Embrace

Last summer we took our kids to a waterpark. It was a stinkin’ hot day and we had a blast zipping down slides and cooling off in the wave pool. At one point, my husband and the older kids decided to try a toilet-bowl style ride geared for an older crowd, so my littlest and I stood at the bottom waiting for them to poop out into the basin below.

As we watched the riders happily splash down in front of us, little K pulled on my arm and pointed to a child exiting the water nearby – “Hey mommy, I don’t like that girl” he stated . “Why not?” I asked. I’d never seen her before. “Because she’s fat” he answered matter-of-factly.

I just about fell over backwards! Body image has been the monkey on my back for as long as I can remember, and I’ve worked hard to overcome my own insecurities and to foster an environment of acceptance and kindness within my own family. And goddamn it – no child of mine was going to shame someone because of the shape of their body!

I knelt down and spent the next ten minutes lecturing my son about the beauty in all body shapes and the importance of never, ever judging other people. Trust me, he got an earful. He listened intently, then ran off with his siblings to enjoy another slide. “Crazy kid” I mumbled to myself. I figured he must have picked up that nonsense on television.

Then a few months later I had dinner with a group of girlfriends- all of them brilliant, beautiful women with high-powered careers, incredible families, strong opinions and the passion and means to affect change in the world.

And yet. Our conversations that night kept coming back to the same thing – body image. We shared stories of how weight has impacted our sex lives, and contributed to feeling too physically disgusting to appear naked in front of our spouses – even with the lights off. We talked about caloric intake and the restrictive cleanses we’d endured – all the while feeling sick and deprived. We discussed our boobs (too small, too big, too saggy) and our butts (too big, too small, too saggy) – and we even dissected our individual diets and compared notes about what foods and drinks (or lack thereof) would help us achieve thinner, happier, sexier, less-wrinkly versions of ourselves.

As I laughed and commiserated and chimed in, something struck me: that friggin’ monkey is still clinging stubbornly to my back. Because for all of my lip service about acceptance and self love – a really big part of me still believes that being thin is equated with being better. And the fact that I have droopy post-nursing boobs and a squishy belly – in my own mind, ultimately means that I am losing at womanhood..and at life.

Then I came across a “before and after” photo on social media that changed my whole perspective. Taryn Brumfitt posted side-by-side images of herself posing with a muscular body-builders physique (before) and then with a softer, curvier body (after). It was revolutionary!

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Here was a woman actually showing off her curves, and rolls, and stretch marks. Proudly! Her impish smile belied the fact that she was actually HAPPIER with her less-toned and heavier body. My mind was blown.

I learned that Taryn had gone on a crusade to  uncover “why poor body image has become a global epidemic and what women everywhere can do to have a brighter future.” She turned her findings into a documentary called Embrace “A funny, touching, at times gut wrenching but above all, life changing documentary, the heart of Embrace is Taryn’s story. How she went from a body hater to a body lover. From being devastated by her perceived ugliness to proudly posing nude for the whole world to see.”

I downloaded Embrace as soon as it was released and sobbed my heart out through almost the entire thing. I could relate to so many of the women in the film who shared feelings of inadequacy and failure when discussing their bodies, and I felt inspired to make a change.

So can I do it? Can I move my body in an effort to be strong and healthy without obsessing over the calories I’ve burned, or whether or not I’ll be able to squeeze into my old jeans after a long run? Can I enjoy food without worrying about each and every bite? Can I show my children that I am a confident and fully-actualized woman no matter what size my body is? I honestly don’t know. But I am willing to try. And Embrace is the perfect place to start.

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I am beyond thrilled to be co-hosting a special community screening of the life-changing/perspective-shifting/monkey-on-back-destroying documentary Embrace – right here in Burlington, Ontario.

Please join me and my friends Sue Abell and Joelle Cooling on Thursday, June 1st at 7pm at the Art Gallery of Burlington . Tickets are $10 and are available for purchase by contacting me directly at lori@vaportek.ca, or by emailing Sue at sue@treadpowerfully.com, or by visiting Joelle’s clothing store at 457 Brant Street in downtown Burlington.

Come and enjoy a glass of wine, a bag of popcorn and an opportunity to fully love and embrace your body. Together – we can be part of a movement to create positive global change. Let’s Embrace!

