The Gospel According to RHONY



Ok, so while certain things have pivoted in my life, my love for terrible reality tv endures. Real Housewives of New York City is my favourite until Sweet Home Oklahoma returns.

I look for little nuggets of wisdom whenever I am watching and find that - more often than not - it's Carole Radziwell who leads the charge. She is such a smart cookie. If you know someone who is grieving, What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love, her memoir about losing her husband, is a must read. It's beautifully written and wise.

In the latest RHONY instalment, Carole is giving some advice to la Tinsley who is returning to New York after an episode in Palm Beach that left her with a broken heart and a mug shot. Tinsley wants to be a whole new Tinsley this time around and is contemplating the switch from the UES to Downtown. Carole thinks she should also change her look, to reinforce the fact that she is no longer the It Girl who once dominated Manhattan's social scene. In explaining her reasoning, Carole offers this gem:

Reinvention is not Repetition. 

Yes!

It's impossible to have a different sort of life if you aren't willing to make some big changes.

Tinsley does not buy it. She seems more wedded to her long hair and lashes than she is to major change.

I sooo get her. It's hard to let go of something that has sort of worked in the past. Change is scary.

But of course, we are not meant to live this way, clinging to remnants of the past.

We are meant to be renewed.

I've always loved The Message's translation of Luke 5:36, "No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match."

Right? It's kind of RHONY-ish isn't it: "Nobody uses Hermès Carrés 90 to patch their gardener's jeans."

It's also good advice.

If we want to change, we have to really change. Cut the hair, ditch the lashes, move to that loft downtown.

So a new thing can be done.


Graduation

Grade 6 grad for my son was last night.

Grade 8 graduation for my daughter is tonight.

Can't believe these two cutie patooties are growing up so quickly.





Where does the time go?

Happy Tuesday!



It's been a week of celebration around here. Yesterday, was Serena's birthday. The birthday girl enjoyed her cakes.






Tonight is my son's grade 6 graduation and tomorrow is my daughter's grade 8 grad. Tonight's event is simple. Tomorrow's involves fancy dresses, heels, and hair.

In between, I'm writing writing writing. It's so much harder with my eyes, but the subject matter is invigorating. I'm writing some of the novel and I'm writing about ways to deepen one's faith, something newly close to my heart.

I'm not entirely sure what called me back to the church. After several months of wandering in the desert, the scales fell from my eyes in early May. Ironically, it was while I was healing from eye surgery. The writer in me kind of loves the symbolism. Perhaps this is the beauty from ashes that I so need.

Part of what compelled me to renew my faith was the actions of Christian friends. One friend in particular, who saw I was getting distracted by the wrong things, decided to simply step up the level of her friendship and be there for me in spite of her very busy season.

Part of it was stumbling upon Lysa Terkeurst's Univinted, which felt like it was written specifically for me and kicked off a new season of reading that is continuing to shape my beliefs. They are stronger now than ever.

I'm amazed at the speed at which this has happened, but - then again - God has a way of accelerating everything when it's time. As Isaiah 43:19 describes, See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

All I know is that I'm feeling better than I've felt in a very long time.

XO



Floored

Do you know how many types of grey-brown hardwood there are?

About a zillion.

This is how I felt walking among the sample boards...


Do you know how many are in stock when our contractor is about to start work?

Uh huh.

We were sold on the Laurentian White Oak Grey Karma Brushed, but then when we called in the order, it was the only colour that did not come in the wider width - even though we had a sample for the wider width. 4" was too skinny since we have an open concept house and the shorter boards meant there'd be a zillion seams.

Then, we for sure for sure for sure were sold on the Laurentian Trafford in Bushwick in the wider width. Only, the wider width was not in the quantity we needed even after we were guaranteed that it was. Grrr. Did I mention our contractor starts next week?

We really wanted a 72" length, which only comes with the wider widths. We looked at a bunch of other options but they either looked like shiny painted grey wood or were too brown. (My school uniform growing up was brown and beige and I really hate that colour-way unless it's in a camel Max Mara coat.)

