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.

mentor

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.

mentor 2

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.

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Grandpa’s Wisdom on My Son’s 13th Birthday

My oldest child turns 13 today. 13 years ago my life changed in such a powerful and profound way that it’s sometimes hard to remember what life was like before I became his mom. As I gathered my baby in my arms on our first day together on that hot summer day back in 2001, I had no idea the journey that lay in front of us.

cal newborn 2

I have struggled over the past weeks trying to come up with a post packed with wisdom and insight to share on the occasion of this milestone birthday but I keep coming up short. It turns out it’s pretty darn hard to put into words the feeling like my heart might burst right through my chest with the love I have for him. Or how much I admire his passion for life, his wicked sense of humour and his rock steady self-confidence. And it’s nearly impossible to articulate that even though I am enjoying watching him mature into a wonderful young man – I’d give just about anything to roll back the clock a bit for the chance to scoop him up and snuggle him in my arms one more time.

cal toddler

Luckily for me – my dad saved the day. He wrote a beautiful letter for my son and asked me to give it to him on his birthday. And it’s perfect. Simple, sweet and loving…and he kindly agreed to let me share it on my blog. Thanks for writing such a heartfelt piece dad and happy birthday to my new teenager. I love you more than you could ever imagine and I feel incredibly lucky to be your mom.

cal and dad

To My First Grandchild,

Before you were born your mom and dad announced that you were coming and I cried tears of joy.

The first grandchild is special and you are and always will be super special to us.

I remember your first steps, the first time you called me “grandpa”, the time you tossed your baby bottle and then cried for it, the first time you pooped on the potty and called to tell me, the first fish that you caught, the first time you tasted pumpkin pie and the time your mom pushed your face in one. All of these special memories and so many more! You were never shy to come and stay with grandma and I and we cherish the time that we spent with you both now and then.

And now you are 13 in what seems like the blink of an eye and I and wondering what wisdom that I have to share with you. Not sure I am qualified to do this but glad to share some thoughts with you:

Never be afraid to love, sometimes it hurts but it is always worth the risk.

Always make time in your life for fun and laughter.

Be quick to make new friends but cherish the old ones.

Stay in touch with your family. Friends come and go but family is forever.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

Grandma and I love you now, tomorrow and forever.

Enjoy your 13th birthday and all of your exciting life ahead.

Much love. Grandpa

cal now

 

On Turning Four

When my first son was born almost 13 years ago, I was a complete basket case. I was totally unprepared for the punch-in-the-face-like shock of motherhood and literally spent the first 48 hours with my finger stuck under his nose making sure he was still breathing (I also faithfully tracked every single one of his pees and poops in a journal for 3 months and had him sleep on a heart rate monitor for almost a year…..you get the point.)

When my daughter was born 2 years later, I was a much calmer and more confident mom but I was also busy with a toddler and in the middle of a home renovation and frankly just so darn frazzled that I’m afraid I forgot to savour most of her baby years. I do however remember that she was a beautiful and happy bundle of joy -unless I dared to put her down and then she turned into a screaming she-devil!

And then 4 years ago…just a month before I turned 39….I had my last baby – a boy. Almost 9 years younger than his brother and 6 years younger than his sister, he came into the world a whopping 6 pounds and as serene and content a little babe as I’d ever encountered. I  made a promise to him and to myself in that hospital that I would stay present and focused and not let the hustle and bustle of everyday life sweep away his infancy and toddlerhood and childhood in the blink of an eye. I was going to cherish the moments goddamit because I only had to look into the eyes of my 2 older children to get a reminder of  how fast time flies by.

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But here’s the thing – no matter how much I vowed to relish every milestone, somehow they still whirred past. The downy softness of his newborn hair, the weight of him on my shoulder as he fell asleep snuggled in a tight ball, his first gummy smiles and sweet gurgly laughs, watching his sister gently give him his first bath, his brother’s peels of laughter when he fed him his first taste of apple sauce, watching my husband bundle him up in the stroller and set off around the neighbourhood for yet another attempt at getting him to sleep……he just kept changing and growing and there wasn’t a darn thing I could do about it.

