimes ensues. Yet people, this is not an entirely new concept.

In Greek mythology humans began as two headed, four armed, four-legged creatures, bound together in happy togetherness. Zeus was fearful of the power of all this joy and split humans in half, thereby creating this intrinsic need for humans to spend their loves seeking to find their “other half”. According to myth, the problem is that the separation created such a deep divide and even when we find our other part we don’t feel completely whole again, so we often keep seeking. Sad really.

Not the tidy ending of the rom-com we have come to expect but the same premise. Our lives are centered on finding that one true love who will then make our lives magical, no matter how it turns out in the end.

In recent weeks, I have been thinking a great deal about love and what it actually is. Having a child is the ultimate change experience (have I said this about a billion times already?) and the love you experience is like nothing you can imagine prior feeling it. This is the type of love that you would truly lay down your life for and are willing to make any sacrifice for and makes you reassess all the types of love in your life.

My family, friends and daily interactions have also been a source of inspiration, whether through fascinating discussion or sadly through heart-breaking life experiences. Plus, I meandered back into my own love repertoire to do some analysis.

The most recognizable bible quotes in history especially for those who are rom-comers like me has to be:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails...But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7,13

Whether you are religious or not it is a beautiful quote which is precisely why it is used in so many wedding ceremonies. It reminds us of the boundless nature of unconditional love. While used to describe the manifestation of romantic love in that of a marriage it is really speaking for the love of God, a perfect being. I would wager this is a much harder undertaking when the manifestation of your love leaves dirty socks daily on the floor or leaves the toilet seat up. Like enlightenment I think this level of love is an enlightened state of being that requires practice, daily practice, and lots of it (especially the love is patient bit for me, a real tough one). Taken literally, I think sets us up for an unrealistic perspective on love.

So, here’s what I think will bring about a healthier relationship with love:

Respect love for what it is

Love is a wonderful and powerful emotion, like I’ve said it can transformative but not in of itself. Love is the catalyst of making great things possible but we still have to do the work. Love will lift you up but only as high as you help it.

The love for a child is magnificent and can point you in the direction of authentic love. Now I understand what all those bleary-eyed new parents with manic looking grins felt they said “It will change your life forever, but you will never want to go back, not even for a second”. I used to think “Yeah, right!” while I smiled back at them, “you look crazy” I thought. Now I get it, I am the crazy smile looking fool.

I love what the love for my family has done for my life. It has helped me reprioritize my values and goals, it has given me a greater appreciation for my parents (and most especially my mother), it has created a deeper level of compassion for other people and for more “spirited” children (whom I found challenging to be around before having Miss Mouse). This love has opened me up to new experiences and given me a greater sense of confidence, caring and courage.

Real love opens you up to a new level of being with the world. Real love is acceptance.

Respect love for what it isn’t

Authentic love also has limits.

If you think you will find the love of your life and then *poof* all your self-worth/body issues/spending/drinking/gambling/laziness/trust/commitment issues will magically disappear then think again. Love is not a magic problem solving pill – ask anyone who loves an addict.

I would say without a doubt I have found the love of my life, but I still struggle with some of the same internal issues I had before.

What I’ve learned that love it is not a means to an end, but rather a journey (as cliché as that sounds). Ask any first-time parents about their relationship with each other in the first year and you will hear that there is definite ebb and flow to romantic love.

Love is also not a mechanism for controlling others or getting them to behave the way we want. Loving someone means accepting them “just as they are” a la Bridgette Jones Diary (gratuitous rom-com quote) and not how you want them to be.

I have often said, how a person is at the beginning of the relationship is the BEST THEY WILL EVER BE. They are on their best behaviour, I certainly was. So, if you have any reservations or gut reactions to any behaviours at that stage, they won’t get better and may in fact get worse. Your love will not magically transform them into the person you want them to be. It just won’t, take my word for it.

I also think that in the beginning love can create the emotional and physiological highs of drug addiction and therefore can create the state of mind where you feel invincible and EVERYTHING sounds like a great idea.

People, some things are not great ideas during these first weeks or months of romantic love:
• Making a video of anything you do together that you wouldn’t do in public
• Tattoos – PEOPLE THESE ARE PERMANENT and unless you want to date only Destinys, Shannons, Bobs or Matts for the rest of your live, please wait until at least a year before going for the permanent ink on flesh commitment.
• Adopting any type of pet (unless it lives in a glass bowl) senior citizen or a child together. Let Billy Bob & Angie, Madonna & Guy, Sandra & Jesse be your cautionary tale, we all SO thought those marriages would last. Avoid anything that requires that you would have to change your dependant status on your tax returns.
• Lending great sums of money for any reason; if his mom is truly THAT sick or her business will fold without the cash, then your money probably won’t make a difference in the long run and you’ll be resentful at having lost it.
• In fact, avoid giving any new paramour:
o a key to anything you own, even your post office box;
o anything you would refer to as “heirloom”;
o passwords of any kind.