Finally, our flooring guy showed up with a Shaw product. It's Noble Hall in Baroness. It's a 7" board and has the 72" length we wanted. And they have stock.



Done. It's really pretty. Also, we have no other choice!

Our neighbour has suggested that we refloor by gluing all of our sample boards together. We have almost enough wood at this point!

Isn't renovating fun?


Anti-Inflammatory Diet

I've been run down lately and realized my crashed immunity may have something to do with my terrible diet. We've been eating out a lot and I've been having a lot of sugar. I don't eat much dessert because of an egg allergy, but I tend to mainline milk chocolate almonds.

I've been doing a lot of research on inflammation since my asthma and mild arthritis both flare up when my eating habits start to slide. As we head into the season of BBQ and ocean-side glasses of wine, I want to make sure I have a good sense of foods that will serve me well.

After a bunch of reading, these seem to be the winners from an inflammation point of view. It's a pity, since I live on cheese and sugar. I wonder if Rosé is considered a legume?



Stay healthy!

XO

Casting away stress

Greetings, y'all

We are two weeks away from departing to NS. In that time, we have to make all the final choices for the renovation here, set up anything we need before we arrive there, have two graduations, get one kid off to camp... Plus, I'm trying to do what I need to do with one good eye. I'm still not comfortable highway driving since it's harder to shoulder check and I get a bit dizzy a higher speeds. And reading and writing are harder so everything is done at a glacially slow pace.

It's all a bit stressful.

I sat down to watch Joyce Meyer because I LOVE her. I know people criticize her for having a jet but if I had the means, I'd for sure have a jet too. Anything to avoid the germs associated with commercial air travel! I love Meyer's public persona: quick, straight-talking, observant, doesn't suffer fools...

The show I'd taped was on de-stressing, which seemed particularly good timing.

She offers five tips, based on 1 Peter 5:7: "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Isn't that good advice? I always get a fly fishing image in my head.




1. "Learn to practice shrug therapy." Meyer implores us not to get upset over things we can't control. She says we need to learn to shrug a whole lot more, much like my favourite passage from Atlas Shrugged, where Francisco d'Anconia is explaining his philosophy to Mr. Rearden:

If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood...his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders - What would you tell him?"
I…don't know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?"
To shrug.
It's not about not caring. It's about not letting the caring kill you. I have a hard time shrugging off injustice, which leaves me stressed out a lot of the time. I need to learn how to cast my cares and shrug.

2. "Stay in your comfort zone." By this, Meyer means to stop doing what you're not good at. I love this advice. I am terrible at organizing events. Terrible. I can't get three people in a room at the same time. So at this time of year, when people are having spring fairs and grads with abandon, I do what I do best. Show up and roll up my sleeves. I can't organize, so I don't. But I can carry stuff and run stuff around. And trouble-shoot. So, now, that's what I do.

3. "Eliminate everything from your schedule that's not bearing good fruit." Oh, I love this. Cheryl Richardson writes about the concept of giving up good for great. I love to free up my schedule of things that do not delight me and leave space for better options.

4. "Exercise." Preach! I'm so looking forward to getting back into an exercise routine. I let everything drop with the great eye disaster.

5. "Take time to relax and do things you enjoy." Can I get an Amen?

Here is the full episode if you are into that sort of thing.



If you like numbered lists, my latest for HuffPo is about 10 ways to make your summer more spiritual.

Take care!

XO






Brora, Swan Lake, and Kimmy Schmidt

Happy Monday!

Are any of you watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? Season 1 is so good. Jane Krakowski is hilarious and Mr. SxSW says she reminds him of me. I have no idea why - I have yet to receive a bouquet of dogs.


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I did receive a little something from Brora, which was un unexpected surprise.

