Friday, April 29, 2011

Dress Mess

So yesterday I took my favorite three-year-old to the city with me to look for a dress. I have at least two weddings to go to this summer and I thought maybe, just maybe I could find something. I could wear the one dress that I've worn pretty much everywhere for the last three years but it's starting to look a little shabby! Let's just say, Coen is a terrific shopper. Upbeat, energetic, positive. His mom, on the other hand, has a lot of trouble being positive about the things they call dresses these days!

I think maybe my trouble is that I have a checklist of must-haves for the dress that I want. The dress of my dreams must be: well made, comfortable, stylish yet classic, fit well, no cleavage (who am I kidding? I don't have any!), not some flimsy material that wrinkles if you look at it the wrong way, and within my price range!! I know, tough customer. Needless to say, I tried on many dresses yesterday and came home dress less. I am starting to think it may be impossible or maybe I'm just too vain to find a so-so dress and buy it, even though it is NOT perfect in my mind.

I tried on long dresses, short dresses, silky dresses, flowery dresses, romantic dresses, cheeky dresses, all-business dresses, tight dresses, and dresses that should never have left the hanger. At one point one of the ribbons that are used to hang dresses on a hanger got stuck in a zipper and I was pretty sure I was going to have to get outside help. That would have been attractive!!??  I imagined myself saying something like this....."Excuse me, I am stuck in this dress and I utterly abhor it. Could you please stick your face in my sweaty, hot underarm area and dislodge the ribbon from this zipper? Thanks a bunch." Thankfully, just before I entered the utter humiliation zone where grown-women cannot dress themselves, the ribbon came free and I could unzip! The best news is that no one had to see me in that dress except for Coen!!!

This morning as I watched some highlights from the Royal Wedding, I was reassured that my lot to find a dress really isn't so bad. These are the perks....I will never be televised to the masses worldwide wearing the dress that I choose, and I don't have to find a HAT to match! Thank heavens for that!


Monday, April 25, 2011


There are times when agreement is important to move on. But sometimes agreeing is so not the point.

I had an interesting experience yesterday. A reader of this blog, asked me a question about the "Pay it Forward" blog that I wrote a couple of weeks ago. He was somewhat disturbed that I had not confronted the lady who had taken the dollar out of the cart. He asked me why I didn't stop her? I told him that I was already in my car and driving away when I realized what she had done. I also told him that I didn't want to judge her. That, in my mind, judging seemed about on par with what she was doing. I am very quick to judge and it is something that I would like to change about my soul. Yeah, I was upset with what had happened in that parking lot, but I needed to time for the more generous and kind Lisa to be able to be heard in my head and drown out the judgy, grumpy Lisa that often has free reign. This conversation yesterday didn't end with him agreeing with me. I don't think that was the point. He had questions and he wasn't afraid to ask them. That was amazing. Having this conversation gave me a great insight into what I believe this blog is really all about....I don't think I even really knew until yesterday.

I am not asking you to agree with what I write in this blog, though I think often I may be preaching to the choir. I am asking you to think about someone else's perspective, as the reader who approached me yesterday was doing. Ask questions. Ponder. Wrestle. Have conversations with other people about the things you are wrestling with. In these exercises, truth and soul wisdom are uncovered in each of us. It is what I do before I ever start typing the words on this page.

We are taught as children to play nice, to not ruffle feathers, and to not rock the boat. These sentiments, though well-meaning, are not the mindset of world changers. There is an underpinning of appeasing the status quo in these thoughts that results in stoic and often pious mediocrity. I have come to see that agreement is not the goal. Seeking Truth is. Therefore, don't simply nod your head in agreement and take your daily dose of whatever it is that you read or watch or listen to. Think, respond, feel your heart beat with passion or disdain or even anger. Engage your soul. If you disagree, say so. You don't have to be confrontational or rude about it, but don't let your soul die for the sake of a flimsy attempt at peace. If you have questions, ask them. If you are sparked with a fire in your belly, use that passion to do something, anything. This is just another way of paying it forward.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chopin Challenge

One thing that I truly love is playing the piano. It's been therapy for me since I was young. My mom once said that she could always tell when I had been through the wringer, I wouldn't talk, I would just go and sit at the piano and play for as long as it took to regain peace of mind. Recently, I have again found solace in playing. A couple months ago, I started teaching a grade eight piano student. I was feeling very challenged to teach at that level. I decided to break out my old classical books and start playing again. It has been wonderful. Not only do I get to play beautiful music, I feel like I have something to offer my student as well. Playing myself seems to sharpen my awareness when it comes to teaching.