I held on to the moments and at the same time watched them slip through my fingers as he grew – crawling across the floor and then taking his first tottering drunken steps around the living room. And I had to constantly keep reminding myself to focus on the present and to not waste my time mourning the past or worrying about the future.

So here we are 4 years later. The serene little baby has blossomed into a feisty and funny and wild and tender and unique little boy who has completely stolen all of our hearts. He’s a lover of swords and hockey and scooters and climbing trees. He’ll be the first in line for a good game of mini sticks with his favourite cousin, he’ll hang with a group of 12-year-old boys like he’s part of the gang and (sadly) he’s not averse to dropping the occasional swear word. He loves to snuggle in bed reading stories, he insists on twirling my hair in his fingers when he’s tired and he often sneaks into my bed at night to wedge himself between my husband and I.

My little K – he’s my last baby and he’s turning 4. Just like that. In the blink of an eye.

k2

 

 

1 Year Later & My Top 10 from 2013

One year ago I sat down and published the very first post on my blog titled “I’m Gonna Look“. And I was terrified. I had absolutely no idea about the ins and outs of blogging and I was sharing a very vulnerable piece with an unknown audience. Pretty scary stuff.

But I did it. And in pushing through my fear I connected with a community of bloggers, family, friends and like-minded individuals who indulged me in a journey of self-discovery. My initial intent was to simply use my blog as a vehicle for sharing family friendly recipes but it quickly evolved as I changed and learned and mustered up the courage to write about my successes, failures, insights and discoveries.

Thank you to everyone who has followed along (861 of you and counting!) and especially to my family and close friends for allowing me to write so candidly about our experiences. The creative process of writing for this blog has brought me more joy than I ever could have anticipated at this time last year.

To celebrate 1 year, I thought I’d share a Top 10 List of my own personal favourite posts from 2013:

1. Family Day Busy-ness

2. Vegan No-Bake Chocolate Caramels

3. Garbage In Garbage Out Featuring Scooby Doo

4. The Importance of Making Mistakes

5. A Manly Vegan Meal

6. How I Look

7. Why I Love My Vitamix and a Starter Green Smoothie Recipe

8. 10 Hilarious Ways to Lighten Things Up

9. My Summer of Indulgence

10. Kids Cook Night

If you have the time take a browse through some of my totally brilliant and insightful posts from last year ; )

And now for the big question: …….did I look? Well yes I did. And although I didn’t always like what I saw (oh hi new wrinkles), the more I  stared the more I came to realize that loving my image is just the first step in the journey. As much as I learn to adore my reflection in the mirror, the even bigger challenge is to love the person I am when I am sitting in stillness- to be brave enough to really get to know and love myself and to sit quietly in an effort to know my own mind.

So here is my personal intention for 2014: silence and discovery. And don’t worry if this seems to woo-woo for your tastes – I promise to keep posting my plant-based recipes and family friendly holistic discoveries.

But I do have a small favour to ask of all of you for this new year: please stay in touch! Write in the comments if you agree or disagree, share your own successes and failures and let me know if there is something you’d like me to write about. I appreciate your silent support but it would be even nicer to hear from you : )

Happy new year and cheers to a healthy 2014!

Reflections on 15 Years

My husband and I are celebrating our anniversary today. I can hardly believe it’s been 15 years since a wide-eyed young couple walked down the aisle and began a life together that would include world travel, job changes, more than a few late-night parties, relocations, renovations, a dietary overhaul, some blow-out fights, lots of laughs, 3 beautiful children and a deep lasting love and friendship.

anniversary

Thanks to a brilliant suggestion from our close friends (who are also celebrating 15 years of wedded bliss), we decided to mark this milestone year with a trip to a spa in Grafton, Ontario called St. Anne’s. For 2 busy couples with 3 children apiece, this was a rare opportunity to focus on ourselves, relax and enjoy some much-needed pampering. And a few days away from the often hectic pace of our everyday lives gave us all some perspective on the things that really matter.