They'd sent me a skirt in my size that was meant for another Jennifer Lawrence.  I have a doppelgänger! Brora was most apologetic. After a few calls, we collectively managed to reroute the package. They sent me a pair of the cashmere tights I love as a little thank you for my troubles.

Speaking of doppelgängers, on Saturday, I took my daughter to see Swan Lake. I love that ballet. So dark and moody. And the costumes are so magical. Normally, I hate dark films but I've always liked Black Swan. I say it's because I love the whole metaphor about the artistic process, but really it's because I love the costuming byAmy Westcott and Rodarte.

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In my mind, I have a ballerina's discipline and wear only black, grey and pale pink.

In reality, I eat my weight in BBQ ribs as part of Father's Day celebrations, and dress in whatever I just found on Anthropologie's sale rack. 

XO



Coastal Cottage Update






We are madly preparing the cottage in Nova Scotia for our arrival in July.

The painting and floor refinishing is all done and apparently 32 boxes of furniture have arrived. We are having someone assemble all of the beds, but we will still be logging in some quality time with an allen key when we arrive after our 18 hour drive.

I've never done an 18 hour drive before with kids and a dog and a new husband. People say it changes you.

We've decided to rent out the place to friends and family during August and in the fall. We'd been hoping to spend the entire summer there but life with kids is busy. As it is, some of us will be running back and forth.

I can't wait to see it all put together. I had to do something similar when I moved into the 1920s house I use to have. I had my things in storage and had to buy everything else from measurements, hoping it all would fit. I was not able to enjoy it until I was physically in the space. Then, putting it all together was restorative. I love fussing around with furnishings. That and exercise are the two things that keep me out of my head.

And this year, I will have partners in crime in NS in the form of the Mr. and a Stepford mom (who is so not a Stepford Mom!) who has a place nearby. We've also met new friends of friends and know others who will be visiting. So it shall be a social summer indeed, once we build the chairs.

If you are planning on visiting in July, give me a shout and we'll have you over for drinks. And if you are firming up your summer plans, consider our place near Lunenburg. The tall ships are there in August and we have spectacular views.

I hope your summer plans are coming together. As soon as I'm out there, I'll show some interior photos of the place. That is, if we all survive the drive!

XO



Life is a Cake Walk

The perfect cake I did not bake.


Yesterday, I helped with the cake walk at the school spring fair.

I swore I'd never help with another cake walk in my life, after being reprimanded during my previous experience. Apparently, in that case, I was far too generous in handing out the cakes and the walk was over too quickly.

You know how the term cake walk is used for something that's incredibly easy? Not so.

(On that, the origin of the term cake walk is absolutely fascinating. You can read about it here.)

This year's cake walk was far more successful, mainly because the women running it were 1) organized and 2) had some sense of perspective. Plus, there were high school-aged volunteers who had enthusiasm and energy.

Because I was not being run off my feet or told off, I had lots of time to observe. The key takeaway was this:

In a world where perfect fondant icing is on offer, nine out of ten people prefer a big gooey mess covered in gummy worms. 

During the cake competition, the pretty cakes shone and won the awards. One was an exact replica of the school mascot. It was impressive.

But once the game got underway and the kids started to choose their cakes, something interesting occurred. The Pinterest-worthy-now-I-need-physio-due-to-the-rolling-of-fondant-icing cakes stayed on the table, overlooked in favour of Betty Crocker mix, a shed-load of chocolate icing, and two or three bags of gummy bears.

(For the record, had my daughter not made our pretty fondant contribution pictured above, one of these gummified offerings would have been made by me. I have no skills in this area.)

One kid - a sage in American Eagle - advised his friend on his choice: "Trust me: the worse they look, the better they are," he said.  #wisdom

When it was my daughter's turn to choose her cake, I nudged her toward the store-bought offerings, germophobe that I am. I've never been opposed to store bought and frequently quote Carl Sagan who said, "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." At times, I go to great lengths to avoid acts of domesticity.