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The Pot In The Parking Lot

On December 23rd, after a particularly stressful few weeks, I left a stock pot containing a severed head and limbs in the parking lot of the Burlington Mall. It was haphazardly wrapped in an old grey sheet, and I glanced back only briefly as I drove away and wondered who would be the first person to lift the lid.

When I reflect on the days leading up to that incident – I know several things to be true:

  • I had abandoned all of the practices that traditionally help me stay calm and grounded. No working out, no meditating, no reasonable bedtimes, no decompressing on the couch with a glass of wine or meeting up with girlfriends. I was woman on a mission. Why you ask? Well…..
  • Despite promising myself every year that I won’t go overboard on the holidays-  I inevitably become this harried list-making uber-mom – searching fruitlessly online for “the trendiest gift for a teenager”, “the most thoughtful present for your dad” and “touching homemade gifts for your closest friends.” It starts small and before I know it I’m staring red-eyed at my computer monitor at 1am ordering a $250 curling iron from a website in California.
  • I also took on an obscene amount of work to be completed by Christmas eve.  Justified or not, I still feel a nagging sense of guilt over the years I spent as a stay-at-home mom, and the financial burden that put on my husband. So – the writing assignments kept rolling in and I decided I could tackle them ALL goddammit.
  • It was only after I dug in that I realized what an intense undertaking I’d agreed to. I was burning the midnight oil writing about time traveling zombies and war and violence in 14th century Europe. In once particularly gruesome show, a contract killer was sent into the forest to ambush two members of the royal family. After he’d completed his task, he returned to the local courthouse and dumped a bag containing their heads, hands and feet onto the tiled floor. Many nights I was up until 2 or 3 in the morning rewinding and re-watching these images over and over and inserting appropriate description.

So back to the pot. On December 23rd, I dragged my little guy to the mall to retrieve one last “perfect” present. I knew I was overtired and strung out – but the end was in sight!

After we me made our purchase, we trudged back to through the lot. The first thing I noticed as we hiked back towards the van was that the back door was ajar. Odd. But I figured my son likely hadn’t closed it properly or had wedged a pack of goldfish crackers in the runner.

I opened the door and spotted a lump covered in a wrinkled grey sheet wedged between the back seats. “Buddy – was that sheet here when we left the house?” I asked warily. “No mommy. I’ve never seen that before.” My little guy answered. I nervously peered under the sheet and could see that there was a stainless steel pot underneath. I tried to lift it and found it was unusually heavy. In a flash I knew immediately what it contained – either a severed head or dismembered body parts. I had absolutely no doubt in my mind.

Then the question became what should I do next? I didn’t want to open the pot because I didn’t want the contents to frighten my young son. How would he ever recover from seeing such horror?

So – I did what any rational person would do. I lifted that pot out of my van and set it down in the parking lot. “What are you doing mommy?” My son asked. “You know what – I think this belongs to someone else so I’m going to leave it here and that person will come find it.”

He accepted my answer at face value, I set the pot down in the parking lot and we drove away. By the time we got home – the usual chaos of dinner prep was in full swing and to be honest, as odd as it might sound, I kind of forgot about the whole thing.

The next night I was snuggled up in bed reading with my son when my husband popped his head into the bedroom. “Hey hon – do you know what happened to Lisa’s chili pot?” he asked. “I left it in the van and I can’t seem to find it. It was wrapped in a sheet. Did you see it?”

I felt the blood drain out of my cheeks. Chili?! Chili!? Holy crap! The pot was full of chili. Not a head. Chili. My mind started racing – how was I going to explain what I had done to my husband? He already thinks I’m impulsive and overly anxious. What would he think if I told him the truth? He leaned in a little farther – “Did you see it?” he asked again.

“Mommy left something at the mall.” my son offered helpfully. “It had a sheet on it.” My husband met my eyes. I raced through a few different scenarios in my mind then decided I had to fess up. “You what?!” my husband said incredulously. I was hoping he’d see the humour – perhaps view it as proof of my adorable whimsical nature. But he just shook his head and drove back to the mall to see if the pot was still there.