One of the pieces that I've been in love with for a long time is called Prelude in D Flat by Frederic Chopin. The piece also has a nickname, Raindrop. If you've ever heard the song, the raindrop is undeniable. It is one note played throughout almost the entire song. It's beautiful and haunting. I always thought that somehow this piece was beyond my reach, way too difficult for me to learn. Well, let's just say, I've tackled it! It feels so amazing to sit and play this song in my house, filling the rooms with raindrops. I didn't take on this challenge for anyone but myself, to prove that I can do it. I have it in me to work hard at something and see it through to the end. Practicing takes work and discipline. Two things that I seem to need right now. 

I've been thinking a lot about practicing and how it's something we should never stop doing. Whatever you're into, there will never be a point when you have arrived and have nothing left to learn. The old adage that practice makes perfect has a flaw...perfection says that you have achieved the ultimate and you can quit. I don't buy this for a second because I know that I will always have something to work on in terms of technique and repertoire. I think about the time when  eventually I will be asking my own kids to practice the piano or the guitar or free throws or whatever. I need them to have an example of what that looks like. If they have never seen me practice anything, where is the credibility in what I am asking them to do? So, turn off the TV. Pick up your paint brush, your cello, your badminton racket, or your soccer ball and practice. Make dates with the important people in your life and practice relationship. Love is a skill that will never be perfected. Don't ever quit.

Monday, April 18, 2011


When I was eleven our family took a vacation to the west coast. We drove through the Canadian Rockies. It was the first time I ever remembered being in the mountains. A prairie girl used to wide open flatness with a few trees here and there, was dumbstruck by the awesomeness, the majesty, the beauty of the rugged peaks and winding highway through it all. My face was pressed up against the window for hours. We made it to the coast and had a lovely time. On our way back through the mountains, again the same feelings overwhelmed me. As we left the mountains behind, I remember feeling a sadness. Tears welled up and spilled over. I had been touched by something and it had left an impression on my soul. I knew I would miss the mountains as we headed back home.

This morning my parents drove out of my yard after having spent the weekend with our family. Elle sat on my lap as we watched them drive away and her tears fell. They are special people to her. They have touched her little soul with their love. I knew what she was feeling. The sense of loss and sadness that happens when you have been touched and you don't want to let go.

Many things in life can touch us. I have been touched by a piece of music many times. I can never really explain why if someone asks, it just speaks to something inside of me that longs for beauty and love. I guess it speaks to a longing for things to be right and good. Babies have the same effect. Holding them, looking into their sleepy faces, having their tiny hands wrap around a finger touches something deep inside. Nature speaks to me too. Sunrises, thunder storms, the stillness in the middle of a forest, the spicy smell of damp foliage, the intricacy of tiny wild flowers, waves crashing, and starry nights all reach into my heart and pull at the same longing. Watching people take care of others is one thing that gets me every time. I think it's because that might be our purpose. When I watched my parents and my kids spend time together this weekend it made my heart sing.  When I see Elle take care of Coen and look out for him, I see love and compassion. When I get to hold people that I love close when they hurt, I feel alive and this overwhelms my heart.

This is one way that we can catch a glimpse of the Divine. He wants to touch us. He wants us to connect those moments to Himself. Those moments when our souls feel awakened are the moments when we can know for sure that God is close. He's letting us in on a secret....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Whatever. It's a word that I use a lot. It means a lot of things to me, I guess. It's a non-committal word at times. It can also mean that I don't care. It is sometimes said with a certain tone called frustration. It can be lighthearted and silly in some cases. Sometimes it just really means that my brain hurts and I'm tired of the conversation and it's seeming pointlessness. It means I give up!!

One word with so many nuances. At times saying "whatever" is a way to avoid being real and honest. At least it is for me. Now every one of you is scrolling back in your memories to see if I've ever said "whatever" to you and you're wondering what it meant. I'm going to be honest. It probably was my way of conceding and not really saying what I might be feeling on the inside.

We all have words like this, words we use to get around touchy subjects or things that we just can't face. Words like "whatever", "maybe", "I don't know", and "I'll see" are all words that hold uncertainty. They are usually also conversation killers. They are words that signal that the end is nigh. There will be no more information forthcoming. There will be no commitment. There will be no going deeper.