The cake walk offered important lessons in life: Keep perspective. Employ the young. Don't be afraid of store bought. And most of all, if you aim to have a Pinterest-worthy life - which often I do - do it for yourself, not for others. Others are generally happy with a mess of chocolate and a pile of gummy worms, as long as there is lots of it.



Beauty for Ashes

Yesterday, I was sad to hear that author Lysa TerKeurst is getting a divorce. Divorce is hard for everyone. It's really hard if you are in any way a public figure. And it's particularly hard if you work in Christian ministry.

In spite of theological discussions of Jesus's "exception clause," allowing divorce in certain circumstances (this article offers a terrific explanation of the issue) it still remains taboo. The women I know in ministry who've experienced divorce wrestle with this constantly. There is an almost constant level of guilt simmering below the surface. I've felt it too, withdrawing from small groups and home churches, because I felt I should not be there.

I know that something good will come of her trials and I'm hopeful that she will be in a position to rejoin the world and share her wisdom over the coming weeks and months. She preaches the message of "living loved" and I hope she feels that in this season. I know that God will make something beautiful from her pain.

That is, after all, the promise.



During times of hurt, I lean hard on a couple of verses. One, from Isaiah, was read to me by a very good friend when I was in a season of brokenness.



I made the words into a necklace at one point and wore them around my neck for over a year. I also wore a ring on my right hand that I referred to as my 'righteous right hand ring' as a reminder that all shall be well.

Over the years, I've also leaned hard on John 11:35.




This is perhaps my favourite line in the New Testament. When Jesus learned that Martha and Mary's brother Lazarus died, Jesus wept. He did not immediately jump up and perform a miracle; he sat down and grieved with the family. God is not always doing flashy things when we want Him to, but he is with us in our pain.

But then, Jesus acts. He tells the family to get Lazarus, whom he has risen from the dead. Beauty for Ashes: that's the promise. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

And that's what always draws me back to God, in spite of all the flaws of the church and its followers; in spite of all the flaws that are mine.

I hope Lysa TerKeurst rejoins the world after an understandable period of mourning. We could use her words and her wisdom. I will be waiting to see how God transforms her experience into something undeniably good.




A Grand Day in Stepford

Readers of mine know that I'm not always the biggest fan of Stepford. I came here under weird circumstances and then ran into a lot of Regina George wannabes. Still, the school are great, and the lake is pretty, and it's a great place to raise kids, and the parking is good, and I try to make the best of it every day even though I often feel like a fish out of water.

Today, I had a great Stepford day. I went to see my therapist, who is amazing. A bunch of people I know now see her too and we all agree we want to be her. She is calm and cultured and has an excellent wardrobe. She's #goals all the way. Plus, her office is super pretty.

I then went to the main drag and popped into Anthropologie to use a gift card I won on Black Friday. I needed a new pair of reading glasses (because I need pairs everywhere now) and they always have the cutest designs. Turquoise and tortoise shell is always genius together, no?



I was pleased to see that Lemonwood Cashmere has opened on the main drag. They often sell at Polo for Heart, which is a highlight of my summer. Look at the splendid colours!




I bumped into a woman I know at the jewellers (I was getting a piece sized; she was doing something with her Rolex - you know, typical Stepford stuff...) She's been lovely to me ever since I moved into town and it's nice to be reminded of the good eggs, of whom there is an ever increasing number. She's also a super cool lady who rises above the noise. So, once again, #goals.

I popped into Good Books to pick up a magazine I wanted. People in there are always so pleasant.

Finally, last night, I finished fellow Stepfordian Karma Brown's latest book, In This Moment. It's really good and is doing well on the best seller lists. It's a great summer read if you are amassing your beach or cottage books.

I hope you are having a lovely day wherever you live.

XO





Family, food, and faith.

Happy Monday!

The peonies are blooming in the garden.



4 layers of cake are in the freezer, ready to be iced (this is my daughter's doing.)




I am filled literally and figuratively after a weekend of family visits to Toronto and St. Jacobs, eating out, and church.