In the end, he found the it but the lid was smashed and the sheet had blown away.  And a few days later, I had to sheepishly show up to Lisa’s house with her dinged-up pot and explain why the lid and sheet were no longer part of the set. Thankfully she has a forgiving heart and a great sense of humour.

Looking back, I keep trying to figure out why I didn’t just lift that lid. It makes me kind of uneasy that I so quickly jumped to such a rash conclusion and acted so impulsively. It took me a few days of pondering to refocus on what I could learn about myself from this experience.

I learned I need sleep. I need to go easier on myself. I need to stop taking on so freakin’ much. I learned that when I don’t have “time” to do the things that ground me – I absolutely, positively need to make time right that very moment – or chances are good that I will get a little loopy! (or a lot loopy ; )

I learned that when I try to be the perfect mom, the perfect hostess, the perfect writer – I only end up leaving a trail of wreckage in my wake…. and a severed head in a parking lot.

Tell Me A Story

As we head into a brand new year, I’ve been reflecting on how I want to shape my blog moving forward. When I started back in 2013, my impetus was only to kick-start a personal creative practice. At the time, I was a full-time stay-at-home mom with a burning desire to honour the inner voice that was declaring a need to express more than just breast milk : )

I have always wanted this to be a space where I could share not just recipes and quick fixes – but also the real nitty-gritty of everyday life. My favourite blogs are always the ones that tell the truth about the tough stuff. The brave people who write about the messiest and most vulnerable situations with a sense of humour.

This has led me to memories of my sweet Grandma Mary. She was the kindest women I have ever known. Sadly she passed away when I was only twelve years old, but in those twelve years she made an indelible imprint on my life.

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Grandpa Ken and Grandma Mary

Aside from her killer baking skills (ginger snaps and homemade donuts!), the loving relationship she shared with my Grandpa Ken, and her gentle disposition, the thing I remember most was her passion for storytelling. She would literally spend hours snuggling in bed with my sister and I while we listened with rapt attention to the slow cadence of her voice.

I never once felt like she was in a hurry or that she wanted to be anywhere else in the world. She just seemed so perfectly content perched on the side of the bed sharing the tales of her childhood- anecdotes of her life on the farm with her many siblings and the misadventures of her dog Tupper. And when she had exhausted her reservoir of memories – she’d even recount the plot of a recent episode of The Littlest Hobo or sing us a song when we begged her for “just one more”.

Grandma Mary offered me a precious gift in those simple moments – the gift of stories. She showed me that one of the most important and powerful things we can give each other is the truth of our experiences.

Good stories afford us a place to laugh at ourselves and to share a good cry. We can marvel at the wonders of brave adventures, learn from mistakes made in the past and develop deep empathy by being invited inside the journey of another person.

So that’s where I plan to focus my writing in 2017. I want to share my stories. The ups and downs, the struggles and victories, and even the epic fails……and trust me, I’ve got some doozies for you!

To honour the memory of my beloved Grandma, I invite you all to snuggle up while I tell you a story. Stay tuned. Happy 2017!

 

Animal Poison Control

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My husband was at a work function and I was home with the three kids. As soon as they were happily entertained, I snuck downstairs to do a bit of work. No sooner had I plopped at my desk then my oldest yelled down “Mom – get up here quick! Velma is sick!” I bolted up the stairs two at a time to find our 5-pound shih-tzu retching on the living room rug.

Poor Velma was heaving over a gooey pile of half digested green tomatoes. My husband had unearthed the plants the day before to prepare our garden for the winter and dozens of unripe tomatoes had fallen into the soil. It hadn’t occurred to any of us that the innocent looking pup could ingest her body weight in spoiled fruit.

 The kids were hysterical. “Mom – is she going to die?!” “What are we going to do??” “I wish dad was here!!!”

I desperately wished my husband were home too. While I have perfected the art of the “instant freak-out” – he is famously the calm one in any given situation. The world could literally be crumbling around us and he’d be holding up the house with one hand and the kids in the other while stating “Easy now, I don’t think this is the time to panic…” In fact, in almost 20 years of marriage the only time I’ve seen him visibly shaken was the night Wayne Gretzky retired from hockey. (I won’t harp on the fact that he wept more that night than on our wedding day or at the birth of any of our children. Nope – I’m not bitter about it at all!)