I sometimes imagine what it would be like if every person said what they really meant all the time. If people  felt they could express their wishes, their desires, even their dislike in a way that was not grouchy or aggressive but in peace yet totally honest, I think relationships would be different. There wouldn't be the tip-toeing around certain topics or the feeling like you always have to hold yourself back for fear of what other people might think if you told it like it is. I would like to banish "whatever" from my vocabulary. I would like to say what I think and not feel like it's stupid. I would like to be able to say even challenging, hard-to-hear words with grace and kindness instead of fear. I would love it if people talked like that to me too. Imagine if parents, politicians, judges, lawyers, doctors, teachers, bankers, accountants, business people, and kids all felt they had freedom just to say what they were really thinking and were able to say them with love? Words are powerful. How do you use them?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

P is for Phonics

The English language is on fraught with many idiosincrisies and downright strangeness. There are so many words that seem to not fit any of the so-called rules. For the last few months Elle and I have been working in her reading. She's almost six and really wants to read. Trying to explain why words like pear, pair and pare all sound exactly the same but are spelled differently or why the word "are" is just weird and doesn't follow any rules seems like a lot for a little person to be able to grasp. Yet she remembers the rules and the exceptions to the rules and is succeeding with reading.

A couple years ago Jeremy and spent a winter taking Spanish lessons from our lovely friend from Argentina. It is such a fluid and beautiful language. The most amazing part about it is that every letter in the alphabet has one That letter is always pronounced that one way regardless of where it appears in a word. Learning how to speak and spell in Spanish just makes sense. It is logical. The rules are straightforward and easy to apply.

I wish I could say that the rules for life were straightforward and easy to apply. I'm afraid that life is a lot more like English than Spanish. It's hard. You think you've learned something and that in every situation, you know what to do and then....bam, you're in the dust, on your face, the wind knocked out of you and you're struggling to pick yourself up and face the fact that you don't know everything; in fact closer to nothing!! I think life is more like English because life is about people. People don't fit into neat and tidy little packages that you can manipulate and they respond in the way that you desire. It just doesn't work like that. People are complex, intricate and complicated beings. We don't respond the same every time. We have moods, and feelings, and sugar-induced highs and lows. Our bodies have hormones and chemicals that give us energy and desires and drive. Our souls long for meaning and connection and destiny.

Learning to live with others and keep relationship with people is difficult. There is no formula. There are just suggestions. When someone is sad, offer comfort. When someone is laughing, join them. When someone needs help, help them. When someone is worried, listen. When someone is heartbroken, hold them. When someone is dreaming, spur them on. When someone has lost their voice, speak up on their behalf. When someone has open arms, run into them. You don't have to do any of these things. They are optional. For every person, these things look different, more like exceptions to the rule. The way that I offer comfort may look different than what you would do, but that is okay. Awesome, in expression of how we are all unique but still have the same desire to connect with others and to truly love.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pay It Forward

You know when you go to buy a cart at the grocery store and some lovely person has left their dollar in it, making that moment a bright spot in your day? That happened to me the last time I was at the grocery store. I had my dollar in hand and was ready to put it in the cart and realized that someone had left their dollar in it. I don't know if they forgot or if it was intentional but it put a smile on my face. The first thing I did was look around to see if  someone was smiling, letting me know that they had planned this moment for someone, that they were paying it forward. I really like to think that the world is a nice place, that people really care about each other and are looking out for each other. I like to think that generosity and the brotherhood of man are principles that the world could live by. The concept of paying it forward is one that is both heart-warming and world-altering.

With these thoughts in mind, when I returned the cart to the parking lot I left the cart with the dollar in it for the next person. I was feeling great. I was paying it forward, I was doing the right thing. I noticed, as I was settling the kids in the car, that there was a lady sitting in the car right next to me, which was right next to where the carts are parked. I had noticed that she had been putting her groceries into her car as I was walking across the parking lot with the kids and our groceries. Now, she was just sitting there in her car. As I was backing out of my parking spot, I saw her get out of her car and go to the cart that I had just left there (with the dollar in it). She took it! I watched her hurry back to her car like she was trying to hide. I was at first stunned. Then, mad. She had busted up the pay it forward! Then I was bummed.

As I thought about it, I realized that I wanted the pay it forward to work the way I wanted it, on my terms. The lady, whom I had dubbed Ebenezer, had ruined it for the next person to receive a free cart. The one thing that I was overlooking was 'Ebenezer's' story, which I do not know. I was judging her for what I thought was a tragic breakdown in paying it forward. She broke the cycle. But did she? Maybe she really needed that dollar. I have no way of knowing. It wasn't even my dollar to begin with. I realized something important about paying it forward, when you add judgment to the equation, it takes away the meaning and purpose of the whole thing.

I hope that someday 'Ebenezer' is truly affected by someone paying it forward. I hope it takes her breath away that someone cares about her. I hope she is speechless in that moment and that tears well up in her eyes. I hope that the first thought in her mind at that moment is how she could do the same for someone else and then pays it forward.