People say the Darndest Things

Well, this week is going much better than last week.

Thank God.

Last week was not my best.

You and me both, lady. 

First of all, the weather was all blah. I want to be wearing this:

And instead I'm still freezing my tail feathers off in this

Second, I was at a party with my BF when a woman came up to us and made such an outlandish comment that I could not quite believe it. Only I could believe it, as this is not the first time that someone has made a bizarre statement in my presence: something that has mainly stemmed from the fact that my BF is a widower with deep ties within the community and I am new to town.

Friends who know us and our circumstances are delighted we found one another, but there are a lot of people out there in the wider circle who were not blessed with the gift of tact. Layer onto this the complexity that comes from my past suffering and the toll that took on my ego and you get a bit of an emotional powder keg. I took to the internet for some guidance, as one does, and found several ebooks about the issues girlfriends of widowers face. The best of the lot was Past: Perfect; Present: Tense by Julie Donner Andersen (don't let the title and cover put you off.)

What a great book. Andersen has gained tremendous wisdom from her experience and the book helped me reframe much of my experience. It turns out that some of the more bizarre statements I've heard are practically cliche in these circumstances, so it allowed me to depersonalize the experience. It also put many of my deepest fears to rest. I know it's a fairly niche subject but if you find yourself in the position of dating a widower (dating a widow is not as fraught with peril it seems), I highly recommend her book. It was a true sanity saviour.

This week is much better. Spring sports are starting and the kids managed to score themselves free frozen yogurt for a year.

I've been taking comfort in some of this:

and some of this:

Well, fancy that. It's Kir o'clock again!

Serena got her Hirst on:


Our magnolia is starting to bud:

I'm carting in the champers for a girls' night at the end of the week.

And there are only 59 days until summer vacation.

Stay warm, darlings.

Post-Easter Reflection

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm happy that all of the holidays are over for a while and that we have an expanse of spring and summer on the horizon. Holidays, with their expectations, tend to undo me now and I'm always happy for them to be over and normal life (such as it is) to resume. 

I sorted through my makeup cabinet as part of my spring cleaning routine. I'm prepping for renos so I'm trying to make sure that I have a clear sense of the storage space I require. I have waaaay too much makeup but I'm always certain that the next purchase from Sephora will be my holy grail. 

I've vowed to buy no more new product until I've used up what I have. 

I've spent part of the past week catching up on my reading. I finished Dr. Merry C. Lin's The Fully Lived Life: Rescuing Our Souls From All That Holds Us Back. It's an excellent book as you can see by the number of dogeared paged and by the fact I dropped it in the bath.

With me, if a book looks pristine, it means I flipped through it in under an hour. When I start to dog-ear things, it's high praise. 

I'm finding this whole "dog-ear" thing very insulting. My ears look nothing like that. 

What I particularly like about this book is that it does not fall into the Happy, Clappy brand of Christianity that I really don't like. Lin, a clinical psychologist, shares her own pain and the pain she's witnessed as a therapist, in outlining how to discover and live out God's purpose for one's life in a broken and imperfect world. She opens one of of the opening chapters with Psalm 22:2: "Doubled up with pain, I call to God all day long. No answer. Nothing." What I love about this verse is its honesty. Life is brutally hard at times and a relationship with God does not exempt us from pain. At times, it even contributes to further suffering because we expect God to take our pain away and get angry when He remains silent. Lin explores how God is with us in our pain, and then works with us to redeem it for the greater good (have you ever known anyone who had done something useful on this planet who had been totally spared from suffering?) Lin talks about how God does not want us to be trapped by our painful experiences but to push past them to experience true joy: the kind that cannot be taken away by anything. She even invites us to Sin Boldly, per Martin Luther, an expression I adore and something you won't find in every faith-based book (I urge you to read this in context, however, before booking your one way ticket to Las Vegas…) If you are feeling stuck in your life and not sure why your efforts to move forward are continually thwarted, this is a great book to help ease you back into positivity and action. 

I also read Rebecca Eckler's book The Mommy Mob: Inside the Outrageous World of Mommy Bloggers. As a former mom blogger, I was interested to read Eckler's take on the current momosphere. When I blogged a decade ago, there were a handful of writers and readers tended to be relatively civilized and respected that you were granting them a peek into your life. Now, it seems to be a total free-for-all with people, hiding behind the anonymity of the screen, launching hate bombs. Even on this blog, I've found that any time I deviated from what society considers to be "normal", it opens me up to criticism. The trouble is, the idea of normal is so very narrow: average income, average parenting style, average ideas. I call this The Tyranny of the Average, whereby anyone whose family does not resemble a Swiffer ad is fair game for hatred. Eckler, who often deliberately courts controversy, receives this in spades. She has thick skin: I'd be undone by what has been tossed her way but she is able to spin the hatred into funny anecdotes. I wish I had her resilience. 

