Media Diet Postscript

So, this media diet I've been on... it's even more chic than Paleo. I was inspired in part by Jen Hatmaker's terrific book 7. I was not comfortable with the idea of wearing only seven items of clothing or eating only seven foods (although being a picky eater, I sort of only eat seven foods as it is) but a media diet seemed possible. I hated the amount of time I wasted on Facebook. Since I hang around social media a lot, I often feel that I should read other people's blogs and twitter feeds out of politeness, but, really, I don't have that kind of time. I have a book to edit and children to raise and a relationship to nurture and friendships to cultivate: People of Walmart can wait.

And I survived. I was off long enough to break me of the habit. And I might have been able to leave it all behind, had I not shelled out $49 to have this bit of awesomeness come my way.

I know, right?

Brhum Bhatia at BB Imagery is a magician with lighting and photoshop. I got his name from a new pal after I saw her LinkedIn photo and was all "Who took that photo? I need one of those now!!!" So after a couple of hours in studio with flashbulbs and a wind machine (I know that you're all thinking Whitesnake video but it's a subtle fan and just gives you really great hair) this is my new headshot. There was no way that I was not going to wallpaper that sucker all over the internet. This photo is the very thing for which Facebook was designed: to make all of your 40-something year old high school classmates sick with envy. Yes, for $49, they could have a similar photo too, but -- shhh - we don't have to tell them that. 

So I crept back on to Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. The reality is, I use social media for work. And it is a good and fun thing. But I am a person prone to excess (cough *Chanel Jumbo Flap bag * cough) and the diet did me good. I have taken down my blog roll to a few key players. And I limit my time online. And with my free time I did things like play tennis and catch up with a girlfriend over a four hour lunch and I went to see another pal's prospective home (fingers crossed). I went to the farmers' market (Oakville has some good farmers' markets. In your eye, Toronto!) and I saw Pacific Rim in 3D (in that case, I'd had been better off Facebooking but I was in good company.) The kids and I are a lovely shade of brown (confession: we are, like, the whitest family. So even in almost-August, we still look super pale. But I have a watchband mark, which -- given that I wear SPF 60 -- is a coup.)

And there are no feelings of envy anymore. (Well, perhaps a few. I saw a woman wearing a pair of Valentino rockstud sandals and I wanted to steal them from her feet.) Generally, when you meet people in real life, you realize that they are just trying to get by like you are. Life is not a mad whirl of vacations and soccer trophies after all. So my new plan is to use social media to foster more and better real world relationships rather than as a relationship substitute (the Introvert in my personality type kind of likes to pretend that sitting alone at a computer is a social activity, so this is big.)

Does this mean I'm out of a job?

I'm not sure if I'm going to take on any of the other challenges in 7. It's such a great book and Hatmaker is just so darned charming that it might be tempting to try. In the meantime, I'm editing, budgeting, planning, working my Powersheets, and enjoying the last month of summer.

Keep safe, wear a hat and, when in doubt, phone a friend.

Bliss Notes: Sun sun sun, here it comes

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Although there are many wonderful things about summer, our favourite thing has to be the abundance of sunshine. Sunshine is nature's cure-all. Ten minutes of exposure to the sun can give the body its daily dose of Vitamin D. As long as you sunscreen up and throw on some protective shades (this summer it's all about old-school Ray Ban aviators), I say bring on the sun.

One of the simplest ways to take advantage of the sun's rays is to make sun tea, a no-boil version of iced tea. There are as many recipes for sun tea as the day is long but we like to put 3 big teabags (we love Rishi) and 4 cups of water in a glass pitcher. Cover the pitcher and place it in the hot sun for a minimum of 30 minutes. Fill a glass about half full with tea and then add cold water and ice. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Then sit yourself down on the porch, stretch out like Maggie the Cat and find some young Brando to peel you a grape.

One cannot always rely on external factors like a sunny day (or a young Brando) to bring on the bliss. Anthony J. D'Angelo instructs, "Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine." Thich Nhat Hanh was able to see the sunshine in a sheet of paper: "If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. Without sunshine, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper." That may be fine and dandy for the enlightened people in the room, but on a rainy day I need a little more help than a sheet of 8 1/2 by 11.