So in honour of the past 15 years, here are a few important insights that I took away from our anniversary spa getaway:

1. Sometimes just sitting together, holding hands and saying nothing at all can be as powerful as a deep conversation.

2. It’s important to treasure close friends. The time we spent laughing, talking, swimming, relaxing, playing euchre, drinking wine and eating gourmet food together was more potent for stress relief than months of therapy.

3. It’s healthy to talk about things other than the kids every once in a while. Oh yah – we had a life before those little rug rats came along!

4. A spa treatment involving disrobing and being sprayed down with a scotch hose will wind up being the butt of endless jokes ; )

5. Being pampered and focusing on ourselves isn’t a selfish act – it actually makes us better parents, partners and friends.

6. It’s super liberating to walk around all day in a bathrobe with no makeup on and a pound of massage oil in your hair.

5. The world won’t come to an end and my children won’t be heartsick if I leave them in the capable hands of their grandparents for a few days. In fact, they barely noticed I was gone.

6. Even after 15 years, I still marvel at my husband’s wacky sense of humour, his easy-going nature, his enduring patience and his unwavering kindness. Plus he looks pretty hot in a bathrobe!

And the biggest lesson of all? Perspective. Life is still busy, hectic and often uncontrollable- but I can reflect back on the peace I felt during those few days away, take a couple of deep breaths and bring that calmness into any situation that is thrown my way. It also helps if I’m wearing my robe.

Happy Anniversary Mark! I love you!

Dear Mum

Every week I learn something new and interesting from doctor and writer Yoni Freedhoff. His blog “Weighty Matters” always make me think, challenges my beliefs and forces me to question conventional practices in the fields of health, diet and medicine.

This past weekend he included a link in his post to an article written by Kasey Edwards that I literally cannot stop thinking about. This piece is part of a book called “Dear Mum“- a collection of letters from Australian athletes, musicians, models, cooks and authors communicating what they would like to say to their mother’s before it’s too late, or would have said if only they’d had the chance. The book is published by Random House and all royalties go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

dear mum

Far too often, I hear even my fittest and thinnest girlfriends complaining about their weight and their appearance. What we sometimes forget when we complain about our “fat ass” or refuse a piece of birthday cake at a party because we are “watching our weight” or drink a protein shake for dinner because we need to “cut down” or refuse to go swimming because we don’t want to “be seen in a bathing suit” or work out obsessively to lose “that last 10 pounds”- is that our children are watching and listening. Our daughters, granddaughters and nieces are taking notes from us- their most important role models – about what it means to be a woman in today’s society.

Every girl, woman, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin and friend needs to read this brilliant article. Even if you can’t 100% relate to Kasey’s letter, I’m willing to bet you’ll learn something about yourself by the time you’re finished reading:

WHEN YOUR MOTHER SAYS SHE’S FAT      

BY: Kasey Edwards

Dear Mum,  

I was seven when I discovered that you were fat, ugly and horrible. Up until that point I had believed that you were beautiful – in every sense of the word. I remember flicking through old photo albums and staring at pictures of you standing on the deck of a boat. Your white strapless bathing suit looked so glamorous, just like a movie star. Whenever I had the chance I’d pull out that wondrous white bathing suit hidden in your bottom drawer and imagine a time when I’d be big enough to wear it; when I’d be like you.  

But all of that changed when, one night, we were dressed up for a party and you said to me, ”Look at you, so thin, beautiful and lovely. And look at me, fat, ugly and horrible.”  

At first I didn’t understand what you meant.  

”You’re not fat,” I said earnestly and innocently, and you replied, ”Yes I am, darling. I’ve always been fat; even as a child.”  

In the days that followed I had some painful revelations that have shaped my whole life. I learned that:  

1. You must be fat because mothers don’t lie. 2. Fat is ugly and horrible. 3. When I grow up I’ll look like you and therefore I will be fat, ugly and horrible too.  

 Years later, I looked back on this conversation and the hundreds that followed and cursed you for feeling so unattractive, insecure and unworthy. Because, as my first and most influential role model, you taught me to believe the same thing about myself.  

With every grimace at your reflection in the mirror, every new wonder diet that was going to change your life, and every guilty spoon of ”Oh-I-really-shouldn’t”, I learned that women must be thin to be valid and worthy. Girls must go without because their greatest contribution to the world is their physical beauty.  