Finally, I've been listening to Jimmy Carter's A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power. I cannot emphasize how much respect I have for Carter for writing this book. In this book, Former President Carter provides a primer outlining the major issues impacting women across the globe and religion's role in contributing to gender-based hatred. I am so impressed that a 90 year old former Southern Baptist (he left the church of his youth due to their anti-women policies) really gets the severity of this issue that many of my female peers with daughters (in other words, people with a stake!) fail to understand. Carter explores the role many religions play in misogyny but is particularly focused on the pitfalls of Christianity. I have experienced first-hand the role that a conservative Christian church can play in contributing to violence against women and am glad to see someone with credibility in the sphere take this issue on. This is not an easy read but a necessary one. 

I hope you are enjoying the sunshine. It's been a long time coming and I plan to enjoy this spring. 

You and me both!

Where went April?

I have no idea where the time is going. Last time I checked, it was March. Suddenly, it's Easter. Hopefully my alternate self in whatever alternate universe swallowed me up is being productive.

I've mainly been doing some work: helping a friend, making decisions on the book, shuttering non-core businesses. Funny things have come up such as what name to use as a writer since the whole Jennifer Lawrence thing is getting a bit played out and even Larry and Sergey would have trouble finding me on Google Satya would have trouble finding me on Bing.

I honestly have no good excuse for my slackerly blogging habits. This past weekend was gorgeous outside and so, instead of writing, I spent some time getting the house ready for spring. The summer house is open once again and the porch is all set up for reading.

We brought out all our summer sporting equipment.

Of course, that's why it snowed on Tuesday!

I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to the kids and although I have read the series before, I was surprised how emotionally draining I found this book (which has always been my favourite) this time. The Dementors, paranormal sentries who keep Azkaban prison secure, are such an excellent metaphor for the darkness that can follow trauma: "...the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself... You'll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life." In the book, the defence against their darkness is to focus on the light: on good memories and, not surprisingly to many, chocolate. A terrific doc that I saw this week on Vision offers another solution: forgiveness. In To Forgive…Divine, filmmaker Hilary Pryor weaves together interviews with people who have forgiven terrible sins against themselves or their loved ones with an exploration of Christian, Buddhist, Islamic and Jewish approaches to forgiveness. Forgiveness is a way to avoid getting sucked into the darkness, but I have always found it a tricky thing. I know that it serves me best and yet somehow it feels like letting things go means that what happened doesn't matter. Apparently, this is an incredibly common feeling, which is why forgiveness is an easier concept to preach than to practice. I think it's easier to start small and work up. I've always loved the C.S. Lewis quote to which Anne Lamott refers in Travelling Mercies: “If we really want to learn forgiveness, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo.” Amen to that.

As a complete departure from the bleakness, today I attended the Ladies' Lunch at the club. I sported a spring-but-still-freezing ensemble of a black shirt, lace skirt and tall boots.

The lunch was the spring fashion show and I was strong-armed into modelling again. (I am so very much not a model that when I told someone I was going to try to channel Kate Moss on the runway, she thought I said I was going to channel Cake Boss on the runway. I bet Cara D never gets that kind of sass…) Nevertheless, the clothes were very pretty, made by a local Oakville designer Karoo. I'm thinking about getting this dress that I wore on the catwalk as it was pretty and comfortable (it's named the Darling style: how darling!) Of course, then I'd for sure need to get tickets to Coachella next year! I'm loving that whole Boho thing right now.

Serena is still very mad that the club does not consider her enough of a lady to attend these lunches. She sulked all afternoon.

I'm more of a lady than you are! 

I hope you have a wonderful long weekend and that whatever holiday you are celebrating brings you a feeling of revitalization and peace.

Noah, Martha Stewart and Dressing for the Apocalypse

I'm a huge fan of and regularly load inexpensive audio books into my shopping cart to listen to while driving. While some books are duds, most are pretty good and I expose myself to a much wider range of material than I'd typically read. Recently, I finished listening to The Best of Friends: Martha and Me. The book is written by Mariana Pasternak, Martha Stewart's former best friend and witness for the prosecution in the stock trading trial that landed the domestic diva in jail. The book is riveting, not only because it provides a fascinating glimpse into the rarified life of Martha and her people, but also because Pasternak is such an unreliable narrator. Sometimes she is almost unbearable in her narcissism and other times you cannot help but cheer for the single mother who, after fleeing Romania, came to live the American dream. Mainly, I thought that she and Martha deserved one another as friends.

The book makes me bitter. It is sooo unfair that cousin Sharkey gets to travel by jet. 

At the end of the story, I found myself hitting repeat on one of the tracks. After the dramatic ups and downs of Mariana's life, she takes stock of what she has learned:
The real worth of a life cannot be measured by its mortar or its materials. The real worth of a life is best assessed by the pain one feels upon that life's undoing, and the lengths one will go to gather all the pieces, join the joists, and, relying part of prayer, part on muscle, and mostly on love, resurrect the roof.  
I just love this and have had it rolling through my brain for the last two weeks. I love that Pasternak knows that, at some point, everyone's life will come undone. Because I've learned this to be true. And I love that she recognizes that the natural instinct is to rebuild that life: to gather the pieces, join the joists and resurrect the roof. And I think she says it all so beautifully.