I relate more to William Thackeray who said, "a good laugh is sunshine in the house." I like to surround myself with funny people and watch funny movies. The next time it rains, seek out a theatre playing The Way Way Back. If you don't laugh yourself sick during the waterslide scene, I'm afraid we can't be friends. A John Candy/Steve Martin film fest also works: I must have watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Uncle Buck, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Parenthood each a dozen times. Ditto for Wes Anderson movies. I defy you to watch Bill Murray in Rushmore and not smile.

One of the quotes that resonated with me this past year is from Albert Camus: "In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."It's true. Keep calm, look up, and never give up hope: summer is on its way. No matter what the local weather channel says, all of our days can be sunny ones.

Mid-summer check in

So, I've been doing what all the cool kids do and taking a social media holiday. I'm checking my messages on Facebook and I've auto-scheduled my Friday Bliss Notes posts, but that's it. I'm heading into the time of year that reminds me of a nightmare period in my life and I need to shield myself from the news of others going through nightmares such as the Nigella Lawson divorce and the Oscar Pistorius trial (I only want to hear about the royal baby, so I'm limiting my news to that found in Tatler.) While I've unplugged, I've been treating myself with kindness: more prayer, working through my Lara Casey Powersheets (which are amazing!), and spending time with people I love. I've even booked a little getaway for later in the summer.

I cannot begin to tell you how positive all of this has been. I was able to get the clarity I needed to make a big decision: I'm not continuing with school in the fall.

The decorating program looked like fun - and the class I took this summer taught me a lot and will be the basis of some creative thinking material. But it's just not where my heart is. Instead, I'm going to be putting my MBA to work once again and doing some consulting work related to my book on strategic thinking. I realized how much of my desire to go back to school and be surrounded by pillows was a response to acute stress. Among other things, I'm a certified Myers-Briggs Type Indicator administrator, which can help my business clients gain insight into themselves and their teams. It also gives me a lot of insight into my own personality.

I'm an INTJ. I'm introverted (I), highly intuitive (N), a thinker (T) and someone who likes order and closure (that's the J part). My type finds school a very low stress activity and so when I do not know what my next step should be, more education is a natural response. When anyone is under acute stress, there comes a point when one falls out of type. My own traumatic experience pushed me out of my intuitive comfort zone and into the totally-not-me sensing type where everything is highly tangible. (There is an amazing booklet about type and stress called In the Grip by Naomi Quenk if you are into this sort of thing.) I overindulged in sensory activities, which explains the 12 new throw pillows this year as well as the Chanel jumbo flap bag. (Thank God I was not in Italy when this went down: there is only so much damage one can do in Oakville!)

As things settled down, it became clear that working as a decorator was not really for me. In my drawing class, I discovered that I really don't like to measure things or use rulers. I also don't like inflexible rules or bureaucracy. What I did like was drawing a hotel concept that would be loved by Ayn Rand, but sadly there is not a lot of call for that sort of thing these days. And so it's back to corporate training  and consulting: the career I've worked at on and off since I was 20. I suspect I've given my lovely boyfriend whiplash during this process, but I feel very good about this decision.

I'm pretty excited about this next step even though it means chaining myself to my laptop doing re-writes instead of driving around looking at fabric and paint. But I'm not giving up on pretty things all together. This is the girl who has had a subscription to shelter magazines since middle school, after all. I have all of the elements in place to open a little retail business so that I can pass on my great home and fashion finds to others (you cannot get a Goyard bag in this country: somebody needs to work on that!) I'm not sure exactly what the concept will look like but since it's a stated goal in my Power Sheets, I know I'll get it done.

I'll be popping by here from time to time to write about the lovely side of life (Italy, the Rogers Cup, the royal baby and fall fashion) as well as blogging over at Engage the Fox. And of course, I'll be keeping up with Bliss Notes Fridays.