Immediately a rush of anxious feelings overcame me accompanied by a burning stomach, shaky legs, dry mouth and a head reeling with a familiar message- “I can’t handle this! I can’t handle this!”

But the kids had their eyes glued to me and I knew I had to step up. I combed through my brain for any gems of wisdom I’d gleaned over the past 8 weeks at my meditation seminar and one particular piece of advice popped into my head – “Respond don’t react.”

My instructor had recently spent an entire class focused on how many of us live our lives in a purely reactive state. And it really hit home. Instead of taking the time to consider my responses – I frequently rush right to panic mode.

But weeks of faithful meditation with my butt glued to a chair and determined efforts to quiet my busy mind have helped me recognize my conditioned responses and I’m working very hard to reprogram the looped tape stuck on “worry, worry, worry”.

Back to Velma – after about 10 minutes she stopped throwing up and I scooped her up in my arms, took a deep breath and turned to the kids: “Let’s call the vet and find out what we can do.” I spoke to an emergency vet who told me that green tomatoes are in fact poisonous to dogs  – who knew?! And they had me call an Animal Poison control hotline to get protocols for handling the situation. Yes there really is an Animal Poison Control Hotline and I have the number if your pet ever decides to indulge in green tomatoes or another toxic delicacy.

In the end – the puppy was fine and the only real victim was the rug that is now permanently splotched with light green circles.

Afterwards, I saw that the kids were still shaken, so I invited them to tell me how they were feeling. “My stomach hurts,” my youngest said. “I’m shaky,” said my daughter and my oldest admitted that he felt twitchy too. I used it as an opportunity to connect with them and to share some of what I’ve learned- how pausing, taking a deep breath, recognizing your physical symptoms and challenging your thoughts can transform a stressful situation into something much more manageable.

That’s right, ME – the panic queen – was able to turn the entire event into a teachable moment. I showed them a breathing exercise that helps me (breath in on a count of 4, hold for 7, then breath out for 8), I taught them a mantra I frequently use (“I am calm, I am capable, I am grateful”) and we even brainstormed strategies for handling stress and anxiety (ok maybe my youngest suggested that we keep dad home more often – but 2 out of 3 ain’t bad!)

That night as I was tucking my 15-year old into bed, he met my eyes – “Geez mom – I thought you’d totally freak out today but you actually handled it pretty well.”  Hot damn! Not only do I have the direct line to Animal Poison Control, I’ve also gained a modicum of respect from a teenager. Booyah!

I allowed myself a moment of pride, then I kneeled down, took a deep breath and began scrubbing barf off of the living room rug. I am calm, I am capable, I am grateful…..

 

 

There I Said It

Well hello! It’s been well over a year since I’ve written a single word on my blog.

I could site the usual excuses: Life is SO busy!, My three uber-successful and brilliantly-parented kids take up all my free time; I’m a super accomplished full-time writer now; I was tied up making homemade organic almond milk and fermented nut cheese; and my husband and I were busy planning romantic getaways to reaffirm our perfect love.

But I won’t bore you with the details. Sufficed to say, aside from the rigours of keeping myself afloat, the truth is that I simply got sick of my own writing.

I recently re-read the “About Me” page on my blog and seriously had to stifle a gag. My proudest accomplishment is getting my three kids to drink their green smoothies. Barf! How smug is this Lori Leigh Wilson character? And you people followed me…..what were you thinking?!

Ok, so if you’ll give me another chance then I’d like to start anew. Thanks to Jaclyn Desforge and her wonderful Nest & Story writing workshop, I feel reinvigorated and inspired – and I’ve decided that I want to use this space for truth telling, story sharing and vulnerability.

“I don’t even want to know someone who isn’t barely hanging on by a thread.” Amy Schumer, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo

So let’s get this party started! Here’s the real authentic me as of today: First of all, I’ve totally lost my mojo for cooking. To be honest, my association with the “whole food” movement began to make me feel uncomfortable and preachy. And it probably works both ways since I’ve added frozen veggie meatballs and taco kits into my weekly meal rotation. 

My youngest child had a wicked bout of separation anxiety at back-to-school time that pretty much brought me to my knees. I think I might have cried more than he did and I’m pretty sure it took four years off my life.