Anyone who cares for you, truly and deeply, knows you are as flawed as they are and they don’t expect you to act a certain way or want you to compromise yourself. If you are still together after a couple of years and you want to engage in the above mentioned activities, go for it, because by then the high has worn off and you can think more clearly.

Plus you probably have learned all their passwords anyway.

Accept all love that comes your way graciously but set very clear boundaries

Love makes the world go around and yes, it is all you need, but the most intense, passionate love you can ever experience will be diluted if you don’t love yourself just as much. (Man, I am really the cliché queen today). Just as a loving parent will set reasonable boundaries for their child, individuals should be the guardian of their own hearts with others.

Those who truly care for you will respect any reasonable limits you set or they will walk – true love does not coerce or manipulate to bend your boundaries.
If I could have one wish I would wish that everyone could have a true love affair with their authentic selves. I honestly believe that if we all moved towards deep, true, unconditional love with our real selves there would be very little struggle and strife in the world. It is simplistic but not easy to do.

To me, accepting all the love that comes your way means being open to the experiences that life brings and sometimes at first, people, it doesn’t seem very loving. Sometimes “love” arrives in the form of things we fear and avoid, like loss, death and challenges or even invitations to events you don’t want to go to. This is all love, life is showing you that it’s interested in you and cares.

Part of loving ourselves means knowing how to accept the love the world is giving us without losing ourselves. Boundaries of all kinds are us acting lovingly to ourselves. When we establish what our values, morals and limits are and respect ourselves we are free to love openly and honestly without fear. We don’t have to be scared of what can or will happen in our relationships, we can just accept how things are and be ready to give it up if it conflicts too greatly with our boundaries.

Got it? Great now go forth and love! Heck, why not go and love in impossibly stylish clothes, in impeccably decorated pads, in hopelessly trendy neighbourhoods while barely working. I’ll be watching.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Listening in and lovin' it!

On Saturday, I woke up at 5:11 a.m. Just on my own, just like that. I looked around at Miss Mouse and my hubby sleeping soundly and I fought hard to go back to sleep. As I lay back on my pillow I heard the call of the male red-winged blackbird that regularly visits our bird feeder. I have to admit, my first thought was:

Shut the *expletive* up bird, its 5 friggin am!

Then I stopped and listened. It’s really a beautiful trilling kind of song that pierces the silence. (If you want to listen for yourself you can go to http://www.birdjam.com/birdsong.php?id=25). It made me think of being at a cabin somewhere in cottage country, somewhere expansive and serene. Then suddenly I felt relaxed.

So I started thinking about how I often take my ability to hear for granted and how sound is really a sensation, not unlike a smell that can evoke a pleasant memory or a caress that can instantly soothe. I think human beings are more attached to the visual (and men more so, just look at the vitality of internet porn as an example) and we don’t give our just due to the auditory pleasures. I decided instead of trying to shut the blackbird up with my mental powers I would focus instead on listening in to more of the world.

First, I listened to the sleeping noises of my family and instantly my heart warmed. Nothing is as sweet and peaceful as your loved ones snoozing blissfully nearby even if they all slightly snore (yes even the hounds snore –lucky me!) Then I focused on the gentle hum of the humidifier and the sounds of our home in those early morning hours. If one listens to the sounds of a house, it can almost feel like a living, breathing being on its own. It’s marvellous.

It was a transforming experience of awareness as I started tuning in to the tones and tunes of life all around me that weekend.

I continued in the garden; weeding, transplanting and trimming. With my new hearing prowess, I felt like I could almost hear the plants growing (well certainly rustling against me) and the bugs hard at work (and definitely buzzing around my ears) and even the worms pushing through the earth. I could hear the water seep into the black soil and struggle to get through the hard clay underneath and I most certainly heard the whizzing bomb dropping-like sound of the bird pooping on my shoulder and all down my arm (along the peals of laughter from my watching hubby –thanks babe!)

Even on my walk with the Mouse and the hounds I started to notice that it wasn’t just the lush, verdant landscape that I look forward to in the nearby park we frequent, it is also the accompanying sounds of being there: all the birds calling out and answering each other, the vibrating croak of the toads in the swamp, the Canada Geese shaking their feathers after diving for breakfast, the hum of the insects in the bush, the wind sneaking through the dried grasses and rustling them and the background sounds of the children playing on the swing set.

Since then I have tried to think about how sound is so full of emotion and capable of bringing great joy. In fact, Miss Mouse got her nickname from those first two weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where she made the cutest little squeaks and peeps, just like a wee mouse. My husband and I adored just listening to her through the din of the beeping machines and the chatter of the NICU nurses. It was like magic to our ears and we often just stopped to listen to her.