We went to House of Chan in my old stomping ground in Toronto.


Our tour of breakfast places after church took us to Bobby's Hideaway in Streetsville. I love jam packets and those little round creamers. 


The final push is on for end of year activities. We have a grade 6 grad, grade 8 grad, music recital, track meet and two spring fairs on the horizon. 

Breathe. 



I loved this webcast by Kimberley Mitchell on See Hear Love. She reads from Ann Voskamp, who reminds us that we are enough. 






Hope you have a lovely start to the week.

XO






Happy Friday!

It's Friday and the sun is shining!

The flamingos are in full feather.


I've decided to go shopping in my closet to cheer myself up. I'm resurrecting this Val Colbert bracelet.


A little shop around the corner from me when I lived in Rosedale used to sell them. Colbert - who still makes jewellery - used to make bracelets from pearls and designer buttons. I love smart repurposed design. There was a legal battle and she no longer makes them. I'm a huge protector of IP (my book has been torrented, which is frustrating) but I'm not sure about this one. I love fashion based on other things. Remember Lizzy Gardiner's credit card dress? Ugly but provocative. And I'm a huge fan of Olympia Le-Tan bags, for example, which look like books. Perhaps Harvey Specter would know the answer...

Wait. What? 

I hope you have some terrific things planned this weekend. We have dinner out and church on Sunday. but it's free and easy other than that. I'll be glad for some downtime. I've been pushing hard on the book - Stepford is a wonderful muse - which has made my eyes sore and tired. I need some time to chill.

I'm back to posting weekly blog updates through the newsletter. So if you have not signed up, hit the subscribe button at the top of the page and join in on the fun.

Happy weekend!

XO

Bless Your Hearts, Y'all

I've been meeting up with kindred spirits lately, who have been cheering me up immensely. There is all kinds of awesome out there if you look for it, even deep in the heart of Stepford.

I love this time of year as I pin down plans for the summer. Between Derby Day and Labour Day, I can channel my inner Southerner.

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I try my best to replicate the pages of Southern Living magazine, and plan lazy days driving to antique markets and sitting on the porch with a sweet tea, or bourbon and ginger ale. I know it's a romanticized version of things, but as a northerner surrounded by people in grey yoga pants, I crave the southern aesthetic. For me, magnolias, and pearls, and mint juleps, and pink and green gingham are simply divine.

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And I love big hair. I spend two decades of adulthood going for that sleek 90s look, but now that I'm old as dirt and the volume is down, I want big, bold Texas beauty queen hair. The higher the hair, the closer to God, as they say.

Have you been watching Southern Charm? Patricia Altschul is my spirit animal. Have you read her book, The Art of Southern Charm? It's charming. I really need a french bulldog caftan, no?

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Have you caught the spin-off show, Southern Charm: Savannah? I love it. Ashley Borders makes for great tv: she's just this side of crazy and calls a spade a spade.

I've just started reading What Southern Women Know. I'll let you know what I think. By the time I get through my media binge I'll be all y'all, and bless your heart, and sugar, peel me a grape.

Hope life is sunny where you are,

XO


Authors: Ellen Herrick, Karma Brown and Kay Warren

Happy Wednesday!

Hope your week is going well.

My mother cheered me up with an African violet. My grandmother always had a tea cart filled with the flowers and it reminds me of my childhood.



I'm trying to save my eyes for writing, but I could not hold off starting Karma Brown's newest book, In This Moment. If you love Jodi Picoult, you'll love Karma Brown. This book is my favourite of hers so far. The Toronto Star gives it high praise, commenting, "Literary titans such as Updike and Cheever have brilliantly trodden this path of suburban sexual/emotional angst before. Karma Brown now impressively joins their ranks." Yes, she does. I wish I could read faster!