My daughter is in full blown puberty which means mood swings from hell, and my oldest son frequently responds to my brilliant pearls of wisdom with the words “the cringe is real.” 

My husband and I mostly sleep separately because the 6-year-old stealthily inserts himself into our bed. And although I love my husband – I think we both secretly like the arrangement. I get to snuggle with my little buddy and he gets to watch Netflix on his phone without me badgering him to turn it off because it’s bad for his eyesight.

I deeply enjoy junky reality tv (Kardashians included). Most days I write in my pyjamas until I have to finally face the public when I pick up my kids from school. We have mice in our kitchen. I’ve turned worrying into an Olympic sport (I’m going for the gold!). My kids fight. My jeans are tight (perhaps because I’m eating Halloween candy by the fistful). My dogs bark a LOT….and the littlest one poops on the floor at least a couple of times every week just to keep me on my toes.

On a more somber note, there have been two shocking deaths in my family that have really shaken the ground beneath my feet. A vibrant adolescent boy was gone in an instant, and a loving and feisty grandmother took her last breath after a painful health struggle. Sometimes the brutal randomness of life makes me want to grab my family and hide in a cave ..you know what I mean?

What about any good stuff you ask? Well, after my worry reached a scary peak, I signed up for a mediation class and I’m learning to breathe and find space between what happens and how I respond. It’s amazing and I’ll talk more about it in another post.

I’ve read some incredible books including Lindy West’s life-changing memoir Shrill and Glennon Doyle-Melton’s raw and brave biography Love Warrior.  I can honestly say that they fundamentally changed the way I look at myself, others and the world. I mean it – read those damn books!!

And I’ve been writing my butt off, actually pulling in a paycheque and contributing to our family finances in a meaningful way for the first time in many years. That feels good.

Phew! There I said it. And I’ll keep on saying it if you’ll be so kind as to indulge me. And I promise no more smug posts or crappy recipes – unless you want me to guide you through the process of thawing and heating some mouth-watering veggie meatballs…..: )

Thanks for your support and I’d love to hear from you. How are things going in your life? Feel free to comment below.

P.S. I am working on rejigging my site so please bear with me as I make some changes.

9 Healthful Products That I Adore

As we head into warmer spring days, I felt inspired to share with you some of my favourite finds, foodie items and all-around awesome products that have all enriched my life in different ways. Some of them help me to relax, others make me feel my best, a couple of them have improved my health and some are just for fun!

So if you are looking to treat yourself or someone you love to something special – these 9 items have the patented “Lori Wilson” stamp of approval:

1. Spoonk Mat – I’m not sure if it’s all the time I spend writing at my computer or that fact that I am getting older but I’ve noticed some persistent achiness in my lower back. A friend told me about this amazing acupressure mat so I rushed right out to buy one and it was definitely a stellar purchase. I’ll admit that having over 6000 stimulation points pressed into your body is a little uncomfortable at first but the results are well worth it. Benefits include: increased circulation, decreased pain, relaxation of sore muscles, release of endorphins, improved sleep and stress relief. My husband and I are both hooked!

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2. Saje Perfume – I had dinner with a few girlfriends this past winter and I couldn’t stop sniffing my friend who was seated right next to me – she smelled so darn good! (At one point I’m pretty sure she thought I was hitting on her ; ) She was wearing a pure essential oil  blend from Saje Wellness called “Stress Release” that has a lovely clean and fresh scent. Saje started in western Canada and they are committed to using pure 100% natural ingredients in their products that are all are guaranteed free of “parabens, SLS, SLES, PEGS, glycols, petrochemicals, synthetic colours and synthetic fragrances.” Plus they smell amazing!

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3. Joy For Beginners by Erica Bauermeister – I am a regular at our local Chapters book store and I always seek out my favourite employee whenever I visit for book suggestions. Margaret is my go-to girl and she never fails to find me something fantastic – and this book is no exception. It’s moving and thought-provoking and I still find myself thinking about the characters and their unique situations months after I finished reading the book.