So in honour of our sensory friend, hearing, I listed some of my favourite sounds:

• The sound of Miss Mouse sleeping peacefully, her gentle sighs and sometimes
slight snores
• The suckling sound (and motion) she sometimes she makes as she sleeps
• Her infectious, giggly laughter
• They way she says “Oooooooooooooooooooooo” now when she sees something she likes or is novel
• Anytime she says “Ma-ma”
***Okay, let’s be honest I could write tomes on the sounds I love from the Mouse so let’s just leave it at every single, little, big, wee, long, frequent, rare, loud or soft sound she makes (even as it relates to a bodily function) and then I can move on***
• The sound of the key turning in the door when my hubby comes home
• Hearing relief in someone’s voice after I’ve explained something to them or comforted them
• Big, fat raindrops hitting the roof and windowpane when I am snug and warm instead
• The crack of opening a new hardcover novel (especially if it’s a library book and then it has the added auditory joy of the crinkle of the plastic cover)
• Waves crashing, particularly if I am sitting on the beach listening
• The pop of a red wine bottle opening (well, when they used to have corks)
• A familiar voice on the phone when you feel alone and scared
• Laughter I caused (whether by telling a joke or simply getting pooped on)
• Hearing my mother’s jazzy, slightly reggae version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” sung to Miss Mouse (it always makes me smile especially the ending –it’s a classic)
• Turning on the radio and hearing the first few bars of the song I was just singing in my head
• The sizzle of ribs grilling on the BBQ
• The rhythmic panting and sound of the hounds; eight paws hitting the pavement
• The click of the kettle signalling its ready for that much needed cup of tea
• Hearing someone start a juicy story
• Pots and pans clanging when someone else is making dinner for me
• Tuning into my own breath and listening as I inhale and exhale (very soothing)

Tuning in this weekend has been a joy, I’ve begun to look at the world in a whole new way and I am going to continue my list. So on behalf of ears everywhere, please be kind. They are more than just holders for iPod earphones or cell phone headsets or for blaring loud rock music (unless that brings you joy and then by all means blare away); they are portals to new joys. Listen in; the world is waiting for you.

What sounds bring you joy?


Friday, May 14, 2010

Snails on the Path

(Snail pic is by Slinkachu, a London Artist who used the shell designs for for a series of designs dubbed ‘Inner City Snail – a slow-moving street art project’.)Really some people are just so creative.

Snails. They are everywhere I go. I walk a number of paths each morning with the Mouse and our two Hounds. I don't know if they are an ecological nuisance or the by-product of growing algae in our lakes, rivers and streams or just in abudance in my suburban oasis.

Whatever the case, I try and avoid them like the plague. I literally cringe everytime I hear the crunch of one underfoot or see the slimely trail of destruction as I glance down. It makes me sad to know I so easily and brutally killed another living creature and I admit, I am fearful of the karma gods and try to tread lightly wherever I go.

Avoiding these snails becomes a focus just as when you lose it you end up with snail bits on the soles of your sneakers, it got me thinking (nothing like a daily two hour walk with a snoozing baby and two placid dogs to get your mind a thinkin'). These snails are like people we meet, every day, daily. Sometimes we are mindful of those around us and walk softly, careful not to disturb or injure. Others could care less and stomp and barrel through ambivelent or clueless to the needs or journeys of others. I choose to think that most of us really do care but get DISTRACTED.

Distraction and loss of focus, I muse, is the key to understanding why we hurt and injued the snails/people in our lives. So then how can we learn to walk lightly in the world?

Here is what I discovered on my walk today.

When snail/people crushing occurs the offender(in this case me) is usually:

1) multi-tasking and therefore distracted.

Today I was in full multi-tasking-Momma-mode: baby in stroller, dogs on leashes, ear piece in ear and I was busy chatting with a friend when most of my snail-ocides occurred. I always try and fit as many busy tasks in a day as I can. Let's be honest,life is busy. Even busier for Moms, sometimes we need to take a step back and focus on one task at a time.

2) focusing on what others were doing

Whether it was watching the high school workers sneak off premises to snag a smoke or checking out my neighbour's garden or peering into the senior's residence,I am focused outward. My husband calls it extreme nosiness, I prefer curiosity in others. Whatever it is, it distracts you from yourself and that' where the focus should be. Not in a selfish way but in a how-am-I-going-about-the-world-and-what-effect-does-that-have-on-others way. What are THEY doing? Better to focus on what I am doing!

3)Focusing on what I need to do instead of just enjoying the moment

This is a big one for me. My mind wanders, a lot. My mind wanders when I am supposed to be meditating, in the shower, while talking on the phone, while reading books, while having sex (sorry honey!) and of course while walking Miss Mouse and the hounds. I have learned from the ethos of those who have sought and attained true happiness that this is a big one. Becoming mindful is a skill, it takes practice and lots of it.

So there you have it. The way to avoid hurting people -ahem I mean snails- and possibly becoming a little more happier in the process is to:

Try and only do one thing at a time
Focus on what YOU are doing and not what others do and,
Enjoy the moment

Maybe some ecologists can live with a few less snails in their world but I don't want the slime of any more snails on my conscience.

So my caution: walk lighty people, you never know who is underfoot.