And sometimes I'll feature a guest post:

Have a safe and happy summer.

xo Jen

Bliss Notes: Creative Cure for the Summer Blahs

Part way through the summer, those of us with kids begin to hear the two most dreaded words in the English lexicon: "I'm bored." But the truth is, at this point in the summer, I get a little bored too. I've grown tired of my pastel summer wardrobe and afternoons at the pool, and find myself craving pumpkins and sweaters and crisp morning air. This boredom is exactly why retailers invented Pre-Fall.

But this summer I am not going to shop my way out of this ennui (well, maybe just those Jimmy Choo cage boots...) The next time I catch myself killing time -- metaphorically staring at the back of an airplane seat a la Puddy in Seinfeld -- I'm going to get creative.

Saul Steinberg, the man behind the amazing cover art at The New Yorker, understood that the "life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes." After all, if life were a 24/7 circus, there'd be little incentive to pick up a pen or a paintbrush.

For some people, avoiding boredom means getting their hands covered in clay and slip, for others, it's transforming paper into crowns. Whether one loves to sew a skirt or write a poem or bake bread, there is something quite magical in creating something that wouldn't exist were it not for our touch.

Carl Jung believed that creativity is an innate quality in humans. Even if our product is not quite up to Martha Stewart standards, it still does our souls good to create. Even if are not on a first name basis with the staff at Michael's, we can still be engaged in the creative process.  Carl Jung believed that even the least artistic individual was a creative being: "What can a man "create" if he doesn't happen to be a poet? . . . If you have nothing at all to create, then perhaps you create yourself." Jung believed that working on our notion of self and redefining how we see the world was as much an act of creativity as basket-weaving or interpretive dance. Our ability to reshape how we view the world is amazing: like What Not to Wear for the soul.

For those of us who still don't think of ourselves as particularly creative, Visa founder Dee Hawl offers some advice: "The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it." We find that some prayer or meditation is an excellent way to clear out some room.

Perhaps that was precisely what Puddy was doing on that plane. Perhaps he was not staring at the back of an airplane seat but clearing out the corners of his mind. While Elaine was busy insulting Vegetable Lasagna and stealing people's apple juice, perhaps he was simply fine-tuning his spirit.

We should all use our time so well.

Bliss Notes: Like a Kid in a Candy Store

For my kids, the highlight of a weekend at the cottage is a boat ride to the marina. The marina is like an old-fashioned (think 1978) corner store, complete with mason jars filled with nickle and penny candy. The kids make a beeline to the rows of jars, grab a baggie and a pair of tweezers (things are more hygenic than in 1978), and then start the agonizing process of deciding how to best spend their quarters. 25 of the tiny 1 cent gummy bears? 5 of the marshmallow strawberries or circus peanuts? Two laffy taffys and a caramel? Or spend the works on one good lollipop? Decisions, decisions.

In the marina, all options are ultimately good (there are no bad candies, unless one is, of course, footing the dental bill.) In life, however, things are not always so straightforward. We get sick, or we get fired, or we discover that Bernie Madoff is our money manager. Instead of an assortment of caramels and taffy, we are faced with nothing but Hose Noses or Rotten Egg Jellybeans. We don't want the baggie or the tweezers and (with apologies to SATC's Charlotte York) we don't want to choose our choice.

Of course, this is when the gurus tell us that we can choose how we react to our choices. And while I get it and fundamentally agree, I am still sort of ticked that I'm not being offered any caramels.

So that's when I look for the ice cream freezer.

My kids are so intent on the jars of candy that they always forget that the marina sells ice cream. It's tucked behind the counter but it's there in all of its glorious moosetracksy, bear clawsy, wolf pawsy glory.

And though I need constant reminding, I am coming to believe that there is always a proverbial ice cream freezer tucked beneath the counter. Maybe it's an attitude thing or maybe it's a manifestation thing; the lady who helped me order a watch strap a long time ago swears it has to do with angels (I've  had some highly interesting conversations in my time...). Whatever the reason, it's there.

As Kate Gosselin said, post-divorce: "You can find happiness if you look hard enough in any situation.... If you are determined to see the good and positive in any situation, it's there." Just like the freezer.

And you know what? I believe her.