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4. Living Libations Rose Best Skin Ever – I know what you are thinking – how the heck does Lori keep her face looking so youthful and glowy? You’d never know she was about to turn 44. Well I’m glad you asked! I’m kidding but I did luck out by inheriting good skin from my mom and grandmother. I also like to keep my skin routine simple – I can’t be bothered with tons of different lotions and potions. My go-to items are Witch Hazel toner and this incredible Rose Oil from Living Libations. It smells incredible and keeps my face fresh and blemish free.

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5. 100% Pure Makeup – it is incredibly difficult to find makeup that is truly clean and safe in addition to working well. I’ve tried a few brands that were guaranteed all-natural but left me looking pretty frightening – mascara running under my eye, concealer the colour of mustard and garish pink lipstick that felt like I was smearing silly putty on my lips. Not flattering! I don’t wear much makeup but for my money the cleanest and most effective brand on the market is 100% Pure. It’s a bit on the pricey side but their fruit-pigmented make-up delivers on quality and looks great on the face. Win-win. (Black Tea Mascara and Berry Blush are two of my favourites)

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6. Zazubean Chocolate– I’m pretty sure the most amazing thing I’ve learned about healthy eating is that chocolate is actually a superfood! Who knew?! However, I have come to realize that all chocolate is not created equally. Those candy bars that line the check-out aisles of convenience stores are far from super – they are full of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients and nasty chemicals. But thankfully there are brands that are committed to fair-trade practices and produce delicious organic delights that will make you forget all about that stinkin’ Kit Kat bar. My absolute favourite is Zazubean’s Smooch Bar – decadent chocolate with vanilla caramel and a pinch of sea salt. Heaven!

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7. Strawsome – I don’t know about you but my kids are crazy for straws. Apparently drinks just taste better when you sip them through a tube (or a piece of licorice for that matter…) But I’ve never been a fan of cheap plastic straws – I work my butt of to prepare green smoothies each morning and I hate to see them consumed through something that is made with BPA and other harmful plastic ingredients. Luckily for me I found an amazing company that makes the coolest glass straws on the planet. They come in many funky colours and designs so that we can each have our own unique straw and they come with a nifty device to keep them sparkling clean.

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8. Four Sigma Foods Mushroom Teas – Back in the fall, I had the pleasure of getting to hear the president of Four Sigma Foods give a presentation on the superpowers of mushrooms. I was absolutely blown away. Apparently these little fungi are incredible healers, immunity boosters and hormone balancers. And the “Funguys” at Four Sigma are committed to unlocking the maximum power from all of their mushroom products. Each blend is specially formulated to address specific conditions in the body and they have a mild and pleasant taste. Their new XOCO Hot Chocolate is downright sinful!

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9. Headspace – Although I fully realize the positive impact meditation has had on my life, I have struggled over the years to maintain a regular practice. I will go for weeks at a time and then get too “busy” and fall completely off the wagon. This easy-to-use app on my iPhone has made all the difference in the world. I am a huge fan of creator Andy Puddicombe and his easy-going and approachable manner. Somehow he manages to make meditation accessible to everyone – no incense or fancy mat required. You can download the app for free and sample a 10-day trial and then decide if you’d like to buy the full program. I have been especially enjoying the different themed meditation sessions on creativity, anxiety and relationships.

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Those are my current favs and I’d love to hear about yours! What products or services are you loving right now? How are they impacting your life? And better yet – have you got another chocolate to recommend? Please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Who “Gets” You?

When I was in public school, my dad came home one day with a beautiful new piano and my parents decided that my sister and I should learn how to play it. My mom signed us up for lessons at a local convent and our first teacher was a very elderly nun. Her name escapes me but what I DO remember is that she kept a wad of kleenexes stuffed in the wrist of her shirt and constantly re-used them to catch the steady drips that ran from her nose. She also had breath that smelled like a pungent combination of stale coffee and mothballs and she would blow it in my face when she leaned in to offer her frequent musical corrections. Needless to say – my piano playing was pathetic because I was way more focused on dodging the boogery tissues and chronic halitosis to focus on the music. Thankfully after a month or so my mom decided we should try out a different instructor.