My friend Melinda has a fabulous interview with Kay Warren, wife of Rick Warren, pastor at Saddleback. If you still think of wives of mega-church pastors as ever-smiling creatures with huge hair and heavily applied eye makeup, you'll want to get to know Kay, who is down to earth and honest as anything. Warren has been very open about her struggle with depression, the death of her son, cancer, and abuse: all of which have rocked her faith. If you are looking for inspiration, I highly recommend you watch her interview.

And last, but not least, my interview with Ellen Herrick is live at 1010 Park Place. I listened to the audio book for this one, which I highly recommend. It's like having someone read you a beautiful fairy tale.

xo




A New Week

Happy Monday, y'all.

I hope you've had a fantastic weekend. The kids had a PD day so the weekend was extra-long. We managed to get in a couple of movies, the batting cage, an al fresco lunch by the water, shopping, hitting the tailors, brunch, dinner out, a BBQ, and church.

Phew. I'm tired. Wish it were the weekend.





We also picked out the hardwood for the Stepford reno. We are doing a greyed hardwood. I wanted to keep the existing floors because I hate the idea of packing things up, but in the end, I just could not stand them and it's easier to do everything at once. It should really transform the look of the house.



Also, I bought a computer monitor the size of the moon. Because corneal damage.

I've been listening to Lysa TerKeurst's book, Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. It's quite excellent and talks about not letting the noise of the outside world into your head. TerKeurst has a self-deprecating, non-judgemental style that is very readable. And, at times, it feels like she's in my head such as when she points out that the things that drive our unhappiness are not necessarily the Big Sins, but things like "fueling your sense of worth with your child’s successes, and spending outside of your means to constantly dress your life in the next new thing." Can I get an amen! She keeps things grounded in middle-aged, suburban reality, which I always appreciate.

This week is a busy one. This time of year is always nuts. I envy my American friends, who are already enjoying the summer holidays and not making school lunches.

Stay sane, my friends.

XO




This is the day...

In the words of my Yorkshire-born grandfather, me eyes 'ave gone. Well, eye, to be specific. It looks like some sort of cornea damage now. I can maybe have more surgery, but it's risky. The surgical team (which pulls from all over North America) will confer, but I've been told to start thinking that this is the new normal. It's disappointing, but also a bit of a relief in a weird way. I can accept the new normal. It's the not knowing that was so very upsetting. The good news is I can drive and work out and do all the usual stuff. I have a bit of vertigo, but I had that before too. Reading is tougher, but I've enabled the huge print on my iPhone and will probably pick up an iMac this weekend to supplement my laptop. When Apple can solve your woes, you know that things could be much worse.

I've been immersing myself in the church lately. When the chips are down, you need to pull out the heavy artillery. I've been meeting with my friends of faith and leaning heavily on the books of Lisa TerKeurst and the words of my friends at See Hear Love. And I remind myself daily of this.



This is the day the Lord has made. Not just Easter or the day at the beach or a particularly good sample sale. He made not just the good days, but all the days. So I try to look for the gifts. I've had much harder days and there have always been the gifts. This whole eye thing has given me a certain sense of discernment. A product of my culture, I was getting distracted by the silly. (If you are interested in finding out how where you live changes you, this is an excellent piece!) I was a little to of the world and not simply in it.

And I try to look for the positives. I'm a month away from living seaside. I can get a good old fashioned Victorian-era airing. "Here eyes have gone. She's gone to the sea," people can say. I can buy a billowy gown and smelling salts. It's all good.

And when the days are harder, I can always take comfort in one of my favourite passages ever.

“She told me about a group of people in Guinea who carry the sky on their heads. They are the people of Creation. Strong, tall, and mighty people who can bear anything. Their Maker, she said, gives them the sky to carry because they are strong. These people do not know who they are, but if you see a lot of trouble in your life, it is because you were chosen to carry part of the sky on your head.” 

― Edwidge Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory

Have a safe and happy weekend.

XO




Dayspring Friends and Family Sale

Dayspring is having their Friends and Family sale right now with almost everything 25% off. I'm particularly loving these Philippians ...