But what Pasternak does not ask is what happens when the life that is lost is not worth salvaging. What if you decide, instead, to scatter those pieces, pocketing a few gems and leaving the rest behind? What if the original plans no longer make sense? What then?

This weekend I saw Darren Aronofsky's Noah, which is film that is, in some ways, about doing exactly that: scattering the pieces, ripping up the plans, and building something new. In Noah's mind, God did not want to put together the pieces of a broken world. He wanted to eradicate it and build something new: tabula rasa, save for the animals and the only seemingly-incorruptible family on earth. Whether this was the right interpretation provides the film's dramatic tension.

To be clear, the film is, in the sound assessment of Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House, wacky. I spent half the film going like, 'whoa, did they have rebar back then?' and 'hmm, who'd have thunk that robotic rock monsters played such a significant role in the flood story." I know that Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel pulled a lot from extracanonical texts like the Book of Enoch, but to me it's midrashery on meth. As a person who, in Engage the Fox, is using forest creatures to illustrate a Jungian-influenced approach to business decision making, I'm not in any position to judge out-there thinking at all. I think that their interpretation of scripture is creative and thought-provoking. But it's wacky. I would not bring a young Sunday School class to see it as a first go at the story but, frankly, I'm not sure a complicated story of genocide to explain God's love for his people is better handled by singing about building the arky, arky either.

The film is also disturbing. I used to be a big fan of Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, so I should have prepared myself better by consulting the parents' guide. I found one scene in particular very disturbing and it bugs me that I can no longer go to a movie without being triggered. Even Captain America, which I also saw this weekend, had my heart elevated at one point (it was only a scene of someone running out of options in spite of valiant attempts to keep fighting, but it was disturbing to me.) I spent many years of my life enjoying all types of film and I'm now limited to the tween movies on Family. It's not a bad thing but it's a different thing. And it speaks to Pasternak's quote: sometimes the house cannot be rebuilt; sometimes the foundation is too damaged. Sometimes the house should not be rebuilt: a better solution awaits. In both cases, better to build anew.

On the lighter side, Jennifer Connelly keeps looking better and better. And I love what she wore as Noah's long-suffering wife:

Michael Wilson did the costuming and I loved this article about lead textile artist Matt Reitsma over at Tyranny of Style. It might be my dour frame of mind of late but I'd seriously buy from this collection. I love organic materials and one needs to look good in case of the apocalypse.

The always delicious Rick Owens makes a nice RTW version:

I'm finally able to get some of my spring pieces out. One of my favourite pieces is this ancient suede Banana Republic shirt jacket. It's the most Coachella piece I own (my hair stylist is going to see Lana Del Rey and the gang there and I'm deeply jealous.) I was able to pull out my Tod's boots too without fear of breaking my head on the ice covered sidewalks.

Well, I have another week of busy busy. It's good. The busier I am, the healthier I become. Serena, in the meantime is working on her yoga headstands and thinking about a new article for her fashion column.

Have a great week.

Spring has sprung

Now that it looks like spring had finally arrived, I've been too busy to really enjoy it.

It's all good stuff. I got everything into my accountant, which makes me feel virtuous. I've received my market update from my finance guy. My car is booked in for its servicing and tire switch. I unwrapped the summer house out back (my paint job remained intact over the cold winter!) My highlights have been touched up (I grow ever darker as I attempt to morph into Clemence.) I've also been busy doing a bit of freelance work for a colleague.

On Monday, I went to a live taping of 100 Huntly Street US and saw Michael W. Smith in concert. Eric Metaxas (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy), who is far more Jimmy Kimmel than Pat Robertson (phew!) teased Michael about his People magazine's Most Beautiful status and basically forced him into a duet. Metaxas's co-host April Hernandez (Freedom Writers, Dexter) treated (if that's the right work) Smith to a little old-school hip hop. Michael W. Smith must have a picture hanging in his attic that is growing old; for a guy with 10 grandkids, he looks awfully young.

The host of the taping was my lovely friend Melinda Estabrooks who introduced me a couple of fabulous women: Eryn Faye-Frans (Canada's Passion Coach) and Dr. Merry C. Lin. I'm half way through reading Lin's new book, The Fully Lived Life: Rescuing Our Souls from All that Holds Us Back and it's marvellous. Her story had me crying at the hair salon. I feel that my career is pivoting a bit and these women gave me some great inspiration and affirmation that I am headed in the right direction.

I had a chat with the publisher last week. I have to get a few things in gear before the book comes out so I've been setting up my new business blog at Right now I just have a few placeholder articles there but the blog will be focused primarily on coaching, leadership, and personality-typing. Serena, of course, has insisted on writing a fashion column. And if Serena ain't happy, ain't nobody happy, so I conceded. I think I will have some fun with this and it should make the publisher and publicist happy.

This weekend, I am catching up with friends, catching up with blogs and trying to enjoy the relative warmth and sunshine.

Have a great Sunday!!

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...