Mr. Carr was a gentle, patient and talented musician who offered classes at my family church. I liked him right away. He was funny and spunky and his breath smelled like spearmint. And miraculously my playing improved exponentially. After only a few weeks together he offered up a challenge: “Lori” he said “I want you to sing along when you play this next piece.” I was only too happy to oblige because I was absolutely certain I was destined to become a world-famous singer. I belted out the song as I plunked away at the keyboard and after I was done Mr. Carr just smiled and continued on with our lesson.

Shortly after Mr. Carr approached my parents and asked if they would be willing to let me do singing lessons with him in addition to our piano sessions. Thankfully they said that would be fine and I embarked some of the most joyful years of my childhood. I adored my vocal classes with Mr. Carr – he made me feel like the most amazing singer in the world and even signed me up to compete at local music festivals. I was on cloud nine. Up in the choir room during those 1/2 hour lessons, I was free to indulge in one of my passions and I got tons of positive reinforcement for doing something I loved.

What I realize now as an adult looking back on my time with Mr. Carr is that aside from my family- he was the first person who really GOT me. He saw the real me and he acknowledged the spark that was inside of me. I’m not quite sure how he figured out that singing was what I really wanted to do during those lessons but he managed to tap into something that made me feel special. He didn’t think my singing was frivolous or a waste of time – he encouraged me to embrace my inner artist.

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I have been incredibly fortunate to have had a long list of amazing mentors who have nudged me along my path in life. People who have encouraged me, inspired me, pushed me and taught me to become the woman I am today. There was Ms. Simmons in high school who took notice of my writing and taught me how to tell my own authentic stories. A university senior named Steve who recognized my homesickness and helped me to see the adventure and fun in the changes of life. My dear friend Gerald who heard me talking on the phone while I was working at one of my first jobs as a receptionist and decided he would help me get into the voice over business. Gentle sweet Paul who took me under his wing at a new job in public relations and taught me the value in being kind and appreciative to your colleagues. Alyson, Bev and Georgine who opened my eyes to a kind and friendly approach to parenting and marriage. Tanya who took my call just five years ago and has been generous enough to offer excellent mentorship in the highly competitive voice over industry. And nutritionist Megan who taught me to look at my diet in a whole new way…. to name just a few.

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This business of “mentoring” is not an easy thing to do- one has to be willing to put aside their own ego and agenda to truly focus and nurture the needs of another. It’s a selfless act of caring and love. And the good news is there are lots of incredible people out there filled to the brim with knowledge and experience who would make excellent mentors. You just have to know where to look. Here are a few things you can intentionally do to uncover the people who will “get” you:

REACH OUT: Although some of the mentors in my life came to me by chance – I have also reached out many times to ask for guidance. Of course sometimes others are too busy or not interested but I’ve found that most often people are more than happy to help. Figure out what area of your life would benefit from some mentorship (relationships, parenting, career, fitness, health, volunteering), make a list possible candidates and reach out!

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER: Don’t worry if you feel too “young” or too “old” to start a mentoring relationship. I have benefitted greatly from special teachers from the time I was little right up to today. And I hope to continue to be inspired by mentors for many years to come.

LOOSEN THE TERMS: Perhaps asking someone to “mentor” you might sound a bit too heavy or intense in certain instances. Instead, ask a friend for coffee or a glass of wine and pick their brain about the things you admire or are curious about. You might ignite an informal mentorship and friendship at the same time.

BE A MENTOR: One of the best ways to connect with others is to offer your own mentorship to someone who is struggling. We all have unique talents that can be used to inspire those around us. Be careful not to force information on someone who isn’t interested – but if you find a kindred spirit who is curious about your approach to life- that is the perfect opportunity to share your wisdom.

APPRECIATE YOUR MENTORS: A few years ago I wrote letters to some of my own personal mentors expressing my gratitude. It was a wonderful experience to offer this appreciation and I also got the opportunity to reconnect with some of my heroes.

Now that I’m a mom, I am keenly aware of the people who take the time to acknowledge the sparks in my own children. I can see the beams of light shooting from them bright and strong but I know how valuable it is to have that light acknowledged by another. I try my best to surround them with people who make them feel special, who nurture their passions and who will lovingly nudge them along their own unique paths. Perhaps if they are very lucky, they will find their own minty-fresh breathed Mr. Carr. And they will feel seen. You just can’t ask for anything better than that.