Just like you, I have spent my whole life feeling fat. When did fat become a feeling anyway? And because I believed I was fat, I knew I was no good.  

But now that I am older, and a mother myself, I know that blaming you for my body hatred is unhelpful and unfair. I now understand that you too are a product of a long and rich lineage of women who were taught to loathe themselves.  

Look at the example Nanna set for you. Despite being what could only be described as famine-victim chic, she dieted every day of her life until the day she died at 79 years of age. She used to put on make-up to walk to the letterbox for fear that somebody might see her unpainted face.  

I remember her ”compassionate” response when you announced that Dad had left you for another woman. Her first comment was, ”I don’t understand why he’d leave you. You look after yourself, you wear lipstick. You’re overweight – but not that much.”  

Before Dad left, he provided no balm for your body-image torment either.  

”Jesus, Jan,” I overheard him say to you. ”It’s not that hard. Energy in versus energy out. If you want to lose weight you just have to eat less.”  

That night at dinner I watched you implement Dad’s ”Energy In, Energy Out: Jesus, Jan, Just Eat Less” weight-loss cure. You served up chow mein for dinner. (Remember how in 1980s Australian suburbia, a combination of mince, cabbage, and soy sauce was considered the height of exotic gourmet?) Everyone else’s food was on a dinner plate except yours. You served your chow mein on a tiny bread-and-butter plate.  

As you sat in front of that pathetic scoop of mince, silent tears streamed down your face. I said nothing. Not even when your shoulders started heaving from your distress. We all ate our dinner in silence. Nobody comforted you. Nobody told you to stop being ridiculous and get a proper plate. Nobody told you that you were already loved and already good enough. Your achievements and your worth – as a teacher of children with special needs and a devoted mother of three of your own – paled into insignificance when compared with the centimetres you couldn’t lose from your waist.  

It broke my heart to witness your despair and I’m sorry that I didn’t rush to your defence. I’d already learned that it was your fault that you were fat. I’d even heard Dad describe losing weight as a ”simple” process – yet one that you still couldn’t come to grips with. The lesson: you didn’t deserve any food and you certainly didn’t deserve any sympathy.  

But I was wrong, Mum. Now I understand what it’s like to grow up in a society that tells women that their beauty matters most, and at the same time defines a standard of beauty that is perpetually out of our reach. I also know the pain of internalizing these messages. We have become our own jailers and we inflict our own punishments for failing to measure up. No one is crueller to us than we are to ourselves.  

But this madness has to stop, Mum. It stops with you, it stops with me and it stops now. We deserve better – better than to have our days brought to ruin by bad body thoughts, wishing we were otherwise.  

And it’s not just about you and me any more. It’s also about Violet. Your granddaughter is only 3 and I do not want body hatred to take root inside her and strangle her happiness, her confidence and her potential. I don’t want Violet to believe that her beauty is her most important asset; that it will define her worth in the world. When Violet looks to us to learn how to be a woman, we need to be the best role models we can. We need to show her with our words and our actions that women are good enough just the way they are. And for her to believe us, we need to believe it ourselves.  

The older we get, the more loved ones we lose to accidents and illness. Their passing is always tragic and far too soon. I sometimes think about what these friends – and the people who love them – wouldn’t give for more time in a body that was healthy. A body that would allow them to live just a little longer. The size of that body’s thighs or the lines on its face wouldn’t matter. It would be alive and therefore it would be perfect.  

Your body is perfect too. It allows you to disarm a room with your smile and infect everyone with your laugh. It gives you arms to wrap around Violet and squeeze her until she giggles. Every moment we spend worrying about our physical ”flaws” is a moment wasted, a precious slice of life that we will never get back.  

Let us honour and respect our bodies for what they do instead of despising them for how they appear. Focus on living healthy and active lives, let our weight fall where it may, and consign our body hatred in the past where it belongs. When I looked at that photo of you in the white bathing suit all those years ago, my innocent young eyes saw the truth. I saw unconditional love, beauty and wisdom. I saw my Mum.  

Love, Kasey xx