Lilly on Lakeshore

I'm offline this week except for Friday, but I had to mini-post that Island View (Lilly Pulitzer) has opened on Lakeshore.

Bliss Notes Friday: Fireworks

the fireworks started.
And they were beautiful.
- Ian Falconer, Olivia Forms a Band

Many of us watched a fireworks display as part of the Canada Day and Fourth of July celebrations this week. It seems that no matter how technologically sophisticated we get, we will never tire of watching the 2000 year old spectacles of light and sound.

Fireworks have been used as part of major celebrations throughout history, marking royal weddings and births, and political victories. Fireworks have also been used in film as a way of expressing passion. Who can forget the kiss between Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief? ("If you really want to see fireworks, it's better with the lights out") Or the ironic use of fireworks in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot as Andy's impulse proposal to Angela thwarted Jim's planned proposal to Pam.

While we love a good professional fireworks display like Monte-Carlo's International Fireworks Festival (oh, to be lounging on a yacht draped in Dolce and Gabbana, watching the pyrotechnics with the beautiful people), we are not huge fans of DIY fireworks (whenever we drive by a roadside stand, the vendors do not give off an "our first thought is your safety" sort of vibe.) Still, there are ways to capture the magic of fireworks without burning down the house. Now that we are older and can be trusted around objects that reach 1000 degrees, we adore sparklers. They add a festive touch to a birthday cake (once we reached 21, the candle for every year thing became overwhelming). And is there any more spectacular way to finish off a summer evening than to serve a bowl of Fire and Ice beneath the stars (vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and coconut served in a big crystal bowl, covered with four or five lit sparklers).

We like how sparklers remind us to look for life's wahoo moments. In the 1998 movie Very Bad Things, (cross-reference under "bliss can be found in the strangest of places") Jeremy Piven's character, Mike, is sharing a childhood memory with his friend Kyle, played by the fabulous Jon Favreau:

Mike: Dad used to bring home these sparklers for me and Adam, you know? (laughs) Sparklers! We'd go out back, the three of us - and we'd hold it up to the sky and watch the explosions of light and the sparks, you know, and Dad would be all "Wait for it! Here it comes! Watch for it! Here comes the wahoo!"

Kyle:  Wahoo?

 Mike: Wahoo. The sparkler would burn hot, then hotter, then even hotter, and then there'd be this one moment of pure burn when [it] . . . would cook perfect, just perfect. It would only last a second, but that second was it. And that's what Dad had us looking for, man.

Kyle: The wahoo moment?

Mike: That's exactly right. . .  All the forces coming together - burning - just perfect, perfect harmony. That's what I'm driving at. Are you with me?

Kyle: I think so.

Mike: I have been looking for that flash. I've been looking and I've been looking, and I can't find it. What if it already happened, you know? My moment! What if it already happened and I didn't see it?

Fireworks can remind us to look for that moment when we experience pure joy and are in perfect harmony with the universe. Sometimes it happens when we are working on a project we feel passionate about, or when we are laughing with a good friend, or when we are sitting by the ocean listening to the waves. When things are going well and we feel perfectly at peace, God is telling us that we are on the right path. That's wahoo. And while Mike is right to worry that we can be so bedazzled by the bright lights and busyness that we miss these moments, he is wrong to think that we only get one chance at wahoo. Life offers us an infinite number of opportunities to be in alignment with the universe, if only we can quiet our minds for long enough to attune ourselves to the signal.

Summer schedule

Starting my (lazy) summer blog schedule. I'll be here and there with a few highlights such as the Oakville Lilly Pulitzer launch and some updates on the Engage the Fox book and hopefully some blog posts from somewhere in Europe (I really should have planned out my summer better: the airlines are jammed.) I'll still be doing Bliss Notes Fridays too.

In the meantime, a whole lot of this:

 Xo jen

(Tomorrow is the last day to use the sweetthings discount code at Candy Shop Vintage for your 25% off. Enjoy!)

Christmas Traditions: The Nutcracker Ballet

Every year, I take my daughter to see the Nutcracker. (I took my youngest son once, but he loudly complained that there was too much dancing...